After 25 games the Dodgers are 12-13. It's been a mostly frustrating start. But the Dodgers have scored more than they have allowed, and appear to have a functional offense and pitching staff, which is more than any other non-Arizona team in the NL West can say. The Padres and Giants have pathetic, inept offenses and the Rockies pitching has fallen apart. The Dodgers are clearly the second best team in the west behind the obviously superior Snakes. I think the Dodgers are on track for a very good month of May and contention for a wild-card berth at the end of the year.
The 25 players who took the Dodgers to this point are ranked below in reverse order. Relievers Troncoso and Wade were left out because of a numbers crunch. Sorry guys.
My first grade teacher was named Sweeney. One afternoon while reading something to the class she fainted. She was out cold, on the floor. A classroom full of 25 six-year olds looked on, stunned and confused. Things soon turned slightly chaotic. I loudly proclaimed my theory that she was faking being asleep in protest for all the misbehaving we had done that day. No one paid attention to my ranting. Finally an adult was fetched from somewhere else and order was restored. Mrs. Sweeney would end up being fine. She fainted as a result of some kind of seizure, though my memory on that is fuzzy. Since Mark Sweeney has done nothing as a Dodger this year I thought I would write about my first grade teacher instead.
Mark Sweeney has played not a single inning in the field.
Wilson Betemit has an OPS of .368 this year in 13 at bats. He's on the DL right now with conjunctivitis. What the heck is conjunctivitis? I guess that means 'is 'ands are swollen. Actually it's an infection in his eyeball. Ick.
Scott Proctor is responsible for the deer in the bullpen. But that's not really enough. As poorly as he has pitched so far he's going he going to have to go up into the San Gabriel mountains, kill a deer and bring back venison for the post-game spread every day to justify his spot on the roster.
It sure seems in hindsight that neither team won that trade last year.
That night when Nomar was hurt and Martin had to play third base my wife said, "I guess they'll have to bring in the emergency catcher." I began to protest that Bennett was just the regular backup catcher, but actually emergency catcher is about right to describe him, given how little he plays. It would seem Martin's greatest talent is sweet talking managers into letting him play every day.
Gary Bennett has not caught for an entire game yet this year. This means Martin has been behind the plate for at least one inning in every game so far this year.
In 15 innings pitched this year, Park has allowed: 17 hits, 9 walks, 4 home runs ... and only 5 runs! He's just awful, terrible, and yet somehow he's mostly getting away with it so far. How can Billingsley strike out 12 in a six inning start and give up 5 runs, while this lucky bum strikes out only 4 in all of his 15 innings and has an ERA of 3?
The Dodgers should quit while they're ahead with Park. Those home runs are going to keep flying and soon they will come with multiple runners on base.
I guess I believe he can turn things around eventually. But I remember when Martin was doing just as bad as Jones at the plate, and now Martin is back above an 0.800 OPS where he belongs, while Jones is doing as poorly as ever. The Dodgers just don't hit many home runs, so they really need everyone to get on base at a decent clip. At this point I wish Jones would just forget about hitting home runs and just try to put the ball into play. Jones makes Matt Kemp looks like a master of pitch recognition and sensible swings. Remember the lovely hit up the middle Kemp has in the first inning on Sunday? I can't imagine Jones having a hit like that right now. It's like he's taking aim at the top of the left field foul pole with every swing.
Andruw Jones is 1-18 with runners in scoring position. He has just 4 RBIs.
It's pretty sad that Pierre rates higher than Jones right now. The difference between the two players is that Pierre is playing near his ceiling right now, while Jones is far below his. We hope.
Juan Pierre has twice as many RBIs this year as Jones in two thirds of the playing time.
Chad is striking out 3 batters every 2 innings. That's just astonishing. He should be the best pitcher in the league --- and yet he has an ERA of 6.53. Part of the reason his strikeout rate is so high is that so many of the balls put into play against him end up being hits. 42% of the balls put into play against him fall in as hits. Could this possibly be Chad's fault? I don't know. But he's too good for this to keep happening. I think he's going to have a great May.
Opposing batters have a 1.040 OPS with runners on, and a 0.633 OPS with none on. Maybe Chad can't pitch from the stretch anymore.
I don't think he can stay healthy enough to play 81 games this season.
I've been mostly unimpressed by what I've seen from Hu this season. If the Dodgers think they are going to replace Furcal with Hu next year they'd better find a lot of improvement at other positions on the field. He might be the equal of Furcal with the glove but my own limited observation so far is that he's not; however, this isn't that fair to Hu since he is playing out of position and only part time. I think Hu should be back down at AAA to play every day. I don't know who would be the new utility infielder, though.
Hu has the fourth highest OBP on the Dodgers so far, after Martin, Furcal, and the leader ... Kuo! Hu does not have any extra-base hits, though.
I understand why Loaiza has taken the fifth starter job back from Kuo for the moment. Kuo seems incapable of going even 5 innings in a start, while Loaiza just went 6 innings against the Rockies. Kuo is clearly the better pitcher, though, and if the Dodgers would just be patient with him he'd probably reward them. Loaiza has pitched about as well he could be expected so far.
Delwyn Young has played 2 innings in right field and 2 innings at second base this year. If not for these 4 rogue innings in the field, the Dodgers would be carrying two full-time pinch hitters on their roster right now.
Young is 4-12 this year, with no walks and no extra base hits.
Which happens first: the Dodgers commit to giving Kuo 6 straight starts to see what he can do, without pulling him from the rotation after his first setback, or Kuo gets hurt again? Sadly, I answer the latter.
Kuo may be known for making too many pitches, but he only makes 0.05 more pitches per batter than Loaiza this year. The big difference between the two is that Loaiza is luckier or better than Kuo at facing fewer batters per inning.
We've gone from: Wow! Kuroda is the Dodgers' fourth starter to Kuroda really is a fourth starter. But Kuroda isn't the problem with this team. If the Dodgers can ever straighten out Billingsley and settle on a good fifth starter then this will be a very nice starting rotation.
The Dodgers have been very fortunate that third base has not been an offensive hole in the first month this year, and they have Blake's patience to thank for that. Though he's batting only .254 his on base percentage is above .350.
Andy LaRoche is still the best long-term option at third base this year. But between Nomar and DeWitt I'd rather see DeWitt.
I'm really, really worried about Saito. The stats maybe don't show it, but he's clearly not the same guy as last year. He's lost his supernatural control. It's not just that he's starting to walk more hitters, it's that he can't seem to locate that perfect pitch on the corner consistently anymore. He's never had an unhittably fast fastball; with him it has always been about location and movement. If he loses his great location does he turn into Scott Proctor?
Saito has four walks so far in 10.1 innings --- that may not seem like much, but compared to last year it is. Saito pitched 35.2 innings last year before giving up his fourth walk.
I hope he starts hitting more home runs. Loney is the least of the Dodgers problems but to be honest his current stats don't really cut it for a first baseman. Loney makes very little impression on me. He's just there in the lineup every day, not sucking but not really standing out either, not since his very hot start. Loney always looks like he's about to burst into tears.
Loney has grounded into 7 double plays so far to lead the National League. At his current pace he would shatter the record of 36 held by Jim Rice.
Maybe Beimel deserves to have a bobblehead. I can't believe his ERA is 1.04. After all these years I still don't trust him, but that's my fault, not his.
Only four walks so far --- that has to improve. Kent is showing his age this season, with all the days off and a substandard on-base percentage. Maybe this is all the Dodgers can expect from his old bones but I think he'll heat up one last time.
Broxton is still the man in the 'pen. Whenever Torre hits a situation in the sixth inning or later of a close game when he just has to have a strikeout, then he should call on Broxton if he's available. Most batters can't touch Broxton's heat.
Penny struck out 5.8 per 9 last year and still had an ERA of just above 3, so he's shown he can be successful with a low strikeout rate. But last year his ground ball to fly ball ratio was 1.6; this year it's declined to 1.3, and even more ominously, he's only striking out 4.5 per 9 so far this year. Can he sustain his great results so far this year?
I think so. I don't think Penny is any different than the pitcher he was last year. It's just that with so few games so far there is more variation in the underlying numbers. I think if he just keeps on doing what he's done the last 7 months of baseball then he'll end up with similar stats to last year.
Matt Kemp is my favorite Dodger, which means I may have expectations that are too high for him. I cringe when he makes a baserunning or fielding mistake. I shake my head at his misadventures at the plate, his awful looking strikeouts, his seeming reluctance to take a walk. My last blog entry was all about a loss of faith in Kemp, and yet, truly, I still believe I'm watching a future hall of famer and the most exciting Dodger player there will be in a long time.
But I also think others want to punish him too severely for his failures. I knew he would be benched after the game when he struck out with the bases loaded, and I hated it. Sometimes I think the punishment for Kemp's failures is the curse that the good things he does will be ignored. The man can flat out hit, and he's not just pulling the ball all the time either. He's been overall a bonus in the field, getting to almost everything he should and keeping base runners in check with his great arm. And he proved that he can hit with the bases loaded with his grand slam on Saturday. Matt Kemp should play every day. He's earned it and the Dodgers need it.
Ethier ranks above Kemp because his on-base percentage is superior. It seems daft that starting Pierre over Ethier was ever considered.
Lowe's ground ball to fly ball ratio is only 1.7 so far, which is shocking. His normal ratio is 3:1 or better. Nevertheless he's been great this year. His only bad start was in Atlanta when the defense let him down. Lowe and Penny have carried the Dodgers safely through their early stretch of inconsistent offense and back-of-the-rotation struggles.
It's amazing how quickly Martin got back up to his usual stats after he started the season as poorly as Jones did. Pitchers must hate facing him because he just won't swing at anything off the plate. Martin's resurgence is why I am very optimistic about the Dodgers having a great May to close the gap with the Snakes and more importantly position themselves for a run at the wild-card.
It's time to stop blaming Repko for Furcal's injury plagued 2007 and instead blame Furcal and Dodgers for it. Furcal should have taken an entire month off at least to get back up to full health. It's been so wonderful to watch him play this year, but at the same time frustrating to think of what might have been last year if he had just taken the time to get fully healthy.
Furcal probably can't keep playing this well all year but if he did I think he'd have to be the NL MVP.