Here are the stories of the 25 players most likely to make the opening roster for the Dodgers.
What do we want to see more of from Matt Kemp? More steals? More home runs? Could he be a 40-40 guy? Yes! What else? More great plays in center field? More cannon throws to exterminate runs at the plate? Indeed, yes. More moments when he seems the most physically gifted player to ever wear the Dodger Blue? Absolutely. It's all possible.
But then there is one more thing, and it isn't a "more" at all, it's a "less". Or a "fewer", if we wish to be grammatically correct. We want to see fewer outs. It's not very exciting but when I look at what he did last year this is where it appears the Bison can make the most improvement. 0.352 OBP last year, and 0.340 the year before. These are not bad numbers, not for a good defensive center fielder with power. But if he is to become a superstar, he needs to improve, I think. Can he? I have no idea.
Even if he never does, he's still the most fun Dodger to watch in a long time.
This year his clutch hits will come before the ninth inning. That's usually when they come. Think of how often the three run home run in the third inning ends up being the crucial moment in a game. Can you think of how often this happens? Maybe not, because it's just not a memorable way for a game to be decided. But it happens all the same. If Andre hits well, that's clutch enough, isn't it?
He removes himself from the ordinary circles of the baseball world without even trying. His hits are art. His slumps are drama. His words are comic theatre. His silence is a window to the soul. His hair is Bob Marley. His fielding is Cosmo Kramer. His name is Manny. And that's who he is.
This might mean something --- to someone who likes the Angels --- or has a sense of solidarity --- with our Metropolitan baseball cousins --- but I don't care --- he's just another old guy --- just a guy with a bat --- and a glove, I guess --- I don't know his stats --- or his hopes --- all I know is that he's washed up --- just filling out his baseball time --- filling out a roster --- filling outfield spaces --- when the outfield isn't full.
Oh man, I got nothing. Really. I can't even make anything up. How about a game? Let's see who ends up with a better Dodger career --- him or Brady Clark? Do you remember Brady Clark? Perhaps, but is there a compelling reason to remember him? I think Reed Johnson is going to be the same way.
So here he is, back from injury early, ready to play on opening day. Will the lack of playing time this spring hurt him? Will it give him an excuse to get off to a slow start, thereby taking the pressure off to produce, thereby allowing him to instead get off to a fast start?
Bad Ausmus, I call him, when he makes an out in a game. Would it be more creative to call him Brad Outmas instead? How about Brad Ausmiss if he strikes out? At least he doesn't get turned into a boy named Sue ( or some other female name ) when he does poorly. My wife still calls JD Drew "Judy Drew". Sometimes this will annoy me because he's a pretty good player but other times I think it's pretty funny. Some people prefer to feminize Drew by calling him Nancy, but really do people even read Nancy Drew books anymore? I think Nancy Drew grew up and became Mary Worth.
What keeps James in the big leagues? He doesn't hit a whole lot of home runs or doubles. He's not fast. He doesn't pitch, not anymore. He doesn't walk a whole lot. He doesn't play catcher or shortstop or some other tough defensive position. Basically he plays a good defense at first base and makes a lot of contact. That's about it. Is that really enough for a first baseman? Maybe it is when you have a outfield like the Dodgers have and you're getting paid low arbitration dollars. But soon, if he doesn't improve, I don't think it will be enough.
I'm not really expecting much out of the Furbolg this season. Maybe get on base at a 0.340 clip, don't make too many bad throws, hit a few random home runs and please don't get hurt! Oh, and no more DUIs, please.
How long a leash do you think Blake has? How long can he struggle without Joe Torre playing
Good signing. Seems like a solid bench guy. Doesn't he make Ronnie Belliard unnecessary?
Just to remind you ( I had forgotten ) but Ronnie Belliard was amazing for the Dodgers last year. He had an OPS of 1.034. Five home runs in a month of games. He was Marlon Anderson version 2. I kind of wish his all time career OPS as a Dodger could have stayed above 1.000. Instead --- how low will it go? Belliard has had some decent seasons fairly recently, but his age and his weight problems make it seem likely he'll crash into uselessness one of these years.
I think the Dodgers should be allowed to void his contract if he's clean shaven. His beardlessness reduces his value to the fans by at least 50%. They should start selling "Free Casey Blake's Beard" shirts outside Dodger Stadium.
All the stuff I was going to say about him has been ruled a "jinx" by the jinxing committee.
Order of importance that certain parties believe in the ability of Chad Billingsley:
1. Chad Billingsley
2. Joe Torre
3. Ned Colletti
4. Some gambler in Vegas who bet lots of money on the "over" on Billingsley wins
46. The fans
104. Bill Plaschke
It's interesting how many people focus on Billingsley when trying to figure out how good the Dodgers will be in 2010. Are the likely upper and lower limits of his performance really any wider than they are for most of the other Dodgers? Does a bad season from Chad hurt more than a bad season from Loney or Martin? If Chad pitches worse than expected, or hoped, the difference could still be made up by another player having a better than expected season. And yet people talk about his performance this year like it will make or break the team.
In 39 Dodger innings last year Padilla struck out 38 batters. That is the kind of ratio that would indeed make him worthy of being the opening day starter. Unfortunately he had never posted a ratio anything like that over a full season, and he's not about to start now at age 32. But if he keeps his walks down he might yet be league average this season, which would be great.
How can you not root for a guy who comes back weeks after giving up a ground rule double off of his own head? Why didn't he get the opening day start, if it couldn't go to Billingsley or Kershaw?
Kuroda had an ERA of 3.73 in 2008. He had an ERA of 3.76 in the 2009 regular season. He had an ERA of 40.50 in the 2009 postseason. So, running a linear regression analysis on these numbers I find that his predicted ERA in 2010 is 89.57. Ah, so that's why he isn't being given the opening day start.
Tom Candiotti was the last knuckleball pitcher in the Dodger starting rotation. Candiotti lasted 6 years with the Dodgers, and they were mostly good years. His ERA+ in those six years were 116, 124, 97, 109, 87, and 108. A better than average pitcher more often than not, and never truly awful, unless he was pitching in Denver. But he only made three starts in Denver. The Dodgers learned quickly that the knuckleball just didn't work in the thin air.
What chance does Haeger have of a Dodger career as good as Candiotti's? Not much, I guess. But I'm rooting for him. I just hope the Dodgers have the sense not to pitch Haeger in Coors field.
The Troncuilizer returns! I'm expecting good things from him this year. With a few exceptions, relievers are very unpredictable, so I think the most you can ask of them entering a season is that their best case scenarios be good ones. I think that is the case with Troncoso.
What is his best case scenario? Just below league average ERA, I think. But that's not so bad for a long relief man.
I just have a feeling he won't end the year as a Dodger.
This is the perfect name for a rule 5 guy. These guys just come out of nowhere, like they were living at a monastery before, right? I mean, if they didn't seem like they were coming out of nowhere I guess they couldn't be rule 5 guys.
Can he forget? Can we forget? Should there be any forgetting at all? I think with Broxton, will all the talent he has, it is fair to say that he still has the majority of his career ahead of him. So, let's not conclude right now what kind of pitcher he is. Don't close the book on him being a great, clutch pitcher. He's already had some great moments. He's also had some awful moments. Oh yes. But that's not necessarily what will define his career, even if one accepts that they should define his career up to this point.
What? He made the team? Russ Ortiz made the team? What? Oh, Ramon Ortiz. Oh. Well, that's okay, I guess.
Wait, his last major league season was 2007? He spent 2008 in Japan and 2009 in AAA with the Giants? How could the Dodgers say Fresyes to a pitcher who pitched in Fresno last year?
Well, I guess it could be worse. They could have put Russ Ortiz on the roster. At least they picked the right Ortiz, if they had to pick one.