Monday, April 30, 2012

Podcast: 'Dugout Blues' episode No. 4, plus a couple of news items

Sorry for the delay, but Jared Massey and I finally got the latest podcast up.

In this edition, Jared and I talk about the Dodgers' week that was, a somewhat resurgent James Loney, some strong minor-league performances and our trip to see the Quakes in person in Rancho Cucamonga.

Podomatic link
iTunes link


The Dodgers optioned Nathan Eovladi back to Double-A and activated Todd Coffey from the 15-day disabled list.

I wrote last week the Dodgers need to be careful with Eovaldi and not to screw with his development. This whole "pitching-one-inning-per-start" thing and then calling him up to not appear in a game is precisely what I was talking about.


The Dodgers' sale is expected to be official today. Bill Shaikin has you covered, as he has for the last two years.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Dodgers' third-best hitter, A.J. Ellis, bats eighth

A.J. Ellis
While Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts is (rightfully) starting the "A.J. Ellis All-Star campaign," I'm thinking we need to start a "Move A.J. Ellis up in the order campaign," though, it doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

But with Dee Gordon's unsurprising early-season struggles, perhaps it's time to shake up the lineup a bit.

Don Mattingly has said as recently as Saturday night he's not ready to remove Gordon from the leadoff spot -- yet.
"'I could think about it, but then I have to find a guy who can lead off. At this point, I don't feel I need to do a whole lot different.'"
It's a valid concern, but like Mattingly, I want to give Gordon a little more time to "figure it out" atop the Dodgers' order.

I wrote back in February the Dodgers' success would be tied to Gordon in the leadoff spot (which can be said about a lot of teams). Of course, I don't think we expected Matt Kemp to be this good so far, as he and Andre Ethier are basically carrying the offense thus far.

Dee Gordon
Luckily for the Dodgers, Gordon's struggles have yet to hurt them too much. He's tied for the Major League lead in stolen bases with Starlin Castro (10), but as the old adage goes: you can't steal first base, as his .253 on-base percentage will confirm.

Gordon only has two bunt hits this season and has been successful in doing so 25 percent of the time, according to FanGraphs. When he gets into funks like this, he should try to bunt a little more. If nothing else, it puts pressure on the defense to throw him out.

Gordon's line drive rate is down a little from 2011, but his flyball rate is up more than 5 percent. That simply will not do for a guy who has zero power.

I'm not giving up on Gordon in the leadoff role just yet, just as Mattingly isn't. But there is a solution Mattingly isn't looking at -- and it's a solution that also moves A.J. Ellis up in the batting order: Make Mark Ellis the Dodgers' leadoff man and bat A.J. second.

Bet ya didn't think that's where I was going.

Ellis is already firmly entrenched as the team's No. 2 hitter and is enjoying hitting in front of the world's best hitter, posting a .370 on-base percentage in 20 games. While he isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball in the other categories (.261 batting average, .319 slugging percentage), he's getting on base, leading to 16 runs scored -- second on the team and tied for third in the National League.

As you'll recall (or probably not), I wasn't exactly bashing this deal, as I've seen Ellis play a lot with the Oakland A's in the past. I always liked his game. Anytime you mix decent on-base ability with good defense, I'm going to be a fan.

Which brings us to A.J. Ellis, a.k.a. the Dodgers' third-best hitter.

I remember in 2004 when Jim Tracy began the season with Adrian Beltre hitting seventh. That experiment lasted all of 18 games, as Beltre hit .338/.347/.662 with six home runs. Beltre was the Dodgers' best hitter that season, but Tracy knew when it was time to move him up in the order.

Fast-forward to 2012: A.J. Ellis has hit eighth in the lineup in 16 of the 17 games he's played. He boasts an .843 OPS and a .439 on-base percentage. As Weisman points out, if the four intentional walks he's drawn are removed, Ellis' OBP is still .403.

I'm not comparing Ellis to Beltre; just making a point.

So why, with a team starved for offensive production outside Kmep and Ethier, is a guy with a .439 OBP and .843 OPS consistently stuck hitting eighth?

Ellis is a victim of circumstance -- he won't hit atop the order because he's slow and he won't hit in front of guys like Juan Rivera, James Loney and Juan Uribe because ... well, I'm not exactly sure why. Rivera is an #RBIMachine™, Loney is Loney and Uribe is making $8 million this season. That's about all I have.

So, if the Dodgers wanted to maximize their lineup, it would look something like this:

Ellis 2B
Ellis C
Kemp CF
Ethier RF
Rivera LF
Loney 1B
Uribe 3B
Gordon SS
Pitcher's spot

While Mattingly's never had the opportunity to bat a catcher high in the lineup, it isn't without precedent with this club -- Paul Lo Duca and Russell Martin come to mind.

With Gordon in the No. 8 spot, he's likely to draw more walks (in theory), but when he does get on base, he's still able to utilize his speed. I'd have no problem with him having the green light in front of a pitcher (especially with less than two outs). It might not be conventional thinking, but the Dodgers need to generate some more offense outside of Kemp, Ethier and A.J. Ellis.

Like I said, I'm not ready to pull the plug on Gordon hitting leadoff, but if a change must be made, this is probably the best way to go about it.

Oh, and vote for A.J. Ellis for the All-Star game. It will please Saberites and forward-thinking baseball people. Plus, any vote for Ellis is one less vote for Buster Posey.

Photo credits
Ellis:  2010thinkblue, Wikimedia Commons
Gordon: bridgetds (Flickr), UC International (Wikimedia)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'll see your Harper and Strasburg with a Bison

Beast mode don't care. #BMDC
There are really no words to describe one Matt Kemp.

In what might have been one of the best April baseball games in recent memory, Kemp upstaged the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg, perhaps one of the best pitchers in baseball, and Bryce Harper, who was making his Major League debut, by smacking a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Dodgers a 4-3 win.

It was a fantastic game all the way around, as the Dodgers got a great start from Chad Billingsley -- at least numbers-wise: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R (earned), 2 BB, 6 K.

But Billingsley, whose velocity was there all night (touched 95 MPH a couple times), was all over the place with his pitches -- especially his fastball. At one point, he had thrown 77 percent of his pitches as fastballs, but he was missing up in the zone a lot.

It was evident in the seventh inning when Adam LaRoche (Billingsley and Dodger killer) roped a solo home run into the right field seats on a 91 MPH fastball up and over the plate.

The Dodgers fought back to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning on an A.J. Ellis RBI single.

Scott Elbert started the ninth inning by giving up a single to LaRoche. He then got Rick Ankiel to bunt into a fielder's choice. With Harper on deck and Danny Espinosa (switch-hitter) due up, Don Mattingly elected to go with the struggling Javy Guerra, who promptly allowed the inherited runner to score, as well as one of his own.

It was a wild bottom of the ninth, which culminated with a wild pitch that allowed the Dodgers to score the tying run.

Jamey Wright, of all people, pitched a perfect 10th inning. This is where Mr. Kemp steps in.

He was due to lead off against Tom Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny relieved Nationals' closer Henry Rodriguez in the ninth inning and got Tony Gwynn to line out to LaRoche.

With Andre Ethier (0-for-4, 3 Ks) on deck, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson elected to keep Gorzelanny in the game.

He got ahead of Kemp 1-2 and it looked like Johnson would be off the hook. Then, this happened:

Better watch this quick, as I'm sure MLB will have it taken down quite soon.

This post could easily have just read, "Matt Kemp," but I figured I should give the readers some context.

So, Kemp is amazing. That's about it.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

My trip to see Dodgers' prospects at the Epicenter was a blast

Eight days ago, I was in Southern California for a journalism conference. While the conference fell flat on its face, my trip to Rancho Cucamonga to see the Quakes did not.

Despite the team not playing well, it was a great experience. It was the first time I'd ever received a media credential to cover anything but a college sporting event.

I arrived with Jared Massey of LA Dugout at a little after 4 p.m. after we met up for about an hour before at a brewery right down the street from the stadium. It was a hot day in Ranch, so we wanted to take advantage of the air conditioning (and beer) as long as we could.

We caught the last little bit of batting practice. Guys like Austin Gallagher (45), Tyler Henson (29), Carlos Mirabal and Tony Delmonico were finishing up their set.

Afternoon batting practice

Scott McGough
Scott McGough, all 170 pounds of him (soaking wet) was hanging around, too.

The 2011 fifth-round pick out of Oregon was in shorts and watching batting practice. By the look of him, I never would have guessed it was him. I know he's listed at 6-feet tall, 170 pounds, but I'd be shocked if he was either. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be needed on this night.

While we were on the field, Takashi Saito, who was with the Visalia Rawhide on a rehab assignment, walked by. After I had informed Jared that Saito had thrown the night before, I missed Saito the first time he walked by, as you can tell by this photo.

Takashi Saito walks by

However, I caught him on the second time back. He recognized someone affiliated with the Dodgers. He was wearing jeans and a blue shirt and was obviously not a player. Jared's best guess is it was Bill Mueller. He is serving in the Dodgers' front office as a special assistant to General Manager Ned Colletti.

After batting practice was over, we retreated to a WiFi-less press box. I didn't really care there was no WiFi access as I was just there to enjoy the experience.

Angel Sanchez, who struggled
Once the game started, we went down to the stands to get a first-hand look at the Quakes' starter, Angel Sanchez. I have some video of Sanchez's appearance, which I'll publish in another post. I want to have a chance to edit it first.

Sanchez hit 98 MPH at one time and 96 a couple other times (readings I think were not accurate), but he worked consistently in the 89-93 MPH range. He threw his slider a bit, but didn't throw his changeup much. That, coupled with leaving his fastball over the plate, led to a short, rocky outing for the 22-year-old.

Scott Wingo
Scott Wingo looked good on offense, tripling twice. And they were legitimate triples, especially the one to lead off the game for the Quakes. He drove the ball to the left-center field gap and it kept tailing away from the Rawhide defender. He flew around the bases and made it to third base with ease. He ended up 3-for-5 on the evening and played a solid second base.

There wasn't much in the way of offense, as the Quakes ended up with just four runs. Christopher O'Brien had a double and Austin Gallagher went 1-for-2 with two walks. Nick Akins chipped in two hits, but that was about it.

Jonathan Garcia
Jonathan Garcia hit well in his first two at-bats. Despite having good, raw power, he's struggled mightily in the California League. He had two solid singles in his first two at-bats before striking out in ugly fashion in his last two. He was retired on fastballs at eye-level -- pitches that only Mike Piazza could hit.

Even though the Quakes lost 8-4, I was happy to have the opportunity to attend the game with media access and I hope to get back down there sometime this summer to see another game at the Epicenter.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bryce Harper to make MLB debut against the Dodgers, plus other news

It's not often baseball's best prospect makes his debut against the Dodgers -- and that's exactly what's going to happen tomorrow at the latest.

Bryce Harper was recalled by the Nationals today when their best player, Ryan Zimmerman, was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Harper, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, has two "80" grades, according to Baseball America. His power is unquestioned and he has a howitzer for a right arm.

Harper played predominantly catcher in college, but he'll play the outfield in the majors. He was thought to be the Nationals' future right fielder, but they're reportedly going to see if he can stick in center field, which increases his already sky-high value.

Luckily for him, he's going to miss tonight's game against Clayton Kershaw. As a left-handed batter, making his debut against Kershaw would have been most difficult. He should be int he Nats' lineup tomorrow against Chad Billingsley.


The Dodgers called up a top prospect of their own, officially. Nathan Eovaldi, who has thrown two innings total in his last two starts, replaces Michael Antonini on the Dodgers' roster. Antonini replaced Matt Guerrier, who went on the disabled list. Antonini, however, didn't throw a pitch for the Dodgers. He was sent back to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Eovaldi will pitch out of the bullpen for now, as the rotation is set, despite Aaron Harang's sore foot.

I really, really hope the Dodgers still give him a chance to develop as a starter. At best, he could be a No. 2, but a No. 3 starter is a a lot more realistic (and so is a No. 4 starter). And a potential No. 3 starter is a lot more valuable than any relief pitcher.


The Dodgers come into this Nationals' series losing two of their last three series against two of the top projected teams in the National League (Brewers and Braves). And the Nats are no slouch, sitting at 14-5 and the best record in the league. It'll be interesting to see how the Dodgers fare in this series. Kershaw vs. Ross Detwiler tonight, Chad Billingsley vs. Stephen Strasburg tomorrow and Chris Capuano vs. Gio Gonzalez on Sunday.

Photo credit: MissChatter, Flickr

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dodgers need to be careful with Nathan Eovaldi

The Dodgers' handling of Nathan Eovaldi the last couple outings has been curious. As the top fill-in option for a Dodger starter or reliever, it's somewhat understandable. But as a top prospect and potential long-term solution in the rotation, it could hurt him in the future.

Last week, Eovaldi pitched one inning for the Chattanooga Lookouts. That immediately sparked speculation on Twitter. It was later revealed the early exit was because the Dodgers had concern about Chad Billingsley's groin. This week, it's unknown what the reason is.

Aaron Harang has a foot issue, but that doesn't seem to be it. Tony Jackson of ESPN LA tweeted it has to do with a reliever.

It's strange because Matt Guerrier just went on the disabled list on Monday and recalled Michael Antonini from Triple-A Albuquerque. So, which reliever is having issues now?

Todd Coffey went on the DL earlier in the season, extending Josh Lindblom's time in Los Angeles (even though he should be on the 25-man roster regardless). There hasn't been any mention of Jamey Wright, Scott Elbert, Kenley Jansen or Javy Guerra.

We can only hope it's Mike MacDougal.

At least it looks like Eovaldi is on his way to Los Angeles, though.
"There are strong indications Nathan Eovaldi could be headed this way. Not sure whom he replaces. Move won't be made before game"

Still, the Dodgers need to be careful in situations like this. While Eovaldi could ultimately end up a reliever, his value remains -- for the moment -- in the starting rotation. It's best not to mess with his flow or routine. If he were some journeyman pitcher, this wouldn't be a big deal. But he's the Dodgers second- or third-best prospect and limiting his innings because someone on the big league roster might be hurt could wind up hurting Eovaldi in the long run.

I understand doing it in August. I don't understand doing it now to a 22-year-old with one of the best arms in the system. A little caution should be exercised. The Dodgers can get by with someone else until Eovaldi's had the appropriate rest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A visual representation of my trip to Rancho Cucamonga to see the Quakes

Sorry for the lack of posts here, folks. It's been a hectic five days. But my trip to Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night was a rousing success.

I had a quick post on Chad Moriyama recapping the Dodgers' minor-league performances for the week of April 16. Here's an excerpt:
"Player of the Week

Alex Castellanos – 2B/OF

Castellanos continued his torrid start, going 11-for-25 (.440) with four home runs, eight RBI, nine runs scored, a double, two triples, four walks, and three stolen bases. If he keeps this up, he’s going to force the Dodgers to give him a shot in the majors. His line through 17 games is as follows: .371/.483/.757, four home runs, seven doubles, four triples, seven stolen bases, 18 runs scored and 12 walks."
I'll have a more in-depth post later, but I did get some get photos, videos and experience while attending the Quakes' game. Here's a few photos to tide you over:

Angel Sanchez

Scott Wingo

Christopher O'Brien

Jonathan Garcia

Old friend Takashi Saito
I'll have some video on the site soon enough of Angel Sanchez's start. His velocity was good and his mechanics looked solid, but he got knocked around a little.

Photos credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Matt Kemp, president of the Andre Ethier Fan Club

Andre Ethier's biggest fan is not his wife, his children or the rest of his family. It's Matt Kemp.

OK, probably not, but one could make the case with the way Kemp goes nuts every time Ethier does something well.

Check out this video of Ethier's go-ahead home run from Tuesday night's game. And this video from Saturday's game. And this video from Friday's "Shrimp" game. And this video from the April 11 game, which might be my favorite reaction from Kemp.

You get the point.

Oh, and the fact Kemp wants Ethier to be a Dodger long-term plays into his fandom.
"When it was all over, Matt Kemp was calling for the Dodgers' new ownership group to sign Ethier to a contract extension. Ethier, who is due to make $10.95 million this year, will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.

"'I definitely would want him here for years to come,'" said Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160-million deal in November."

I know I've been hard on Ethier, but I'm starting to come around on the idea of him getting an extension -- a reasonable extension. And if the game's best player wants someone extended, it might be best to keep said player happy. Not to mention it's the guy who's hitting directly behind him for a majority of the time.

Of course, not all players know best, but Ethier's on a tear right now and if he keeps it up (or if he doesn't completely crash), the Dodgers' offense will be a little more forceful than previously expected.


Here's my second piece for Chad Moriyama. It's about Joc Pederson's surprising debut with the Quakes on Monday.
"Much to my surprise, Joc Pederson made his season debut with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Monday night. It was surprising because by all accounts, the 2010 11th-round pick was slated to begin the season in Midland, Mich., with the Great Lakes Loons."
Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter as I'll be tweeting like crazy from Friday's Quakes' game. I'm expecting Zach Lee to start, but Brandon Lennox of True Blue LA informed me it might be Angel Sanchez. Either way, I'm in for a treat.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Podcast: 'Dugout Blues' episode No. 3

Episode No. 3 of "Dugout Blues" is now live. Jared Massey and I talk about the Dodgers' fast start, Matt Kemp's dominance, James Loney's struggles and some good and bad minor-league performances.

iTunes link
Podmatic link


I made my debut on today with an article about some minor-leaguers who are off to fast starts. Here's an excerpt:
"Jesus Alberto Arredondo — get used to that name, especially if the guy is going to continue to get on base 47 percent of the time.

Arredondo (.400/.471/.567) was signed out of Mexico, is in his first professional season, and he’s already making a great pitchers league look easy. He’s listed as a shortstop, but he’s been playing second base and just turned 21 in February. Maybe he’s the offensive version of Angel Sanchez, who burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old in the Midwest League last year."

Matt Kemp is good at baseball

I'm going to be 100 percent honest: I was slightly worried Matt Kemp wouldn't be as good this season as he was last season. I'm not talking about a 2010 regression, but that voice in the back of my mind wouldn't let me just enjoy what I saw last season and look forward to it happening again and again.

So here we are, 10 games in and Kemp is on pace to hit 97 home runs. And before Sunday's unfortunate (but not really because Orlando Hudson was in perfect position up the middle) double play, Kemp was hitting .500. Not his on-base percentage or his slugging percentage, but he was averaging one hit every two at-bats.

I guess any concerns I had can STFU and GTFO (yay acronyms!).

Now I will say, Kemp has done his damage against the Padres and Pirates (mostly against San Diego, clubbing all six of his home runs against them), but something has to be said for a guy completely dominating a baseball game. He's Albert Pujols in his prime good right now. He's 2001 and 2004 Barry Bonds (ugh) good right now. He's the best baseball player on the planet and should be announced as the National League's Player of the Week for a second time in as many weeks later today.

Kemp's fast start is something to marvel at. He's leading the majors in the following categories: runs scored, hits, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases.

Click to enlarge

That's a lot of italicized numbers on his Baseball-Reference page.

Yes, Kemp needs to show he wasn't just beating up on bottom-feeders. But if one's going to beat up on bottom-feeders, he might as well do it the way Kemp's done it thus far.

The Dodgers play Milwaukee this week and face Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke. If Kemp doesn't mash against these guys, it doesn't mean his start is a fluke; it just means he's human. And despite his out-of-this-world start, he is just that -- human.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm going to be a contributor for Chad Moriyama :o

Hey folks. I'm going to be doing some writing over at Chad Moriyama's blog, Chad Moriyama. I'll be covering mostly the minor leagues over there, but I'll also chime in on the Dodgers from time-to-time.

What does it mean for this blog? Well, not a whole lot. I'll still be writing here and posting excerpts of what I write over there. Admittedly, the posts here might not be as frequent, but I still hope to put out some quality work here. And I'll definitely continue doing the weekly podcast with Jared Massey of LA Dugout.

I just want to give a big thanks to Chad for giving me this opportunity. I am humbled and grateful for the chance. Look for my first post soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Too soon to worry about Kenley Jansen's velocity?

Probably, but his decreased velocity is noticeable.

Depending on which website's data you choose to go with, Kenley Jansen's velocity is down 1 to 2 MPH from last season.

Last season, according to Texas Leaguers, Jansen's average velocity on his cut fastball was 93.1 MPH and according to FanGraphs, it was 93.3 MPH. This season, his velocity is 91.6 and 92.2 MPH respectively.

Click to enlarge

It was especially noticeable on Friday night against San Diego. Jansen was sitting at 89-91 MPH while touching 92 MPH a couple times. Now, that's not to say he can't be effective at that velocity, but with his control issues at times, it makes him more prone to hitters capitalizing on his mistakes.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. asked manager Don Mattingly about Jansen's velocity dip.
"'Kenley's different. There have been times early on where he gets tentative or gets off kilter, and the ball doesn't come out the same way. We'll continue to pay attention to his mechanics. The ninth is different than the eighth, so we'll pay attention to that too ... As long as Kenley is not hurt, then we're not concerned.'"
Tony Jackson of ESPN L.A. also gave a little insight into Jansen's decreased velocity.
"'I've been battling the flu, but that's not an excuse at all ... You still have to make good pitches and keep us in the game and try to help the team win. That is what it's all about.'"
So when Jansen's throwing 94 t0 96 MPH cutters in a couple weeks, this will have been for naught.

It was also especially hilarious to read the recaps by Jon Weisman and Chad Moriyama of the Twitter freak out after Chase Headley hit that game-tying 2-run home run in the ninth. I wonder if the folks will say the same thing when Javy Guerra blows a save...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Harang's histroic night and late-inning magic lead Dodgers to win, plus minor-league news

Despite a bad ninth inning by reliever Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers still won their seventh in eight games 9-8 via the walk-off walk.

Andre Ethier came up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and coaxed a four-pitch walk from Padres' reliever Joe Thatcher.

But the story of the game tonight's Dodgers' 8-6 win was Aaron Harang (right), who struck out 13 Padres in 6 1/3 innings at Dodger Stadium. He also set a Dodgers' record with those strikeouts.

After allowing a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, Harang went onto strike out nine consecutive hitters (including Maybin for No. 9) in the first three innings.

The nine in a row broke Johnny Podres Dodgers' record of eight. Tom Seaver still holds the Major League record with 10.

The wheels came off -- briefly -- in the fourth as Will Venable hit a home run to break up the strikeout parade. Harang would give up two more runs in the inning. He also gave up a run in the seventh. Harang finished with this line: 6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R (all earned), 2 BB, 13 K.

In the fourth inning, Matt Kemp hit his third home run of the season over the right field wall. He hit one out to right in San Diego last week and one to center field. He's yet to hit a home run to his pull field. He went 1-for-2 with the homer, two RBI, two runs and three walks -- his first three walks of the season. No longer will he have a better batting average than on-base percentage.

The bullpen tried to give away the game, as Todd Coffey and Scott Elbert were ineffective, but the combination of the soon-to-be-demoted Josh Lindblom put out the fire in the eighth before Jansen totally shat the bed in the ninth. He gave up a 2-out, 2-run home run to Chase Headley with two strikes, which tied the game. He ended up with the all important "W," though.

Minor league update

Triple-A - Isotopes won 7-4
The Isotopes won their home-opener in front of 10,000-plus fans. Josh Fields hit the first home run (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs) in Albuquerque. Jerry Sands chipped in with a home run of his own, going 2-for-3. Alex Castellanos continued his improved plate discipline, walking once and getting a hit. Tim Federowicz went 1-for-2 with two runs and two walks. Josh Wall picked up his second save for the 'Topes.

Double-A - Lookouts won 7-3
Matt Magill got the start for Chattanooga and struck out eight batters. That's the good news. The bad news is he lasted just four innings (98 pitches, 61 strikes), four hits, three runs (all earned) and three walks. He boasts a 14.0 K/9 through his first two starts. The bullpen picked him up, though, by not allowing a hit, just one walk while striking out five. Steve Ames finished the game by recording two Ks.

The offense came to play, led by J.T. Wise, who went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and two walks. Gorman Erickson (right) went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. The offense did strike out 14 times, which is a concern.

High-A - Quakes rained out

Low-A - Loons won 5-4
As much griping as I've done about the Loons' offense this year, one guy continues to perform: Jesus Alberto Arredondo. Hitting leadoff, he went 3-for-5 with a double, triple, stolen base and two runs scored. The Loons' second baseman is off to a fast start in the Midwest League, posting a .462 average in eight games.

Matthew Laney got the start and went four decent innings: five hits, three runs (all earned), three walks and six strikeouts. Juan Noriega and Eric Eadington both threw two scoreless innings, giving up five hits, one walk while striking out seven. Yimi Garcia blew the save by giving up an unearned run in the ninth, but he was picked up Joseph Winker's game-winning RBI single.


I promise I'm trying to find out more information about Arredondo. This is what I have right now, via
"The Dodgers signed Arredondo as a free agent out of the Mexican League. Arredondo, who can play both second and shortstop, hit .320 last season in 53 games. He scored 31 runs and knocked in 14. He was just 4 of 14 in stolen base attempts."
Hope to have some more information in the coming days.

Photo credits
Harang: Blevine37, Wikimedia Commons
Erickson: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Some fun with Dodgers' early-season projections

We all know guys aren't going to hit 96 home runs and drive in 215 runs, but it's always a little fun to look at what guys are on pace to do through the first week of the season.

Here's a look at what some Dodgers are on pace to do:


A.J. Ellis
115 walks, 119 strikeouts

Mark Ellis
162 runs, 139 hits

Andre Ethier
69 runs, 23 triples, 46 HR, 231 RBI, 115 extra base hits
- Would be the best XBH since Barry Bonds in 2001 (107) and an MLB record

Dee Gordon
116 stolen bases, 162 strikeouts
- Would be the most stolen bases since Vince Coleman in 1987 (109)

Matt Kemp
185 runs, 278 hits, 69 doubles, 46 HR, 208 RBI, zero walks, 139 strikeouts
- The hits (Ichiro Suzuki, 262) and doubles (Tris Speaker, 59) would be MLB records

James Loney
23 hits, 463 at-bats (.050 average)

Pitching (based on 33 starts for SPs)

Chad Billingsley
33-0, 236 innings, 132 hits, 16 walks 246 strikeouts

Javy Guerra
116 games, 116 innings, 116 saves, 23 hits allowed, 116 strikeouts
- The saves would crush Francisco Rodriguez's MLB record from 2008 (62)

Aaron Harang
143 innings, 230 hits, 165 walks, 199 strikeouts

Kenley Jansen
116 games, 116 innings, 23 HR allowed, zero walks, 186 strikeouts

Clayton Kershaw
165 innings, 33 walks, 16 walks, 165 strikeouts

Jamey Wright
59 innings, 88 walks

Dodger links from around the Web

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports writes Kemp's 50-50 prediction might not be that far-fetched.
"Here's the thing about all this 50-50 talk, something that Mattingly would probably agree with even if he'd never say it:

Kemp might just do it.

I mean, really. He could do it. He's 27 years old, which means he's just now entering his prime. His best years? They should be ahead of him, not behind him. And the years behind him have been pretty damn good. Since becoming an everyday player in the big leagues at age 23 in 2008, Kemp's home-run total has gone from 18 to 26 to 28 to 39. Last year he increased his career high by 11 home runs. If he does it again this season, he's at 50. Unlikely? Sure. But not impossible. "
Jayson Stark of ESPN writes the Dodgers and Stan Kasten aren't likely to go crazy by throwing money at every big free agent.
"Don't be so quick to assume the new, improved Dodgers of Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson can't wait to start handing out the largest contracts in the history of the solar system. We're cautioning you now. That just might be a dangerous assumption.

To predict the future, you should always study the past. That's what our history teachers always told us in the seventh grade, anyway. And some of us in that class were actually awake at the time, amazingly enough.

Well, what do you find if you study Kasten's past, back in the day when he was the president of the Atlanta Braves (1986-2003) and Washington Nationals (2006-10)? You don't find a single contract that will remind you of, say, the Prince Fielder deal. We'll tell you that.

In all that time, Kasten's teams never handed out a contract longer than five years to any free agent from outside their organization. And the only six-year deal, even to one of their own players, went to Andruw Jones in 2001 -- at a time when he was 24 years old."
Meanwhile, Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Mulder, despite saying positive things about the Dodgers, have no idea what they're talking about.

Mike Petriello looks at Guerra's hot start and whether he can keep it up.

Vin Scully could return as soon as tomorrow, writes Tony Jackson of ESPN LA.

Photo credits: SD Dirk, Flickr

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Aaron Miller's big night encouraging, Dodgers win, minor-league news

Former supplemental 1st-round pick Aaron Miller has battled injuries in his minor-league career. Tonight was a glimpse into what the big lefty could be, if things go well.

Miller's line: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K, 81 pitches (46 strikes)

Miller, who's pitching with the Lookouts in Double-A, was drafted out of Baylor University with the 36th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. He's an athletic guy with a nice fastball/slider combination.

His first start this season wasn't great, but his second was obviously fantastic. If he could re-establish himself as a legitimate starting prospect, it could do wonders for the Dodgers' depth in the system.

Red Patterson and Shawn Tolleson preserved the one-hitter. Patterson pitched three innings with two strikeouts while Tolleson struck out the side for his second save of the season.

Kyle Russell chipped in the only run of the game with a solo home run, as Chattanooga won 1-0.

Chris Capuano (right) made it through the fifth inning in this start, but couldn't get more than one out in the sixth. Still, it was enough to earn the win. The Dodgers won 3-2.

Capuano struck out five of the first six hitters he faced and ended up with this line: 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R (both earned), 0 BB, 7 K.

The Dodgers made three first-inning runs stand up. Juan Rivera had a sacrifice fly followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Juan Uribe and James Loney (Loney's first hit of the season).

Josh Lindblom, who's probably going to be optioned to the minors when Ted Lilly returns, threw a scoreless seventh inning. Matt Guerrier threw a scoreless eighth before turning the ball over to Javy Guerra for a third consecutive night.

Guerra made things look easy in the ninth, retiring the side in order to pick up his Major League-leading fifth save.

The Dodgers' 6-1 start is their best since 1981, a year in which the Dodgers won the World Series.

Triple-A - Isotopes lost 8-2
The Isotopes continue to struggle as they fall to 2-6 on the season after losing to the Iowa Cubs 8-2.

Jerry Sands had one of his best games of the season, going 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. Alex Castellanos got on base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk. He also struck out twice. Scott Van Slyke chipped in with a single.

Starter Stephen Fife struggled in his second Triple-A start, going 4 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits, six runs (all earned), two walks while striking out five. He has a 10.50 ERA so far.

High-A - Quakes lost 6-2
Garrett Gould got the start for Rancho Cucamonga, but he wasn't nearly as effective as he was in his first High-A start: 3 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R (unearned), 5 BB, 5 K. He was definitely bitten by the walk bug. At least he only gave up one run and struck out five.

Leon Landry had a single as the Quakes' leadoff man. Christopher O'Brien, starting at designated hitter, had two hits (and an RBI) to bump his season average to an even .400. Catcher Michael Pericht went 2-for-4 with a double, run scored and RBI.

Low-A - Loons lost 5-2
The Great Lakes' offense continues to struggle, as it could only muster three hits. Joe Winker (home run), Scott Schebler (double) and Jesse Bosnik (single) provided the offense. Jesus Alberto Arredondo went hitless but had an RBI. Despite going 0-for-4, he's still hitting .429 on the season. Can't wait to find out more about this guy.

Brandon Martinez got the start and was roughed up a bit: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R (all earned), 2 BB, 3 K. Michael Thomas pitched four scoreless innings of relief.

A bit of good news: James Baldwin didn't strikeout. Still, he has eight strikeouts in 14 at-bats, which is awfully concerning. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus commented on his lack of contact last night:
"I love Dodgers OF prospect James Baldwin's tools, but worried about his ability to hit. 0-for-9 w/ 7 Ks this year."
It's something worth watching as the season progresses.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Recapping the Dodgers' home-opener, plus minor-league updates

The Dodgers' kicked off their 50th season in beautiful Dodger Stadium with a 2-1 win against the Pirates on Monday.

Clayton Kershaw, fresh of a 3-inning start because of the flu on Opening Day, threw a gem: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K. He's going to be just fine.

Andre Ethier, extra base hitting machine, ended up winning the game with a home run into the right field pavilion. Five of his six hits this season have gone for extra bases, good for a team-leading .842 slugging percentage.

Kenley Jansen did Kenley Jansen things, striking out two in his inning of work. He also picked up the win because of Ethier's 8th-inning dinger. Javy Guerra closed out the game by getting Pirates' stud center fielder Andrew McCutchen to ground into a double play.

Vin Scully missed the home-opener with a cold and might not broadcast the entire series. It sucks for the listener, but Mr. Scully's health is first and foremost. He can take as much time as he needs -- we'll brave the Charley Steiner/Steve Lyons combo for as long as it takes.

Minor league update (April 10)

Triple-A - Isotopes won 6-5
Alex Castellanos continued his good start with the Isotopes by going 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. He also stole his third base of the season. Scott Van Slyke also posted another two hits, including a double (his third), pushing his batting average to .458 for the young season. His OPS is sitting at a robust 1.458.

Double-A - Lookouts won 4-3
J.T. Wise, not much of a prospect at 26 in Double-A, went 2-for-5 with two RBI. He's hitting .444 in his first look at Double-A. Blake Smith got his first extra base hit (a double), but he's still hitting just .100 in his first week with the Lookouts. Allen Webster had a much better start in his second appearance of the season: 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R (all earned), 1 BB, 3 K. Shawn Tolleson pitched a perfect ninth (one strikeout) to pickup his first save of the season.

High-A - Quakes won 7-5
Zach Lee made his second start of the season. While he wasn't as dominant as he was in his first go-round, he was still pretty damn good: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R (both earned), 1 BB, 4 K. He has a sparkling 1.80 ERA and 0.90 WHIP through his first two starts. Scott McGough pitched two innings in relief and allowed one hit. Logan Bawcom picked up his second save of the season, throwing a scoreless ninth with a hit and strikeout mixed in. Leon Landry picked up a hit, run and his third stolen base of the season. Christopher O'Brien had a 2-run double. His average is at .391 so far. Casio Grider was the offensive star of the night, going 2-for-3 with a 2-run home run, a double and three RBI.

Low-A - Loons won 5-4
James Baldwin's hand appears to be OK as he returned to the Loons' starting lineup. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Jesus Alberto Arredondo went 2-for-4 with a double to keep his batting average at .500. I know nothing about this guy other than this is his first professional season and is from Mexico. He's hitting pretty well for a 21-year-old in Low-A. Jesse Bosnik, who's repeating the level, went 3-for-3 with a home run, double and four RBI.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

Monday, April 9, 2012

Podcast: 'Dugout Blues' episode No. 2

Episode No. 2 of "Dugout Blues" is now live. Jared Massey and I talk about the Dodgers' opening week, the contract extensions of Joey Votto and Matt Cain and how they impact the Dodgers and the minor league teams.

iTunes link
Podomatic link

We talk about Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier getting off to a fast start, Chad Billingsley's dominant performance and Dee Gordon's great game. There's even a mention of A.J. Ellis and his insane on-base skills.

We discuss Votto and Cain's deals and how they were two guys the Dodgers could have gone after via trade or free agency. However, that's obviously no longer an option.

We also look at Zach Lee's fantastic California League debut, the offensive spectacle that is the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Loons' struggles at the plate and with injuries.

And listen for the great Jett/Jeff Bandy debate -- definitely the highlight of the episode.

The next episode will be up on Monday.


Kemp was named the National League Player of the Week. He went 7-for-17 (.412) with two home runs and eight RBI. The first of many this season, hopefully.