SweetSpot: Los Angeles Dodgers

Ranking the teams: 6 through 1

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
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It's Day 5, and we're down to the top six teams. I've written nearly 15,000 words on these pre-spring training power rankings, about one-tenth the length of a decent novel. Thanks for reading.

Team rankings: Nos. 30-25
Team rankings: Nos. 24-19
Team rankings: Nos. 18-13
Team rankings: Nos. 12-7

Mariners6. Seattle Mariners

Big offseason moves: Signed DH/OF Nelson Cruz; acquired OF Seth Smith from the Padres for RHP Brandon Maurer; acquired OF Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs for RHP Matt Brazis; traded OF Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for LHP J.A. Happ; signed DH/2B Rickie Weeks; lost 1B Justin Smoak and RHP Chris Young to free agency.

Most intriguing player: The spotlight is on Cruz, coming off a big 40-homer season with the Orioles. The Mariners were tied for 28th in the majors in home runs by right-handed batters and next-to-last in the majors in wOBA against left-handed pitchers, so they were desperate for right-handed power. Cruz spent a lot of time at Safeco Field while with the Rangers and his career OPS there is .749 (.234/.309/.440). Uh-oh.

Due for a better year: I have an ongoing debate with some fellow Mariners fans about Brad Miller. I think he's going to be better. They believe he can't hit or field. In reality, Miller and Chris Taylor make for a perfect platoon (although Taylor has hit righties better throughout his minor league career). However it shakes out, I expect the Mariners to get better results from shortstop, although I wonder: Has a team ever won a pennant platooning shortstops?

Due for a worse year: Cruz. Or Fernando Rodney. The arrow is fun, but everything leading up to the arrow makes Mariners fans very nervous.

I'm just the messenger: OK, center field. Austin Jackson came over from the Tigers at the trade deadline and was immediately infected with a severe case of Safecoitis and suddenly lost the ability to hit. Jackson hit .256/.308/.347 with the Tigers and slumped to .229/.267/.260 with the Mariners, with only six extra-base hits in 223 at-bats. Even though he's only 28, Jackson's problem may not be fixable; in a league with more hard-throwers than ever, he struggles against fastballs. His isolated power against fastballs has declined to a nonexistent .073 from .103 in 2013 and .220 in 2012. And it's not as if his defense makes up for the lack of offense. His defensive runs saved totals have dropped from plus-29 in 2011 to plus-5 in 2012 to plus-3 in 2013 to zero last season. The backup plan? The familiar names of Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez have been invited to spring training.

SportsNation

Which team wins the AL West?

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    11%
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Discuss (Total votes: 23,885)

The final word: The Mariners fare very favorably in the projection systems. FanGraphs has them as the best team in the American League and third in baseball behind the Nationals and Dodgers. Baseball Prospectus has them as the No. 3 team in the AL. These aren't strong predictions -- 89 and 87 wins, respectively -- but there is talent here and the Mariners are coming off a strong 87-win season. They've addressed the right-handed issue with Cruz, Ruggiano and Weeks, giving manager Lloyd McClendon more flexibility with his lineup and platoons. The team is heavily dependent on Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, so an injury to any of the three would be devastating. The bullpen, wonderfully handled a season ago by McClendon, should be a strength once again. It has been 14 years since the Mariners made the postseason. It's time.

Prediction: 88-74


Cardinals5. St. Louis Cardinals

Big offseason moves: Acquired RF Jason Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden from the Braves for RHP Shelby Miller and RHP Tyrell Jenkins; signed 1B Mark Reynolds and RHP Matt Belisle; lost RHPs Pat Neshek and Justin Masterson to free agency.

Most intriguing player: Heyward was one of my favorite transactions of the winter, a Gold Glove right fielder -- and Gold Glove in the Roberto Clemente sense, not Jay Buhner. Heyward will bring improved production to right field, where the Cardinals had the worst wOBA in the majors. Maybe Heyward's not the 30-homer guy once projected of him, but he has hit 27 before and should hit more than the 11 he totaled in 2014.

Due for a better year: Closer Trevor Rosenthal fought his control all season, walking 5.4 batters per nine innings compared to 2.4 in 2013. He went 45-for-51 in save chances but also had a 2-6 record. The fastball is still top shelf and he should provide more consistent ninth-inning work.

Due for a worse year: Adam Wainwright went 20-9 with a career-best 2.38 ERA but had minor elbow surgery to trim some cartilage. He's expected to be fine, but you never know.

I'm just the messenger: The Cardinals have done a nice job of blending in some youth with the likes of Heyward, Matt Adams and Kolten Wong, but they're still relying on 30-somethings Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta, not to mention Wainwright. Molina and Holliday slipped a bit last year, and Peralta will be hard-pressed to repeat his season. There's enough age here that the potential for a collapse is possible. We're so used to the Cardinals winning that we just expect them to keep winning.

The final word: Of course, I'm not predicting that to happen. The addition of Heyward gives them a solid lineup from one through eight with the potential for a better bench than they've had the past two years. Yes, you have to worry a little bit about the health of Wainwright and a lot about the health of Michael Wacha, but the rotation is deep enough to counter the loss of either guy. The Cardinals should return to the postseason for a fifth straight season.

Prediction: 88-74



Indians4. Cleveland Indians

Big offseason moves: Acquired 1B/OF Brandon Moss from the A's for 2B Joe Wendle; signed RHP Gavin Floyd.

Most intriguing player: Corey Kluber beat out Felix Hernandez for the American League Cy Young Award, becoming one of the least likely winners in the award's history. Simple question: Can he do it again?

Due for a better year: Jason Kipnis was an All-Star in 2013 and finished 11th in the MVP voting but suffered an oblique injury in April and played through it all season. He also hurt his finger working out in December and had surgery but is expected to be ready for spring training. After creating about 101 runs in 2013 he slipped to 53 in 2014. Expect a nice bounce back.

Due for a worse year: Michael Brantley hit .317/.385/.506 and finished third in the MVP voting. While I'm believing in most of the power uptick, he was a .277 hitter entering the season. He should be good again, but I would expect something closer to a 5-WAR season than a 7-WAR one.

I'm just the messenger: The Indians did not have a good defensive outfield in 2014, ranking 29th in the majors in defensive runs saved at minus-37. They ranked last in ultimate zone rating at minus-39.9 runs, so different metrics agree that they were lousy in the outfield. Have they fixed the problem? Not necessarily. The biggest culprit was David Murphy at minus-17 DRS; Michael Bourn was rated at minus-6 and Brantley at minus-3. Of the various subs, all rated below average except Tyler Holt. Bourn and Brantley are slated to start again in center and left, but right field is open. Considering Murphy didn't hit either, it seems unlikely he wins the job on a regular basis. Brandon Moss can play out there and he's rated at plus-3 runs over the past three seasons, but he's also coming off hip surgery. Cleveland's best bet is for better performances from Bourn and Brantley but don't be surprised if Holt ends up getting a lot of time in the outfield.

The final word: Picking the Indians to win the Central isn't really a radical pick -- they won 85 games last season and 92 in 2013. The offense should be above average, especially if Kipnis and Moss are healthy. And while the defense is questionable (last in the majors in overall DRS), the young rotation has come together. Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and T.J. House should be an excellent five-man group, with depth from Floyd and Zach McAllister. Second-half stats aren't always predictive, but the Indians had the best rotation ERA in the AL after the All-Star break. Jose Ramirez or rookie Francisco Lindor will be an upgrade defensively at shortstop. Brantley, Carlos Santana, Kipnis and Yan Gomes are right in their peak years. Go support your team, Cleveland.

Prediction: 90-72



Pirates3. Pittsburgh Pirates

Big offseason moves: Lost C Russell Martin and RHP Edinson Volquez to free agency; re-signed LHP Francisco Liriano; signed RHP A.J. Burnett; traded 1B Ike Davis to the A's; acquired C Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees for LHP Justin Wilson; acquired LHP Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies; signed Korean SS Jung Ho Kang; traded OF Travis Snider to the Orioles; acquired INF Sean Rodriguez from the Rays.

Most intriguing player: Gerrit Cole now has 41 major league starts with a 3.45 ERA. It's time for the former No. 1 overall pick to make the leap from mid-rotation starter to a No. 2 guy -- and maybe an ace who throws 200-plus innings with a sub-3.00 ERA. The stuff is there, the fastball is there and I think he'll have a breakout season.

SportsNation

Which team wins the NL Central?

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Discuss (Total votes: 25,414)

Due for a better year: After tying for the NL lead in home runs in 2013, not much went right for Pedro Alvarez in 2014. He had throwing problems at third base and dropped off to 18 home runs before his season ended in late August because of a stress reaction in his foot. He moves to first base and should challenge 30-plus home runs.

Due for a worse year: Relievers Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes all posted ERAs under 2.00. Melancon's peripherals support his ERA, but Watson (2.69 FIP) and Hughes (3.99 FIP) -- who went a combined 17-7 -- may have difficulty preventing runs at the same level again. Expect at least a little regression from this trio. The Pirates will have to replace 122 innings in the bullpen from Wilson and Jeanmar Gomez as well. Maybe late-season callup John Holdzkom and his upper-90s fastball plays a prominent role.

I'm just the messenger: The Pirates ranked last in FanGraphs WAR for starting pitchers in 2014. Was the rotation really that bad? Well, the Pirates ranked 10th in strikeout percentage and 14th in walk percentage. But there is some method to all of this. The Pirates' starters did lead the majors in ground ball percentage; of course, the Pirates also shift a lot and do a good job pitching to the shift. Not surprisingly, they allowed a .222 average on grounders, third best in the NL. Sure, an ace would be nice, but the Pirates also have done just fine the past two seasons without one.

The final word: The Pirates have played the Cardinals tough the past two seasons -- three wins behind in 2013, two last year. Pittsburgh scored 682 runs last season (48 more than 2013), and it wouldn't surprise me if they score even more in 2015. They've got a deep lineup. The loss of Martin is a big blow, not only for his .400 OBP in 2014 but his defense, though Cervelli is regarded as a strong defensive catcher. The outfield of MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco may be the best all-around group in the game, Neil Walker is an underrated second baseman and Kang could challenge Jordy Mercer for the starting job. They have talent, depth, defense, a smart front office and a smart field staff. They finally leap over St. Louis.

Prediction: 91-71



Dodgers2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Big offseason moves: Hired Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations and Farhan Zaidi as general manager; traded OF Matt Kemp and C Tim Federowicz to the Padres for C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Joe Wieland and RHP Zach Eflin; lost SS Hanley Ramirez to free agency; signed RHP Brandon McCarthy and LHP Brett Anderson; traded 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Haren and SS Miguel Rojas to the Marlins for LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, 2B Enrique Hernandez and C Austin Barnes; traded Heaney to the Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick; acquired SS Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies; acquired RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Adam Liberatore from the Rays for RHPs Juan Dominguez and Greg Harris.

Most intriguing player: Yasiel Puig, Year 3. Is this the year he remains consistent, cleans up the mistakes, keeps the power going and becomes an MVP candidate? Or does he settle in as a very good player? Either way, we'll all be watching.

Due for a better year: Clayton Kershaw ... in the postseason. Hard to top 21-3, 1.77 with Cy Young and MVP trophies. In just 27 starts.

Due for a worse year: Juan Uribe hit .300 for the first time since he was a rookie with the Rockies in 2001 and posted a career-high .337 OBP.

I'm just the messenger: The Dodgers spent a lot of money to bring in McCarthy and Anderson as their fourth and fifth starters. They're convinced McCarthy is capable of another 30-start, 200-inning season even though that was the first time he has reached either mark in his career (previous highs: 25 starts, 170 innings). Anderson is still a talented lefty when he gets out on the mound, but he has made only 32 starts the past four seasons. There isn't a lot of depth here. Joe Wieland and Juan Nicasio could be next in line. Erik Bedard has been invited to spring training. If Kershaw or Zack Greinke suffer a long-term injury, the rotation could have issues.

The final word: It's not often you see a 94-win team get such a big makeover, but the new regime is rebuilding on the fly. The Dodgers had to clear space in the outfield for rookie center fielder Joc Pederson and they had to get better defensively up the middle. They'll have a new middle infield -- a much better defensive one with Rollins and Kendrick. In fact, all of the Dodgers' moves were done in part to improve the defense, including catcher, where Grandal is rated as a good framer. A better pitcher than analyst, Greinke didn't give rave reviews to the moves. This is a good team, one that should coast to a division title.

Prediction: 93-69


Nationals1. Washington Nationals

Big offseason moves: Signed RHP Max Scherzer for a lot of money; lost 1B Adam LaRoche, RHP Rafael Soriano and 2B Asdrubal Cabrera to free agency; traded OF Steven Souza to the Rays in a three-way deal that netted RHP Joe Ross and SS Trea Turner; acquired INF Yunel Escobar from the A's for RHP Tyler Clippard; signed RHP Casey Janssen.

Most intriguing player: Bryce Harper. He's a grizzled veteran of 22 now. We saw in the postseason what he can do when he's healthy and everything is clicking. I think it clicks this year.

Due for a better year: Ryan Zimmerman played only 61 games and hit five home runs. He moves over to first base and hopefully stays on the field for 140 games.

Due for a worse year: Tanner Roark went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and actually edged Jordan Zimmermann for the team lead in WAR among pitchers. His reward? A likely trip to the bullpen with the signing of Scherzer. He was a good bet to regress a bit anyway (3.49 FIP).

SportsNation

Which team wins the AL West?

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    47%
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Discuss (Total votes: 23,885)

I'm just the messenger: The one area of concern is the bullpen. I didn't like the Clippard trade on the heels of letting Soriano walk as a free agent, even if they did need a second baseman. Clippard has been a hugely vital setup guy the past five years and now you worry about the depth behind closer Drew Storen. And then in the postseason, you worry about Storen.

The final word: No surprise here. The Nationals have the potential for a historically dominant rotation. The lineup has no holes and one clear MVP candidate in Anthony Rendon and possibly another in Harper if he matures. Scherzer gets to go to the league where pitchers hit and with a better defense behind him than he had in Detroit; he could see his ERA drop half a run or more. A 100-win season is possible.

Prediction: 98-64

2012 predictions you couldn't predict?

February, 18, 2012
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Last year, You Can't Predict Baseball came up with bold predictions for the year. We had a lot of fun coming up with them, and then laughing at how hilariously wrong they were at the end of the year. This year, we're bringing these predictions to SweetSpot, along with explanations for some of them. Keep in mind, these predictions are supposed to be bold, but not insane -- even we know the Orioles aren't going to the playoffs in 2012.

Los Angeles Angels: Kendrys Morales stays healthy all year.

Houston Astros: Bud Norris is top five in K/9 in the NL. We figured something good had to happen to the Astros, right? Norris actually has a pretty nice career K/9.

Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes is their starting center fielder by Memorial Day.

Toronto Blue Jays: Brandon Morrow makes the jump to elite starting pitcher. He's struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings two years running, though his ERAs have remained ugly. We think this is the year his results finally match the stuff, especially considering his declining walk rate.

Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran has more wins than Tim Hudson.

[+] EnlargeRickie Weeks
AP Photo/David J. PhillipWith Prince Fielder gone to Detroit and Ryan Braun facing possible disciplinary action, Rickie Weeks could lead the Milwaukee Brewers in home runs in 2012.
Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks leads the team in home runs. He was fourth on the team last year, with 20. In front of him were Corey Hart with 26, Ryan Braun with 33, and Prince Fielder with 38. Fielder is gone, and for this prediction we'll assume Braun will miss a third of the year due to a suspension. It's not too bold to think Weeks could pass Hart in 2012.

St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran outproduces Albert Pujols from last year. Albert Pujols was great last year, but not quite best-player-of-his-generation Albert Pujols. If healthy, it's not absurd to think of Beltran outproducing Pujols' 5.1 WAR in 2011.

Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza isn't their best pitcher. It'll be Ryan Dempster, who had great peripherals but bad results last year.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Hill will be good again. He was great with them in limited time, and Arizona's park is quite hitter-friendly.

Los Angeles Dodgers: James Loney will be a top-three first baseman in the National League. Many thanks to Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness for somewhat alerting us to this one. We just decided to take it semi-absurdly far.

San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner is their best pitcher. In terms of ERA, he already wasn't very far behind Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and his K/BB ratio eclipsed theirs by quite a bit.

Cleveland Indians: They'll have the best pitching in the American League Central. We're banking on Ubaldo Jimenez, making a major comeback to something closer to what he was in 2010, and the rest of the staff displaying the good that they did in 2011. We're also counting on the Tigers' starters not being very impressive behind Justin Verlander, which is bold but not quite insane, and the pitching of the White Sox, Twins and Royals not being able to keep up with Cleveland's.

Seattle Mariners: Jesus Montero catches 100-plus games. The Mariners probably aren't going to compete, so why not try and play him where he'll accrue the most value?

Miami Marlins: Despite all their new acquisitions and the hype, they still finish fourth in the NL East. When you think about it, this one isn't so crazy. If Josh Johnson isn't healthy and maybe even if he is their pitching still trails that of Philadelphia, Washington, and Atlanta; even with Heath Bell, we don't think their bullpen is as good, either. Their offense might be better than some of those teams', but the Marlins were quite a bit below league average offensively last year and we're not sure how much Jose Reyes is going to make up for that.

New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey is the worst starter in the NL. Pelfrey's been pretty terrible two of the past three years, and now they're moving the fences in at Citi Field. He was far better in his huge home stadium, but we're guessing with the moved-in walls he'll be significantly worse at Citi. Here at YCPB, we actually don't think the Mets are going to be quite as dire as many are saying, even if they do come in last place in the NL East - but Pelfrey won't be a bright spot.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg has a 17-strikeout game.

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is the best catcher in the AL. A lot of people are so obsessed with Wieters not matching the hype that they didn't notice he became a plus offensive performer last year, to go along with very good defense. His taking the next step isn't that bold as predictions go, especially if Joe Mauer has to move off catcher.

San Diego Padres: Luke Gregerson is a top-three closer in the NL.

Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels is their best starter. And this isn't meant to be a slight to Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, but considering their ages and the fact that Hamels is pretty darn good himself, plus a possible boost from a contract year...

Pittsburgh Pirates: Charlie Morton is their All-Star.

Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish isn't their best starter -- but he's still good. And we think he'll be pretty good, we just think Derek Holland will become more consistently good, or Matt Harrison will put up numbers like his 2011.

Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields will have no complete games. Predicting someone to have no complete games might not seem bold, but it is when it's a guy who was known as "Complete Game James" last season. Shields did have 11 complete games in 2011, an almost unheard-of number these days, but he had no complete games in 2009 or 2010.

[+] EnlargeJames Shields
Kim Klement/US PresswireAfter none in either 2009 or 10, James Shields pitched 11 complete games for Tampa Bay in 2011.
Boston Red Sox: No one hits 30 home runs. This might seem crazy when you consider their great offensive numbers last year, but only one player on their team hit 30 home runs and it was Jacoby Ellsbury with 32.

Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman in the NL.

Colorado Rockies: Jamie Moyer will have the best HR/9 on the staff.

Kansas City Royals: They reach .500. While their pitching won't be great, their offense will take a big step forward this year. Combined with the rest of their division being the Tigers and some dumpster fires, it's not that difficult to see it happening.

Detroit Tigers: They score fewer runs than they did in 2011. Yes, that’s even with Fielder. It's not improbable that Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila and Delmon Young regress quite a bit from their numbers with Detroit last year, and that Prince Fielder's production "only" makes up for the offensive loss of Victor Martinez in 2012. They'll still have a very good offense, though.

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer hits 15 home runs.

Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura gets ejected more times than Ozzie Guillen. Look at the state of the White Sox. We'd get ejected too.

New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda leads the team in ERA.

You Can't Predict Baseball is an affiliate of the SweetSpot network.

Minus Furcal, Dodgers need to rely on depth

April, 12, 2011
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This year’s Dodgers offense was already going to be something of a dependent proposition -- dependent on the availability of Rafael Furcal. If OBP is the lifeblood of any offense, Furcal was the man being counted on to deliver it from the top of the order. But now that L.A.’s leadoff man is out for at least the next six weeks with a broken thumb, the Dodgers have to confront the same ugly numbers that have defined their destinies in the previous five seasons.

Since coming over from Atlanta in 2006, Furcal has been something of a weathervane for the club’s fortunes -- when he plays, it’s a contender, and when he’s not, it struggles to reach .500. Over the past five seasons, the Dodgers have a record of 306-257 when Furcal has been healthy enough to start and 123-124 when he’s out of the starting lineup. (And for all of that, he’s gotten as high as 14th in the MVP voting just once -- in 2006, when he played in a career-high 159 games in his first season in L.A.) With the usual small-sample caveats, this season was no different: Furcal in, Dodgers win, with a 5-2 record in his starts, 1-2 with grinder Jamey Carroll subbing.

[+] EnlargeRafael Furcal
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesRafael Furcal may be out for six weeks after he broke his thumb stealing third.
Replacing Furcal’s bat might seem to be where the Dodgers will take the biggest hit. Projected by PECOTA for the second-best OBP in the lineup (behind Andre Ethier) at .339, for a .341 by ZiPS and for a .349 OBP by BIS, you may not read that as irreplaceable. However, the Dodgers were projected to rank 13th in the league at getting people on base, and absent Furcal for a quarter of the season or more, that isn’t going to get any better, even if the patient Carroll gets most of the playing time in his absence.

However, will the hit be that bad? It’s worth wondering now that the Dodgers have Carroll around, because last year they actually managed a slightly better record with him in the lineup than Furcal. Carroll’s career walk rate (10 percent) has been a fairly reliable commodity, creating a career OBP of .356, against Furcal’s .350.

What about defense? Carroll’s in his age-37 season, and might not be seen as a true shortstop these days. Given that there’s nobody else on the roster to replace Furcal with who resembles an everyday shortstop -- with prospect Ivan DeJesus Jr. long being seen as someone likely to wind up at second base -- it might be easy to rate Furcal’s value on defense fairly high. Admittedly, losing him should hurt, but via James Click’s Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, the Dodgers have bounced around from as high as second-best in MLB with Furcal playing regularly (in 2009) to 24th in 2006 and 20th in 2007 and 2010.

Fielding metrics like Total Zone (from Baseball-Reference.com) or Colin Wyers’ new Fielding Runs metric suggest that there wasn’t a lot separating Furcal and Carroll defensively last year. So even when talking about a defensive position as important as shortstop, defense necessarily has to work synergistically. Or, as Al Capone might note, "But in the field, what? Part of a team!"

If you remember "The Untouchables," you know what came next. And because of the club’s big-picture record without Furcal in the lineup, in his absence it’s easy to believe that it’s the Dodgers who stand a good chance of being bludgeoned. Even with their restocked rotation, this was a team that was going to have to win its share of close ballgames because of a series of decisions made about their lineup, from their enduring faith in James Loney’s punchless bat from first base, a bopper’s slot, to signing low-OBP infielder Juan Uribe away from the Giants.

In the abstract, this shouldn’t be quite as devastating as it sounds, but everything depends on the Dodgers’ depth. Can they count on Carroll and Casey Blake as regulars in their age-37 seasons? Maybe if Blake’s health puts him back in the lineup at third base somewhat regularly, the Dodgers might not seem not that badly off, swapping in one OBP threat in Carroll for another.

But the problem is that they’re relying on players close to the end of their careers, and if Blake or Carroll falter, there isn’t much to fall back on. DeJesus is projected to a .319 OBP (by PECOTA), the same as the team’s projected mark. If the Dodgers are going to endure, it’ll have to be on the merits of their old men.

Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter here.
My recent interview with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti prompted me to reflect on a little-discussed aspect of his tenure.

Colletti has held the management reigns for more than five years now, and some clear patterns have emerged. He values depth. He values veteran leadership. He wants young players to succeed, but he’d much rather do it on his own timetable. One of the funnier revelations I’ve had is that while Dodger fans think Colletti took too long to commit to then-kids like Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp, Colletti would tell you that he wishes they could have had more time in the minor leagues to develop. You can imagine that there would be some fun arguments at the imaginary Dodgers dinner table.

 Vicente Padilla
Jason Bridge/US PresswireNed Colletti has signed Vicente Padilla twice after picking him up midway through the 2009 season.
I’ve long been suspicious of the value placed on so-called clubhouse leaders, for a number of reasons. For one thing, these clubhouse leaders, at times, seemed not all they were cracked up to be. Players like Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent were supposed to show how this game was played, but often they seemed more concerned with turning up their noses and looking out for themselves.

Then there were the players who would seem to have no other function other than to be clubhouse gents and gems. The Dodgers would give money to players staring retirement right in the face -- last year, it was Garret Anderson and Brad Ausmus -- and justify it in large part by the examples they set as professionals. Nothing against these guys personally, but there’s a word for baseball men who can teach but can no longer play. They’re called coaches -- or at least they should be.

All this might be enough to conjure up an image of Colletti’s Dodger clubhouse as a local branch of the VFW -- guys hanging out, sharing war stories while hazing the rebellious small-fry. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story.

It doesn’t get discussed much in a broader context, but Colletti has also taken in guys who have worn problems on their sleeves. Vicente Padilla was practically chased out of Texas, but not only did Colletti pick him up from the midseason junkyard in 2009, he has signed him as a free agent twice since, including once shortly after Padilla shot himself in the leg.

In his first year as Dodger GM, Colletti traded away catcher Dioner Navarro when he was a 22-year-old with promise, in order to clear the path for Russell Martin. This winter, Colletti signed Navarro to a $1 million contract when he was a 26-year-old who packed his bags and left the Tampa Bay Rays after they didn’t include him on the active postseason roster, rather than stay and support the team.

Ronald Belisario will be back, visas willing, despite being late to the past two spring trainings and having a DUI arrest and rehab stint on his ledger.

Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt, who wowed even the irascible Larry Bowa with his work ethic, and Juan Pierre, who was considered the clubhouse MVP at one point, are among the good citizens who have been traded away in the past year.

In other words, the pattern to Colletti’s attitude toward the clubhouse is that there isn’t exactly a pattern. He’s wants a good mix off the field, but he’s not afraid to take a chance on a player that would upset that mix if he thinks he can help. Colletti asks the question, “Can they succeed in Los Angeles?” and comes up with an answer. That answer might sometimes perplex fans, but it isn’t dependent on the players being angels.

Jon Weisman writes about the Dodgers at Dodger Thoughts for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

$2 million not enough for Scotty Pods

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
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A little lesson in humility from Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness:
    After Scott Podsednik came to the Dodgers from Kansas City in late July, he hit an underwhelming .262/.313/.336 (79 OPS+) in 160 plate appearances with below-average defense and a net of only two stolen bases. That was all before September 9; he ended up missing most of the last month of the season due to plantar fasciitis.

    Despite Podsednik’s subpar performance as a Dodger and the fact that he’ll be 35 in March, the club picked up their half of a $2m (plus $300k in incentives) mutual option in November. At the time, Ned Colletti seemed to leave the door open for substantial playing time for Podsednik should he return ...

    --snip--

    Fortunately for us all, Podsednik declined his option, and the fact that I still say that after three months of watching the Dodgers try and fail to fill that LF hole should tell you all you need to know about my opinion of Podsednik. Presumably, Podsednik’s thinking at the time was that he could do better than a one year, $2m deal, particularly since reports were that he and the Dodgers were still having conversations about his return even after declining the option.

    --snip--

    At this point, I think it’s clear that Podsednik probably screwed up by declining his option ...

You think?

But let's save some of the blame for Podsednik's agent, who might have done his best to convince his client that $2 million is a lot of money (even after taxes!) but might not have. Agents are capable of misreading the market, too. Though I suspect that's significantly less common than players misreading their own values.

For the record, here are Podsednik's estimated values, via FanGraphs, over the past five seasons: $0; negative $200,000; negative $1.7 million; $8 million; $1.6 million.

Granted, Podsednik made a brilliant comeback in 2009, and for a few months in 2010 he was a useful player. He'll turn 35 this spring, though. Would you bet $2 million on him at this point?

Podsednik is the sort of player you invite to spring training if your outfield is thin. Depending on what happens in spring training, you might eventually ask him to head to Triple-A and hope for the best. What you don't do is offer him anything like $2 million. The Dodgers were foolish to pick up their half of the option, and lucky that Podsednik declined. They shouldn't have any problem finding another outfielder who's cheaper, better, or both.

The Dodgers' exciting left-field platoon!

January, 18, 2011
1/18/11
11:57
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Well, at least Don Mattingly's now got a viable option in left field, the Dodgers having signed Marcus Thames. Steve Dilbeck:
    Yet this black hole in left was the Dodgers’ own doing. They got themselves into this quagmire, so it is only because previous options were so poor that adding Thames counts as something of a modest upgrade.

    He does have a little pop, something they desperately need, though it’s hard to get excited about a Jay Gibbons-Thames platoon, if indeed that is their plan.

    The two are remarkably similar. Born just four days apart in March, both have reasonable power but something sadly below reasonable defense.

Right fielder Andre Ethier, too. About the defense, I mean.

Which now makes the signing of Tony Gwynn Jr. look pretty smart. While Gwynn's brilliant defense is sort of wasted in the corners, Matt Kemp's probably not moving and Gwynn should come in handy if Mattingly is willing to use Gwynn like Bruce Bochy used Nate Schierholtz down the stretch last season.

Still, it is hard to get excited about Gibbons and Thames, mostly because their (medium, actually) pops aren't accompanied by acceptable on-base percentages. Well, you have to take the bad with the good. Left field does seem like a long-term problem for the Dodgers, and so does Ethier's defense in right field.

It's looking like James Loney won't hit like a first baseman's supposed to hit. If he doesn't, he's soon going to be earning more money than he's worth. Which might eventually open a space at first base for Ethier, but of course that just means a hole in right field.

In the short term, the Dodgers have filled their holes well enough to be competitive in the short term. But this does feel like they're in a holding pattern until a benevolent billionaire comes along and the McCourts can live happily ever after.

Dodgers not spending for bats

December, 13, 2010
12/13/10
5:08
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Craig pointed out this bit of exciting Southland news from Robothal:
    The Dodgers are in discussions with free agent Bill Hall, who would be their primary left fielder. Hall, who hit 18 home runs in 344 at-bats for the Red Sox last season, likely would be the Dodgers' last significant addition; the team is nearing its budgetary limit.

Hey, he's better than Tony Gwynn.

Still, this reminded me of something T.J. Simers wrote a few days ago (and you have to give Simers credit for saying almost anything to almost anybody). Simers:
    GM Ned Colletti has repeatedly told us his hands are not tied because of the McCourt mess.

    This makes Colletti a liar.

    Or, the worst judge of talent in baseball history.

    Or, a former Giants executive still doing what he can to help the Bay Area team by mucking up the Dodgers.

    Read the list out loud of off-season acquisitions as I did to Colletti the other day: Jay Gibbons, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland; Tony Gwynn Jr., Juan Uribe, Vicente Padilla, Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro and Hiroki Kuroda.

    "Which one of these is not a stiff?" I wanted to know.

Even at (almost) 36, Hiroki Kuroda's not a stiff. Lilly, Garland, Padilla ... all of those guys are decent enough (though I wonder if I'm missing something -- doesn't that make six starters, all those guys plus Billingsley and Kershaw?).

I think it's fair to say the Dodgers haven't done anything exciting. The problem is that there weren't many exciting hitters available this winter, not on the free market anyway. And apparently the Dodgers don't have the financial wherewithal to grab one of them.

Should the Dodgers have outspent the Nationals for Jayson Werth, or the Red Sox for Carl Crawford? Crawford in particular would have been a good fit, but it's pretty clear that the Dodgers simply don't have that kind of money. Maybe they should have that kind of money, considering their market and their ballpark. But the McCourts were running the franchise on something of a shoestring before the divorce, and now every significant outlay is going to be just another bone of contention.

Colletti's track record isn't real good. But given his financial limitations and the paucity of impact hitters on the market this winter, there's something to be said for focusing on run prevention and hoping for the best.

Dodgers' future still murky

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
2:03
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Given the facts as we've known them, the judge's ruling for Jamie McCourt shouldn't be any real surprise. What does this mean for the Dodgers? Let's turn to Dodger Thoughts:
    How will this affect the Dodgers on the field? That's unpredictable. Chaos doesn't prohibit spending; spending doesn't guarantee victory. And so Dodger fans have a choice. Press on in their fandom, like a wagon train crossing the country, heedless of whether the next ridge might be the one with the storm hiding behind it. Or set up camp, cowering in fear. Or abandon the trip altogether. Who's up for college baseball?

    I'm a wagon train guy, mainly because of my belief that if it's not one thing, it's another. There's always something. But I have to tell you, this is not my kind of trip. I don't think it's wrong or immature to sit back and call to the heavens, "Great Dodger in the Sky, we want our team's stability back."

    But that plea will fall on deaf ears. The courtroom battles and jockeying for ownership will continue, becoming part of the Dodger way of life — not an everyday part, but something that comes around during holidays and other inopportune moments, like a bad visit from the divorced in-laws.

I just wanted to share that with you, as Jon Weisman does such a wonderful job writing about the Dodgers.

Oh, and I want to say this, too ... In today's Major League Baseball, nobody purchases a franchise without the express consent of Commissioner Alan H. "Bud" Selig. Essentially, MLB sets the price for a franchise, three or four ownership groups step forward with their financing plans, and the Commissioner's Office picks one (yes, I'm simplifying the process, but not by much).

So when you're weighing the accomplishments of Commissioner Selig, your job isn't complete until you've measured the impacts of the various men who have been allowed into the club.

Is Dodgers' attendance immune to losing?

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
3:56
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The Dodgers are raising some ticket prices and dropping some, but apparently the average ticket price won't change much. Craig Calcaterra:


    But it certainly would be hard to swallow a price increase given the state of the team right now. At least if they don't do something to generate some excitement this winter. The Dodgers have always drawn. But there's no law of nature making this inevitable. If it's more Jamey Carroll-level "splashes" and Vicente Padilla extensions between now and February, people are going to be turned off.


I don't know. Maybe it's not a law of nature. But there seems to be a law of something.

In 1958, the Dodgers finished seventh in an eight-team league. The next year they led the National League in attendance.

In 1967, the Dodgers finished eighth in a 10-game league. The next year they finished third in the league in attendance. That year, they finished seventh. The next year they finished second in the league in attendance.

In 1986, the Dodgers finished fifth in a six-team division. The next year they finished third in the league in attendance.

In 1992, the Dodgers finished last for the first time (and to date, the only time) since moving to Los Angeles. The next year they finished third in the league in attendance.

In 2005, the Dodgers finished fourth in a five-team division. The next year they led the National League in attendance.

In 2007, the Dodgers finished fourth in a five-team division. The next year they finished second in the league in attendance.

There are two things about this "study." One, I'm not cherry-picking. I just looked at the standings every season and chose the Dodgers' worst finishes. Two, in almost every case the Dodgers did play significantly better in the following season.

In 2010, the Dodgers finished fourth in their division, and second in the league in attendance. Maybe they'll drop off some in 2011. Especially if they get off to a slow start. But I think there is a "law" of sorts. I think the Dodgers are simply a part of the culture down there, like gridlocked freeways and telling everyone else how wonderful the weather is.

Oh, and it probably helps that 13 million people live nearby.

Maybe the Dodgers won't draw, someday. But we're at least one (and probably more) non-competitive seasons from finding out.

Dodgers take path of least resistance with Mattingly

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
3:42
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Looks like the Dodgers have a new manager:

    Joe Torre will announce later Friday that he is stepping down as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after the season, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed this morning on the condition of anonymity. As has been speculated from the moment Torre was hired almost three years ago, the club also will name hitting coach Don Mattingly to succeed Torre as manager.

    --snip--

    Mattingly has never managed at any level, but he is slated to manage in the Arizona Fall League after the season, an assignment that is far different from managing a major league club during the regular season because it is a league that exists primarily for showcasing prospects from a handful of different organizations.


I'm not wild about it.

The Dodgers presumably know more about Mattingly than I do. Maybe things would have been even worse this year if not for his steadying presence. I just wonder how they can possibly know what he'll do, when responsible for 25 different personalities.

Worse, this strikes me as the last, desperate move of an owner who's trying to hang on to the past. Frank McCourt, at heart an Easterner, couldn't buy the Red Sox or the Yankees, so he bought the Yankees' manager. Now the Yankees' manager is leaving, and McCourt is turning to the most beloved Yankee between Thurman Munson and Derek Jeter.

It's absolutely possible that Don Mattingly is the best man -- or at least one of the 20 best men -- for the job.

Considering the process, though, and McCourt's current circumstances, does it seem likely?

I suspect Mattingly won't last long. Perhaps only until McCourt is forced to sell the franchise and the new owner installs a new general manager who installs a new manager.

Of course I could be wrong.

Update: It's official, as the Dodgers have issued a press release confirming Mattingly's promotion.

Selling the Dodgers is the only option

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
12:17
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Bill Shaikin on what the commissioner thinks about the Dodgers:
    [Bud] Selig has remained virtually silent on the issue since the McCourts filed for divorce 11 months ago, saying only that the legal proceedings needed to play out.

    However, according to four people who have spoken with him, Selig is dismayed at the public spectacle surrounding the divorce and concerned about the potential for lasting damage to the league and its flagship West Coast franchise. He has told those people he wants the Dodgers' ownership situation resolved long before his scheduled retirement in 2012.

    The trial to determine who owns the Dodgers is set to resume Monday and end by Sept. 30, after which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has 90 days to rule.

    Yet, with both sides openly discussing possible appeals and additional legal maneuvers, a final decision on whether Frank McCourt is the sole owner of the team or Jamie McCourt is a co-owner could be two to three years away, according to attorneys involved in the case.

First, I wouldn't take too seriously that "scheduled retirement in 2012" talk. The closer 2012 gets, the less likely that retirement gets.

That's a trifle, though.

According to Shaikin, in the past four years "the Dodgers turned a profit of $111 million, including $38 million last year."

Those numbers, along with the premier nature of the Los Angeles market, means if the franchise is on the market there will be immensely wealthy prospective buyers lined up from Chavez Ravine to Rancho Cucamonga. And I don't believe it will take two or three years for the McCourts to figure out that fighting over the Dodgers is simply delaying the inevitable ...

Neither can have sole possession of the Dodgers and they obviously can't share the Dodgers, which leaves just one option: selling the club and splitting the proceeds. Soon, the lawyers' jobs will be less about "winning" than about convincing their clients to stop wasting everyone's time and money on this foolishness.

Come to think of it, though, a lot of the money that's being wasted is being wasted on those lawyers, most of whom have every reason to see this thing drag on for some years. So maybe this will take longer than I think. The commissioner just might have to stick around for a while ...

Dodger documents reveal discrepancies

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
11:27
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Bill Shaikin with some juicy (but not prurient) bits from the McCourt trial:
    Among the promises Frank McCourt made on the day he took over the Dodgers in 2004: He would maintain the Dodgers' player payroll within the top one-quarter of major league teams, and he had no plans to consider selling naming rights to Dodger Stadium.

The business plan he filed with Major League Baseball tells a different story on both counts. In two largely similar versions of the plan, the document explains how he plans to reverse the Dodgers' financial losses in part by slashing payroll -- from $100 million in 2004 to $85 million in 2006 -- and limiting annual growth to about 4 percent.

The document also notes the "iconic status of Dodger Stadium" and says "there may be initial resistance to re-naming the ballpark."

"The Dodgers' ability to remain competitive will rely in part upon the development of this revenue stream," the document reads. "A well thought out naming rights deal presented in this context will be accepted by the Los Angeles market ..."This passage seems to be presented as evidence as evidence of McCourt's perfidy, but shouldn't we worry more about the results than whatever he might have said six years ago in order to gain ownership of a great franchise.

The facts are that McCourt has the Dodgers' stadium is still called Dodger Stadium (thankfully) and that the Dodgers have maintained a payroll in the top one-quarter of major league teams.

Well, not exactly. This year they're 11th -- according to Shaikin; there are different ways of counting payroll -- and obviously 11th isn't in the top quarter. But it's close, and the Dodgers were definitely above that shreshold in 2007 and 2008. I would argue that you have to look at all the seasons since McCourt took over, and the Dodgers are definitely in the top quartile since 2006.

There are, I'm sure, any number of things for which Frank McCourt might deserve to be indicted. By the Court of Public Opinion, I mean. But he's kept the payroll roughly where he said he would, and Dodger Stadium's still Dodger Stadium. Not much to see here, folks.

Did Manny really quit on the Dodgers?

August, 31, 2010
8/31/10
3:57
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I know I'm way behind on this story, so I'll let a non-behinder take the lead today:
    Yesterday I took Ken Rosenthal to task for saying that Manny Ramirez "quit on the Dodgers." My reason: neither Rosenthal's nor anyone else's reports had any evidence that he did quit on them. I thought it was your typical shoveling of dirt on Manny because he's made himself a pretty handy dirt receptacle over the years.

    But maybe Manny did quit! Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com reports today that, according to two Dodgers sources, Manny "declined his spot in the starting lineup" on Sunday. Joe Torre won't confirm it. Guess we have to wait for his next book.

Craig's next sentence begins, "I don't recant my criticism of Rosenthal's piece yesterday ..."

I don't think that's the smartest move here.

Those of us who were weaned on Bill James and the Internets -- well, not weaned, but post-weaned -- tend to give the players the benefit of the doubt, while extending little quarter to baseball executives and longtime BBWAA members and anyone else who reeks of the Establishment.

There are good and worthy reasons for this tendency. But even before this news that MannyB self-selected out of the lineup, wasn't his one-pitch ejection Sunday night enough evidence -- considering his history -- to suggest that he'd quit on the Dodgers? Wasn't it fair for baseball writers, Establishment or not, to suggest that maybe the Dodgers deserved a little more effort for their $20 million?

Not that I've got any sympathy for Manny's employers. Seriously, how did they think this story was going to end? The only way that $45 million contract was going to work was if Ramirez was mostly healthy in both seasons and the Dodgers got into the playoffs in both seasons. Well, they went 1-for-4. Which really shouldn't have been so hard to predict.

Craig's right about one thing, though ... Joe Torre's next book should be a real doozy.

Is Padres' Gonzalez an MVP candidate?

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
4:53
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A Question from a Follower: "Shouldn't Adrian Gonzalez be in the MVP conversation? He's the only offense in the NL's best team. Reminds me of Kirk Gibson in '88?"

I don't believe in giving a hitter extra credit for being the best hitter on his team, even if he's essentially the only hitter on his team and his team is really good. For the moment, then, let's just look at Gonzalez's case in a sort of vacuum ...

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesAdrian Gonzalez is hitting .299 with 70 walks and 95 strikeouts so far this season.
He was an excellent player from 2006 through 2008. Not a brilliant player, by any means; Gonzalez simply didn't get on base quite often enough for that. But in 2009, Gonzalez somehow changed his game. In 2007 and '08, he averaged 56 unintentional walks and 140 strikeouts per season. But in 2009, he drew 97 unintentional walks and struck out 109 times. Which made him one of the National League's three or four best hitters. And he's one of the league's three or four best hitters in 2010, too.

Does that mean he's a serious MVP candidate?

Well, only if you do give him credit for being the Padres' only productive hitter. As it happens, each of the other contending teams in the National League with one deserving Most Valuable Player candidate has two of them (or close). The Reds have Joey Votto and Scott Rolen. The Giants have Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff. The Cardinals have Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

Gonzalez probably is the best player on a good team who's carrying so much of the load by himself. I just don't think that's enough to push him past Votto or Pujols (or for that matter Ryan Zimmerman, who's not going to get any MVP attention but should). If Gonzalez were tied with those other first basemen? Maybe. But he's not.

Now, about Kirk Gibson in 1988 ... First, Gibson was really, really, really good that season. It wasn't really a hitters' year and Gibson didn't hit a lot of home runs. But he finished fourth in the league in OPS, second in runs scored, and first in Wins Above Replacement.

Still, as I'm sure you know, MVP voters in 1988 didn't spend a great deal of time thinking about OPS and WAR. They liked batting average and home runs and runs batted in, and Gibson didn't fare particularly well in any of those categories.

So the fact that he probably deserved to win doesn't really explain why he won.

Some of you remember why. Some of you don't, because you were six years old. Kirk Gibson won the Most Valuable Player Award in 1988 because in spring training he ripped his new Dodger teammates for their unprofessionalism. The media ate it up, the Dodgers won the division title, and Gibson also played well enough for the voters to justify supporting him.

But that part, you wouldn't know by just looking at the numbers. Most MVP and Cy Young winners, and Hall of Fame selections, can be "predicted" using statistical models. But some of them, the interesting ones, can't be. Which is why I believe the historical study of awards voting remains a rich vein for ambitious researchers.

What's to be done with Matt Kemp?

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
2:14
PM ET
It must be fun to write about the Dodgers this season. Here's Bill Plaschke quoting Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart:
    "I'm almost to the point — and maybe so are the Dodgers — where I'm thinking that this just isn't going to work," Stewart said. "The Dodgers have gaps on this team, and maybe they could fill them by trading Matt. It could be good for the team, and good for the player."

Stewart emphasized he would never formally ask for a trade, but he wonders if his client can be successful while fighting off what he claims are unfair barbs from within the organization, particularly veteran coaches Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa, both of whom have been critical of the fundamental deficiencies in the budding star.

"It's very, very difficult to play under the circumstances that Kemp is playing under," Stewart said.

"The thing we have to look at is, is there going to be a fit? Is he going to be able to get past the public scrutiny? Matt has to wonder, 'If these guys don't like me, how can I play for them?'"

--snip--

"Everything was fine until suddenly Schaefer and Bowa start getting on him publicly," said Stewart, a former Dodgers pitcher. "On those great Dodger teams of the past, you would never read about a player being trashed like Matt's been trashed."

Stewart is referring to the midseason incident in which Schaefer scolded Kemp for not backing up second base on a stolen-base attempt. Kemp replied with enough harsh words that led to his being benched for three days. Though Schaefer never criticized Kemp publicly, Stewart felt the encounter and punishment unnecessarily embarrassed his player.

Stewart's anger with Bowa stems from a recent Times story in which Bowa chided Kemp for not always playing hard, a charge with which Kemp actually agreed at the time.

"When Larry Bowa played, he would never accept a coach talking about him in the newspaper like that, but they want to Matt to accept it?" Stewart said.I don't know what Larry Bowa would have "accepted" in the 1970s. I'm not sure that Dave Stewart knows, either.

Are Kemp's coaches critical because Kemp isn't playing well this season?

Or is Kemp not playing well this season because his coaches are critical.

That probably depends on your perspective.

I'm not nearly smart enough to get inside Matt Kemp's head. Purely in terms of performance, he's not the player we expected. Here are his OPS+ for the past four seasons: 127, 110, 125, 110. He's striking out (slightly) more often than ever before. His steals are down, his caught stealings up. According to two reputable defensive metrics -- UZR and Defensive Runs Saved -- Kemp's play in center field is way off this season.

Essentially, he seems to be regressing. Maybe he can't stop thinking about Rihanna. Maybe he put on 25 pounds of muscle last winter, which is slowing him down on the bases and in center field. Maybe he's decided he's a power hitter, which would explain the strikeouts and the batting average.

I don't have any idea, really. But you can understand the coaches' frustration with Kemp just a little, can't you? Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer have been around the game forever, and they haven't seen many players with Matt Kemp's raw talents. And it must be killing them to think he's wasting it.

Which doesn't mean they're helping. Maybe Kemp would benefit from an attitude adjustment, but maybe that process would be facilitated by a coaching adjustment.

Which brings to mind a question that nobody seems to have asked ... What's Joe Torre been up to? In the spring, the general manager ripped Kemp. In the summer, the coaches ripped Kemp. Is Torre waiting for the fall?

The fall doesn't begin until the 23rd of September.

Of course, that's probably too late for the Dodgers, who have already fallen too far. Maybe the solution here is to keep Kemp and find a new coaching staff. Because the old staff doesn't seem to have accomplished much this summer.

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