Suddenly, Mattingly Cares??

If ever there was a manager that didn’t seem to give a crap whether he won or lost, it was Donnie Baseball.  Seemingly dispassionate and putting forth an outward appearance like he couldn’t be bothered, Donnie somehow lasted 5 years as the Dodgers manager.   He never seemed mad, just annoyed from time to time.  Like the interviewer was interrupting his dinner.  Donnie “Complacency” Mattingly, I used to call him.  I was glad when he wasn’t retained.  I’m much happier with Dave “Doc” Roberts, even though I still think he’s a sabermetric marionette.  At least he has a pulse.  But, Donnie seems like he’s three or four bong hits in most of the time.  So, you can imagine my shock and surprise when he went ballistic the other night in the Dodgers’ second consecutive 7-2 win over Mattingly’s lowly Marlins.  Eibner hits a 2-run blast earlier in the game.  Seager swings at a 3-0 pitch with a 5-0 lead in the 7th, which apparently somehow pissed Donnie off. (Why?  It’s only 5-0 in the 7th.  It’s not 10-0.)  And, then Cody craps on an. A.J. Ramos fastball and deposits a 2-run blast into the Chavez Ravine night.  So, Ramos’s next pitch drills Eibner in the ribs.  On purpose?  Of course.  Whaddaya think, we’re all stupid?   Then, when Ross stripling does precisely the right thing and protects his teammates by throwing the first pitch of the top of 9 behind Giancarlo Stanton’s butt, Donnie suddenly wakes up from a 7 year slumber.  Rip Van Mattingly goes bat shit crazy and comes storming out of the dugout like the Tasmanian Devil, chasing after Dodgers bench coach, Bob Geren, and wants to engage in fisticuffs with the guy by the pitchers mound.  THAT’S what flips his switch?  Seager swinging at a 3-0 fastball with a 5-zip lead in the 7th?  Gimme a break.  How very odd.

The soon-to-be-sold Marlins have a weak club.  Poor starting pitching without their late, great ace and a bad bullpen.  But they do have a pretty solid starting lineup.  Justin Bour is coming into his own at first base, and when the left side of their infield gets healthy, they could potentially give opposing pitchers a rough time.  But no pitching, no wins.  The Dodgers did what they were supposed to do and beat a bad team 3 out of 4.

When did it come to pass that anytime a major league player runs 180 feet, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll pull a hammy and be DL’d?  How is Justin Turner so tight in the middle of a game that he can’t round third base without pulling a muscle?  When I was a little tyke collecting Topps baseball cards and listening to Vinny on the radio, I remember Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey played everyday.  They never seemed to pull hamstrings running around the bases.  Oh, I’m sure it happened, but not nearly with the frequency it happens now.  What the hell?  Are they doing too many leg presses and not stretching enough?  Or have muscles just gotten tighter since the 70’s?

The Rockies are in first place because they’re a better team than the Dodgers.  How long that’ll last, I don’t know, but they’re just better.  They don’t have Kershaw and Seager, but they have better players overall.   They have a true leadoff hitter who also hits for power, they have a true middle of the order and a manager who doesn’t platoon people to death.  They have great bench depth with a strong bat coming off the DL soon  and good young starting pitching with a couple guys expecting to come off the DL.  They have a superb bullpen.  Can the Dodgers pass them and win the division? (AND pass Arizona?) Of course, but we’re gonna have to get a lot better.  How…?

This 7 man rotation is dumb.  I’m over it.   Guys gotta know when they’re pitching and need to know their roles.   Meanwhile, our precious phenom, Julio Urias – only 20 years old – has pitched himself back to the minors his last 2 outings and certainly doesn’t look like the guy they’re counting on to become their new Zack Greinke.  (Greinke – 6-2 with an 2.82 ERA, just K’d 12 White Sox.  Kinda wish we still had him?)  But, again, Julio is only 20, and we do suddenly have an ace in the making with Alex Wood.  Who’da thunk it?  The lefty with the weird delivery and the deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face is taking guys apart.  Let’s just hope it lasts.  But I don’t trust Ryu, Maeda, or, frankly, even McCarthy that much.  Hill is the wild card in this equation.  If he can stay blister-free and repeat what he did last year, we should be okay.

Cody Bellinger has a lotta knocks in a short time, but he strikes out as much or more than my mom would, and she’s 83 and can’t hit righties.  There are times when young Cody looks like Lou Gherig, and there are times, like yesterday against very bad pitching, where he just looks completely over-matched.  I guess he should, since he’s so young and raw, but what does that mean when we talk about the Dodgers winning with him THIS year?  Seager is, thus far, having a bit of an off year, still solid though.  JT is on the shelf, but very productive and will be back.  I’m no longer a believer in AGone, regardless of how he did yesterday.  They’re actually talking about platooning Chris Taylor (who simply hits too much to sit) when JT and the great Logan Forsythe return.  Puig is still Puigin’, but still not a difference-maker.   He needs to be more consistent and not hurt his back on  weak check swings.  Yasmani’s hitting up a storm from the left side, and Pederson just plain stinks.  Overall, the Dodgers have a very solid team, but still seems like they can use another power bat in the middle and another veteran presence in the outfield.  And it just feels like the Rocks are a notch above the Blue offensively.  Now that Cargo is turning it up, (his average has gone up 40 points in the last 2 weeks) and LeMahieu, Blackmon, Arrenado, Desmond, and Reynolds are all raking, the Rockies have overtaken the Nats for the best record in the league.  They’re gonna be tougher to beat than anyone imagined.  Especially the Dodgers.

It’s almost June.  Not sure how I’m gonna pay my rent and not sure how the Dodgers are gonna step on the Snakes and climb over the Rockies.  Tough series starting tomorrow vs St. Louis and then, the Cubs.  The Redbirds always play us tough and the Cubs are, well, they’re the World Champions and, like Don Mattingly,  they’re finally waking up.

No “P”, Taylor

In 2017, the Dodgers play very well against teams that have a “P” in their name.  In fact, all four teams in MLB that have the letter “P” in their name, are pretty piss poor.  You got your San Diego Padres, your Philadelphia Phillies and your Pittsburgh Pirates.  The best of the “P” quartet are the TamPa Bay Rays, and the the Dodgers don’t see them this year.   However, when the team they play is “P”-less, the Dodgers are mediocre at best.   The Dodgers are suPPosed to be a ChampionshiP caliber club, but they sure haven’t Played like it uP to now.   Maybe they should try to deal a “P” or two of their own.

Aside from JT, Chris Taylor is currently the team’s best hitter.  Chris Soon-To-Be-Replaced-By-Logan Forsythe Taylor.  Oh, sure, we have Corey and Cody.  They’re great.  Seager should be Ok, but right now, he looks way off.  And Cody Bellinger will hopefully adjust to the adjustments the opposition is making against him.  He’s striking out at an alarming rate, but he is a rookie.  Grandal has started getting hot.  Puig is having a slightly better than average year for Puig.  Still not stellar, but it’s only mid-May.

But the loss of Andrew Toles will loom large.  He was, by far, our best choice for lead-off hitter and he was just starting to get going.  When I see the replay of him crashing into the wall to try to save Urias’ no-no, I still can’t really figure out what happened.  All I know, is, if he actually leaves his feet and goes horizontal airborne, he not only doesn’t get hurt, but he has a chance of actually snaring the line drive.   Instead, he was acutely aware of the wall and tried to stop short and tore up his knee.  Out for the year and his Dodger career could be over.  Next year, who knows what they’ll do?  Bring up Verdugo?  Make a deal for someone?  It’s sad because he was so helpful last year and is such a catalyst.  And, he’s already been through hell psychologically with his anxiety problems and difficulty adjusting.   Now he’s done.  And we have no table-setter.

Again, it’s only mid-May and we’re only a couple behind the high-climbing Rockies.  And, it’s true, this Dodgers team has not begun to gel yet.  I think.  I hope.  But, then, neither have the Rockies.  How scary will they be when David Dahl and Jon Gray come off the DL?  They have some good young arms in Freelander and Senzatela and a great pen and a great manager in Buddy Black.   The Diamondbacks won’t disappear either, and let’s face it, the lowly Giants have the Dodgers number.  Again.  Maybe they’re not that lowly.   So, the Dodgers have a lot of work to do.

This whole using the 10 Day DL to fake injuries and mix and match a seven man rotation is wrong and should not be allowed.  It seems unethical.  Either a guy’s hurt and can’t play or he’s not hurt and he can.   The Dodgers and sneaky Friedman and Zaidi have used it more than anyone.  So, who should be in their rotation?  Kershaw, Hill, Urias, Wood, and Maeda.  Maeda has been keeping the ball down and pitching better than McCarthy, I’m afraid.  But that may not last. Let’s see how “Blistery” Rich does tonight.  (So far, he’s hit Denard Span in the head with a low curve, balked him to second, and struck out Christian Arroyo with a fastball.)    Suffice it to say – and it doesn’t seem fair because it went down in Denver where the air is so thin – that Hyun-Jin Ryu has pitched himself right out of the rotation.  People argue all the starting pitching quantity makes them great.  I think it makes them confused and screws with guys’ rhythms.  By faking a DL stint for McCarthy and making him miss a start, he wasn’t able to pitch effectively fore more than a couple innings.  Ryu looked rusty as hell, and I’m curious to see how Maeda does when he comes back from his “hamstring injury.”  It’s bad enough these guys actually get injured all the time, do we really need to fake them as well?

AGone is coming back maybe the end of next week and I’m not looking forward to it.  I think he’s done being a chief producer on this team, but when he gets back, he’ll reclaim his position and Bellinger will become their permanent left fielder.  That leaves a few big questions about some more “P’s”.  If May turns to June and Joc “Crybaby” Pederson (Man, is he a mess!) is still hitting around .226 with one dinger, when will it be time to start considering a replacement?  And with Verdugo waiting in the wings, why wouldn’t you think of dealing Pederson or even Puig for some help, either in the pen or in the form of a big righty bat?

And what about the pen?  Sure, they have a low ERA as of May 16th, but they’re really not that good.  Grant Dayton and Sergio Romo have been gasoline on a fire and and Chris Hatcher is… well, Chris Hatcher.  “Petey” Baez throws hard and it’s always fun to watch him turn to watch the the inevitable blast he gives up that has an exit velocity much greater than it’s entrance velocity.  So far, the soups du jour to lead to Kenley have been Luis Avilan and the Jesus-loving Josh Fields.   (He’s only in the Bigs because Jesus wanted him there.)  Not sure those two’ll remain reliable throughout the long year.  Can Jesus come out of the pen and get some outs?

What about execution?  The Dodgers run the bases like Little Leaguers.  They have the worst execution I’ve ever seen on bunts, hit and runs, and steals.  Watching them on the bases, it’s hard to believe they’re a big league club.

I guess what I’m saying is, AND I KNOW IT’S STILL KIND OF EARLY, the Dodgers just don’t look like a championship club.  For that matter, neither do the Cubs, but at least they have the hardware.  The Cubs’ll come out of hibernation and they’ll be right there. I’m pretty sure the Dodgers will play better and go on some form of a tear.  I think they’ll probably win the West, but not as easily as last year.   But can anyone honestly say the Dodgers look better than the team in D.C.?  And I’m certainly not talking about the disaster that’s the Trump White House, I’m talking about the mighty Nats.  The Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Jason Werth, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez Nats.  In other words, if things continue as they are, most of the NL’s starting lineup for this year’s All-Star game Nats. I have a friend who insists the Dodgers are baseball’s best team RIGHT NOW.  A lovely, great guy, and a true, diehard fan, but come on.  They’re not.  They’re a hair better than mediocre and still have not played some very good teams.  Like the Cardinals, who they have coming up.  The best team in baseball doesn’t get shut down by Matt Cain.  Twice.  Other teams that look as good or better than the Dodgers so far:  Colorado, St. Louis, Arizona, Milwaukee, Houston, the Yanks, Baltimore, Boston (in spite of their record).   Two teams I think are built better than the Dodgers and will win in spite of their current record: The Cubs and the Tribe.

In spite of all the depth, the Dodgers have some dead weight on the roster.  I’m not sure why Chris Hatcher is still a Dodger, I think Romo should Go mo’,  I don’t like Van Slyke and think they can do better.  And I’m not super crazy about Franklin Gutierrez.  He’s slow and plays sparingly.   Right now, it’s Corey & Cody, JT & Kersh & Kenley.  At some point, I think they’re going to need to make some additions and subtractions if they want to be taken seriously.

A Few Thoughts As April Turns To May…

Bill Shaikin’s column in the LA Times today talks about how smart Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers are for using to their endlessly deep pockets to get all these crappy, injured pitchers.  He compared the Dodgers’ situation to the Mets’ who had to recently DL Thor Syndergard and are hurting for pitching with Steven Matz still on the shelf.  Also, apparently, the Dodgers starters have the lowest ERA in the league. (For the time being)  I also can’t help noticing, however, how taxed our mediocre bullpen is and how we’re in 3rd place in the West.  I guess Bill is implying the reason the Dodgers are where they are is not due to starting pitching, but due to the fact they simply can’t hit.  I think it’s both.  I mean, let’s face it, the first few starts from Maeda and Ryu didn’t help.  Neither did a couple starts from Alex Wood and Ross Stripling, and one each from Hill and McCarthy.  Frankly, even a couple starts from Kershaw have been lousy.  Look, I don’t necessarily agree that all clubs MUST have 5 starters and I’m perfectly capable of thinking outside the box, as Friedman and Zaidi apparently do, but I do know that if you’re gonna win it all, I don’t care how many injury-prone, mid-level-to-crappy starters you have, you need three really good ones to get ‘er done.   And for those who haven’t noticed, the Dodgers have yet to win a championship.  When this flimsy formula wins a World Series, then we can talk about how smart they are.  In the meantime, the jury is still out on whether this starting staff is even good enough to get them back to the playoffs, let alone a World Series.   I can tell you this:  If somehow Clayton Kershaw’s slider stays flat and, for whatever reason, he becomes a more or less normal pitcher, this season is over.   But I’m betting he’s too good to let that happen.

Ex-Dodger GM Ned Colletti said before a game the other night on TW or Spectrum (whatever the fk it is) Sportsnet that ‘the Dodgers acquiring Logan Forsythe was the biggest deal of the off season for any team in baseball.’  WHAT are you smoking, Ned?    I wonder what the Red Sox, after acquiring Chris Sale, would have to say about that?  Or the Indians, after getting Edwin Encarnacion?  (Although, he’s not hitting yet)  What a dumb ass remark from Colletti, who’s so buried in Dodger rhetoric and so thankful to be on their payroll and in front of the camera, he’s allowing his own reputation as a knowledgeable baseball man to go by the wayside.

Adrian Gonzalez needs to take a seat.  I don’t care that he’s never been on the DL before.  He needs to go on the DL NOW.  The Dodgers spin it like he’s a gamer and he wants to help the team.  Really, Adrian?  Then sit the fk down and rest that back/hip/forearm, slow bat, everything and let Bellinger do what he came here to do.  And, can you believe Dave Roberts?  He says a guy shouldn’t lose his position in the lineup because he was injured.  So, wait?  Pederson comes back and Bellinger goes down?  No, Doc, you play your best nine guys.  Period.  It’s not about guys’ feelings.  It’s about the team and winning.  Stop being such a sweetheart and do what you need to do.

The Dodgers DESPERATELY need a big righty bat.  Yasiel Puig is a wonderful right fielder, but the dude just isn’t gonna get it.  He beats everything into the ground.  He seems to still have no clue at the plate and he seems to always be up in crucial situations.   When he hits the ball in the air, he can be dangerous, but he just doesn’t do it enough and he seem like he can have any kind of consistent success.

Why does everyone think Grant Dayton is so good?  I’ve said it so many times in this blog, a low ERA is not that defining a stat for short relievers.  Dayton has had a few very sharp outings for the Blue since coming up last year, but he seems to be in trouble the majority of his stints.  He was terrible the other night against the hated Giants and he’s currently the owner of a 5.00 ERA.  It begs the question, what the hell are the Dodgers going to do about their bullpen?   Can you name a reliever besides Jansen whom you really trust?  I can’t.

And how about those Giants?  They have the worst record in the league, but they’re better than us.  At least head to head.  Going into the season, I thought their main problem was lack of offense.  But now that Christian Arroyo has Arro-yived, and once Brandon Crawford gets back, they can have a somewhat formidable middle of the order with Brandon Belt, Underpants (Hunter Pence sounds like “Underpants”),  Posey, Crawford, and Arroyo.   That’s 6 productive, professional hitters to the Dodgers 3 (Seager, Turner, and maybe Bellinger).  No, the problem is their pitching.  With MadBum being an idiot and hurting his shoulder in a dirt bike accident (What is this, the 70’s?), all they really have is Johnny Cueto.  Matt Moore seems inconsistent and Jeff Samardzija is also pretty weak when he’s not facing the Dodgers.  Then it’s Ty Blach and Matt Cain.   Now, that’s not a good staff, but I bet you they get back to .500 soon.  That’s because they’re well-managed and they have unselfish hitters who know how to play the game.

When did Chase Utley retire and why was no announcement made?  Or is their some other reason he refuses to remove the bat from his shoulder?   I love Chase Utley.  He was a great, hard-nosed player, and a fellow UCLA guy, buy he’s hittin’ a buck, four.  Roberts needs to play Chris Taylor every day, against lefties and righties.  It’s a no-brainer.  Utley should get an opportunity to pinch hit, but if he can’t swing it anymore, they’re gonna need to let ‘im go.

It’s really hard to tell just how good or bad the Dodgers are because so many teams in the NL stink so far.  As I’ve said, the class of the league are the Nats, Cubs, Rockies and Dbacks, but only the Nats look like world beaters.  The Cards could be potentially tough, the Mets are tanking and the Marlins clearly miss Jose Fernandez.  Tonight, the Dodgers play the Dads who are horrible.  I can tell you that if the Padres win this series, the Dodgers are officially in the toilet.  But, alas, it’s only a month into the season.  So much more mediocre, lackluster ball to play.

Here We Come?

If the Philadelphia Phillies played in the Triple A International League, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t contend.  The Phillies are in a complete and total rebuild.  The fact that they’d won 6 straight before arriving at the Ravine is a testament to some pretty decent pitching and the fact that Pete Mackanin tends to play the same lineup every day, which is helpful for young clubs at the beginning of the year.  Guys become enured to their roles and they know what’s expected of them.  Also, they’ve been getting some amazing starts from Jeremy Hellickson, (whom the Dodgers should keep a close eye on for a possible deal).  But, basically, the Phillies are one of the five worst teams in baseball, if not THE worst.  They stink in ways I really can’t describe.  So, does that fact take anything away from the Dodgers’ tremendous sweep of the Phils, and their amazing back-to-back-to-back home run skein to tie, and eventually win, last night’s game in the 9th?  Does it take away from the fantastic production from Justin Turner and Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger?  Does it minimize the great efforts by previously struggling pitchers, Maeda, Ryu, and Romo?  Yes.  Yes, it does.

Do that against the Cubs, Nats, Cards, Snakes, Yanks, Red Sox, Tribe, or Astros, then I’ll be impressed.   But, still, it’s a start.   And, could it give even them the spark they needed to start dominating?  Yes.  It might.   After all,  You gotta beat teams like the Phillies and that’s exactly what they did.  I was at the game where they were down 9-5 to the Dads in the 9th and Jeff Kent, JD Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back línyas, and then Nomar followed up with the game winning blast in the 10th.   Last night’s home run salvo was probably their most exciting 9th inning comeback since that fun night in 2006.

The problem is, now with Rich Hill about to be reactivated, the Dodgers think they have 7 good starting pitchers and they actually don’t.  Are they they really thinking of going with a 7 man rotation?  Kershaw, Hill, Urías, McCarthy, Maeda, Wood, and Ryu?  Of course not. So, then, who goes to the pen?  Well, first let’s see if Hill can pitch 4 innings without developing an owie on his fingie.  Then, let’s see if Maeda can be effective against a real team that doesn’t have guys named Maikel Franco or Daniel Nava in the middle of their lineup, or a Camerun Rupp, for gods sakes.  Same with Hyun Jin Ryu.  Let’s see if he can get past real hitters.  Then, let’s consider the lefty/righty factor.  The Dodgers aren’t really proposing having all lefties, are they?    So, the need for a righty or two would eliminate the possibility of a Kershaw/Hill/Urías/Wood/ Ryu rotation.   (It should also eliminate any thoughts of a Scott Kazmir return).  My guess is it’ll be Kershaw/Hill/McCarthy/Urías/Maeda with Wood and Ryu headed to the pen.  That gives us 3 lefties and 2 righties.  I honestly don’t expect Brandon McCarthy to remain relevant, nor do I expect Maeda or Ryu to.  Of the three, I think McCarthy has the best shot, at least before he gets injured and DL’d for the 433rd time.  In spite of his stellar performance last week against the Giants, Wood may still ultimately struggle as a starter.

Can they stay with a 6 man rotation?  I don’t think so.  That could screw up the rhythm and routine of a guy named Clayton Kershaw and I don’t think you wanna do that.  But it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  I’m guessing that when they play teams that aren’t Philly, San Diego, or the Giants, they may begin to find out who the truly effective starters are.  I’d be surprised if there are more than 3, and I still think the blistery Rich Hill is a huge question mark.

So, what’s another alternative?  TRADE, TRADE, TRADE!  Guys like Ryan Braun are available.  Deal Alex Wood in a package.  See if pitchers like Hellickson, Andrew Triggs or Ervin Santana are for real and see about making a deal for one of them.  Or, for more established young arms like Chris Archer or Marcus Stroman.  I still think you need to pick up that true #2 (Unless Urías is ready to take that role) and a big righty bat.   They likely won’t do any of this, but it would really help them to keep up with the Joneses, in this case, the Cubs and the Nats, and maybe the Rockies and the Snakes.

In spite of what I said about Bellinger in my last post,  it may be time for a Bellinger/Puig platoon.  It’s hard to send a guy down who’s your top prospect and who’s actually just begun raking.   It may also be time to give Cody some starts at first base.  If A Gone’s problem is truly forearm tendonitis, then let him rest it.  Otherwise, maybe Pederson’s rehab will go more slowly than they expected.  Or maybe the great Franklin Gutierrez will get hurt again.  Don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone, but if Bellinger is really the goods and he’s showing it now, you gotta keep him on the field.

As April now turns to May, the Dodgers still have a long way to go to live up to Sports Illustrated’s World Championship prediction.  Lots of teams still look much better than the Dodgers.  How about those Washington Nationals, for instance?  They have everything except a strong pen.  Ryan Zimmerman is having quite the Ryannaissance, if you will.   They lost Adam Eaton for the season, you say?  Who cares?  They still have Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon.   Rendon only went 6 for 6 today against the Mets with three home runs.  Best lineup in baseball when everyone’s hitting.  A lineup capable of beating the Mets 23-5.  They could decide to return Turner to center field and play Difo at short.  They have a lot of options and they have a very strong starting staff.   Old school GM, Mike Rizzo built them not much on sabermetrics and money ball, but on good ol’ hitting and pitching.  Yep.  HRs, RBI’s BA, OBP, and ERA.  So, if the Nats are so good and they’re pretty much the same team as 2016, how’d the Dodgers beat ’em last October?  Well, Zimmerman was terrible last year.  Bryce Harper also had a fantastically bad year.  Murphy had been hurt.  Strasburg was coming off an injury.   Different story this year.  The Nationals are the team to beat right now.  At the moment, I’d say they’re better than anyone, and that includes the Cubs.

Honorable mention must go to the New York Yankees.   They are firing on all cylinders and they’re doing this without “the Sanchise.”  Aaron Judge is a monster and they’re amazing up the middle with Gregorious and Castro.  Suddenly, they’re a deep team with a perfect combination of youth and veterans and a strong staff and pen.  They could give the Red Sox a run for their money this year.  Yep, the Bronx Bombers are definitely back.

Breaking News: Dodgers Stink!

Yep.  I said it.  For a team that’s predicted by a few to win it all this year, they REALLY stink.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s still April, just 23 games in.  But I don’t understand why the Dodgers have to suck every April and every April, we have to console ourselves and say “It’s early, they’ll be fine.”  Or, “They did the same thing last year and ended up winning the division.”  Or, Orel saying, “AGone (and the team) will heat up when the summer heats up.”  Come on, already!  The games in April count just as much as the games in September and these are the losses that will take home field advantage away from the Dodgers should they actually improve and make the playoffs.  Yeah, they won today, avoiding a 3 out of 4 game series loss to the Giants.  So what?  The Giants stink and the Dodgers barely won 2 games against them.  I’m not impressed. They managed 2 lousy hits (one, a bomb by Seager) against a previously struggling Matt Moore.  Problem is, this team can’t really hit, their starting pitching has been weak, (though may be improving) and their reliance on computers is killing them.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals are killing it. If Sports Illustrated knew this is how they’d play in April, I wonder if they’d have picked Washington to beat the tribe in the World Series instead of the pitching and offensively challenged Dodgers.  The Nats only have 2 starters hitting below .280 and most of their guys are early MVP candidates.  Zimmerman has come out of nowhere to tear up the league.  (Test him.)  Trea Turner is picking up where he left off last year.  Daniel Murphy is exploding.  (Nahh, the Dodgers didn’t need to look at Murphy when he was available last off season.  He only single-handedly beat them in the 2015 playoffs.  Who needs a power hitting right handed second baseman who bats .340?)  And Bryce Harper is doing his best Barry Bonds imitation.  Not to mention the production from Jayson Werth and Adam Eaton.   They’re getting strong pitching from a stellar staff.  Conversely, the Dodgers have only 2 starters hitting over .250:  (Not counting Logan Forsythe, who has a broken toe)   Seager and Turner.  And JT has not hit one homer.  The Sportsnet guys say that doesn’t matter, but it kinda does.  You need more than one legitimate power threat in the middle of your lineup.   This team suddenly has very little power.  AGone is done.  They’re saying tennis elbow.  He’s looked pretty weak since last August.  My guess is, if this continues, he’ll need to be replaced.  By who?  Bellinger?  As I hoped, they called the young man up for the Giants series.   They need to send him back down immediately before his confidence takes a hit.  I’m sure one day he’ll be great, but that swing looks awful.  He has the dumbest-looking, upright stance and a wild, uppercut swing.  How does he hit ANYTHING?  Giants pitchers toyed with him like a cat with a dead mouse.   He’s clearly not ready.

Let’s look at the rest of the lineup:  Yasiel Puig is terrible.  He got off to a good start, but his at bats are consistently uneventful.  He just can’t seem to adjust.  Joc Pederson was stinking it up in abnormal fashion before he pulled a groin.  Yasmani Grandal looks horrific.  Chase Utley has 3 hits.   Austin Barnes is bad.  Why is Scott Van Slyke still on the team?  Anyone know?  Is it just because they like him as a person?  He’s a truly putrid ballplayer.  Andrew Toles managed to win today’s game, but he has looked like crap most of April.   Seems like he’s pressing.  Even the great Chris Taylor has come back to earth.  And,  is Dave Roberts having a secret love affair with Kiké Hernandez?  When will that end?  Sure, he can play a lot of positions, but he doesn’t really hit much, does he?.  Well, at least we can look forward to the returns of Franklin Gutierrez and Logan Forsythe.  Gutierrez is about as mediocre as you can get and Forsythe is no Daniel Murphy.  Doesn’t walk much, doesn’t steal bases, doesn’t have a lot of power, but he’s an improvement over anyone else we got, I guess.

Around the time the Amazin’ Nats were running up the score in Denver, an effective Julio Urías allowed the Giants to tie the score at 1 apiece.  The Dodgers answer in the top of the next inning?  Chris Taylor, Scott Van Slyke, and Austin Barnes.  Real championship caliber attack.

All kidding aside, the thing that truly worries me about the Dodgers chances this year is the loss of Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of the order.  He’s just a regular player now.  No pop, slow bat, slow afoot.  They were counting on him to be that big “butter and egg man” as Scully used to put it, in the middle of the lineup, but I think that ship has sailed.   If Puig continues to stink, and Grandal and Pederson keep stinking, then the question becomes… who we got?   The Blue’s offense can’t compare with the offenses of the Nats, the Cubs, the D’backs, and the Rockies.   They look fairly feeble and they seem to have no plan at the dish.  Turner Ward is their hitting coach.  What the hell is he telling these guys?  “Take poor swings at the first couple pitches then stand and look at the third strike, argue for a minute, then walk back to the dugout?”   Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s early.    But I think 23 games is a pretty reasonable sample size of what we may be in for.

Well,  at least we have Kershaw.  And Julio Urías looked pretty good in his debut today.  Some control issues, but not bad.  We’ll have to see how he does against a real offense.  The Giants don’t have one of those.  Ryu pitched well, for a change, the other night, and Alex Wood was throwing a gem last night.   He threw 75 pitches through 6 innings of 1-hit ball.  And, yet, somehow the computers told Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman to tell Dave Roberts to take him out and put in Sergio Romo, who’s terrible.  Why?  I don’ t care that the numbers show Wood allows a huge OPS when guys see him for a 3rd time.  Who the fk cares?   He’s throwing a 1-hitter and your bullpen is taxed!  What the hell are you thinking taking him out of the game??  And how bad IS Sergio Romo?  Seems the Giants unloaded him at just the right time.  He seems to get knocked around pretty regularly and he gives up a 2 run dong to that red-faced Arroyo kid (who looks excellent, by the way).   The Dodgers bullpen has been OK so far, but make no mistake.  Outside of Kenley, they’re not that great and they’re still missing that 8th inning guy.  (Evidenced by the fat pitch Baez threw to Morse last night).   So, the starters simply MUST go longer.  And the starters MUST be quality starters, not just quantity.  That means, the awful Kenta Maeda must leave the rotation.  If Rich Hill can somehow emerge blister-free for a while, we’ll have Kershaw, Urías, Hill, McCarthy, and preferably, Wood.  That’s not the worst staff in baseball if Urías is truly ready to shine.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s early.  And it’s not about who wins April, it’s about who wins October.  But this team just plain stinks right now and how much improvement is possible remains to be seen.  The difference between this year and last year is the legit competitiveness of the D’backs and the Rockies.  Even though the Rockies got creamed by the mighty Nats this week, they’re a solid team with an explosive offense and have 2 good starting pitchers coming back, and 2 strong hitters coming back.  I don’t think they’re going away.  And the Snakes may have faded last year, but that was because Greinke had an off year and Corbin, Ray and Miller sucked.  Now, they have a better Greinke, and an effective Corbin and Ray, along with Taijuan Walker who looks like the real deal.  Say goodbye to Shelby Miller (torn UCL) but they still have a pretty decent staff.  On top of that, they have a MUCH better lineup than the Dodgers, with guys who take unselfish, smart at bats.  What the Dodgers wouldn’t do to have David Peralta over Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Tomas over Andrew Toles, AJ Pollock over Joc Pederson, or Paul Goldschmidt over AGone.   Not to mention the solid production they’re getting from Jake Lamb, Brandon Drury, and Chris Owings.   That’s a very good team and the Dodgers could lose a lot of ground early if they don’t get their act together.  If the Blue are really a championship team, they’d better start playing like it.   So far, aside from Seager, Kershaw, JT, and Kenley, I see very little I like.

Ain’t Gonna Be So Damn Easy

Nineteen games in, the Dodgers are a pretty miserable ball club.  Seager and J.T., and, believe it or not, Chris Taylor are the only ones hitting.  Chris Taylor looks like a guy with a purpose.  They may need to find a spot for him. He did not look good in the outfield in spring training.  My feeling is, if Taylor can play 2b as well as the injured Forsythe, and his OBP and OPS are better, and he strikes out less…   Pederson looks terrible and is now hurt.  (Could be good if it means a Bellinger call-up.)  ADone is hitting .279 and hit a big oppo double yesterday, but his latest excuse is forearm discomfort.  In spite of a straight change that Grandal hit into the seats yesterday, he’s looked pretty over-matched.  Andrew Toles isn’t really banging, but I feel like he needs to play everyday.  Don’t know how I feel about the over-platooning and all the computer match-up crap.  I think it screws with guys’ heads and their abilities.  Especially young guys.  Why tell a talented young guy like Toles that he can only hit righties?  How does that help him develop as a player and how does that, in turn, help the team?   More on that later…  Anyway, it’s early.  But as far as offenses, both the Snakes and the Rockies look better.  And the Rocks are still missing a third of their offense.  Dahl and Jennings are hurt and Cargo hasn’t gotten started yet.  But, again, it’s so early.  And, after all, isn’t this really about pitching?

The Dodgers have pretty lousy starting pitching.  There’s Kershaw, the best the game has to offer, and now, McCarthy, who has been a very pleasant surprise.  He’s 3-0 with an ERA of 2.25 and actually went 7 innings yesterday.  This allowed an overused bullpen to get some much needed rest.  Other than Kershaw, yesterday’s effort by McCarthy was the only other 7th inning foray from a Dodgers starter.  Beyond a first inning mistake to Paul Goldschmidt, he was lights out.  But, then, there’s no one.  Unless Julio Urías can really shine when he’s called up this week, quantity control freaks, Friedman and Zaidi MUST acquire another top flight starter.  I feel like counting on a blister-free return from Hill would be foolish at this point.  Ryu stinks, and that will be further evidenced tonight in his start against the injured and struggling Giants. (I didn’t exactly cry myself to sleep when I heard about MadBum’s dumbass dirt bike injury.)  Ryu may or may not get the loss, but he won’t be very good.  Why?  Because he’s NOT very good.  Unless, he somehow finds a another 4-6 mph on his fastball, he’s quite hittable.   Alex Wood has shown that he’s ok coming in during the middle innings, but his starts have been lousy.  Ross Stripling has just lost it.  He’s gone from being a candidate for the 4th or 5th starter role to perhaps a candidate for being sent down.  Then, there’s the great Kenta Maeda.  Whenever Clayton Kershaw takes the mound, it’s extremely likely he’ll win.  And it’s just as likely that when Maeda takes the mound, he will lose.   I have written this here for a while.  This guy is not good.  His fastball looks like it comes from an arm on a pitching machine.  Drop in your token and take your hacks.  No movement, just BP.  He looks flustered, unsure, not in command, and has looked that way since last July.  Roberts’ words of encouragement notwithstanding, my guess is that if his next outing in anything like his last three, Dodgers brass will make up some injury, DL him and send him out to work on another pitch.  But, he should certainly be out of the rotation.   That begs the question, “Who we got?”  Quantity’s as important as quality, Andrew?  I mentioned at the beginning of the season, the Rockies would be tough and so far, they’re more than proving my point.  I also mentioned that if the Snakes pitchers could rebound from an awful 2016, they would be a factor.  Just look at the standings.  All I can say is we’d better get a quantity of some quality or we’re gonna get buried by June.

Why are some not-so-good teams playing pretty well so far in this early part of the season?  Philly, Cincinnati, Tampa, all pretty bad teams, are around. .500 .  Washington, meanwhile, Colorado, Arizona, Baltimore, Houston, are having lots of success.  Pitching has been there, but the main reason is they pretty much play the same lineups every day.  Guys know their roles and they’re able to settle into them and produce.  Friedman and Zaidi don’t believe in this concept.  They go strictly by computers and, as a result, only 2 regulars on the Blue are hitting over .280.  (I don’t count Forsythe because he’s DL’d)  It worked to an extent last year, but Roberts and his superiors are going crazy with it this year.  The batting order changes constantly, guys are sitting when they’re on a roll, playing when they’re not, it’s all discombobulated and screwy.  Guys can’t get into a rhythm.  Can we put the same lineup out there at least 3 or 4 games in a row and see what happens?   For instance, I feel Andrew Toles did enough at the end of last season to justify being the everyday left fielder.  Why not leave him alone for a while?  If he can’t hit lefties, let him prove he can’t.  I, personally, think he can.  In the meantime, keep your eye on Ryan Braun.

Someone asked me if I though Brewers first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames is juicing.   Yes.  Yes, I do.  Look at his career before going to Korea for 3 seasons and look at his size.  He has an entirely new physique, reminiscent of Barry Bonds pre-and post-steroid use.  I think he’s doing steroids, HGH AND testosterone, all at the same time.

Quantity Over Quality?

The Dodgers look like crap.  The reasons they look so bad so early are many:

1) They just haven’t hit their stride yet?  Sure, that’s obvious.

2) They’re not really hitting.  They’re taking bad, selfish at bats and guys like Grandal, Van Slyke, Pederson, AGone, and tonight, even, Corey Seager, look clueless at the plate.  Evidenced by tonight’s 8th inning, when JT led off with a double and Puig, Grandal and Kiké made 3 outs on the next 4 pitches.

3) They’ve had only two decent games against a lefty.

4) And the main reason: Andrew Friedman thinks quantity is just as important as quality.  So, they have Clayton Kershaw and a bunch of guys who can pitch, but just aren’t very good at it.  Count blister-ridden Rich Hill among those guys.  I’m sorry, but if you can’t pitch parts of 2 games without getting a debilitating blister, then you’re just not much good to the team.  Hill is back on the DL.  Kenta Maeda looks horrific.  I don’t feel this is just a beginning-of-the-season thing with him.  I simply don’t think he’s that good and I never have.   HE’S our #2 guy?   McCarthy has looked pretty good, but, tonight, could only go 5 innings.   I guess he should be our #2, even though he hasn’t shown he can pitch deep into games.  Our #5 is Hyun Jin Ryu, who looks godawful.   Stripling and Alex Wood have looked pretty good.  If I’m the Dodgers (Wouldn’t it be funny if I was?), I’m making Stripling my #2 guy and Alex Wood my #3 guy.   They need to bring Urías up sooner than later, but he hasn’t been pitching well in Oklahoma City, so I’m not sure if all this inning saving and arm preservation is doing his confidence or skills any good.  Kazmir stinks and is also hurt and Brock Stewart is hurt.  Basically, besides Kershaw, the Dodgers have fairly lousy starting pitching.   But according to Andrew Friedman in his quote to an ESPN reporter, “Quantity is just as important as quality.”  No, jackass.  Quality is much more important than quantity.  Every damn organization has plenty of guys who can stand on a mound and throw the ball 60 feet 6 inches.  It’s how many of those guys are effective at it?  It’s how many of those guys can get their team through 6 innings?  McCarthy has twice.  Rich Hill can’t.  Kenta Maeda can’t.  Hyun Jin Ryu can’t.   At least not so far.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re only 14 games in and the Dodgers are 7-7.  There’s plenty of time – 148 games and playoffs – to become the World Champions that some baseball writers predicted they’d be.  But, apologies to those who see everything through Dodger blue-colored glasses, as composed, this team doesn’t really have a shot to get to a World Series and, frankly, they’ll be lucky to make the post-season.  A couple posts ago I said the Dodgers were an elite team and they still might be.   But they NEED STARTING PITCHING.  What’s the use of hoarding prospects if all their young pitchers are subject to these silly innings limits the first few years of their careers?   Urías needs to come up and we need to see what he can do.  Now.  Ross stripling and Alex Wood need to at least be given a chance to get into the rotation.  More importantly, they need to make a deal for Chris Archer or Marcus Stroman or Zach Davies or Jeremy Hellickson or SOMEONE for God’s sakes.   No, Andrew and Farhan.  Quantity ain’t shit if it ain’t good.  The Cubs have quality and that’s what won them a World Series.  Show me one World Champion in the last 20 years that didn’t have at least 3 strong starters.

Dodgers hitters need to stop watching cock-high fastballs down the middle.

Joc Pederson is terrible.  Is it because he’s being pretty much straight platooned and he’s just not getting enough at bats?  Ok, whatever.  I know, I know.  It’s still very, very early.

In tonight’s broadcast, Orel Hershiser said Logan Forsythe “rarely strikes out, especially against left handers.”  Huh?  Last year, he struck out 127 times in 127 games.  This year, so far, he’s struck out 16 times in 14 games.   I think what Orel meant to say is Logan Forsythe rarely DOESN’T strike out.  I love Orel Hershiser and I so fondly remember his days as “the Bulldog” with our beloved Blue, particularly our last World Championship team in 1988.  He seems like a great guy.  But, as the commentator with Joe Davis on the Sportsnet broadcasts, I wish to God he’d shut up once in a while.  He just talks and talks and he’s becoming mildly annoying.  Davis should talk more and Orel should cut it in half.  But I guess it’s more of that quantity over quality thing.