By Mason Nesbitt
Clayton Kershaw stole the spotlight and the headlines following the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the Giants Monday. And rightfully so.
But one player’s Dodger debut may have gotten lost in the hoopla.
Carl Crawford, coming off a season lost almost entirely to injury, went 2-for-4 with a double. He recorded an infield single, struck out, grounded out to second–hitting the ball right on the screws–and lined a double the other way in the eighth before scoring on a passed ball.
Two years in Boston make it easy to forget Crawford’s talent. He was a star in Tampa Bay, hitting over .300 in five seasons and stealing more than 40 bases seven times. The 31-year-old also hit for some power, highlighted in 2010 with 19 home runs and 90 RBIs.
Then he shipped up to Boston.
Crawford played 130 games after signing with the Red Sox in 2011, batting only .255 with 18 stolen bases. He played only 31 games in 2012 (also played 11 minor league games) before Tommy John surgery in August ended his season.
He didn’t run down any more fly balls in 2012, but he did cover lots of ground. Boston sent him to Los Angeles as part of an August 25 salary dump; Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett headlined the deal.
Most perceived the Dodgers to be doing Boston a favor, taking on Crawford and the $100 million plus that was still owed him. But if Monday, and a Spring Training that saw him hit well over .350 are any indication, the Dodgers may not have overpaid after all.
The price may be right. As the Mariners, Tigers and Giants will agree, $100 million dollars is a bargain for an all-star.
Dodgers-Giants is tomorrow.
Months of speculation will finally play out on the field. Obviously we won’t know how good the Dodgers are–or aren’t–until summer. But after tomorrow, we may be able to counter Giants’ fans with something other than, “Wait till next year.”
Assuming of course, the Dodgers win. If not, we’ll be mocked.
“Money can’t buy wins!” they’ll tease. “I told you they wouldn’t be good!” they’ll boast.
It’s only one game. True. The knowledgeable baseball fan won’t panic; there’ll be 161 games left. Heck, the Dodgers could win their first 20 games and still finish in last place. Tomorrow means nothing in the big picture. But honestly, it means something.
It means–even if just for a night–being able to combat the overbearing Giants’ fan in your life.
Most Dodgers’ fans have one. That guy who, for the last two plus years, hasn’t let you forget that the Giants are World Series Champions.
“Oh, and in case you forgot, they did it twice,” they say.
A victory tomorrow would be the equivalent of a few Tylenol to the pain Dodgers’ fans have endured the past three years. Any real healing would require the Dodgers to pile up around 94 more. And then some.
Otherwise, what can Dodgers’ fans say? We have a payroll of over $230 million, a lineup with five all-stars and arguably the best one-two punch of any starting rotation in baseball.
If that doesn’t equal a playoff appearance, then we ought to be mocked.
The Dodgers are still reportedly looking for corner infield depth and with the number of guys on the roster that can play third base it seems most likely that it will be a first baseman. What about Lance Berkman? Juan Rivera (nine home runs), who had the most power off the bench for LA last year, is gone and Nick Punto, Juan Uribe, Skip Schumaker, Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon, and Tim Federowicz combined to hit six home runs last year.
Picture this…it’s the bottom of the ninth…game seven of the 2013 NLCS against the Giants…the Dodgers trail 3-2 with the bases empty and two outs…the pitcher’s spot is up to face Sergio Romo. Who do the Dodgers send to the plate? Schumaker…Punto…Uribe? (not the Uribe of 2010) None of those options should give any Dodger fan in their right mind confidence that they could tie the game with one swing. Berkman on the other hand, with the exception of an injury shortened 2012, has not hit less than 20 home runs in any but one season since 1999. Berkman would give the Dodgers the first base depth they need and would bring a .303 career batting average against righties, .259 against lefties and over 300 career home runs to a bench light in the round-tripper department.
And with the signing of Carlos Pena by the Astros it looks as if the team most linked to Berkman this off-season may be less likely to sign the “Big Puma” although according to MLB.com’s Richard Dean the Astros have said otherwise. Is Berkman still looking to be an everyday player? Could the Dodgers pay him enough to persuade him otherwise? Brian McTaggart of MLB.com quoted Berkman as saying, “A lot has to do with compensation…I’m not going to come back for a song, but depending on what kind of offer they (the Astros) talk about, I’m really considering anything right now.”
The Dodgers should at least consider bringing in the 14 year veteran to give a little pop to a bench in desperate need of it…unless…Colletti wants Mattingly to send Punto or Schumaker to the plate in the ninth inning of game seven…with an aluminum bat.
Stats from mlb.com and fangraphs.com
By Mason Nesbitt
For the last couple of weeks the Dodgers have reportedly been linked with Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer Joel Hanrahan. John Perrotto reported that the Pirates would want Chris Capuano along with another player in exchange for the hard-throwing closer. Capuano (12-12, 3.72 ERA) is certainly expendable considering the Dodger’s stockpile of starting pitchers after the signings of Greinke and Ryu. It is hard to believe the Dodgers would include another major league ready player in the deal with the exception of one of their bench utility players: Punto or Hairston maybe. That said, would it be an upgrade for the Dodgers to bring back the six foot four pitcher they drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft. If they brought Hanrahan back it would be to close; is he a better option than Brandon League or Kenley Jansen?
Hanrahan over the last two seasons has appeared in 133 games (127.4 innings) with ERA’s of 1.83 and 2.72 respectively…saving a combined 76 games while blowing only 8 such opportunities. In 2012 he made a little over $4,000,000 while striking out 10 per nine with a .184 batting average against.
Jansen who’s first year as the Dodger’s closer was cut short by heart problems saved 25 games in ’12 with a 2.35 ERA striking out nearly 14 batters per nine with a k/bb ratio of 4.50. On a sour note the 6’5 righty blew seven saves, however, opposing batters hit only .145 against Kenley who made a little under $500,000 in ’12.
Finally, there’s Brandon League whom the Dodgers have named as their closer entering the 2013 season after signing him to a 3 yr./$22,500,000 deal this offseason. League was acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline in ’12 and saved 15 games between the two teams with an ERA of 3.13. In 2011 League saved 37 games with an ERA of 2.79 while blowing 5 saves (6 blown saves in ’12).
League’s strikeout to walk ratio is worrisome (1.64) and his batting average against (.243) definitely doesn’t blow your socks off. I think it’s safe to say that Hanrahan would be an upgrade over League, however, I’m not so sure that Hanrahan is a huge upgrade over Kenley, if at all. This leads to the question, why isn’t Kenley closing? Why did the Dodgers agree to pay League $7,500,000 a year when they already had arguably a better closer on their roster who is making over $7 million less.
Last season Kenley had a better ERA, better k’s per nine, a much better k/bb ratio, lower batting average against, and more saves than League (keep in mind that Jansen’s season was cut short). It will be interesting to see how Mattingly uses Jansen to start the season….7th inning…8th inning…which inning will Belisario pitch? In the end, Jansen deserves a shot to close again for the boys in blue and if League doesn’t consistently shut the door he will certainly get that opportunity.
Stats from fangraphs.com and mlb.com
Salary info from spotrac.com and mlb.com
By Mason Nesbitt
The goals Ryu has set for himself would certainly be welcomed by the Dodgers who signed him to be a number three starter; some scouts however see him as a bullpen guy. Ryu definitely has the stuff to be an effective major league starter with an above average fastball for a lefty, good change and curve, but whether or not he will live up to his own expectations is yet to be seen.
By Mason Nesbitt
If the Dodgers go on to win the World Series this season with the highest payroll in baseball history will it feel at all tainted for you? I know that I personally won’t hear the end of it from all my non-Dodger-fan friends, “best team money could buy”, “of course they won with all the money they spent.” While it’d be nice to not have to deal with all that…at this point I don’t care how much money the Dodgers spend if it brings a World Series to Chavez Ravine. Being born in 1991 I haven’t even had the opportunity to see the Dodgers play in the WS (thanks in large part to the Phillies and Frank McCourt)…so just seeing them play in the Fall Classic would be well worth the hate (much like I’ve dished out to Yankee fans over the years because of payroll) that would rain on their…our parade. Are the Dodger’s deep pockets an unfair advantage…maybe…but after years of disappointment I want to see the Dodgers win “at all costs.”
By Mason Nesbitt
While most of the Dodgers moves over the last six months have focused on everyday players, starting pitchers, and even the bullpen…according to the LA Times the Dodgers have a deal in place that will put utility infielder Skip Schumaker in Dodger Blue. Schumaker, who played in 107 games for the Cardinals last season, batted .276 in 272 at bats. The LA Times also reports that he will likely share time at second base with Mark Ellis providing the Dodgers with a nice righty/lefty platoon (Schumaker hit .295 last season against right-handers while Ellis hit only .228 against them). Schumaker also gives the Dodgers added flexibility considering his ability to play the outfield in addition to second. On that note the Dodger bench is about as flexible as that kid you knew growing up who could bend his finger all the way back to his wrist (don’t think I forgot about you Steve). Schumaker (2B, OF), Nick Punto (2B, SS, 3B), and Jerry Hairston (just about everything but pitcher and catcher) all play multiple positions.
I’d like to see LA sign a power hitter for the bench seeing that Punto, Hairston, Uribe, and Schumaker combined for eight home runs in ’12. A name that comes to mind is free agent slugger Raul Ibanez who hit 19 round-trippers for the Yankees this past season. He would suffice the Dodger’s need for a fourth outfielder and the centerfield skill (that the Dodger’s are looking for in their fourth outfielder to replace TG Jr.) he lacks is covered by Schumaker (who has played 130 games in CF w/ only one error). All this said, apparently the Dodgers didn’t confirm the LA Times report tonight so we all may wake up tomorrow to find Schumaker is still a Cardinal.
Stats from MLB.com
By Mason Nesbitt
Is it a coincidence that Carl Crawford will be wearing #25 for the Dodgers next season? The image that automatically comes to mind is a rapidly declining, overpaid, and #25 wearing Andruw Jones (3 HR, 14 RBI, .158 BA w/ the Dodgers). I think it would be fair to say that Crawford has not been the same player since leaving Tampa Bay (in fairness he was was hurt for most of 2012 but in 2011 his batting average was down 50 points with 43 less RBI and 29 less SB from ’10) and with the money they will be paying him…the Dodgers certainly hope that he will turn things around unlike Jones.
Stats from MLB.com
By Mason Nesbitt
I’m a little weary of the Greinke signing. As all the haters in my dorm at The Master’s College keep reminding me (I have an especially obnoxious Giants fan on my wing), his numbers haven’t approached his 2009 Cy Young season in which he posted a 2.16 ERA. However, he has won 16 and 15 games the last two seasons respectively with ERA’s of 3.83 and 3.48. He has fantastic stuff. His mental fortitude has been questioned…but there is no question the guy can pitch. Now was he worth the biggest contract any right hander has received in the history of baseball….only time will tell. But certainly on paper it makes the Dodger’s rotation stronger. Is Greinke an ace….maybe not, but he doesn’t have to be. The Dodger’s already boast one of the top three pitchers in the league in Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and have a number of veteran arms to slot around Greinke in the rotation. It will be interesting to see what the Dodgers do now as they have three pitchers seemingly looking at the rotation from the outside in (Capuano, Harang, Lilly). Billingsley is coming off of an elbow injury and Lilly a shoulder…so it’s possible the Dodgers will hang on to at least one of the three for insurance. There is also the question mark of Hyun-Jin Ryu…will he be the number three starter the Dodger’s signed him to be. I’d say the Dodgers should hold on to Harang and Lilly until they are more sure about the status of Billingsley and Ryu (Capuano has the most trade value.) While it’s easy to get excited about the Dodger’s big spending you have to keep in mind the games aren’t played on paper.
Stats from MLB.com