Monday, April 28, 2008

Definitely An Improvement

What A Difference a Week Makes, Huh? Although watching Russell Martin playing 3rd base was a bit discombobulating. One more win puts them back to .500, a result I would be fairly happy with considering all the chaos of the spring training, china trip, new players, new manager, and injuries...

But this is the Juan Pierre Outwatch. As Humma is asleep at the wheel (probably actually asleep in a huddle next to the crib of his very little girl), it falls upon me to push onward.

So far with Torre, Pierre has been denied a regular starting position. Instead the Dodgers are basically using a four man rotating outfield, although Juan has been more often the odd man out. Let's see how these guys are doing. In alphabetical order:

Andre Ethier:
.305/.386/.463, 2 HR, 14 SO, 122 OPS+ ; 1 of 1 SB
Andruw Jones:
.159/.266/.256, 1 HR, 29 SO, 38 OPS+ ; 0 SB
Matt Kemp:
.295/.317/.474, 2 HR, 23 SO, 104 OPS+ ; 1 of 2 SB
Juan Pierre:
.250/.328/.288, 0 HR, 2 SO, 64 OPS+ ; 6 of 7 SB

Ethier I'll keep short and sweet. He is producing as advertised, basically a solid .850 OPS guy. Obviously quite valuable.

Matt Kemp is having a bit of trouble with his OBP, although he has raised it about 20 points in the past week (patience, Matt, patience). His power is also starting to come online. I feel fairly confident that this .800 OPS level is something Kemp can be relied on to achieve. The open question is whether he can kick it up to the next level and keep it there, becoming one of the game's elite players, something he has shown flashes of. He is only 23, in theory still several years away from his prime. Let's give him another 500 major league at bats and see what we have.

Juan Pierre is off to a tepid start, even for him. Probably partially a result of not playing every day. His patience has actually been not so bad. I don't know how much is a result of any conscious change in style and how much could just be because of where he ends up in the batting order nowadays (8th batters traditionally get more walks because of the easy out, the pitcher, batting behind them). He is still stealing bases well when he gets on and not striking out much, but his lack of power is not going to change.

Andruw Jones has just been flat out terrible. It looked like he was starting to hit the ball better about a week or so ago, but he still looks clueless at the plate. I don't subscribe to the notion that a strikeout is significantly worse than a lazy fly or a ground out. They can, however, be a symptom of a greater problem. Twenty-nine times out of 94 opportunites, Andruw has flailed uselessly at the ball. He has been walking at a good clip, but in his case I suspect he is actually afraid to swing at the ball. And if you look at his average, maybe he should be. Worse of all, he has only a single Home Run. This from a man who has averaged 33 per year over his entire career (hasn't hit less than 26 since 1998). Right now he is on pace to hit something like 7 HRs. Low average, low power hitters should probably not get 18 million a year, no matter how good they are with the glove.

So that leaves us with the current dilemma: The way Jones amd Pierre are playing, it seems criminal to take at bats away from Ethier and Kemp for anything other than resting them. At their age and positions, that should really only be like once every two weeks.

Center field is a black hole for the Dodgers, sucking in expensive "veteran" talent that was either over-hyped in the first place or coming apart at the seams in front of our eyes. With nearly 30 million a year invested, the Dodgers are not going to put Kemp in center and play Ethier and Delwyn Young. They just won't. If Jones can't get it together, which just is really hard to believe, Pierre is going to find his way back into the every day line-up.

Juan being an everyday player is anathema to this blog's very existence. But if Jones can't find his gear, I may find it very hard to rail too hard against the decision to play him instead of Jones.

I give you until June 1, Jones. Find your swing or may Juan Pierre have mercy on your soul.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I was busy this weekend, so didn't manage to catch the games...

Lucky me.

The Dodger Offense, tepid to begin with, has now become ice cold. If things continue at this pace we will have to start describing their temperature in single units of Kelvin.

If science isn't your thing, trust me, that's cold.

Being 25th in runs scored across the entire major league explains that putrid record. With a team OPS more in the middle of the pack (around 14th) and solid pitching (7th in ERA), we can hope that this is partly bad luck. There have been some positive signs. Jones finally got a home run. Martin has now hit a couple. Furcal is so on fire he has gone through multiple sets of singed pants.

My hope is that they can rally and finish April at .500. They had a screwed up spring training and several key injuries and it now seems quite clear that not everyone was ready for the year to start.

Still, if they keep losing games 6-1 and 4-1, it will be difficult to get up a decent anti-Pierre head of steam. His weak 1 for 5 yesterday wasn't particularly helpful, but he is not the only cylinder misfiring.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Andruw Jones SuckWatch

Forty at bats is too early to panic, but I am now officially concerned that Andruw Jones traded the 'E' in his first name to Satan in exchange for exactly ten years of great baseball skills. Damned Monkey Paw!

(Yes, I mixed devil deals with evil simian talismans. My mind is a freely flowing medium.)

Jones is hitting .100/.217/.125 for an OPS+ of -8. So far on the season he has one piddly extra base hit, a double. If he wasn't still capable of getting walks at a decent clip he would be an even darker, deeper hole in the Dodger line-up. If he keeps swinging the bat like he left his eyes in his other uniform, I don't think he will be able to keep even that up for much longer.

For someone with his resume you got to give/allow a lot more rope, but I think we have to at least consider the possibility that Andruw Jones, often discussed as a possible Hall of Famer, could be done at age 31. Very hard to believe, which is why I supported his signing, but I think we need to at least make room in our mind for the possibility. He did drop 150 points of OPS last season, not exactly a minor statistical blip. I am sure he will be given until the end of April to turn it around. If he can show a little more life than batting .100, I am sure he will get another 100 ABs or so to bounce back, visit a psychiatrist/optometrist/nutritionist, whatever.

I just pray that he does. Otherwise I may be forced to demand that Juan Pierre start over Andruw Jones and at this late date that might just melt all my synapses.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Empty Outfield

Let me preface this by noting that, yes, we are only six games into the season and that yes, Cain, Peavy, and Chris Young make a rather nasty threesome to have faced in half your games so far this year. There is clearly no need to panic.

But come on.

This whole off-season was about whether or not Ethier was our 3rd or 4th outfielder. It turns out he might be our only outfielder.

All other Dodger outfielders: Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre are a combined 6 for 49 with 2 walks, 1 double, and 14 strike outs. That is an atrocious .122/.157/.143 line, or 300 OPS. 300. That is like scoring a 400 on your combined SAT, demonstrating that you were capable of getting your own name right.

I should also note that Russell Martin has not exactly been on fire, 2 for 21, but he at least has 5 walks and has shown some signs of life in the most recent series. Plus, who are you going to start ahead of him? Bennett? He will come around.

No, the outfield is the place to worry. What if Andruw's performance last year was not just an off year, but in fact the start of a precipitous decline? He will get a chance to put it together, but 32 million/2 years is a lot to pay for a guy hitting under .250 with a ton of strike outs and rapidly deteriorating power.

Clearly Kemp can hit, but if he keeps slumping this hard, might Pierre not find his way back into the starting line-up? Right now Pierre is even more awful (.091 avg), but you know he will get his hits down, get some luck, and get his average into the upper 200s. You can't work your way out of a slump if Swifty gets all your at bats...

And since this is the Outwatch, let me note that so far Juan Pierre has had 11 ABs and 11 Outs to go with them. Thanks to a caught stealing, Juan has yet to produce a non-out at bat.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Getting it done

This is Humma, returning from a burst aneurysm -- he sat who?! -- to say that yesterday's finish meets with my approval. Scoring from second on an infield single by Delwyn "Pee-Wee" Young? Yes, we approve heartily.

Having a healthy Furcal on the team might just be the best thing we have going -- and as someone who has drunk deeply at the cooler of Kemp-Loney-Martin-Ethier-DeWitt-Billingsley-Broxton manlove, that is a great compliment indeed.

What I was happy to see last night was the patient Dodgers -- the Dodgers who worked Matt Cain to the tune of 113 pitches. Even Pierre got into the act, working a count full. It didn't work itself into runs -- though I was convinced that it would happen in the fateful 6th, it didn't -- it is still the right approach. And it DID eventually pay off against the weak, weak Giant bullpen. Keep it up, friends.

In other news, today's lineup meets with the Humma Kavula seal of approval:

Rafael Furcal, SS
Russell Martin, C
Andre Ethier, LF
Jeff Kent, 2B
Andruw Jones, CF
James Loney, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Blake DeWitt, 3B
Chad Billingsley, P

Best possible lineup under the circumstances. Not a weak spot 1-7, and even the eight-spot has been holding his own so far.

Bring your brooms, lads.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ap &bull o &bull plec &bull tic

adjective informal

1) overcome with anger; extremely indignant
: Humma was apoplectic with rage at the decision.

2) dated relating to or denoting apoplexy (stroke)
: Pierre's start over Matt Kemp led Kavula to
become apoplectic. He now faces a long, slow recovery.

early 17th cent.: from French apoplectique or late Latin
apoplecticus, "to be astounded by a poor managerial decision
to the point of mouth froth" (Also see: TRAVESTY)