By Jon Weisman
Having gone without a left-handed bat off the bench since Carl Crawford was designated for assignment June 5, the Dodgers have signed outfielder Will Venable.
Austin Barnes, who was 0 for 4 with a walk since being called up to replace Crawford on the 25-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Venable, who will wear No. 25 (which coach Mark McGwire had most recently used).
By Jon Weisman
No one’s really a fan of an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench, but it has basically made sense for the Dodgers the past seven days, and they plan to continue that way for the next several.
Dave Roberts said today that the Dodgers would probably retain the eight/four split into their upcoming road series in New York and Chicago, a roster construction that began when Charlie Culberson was optioned May 18 to make room for Mike Bolsinger.
By Jon Weisman
When a foul ball fractured the leg of starting left fielder Andre Ethier in March, knocking him out of action for approximately three months, his position fell primarily to Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke.
By the time the Dodgers played their first home game, Crawford and Van Slyke were on the disabled list as well. But the Dodgers have thrived in left field, thanks largely to the fast starts of Trayce Thompson and Kiké Hernandez.
By Jon Weisman
The Dodgers’ rumored interest in slugger Adam Dunn naturally would make one wonder where he would fit on a theoretical postseason roster. Though Dunn appears to be headed to Oakland, with tonight’s 9 p.m. deadline to acquire players for postseason play, let’s take a completely unofficial look at how the Dodgers’ playoff 25 would stack up if no moves are made today.
Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren
Relief pitchers (7): Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright, and Brandon League, plus two from Pedro Baez, Roberto Hernandez, Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez
Starting lineup (8): A.J. Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp
Bench (6): Drew Butera, Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and one from Erisbel Arruebarrena, Darwin Barney or Alex Guerrero (or, dare we speculate, Joc Pederson)
By Jon Weisman
Justin Turner is having a terrific season off the bench for the Dodgers, punctuated by his game-winning homer Thursday to beat the Padres.
He’s had me wondering who the top players off the bench for the Dodgers have been in recent years, so I put together the following chart of the best Dodger reserves from the 2000s (choosing names mainly from this list):
Notes: I tried to avoid considering players who were meant to be starters but held back by injuries or late-season acquisitions who immediately became full-time players. Def is a Fangraphs statistic measuring defense.
For all the above numbers, the idea of who’s the best Dodger reserve of the 21st century is arguably a matter of taste.
- Chad Kreuter has the highest Wins Above Replacement. Backing up Todd Hundley and forced into action for significant stretches, Kreuter had a great on-base percentage while also throwing out 19 of 40 attempted baserunners with one error.
- His defense always unassailable, Alex Cora put together his finest offensive season in 2002.
- With 425 plate appearances in 2009, Juan Pierre stretches the definition of bench player, but he did begin the season as the fourth outfielder before Manny Ramirez’s suspension.
- Jose Hernandez in 2004 and Dave Hansen in 2000 were probably the Dodgers’ top pure offensive players off the bench this century before this season.
- The back-to-back seasons from Olmedo Saenz in 2004-05 certainly make him a charmer.
Against that group, both Turner and Scott Van Slyke stand tall, and there’s an argument to be made that if you could pick only one infielder and one outfielder off the Dodger bench from the 21st century, it would be those two.
Seven and a half months before his 30th birthday, Clint Robinson got his first Major League hit. That it was a game-winning hit was obviously no small bonus, but as Dylan Hernandez of the Times wrote, “the two months Manager Don Mattingly’s team spent chasing the Giants was nothing compared to how long Robinson waited for to live a dream.”
“Twenty-nine years and counting,” Robinson told Hernandez. “I have so many emotions right now, it’s kind of hard to even put words together.
“Man, that feels good,” Robinson said he told himself as he reached first base, Hernandez added.
By Jon Weisman
From some fair diamond, miles upon miles away, Eugenio Velez looks at Carlos Triunfel and shakes his head.
Triunfel, the Dodgers’ all’s-a-shortstop-that’s-going-to-shortstop tonight after Hanley Ramirez joined Justin Turner (not to mention Juan Uribe, Chone Figgins and Alex Guerrero) on the sidelines in the seventh inning tonight, hit his first career home run immediately upon entry, providing a valuable insurance run as the Dodgers clung to a 4-2 victory over the Rockies.
The 24-year-old April 2 acquisition from Seattle has two hits in his first two at-bats as a Dodger, two more than Velez had for the 2011 Dodgers in 37 at-bats. But I come not to bury Velez. Not to praise him, either, but mainly to point out that there are no small parts in baseball, only small actors with unpredictable comic timing.
As the Dodgers aim to climb out of a 9 1/2-game hole in the National League West for the second summer in a row — and in the past nine days, they have shaken the streets of San Francisco, reducing their distance from the Giants by 4 1/2 games — the little guys and role players, whom the narrative so recently told us the Dodgers were sorely lacking, have loomed large.
Consider what’s happened merely on the left side of the infield since Uribe went on the disabled list:
- Turner is OPSing .764 on the season and .951 in his last 95 plate appearances since May 9.
- Figgins had a .373 on-base percentage before going on the disabled list himself.
- Erisbel Arruebarrena went 4 for 13 with a walk.
- Miguel Rojas is 6 for 21 (.286).
- Jamie Romak is … for now, keeping us humble. But stand by.
Together, the group has hit adequately. It has fielded adequately. It has done both with the occasional flourish, particularly from Turner until his calf started acting up.
But this is what the reserve role demands. Hold the fort and fire off the occasional salvo. Same with the Scott Van Slykes and Drew Buteras of the ravine. While observers near and far were quick to point out all the Schumakers and Puntos that the 2014 Dodgers lacked, what they weren’t noticing was that a new breed was coming along right under their noses.
Combine that with a little well-directed Ramirez team spirit, and lo! Forsooth, a new narrative. There comes a time when, instead of focusing on what you isn’t present or isn’t working, you start making the best of what is.
Note on the headline: Too much. I know.
By Jon Weisman
There was some scoffing when Chone Figgins signed on to reboot his Major League career with the Dodgers, but so far, so good.
Figgins has developed a fairly specific role with the Dodgers: Come off the bench to lead off an inning and, without any seeming threat of power, get on base.
In his 27 plate appearances so far this season, 16 of them have been as the first batter of an inning, and he has a .500 on-base percentage (and .455 slugging percentage) in those situations. He also has a .474 OBP as a pinch-hitter.
Tonight, in the Dodgers’ 48th game, Figgins makes only his third start of the year, though his rate should increase now that Juan Uribe is on the disabled list and Justin Turner will be needed over there. Dee Gordon still hasn’t been a convincing hitter against left-handed pitchers, registering a .200 on-base percentage (8 for 40 with no walks) and .250 slugging percentage this year. It would be going too far to say he can’t improve those numbers, but against Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (2.54 ERA, .446 right-handed opponents’ OPS), it’s a sensible enough time to let Gordon come off the bench. (more…)
This is not a new backup infielder for the Dodgers. Hyun-Jin Ryu Bobblehead Night is May 27.
By Jon Weisman
Since Chone Figgins was sent to Albuquerque, I’ve spent a little time thinking about this four-man bench the Dodgers are using. Normally, a 13-man pitching staff strikes me as excessive, but it’s hard to deny that right now, the 25th spot on the roster is better spent on an arm than … well, an arm and all the other body parts that position players use.
The five existing outfielders have the grass portion of Dodger Stadium covered. Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez aren’t coming out for a pinch-hitter anytime soon, and Dee Gordon and Justin Turner have locked up second base. If anyone needs a rest or is knocked out by injury mid-game, Scott Van Slyke can play first, and Turner the rest.
The Dodgers are thin in the pinch-hitting department, but it’s also not something they’ve done much of. In 20 games, the Dodgers have used 29 pinch-hitters — less than two per game. That’s not to say that with a deeper bench there wouldn’t have been more, but it wouldn’t have been much more. Last year, the Dodgers gave 209 plate appearances to pinch-hitters.
Figgins, believe it or not, is the only Dodger pinch-hitter to reach base more than twice this season, and 20 games into 2014, the Dodgers still don’t have a pinch-homer, pinch-triple or pinch-double. (They do have a pinch-sacrifice fly, from Justin Turner.)
By comparison, the 2014 Dodgers have gone to the bullpen 79 times, practically four times a game, for a total of 74 1/3 innings. And even the guys who have struggled some this year have an impact by taking away innings that would otherwise stress out the others. In most cases, a pinch-hitter is there for a minute and then gone.
Where the Dodgers could benefit is where every MLB team could benefit. It would be nice if their backup catcher weren’t held hostage and chained to the bench by the potential of an emergency. For most games, the backup catcher doesn’t exist as an option, meaning that realistically, the Dodgers’ four-man bench is actually three. But until the pitching changes decrease, less is probably more when it comes to the bench.
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This is from a couple weeks back, but still worth a look. “Dr. James Andrews explains why Tommy John surgery is on the rise,” via Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk.
His answer: it’s not an anomaly, it’s a trend. And an alarming one, he says, in that so many more of the surgeries he’s performing are for high school pitchers as opposed to professionals with a few years under their belt. Kids are bigger and stronger these days, and their ability to throw harder is outpacing the development of their ulnar collateral ligaments.
But the biggest risk factor he and his researchers are seeing: year-round baseball. The fact that not only do pitchers throw year-round, but that they are pitching in competition year-round, and don’t have time to recover. Also: young players are playing in more than one league, where pitch count and innings rules aren’t coordinated. Another factor: the radar gun. Young pitchers who throw over 85 or so are at risk, and all of them who are on a major league track are throwing that fast or faster, and are going up in effort when scouts with guns are around.