By Jon Weisman
Here’s where the Dodger bullpen ranks in 10 key categories, compared with the rest of the National League:
- No. 3 in fewest innings thrown, behind the Mets and Reds.
- No. 2 in fewest batters faced, behind only the Mets.
- No. 2 behind the Mets in lowest on-base percentage allowed.
- No. 2 behind the Mets in WHIP.
- Tied for No. 1 with the Marlins for fewest home runs allowed.
- No. 1 in lowest slugging percentage allowed.
- No. 1 in lowest OPS allowed.
- No. 1 in strikeouts per nine innings.
- No. 1 in strikeout-walk ratio.
- No. 7 in rate of inherited runners allowed to score.
The last bullet point shows that Dodger relievers aren’t doing everything right. But they’re doing a lot of things very right — and that’s with Kenley Jansen having thrown 57 pitches so far all season.
And the other good news, heading into a stretch of 34 games in the next 34 days (with one doubleheader and one day off in June), is that so far, the Dodger bullpen haven’t been overworked.
How many fans are even aware that Zack Greinke leads the Major Leagues in ERA? Here’s more on Greinke’s super season so far, plus other news and notes:
- Some interesting tidbits about Greinke fill Pedro Moura’s story for the Register, based in no small part on a conversation with A.J. Ellis. Here’s a sample:
In combination with his fastball, the changeup and slider have presented an unusual problem to the opposition. Ninety-three percent of Greinke’s pitches have been clocked within roughly 5 mph of each other. They’re released similarly, travel at unusually similar velocities, and then, approaching the plate, they split off in separate directions.
“It’s pretty hard for hitters when the three pitches come in and you don’t know which way they’re going to go,” Ellis said. “Is it going to come straight through? Is it going to run down and in? Is it going down and away?”
Greinke, whose fielding-independent ERA is higher than Clayton Kershaw’s, acknowledges he has been lucky on balls in play this season, in contrast to Kershaw and …
- … Chris Hatcher, who spoke candidly about his recent struggles, as seen in this story by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. As with Moura’s article on Greinke, you need to read the entire story on Hatcher, but here’s an excerpt:
Hatcher’s ERA in May was 3.00 entering Wednesday night (it is 6.00 now), after a 7.56 mark in April. But if there is one glaring difference in the two months, it’s in strikeouts. In April Hatcher struck out 15 of 38 batters faced (39.5%), but in May just two of 31 batters he faced have struck out.
We are talking about all of 14⅓ innings on the season here, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. But peripherally Hatcher is having a fine season. Despite his 6.91 ERA, his 17 strikeout, five walks and no home runs allowed give him a 2.23 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP.
But waiting for the numbers to even out isn’t a luxury most relief pitchers have, nor does it make giving up actual runs any less annoying.
“I feel like every ball put in play is a hit off me, recently,” Hatcher said. “A couple of those were poor pitches. But what’s frustrating is when you execute your pitch and somehow the ball still finds the ground or the guy ends up on first.”
Update: Here’s more analysis from Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest.
- Julio Urias had his cosmetic eye surgery Thursday, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News.
- “Dodgers pitcher Chad Gaudin recently underwent carpal tunnel release surgery on his right wrist and could be pitching in a month,” Ken Gurnick reported on MLB.com earlier this week.
- Dodger senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith has been nominated for executive of the year at the Stadium Business Awards.
- The fate of Mets third baseman David Wright resembles that of Don Mattingly during his days with the Yankees, writes Steven Martano of Beyond the Box Score.
- Matt Holliday of tonight’s Dodger opponents in St. Louis has reached base in 43 consecutive games to start the season, “the longest streak in the National League since 1914″ to open a season according to ESPN.com. David Cobb of MLB.com adds that the MLB record to start a season is 53 by Derek Jeter.
Did you see that? Because of a partnership between the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and Vision to Learn, the nearly 100 elementary school students who stood in center field before Tuesday’s game could all say “yes.” The students and their families were on hand to celebrate the third year of the partnership.
Vision to Learn is a nonprofit organization that provides free eye screenings, eye exams and free glasses to underserved school kids in the greater Los Angeles area. Approximately 250,000 elementary school students in California — including 100,000 here in Los Angeles County — do not have the glasses that they need. According to the American Optometric Association, 80 percent of classroom learning is visual, yet it has been estimated nearly one in every seven kindergarten-through-fifth graders in California does not have the glasses they need to learn.
In the three years Vision to Learn has been in existence, the organization has examined more than 35,000 children and provided more than 27,500 pair of eye glasses to help students succeed in school and in life. LADF granted Vision to Learn $150,000 to increase services to elementary school students.
Vision to Learn is also a key health partner in LADF’s youth baseball program Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). More than 4,000 players in Dodgers RBI will have the opportunity to get their eyes screened over the course of the season at regional Dodger Days in their communities.
Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis and reliever Brandon League know firsthand what it is like to have vision problems and have both shown their support of Vision to Learn.
Visit dodgers.com/ladf to learn more about the LADF’s work.
By Jon Weisman
Seven months ago, the Dodgers suffered their most frustrating playoff defeat of the decade, losing three games to the Cardinals in the National League Division Series that Los Angeles either led or was tied in going into the seventh inning.
As I write this, the Dodgers are in the air on their way to St. Louis, returning to the scene of the crime, you might say. Beginning Friday, Los Angeles will play seven of its next 10 games against the team that vanquished them.
The memory of October is not a closed wound. At the same time, win or lose, this weekend’s series against the Cardinals feels like something of another limb.
Don’t get me wrong: These games are not exhibitions. For one thing, the NL West-leading Dodgers are trying to the team by the bay at bay. San Francisco, which in April was as much as six games out (which really isn’t that much), is now within a game of the Dodgers, pending what happens tonight against Atlanta and former Cardinal pitcher Shelby Miller.
For another, it would be hard to say there isn’t any emotion when St. Louis is involved. Not only have the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers in the past two postseasons, but at 31-16, they are the only team in the league with a better record than the 28-18 Dodgers. Since 2011, the Cardinals are 306-227 and the Dodgers are 300-232.
The Cardinals are the barometer, and they bring the barometric pressure.
Having said all that …
By Cary Osborne
Arizona-based photographer Bill Mitchell was on site watching Hector Olivera’s first game for the extended spring team on Thursday at Camelback Ranch and reports that the newly signed Cuban infielder hit a long home run to left field in his fourth at-bat, after he walked, had a fielder’s choice and grounded into a double play in the other at-bats.
In the same game, Mitchell reports, pitching prospect Ross Stripling, who had Tommy John surgery in March 2014, retired the three batters he faced.
Now, let’s take our weekly look around the system …
“The old pro is back,” Walter Alston told the Times.
Though he had been a full-time coach, Gilliam had been taking batting and infield practice since Spring Training.
“I’m glad to be back on the roster,” he said. “I think I can help the club, and that’s all that counts.
Alston cautioned that he didn’t “intend to play Jim at third base very much, but there will be times when he will finish up the game there after pinch-hitting.”
That plan lasted for about three days. The 36-year-old Gilliam played 16 innings across a May 31 doubleheader and went on to start 99 more games during the remainder of the 1965 season and all seven in the ’65 World Series.
In a story that appeared in Dodger Insider magazine this month, Mark Langill offers a fond look back at how Gilliam’s improbable comeback boosted the Dodgers to a title. (Click each page below to enlarge.)
— Jon Weisman
Unpacking the Uribe-Withrow-Callaspo-Thomas-Jaime-Stults trade (see, that’s a lot to unpack right there)
For photos from Tuesday, visit LA Photog Blog.
By Jon Weisman
As unusual as the past 36 hours have been, nothing quite brought it home more sharply than seeing Juan Uribe in Atlanta Braves gear at Dodger Stadium, so soon after he had worn Dodger whites for the final time.
Gazing upon Matt Kemp as a Padre on Opening Day took an adjustment and a half, but at least we had most of an offseason to prepare.
But baseball, the game without a clock, ticks on — and everyone moves forward, ready or not. Here is a bullet-point summary of this late afternoon’s news.
- According to Don Mattingly, Uribe had initiated discussions about his decreased playing time, and Andrew Friedman said that Uribe’s agent told him that Uribe would welcome a trade to a team that would offer more playing time. It wasn’t a literal trade demand, but more an indication of where Uribe’s mind was at.
- Similarly, Alberto Callaspo balked at the trade at first because he was concerned that his at-bats would go down, according to Friedman, but his concerns were assuaged. It has been reported elsewhere that the Braves paid Callaspo an additional sum to agree to the trade.
- Friedman thinks the switch-hitting Callaspo can help the Dodgers as a left-handed bat off the bench (with Andre Ethier starting, the Dodgers often don’t have a lefty position player in reserve at all). Callaspo’s positional versatility is also a better fit for the Dodger bench than Uribe would offer, according to Friedman.
- Chris Withrow was admired enough by Friedman to be a trade target while Friedman was with the Rays, but hopes of what Withrow might provide in 2016 were sacrificed in order to add pitching depth for this year.
- Left-handed Ian Thomas will be stretched out at Oklahoma City to see if he might become a starter (not coincidentally, a recent Dodger acquisition, Eric Surkamp, is getting the same treatment as a starter for Oklahoma City tonight.) Relief pitching is a fallback for Thomas.
- Righty reliever Juan Jaime “misses bats,” Friedman said, and so the Dodgers will attack his control problems at in extended Spring Training at Camelback Ranch to see what develops.
- Chris Heisey was called up in no small part because two Dodger outfielders, Scott Van Slyke and Kiké Hernandez, are not 100 percent healthy.
- The Dodgers hope that the two pitchers designated for assignment today, Sergio Santos and Eric Stults, will clear waivers and remain in the organization, but whether they clear remains to be seen.
- Brandon Beachy threw three simulated innings today, ahead of his next steps — first games at Camelback, and hopefully the start of a minor-league rehab assignment in June.
- For their doubleheader Tuesday at Colorado, the Dodgers get a 26th-man roster exemption. Joe Wieland is lined up in the Triple-A rotation if the Dodgers want him, but they have not announced how they will use the extra spot.
By Jon Weisman
A first-round draft pick in 2007, Withrow pitched 56 innings for the Dodgers with a 2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 71 strikeouts. An easy guy to talk to in the clubhouse, Withrow leaves with the fourth-highest K/9 in Dodger history for those who pitched at least 50 innings, and while sentiment has been pouring out about Uribe, best wishes for the future certainly go to Withrow as well.
As for the return in the trade: While Callaspo will be on the active roster tonight, Thomas has been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and Jaime has been assigned to extended Spring Training at Camelback Ranch. Stults, who pitched for the Dodgers from 2006-09, has been designated for assignment.
Callaspo, who turned 32 last month, has mostly struggled (.545 OPS) since signing an offseason free-agent deal with Atlanta. However, his batting average on balls in play is at a career-low .214, and as the Dodgers’ public relations department noted in its official announcement, Callaspo “the switch-hitter has been the hardest active player to strike out in his career, averaging 11.20 plate appearances per strikeout.”
He has played all four infield positions plus left and right field in his career, though he hasn’t played outfield since 2010 or shortstop since 2009.
In addition to his 15 2/3 shutout minor-league innings this season, the 28-year-old Thomas had a 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings with Atlanta, allowing nine baserunners while striking out five.
“The lefty doesn’t throw all that many pitches north of 90 miles per hour,” Jeff Sullivan wrote of Thomas at Fangraphs today, “but he has a decently full repertoire, and in the majors he’s struck out more than a batter an inning. This year in the high minors, he has a walk and 20 strikeouts. His peripherals are strong enough, and he just hasn’t had much of a big-league opportunity. You can see why a team would want to stash him away.
Jaime, who is remarkable if only because he is a 27-year-old who was originally signed by the Montreal Expos, has walked 13 in 13 2/3 career big-league innings, but he has also struck out 19, so the Dodgers will see where that goes.