Van Slyke still playing against lefties, but lefties are few and far between

Mets at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

For a while now, Dodger manager Don Mattingly has made no secret of the fact that Scott Van Slyke is a regular starter against left-handed pitching. But the opportunities have been harder to come by in August.

Van Slyke made only four starts in the first 19 days of August, before getting the call Wednesday against San Diego and now tonight against the Mets. Combined with four appearances off the bench, that has left Van Slyke 5 for 19 in August with two walks, two doubles and a sacrifice fly, for a .716 OPS.

By comparison, Van Slyke averaged 50 plate appearances in June and July, with a .394 on-base percentage, .488 slugging percentage and .882 OPS.

Tonight marks one month since Van Slyke’s last home run, as he waits to become the fifth Dodger this year with 10 home runs. It appears unlikely that the Dodgers will end up with more than five players in double digits on the long ball, given that Juan Uribe is next on the team with six. From 2010-12, the Dodgers had four players with at least 10 homers each year, then had six such players in 2013.

Dodger minor league report: Week 20 (part two) — From De Leon to Leon

By Cary Osborne

There has been a lot of excitement at the lower levels over the last week — from a record breaker to promotions and2014 draft picks producing impressive results. Here’s the report (and a fulfilled request for one of our readers):

Great Lakes Loons (Low-A)

Thus far: 62-67 overall; 28-31, nine games out of first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division second-half standings

Jose De Leon

Jose De Leon

Move over Clayton Kershaw. Jose De Leon, a 24th-round pick last year, struck out a Loons record 14 batters on Tuesday vs. Fort Wayne, breaking the record of 12 that was held by Kershaw and two others.

It was only De Leon’s second start since being called up from Ogden. The 22-year-old averaged 12.8 Ks per nine innings there, and has averaged 11.4 for his pro career.

De Leon struck out the 14 batters in only six innings of work. He allowed four hits and walked none. On the season, he has a 2.31 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out 98 batters and walking 19 in 66 1/3 innings.

(more…)

Video: Joc Pederson and the Isotopes are giving away his ’94 Buick

By Cary Osborne

The Isotopes are giving away Joc Pederson’s 1994 Buick Century away to one lucky fan on Aug. 29. The car, nicknamed “Little Chucky,” has 166,000 miles on it. Check out the tongue-in-cheek video above.

Here’s an excerpt of the Isotopes’ press release:

One lucky fan at the Albuquerque Isotopes game next Friday, Aug. 29, will drive away (or tow away) outfielder Joc Pederson’s luxurious 1994 Buick Century. Fans will not want to miss the chance to win this one-of-a-kind car driven by the next Los Angeles Dodgers superstar.

The car, nicknamed “Little Chucky,” has only 166,000 miles on it and has at least one operable window, which is really all you need. It is perfect for cruising around during the New Mexico summers with its “awesome” stereo system and lack of air conditioning. Kelly Blue Book estimates the value at nearly $1,000 (depending on if it has a full tank of gas). Little Chucky will also come with two complimentary air fresheners and whatever else Pederson forgets to clean out.

The Isotopes guarantee 100 percent that this distinctive car will carry you all the way to your next destination out of the Isotopes Park parking lot. A satisfactory safety inspection has been completed on the vehicle. …

“On a side note, if you’re a Seinfeld fan, the George/Jon Voight car episode aired in 1994,” Lee Van Horn, who handles all media for the Isotopes, told us. “We just realized that, which of course coincides with the ’94 Buick.”

Corey Seager named California League MVP


SeagerBy Jon Weisman

Dodger prospect Corey Seager has been named the 2014 Most Valuable Player in the Class-A California League.

Seager, who was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga in mid-July, had a .411 on-base percentage and a league-leading .633 slugging percentage with 18 homers in 365 plate appearances for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this year.

A 2014 Futures Game selection, Seager is the No. 16 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. The 20-year-old infielder now has a .356 on-base percentage and .495 slugging percentage (119 plate appearances) in the more challenging Southern League.

The top Dodger bench players of the 21st century

SAN DIEGO PADRES V MILWAUKEE BREWERS

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):

Bench players

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.

So, there’s your late-inning comeback

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 9.42.29 PMBy Jon Weisman

I was all set to tell you why you shouldn’t jump off a cliff even if the Dodgers lost a second straight Clayton Kershaw start and a second straight game to the Padres. But Justin Turner did me the favor of explaining better and more dramatically than I ever could.

“I don’t hit a lot of home runs.”

– Turner, on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” this afternoon

Dodgers 2, Padres 1

A little notebook music

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CCIII: Kershawsablanca
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Miguel Rojas, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Some random facts to take your mind off the Dodgers’ injury woes:

  • Clayton Kershaw is by almost any definition a clutch pitcher. Did you know he’s also a career .304 hitter in 46 at-bats from the seventh inning on, including his Opening Day 2013 home run.
  • J.P. Howell crossed the 100-inning threshold as a Dodger this month, and with that as a minimum, became the Dodgers’ all-time leader in ERA at 1.75. Kershaw is 16th, but third if you up the minimum to 1,000 innings. Here’s the top 20:
    ERA
  • Since June 1, the Dodgers have more victories (41) than home runs (36). The last time the Dodgers did that over a full season was 1976.
  • Left-handed batters are hitless against Kershaw’s slider this year, notes Daniel Brim of Dodgers Digest.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a good piece putting the Dodgers’ late-inning performance at the plate in perspective. It’s similar to what I’ve written about the Dodgers’ struggles with the bases loaded coming while they lead the National League in on-base percentage with runners in scoring position — the latter situations coming far, far more often. A smaller negative shouldn’t outweigh a larger positive.
  • Dazzy Vance was “the ultimate outlier,” writes Tony Blengino at Fangraphs.

From the magazine: The quirks that work

Wanted to share this fun feature by Cary Osborne from the August edition of Dodger Insider magazine that looks at the oddities in the pitching motions for such Dodgers as Clayton Kershaw and J.P. Howell. Click on each image below to enlarge the pages.

— Jon Weisman

Quirks 1

Quirks 2

Off days enable Dodgers to move up Kershaw, rest Greinke

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V ATLANTA BRAVES

Zack Greinke on the mound against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on July 30. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Darwin Barney, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Roberto Hernandez, P

Note: San Francisco won its protest of the decision to call Tuesday’s 4 1/2-inning game at Chicago complete. The Giants’ loss is taken off the standings, putting the Dodgers’ National League West lead at four games heading into tonight.

San Francisco and Chicago will resume their game at 2:05 p.m. Pacific on Thursday, with the regularly scheduled series finale to follow at 5:05 p.m.

By Jon Weisman

Making use of three off days between August 18-28, the Dodgers have tweaked their pitching rotation to buy Zack Greinke some extra rest for his tender elbow.

Clayton Kershaw, pitching on four days’ rest, will take Greinke’s turn Thursday against the Padres, while Greinke will be held back until Saturday against the Mets (with Dan Haren going Friday and Kevin Correia on Sunday).

An off day on Monday would then allow the Dodgers to give Kershaw & Co. the extra day of rest they thought they’d be getting this week.

Don Mattingly said that Greinke had a clean MRI on his elbow two weeks ago. Greinke didn’t want to postpone his start, but was convinced in a conversation with vice president of medical services Stan Conte to be prudent about his condition.

“If he keeps feeling like he’s feeling now, I don’t think he thinks or anyone thinks it’s a DL (situation),” Mattingly said. “With the off days … that will determine how he gets extra rest.”

Extreme Carl Crawford


SAN DIEGO PADRES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSBy Jon Weisman

When it comes to cold and hot running Crawfords, they don’t come much colder or hotter than Carl.

The Dodger left fielder put an exclamation point on his latest hot streak with his seventh-inning home run Tuesday off San Diego reliever Alex Torres, Crawford’s first home run in 122 at-bats since May 23 and his first homer off a left-handed pitcher since April 10, 2013.

Weirdly, Crawford’s last home run off a righty was against Roberto Hernandez, and his last homer off a lefty was against Eric Stults. Those are the two starting pitchers facing each other in tonight’s Dodgers-Padres game.

But my main point today is how streaky a hitter Crawford has been this year. We’ve seen him take two major down-and-up trips in 2014, bifurcated by his 6 1/2-week stay on the disabled list.

Crawford hot and coldIt’s easy to understand why Dodger manager Don Mattingly keeps the faith in Crawford, even when he looks ragged. When Crawford is hot, he’s scorching.

Interestingly, with this recent run of success, Crawford’s season OPS is almost even with that of Andre Ethier (.678). As the second-best Dodger baserunner behind Dee Gordon, thanks in no small part to 19 steals in 22 attempts (86.4 percent), Crawford does now have an overall production edge over Ethier in 2014.

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