Dodgers announce their National League Division Series roster.

Paco Rodriguez

Left-handed pitcher Paco Rodriguez and right-hander Ronald Belisario (right) are both on the Dodgers’ roster for the National League Division Series (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)


Andre Ethier will be on the Dodgers’ active roster for the National League Division Series, the team announced today. So will speedster Dee Gordon and rookie outfielder Scott Van Slyke.

However, utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., pitchers Carlos Marmol, Brandon League and Edinson Volquez won’t be available when the Dodgers begin play tonight in the best-of-five series against the Atlanta Braves.

The availability of Ethier, who injured his lower left leg (including the Achilles heel, ankle and shin) in early September, has been in jeopardy for weeks. Even Wednesday, he was seen limping onto the field for a team workout. He will likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties while Skip Schumaker assumes the starting center fielder’s job.

Conversely, Gordon will likely be limited to pinch-running duties. He’s been taking reps in center field, as has Van Slyke, who gives the Dodgers some power (.803 OPS in 53 regular-season games) off the bench.

The absence of Hairston isn’t a big surprise. He batted .143, with one home run in 42 games, after the All-Star break. A back injury had also been bothering him recently.

A bigger surprise was the inclusion of Chris Capuano, who started 20 games in the regular season, as a left-handed relief pitcher. Ricky Nolasco was chosen over Capuano and Volquez to start Game 4, and Volquez had pitched consistently in a fifth starter’s role while Capuano missed three weeks in September with a strained left groin. The Dodgers already have two left-handers in the bullpen, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez, though Rodriguez has struggled with his control in September.

Still, Capuano didn’t allow a run in three September relief appearances. His final start of August was stellar (7 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K’s against the San Diego Padres), and his experience at age 35 might have played to his advantage.

Right-handers Marmol and League have experience too, and had to be among the toughest decisions for manager Don Mattingly. Marmol went 0-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 relief appearances after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Chicago Cubs.

League, signed to a four-year, $27.5 million deal last fall that made him the Dodgers’ highest-paid reliever, struggled mightily in August and September. He allowed 25 hits in 19 appearances the last two months, including three that left the park. League also has no postseason experience.

The Dodgers’ complete roster (the Atlanta Braves’ roster can be found here):
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: The case for Zack Greinke, Game 1 starter.

Clatyon Kershaw Zack Greinke

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are arguably best 1-2 combination in the playoffs, but does it really matter who’s 1 and who’s 2? (Associated Press photo)


The world would not fall off its axis if Zack Greinke started the Dodgers’ playoff opener and Clayton Kershaw started Game 2. It would merely seem that way when you think of all the arguments in favor of Kershaw starting Game 1: Kershaw is going to win the National League Cy Young Award; he leads the world in ERA; he’s been the Dodgers’ best starter all season; he’s Clayton Kershaw for goodness sakes!

I’m not about to invoke a sabermetric-versus-old school angle, so this debate will not gain much traction outside of Los Angeles. But there’s a small case to be made for Greinke.

Here are the two pitchers over their last 15 starts:

IP H R ER BB SO BA OPS ERA
108.2 76 23 20 19 106 .198 .516 1.66
102.2 72 18 18 22 89 .197 .539 1.58

Leave out the wins and losses, and it’s not so easy to guess which stat line belongs to which pitcher. (Kershaw, who is 9-4 in his last 15 starts, owns the first line. Greinke, who is 9-1, owns the second.) The small differences are outweighed by the similarities.

The main reason Greinke isn’t challenging Kershaw for the National League ERA title is because he wasn’t nearly as effective in his first 12 starts of the season. Blame a stop-and-go spring training, blame Carlos Quentin — whatever the reason, Greinke’s early-season numbers have hurt his October credentials.

Greinke pitched only two games in April and three in May because of his run-in with Quentin. That carries another side effect: Greinke has made five fewer starts, and thrown 622 fewer pitches than Kershaw, this season. When choosing between a pair of virtual equals on the mound, shouldn’t that count for something? Say the Dodgers’ first-round series goes to five games. If Kershaw needs to start Game 5, that will be 35th start of the season. If Greinke starts the game, it would be his 30th.

You would still see both pitchers at least once in a best-of-seven NLCS, should the Dodgers get that far. Same for the World Series. So the question of who pitches Game 1 is just as much about who pitches a do-or-die Game 5 in the divisional series. If both pitchers are equally capable, why not choose the arm with less wear and tear?

Think of this like the final laps of a NASCAR race. Your car needs new tires. A caution flag is thrown late in the race. You have the choice of staying out or pulling into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Why not pit?

The question is moot, because there is no debate. The Dodgers have already chosen Kershaw for Game 1 and Greinke for Game 2, a decision that passed without much surprise or second-guessing. The rotation is lined up.

It probably wasn’t a coin flip, but it could have been.

Some bullet points to kick off a National Dog Week:
Continue reading

Postgame thoughts: Dodgers 6, Marlins 4.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig was benched Tuesday for the sixth time since reaching the majors. (Associated Press photo)

They closed the roof on Marlins Park on Tuesday night, and Yasiel Puig raised it.

The precocious rookie also changed the narrative on an eventful 48 hours in Miami.

In contrast to Puig’s last two games, Tuesday’s performance was hardly a whirlwind: He played four defensive innings and saw two pitches. It was a minimalist performance that commanded a maximum of attention, the artistic opposite of the $2.5 million orgy of cartoon flamingos and marlins beyond the center-field fence.
Continue reading

Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow made an impression in his debut game.

Chris WithrowChris Withrow went from a minor-league starter to a major-league reliever, a jittery ball of nerves to a statistic, booed briefly when he gave up the game-tying run in the seventh inning Wednesday then golf-clapped off the Dodger Stadium mound following his major-league debut.

A whirlwind, to be sure.

“It was still a lot of fun,” the 24-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Definitely to get out there and get my feet wet was an awesome experience. I wish my results were a little better. When you come into a game, it’s 4-3, you want to hold the lead. I wasn’t able to do that so i didn’t get my job done.”
Continue reading

Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers’ new closer.

Kenley JansenBrandon LeagueBrandon League is out as the Dodgers’ closer and Kenley Jansen is in.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that he had been contemplating the move for a week but he didn’t make it official until Tuesday, one day after League blew his fourth save of the season in a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I don’t know that it works better this way,” Mattingly said. “I wish I could say we had the sixth through the ninth (innings) covered and that any time we got there the game was going to be over. We’re like every other team. Nobody knows that if it gets there it’s going to be over. There’s a lot of teams with bullpen problems.”
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Pressure on Dodgers mounting, and more Yasiel Puig.

Mark Ellis

Second baseman Mark Ellis stopped but couldn’t make an out on this ground ball during the Dodgers’ ninth-inning meltdown Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Matthew Kory, writing for SportsonEarth.com, makes a good point today: It’s hard to make sense of how pressure affects athletes. Specifically, in his piece, how the pressure of the Dodgers’ circumstances (expectations, payroll, proclamations from ownership) are affecting an underperforming team.

Most athletes get questions about pressure from us media types. Most say “there is pressure in every situation,” or some variation thereof, but we don’t know exactly how each player perceives the pressure in a situation. It’s foolish to assume that all athletes have the same perception of the pressure facing them or their team.

All we really know is that these guys are better than most of us at handling pressure. Even Brandon League was remarkably calm after getting pulled in the ninth inning yesterday, and remarkably calm again while talking to reporters less than an hour later. In between, he could have been exerting his emotions on any number of inanimate objects. I still maintain that his composure in the critical situations was impressive, even if his command of belt-high sinkers to Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado was not.

But the pressure is mounting.

After yesterday’s game, I asked Don Mattingly where the tipping point is — when a pitcher who’s blown four saves can no longer be trusted to save another.

“I’m not sitting here trying to defend Brandon at this point,” Mattingly said. “For the most part, Brandon has been saving games.”

Seems like it’s getting harder to defend a lot of things around this team, and that’s a consequence of pressure.

Onto the bullet points:

Continue reading

Brandon League isn’t necessarily on thin ice as the Dodgers’ closer.

Brandon LeagueThe ice under Brandon League‘s feet is thicker than you might think.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered his second unenthusiastic endorsement for closer Brandon League this homestand Monday, sounding no closer to a long-term solution to the Dodgers’ growing ninth-inning problem.

Asked if League was still the closer one day after giving up two runs in the ninth inning in a non-save situation against the Miami Marlins, Mattingly said, “Yeah, for right now he is. I hate to say it like that but yeah, for now.”
Continue reading

The Dodgers’ closer debate continues, at least in the manager’s mind.

Brandon LeagueKenley JansenOne day after Brandon League allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly defended his closer. Sort of.

“I don’t feel Brandon’s done anything really wrong,” Mattingly said. “I know he’s given up — gives up the home run to (Guillermo) Quiroz (Saturday), the home run (to Paul Goldschmidt) last night. Even the blown save, we feel like if we make plays for him he gets that one (April 24 in New York). Then he’d have zero (blown saves). So I don’t really feel like Brandon’s come in and walked the park, gotten hit all over the place. Obviously he’s getting hit a little bit, though.”
Continue reading

Brandon League’s job is in jeopardy after the Dodgers’ sixth straight loss.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt’s home run off Brandon League in the ninth inning Tuesday makes him 9 for 20 with two homers against the Dodgers this season. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

You get the feeling that the Dodgers will have a new closer soon.

Tomorrow, perhaps.

Brandon League didn’t blow a save Tuesday, but he added another shaky performance to a long list of them in 2013. League allowed a pair of runs in the ninth inning, both on a Paul Goldschmidt home run that lifted the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 5-3 win at Dodger Stadium.

The Goldschmidt home run came on a belt-high sinker over the middle of the plate, the last of 11 pitches that included five foul balls after the count went full.

“My plan was to get Goldschmidt to ground into a double play,” League said. “That’s an example of what happens when you throw a good hitter a (feces-infused) pitch.”

Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

Continue reading