Daily Distractions: Dodgers don’t make good rangers, among other problems in the field.

Hanley Ramirez

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez committed one of two Dodger errors in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford wasn’t sure he could get to Carlos Ruiz‘s fly ball in the 10th inning Tuesday. There are two problems with this.

One, Crawford was able to get to the ball. (Check out the clip.) Ultimately he failed to recognize this and call off his shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.

Two, the reason Crawford didn’t know that he could get to the ball is because he has poor range for a left fielder. He basically admitted it afterwards, saying, “I didn’t think it was clearly my ball. That’s a long run for me.”

So if we’re really going to analyze the fielding woes that doomed the Dodgers in their 3-2 loss to Philadelphia last night, it’s not as simple as logging the number of errors (for the record, they have made errors in five straight games, a total of eight in that span). The best defensive metrics are never that simple.

What do the complicated metrics say?

FanGraphs’ Range Runs statistic measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, as determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Range Runs says that the Dodgers have four above-average fielders at their positions (among regulars): Yasiel Puig in right field (+2.3 runs), Juan Uribe at third (+2.2), Andre Ethier in center (+1.4) and even Crawford in left — albeit barely (+0.3).

Ethier has been below average this season when he shifts to right field (-0.5), as is Dee Gordon at second base (-0.2), Adrian Gonzalez at first base (-0.6), Hanley Ramirez at shortstop (-0.8) and Matt Kemp in center, by quite a bit (-2.0).

Translating that 2 into layman’s terms: The average center fielder has enough range to prevent two more runs from scoring than Kemp, and we’re less than a month into the season. That might be fine, except that Ethier and Crawford don’t offer much range in left and right, respectively. With Kemp in center, no wonder Puig acts like the only fielder capable of overcoming the limited range of literally every player around him — he is.

Maybe that’s why Kemp feels compelled to call off Puig on fly balls hit within 10 feet of him, which he did at one point Monday night.

A team’s fielding percentage tends to fluctuate with mistakes, like the occasional poor throw. Even Mark Ellis makes an occasional poor throw. Puig, for what it’s worth, hasn’t been charged with an error this season.

Range, however, is more fixed. So long as the body parts responsible for running are healthy — Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez, Gonzalez and Gordon fall in this category — it’s unfair to expect significant improvement in their range. If anything, ordinary wear and tear might restrict their range further as the season goes on.

So it’s fairly safe to say the Dodgers have a range problem. Monday, Crawford complicated things by underestimating even his own range and not calling off Ramirez on a ball that should have been his.

It was a tough play to watch, and there will probably be more of those in the future.

Some bullet points for a Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day:
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Josh Beckett thrives, Matt Kemp struggles, in Dodgers’ latest minor-league spring training game.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs on March 15 before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)

Josh Beckett threw four mostly successful innings against the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A club at Camelback Ranch on Thursday. It was his first appearance since being pulled from a Cactus League start against the Chicago Cubs on March 15 with a contusion on his right thumb.

The right-hander allowed six hits and one earned run, walked one and struck out four. He threw 52 pitches, 39 for strikes. Beckett was said to have used his curveball well, a pitch that gave him trouble in his last start because of the thumb injury.

Playing in the same game, Matt Kemp continued his struggles at the plate as he returns from off-season ankle surgery. Kemp went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts. Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford was 3-for-3 with a home run and two hard singles to left field. He played five innings in left field and was caught stealing.

Brandon League pitched in a Double-A game at home against Cincinnati and allowed one home run in 1 ⅓ innings. League threw 18 pitches, 12 for strikes, walked none and struck out none.

A smattering of notes: Zach Lee starts, Dee Gordon leads off, and Carl Crawford has the flu.

Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Cricket Ground, as configured for four days of baseball games.

Apropos of nothing — the time in Sydney, the time in Los Angeles, my newspaper’s deadlines — I’m checking in with one last update before boarding a flight to Australia.

The Dodgers play the Australian National Team tonight in Sydney. It’s their last exhibition game before beginning the regular season on Saturday (1 a.m. Pacific Time/7 p.m. Sydney Time). Manager Don Mattingly named Zach Lee will start the game.

Here’s how the Dodgers will line up:
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Reports: Dodgers’ Carl Crawford injures shoulder in minor-league game.

Carl CrawfordCarl Crawford left a minor-league spring training game against the Seattle Mariners after two innings Tuesday. According to multiple reports the Dodgers’ left fielder tweaked his right shoulder.

Crawford did not accompany the Dodgers to Sydney, Australia for Opening Day because of the anticipated birth of his child with fiancee Evelyn Lozada. He was scheduled to play with the Dodgers’ minor-league squad in Arizona until the major-league club returns.

In the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Feb. 26, Crawford tweaked a muscle in his right quadricep and missed the next two games. In 12 major-league spring games he batted .188 (6 for 32).

Pregame notes: Which Dodgers are on the plane, plus lineups for the Cactus League closer.

Brandon League

Associated Press photo


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers have about 12 hours before their plane departs for Sydney, Australia and their 30-man travel roster is mostly set. Here’s the latest on a few players who were on the bubble going into today’s final Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch.

Still in limbo:

Brandon League. “The biggest thing for us with Brandon is it’s the best thing for him to pitch over on that (minor-league) side,” manager Don Mattingly said, but he wouldn’t confirm that League is staying behind. Sounds like League is an insurance policy in case any pitchers (particularly right-handed relievers) sustain an injury today.

On the plane:

Chone Figgins. The Dodgers haven’t made a formal decision about Figgins, who is not on the 40-man roster and has hit poorly in camp. “We feel like his bat’s been OK. He hasn’t necessarily had that many hits but he’s gotten some walks to and had the kind of at-bats we like,” Mattingly said. “We feel the at-bats will get better and better. Not playing a year, he’s getting back to that.”

Justin Turner and Mike Baxter. Their numbers (Turner is batting .333/.432/.467, Baxter .286/.316/.343) and versatility left little doubt that they would make the trip. I thought I’d throw them on the list in case there was any confusion.

Chris Withrow. He wasn’t really in danger of being left off the plane either, despite walking seven batters and allowing four runs in five Cactus League appearances. Withrow’s value as a right-handed set-up man goes up if League finds himself working minor-league games the next 10 days. Since he has two options left on his contract, the Dodgers could have optioned Withrow to their minor-league camp. They might still do that after they land in Sydney, but by bringing Withrow the Dodgers have some additional bullpen flexibility for their first two games.

Not on the plane:

Carl Crawford. His fiancee didn’t give birth last night, so Crawford will not be on the plane. Mattingly said that the team will be able to place Crawford on the paternity leave list, so the Dodgers won’t have to burn a 25-man roster spot, or one of their three “exempt” roster spots, while Crawford plays minor-league games in Phoenix.

Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett. We knew that already. Mattingly talked about the plan for Kemp this morning; he and Crawford will form a mini minor-league Murderer’s Row while their teammates play overseas. Greinke, Haren and Beckett will pitch some minor-league games in Arizona too.

Miguel Olivo. The catcher confirmed an MLB.com report that he asked for his release yesterday after being told that he won’t make the Sydney trip. The Dodgers had three healthy catchers on their 40-man roster in A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera. They’re apparently comfortable with that trio, even if one of them gets injured in the final Cactus League game today. Ellis is starting and all four catchers in camp — including Olivo — are listed on the active roster for the 1 p.m. game against the Colorado Rockies.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Dodgers’ Sydney shuffle: Dan Haren and Carl Crawford out; Paul Maholm, Drew Butera in.


With roughly 24 hours left to choose which 30 players will be on a flight bound for Sydney, Australia, Don Mattingly said he’s “99 percent” certain on how to set the Dodgers’ travel roster.

Carl Crawford is out. His fiancee, television personality Evelyn Lozada, is due to give birth soon. MLB rules allow the Dodgers to place Crawford on the paternity leave list, which provides between one and three days for a player to attend to the birth of his child. Crawford could be re-activated for the Dodgers’ series against the San Diego Padres beginning March 30.

Mattingly said that who plays left field in the two games will depend on who’s pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott Van Slyke is the favorite to play against left-hander Patrick Corbin, the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter. Since scheduled Game 2 starter Trevor Cahill is day-to-day with a knee injury, Mattingly wouldn’t venture to guess who starts in left field beyond Opening Day.

On the pitching front, Mattingly said that Dan Haren will not make the trip and Paul Maholm will. That still depends on the health of Clayton Kershaw, who starts against the Chicago White Sox tonight, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts tomorrow against the Colorado Rockies. So long as both Kershaw and Ryu are healthy, Maholm is the favorite to start the Dodgers’ exhibition game against the Australian National Team next Thursday in Sydney.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks get three “exempt” roster spots for players who will not play in Sydney, and then can be activated for their first regular-season game in North America March 30 in San Diego. Haren is one of the three as of now. Maholm could be another, then start the game against the Australian National Team, so long as Kershaw and Ryu are healthy.

How certain is all of this?

“We’ve pretty much decided,” Mattingly said. “Nothing’s been in stone for us just because of what could happen. Everybody that we feel like’s going to go for the most part, 99 percent, kind of knows that’s where we’re leaning at this point without any last-second stuff. The guys that we think are going to pitch over there know as of now.”

Mattingly added that three catchers will make the trip. A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz have been locks since camp began. Drew Butera is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster and seems like the favorite for the third job.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks won’t have expanded instant replay in Sydney. That’s OK.

Sydney Cricket Ground baseball

A construction crane works on the area around the right field foul pole at the Sydney Cricket Ground. (John Blundell’s Twitter account)

The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks won’t have expanded instant replay available to them for their season-opening games at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22 and 23.

From the Associated Press:

The technology that MLB will use at other games during the regular season won’t be in place for the opener. Standard replay will be available in Australia for disputed home run and boundary calls under the format in place since 2008.

That could be a good thing.

There have been a few concrete takeaways from the use of instant replay so far in Cactus League. One is that the managers and umpires truly need time to practice. Learning what calls can be challenged by a manager, what calls can be challenged by an umpire — and when — hasn’t happened overnight.

Another is that some stadium camera angles suck.

Take this incident from yesterday’s game between the Angels and Cincinnati Reds:

(Angels catcher) Hank Conger was called safe at second base trying to stretch an RBI single into a double in the fifth inning. Reds manager Bryan Price challenged the call made by umpire Jim Reynolds. A television replay showed that Conger was tagged out, but the call was upheld by umpire Gerry Davis, who was monitoring replays from a truck in the parking lot.

Randy Marsh, MLB’s director of umpires, said that the television replay wasn’t available to Davis during the 2-minute, 15-second review. Only four in-house camera angles at Tempe Diablo Stadium were available, and none conclusively showed Conger being tagged out.

Davis saw the television replay after the call was upheld.

“It was an umpires’ nightmare,” Marsh said.

Price lost his only manager’s challenge of the game because of the decision to uphold the call.

Here’s a relevant question for the two games in Sydney: What’s worse, relying on the umpires to get the call right like baseball has for 125 years, or relying on less-than-conclusive camera angles just because the rules say you can?

Some bullet points for a Middle Name Pride Day:
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Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds reveal lineups for rare night game.

The Dodgers will play their first Cactus League night game — one of three on the schedule — at 6 p.m. Pacific Time against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Stadium. Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his second spring start against right-hander Homer Bailey.

As manager Don Mattingly indicated yesterday, Dee Gordon is in center field for the first time all spring. Carl Crawford is the designated hitter one day after playing left field for the first time since he strained his right quadriceps muscle on Feb. 26. Alex Guerrero is back at second base, and Matt Magill, Paco Rodriguez, Javy Guerra and Jose Dominguez are scheduled to pitch in relief.

Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
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Carl Crawford scratched from Dodgers’ lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks as a precaution.

Carl Crawford

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford will miss Thursday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Associated Press photo)

There were a couple early-morning changes to the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday.

Carl Crawford was removed as a precaution with tightness in his upper right leg. Crawford said that his hamstring was “a little tight” Wednesday, “just the whole day.” The 32-year-old outfielder had an adventure in the field, overrunning a fly ball in the first inning that fell for a triple, and also scored from first base on Yasiel Puig‘s third-inning double.

Crawford said his hamstring felt fine Thursday morning and that he wouldn’t be restricted from anything other than playing in the game. Last year, Crawford missed 30 games with a strained left hamstring.

Manager Don Mattingly said that the issue is with Crawford’s quadriceps muscle and not his hamstring; Crawford had the entire upper leg wrapped after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Diamondbacks. Regardless, Mattingly said that Crawford would get another day off Saturday and potentially return to the lineup Saturday when the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers.

Catcher A.J. Ellis reported to camp with the flu and was sent home. “He didn’t look great,” Mattingly said. Ellis is expected back Friday.

Zack Greinke is scheduled to throw two innings and the starters are expected to play five. The game is set to begin at 1 p.m. (noon Pacific) from Camelback Ranch. Here are the lineups for both teams:

Dodgers Diamondbacks
Dee Gordon 2B Tony Campana CF
Andre Ethier CF Cliff Pennington 2B
Hanley Ramirez SS Chris Owings SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B Mike Jacobs 1B
Yasiel Puig RF Matt Tuiasosopo RF
Mike Baxter LF Jake Lamb 3B
Juan Uribe 3B Shelley Duncan DH
Tim Federowicz C Danny Dorn LF
Alex Guerrero 2B Tuffy Gosewich C
(Zack Greinke P) (Randall Delgado P)

Arizona Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 1.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw gave up five hits and three runs in two innings in his first Cactus League start. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers are 0-1. Clayton Kershaw has a 13.50 earned-run average.

“If it wasn’t for that Kershaw guy we’d be in good shape,” manager Don Mattingly quipped.

The takeaways from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 4-1 victory over the Dodgers at Salt River Fields on Wednesday were limited, to put it mildly.

Among the more meaningful performances, Yasiel Puig twice faced Brandon McCarthy, who will almost certainly be in the Diamondbacks’ major-league rotation if he’s healthy. Puig singled to right field in his first at-bat and doubled in his second at-bat. The latter hit gave the Dodgers their only run when Carl Crawford scored all the way from first base.

Kershaw pitched two innings, allowed five hits, three runs (all earned), walked one and struck out two. He threw 42 pitches — 26 strikes — then “faced two hitters” by throwing about 15 more pitches in the bullpen.

“I wasn’t throwing the ball where I wanted to,” he said. “There were some off-speed pitches I needed to throw better. That one to Montero I struck him out on was probably up, honestly. That one that Pollock hit, there’s just some balls that I left up. Just a lot to work on.”

Kershaw didn’t downplay his pitching line.

“I’m a results-based guy,” he said. “I want to see outs. Today left a lot to be desired.”

The Diamondbacks scored their final run in the eighth inning off Ross Stripling.

Some more postgame notes and observations:
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