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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Dodgers, Diamondbacks announce Opening Day rosters and lineups.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues Friday to get the Dodgers to 25 men on their Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

SYDNEY — Greetings from tomorrow.
The Dodgers, as expected, trimmed their roster to 25 this afternoon. Outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Zach Lee and infielder Miguel Rojas were reassigned to the minor leagues. Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League were given roster exemptions and begin the season as “inactive.” Carl Crawford was placed on paternity leave. Pitchers Chad Billingsley (right elbow surgery) and Josh Beckett (right thumb contusion) and outfielder Matt Kemp (ankle surgery) on were placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday.

Not as expected: Catcher Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues. Federowicz was on a short list of players with contract options, so even though he spent all of 2013 as the backup to A.J. Ellis, Federowicz won’t be active for the first two games of the season. Drew Butera will back up Ellis.

First pitch is at 1:47 a.m. Pacific Time — not 1, or 1:30, as previously reported here. There is a chance of rain in the forecast and, fortunately, sliding glass windows in the press box.

Game 2 pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will be speaking at a press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground shortly, followed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. If you’re not following me on Twitter or Tout, hop on it and you’ll get game updates throughout the middle of the night.

Or you can just wake up in the morning like a normal person, come back to this blog and catch up on what you missed.

Here is the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, by position:
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Daily Distractions: What’s next for the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia?


The Dodgers are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type this blog entry. (I’m in Los Angeles. My skin isn’t Arizona-level dry anymore. It feels nice.) See for yourself: FlightAware.com is tracking the Dodgers’ airplane.

They will have a workout within a few hours of their arrival in Sydney, Australia and roughly another 60 hours before they play their first game against the Australian National Team. All this is by design — specifically, a design to get the players adapted to a time zone 18 hours away. The Dodgers even consulted with NASA, which is a great story for another day.

In the meantime, the club will attend a welcome gala and take a tour of Sydney Harbor. And, ideally, sleep a lot. If any of this makes for good copy it will probably be unplanned. I’m arriving Friday, the morning after the exhibition game. If the Dodgers want to play it boring until then I won’t complain.

Here is the Diamondbacks’ traveling roster. They are bringing 31 players because one, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is an Australian native who will also play for the Australian National Team in its exhibition game Thursday against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a St. Patrick’s Day:
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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.

Dodgers’ Zack Greinke throws two innings, ‘still a ways to go’ before he’s ready for a real game.

Zack GreinkeZack Greinke‘s right calf is not at full strength and his arm is in its typical early-spring shape. That is, poor.

His honesty is in midseason form, and the 30-year-old pitcher reserved the most brutal of his honesty Wednesday for simulated games. He doesn’t like them.

“Those are awful,” Greinke said. “It’s not the same. You make a mistake, they miss those. You make a mistake in the game, they hit those harder.”
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers won’t say when Matt Kemp will play in a game.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Somewhere, the AlterG treadmill that served as Matt Kemp‘s exercise lifeline for weeks is collecting dust. Kemp is out in the open, where he should be, taking batting practice and running on a baseball field.

Tuesday, he was cleared to run a curved path with Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes watching. Since he was first cleared to run on Saturday, he had only been running straight lines.

His swing (above) looks normal. His body, chiseled from an off-season spent doing upper body work in the gym, looks better than normal. The only question is, when will Kemp be able to start playing games?

“Part of the plan is not to have a timetable,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday, “as far as throwing a date out there, so you guys can say ‘April 1,’ then we get to April 1 and he’s not quite ready so now he’s off schedule. If something happened he had ‘a setback.’

“The more he does, the more he steps forward, continues to do more without having setbacks, the more he continues to do and that tells us where we’re at.”

Kemp has said repeatedly that he won’t rush himself back. Playing in the Dodgers’ season-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia is out. The first game on North American soil, March 30 against the Padres in San Diego, hasn’t been ruled out.

That’s the good news. It’s also all the news.

“Stan (Conte, the Dodgers’ head athletic trainer) has characterized it as kind of like the fifth stage of a seven-stage rehab,” Mattingly said. “So (Kemp) is getting there. We’re confident that he’s going in the right direction. I don’t think anyone wants to put pressure on Matt to say ‘this is the date’ because then it’s an artificial timetable. Then if he’s not ready he starts to feel like he’s behind schedule.”

Some bullet points for a Holy Experiment Day:
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Zack Greinke removed from first Cactus League start with right calf injury.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zack GreinkeDodgers right-hander Zack Greinke was removed from his first Cactus League start Thursday afternoon three pitches into the game with a mild right calf strain.

“It felt like nothing really,” Greinke said. “There was something there. Stuff like that will happen all the time, then the next pitch it’s gone. This time the next pitch, it wasn’t gone and it took a little while. Usually if you walk it off it goes away, but it didn’t go away. So that was kind of the thing that was different.”

Greinke needed one pitch to retire leadoff hitter Tony Campana on a fly ball to left field. The next batter, Cliff Pennington, took a ball and a strike from Greinke before head athletic trainer Stan Conte visited the mound. Conte and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly watched Greinke take a couple practice pitches and discussed the situation before Greinke walked off on his own power with Conte.

“The first (warmup pitch) that I threw, I didn’t really push off with my leg and it was fine,” he said. “I’m sure I could’ve pitched a whole game not pushing off during the season but right now it’s a risk/reward. I say I’m sure I could’ve — maybe I couldn’t have. The one pitch that I didn’t push off on, I didn’t feel it too much. Then the second one I tried to push a little bit more and I did feel it.”

Chris Withrow came in from the bullpen to finish the at-bat with Pennington.
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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)

Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks announce lineups for Cactus League opener.

The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks have announced their lineups for Wednesday’s Cactus League opener at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. The game begins at noon Pacific (1 p.m. in Arizona) and will be televised on SportsNet LA.

Thanks to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com for snapping the Diamondbacks’ lineup.

Dodgers Diamondbacks
Chone Figgins SS A.J. Pollock CF
Carl Crawford LF Aaron Hill 2B
Yasiel Puig RF Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Juan Uribe 3B Martin Prado 3B
Joc Pederson CF Mark Trumbo LF
Scott Van Slyke 1B Miguel Montero C
Tim Federowicz C Matt Tuiasosopo DH
Alex Guerrero 2B Gerardo Parra RF
Justin Turner DH Cliff Pennington SS
(Clayton Kershaw P) (Brandon McCarthy P)

Times for Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks games in Sydney, Australia revealed.

Sydney baseball logo

I don’t know if this is news, but … since the game times for the Dodgers’ 2014 season-openers in Sydney against the Arizona Diamondbacks are still listed as “TBD” on both teams’ websites, some of you might have missed that the times are listed here on mlbsydney2014.com, which appears to be an official website.

First pitch for the season opener on March 22 is listed as 7:15 p.m. local time, which is 10:15 p.m. the night before if you’re watching from Los Angeles. First pitch of Game 2 is listed as 1:15 p.m. Sydney time, or 4:15 p.m. March 22 in L.A.

All things considered, that’s not too bad — better than waking up at 4 a.m. to watch live World Cup matches, if you’ve ever experienced that joy.