Daily Distractions: To Hanley, or not to Hanley?

Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers are 35-37 this season when Hanley Ramirez isn’t in the starting lineup. (Associated Press)

At some point this month, maybe tomorrow if the Dodgers have clinched a playoff berth by then, Don Mattingly will be asked how he balanced winning September games with keeping injured players intact for October. The answer was not obvious when the sun rose and it wasn’t any clearer when Hanley Ramirez was listed third in the batting order for today’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mattingly told reporters in Phoenix on Wednesday that Ramirez likely would be out of the lineup today. Ramirez isn’t fully recovered from the irritated nerve that led him to receive a pair of cortisone injections over the weekend, and watching him run the bases has been painful at times. It’s abundantly clear he isn’t healthy.

Yet playing Ramirez can’t be a simple matter of keeping him fresh; he’s 6 for 15 with four runs scored and an RBI on four or more days’ rest this season. Dee Gordon is healthy, so far as we know. So are Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr., who’s been taking ground balls at shortstop recently.

Here’s a better stat: The Dodgers are 52-28 with Ramirez starting, but 35-37 without him. Simply put, they are an average team without Ramirez in the lineup.

Run him into the ground, and Ramirez won’t be in the lineup at all in October.

Don’t play him at all in September and there might not be an October — at least, it’s felt that way at times recently.

At some point, we’ll find out how the thinking goes in the manager’s office.

Here be some bullet points for a National Speak Like a Pirate Day:
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Postgame thoughts: Dodgers 4, Marlins 1.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke pitched eight innings and didn’t walk a batter in the Dodgers’ 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. (Associated Press photo)

There was a time not too long ago that “Bad Zack Greinke” existed, like other pitchers prone to bipolar performances.
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Daily Distractions: Let’s go streaking.

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen retired 27 straight batters, a streak that ended Thursday night. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have racked up a lot of streaks lately, enough to put a fraternity house to shame. The top five, in my opinionated order:

1. 15 straight road wins. This streak ended Tuesday in a 5-1 loss, curiously the only game in St. Louis started by Clayton Kershaw, the presumptive Cy Young award favorite. The Dodgers fell three games short of a major league record but created eight bottom-of-the-ninth save situations in the process, making a hero of Kenley Jansen. More on him … now.

2. Kenley Jansen’s 27 straight outs: This one ended last night, ensuring that Mark Buehrle‘s record of 45 straight batters retired is safe. (Bobby Jenks still holds the record for relievers with 41.) Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA.com charted each out today, while Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance reminded me that the streak began rather inauspiciously in Toronto.

3. Fourteen straight series at .500 or better (10 wins, 0 losses, 4 ties). Managers tend to think in terms of series, and players do to an extent, but I think for many fans this concept is harder to grasp. Consider that when the streak began June 23, the Dodgers were in fifth place in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers have only played one team (Arizona) that was in first place at the time of the series — so they were all series that a good team would expect to win. The Dodgers simply weren’t a good team when the streak began.

4. Eleven straight wins in one-run games. Again, this is largely due to Jansen and a bullpen that has held batters to a .179 batting average since the All-Star break. Paco Rodriguez has faced 33 batters in the second half and five have reached base.

5. Yasiel Puig‘s 16 straight games reaching base. Nobody’s talking about this one because it’s only 16 games, but those 16 games have seen Puig walk 12 times and reach base at a .520 clip. He’ll go for number 17 tonight.

Some bullet points for a Singaporean Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: How Ned Colletti plans to upgrade the Dodgers’ bench.

Andre Ethier reacts happily to scoring the game-winning run Tuesday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

When Yasiel Puig was in the midst of his historic first week with the Dodgers, one question hovered around the team: What would the Dodgers do if all four outfielders were healthy?

Since then, the question has quietly faded into the background. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Puig have been healthy enough to play in the same game exactly once. That game ended with Kemp spraining his ankle and going back on the disabled list, and he’s still there.

So with the trade deadline set for 1 p.m. today, the Dodgers are expected to keep all four outfielders.

I asked Ned Colletti about it anyway, and his response was interesting.

“You always talk about addressing your bench,” he said. “That’s something we think about, but when you get your four outfielders back, you’ve got somebody that’s not starting that game, that’s obviously a really good problem.”

Basically, Colletti turned the question of how to handle the four-outfielder situation into a question about how to upgrade the Dodgers’ bench. The answer is that either Kemp, Crawford, Puig or Ethier becomes a bench player as soon as Kemp comes off the disabled list (and Don Mattingly said Tuesday that he plans to play Kemp as soon as he comes off the DL). It makes sense; the Dodgers won’t be able to acquire a better bench player in a trade today without mortgaging their farm system. And — getting way ahead of ourselves here — if the Dodgers advance to the World Series they will have an obvious choice for a designated hitter sitting on their bench, a luxury few National League teams enjoy when they play in an American League park.

The likely takeaway: Ethier isn’t going anywhere today and the Dodgers aren’t likely to add a position player. They aren’t closing the book on adding a starting pitcher, but are not desperate for change with Chris Capuano pitching adequately for a number-five and Stephen Fife preparing to come off the DL. (The teams that pull the trigger on last-minute deals usually do so with a sense of desperation.)

There are some question marks in the bullpen in Carlos Marmol (13.50 ERA) and Chris Withrow (nine career games), but there are also reinforcements waiting in Brian Wilson and Jose Dominguez. So don’t be surprised if the Dodgers stand pat.

Some bullet points for a trade deadline day:
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Dodgers officially sign Brian Wilson.

Brian WilsonThe Dodgers officially announced a one-year, major-league contract with free agent right-hander Brian Wilson this afternoon. The former Giants closer will report to the Dodgers’ facility in Glendale, Arizona to begin his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

“The one thing we’ve talked about is that power quality arm on the back end,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “This is another guy that gives us that, we think, (who can) get the ball to Kenley [Jansen]. It’s one of the areas we felt could still help us.”

In his prime Wilson was a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) and saved a major-league high 163 games from 2008-11. He saved six games in seven tries during the 2010 postseason, and was on the mound when the Giants clinched their 2010 World Series victory. He pitched only two games in April 2011 before having the season-ending surgery.
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”

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Hanley Ramirez leads Dominican Republic into WBC final; Kenley Jansen, Netherlands out.

Hanley Ramirez said before the World Baseball Classic that he would play each game as if it was his last. Turns out he really didn’t want the WBC to end.

The Dodgers shortstop, serving as the designated hitter for his native Dominican Republic, went 1 for 3 in a 4-1 win over the Netherlands in a WBC semifinal game at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Monday.

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