Daily Distractions: On further review, Yasiel Puig isn’t focused on being more patient this year.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig is riding a 14-game hitting streak, the longest of his career. (Andy Holzman/Staff photographer)

One thing left on the chopping block from my story on Yasiel Puig’s sophomore surge is something I didn’t expect to hear from Mark McGwire.

I expected that the Dodgers’ hitting coach would have talked to Puig about being more patient at the plate this season. Like, a lot. FanGraphs recently pointed out that Puig is one of six players who has dropped his percentage of swings on pitches out of the strike zone by more than 10 percent from one season to the next.

Here’s what McGwire said:

It’s not a thing we talk about a lot. He understands it. We talked about it a lot last year. The biggest thing is learning how this game is played here. To me, the more patient you are, the more the pitches are going to come to you. The more impatient you are, the more the pitchers are going to go away from you. He got a lot of that in the second half of his season last year up here in the big leagues.

Rather, McGwire said that Puig has taken a sort of divide-and-conquer approach at the plate — focusing on one half or the other, depending on which pitcher is on the mound. Here’s one more McGwire quote I left out concerning that approach:

The time that you cover 17 inches is the when the baseball looks like a beach ball. you have the confidence like, ‘it doesn’t matter what you throw, if it’s over the white part of the plate, I’m going to kill it.’ Then there’s times where you have to pick one side of the plate or the other. Most pitchers today live away. Some pitchers live in. It’s just pick or choose, based on who’s on the mound. Me and John Valentin have a chart and things that we talk about prior to each series. We talk to the hitters as they go up to the plate, what to expect, this is what to do, where they usually live.

It’s helping Puig the most against right-handed pitchers. This season, his lefty/righty splits are almost evenly excellent:

That wasn’t quite as true last year:

Some bullet points for a Chocolate Chip Day:
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Daily Distractions: April Dodger Pride award winners include a couple top prospects.

Corey Seager

Shortstop Corey Seager had a strong month of April at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (Staff photo)

The end of the month is always a good time to check in on the Dodgers’ farm system, because a good month comes with an award.

The Dodger Pride Awards were created in 2008 by GM Ned Colletti to reward one pitcher and one position player at each level of the system “who play the game with a hustling, smart, aggressive style.” The players and staff on each respective club vote for the monthly awards.

Your April winners:

Albuquerque (AAA)

Pitcher: Henry Sosa posted a 1-0 record with a 2.61 ERA (9 ER/31.0 IP) in April, striking out 21 batters against seven walks in five starts. The right-hander held opposing batters to a .233 batting average (27-for-116), while allowing only one home run in the month. The 12-year professional, who made 10 starts for the Houston Astros in 2011, was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent on December 13, 2013.

Player: Joc Pederson finished April among the Pacific Coast League leaders in several offensive categories including batting average (.398, 2nd), runs (22, T-3rd), hits (39, 1st), home runs (6, T-3rd), and stolen bases (9, T-2nd). On the year, the left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .368 (50-for-136) with 11 home runs and 22 RBI, including a .418 batting average (38-for-91) against right-handed pitching. Through 36 games this season, Pederson has also tallied 15 multi-hit games, including six performances with three or more hits. He entered 2014 as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America.  

Chattanooga (AA)

Pitcher: Tyson Brummett went 2-1 and allowed only one run in 23.0 innings spanning four April starts, leading the Southern League in ERA (0.39) and ranking sixth in opponents’ batting average (.181). On the season, the former UCLA pitcher is 3-3 with a 0.83 ERA (4 ER/43.1 IP) and has allowed one run or less in six of his seven starts for the Lookouts. With runners in scoring position this season, the right-hander has allowed only four hits (4-for-36), good for a .111 batting average. Brummett signed with the Dodgers as a free agent on February 20, 2014, after being drafted by the Phillies in the seventh round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Player: Scott Schebler drove in 16 runs (T-7th, Southern League) and clubbed five homers (T-2nd, Southern League) in 25 April games. The Iowa native had a .258 batting average with six homers, four triples and 21 RBI, and has excelled in clutch situations, batting .300 (9-for-30) with runners in scoring position. The 23-year-old, a 26th-round draft pick in 2010, was the Dodgers’ 2013 Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year after batting .296 in 125 games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last season.

Rancho Cucamonga (High-A)

Pitcher: Matt Shelton went 1-1 in April with a 1.76 ERA (3 ER/15.1 IP) in eight appearances for the Quakes, limiting opponents to a .228 batting average (13-for-57) and pitching scoreless relief in seven of his eight outings. The Texas native struck out 14 batters and walked only one in April before being promoted to Chattanooga on May 1. The 25-year-old was selected in the 24th round of the 2011 draft.

Player: Corey Seager batted .294 (25-for-85) in April with 10 extra-base hits, while tallying 13 RBI in 20 games. The 20-year-old has raised his average to .333 (40-for-120) with two homers, 11 doubles, two triples and 15 RBI, batting .429 (15-for-35) with a .512 on-base percentage in nine May games. Seager entered 2014 as the Dodgers’ second-best prospect according to Baseball America.

Great Lakes (Low-A)

Pitcher: Michael Johnson posted a 1-1 record with a 1.35 ERA (2 ER/13.1 IP) and a save in eight April appearances. The right-handed reliever limited opposing hitters to a .200 batting average (10-for-50) with 19 strikeouts and five walks. On the season, the Massachusetts native has a 1.47 ERA (3 ER/18.1 IP) and 22 strikeouts in 11 appearances for the Loons. The 23-year-old, a 14th-round pick in the 2013 draft, led the Ivy League with seven wins as a senior at Dartmouth College in 2012.

PlayerJoey Curletta had a terrific April, finishing among the Midwest League leaders in batting average (.368, 2nd), runs (18, T-3rd), hits (39, 1st), doubles (9, T-3rd) and RBI (15, T-6th) in 25 games for Great Lakes. Overall, Curletta has posted a .356 batting average (52-for-146) in 35 games, second among Midwest League hitters, and has seven three-hit performances for Great Lakes. The Arizona native was selected by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2012 draft.

Some bullet points for a Frog Jumping Day:

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Daily Distractions: Who will be the Dodgers’ backup catcher when A.J. Ellis returns from the disabled list?

A.J. Ellis, Brian Gorman

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will play in a Triple-A rehab game today. (Karl Gehring/The Denver Post)

A.J. Ellis will play his second rehab game for Triple-A Albuquerque in as many days today. It could be his last. Tuesday is smack-dab in the middle of the 4 to 6 week timetable the team gave at the time of the arthroscopic procedure on Ellis’ left knee, so it would make perfect sense for him to rejoin the Dodgers then.

Without Ellis, the catching duties have been split fairly liberally among Miguel Olivo, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz, who’s currently in Triple-A. Which of the three becomes the backup once Ellis returns?

“If you want me to make that decision now, I probably can’t do that,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Sunday’s game against the Giants, a 7-4 loss. “I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. We’ll figure that out as we get there. It comes down to conversations, us talking about what we need, what we want that position to be and what we think about it.”

Mattingly said the conversations have already begun.

When imagining where the conversation begins, it’s tempting to focus on offense. There isn’t much to look at there. Olivo started hot, but in his last 11 at-bats he has no hits and eight strikeouts. Overall he is 5 for 23 (.217). Butera is 10 for 44 (.227) with two home runs. Federowicz was 5 for 46 (.109) with one home run before his demotion.

Of course, the Dodgers aren’t focusing on offense from their catchers. More important to the conversation is how each player handles the position defensively and how well they work with the pitching staff. Those are harder to quantify, especially in a small sample size.

Nonetheless, here we go.

Butera has the lowest catchers’ ERA of the bunch (2.90, 10th in baseball) and hasn’t made an error. He’s also tied for the league lead in passed balls (four) and has thrown out only one of four attempted base stealers.

Of course, passed balls are a judgment call. Olivo wasn’t charged with a passed ball last night when J.P. Howell threw a slider in the dirt in the 10th inning. But because Olivo didn’t keep the ball in front him, a runner was able to score from third base. In 54 innings, Olivo has a 4.73 catchers’ ERA. Two baserunners have tried stealing on him; one was caught.

Pitch framing is not an asset for any of the Dodgers’ catchers, according to StatCorner.com.

We could parse Federowicz’s numbers, but his contract status separates him from this discussion if Olivo, Butera and Ellis are healthy. Federowicz can be optioned to the minors at any time. He’ll stay there so long as he continues to miss 48 percent of the breaking pitches he swings at. (That was his miss rate in the majors.) Butera and Olivo are out of options, so one of the two will probably be designated for assignment in the next 48 hours.

“We’ve been pretty clear about what we like out of our catchers,” Mattingly said. “The backup catcher … you’re not playing as much. You want to make sure that you’re getting the right guy back there for all the things you’re asking him to do — studying, working with pitchers, all those things because it’s just what we want out of the position. As much as what we’re looking for offensively … it’s what we’re looking for out of the position.”

Some bullet points for an International Nurses Day:
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