Justin Turner turns six

Six years ago Ned Colletti made his best move as the Dodger General Manager and it barely moved the media needle at the time when he signed Justin Turner to a minor league deal. Over at TrueBlueLA, we hailed the minor league signing because we thought Justin Turner was the perfect bench player for the 2014 team, no one though expected Justin Turner to become the greatest Dodger 3rd baseman of all-time.

Conner Byrne over at MLBTradeRumors has a nice breakdown on that signing.

It was on this date six years ago that the Dodgers made one of the greatest low-risk free-agent signings in recent memory. On Feb. 5, 2014, the club agreed to a minor league contract with third baseman Justin Turner, who has gone from afterthought to household name since he first donned a Dodgers uniform.

Justin Turner will never catch Ron Cey in bWAR because he’s still over 3,000 plate appearances shy of the Penguin, but for peak 3rd base performance you have to go with Justin Turner. Adrian Beltre may end up the only HOF of the Dodger 3rd baseman but he was but a kid when he left the team for greener pastures.

Player          WAR/pos OPS+   PA   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Justin Turner      27.0  139 2901 .302 .381 .506 .887
Ron Cey            47.7  125 6108 .264 .359 .445 .804
Todd Zeile          2.5  116  842 .265 .352 .454 .806
Bill Madlock        2.0  112  618 .285 .346 .406 .752
Adrian Beltre      23.4  108 3818 .274 .332 .463 .794
Casey Blake         9.2  108 1608 .260 .338 .431 .768

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/6/2020.

The Free Agent contract that Justin signed with the Dodgers on Dec 23rd, 2016 may also turn out to be one of the best free-agent contracts the Dodgers have ever done in the 21st century. With one year to go Justin Turner has been remarkably consistent. From 2014 – 2016 Justin Turner had an OPS+ of 135, from 2017 – 2019 his OPS+ was 136.

How does Justin Turner rank as a Dodger in the 21st century?

Player            WAR/pos OPS+   PA From   To   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS      Pos
Justin Turner        27.0  139 2901 2014 2019 .302 .381 .506 .887 *5/H46D3
Matt Kemp            22.8  127 5002 2006 2018 .292 .348 .494 .842  *897/HD
Andre Ethier         21.2  122 5425 2006 2017 .285 .359 .463 .822 *97H8/D3
Shawn Green          21.0  130 3462 2000 2004 .280 .366 .510 .876  *93/DH8
Adrian Beltre        19.3  112 2990 2000 2004 .278 .331 .476 .808    *5/H6
Yasiel Puig          18.7  127 2765 2013 2018 .279 .353 .478 .831  *9/8H7D
Russell Martin       16.5  100 2962 2006 2019 .268 .362 .391 .753  *2/H5D1
Rafael Furcal        15.7  100 2803 2006 2011 .283 .351 .406 .757     *6/H
Adrian Gonzalez      13.3  119 2986 2012 2017 .280 .339 .454 .793    *3/HD
James Loney           8.7  105 3378 2006 2012 .284 .341 .423 .764   *3/H9D

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/10/2020.

Would it shock you to find out that Justin Turner has the highest OPS+ of any Dodger in the 21st century with at least 2500 plate appearances?

Would it shock you to find out that Justin Turner has the highest bWAR of any Dodger in the 21st century with at least 2500 plate appearances?

And it isn’t even close.

Young Joc

Joc Pederson could do one thing really really well, get extra-base hits against right-handed pitchers, and he’ll take that skill with him to Anaheim where for the 2nd straight year he’ll be playing next to an MVP Center-fielder.

All of the charts below came from Fangraphs, and are based on playing the outfield with at least 2,000 Plate Appearances.

With Young Joc gone, we can look at his historical impact on the LAD. Using 2,000 PA as the cutoff he will end up with some interesting numbers.  Joc checks in 10th in home runs with 123, the exact same number as Frank Howard. His wRC+ would rank 14th at 120. His slug% would rank 9th at .474.  His fWAR, however, puts him 16th. Joc could rack up good metrics because he pounded right-hand pitching and thus was always put in the best possible chance to succeed. Contrast this with Andre who also struggled against left-hand pitchers but still faced them on a regular basis. For example, Andre garnered 1374 PA against LHP while Joc only had 375 plate appearances.

Fun fact. Frank Howard hit 123 home runs as a Dodger and was traded when he was 27. He would go onto hit 246 home runs after being traded. 

 

Name PA HR wRC+ Off WAR
Matt Kemp 5002 203 127 174.2 26.7
Pedro Guerrero 4089 171 150 233.1 32.5
Raul Mondesi 3765 163 120 101.7 20.4
Shawn Green 3462 162 129 125.2 18.7
Andre Ethier 5425 162 122 143.7 24.2
Willie Davis 8035 154 106 85.3 48.6
Dusty Baker 4552 144 120 102.7 20.5
Mike Marshall 3546 137 119 66.9 11.3
Gary Sheffield 2276 129 158 175.7 18.3
Joc Pederson 2379 123 120 60.1 13.1
Frank Howard 2321 123 125 68.2 10.6
Yasiel Puig 2765 108 129 86.3 16.7
Reggie Smith 2055 97 152 123.3 19.9
Joe Ferguson 2525 91 121 59.6 16.4
Ron Fairly 4529 90 112 62.4 13.2
Tommy Davis 3216 86 117 63.4 15.5
Willie Crawford 3198 74 119 65.9 18.1
Ken Landreaux 2981 64 99 0.5 7.8
Wally Moon 2657 64 122 68.9 12.2
Bill Buckner 3081 38 99 2.3 10.8
Brett Butler 3342 14 120 77.4 14
Manny Mota 2187 12 118 42.2 10.4

Sometimes when you do the research for a story you come across something that blows your mind. The defensive metrics for LAD outfielders blew mine. I knew Willie Davis had been an above-average outfielder, I saw it with my own eyes, but the metrics still blew my mind.  The LAD have had only four outfielders able to manage a positive defensive ranking but the difference between 1st and 2nd place is astonishing. It also shows that the Dodgers haven’t had a long term quality defensive CF since Willie Davis and he was traded back in 1974.

Check this out:

Name PA Def WAR
Willie Davis 8035 102.7 48.6
Joe Ferguson 2525 13.2 16.4
Reggie Smith 2055 0.4 19.9
Bill Buckner 3081 0.3 10.8
Willie Crawford 3198 -1.1 18.1
Joc Pederson 2379 -7 13.1
Raul Mondesi 3765 -13.5 20.4
Yasiel Puig 2765 -14.3 16.7
Manny Mota 2187 -17.9 10.4
Tommy Davis 3216 -24.8 15.5
Ken Landreaux 2981 -25.6 7.8
Wally Moon 2657 -40.6 12.2
Frank Howard 2321 -46.9 10.6
Shawn Green 3462 -47.7 18.7
Brett Butler 3342 -51.4 14
Dusty Baker 4552 -55.6 20.5
Gary Sheffield 2276 -56 18.3
Pedro Guerrero 4089 -58.4 32.5
Matt Kemp 5002 -71.7 26.7
Mike Marshall 3546 -75.1 11.3
Andre Ethier 5425 -78.2 24.2
Ron Fairly 4529 -91.3 13.2

Hopefully, Cody Bellinger plays CF for the next five or more years and can at least make a run as the 2nd best LAD defensive CF of all time. Not a hard bar to pass.

 

Mookie Mookie Mookie

Whelp, it only took a week but the Dodgers finally finalized the deal for Mookie so I’ve updated the original post from a different deal.

Six weeks ago I asked the Dodgers to pivot to Mookie after losing out on Cole and Rendon, and that is just what they did when the much-anticipated trade was finally announced tonight.  Many pundits tried to figure out what the price for Mookie would be, and the only thing they could agree on was that the price for Mookie would be pricey as in David Price and they were right.

The original deal was:

Boston gets Alex Verdugo

Dodgers get Mookie Betts and David Price plus cash to offset the Price contract.

Twins get Kenta Maeda

Boston gets the Twins prospect  Brusdar Graterol the 83rd ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline

To make room for Mookie Betts the Dodgers traded Joc Pederson to the Angeles for 22-year-old infielder Luis Rengifo. That is all that was announced at the time but we just learned this trade is not complete and more pieces will be moved. It is possible that young prospect Andy Pages who had a phenomenal rookie league season is involved. Per MLBTradeRumors:

The final deal might even be better for the Dodgers even though they had to ante up prospects to make it happen.

Boston gets Alex Verdugo, solid prospect Jeter Downs, doubtful prospect Connor Wong

Twins get Kenta Maeda,  low level catching prospect Jaír Camargo, and $10 Million in cash considerations.

Dodgers get Mookie Betts, David Price, $48 Million in cash considerations from Boston, and Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley, 67th pick in the 2020 First Year Player Draft  from the Twins. Graterol quickly became the Dodgers 4th ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.

If that wasn’t great enough news, it got even better when the Dodgers / Angels announced that their trade was off so Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, and highly regarded Andy Pages were all still in the Dodger system.

Craig Edwards gave us the breakdown over at Fangraphs.

Here is a little taste of what Graterol brings to the mound. This could end up being big for the Dodgers. The Red Sox may have nixed the deal because of medicals or because he might be more suited for the bullpen but given the wealth of starters the Dodgers have, if Graterol becomes a big arm bullpen piece, I’m happy with that.

Thus the Dodgers lose a prized young outfielder in Alex Verdugo, who would have been under team control for years and had become a fan favorite. He should fit right in on the Red Sox and become their starting right fielder for the next few years provided he can stay healthy.  I’ve long speculated that with Kenta’s contract he was a valuable trade piece and might be worth more in a trade than what he actually brings to the Dodgers. He’s always been good, but never good enough to make a postseason rotation.

If the price seems low for acquiring one of the top ten players in the game, it is only because Mookie is a one-year rental. He has already turned down a 10/300 extension from Boston so if the Dodgers hope to keep him, they will need to be ready to offer him the largest contract in Dodger history.  None of that matters right now, what matters is that the Dodgers now boast the 2018 AL MVP in RF, and the 2019 NL MVP in CF while adding David Price to the rotation.  AJ Pollock survived the winter and looks to enter 2020 sharing the job with Joc as the Dodger starting left fielder. The Dodgers still have Matt Beaty, Chris Taylor, and Enrique Hernandez as backup outfielders, though Taylor or Hernandez might get some burn at 2nd if Lux has trouble against left-hand pitching.

The rotation looks loaded. I mean loaded. They have Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. They just added David Price. Alex Wood and Jeff Nelson are both trying to come back but if they don’t, Urias, May, and Gonsolin are all ready to step in. I also haven’t mentioned Ross Stripling.

You have all seen the projected lineup:

Betts, Muncy, Turner, Bellinger, Seager, Pollock, Lux, Smith

The last time the Dodgers traded for my favorite non-Dodger was in 1974 when they traded Claude Osteen for Jimmy Wynn. All Jimmy Wynn did was have an MVP type season and lead the Dodgers to the 1974 World Series. I expect nothing less from Mookie Betts.

Long time coming

I was thinking about friendship when NY Life of all companies offered up their Super Bowl Ad about the four loves. This was evidently made famous by CS Lewis and his Four Loves but I knew none of that while watching the game. I also knew nothing about the four loves the ad covered but I was struck by the first one. Philia, love between friends. For two reasons, my name happens to be Phil and the only reason I was watching this Super Bowl was to root for the Kansas City  Chiefs because of my close friendship with a lifelong Kanas City Chief fan.

Earlier in the day, I had seen a twitter poll where a simple question was asked.

Over 500 people voted, and overwhelmingly (57%)  choose the latter option. I’m not sure those 57% understand what friendship is. The poll kind of blew my mind.

I lack many things in my life. I’m not the smartest person, I don’t have any outstanding talent,  I still lose my temper much to often, and I’ve let sports overrule many life choices, but I am good at one thing.

Friendship

I don’t offer my friendship easily, but when I look back upon my life, I’ll always be proud that I had three best friends who could always count on me, and I could always count on them. MyWeddingGroup

Two of them are in this wedding shot. The 3rd was actually the Man of Honor for my wife. On my left shoulder is Jerry Sullivan, on my right shoulder is Byron Caldwell. Jerry died about ten years ago this month and even though it has been ten years, I still think about him just about every day.  Especially in this era of Trump where the ex_Vietnam vet would have had some choice words for our cowardly commander in chief. Strangely enough, both of them are from Kansas but they had been living in Los Angeles for years when we met in the mid-1980s.

Bryon has had a tough century. He lost his 4-year-old son to Leukemia fifteen years ago this month. He was lucky enough to reverse his vasectomy and father two more children but losing his oldest son in such a painful way has left a mark on him that time will never remove. Not even a Kansas City Chief championship can erase that kind of pain, but it will bring him joy, and we can all use that.

His wife called as the game winded down. She was crying tears of joy, not for herself but because her husband finally had his Chiefs championship. I could hear the kids in the background screaming their own joy.  Hard to describe my own joy that not only did he have the Championship but that he was able to share the joy with his children.

This wasn’t world peace, but it was something. It was really something and I’m glad I had a friend whose day was brightened considerably by a game. He’ll call me next October and congratulate me on the Dodgers finally their winning championship because you know, that is what friends do. Real friends anyway.

4+1CG

This was originally written on Sept 5th, 2007 over at TrueBlueLA.

I’m bringing it here because with the current state of SBNation, they might start wiping out old posts so over time I’m going to be bringing over anything I wrote that I’d like to archive.

Caregivers

Much has been written about the people who devote their lives to helping those fighting cancer. For much of my life, I was told about these fearless people who did what they could to make life more bearable for those undergoing treatment, and the families involved.

Until recently I took it for granted that these caregivers either had to have hearts of stone, and were immune to the tragedy they witnessed on a daily basis, or they had found a way to cope with it. Evidently, I was wrong, very wrong.

The nurses, doctors, blood transfusion personal are all human. Amazingly so. When William Christopher Caldwell was being treated at Cedars Sinai, they were all business, but since they dealt with children they had to cajole, bride, and do whatever they could to get the patient to take the medicines or accept the procedures. It was with admiration, fascination, and pity that I watched these people work.

My perception of them changed dramatically the day William died on Feb 20th, 2005.  Fully expecting them to just go about business, as usual, I saw weepy faces everywhere I went. I was due to give platelets the day after William passed. When I went into the office and told them they could open up my donations for anyone because William had passed they spontaneously broke into tears for a child they had never met. Children died all the time, how could they be emotionally attached and still do their jobs? I went back to the pediatric ward to thank some of the nurses for the care they had given William and found one particular nurse crying so hard her shoulder shuddered. I had to ask, how could she do this job if it caused her so much pain. She wiped away her tears, composed herself, pointed to one of the children walking with his IV unit, smiling and talking, and simply said, “how could she not”

You can’t have a slow burn without an ignition

The Houston Astro cheating scandal probably cheated Dodger fans and their players of the 2017 World Championship which would be a big deal for any team but especially for the Dodger fans and organization. The fans haven’t celebrated a World Championship since 1988. Clayton Kershaw deserves better, his legacy deserves better. I get it. I understand the frustration.  I’ve been here for the whole 32 years. Every game, every postseason heartbreak.

I had been hesitate to say anything when the news broke because I wasn’t sure the Dodgers hadn’t also been cheating.  In the beginning, there was little Dodger comment and that felt weird for me until we learned that MLB had specifically asked the Dodgers not to comment on the scandal.

I will admit to being confused by my lack of caring about it. I talked with Dodger Twitter and they were quite upset and some couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. As I said before I simply felt it was premature to be angry when we might find out the Dodgers had tried to cheat as well.  The Dodgers try to win on the margins, pushing all rules to the limits so it seemed they might have tried to push these rules to the limits.

As time has passed, many prominent Dodgers, ones who I trust have spoken out, and have made it clear they were not cheating. I expected to start a slow burn but there was simply no ignition.

Houston issued horrible apologies, basically saying they didn’t know they were cheating. Very annoying, but still no ignition.

When Dodgers President Andrew Friedman recently spoke about how dismayed he was that Houston never even apologized,  it once again proved how small the Houston Astro organization was but still no ignition.

At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever have the emotional reaction that you’d expect from this situation. It isn’t like I don’t have a volatile temper.  Or maybe I should say, it isn’t like I didn’t have a volatile temper. I used to get upset over the silliest things.

Houston players and fans have to live with the fact they needed to cheat to win a Championship. Dodger fans have to live with the fact they will never be recompensed for their emotional loss of 2017. Will I boo Houston players who were part of the scandal? you bet. But that is about all I can emotionally conjure up for this. I don’t need this to eat me up inside,  not with everything else happening around us.

This is but a game we love,  and it simply isn’t that important when our world is decaying faster than dead fish in the sun.

In a year, we may not have the world we took for granted. Our Democracy and way of life will be voted on in ten months, and there is no guarantee that we will even have fair voting, or that the votes will matter if the wannabe Dictator doesn’t want to leave. In a normal admin,  if he loses the vote, he leaves, but nothing about the admin has been normal and since prison for him and his family is in the future if he leaves the presidency I can’t see him letting go without trying to turn our country against each other. We have already seen how far his enablers will go and that is where almost all of my thoughts are on right now.

I’m still going to be the Dodger fan, the Clipper fan, but with my eye on November, I know, it is just killing time until I find out which direction our republic tilts.

We can change the future, but we can’t change the past, and if this weekend taught us anything, it should be to live in the present and not dwell on the past.

 

8 & 24

For many in Los Angeles the feelings for Kobe Bryant held no complications, he was for them, the King of Los Angeles,  the man who brought them numerous Laker titles and unleashed the Black Mamba mentality on the NBA. For some of us though, we were all about the eight and very little about the 24, we will always have mixed feelings toward the greatest Laker to ever wear the Purple and Gold.

Whatever feeling you had toward Kobe Bryant the news of his death via the helicopter crash yesterday was still a gut punch. The news took me back to the day I found out that Roberto Clemente had died in a plane crash way back in 1972. Kobe was 41, Clemente was 38 and was possibly the most recognized figure in baseball because of his one year removed MVP World Series explosion in 1971. Until yesterday, the death of Clemente was what I would think of when a sports figure died suddenly.

Upon learning the news from my wife just a few minutes after the crash,  I pondered the irony that the Helicopter that cut his commute to Staples for all those years had now cut short his life. I also thought of the recent meme I had seen with him and his daughter at a Laker game. How at peace he looked while with his daughter. A few minutes later we all found out that his daughter Gianna had also perished with him. The gut-punch took on a completely different feeling.   Twitter didn’t help, photo after photo was posted of Kobe and Gianna. We had watched her grow from an adorable baby to the basketball prodigy of the family.

It was too much.

As a season ticket fan since the day that Magic had retired, the Lakers had been fun to watch but there hadn’t been one season where they were real competitors for the championship. That all changed on draft day in 1996 when the Lakers against long odds were able to secure a draft day deal for the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant.  Moving the salary of Divac for Kobe allowed Jerry West to sign Shaq a few days later and the rest is Laker history.

For me, as a fan, it was just the beginning. I fell quickly in love with the kid but like many fans, it was crazy to watch Kobe firing up airballs in the postseason that year while Nick Van Excel looked on. We all know championships didn’t flow to the Lakers just because they had Shaq. It took a few years before Kobe was able to uphold his side of the bargain and the Forum never got a Shaq/Kobe Championship before Shaq/Kobe took their game to Staples. Kobe would win a handful of World Championships at Staples but the first is always the sweetest and that was ever so true in 2000.

Since 2000 I’ve always had an easy answer to the question “what was the best moment in sports you ever saw”. The Lakers and Portland were tied at 3 games apiece in the NBA Western Finals in 2000. Back then as a Season Ticket holder, you had first priority to buy postseason tickets besides your own seats so I had brought two in the 300 section. The boonies if you well. I sold my good seats and took my niece to the game who had just come back from military service. This article describes this game and this moment is the moment I’ll never forget.

Kobe drives the lane as Shaq drifts towards the basket while signaling for a lob. The alley oop goes up. O’Neal stuffs it down one-handed, then races upcourt, mouth agape, two index fingers out in salute of everyone in his sight line.

The Lakers had been down by 16 heading into the 4th quarter. That play capped an incredible comeback and even from the boonies, you could see the emotion from Shaq after the ally oop dunk. Our section had been standing the whole game but was going absolutely nuts during the comeback. We no longer had seats, our whole section was just one big leaping/hugging/dancing party of 100’s. The Lakers weren’t champions when we left Staples but I’ve never left a sporting event feeling higher than I did that day. I figuratively floated the rest of the day.

That was the highlight of my Kobe fandoms. Incorrectly or not, I blamed Kobe for Shaq leaving, and the player who I had once idolized as a basketball player, was no longer the guy for me. As I became more and more of a Clipper fan, I became less and less of a Kobe fan. When Kobe wore eight it was fun to watch him grow into one of the Lakers greats, for some reason for me as he switched to 24 and became arguably the greatest Laker of all-time I simply wasn’t able to enjoy his style of game.

It has been easy to notice that among all the platitudes being heaved Kobe’s way almost everyone has ignored the Kobe Elephant in the room. The Rape allegations. That sealed the deal for my wife and she hasn’t been to a Laker game since 2003. That may not sound like a big deal but she went to 20 games a year from 1990 – 2003. It was a big deal that she felt Kobe was guilty enough that she stopped supporting the Lakers as long as he was on the team. This was the start of our journey from lifelong avid Laker fans to avid Clipper fans.  I never hated on the Lakers, I simply didn’t root for them anymore when they played the Clippers. It was a strange journey and Kobe was the centerpiece for the change.

It was a testament to Kobe’s ownership of Los Angeles that he survived the rape allegations. There were a few like us, who stopped rooting for him, but for the most part, his reputation stayed intact and flourished as more World Championships came his way once Pau Gasol joined the team.  You could easily say that by the time Kobe retired he was considered the greatest Laker ever and that is quite a statement when you have Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Shaq to contend with for that honor.  In retirement from all accounts, Kobe seemed at peace with being a father and making his family the centerpiece of his retirement.

Depending on how you define crying, I didn’t cry yesterday at the news, but my eyes were full of tears all day and night. So was my wife’s. This complexity of emotion is disturbing to me and I’ve never quite come to grips with how we deal with our heroes who are made of clay.  I’m still not over Bill Cosby being a serial rapist while all the while making me laugh for 50 years.  You can’t say Kobe got away with rape because of who he was, not when normal people get away with rape every day.  The struggle continues to this day to make men accountable after they hear “No”.  This was never more clear when you look at our Supreme Court and see not one but two men who decide our highest laws who didn’t take “no” for an answer.

In a few days, Los Angeles will hold one of the largest funerals in my lifetime. It will be for a man who owned this city, but while we celebrate everything he did for this city, it wouldn’t hurt to also continue or maybe even open up the dialogue about why that transgression didn’t alter his ascension into being the King of Los Angeles.

It is a sad irony that the Helicopter he used to cut his commute so he could expand his quality family time is the reason why his family time was eventually cut short forever.

I never thought I’d live to see this on Basketball-Reference.  Kobe didn’t survive Jerry West or Elgin Baylor. Both in the eighties. Inconceivable.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bean Bryant ▪ Twitterkobebryant

(Black Mamba, KB24, Vino, Showboat, Little Flying Warrior)

Position: Small Forward and Shooting Guard ▪ Shoots: Right

6-6, 212lb (198cm, 96kg)

Born: August 231978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania us

Died: January 26, 2020 (Aged 41-156d)

All the young dudes

The 2020 Zips projections are out and as suspected the Dodgers have a bevy of talent fighting for five rotation spots. With Ryu gone the rotation isn’t ideal but it is basically the same type of rotation that they have taken into every season since Friedman became President with the difference this year is that three of the four pitchers vying for the final two rotation spots are young starters instead of the usual one or none.

It took a long time for the one-time teenage phenom Urias to finally claim a full-time rotation piece, but his time his now, and it is very possible that by the end of the year, Urias will be the best lefthander in the Dodger rotation. The Dodgers have been tied to the Indians and Mike Clevinger, but they could have their own Mike Clevinger in Dustin May. I wouldn’t be averse to trading the future of May for the now of Clevinger, but I also wouldn’t mind simply seeing what Dustin May can do as a Dodger. Ross Stripling will pitch well when asked to start. He always does, I don’t expect that to change. I don’t know what to make of Tony Gonsolin.

Sure, the Dodgers could use another rotation piece, and I expect with almost 100% certainty that another name will get added to the group vying for the final two spots, but it probably won’t be a name that gets Dodger fans excited. It might simply be Rich Hill, or it might be Rich Hill and another reclamation project. Or, somehow Clevinger is wearing Dodger Blue but that will probably happen this summer instead of this winter.

If we take a look at the 2018 projections we can see the Dodger projected rotation was going to be Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, Rich Hill with Trevor Oaks, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Wilmer Font, Ross Stripling, and Brock Stewart pulling in starts.  You could understand the confusion over what Ryu would do after missing all of 2016. Ryu didn’t pitch a lot in 2018 but when he pitched, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Ross Stripling was an all-star in 2018, but according to Zips was going to be the worse possible option in 2018.  Walker Buehler became the everyday ace of the Dodgers.
The 2018 Dodger team went to the World Series and lost game 7 against a team that cheated and the rotation on Dec, 29th, 2017 was supposed to be Kershaw / Hill / Maeda / Wood with eventual help from Buehler. Ross Stripling was an afterthought just as he seems to be in 2020. How different is that from the projected 2020 rotation right now?

Also, notice the big whiffs on Trevor Oaks and Wilmer Font. Both were traded away before making any starts for the Dodgers, and both didn’t come close to being effective in 2018.

|                 2018 Zips Projections sorted by ERA-                                 |

Player IP ERA FIP ERA- 2018 IP 2018 ERA-
Clayton Kershaw 179 2.46 2.55 59 161 71
Rich Hill 115.7 3.5 3.74 84 131 96
Kenta Maeda 150.7 3.52 3.52 85 107 100
Alex Wood 144.3 3.62 3.68 87 148 95
Walker Buehler 93.7 3.84 3.8 93 136 60
Wilmer Font 126.3 3.92 3.93 95 No LAD Starts No LAD Starts
Trevor Oaks 141 4.09 4.16 99 No LAD Starts No LAD Starts
Hyun-Jin Ryu 112.7 4.15 4.24 100 82 51
Ross Stripling 89.7 4.32 4.22 104 106 88

The Zips 2020 projections for the Dodger rotation are actually optimistic. Every pitcher expected to be part of the rotation is expected to be above average except for Tony Gonsolin.

Player T Age K/9 BB/9 ERA+ ERA-
Clayton Kershaw L 32 9.5 1.7 128 78
Walker Buehler R 25 10.8 2.2 127 79
Kenta Maeda R 32 10.1 2.9 106 94
Dustin May R 22 8.2 2.3 102 98
Rich Hill L 40 10.6 2.9 116 87
Ross Stripling R 30 9 2.1 107 93
Julio Urias L 23 10.2 3.5 106 94
Mitchell White R 25 8.7 3.4 92 109
Josiah Gray R 22 7.5 2.6 84 119
Dennis Santana R 24 9.5 4.4 85 117
Tony Gonsolin R 26 8.7 4 85 118
Leo Crawford L 23 7.5 3.1 82 122
Edwin Uceta R 22 8.6 4.2 78 127

For what it is worth this is what I think. The Dodgers have plenty of arms for 2020, they have plenty of arms to make a trade now, or during the summer but I’d much rather watch one of Urias/May turn into the next Dodger paragraph or at least a “Moment in the Sun” in the updated version of Jon Weisman’s Brother in Arms. If I’m a betting man, I’d be betting on Julio Urias to be that pitcher.

One final note. Josiah Gray is going to eat these projections.

 

 

Hard to beat what the Dodger rotation has done since 2016 but what of 2020?

Below is the list of pitchers since 2016 with at least 50 starts and an ERA+ greater than 130. Dodgers have almost a full rotation on this list even though only fifteen pitchers made the cut. Kershaw hasn’t won a CYA since 2014 but still has the highest ERA+ of anyone on the list. Ryu is the second Dodger on this list, but he just signed with Toronto, the first Dodger free agent I fully expected the Dodgers to re-sign. The cost was high, but he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the last two years.  Those not familiar with the Dodgers might be surprised to find that on a per-game basis, Rich Hill has been better than Gerrit Cole at suppressing runs while on the mound. Walker Buehler barely made the cut but he did.

Player               WAR  GS ERA+ From   To   Age
Clayton Kershaw     17.4 102  164 2016 2019 28-31
Max Scherzer        28.0 125  160 2016 2019 31-34
Corey Kluber        19.4 101  153 2016 2019 30-33
Justin Verlander    27.5 135  151 2016 2019 33-36
Jacob deGrom        24.4 119  151 2016 2019 28-31
Hyun-Jin Ryu         8.3  69  145 2016 2019 29-32
Kyle Hendricks      16.2 117  142 2016 2019 26-29
Mike Clevinger      12.7  84  141 2016 2019 25-28
Chris Sale          20.1 116  140 2016 2019 27-30
Stephen Strasburg   18.7 107  136 2016 2019 27-30
Mike Minor          14.4  60  136 2017 2019 29-31
Rich Hill            9.1  82  135 2016 2019 36-39
Zack Greinke        17.7 124  133 2016 2019 32-35
Gerrit Cole         16.3 119  130 2016 2019 25-28
Walker Buehler       5.3  53  130 2017 2019 22-24

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/27/2019.

Headed into 2020 the Dodgers have currently lost two of those four pitchers. Ryu is definitely gone. Rich Hill is still unsigned but even if he signs he won’t be pitching until the middle of summer.

Even with those two gone, the rotation still has plenty of names:

Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Dustin May, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin are the names left in the hat. As I said, I expected the Dodgers to sign Ryu but with Ryu gone, the Dodgers could use more names in that hat.

I don’t want to trade May or Urias to get another name in that hat unless that name is Mike Clevinger. There are other free agents, pitchers who were injured in 2019 who had prior success.

Dustin Nosler thinks Jeff Nelson should be a target.

Nelson has No. 2-type stuff and has the requisite spin rates on his fastball and curveball the Dodgers like. He’s going to be cheap and could help alleviate some of the concerns in the rotation.

I agree with Dustin on Jimmy Nelson. There are other free-agent targets like Nelson but none with his upside.

Aaron Sanchez, Taijuan Walker, and old friend Alex Wood are intriguing to me. I’ve also always liked Danny Salazar. Paul Sporer of Fangraphs took a look at three of these names. 

Maybe Nick Dika of Fangraphs was a year too early on Aaron Sanchez when he predicted he would be a top 30 pitcher in 2019. He was dead on about Cody Bellinger being the 2019 MVP back in March.

Sanchez’ last two seasons have been completely derailed by finger injuries, managing to log only 141 underwhelming big league innings since 2016. Between blister issues and a freak finger injury in 2017, Sanchez’ right hand hasn’t been fully healthy in two seasons. The last time it was, Sanchez won the American League ERA title. Sanchez’ fastball, curveball and changeup all graded out favorably by Pitch Values in 2016 and with healthy fingers, he should be able to tweak his pitch mix and utilize them effectively once again in 2019.

Oh, did I mention Homer Bailey? Probably not, but the funny side of me would love it if they signed Homer after releasing him and paying him $22 Million to not pitch for them in 2019 while watching him put him exactly league average work as a starter for the Royals and A’s. Homer was shockingly the 50th ranked FA by Fangraphs. The Dodgers still owe him $5 Million in 2020. Good thing they got Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray in that deal. That walk rate while with the A’s was 1.8, the best of his career.

None of these will be necessary if the Dodgers pull off a deal for an established starter. They are still being linked to Mike Clevinger which would be quite a coup to pull him from the Indians, and David Price which would be interesting only if Mookie Betts comes along with him.  I haven’t seen any other rumors involving a trade for a starting pitcher from another team.

It would not surprise me if the Dodgers try a few low-cost free agents and head into the season to see how May/Urias/Gonsolin/Stripling handle the rotation along with the free agents. As usual, they can fill the hole in the rotation if there is one with a trade before the deadline.

Oh, and by August Josiah Gray will probably be ready to show us what he can do.

Saying good-bye to another old friend

I always expected Ryu to resign with the Dodgers so the news that Ryu signed with Toronto was a big surprise for me and it means that for the second year in a row one of my favorite Dodgers will not be wearing the Dodger blue as we head into the next season.

I don’t know if the Dodgers did the right thing or not, for all the words being written about the Dodgers being cheap we simply won’t know until time tells us the answer.  Four years is a long time for a 33 to 36-year-old pitcher with his health history, but I do know that I’m going to miss Ryu.

TrueBlueLA used to do a thing called your favorite five Dodgers. It was always interesting to see the results of this informal poll because most of the time it wasn’t the five best Dodgers, for whatever reason, it was the personal connection that these players had made with the fans.

I expect that headed into the winter of 2018, Yasiel Puig would have been on many a Dodger fans list of Favorite Five, and that Ryu would have been on the same list headed into Oct 2019.

Both Puig and Ryu started their Dodger careers in 2013, and in baseball terms, they had a long run for the same team but I wasn’t really ready to say good-bye to either player. The Dodgers moved Puig and shed some salary while collecting some solid future assets in Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.  Ryu was simply allowed to leave after almost winning the CYA in 2019. He signed for 4/80 for a team that I would not have expected him to sign for. The BlueJays are probably the 3rd or 4th best team in the AL East but they do have the sons of two HOF, along with a Bichette so they will be a fun team to watch and root for.

We all know that Ryu had an up and down Dodger career with his health always defining how effective he was going to be but no one expected him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2019 and do it while throwing 182 innings.   When he wasn’t one of the best pitchers in baseball, Ryu was always fun to watch as a Dodger.

As far as Ryu and his Dodger legacy go, for pitchers with at least 500 IP, Ryu put up the 6th best ERA+ in Los Angeles Dodger history. That is quite the accomplishment when you consider the number of great pitchers who have pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Player             ERA+     IP From   To   Age  GS  FIP
Clayton Kershaw     157 2274.2 2008 2019 20-31 344 2.74
Zack Greinke        156  602.2 2013 2015 29-31  92 2.97
Kevin Brown         147  872.2 1999 2003 34-38 129 3.16
Sandy Koufax        135 2119.2 1958 1966 22-30 286 2.57
Andy Messersmith    129  926.0 1973 1979 27-33 123 3.34
Hyun-Jin Ryu        129  740.1 2013 2019 26-32 125 3.32
Derek Lowe          120  850.1 2005 2008 32-35 135 3.77

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/23/2019.

Higher career LAD ERA+ than notable pitchers such as Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Don Sutton, Bob Welch, Jerry Reuss, Burt Hooton, Bill Singer, Tommy John, Ismael Valdez, Hideo Nomo, and Hiroki Kuroda.