AJ Alexy turns 19 in style

When it comes to Dodger pitching prospects AJ Alexy doesn’t get the attention that the higher ranked pitching prospects get but if he keeps pitching like this, he might start drawing some attention to himself.

Alexy turned nineteen today and celebrated by pitching three scoreless innings and threw in an extra out as icing on his birthday cake. He’s only pitched nine innings in three starts but the work has been superb. Nine innings, one earned run, only three hits, only one walk, and twelve punchouts. Not bad for a nineteen year old in A ball.

Gavin Lux joined the Loons this week and the future shortstop was instead playing second base.  The infield is a little crowded between the Loons and Rancho with Lux/Davis/Estevez/Jackson. Lux got his first two hits of the year tonight and stole his second base. Brandon Davis stayed at shorstop and broke a mini slump with two hits. Davis had struck out in seven of his last nine at-bats.

I noticed that Will Smith stole his 5th base for Rancho tonight. He’s a catcher so I was curious if he was leading the league with his five steals. The answer is no, but he is tied for second with three other players. Smith has been on fire with a little six game hitting streak and has his OBP knocking on .400.

Oops

Dodgers went into the game tonight with two interesting stats. Alex Wood had not allowed a hit to a left-handed hitter in twenty-six at-bats dating back to last year. David Peralta was the second left-hand hitter he faced and he gave up a single but it was innocuous. The real damage came in the 5th with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Wood gave up a single to Jake Lamb that plated two runs and gave the Dbacks a 4 – 3 lead.  Of course, Lamb hits everyone in April.

Coming into the game the Dodger bullpen was ranked number one in baseball. They gave up nine runs and blew a 5 – 4 lead.  Three relief pitchers shared in the grief with Romo taking the brunt of the damage. That didn’t even include the Houdini act by Baez in the 5th when he walked the first two hitters and a passed ball put runners at 2nd / 3rd with no outs. Luckily for him, the worst hitter in baseball was up in Jeff Mathis and he blew him away but it wasn’t easy. He also struck out the best pinch-hitter in April in Hazelbaker leaving Pollock as the man standing between him and the dugout. Pollock had homered, singled, and doubled but Baez got him out. That was the last good thing the Dodger bullpen did.

The game did have highlights:

  • Cory Seager got three hits including a bomb. Someone in the infield can still hit a home run.
  • Chris Taylor blasted a pinch-hit home run to left field providing the Dodgers with a brief 5 – 4 lead, and gave Orel and Joe a chance to wax poetic about how much Turner Ward and Dave Roberts love his new swing. They love the swing so much they sent him to AAA to start the year and soon enough he’ll be there again.
  • Joc Pederson looked good out of the leadoff role
  • Andrew Toles made a nice play in LF taking a fly ball right off the top of the wall, and then came back and got a clutch single to tie the game at 4 in the 6th.

 

1st place Diamondback preview for 4/21/17

The Diamondbacks head home after a quick California road trip that saw them go 4 – 5 against the Giants/Dodgers/Padres. They had started the trip 6 – 1 and in 1st place, they ended it 10 – 6 and tied for 1st place with the Rockies.

This team has alot going for it but I see two main problems with the current makeup of the team if they plan on competing for 162 games. They have little depth, the best depth they have is a major league shortstop stashed at AAA in Ketel Marte.  The other problem is the bullpen.

If the Diamondbacks can stay healthy this team might compete all summer if they can do something with the bullpen. So far the bullpen has been adequate but no team with Fernando Rodney as their closer has made the postseason for a reason. Rodney has pitched in the postseason as recently as 2015 but not as the closer. The rotation is not spectacular but has a solid pitcher manning every spot in the rotation. The lineup is producing as expected.

The Good:

The team is extremely healthy. They don’t have one player of note on the DL.

Paul Goldschmidt is still the first baseman and as baseball moves toward the power game, Goldy is trying his hand at being a slash and dash 1st baseman. Last year Goldy saw his slug% drop from .570 to .489 but he stole 32 bases. This year Goldy has four stolen bases with two home runs. I’m not sure the Diamondbacks want their 1st baseman to end the year with more stolen bases than home runs. On the plus side, Goldy is doing something rarely seen in baseball history.  At 142 home runs, and 103 stolen bases, Goldy is the rare 1st baseman with at least 140 home runs and 100 stolen bases.

Player              HR  SB   PA  SLG   OPS     Pos
Lou Gehrig         493 102 9663 .632 1.080 *3/H976
Jeff Bagwell       449 202 9431 .540  .948  *3/HD9
Andres Galarraga   399 128 8916 .499  .846  *3H/D5
Derrek Lee         331 104 7963 .495  .859   *3/HD
Mickey Vernon      172 137 9838 .428  .787  *3H/79
Paul Goldschmidt   142 103 3423 .523  .922   *3/HD

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2017.

Yazmani Tomas is picking up the slugging slack of Goldy. The expensive Cuban import came on strong in the second half last year and has kept the power going so far in 2017. Tomas doesn’t walk much and his defense is horrific to the eyes, but he does bring the thunder.

Jake Lamb had a great 1st half last year (.983 OPS) but dropped off precipitously in the second half (.663 OPS). This year he’s back at it with another strong spring. He is a young player but so far in his career, he does have this fascinating split going on:

Split          PA  OBP  SLG  OPS tOPS+
April/March   192 .401 .561 .962   146
May           101 .366 .544 .911   132
June          174 .328 .538 .866   119
July          166 .325 .477 .802   104
August        282 .277 .360 .637    64
Sept/Oct      267 .311 .376 .687    78

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/21/2017.

Neither AJ Pollock, David Peralta, or Brandon Drury are hitting up to their historical norms so the fact that they are in 1st place without significant contributions from this trio bodes well for them.

The rotation is not spectacular but has a solid pitcher manning every spot in the rotation. After seventeen games their starters are ranked 3rd in the NL by FanGraphs.

Grienke isn’t what he was with the Dodgers but does appear to be someone who can still be the main man in a rotation.

Robbie Ray has evolved into a wild man with a 11.9 K rate and a 5.9 BB rate but so far is keeping runs off the board. Something will change, either the walk rate will get better or runners will start scoring.

Shelby Millers looks very much like the guy that pitched for the Cardinals and Braves. Not great, but adequate. He’s certainly pitching better right now than Dansby Swanson is hitting.

Patrick Corbin may be the weak link. Before his TJ surgery in 2014 he had been a worthy all-star. He has been unable to get back to that level but is at least pitching every fifth day. In four starts he’s made two good starts and two bad starts.

Taijuan Walker might have the best stuff in the rotation, and the once highly touted Mariner prospect is holding steady so far.

The Bad:

Nothing really stands out. They are 11 – 6 after all. The bullpen has been better than I expected.  The only real problems have been the offensive output of AJ Pollock, David Peralta, and Brandon Drury.  I expect that to pick up but other than Pollock we aren’t talking about offensive juggernauts.

Eventually, I expect the lack of depth to put a dent in their postseason aspirations but for now things are going well for the Diamondbacks.

Fun Facts:

 

 

MLB storylines – from Storen to Thames

Drew Storen threw an immaculate inning on 4/18. Until Tuesday I had never heard the term but it means the pitcher struck out the side on nine pitches.  My first thought was it can’t be that rare since Juan Nicasio did the same thing last year, but it turns out only 76 pitchers had turned the trick so it is rarer than a no-hitter.

Eric Thames hit another home run last night giving him eight home runs and the major league lead in just about every offensive category.  The American export to Korea who was imported back to the US has blown the doors off any expectations. He was Barry Bonds in Korea and so far he’s been Barry Bonds in the US.

It is possible that Ichiro Suzuki homered in his final at-bat at Safeco field.  Ichiro had not hit a home run at Safeco since 2012.

Jason Vargas was a journeyman pitcher his whole career. He had TJ in 2015 and came back last year in Sept and pitched a few games. I really thought his career as a member of a rotation was in jeopardy but he has started 2017 as though they attached the arm of Sandy Koufax to him.  It has only been three starts but so far he has thrown 20 innings, given up only one run, 14 hits, walked two, and struck out twenty-three. Even Clayton Kershaw is jealous of those numbers.

Bryce Harper hit two more home runs off of Julio Teheran this week. The Brave ace has now given up seven home runs in only thirty-three at-bats to Harper. I think the new rule that MLB put in place this year would save him four pitches and whiplash.

The Bluejays are 3 – 11 after winning 89 games last year. Imagine the pieces they might have to sell at the trade deadline if they don’t right the ship.

 

Brandon McCarthy going back to the cutter

Part of McCarthy’s success this year has been his strand rate of 86% but he has made changes to how he pitches this year. In the past, he didn’t use his cutter this much but in 2017 he is using the cutter at almost the same rate (22%) as his curveball (24%).  For context, he used his cutter only 14% during his breakout 2014 season. Before 2014 he had been using the cutter over 30% of the time. His ground ball rate has spiked back to 50% which is the highest since his breakout in 2014. Of course he has barely pitched since 2014 so that 38 % groundball rate in 2015 and 2016 are meaningless.

It would seem that for McCarthy to keep his success going in 2017 he will need to reduce his walk rate so that when his strand rate starts to normalize (at least 70%) he won’t be severely punished and might get a push.  The big selling point on McCarthy in the winter of 2014 was that outstanding walk rate of 1.49. It is now 3.71.

There is a lot to like about McCarthy this year, his velocity is outstanding for him (93MPH), solid K rate, going deep into games (for a Dodger pitcher not named Kershaw), and excellent ground ball rate. If he can just keep these gains while knocking down the walk rate he just might be a very useful rotation piece and for the first time as a Dodger, earn his salary.

Dodger DL moves in 2017 so far

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/20/2017.

Courtesy of rotowire:

Given we have heard little about Andre I would be pushing that estimated return date. Same for Scott Kazmir. Logan Forsythe is expected to miss several weeks since it is a hairline fracture so I’d expect that estimated return to be put further out.

Player Name Pos Injury Move Estimated Return
Dayton, Grant P Side 10-Day DL 4/29/2017
Ethier, Andre OF Back 10-Day DL 5/1/2017
Forsythe, Logan 2B Toe 10-Day DL 4/30/2017
Garcia, Yimi P Elbow 60-Day DL 3/1/2018
Gutierrez, Franklin OF Hamstring 10-Day DL 4/24/2017
Hill, Rich P Finger 10-Day DL 4/16/2017 ***
Hill, Rich P Finger 10-Day DL 4/26/2017
Kazmir, Scott P Hip 10-Day DL 4/24/2017
Baez, Pedro P Arm 10-Day DL 4/12/2017 ***
Ravin, Josh P Groin 10-Day DL 4/21/2017
Segedin, Rob OF Toe 10-Day DL 4/30/2017
Stewart, Brock P Shoulder 10-Day DL 5/1/2017

Dodgers depth charge Rockies

The 2017 Dodger mantra has been depth depth depth, and on Wednesday night they put that on display. Both teams have had to play with numerous players on the DL and while the names of Enrique Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke, and Chris Taylor don’t put fear into the hearts of their opponents their bats did.

  • Enrique tripled and doubled from the leadoff spot. This was the first time since July 1st, 2015 that Hernandez had tripled and doubled in the same game.
  • Scott Van Slyke got the offense going with a solo blast. This was his first home run since June 13th, 2016.
  • Chris Taylor lined two doubles into left field. This was the first time in his career that Taylor had multiple doubles in a game.

That was just enough to give the Dodgers a two-run victory with Clayton Kershaw once again providing ample pitching along with Kenley Jansen and the rare four-out save.

Before the game started the Dodgers lost Logan Forsythe and Rob Segedin to the DL. Segedin had just been called up as a replacement for Rich Hill three days ago. During the game, the beleaguered Rockies lost Carlos Gonzalez when Clayton hit him on the hand.

I counted three replacement players for the Rockies:

Cardullo, Mark Reyolds, and Garneau. They went a combined one for ten with two RBI.

I counted four replacement players for the Dodgers:

Enrique Hernandez, Brett Eibner, Scott Van Slyke, and Chris Taylor. They went a combined five for twelve, with two RBI, and three runs scored.

The Rockies, rocking adversity

The Rockies are now 10 – 5 and they have done it the hard way:

  • Starting 1st baseman and big 2017 winter free agent acquisition Ian Desmond on the DL (should join them shortly)
  • Starting LF David Dahl hit the DL in March. He had a great debut in 2016 and much was expected of him in 2017.
  • Trevor Story hit his 1st home run last night and came into the game with an OPS of .514
  • Their number one ace Jon Gray went on the DL where he will spend at least a month
  • Their number three pitcher Chad Bettis fell victim to a recurrence of cancer and will miss the season as he fights for his life..
  • Three-time all-star right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has an OPS of .507
  • They have been without the services of their expected starting catcher Tom Murphy(should join them shortly)
  • They have had to use two rookies in the rotation

Lately, the Colorado Rockies have had a good start but eventually get swallowed by the summer.

  • 2014 – On May 7th they were 22 – 14 and in first place. That would be the last time they were in 1st place.
  • 2015 they were 10 – 7 on April 24th.  In 2016 they were 8 – 5 on April 18th.
  • 2016 they were 8 – 5 on April 18th.

I thought headed into the season that this Rockie team could pose a threat but with the injuries in March, I didn’t think they had the depth to handle the injuries. I can’t see this rotation surviving but the front office might get creative and find a way to help the rotation.  They stacked up the bullpen by picking up Greg Holland who leads major league baseball in saves and gave up his first earned run of the year last night.

Fade away might have been their song for the last few years but maybe Not Fade Away will be it in 2017?

Ryu gives Dodgers eighteen outs

but Arenado shows Dodger infielders how to hit a home run.

The highlight of the game was this amazing play by Ryu and Gonzalez as Adrian showed he still has major league reflexes.

Dodger infielders have hit two home runs since opening day both belonging to Cory Seager.

  • Adrian – zero , Forsythe – zero, Turner – zero
  • Grandal has zero home runs since opening day
  • Joc Pederson has zero home runs since opening day.
  • Trevor Story hit one, and Arenado two last night.

Ryu got eighteen outs becoming the first Dodger pitcher outside of Kershaw and McCarthy to accomplish the task. He pitched a solid game but the long ball was his undoing. If only he had the luxury of facing a Dodger lineup that folds up against any left-hand pitcher not named Patrick Corbin.

It is one thing to lose a game to the likes of Jon Lester. It is another to continue to lose to the likes of Clayton Richard, Kyle Freeland (twice), Brett Anderson, and Robbie Ray.

It is not all rocks and rattles, they have managed to beat Tyler Anderson and Patrick Corbin. Anderson starts tonight, maybe they can manage it again.

 

 

The Cuban Y’s get smacked around

The Dodgers have poured millions into Cuban players and other than Puig have seen little return on investment. Yasiel Alvarez was supposed to change that dynamic and had such a great debut on the mainland last summer he sprang to the top of the Dodgers elite pitching prospects.

Alvarez was held back this spring at what they call extended spring training but was finally assigned to Rancho Cucamonga in the Cal League on Monday.  With great anticipation, he made his debut and hardly has a number one pitching prospect ever been hammered like Alvarez was hammered.  The twenty-one-year-old gave up a run for every out, giving up seven runs on nine hits while walking two. Even worse he failed to strike out anyone and his flagship velocity was nowhere to be seen.  Hopefully, we can just chalk this up to Lancaster which might be the most offensive minor league park in baseball and the velocity to the fact it was his first start. Hopefully.

That was on Monday, on Tuesday Yaisel Sierra came on in relief and couldn’t find the plate. Sierra got two outs, walked three, gave up one run and left with the bases loaded. He was bailed out of more damage Edward Parades who got him out of the bases loaded jam without allowing any inherited runners to score. Sierra had been pitching well with only one walk on the season prior to his implosion last night.  He had pitched and looked so good this spring you could even manage a scenario where he might help the big club this spring.

To top off a bad two days for the prospects, Mitchell White also got hammered in Lancaster last night ending his excellent start to the season.  White gave up his first runs of the year, getting only five outs before exiting.

I think we will just hang these games on Lancaster and not get hung up on them.