Comparing the mega-teams from LA

December 17, 2012

> Following the 2011 season, Los Angeles was not in a good state as far as the sport of baseball goes. The Angels and Dodgers hadn’t reached the postseason in 2010 or 2011, posting some of their worst seasons in decades (by their standards). The Angels were struggling to find any offensive consistency to back their decent starting pitching. The Dodgers were having similar issues, but their problems extended off the field as well, as Frank McCourt left them bankrupt.

I don’t think the Dodgers were expecting to contend in 2012 (at least early on) because of where they were financially, but their one huge move was giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal following his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011. The Angels, however, made themselves early favorites for the World Series by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, and C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

Fast-forward to the 2012 offseason- following yet another season in which neither of these teams made the postseason- and a lot has changed. The Dodgers are nowhere near bankrupt; in fact, they’re the polar opposite, thanks to Magic Johnson and Co. The Angels are in the same position they were last year, but if they don’t make the postseason this time around, there’s something very wrong.

Anyway, let’s take a look at each of these teams from every angle- the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen, and so on. Both of them are considered near locks for the playoffs, but one has to be better than the other, right?

THE LINEUPS

Angels: 

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
9. Chris Iannetta, C

Dodgers: 

1. Mark Ellis, 2B
2. Luis Cruz, 3B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
8. A.J. Ellis, C
9. Pitcher

OK, first off, Hairston isn’t going to start the entire season. Once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list, he’ll take Hairston’s spot, and that’ll change the whole culture of the lineup (many project Crawford to hit second). But, until Crawford comes back- which will probably sometime in late May- that’s what I’m guessing the Dodgers’ lineup will look like.

Anyway, those are both powerhouse lineups. The each feature possibly the best 3-4-5-6 combos in their respective league in Pujols-Hamilton-Trumbo-Morales and Kemp-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier. It’s hard to say which is really better than the other; both are going to be very exciting to watch. While I think the Angels’ lineup might be the more exciting with three perennial MVP candidates in Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, I think the Dodgers have the overall better lineup. The reason I say this is because there are more experienced hitters in the Dodgers lineup, and by experienced, I mean hitters that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kemp, A-Gon, Ramirez, and Ethier aren’t necessarily “veterans” yet, but they’ve certainly been around the block a few times and have shown they can produce consistently at the big league level from year to year. The Angels definitely have that experience in Pujols and Hamilton, but they have a lot of younger, inexperienced hitters who I think we need to see more from. There’s no denying that Trout had the best offensive rookie season in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be susceptible to a sophomore slump. Trumbo hit over .300 for the most of the season last year, but then flamed out for the last two months and fell to a .268 average.

I think if everyone in the Angels’ lineup performs to their ability (and that includes Kendrick, who everyone thought was going to be a batting champion one day), then they’ll have the better lineup. But until that happens, I’d put my money on the Dodgers’ lineup, especially once Crawford gets back.

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

THE ROTATIONS

Angels: 

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Joe Blanton
5. Garrett Richards

Dodgers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Josh Beckett

Coming into this offseason, both teams wanted to improve their starting rotations, and I think each did. However, I think the Angels losing Greinke really hurt them. I also wasn’t in complete agreement with them just giving up on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana; I really wonder if they’re going to get what they could have gotten from those two from Hanson and Blanton. And Richards is going to be good somewhere down the road, but I’m not so sure he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot. There are even some question marks surrounding Wilson, who had a terrible second half for the Angels in 2012. Weaver is no doubt the ace, but health is a bit of a concern with him; same goes for Hanson.

To me, the Dodgers obviously have the better rotation, even though there are a few enigmas in theirs as well. Kershaw/Greinke is one- if not the best- 1-2 punches in baseball, and they get to throw half of their games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. After Kershaw and Greinke, however, there are a few questions. Billingsley can be an All-Star caliber pitcher when he’s on, but that isn’t always the case. Perhaps not having the pressure of being a #2 starter will help him. Anyway, the 4-5 spots in the Dodgers’ rotation should go to Ryu and Beckett, in my opinion. The Dodgers also have veterans Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, all of whom are capable of starting, but I think Ryu and Beckett will give them better results than any of the other two.

Clayton Kershaw

It’s evident that both of these teams will have to back up their rotations with those huge lineups, but I think the Dodgers are better off starter-wise.

THE ‘PENS 

(NOTE: I only put the six guys who I thought were guaranteed spots. There are probably going to be a few other long relievers in each bullpen>)

Angels: 

Ryan Madson
Ernesto Frieri
Scott Downs
Sean Burnett
Kevin Jepsen
Jerome Williams

Dodgers: 

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert
Matt Guerrier
Javy Guerra

This is actually the one category in which I think the Angels are better off. There’s only one guy that I think the Dodgers can count on to be consistent, and that’s Jansen. The rest of the guys- including League, who they named their closer and threw $22 million at- have had up-and-down careers.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a nice mix of young flamethrowers and veteran guys who know how to pitch. I loved the Madson pick-up; I expect him to have a good year even though he missed all of 2012. Frieri can also close if need be. Then they have a great tandem of lefties in Downs and Burnett. This has the makings of a great bullpen for the Angels.

Frieri

These are both going to be very exciting teams to watch, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an LA vs. LA World Series (though it never seems to work out that way). I think the Dodgers have the slight edge, but that’s not to put a damper on the team the Angels are going to field.

> The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal (plus a vesting option for a third year), so that puts to bed any rumors that spoke of his possible return to Milwaukee. But Doug Melvin probably wouldn’t have been willing to give him $6 million a year anyway.

> The Mets are being the Mets once again, as they have a deal in place to send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner- R.A. Dickey- to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal. The deal also includes Josh Thole and another prospect going to the Jays along with Dickey, while the Mets are getting back Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect.

I’m starting to wonder why the Mets gave an extension to David Wright if this is what they intended to do all along, but that’s their screwed-up organization for you. But I like the deal for the Blue Jays. They may have hurt themselves in the long run, but they’re making themselves favorites for the AL East next year. They’ve assembled a pretty nice rotation in Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero, all of whom have been considered aces at some point in their careers.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Signed John Lannan to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Jonathan Albaladejo and Ed Lucas to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Javier Herrera to a minor league deal.
Twins: Signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal.

Advertisements

Kottaras comes through as Brewers stun Dodgers

April 18, 2012

> It’s games like this that remind me how great it is to a Brewers fan. Not that I ever forget how great it is, but it’s nice to have a refresher like this once in awhile: especially when it comes following a four-game losing streak.

> After multiple blown leads, the Brewers came out on top against the Dodgers today, winning 5-4. The big headline was George Kottaras’ walk-off two-run double in the ninth, as he once again proved that he is by far the best backup catcher in baseball. But there were a few other storylines along the way that changed the tide of the game a few different times.

The Brewers got on the board in the second inning on Mat Gamel’s first home run of the year, a no-doubter off Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley. Cesar Izturis tacked on another run later in the inning for his first RBI of the year, making the score 2-0. The Dodgers wouldn’t score until the fifth, when Yovani Gallardo, who had been nearly flawless up until that point, fell off a bit (although the run wasn’t really his fault). Juan Rivera led off the inning with a double, followed by a James Loney single that put runners on first and third with no outs. Juan Uribe then hit what should have been a routine pop-up to shallow right field, and second baseman Rickie Weeks caught it. But, while transferring the ball from his glove to his hand, he dropped the ball, which allowed Rivera to score from third. For some reason, the run, despite scoring because of an error, was charged as an earned run to Gallardo. Sometimes I don’t really understand how errors work and what determines an earned run from unearned run, but I’m no scorekeeper.

Anyway, the Dodgers managed to tie up the game in the seventh on Loney’s RBI double. Gallardo would get out of the inning after that, and wound up taking a no-decision. But, he had another solid start: seven innings, two runs on seven hits, seven strikeouts, and one walk.

The Brewers then re-took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a Norichika Aoki squeeze bunt to score Gamel, making the score 3-2. But, in the eighth, Francisco Rodriguez’s early season struggles continued, as he coughed up a go-ahead two-run shot to Andre Ethier.

But, despite the fact it appeared things were going the Dodgers’ way, the Brewers just wouldn’t go away. Corey Hart led off the ninth with a single off closer Javy Guerra, and Gamel followed that with a walk. Jonathan Lucroy then struck out for the first out of the inning- or the last out, depending on how you look at it. That’s because Kottaras came up and hit his two-run double to stun the Dodgers, who came into today with a record of 9-1, and probably thought they were unbeatable.

> As I said earlier, this was a very importantwin for the Crew. Not just because it was in walk-off fashion (although that made it that much better), but because they were in the midst of a four-game slide. But it appears this year might end up being similar to last year, as far as the home/road splits go.

> Alex Gonzalez has yet to return to the Brewersdue to some complications after the birth of he and his wife’s first child. So Izturis once again started in his place, and didn’t do as bad as usual, as he actually notched two hits. But hopefully Gonzalez returns soon; the left side of the infield just feels so much more secure with him there.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this three-game series tomorrow at 7:10 PM CT. They’ll send Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75 ERA) to the mound, who will be looking to bounce back from an awful start against the Cubs (3 2/3 innings, eight earned runs). He’s 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Dodgers over two starts.

The Dodgers will counter with a familiar face to the Brewers- lefty Chris Capuano (1-0, 5.40 ERA). The Brewers faced him twice last year during his time with the Mets. Cappy went 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in that span.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts. Let’s hope the Brewers can use this momentum to get into a winning streak; they’ve got ground to make up in the Central now.


Kershaw, sloppy defense snap Brewers’ win streak

August 18, 2011

4:54p Well, you can’t get by with a lack of offense forever. Why? Because the pitching will eventually cave in and give up runs, and the defense will stop making plays.

Dodgers-Brewers Wrap-Up

Unfortunately, both the pitching and defense part of that quote came true today for the Brewers, who fell to the Dodgers, 5-1. It snapped a six-game winning streak that the Brewers had going, and, with they way they’d been playing before this, it looked like it would never end.

But, as I said before, the pitching and defense both caved in today, and the offense was once again a no-show.

Marco Estrada was making another spot start in place of the injured Chris Narveson today, and he didn’t do all that bad. He went five innings (which is pretty much all you can ask out of a spot starter) while giving up one run on just three hits. He walked two and struck out five, and showed once again that he’s a much better starter than he is a reliever.

That one run Estrada gave up was a solo shot to Rod Barajas in the second inning. Estrada had fallen behind Barajas 3-1, and was forced to give him something to hit in that count. Sadly, since Estrada doesn’t have that blow-you-away fastball, Barajas timed the pitch perfectly and crushed it.

But, that was all Estrada would give up. It was primarily the offense, defense, and bullpen that didn’t do their jobs today.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw pretty much dominated the Brewers offense for the entire game. He went eight innings while giving up no runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out six. Kershaw actually looked poised to toss a shutout, since he was only at 104 pitches after eight, but he was pinch-hit for by James Loney in the eighth inning.

The Brewers’ lone run came on a Prince Fielder sacrifice fly in the ninth inning off of Dodgers closer Javy Guerra (it was a non-save situation, obviously). That followed a one-out triple by Ryan Braun.

Brewers prepare to face Mets on the road

The Brewers didn’t finish this homestand on a particularly good note, but you have to remember that they actually went 6-1 during it, so that was a great homestand for them. But now, they’ll go on the road and face a team that’s having a somewhat similar season as the Dodgers are- the Mets.

The Mets took two of three in a series against the Brewers earlier this year at Miller Park, but the venue for this series will be the pitcher-friendly Citi Field.

Now, the only thing that worries me about the Brewers headed into this road trip is the offense, which has been pretty non-existent over the past week or so. I guess you could argue that the reason they were stymied today was because of Kershaw, who is a front-runner for the National League Cy Young Award at this point. But, you could also argue that the Brewers should have crushed Kershaw today, since his career ERA against the Brewers coming in was 6.23. The Brewers definitely faced some good pitching during this stretch, and their pitching kept them in the game during every game, but the offense will have to break out at some point.

The Mets don’t have the greatest pitching staff in the world. In fact, all of their starters have ERAs hovering around 4.00, the lowest ERA being that of R.A. Dickey’s, which is currently 3.77.

Here are the pitching matchups for this series:

Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.50 ERA) vs. Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.58 ERA)

Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.30 ERA) vs. Chris Capuano (9-11, 4.58 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.55 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (5-11, 3.77 ERA)

The Marcum vs. Pelfrey matchup will take place tomorrow, so I’ll just do my usual “Up next for the Crew…” segment right here. Marcum is coming off a no-decision against the Pirates, but he went 7 2/3 innings while giving up just one run. He has one career start against the Mets, during which he threw six shutout innings against them, but had to settle for a no-decision.

Pelfrey, meanwhile, left his last start with an injury, but has been cleared to pitch tomorrow. He is 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA against the Brewers in his career.

Anyway, that’s about it, but, before I go, I’m going to explain some of the sloppy defense the Brewers played today (I probably should have done that earlier, but oh well). There were two errors: one by third baseman Casey McGehee, when he pulled the first baseman Fielder off the bag with a low throw, and the other by reliever Kameron Loe, who threw the ball away in what should have been a somewhat routine play. Shortstop Josh Wilson also missed a double play ball and let it roll into center field, but, with how loosely the error stat is used, that play wasn’t considered an error. Anyway, all of those plays cost the Brewers runs (except McGehee’s error). Hopefully the offense and defense shows up tomorrow, though, because we’re going to need it if we want to keep winning.