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.

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Greinke latches on with Dodgers

December 9, 2012

> Not like no one saw this coming. The Dodgers, who have infinite pockets of cash, finally wooed Zack Greinke into joining them. Greinke’s deal is for six years and $147 million, which is the richest contract for a right-hander in history, surpassing Matt Cain’s five-year, $112.5 million deal signed back in March. Greinke also slightly passes lefty Cole Hamels, who received six years and $144 million from the Phillies around the Trade Deadline. CC Sabathia’s seven-year, $161 million contract remains the largest contract ever given to a pitcher. 

Greinke will slide into the rotation of what should be a powerhouse Dodgers team. That rotation already features the incumbents, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, followed by a few veterans that LA will have to choose from, including Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang. The Dodgers could have one more starter competing for a spot- Hyun-Jin Ryu- if they sign him by tomorrow’s deadline.

Anyway, I see two possible scenarios for Greinke’s LA tenure. The first- and more likely- is that he’ll take advantage of pitching in the NL West, where the ballparks are significantly larger, and have a ton of success on a Dodgers team that should contend for years to come. The other, however, is that his anxiety issue comes back to haunt him in the huge market of LA, and he can’t handle the stress and publicity of pitching there.

The latter is very unlikely. He did fine in Anaheim, a suburb of LA (but basically the same market), posting a 6-2 record with a 3.53 ERA during his time there. Plus, Greinke doesn’t have the pressure of being the ace of the staff; Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher in the NL, has taken that role.

I wish the best of luck to Greinke in LA; he’s a guy who’s easy to root for. I don’t want the Dodgers to do well as a team because of how they’ve set up themselves up financially, but that doesn’t mean Greinke himself can’t have a good season.

Greinke2

> Now that Greinke is off the market, the Brewers’ chances of signing Ryan Dempster have increased. Had Greinke signed with the Rangers, the Dodgers would have probably overpaid a second-tier pitcher like Dempster. But, now that Greinke has gone to LA, it’s unlikely the Rangers are going to bring Dempster back after what he did for them last year.

> I keep forgetting to mention this, but I saw a headline the other day that read: “Yount shoots Sveum.” My immediate first thought was that Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount took some sort of shot- figuratively- at current Cubs manager Dale Sveum.

Nope. Yount literally shot Sveum with a gun while they were on a hunting trip. It wasn’t fatal or anything- one of the pellets from Yount’s rifle grazed Sveum’s ear while he was shooting at a quail.

But this made my day: Sveum started calling Yount “Dick Cheney” after the incident.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Acquired Michael Young from the Rangers.
Rangers: Acquired Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla from the Phillies.
Mariners: Designated Mauricio Robles for assignment.


A few things to note about the Cardinals

September 13, 2011

The Cardinals lost to the Pirates today, 6-5. This gives the Brewers a 6.5 game lead in the NL Central, which is big, and their magic number also falls to single digits, at long last. Anyway, Marc Rzepczynski blew the Cards’ lead and ended up taking the loss, while Fernando Salas served up the go-ahead double to Pedro Ciriaco.

But, I’m sure that Cards fans aren’t too worried about this loss, since something better happened for them today- Chris Carpenter is now guaranteed to be a Cardinal next year. And the year after. The Cardinals and Carpenter reportedly agreed to two-year extension worth $21 million, and the first year of that contract replaces his $15 million option that the Cards probably would have picked up for next year anyway. Carpenter has been pitching for the Cardinals since 2004, and owns a 93-42 record with a 3.10 ERA. He also won the 2005 Cy Young Award. Before coming to the Cards, Carpenter wasn’t having any success with his old team, the Blue Jays, going 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA with them. Anyway, Carpenter is having a somewhat of a down-year this year, as he’s 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA. The ERA is respectable, but you’d expect the record to be better.

This signing pretty much defines what the Cards’ rotation will look like over the next few years. This is what it will look like (plus their numbers this year):

Adam Wainwright (Didn’t pitch in 2011)

Chris Carpenter (9-9, 3.75 ERA)

Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.68 ERA)

Kyle Lohse (13-7, 3.62 ERA)

Jake Westbrook (12-8, 4.61 ERA)

Edwin Jackson is also in the rotation right now, but, with Wainwright returning from Tommy John Surgery next year and everyone else already signed, that pretty much forces Jackson to leave via free agency. Which is ironic, since his 3.39 ERA with the Cardinals is the best out of that entire rotation. I’m sure they’d take him over Westbrook any day, but they kind of have to keep him.

Anyway, some games to keep an eye on- the Braves are losing to the Marlins in the 12th inning, 5-4, but they have a guy on second against Leo Nunez. I guess we’ll have to wait to see how that one turns out. On the other side of the country, the Dodgers are beating the Diamondbacks, 1-0, in the fifth inning. If the D-backs lose, they’ll fall a full game behind the Brewers for the second best record in the NL. If they win, they’ll tie the Brewers for the second best. (Oh, by the way, Ted Lilly has a no-hitter going against the D-backs through 4 1/3. I probably just jinxed it, but I’m just putting that out there.)


Great defense helps Wolf KO Dodgers

August 16, 2011

9:53p This was the best defense I’ve seen the Brewers play all year.

Dodgers-Brewers Wrap-Up

The Brewers defeated the Dodgers today, 3-0. The win made them 19-2 over their last 21 games (18 of them against the NL Central), and they are arguably the hottest team in baseball right now. Randy Wolf had another great start, going eight shutout innings and giving up six hits. He also walked five batters, but those didn’t matter much, due to four double plays. And, to top off the great defense, the Brewers turned their first triple play since 2009 against the Giants. The triple play was courtesy of some bad baserunning by Matt Kemp, but it was a triple play, nonetheless.

Anyway, the Brewers scored only three runs, all via solo home runs. They were also all off the three different pitchers that the Dodgers used- Ryan Braun hit one in the fourth inning off starter Ted Lilly, Jonathan Lucroy hit one off Scott Elbert in the 8th, and Corey Hart hit one off Mike MacDougal in the 8th. And that was really it.

Lilly actually dominated the Brewers today, as he always has. He went seven innings while giving up one run on just two hits. He walked two and struck out six. But, the Dodgers have killed all of their starting pitchers with awful run support, and tonight was no different.

Anyway, John Axford came in for the ninth and recorded his 35th save of the year. He actually got a double play of his own: a lineout to first baseman Prince Fielder, and since there was a man on first and on out, he just stepped on the bag to end the game. That was a good way for it to end for the Dodgers, since double (and a triple) plays were their issue all night long.

Wolf becomes fourth 10-game winner for Crew

With his win tonight, Wolf won his fourth consecutive decision, and became the Brewers’ fourth 10-game winner of the year. He now joins Yovani Gallardo (13-8), Zack Greinke (11-4), and Shaun Marcum (10-3) as a member of the club. Chris Narveson, the Brewers’ fifth starter, is currently on the DL, and his record of 8-6 will probably reach 10 wins before the year is up as well.

At long last, Hairston proves his worth

Before tonight, I didn’t see anything in Jerry Hairston Jr., one of the Brewers’ Trade Deadline acquisitions. But, tonight, he finally proved his worth. He’s no offensive machine, but he’s center field defense is spectacular, and that was proved by a highlight reel play he made today. In the fourth inning, Hairston robbed Kemp of a hit, then, got back up and doubled off Andre Ethier, who had reached first on a walk. If he can continue to play that kind of defense, I’ll be fine with him for the rest of the year.

Up next for the Crew…

The Brewers will play the second game of this four-game series with the Dodgers tomorrow and will send Gallardo (13-8, 3.67 ERA) to the mound. He’s coming off a bad start against the Cardinals, in which he gave up five runs (four earned) in just five innings. His numbers for his career against the Dodgers are just flat-out awful- 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA. I haven’t seen Gallardo’s career numbers against every team he’s faced, but I’d have to guess that these are by far the worst.

Anyway, for some reason, the Dodgers’ starter for tomorrow has yet to be officially announced, but I assume it’s going to be Clayton Kershaw (14-5, 2.72 ERA). This guy is incredible, and definitely an early Cy Young Award candidate. He’s been one of the few Dodgers pitchers to overcome the horrible run support, as shown by his 14 wins. I don’t know Kershaw’s career numbers against the Brewers (I can’t see them on MLB’s site because it hasn’t been officially announced), but I’m going to take a wild guess and say they’re probably better than Gallardo’s career numbers against the Dodgers.

And one more thing before I go- the Cardinals fell to the Pirates, 6-2. (Of course the Pirates win as soon as they leave Miller Park.) Anyway, that gives the Brewers a six-game cushion in between them and the second place Cardinals in the NL Central, which is big, since the Brewers have six games left against them this year.


Morgan, Brewers find way to win against Pirates

August 14, 2011

4:38p At this point, the Pirates might as well stop trying when they’re at Miller Park.

Pirates-Brewers Wrap-Up

The Brewers, despite being shut out for the first seven innings of the game, found yet another way to take out the Pirates, with the final score being 2-1. The final blow was Nyjer Morgan’s sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, which kept the Brewers undefeated (8-0) against the Pirates this season.

The Pirates actually got on the scoreboard first, as the jumped on Brewers starter Shaun Marcum early. He was hanging a few pitches early on, and Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen took advantage of that by hitting back-back doubles in the first inning.

After that, however, Marcum was lights out. He ended up going 7 2/3 innings, his second longest outing of the season, while giving up one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out five. Unfortunately, the Brewers offense didn’t arrive in time, and Marcum had to settle for his third consecutive no-decision. But, he kept the Brewers in the game, and that would prove big, because of the Pirates starter on the other side.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton pretty much knocked out the Brewers for the first seven innings. He ended up going 7 1/3 innings while giving up a run on four hits. He walked two and struck out five. But, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made a decision that pretty much cost him the game in the eighth inning. With a runner on second, Hurdle pulled Morton for reliever Jose Veras. Veras came in and got the second out of the eighth, but then Hurdle made another change to bring in his All-Star closer, Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan came in and did his job: he struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the inning. Or, that’s what should have happened.

Hanrahan’s pitch to Morgan was a slider in the dirt, and Morgan swung over it. But, catcher Michael McKenry couldn’t handle it, and bounced away from him. Morgan ended up reaching first, and Jonathan Lucroy, who was on second, advanced to third. That set the stage for Ryan Braun.

Braun tied the game with a RBI single back up the middle, and, from there, the Pirates knew that it was happening all over again.

Hanrahan got out of that inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth. He handed the ball over to Chris Resop for the 10th inning, and he would be the victim of the Brewers walk-off.

George Kottaras hit a one-out single in the 10th, and Casey McGehee followed with a double to put runners on second and third. That set the stage for Morgan’s walk-off sacrifice fly.

Miller Park continues to be house of horrors for Pirates

If I were the Pirates, I would never want to come to Milwaukee. Since the beginning of 2007, the Pirates are 3-36 against the Brewers at Miller Park, which includes an 0-6 mark this year. Obviously, it’s a mental thing for them at this point, but that’s their problem if they can’t get over it.

Up next for the Crew…

The Brewers start a three-game set at home against the Dodgers tomorrow. Randy Wolf (9-8, 3.48 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and is coming off a great outing in St. Louis his last time out. He gave up one run in eight innings against the Cardinals. Wolf, the former Dodger, is 3-4 with a 3.66 ERA against his former team. He has already taken a loss against the Dodgers earlier this year.

The Dodgers will counter with the former Cub, Ted Lilly (7-12, 4.71 ERA). Lilly is having somewhat of a down season, as his record and ERA show, but he’s doing well in August. Lilly is 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA against the Brewers in his career, most of those numbers from his days with the Cubs.

Box Score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
Milwaukee Brewers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 7 2

Milwaukee Brewers

Player AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Felipe Lopez, 3B 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .210
b-Casey McGehee, PH-3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .239
Nyjer Morgan, CF 3 0 0 1 1 2 0 .317
Ryan Braun, LF 3 0 2 1 1 1 0 .326
Prince Fielder, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 0 5 .305
Mark Kotsay, RF 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .258
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS 4 0 1 0 0 1 1 .270
Craig Counsell, 2B 3 0 0 0 0 3 0 .151
Jonathan Lucroy, C 3 0 1 0 0 0 2 .285
1-Jerry Hairston, PR 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .255
c-Corey Hart, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .272
Shaun Marcum, P 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .156
a-Josh Wilson, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .266
George Kottaras, C 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 .232
Total 33 2 7 2 2 8 9

a-Hit a sacrifice bunt for Hawkins in the 8th.

b-Flied out for Lopez in the 8th.

c-Flied out for Saito in the 10th.

1-Ran for Lucroy in the 8th.

BATTING

2B: McGehee (19).

RBI: Braun (77), Morgan (28).

Team RISP: 1-for-6.

Team LOB: 7.

BASERUNNING

CS: Betancourt (4).

FIELDING

E: Fielder (12), McGehee (16).

Milwaukee Brewers

Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Shaun Marcum 7.2 5 1 1 2 5 0 3.50
LaTroy Hawkins 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.67
John Axford 1.0 1 0 0 0 3 0 2.40
Takashi Saito (W, 3-1) 1.0 0 0 0 2 1 0 2.35

Pitches-strikes: Marcum 116-76, Hawkins 1-1, Axford 22-14, Saito 23-11.

Groundouts-flyouts: Marcum 7-8, Hawkins 1-0, Axford 1-0, Saito 3-0.

Batters faced: Marcum 30, Hawkins 1, Axford 5, Saito 6.

Inherited runners-scored: Hawkins 2-0.