Categorized | Mark Timmons

May 31, 2009 – The State of The Union

May 31, 2009 – The State of The Union

“Hey, how is your team doing, Buddy?”

“The good news is that attendance is down, but not too much.  The bad news is that our MVP candidate has missed nearly half the season, our All-Star leadoff hitter when the season started, is hitting .240, our opening days starter has been on the DL for most of the season, the two vets signed for the bullpen (Mota and Ohman) have been arsonists, the rookie who was supposed to be our #5 starter is back in AAA, and the man annointed to be our cleanup hitter who had 22 RBI in April has only 8 in May! 

“Wow!  So sorry to hear about your teams misfortune.”

“Yeah, it is tough that we only have the best record in baseball and lead our division by 8.5 games!”

dugout

Hoffman, Billingsley, Martin - www.LAdodgerTalk.com

Some of you are waiting for this team to fold.  I am going to suggest that we could get better!   On the way out of Wrigley Field yesterday, my son had on a Dodgers jersey and some Cubs fans yelled “Dodgers suck!”  I immediately replied “Are the Cubs up to .500 yet?”  [Silence]  !  My point is that we could really be doing poorly, but we are not, thanks to  the efforts of Juan Pierre (.384), Casey Blake (.302/9 HR/33 RBI),  Matt Kemp  (.302/.370 OB%), James Loney (.286/36 RBI), Jopn Broxton (5 Wins/13 Saves/1.50 ERA), Juan Castro (.380), (Ramon Troncoso (1.95 ERA/1 Win/3 Saves), Chad Billingsley (6 Wins/2.80 ERA), Randy Wolf (.284 ERA), and even Andre Ethier during April (22 RBI).  Our pitching staff has flaws, but the ERA of our starters is among the best in baseball. With Kuroda due back tomorrow, and Manny due back in another month, we can even get better. 

Raffy can (hopefully) recover his stroke, and Andre Ethier should bounce back.  Heck, we haven’t even seen the best from Russell Martin, and Clayton Kershaw is an Ace waiting to happen.  Cory Wade is bound to improve on his bad luck and we have some young arms who could really help this team.  I am adamant that one of our best relievers (James McDonald) is impersonating a starter in AAA, and Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom can help us in the second half – let’s not forget about Schmidt or Kuo – but don’t count on them either.   Shawn Estes is looking like he may deserve a chance on this team and Victor Garate  is looking like he could be a LH specialist for us.  Again, all those guys won’t be “lights out” but we only need one or two to step up.

Now, there could be reason for concern over the fact that we have scored only 3 runs in the past 3 games against the Cubs, but the mood in the clubhouse was loose (not jovial) and the players act and feel confident.  If their confidence is shaken, it isn’t showing.   I think part of the reason AJ Ellis was called up was because Casey Blake is nursing a sore leg and Martin could be a backup to Loretta at 3B.  Raffy is working hard and the training staff is working hard with him.   One thing that I observed in traveling throughout the clubhouse,  runway to the dugout, in the dugout and on the field, this team has a lot of really “nice guys.”  That’s easy to say, but there is a commaradarie and quiet confidence about them.  

I have learned that when you are “the new kid on the block” you just need to blend in for a while and watch the old pros do their jobs.  I watched Tony Jackson in LA and in Chicago I watched Dylan Hernandez,  Mike Bauman, Josh Suchon and others.  I just kind of tried to be the “fly on the wall” but without prompting, many players walked by me, greeted me and shook my hand – Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, Cory Wade – to name a few.   I can tell you this:  The clubhouse at Camelback Ranch is much nicer than the one in Wrigley Field!

My wife and son were at the game on Saturday and we sat among several Dodger fans.  Just to my left were Brian Akin’s parents.  Brian had Tommy John surgery last August and is working out at Camelback Ranch.  He is scheduled to start pitching in a couple of weeks.  He was selected in the 14th round of the 2004 first-year player draft.  He pitched four seasons at Davidson and is 27, so if he can recover, he could climb the ladder quickly.  His dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, so I picked his brain about my hip.  I’m sure he will be sending me a bill!  Actually, they were great people and LAdodgerTalk wishes their son a rapid recovery! 

My wife left after the 7th inning, so I went down and sat with my son in her seat.  When the game was over, we went back to the pressbox to get my computer and other things and I told him to wait outside.  The Cubs Security guy, said “Go ahead, take him up, it’s OK!”  So, Stephen got to see the pressbox and was excited about that.   The Pressbox at Wrigley is actually pretty nice.

SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL

Dodgers vs. Cubs with Eric Milton trying to show he belongs.  I suspect that Monday, Stults will go on the DL when Kuroda is activated.

REQUIRED READING:

Plaschke on Manny and the Dodgers

Yours Truly in the Pressbox  www.LAdodgerTalk.com

Yours Truly in the Pressbox www.LAdodgerTalk.com

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

35 Responses to “May 31, 2009 – The State of The Union”

  1. lawdog says:

    I fully expect the team to improve, particularly when Manny gets back–unless he stays in an emotional funk from being suspended. The other potential problem that could sink our ship is our pitching. We really already running on three wheels. We've got guys pitching over their heads to make up forscrubs and geezers. We'd be in a world of hurt if Bills goes in the tank and stops pitching inside and Stultz keeps pitching like he did the other day.

    Kuroda's arm might n ow be sound, but he has lost his command and self confidence. He needs to come back to solidify the rotation. If he comes back and pitches the way he's been pitching at A, it doesn't matter whether his arm falls off or stays in tact, he will get pounded–mark my words.

    Once Manny comes back we'll have the option of making a good trade packaging some of that young talent we have waiting to make the big club and either Pierre or, as much as I hate to say it, Ethier. Those two are both too good to be a 4th outfielder. Maybe by August the Pods will relent and trade Peavy to us. That would make my day.

    If I could choose between keeping Ethier or Pierre I'd pick Ethier. He just needs to hit in front of or behind Manny and he suddenly becomes Duke Snider. Without that kind of bat in the lineup with him he's just another sucker for breaking pitches off the plate and down in the zone. Bit Juan is bound to slow down. He's having his career year and he is motivated by the anger that's built inside while he's had to ride pine and watch Jones, Manny and Ethier play in front of him for a while. Once that angry energy subsides (which I think is already in the process of ebbing) he'll go back to .290 with a .325 OBP–as always. His trading value will never be higher than it is right now.

  2. I Miss the 51's says:

    I agree Mark, this team is not anywhere near running on all cylinders. Hopefully they can keep it up and keep improving

    As for Plaschke, I don't agree with anything he said. I don't care about who uses steroids. I didn't before with Bonds and McGwire and all the other countless players who used and I certainly don't care now. They didn't ruin baseball, the records aren't tarnished.

    I'm a fan of the game and my team, not just anyone player.. Manny broke the rule, he got caught and he's serving his punishment. when he comes back, I'll welcome him back with open arms and not think less of him.

    Also what he writes about the youth being affected… I'll tell you this, when I eventually have kids, I will never, ever encourage them to emulate a professional athlete. To me they are not the kind of people I want any kids of mine to grow up to be like. Their a a ton of better role models out there, presidents, police officers, people who do charity work, teachers,etc…. You can admire the good athletes for what they accomplish, but I wouldn't ever want my kids to be like ( enter name of athlete).

    Anyways,

    Manny owes us nothing, at least he doesn't owe me anything…. if he says something, good for him, I'll listen…but I won't care.

    By the way, I absolutely love this website.. The new format is great and the content is top notch. Great work.

  3. Badger says:

    Very cool Mark. You deserve this.

    Now, about your column this morning (I like saying that) – how can we get better? I think there are some players who will come around, some who will come back down, and we can find more balance, but to expect to improve on .680 means you expect this team to win more than 110 games. That ain't gonna happen. When Pierre goes 0 for 4, Hudson only gets one hit, and Furcal ain't quite right, we have no table setters. The top of this lineup has been on fire and that allows the middle to beat up on guys who are pitching from the stretch. When that doesn't happen, and it won't at a 68% pace, we will have issues with plating a lot of runs. And, our pitching? I have already admitted they are surprising me, and we will need them down the stretch. Will this staff hold up?

    Is Furcal ok?

    I think LaRoche passed Blake yesterday. Just thought I would throw that in.

    Blake has a sore leg?

    • PenosCabell says:

      Agreed Badger. It's not very realistic to think the Dodgers can keep this pace up. I hope hey do. I also think that starting pitching is going to be a big problem. We are already seeing Chad Billingsley start to fade a little. Kuroda is still a big question mark (let's see how he does tomorrow). Kershaw too is a big question mark, we never know which pitcher will show up. Wolf is a huge surprise to me, can he keep this up? I think Ned will have to explore a trade for a starting pitcher. A front line starting pitcher, Someone who will make a difference in the playoffs. It's gonna cost the Dodgers some of their young talent, but it's a sacrifice they're gonna have to make.

  4. bluetrain says:

    Great read! Thoroughly enjoyed this..

  5. PenosCabell says:

    I agree, Most of these guys are gonna get better. I think Cory Wade has lost it. Joe Torre ran his arm into the ground. And I don't think he's the last pitcher we see Torre do this to. I think James McDonald will be back in the big leagues as a reliever, and we'll see the same dominant pitcher we saw at the end of last year. I don't think we'll ever see the same Rafael Furcal again. Ethier will benefit from Manny's presence in the line-up. I really hope Casey Blake can keep playing the way he has been over the last month.

    The biggest disappointment of the season to me is Matt Kemp. Where are the power numbers? Is he gonna break out? It's time for Matt to start hitting like we all think he can.

  6. Mark_Timmons says:

    If Raffy doesn't come around, then Juan Pierre HAS to stay in the lineup. At that point, Andre Ethier is the odd man out. The best thing that could happen is for him to break out right about now and be hitting .300 when Manny comes back. Do you think he could get us some good pitchers?

    I thought we had the "long comment" issues resolved, but it just cut me off!

  7. Badger says:

    Matt Kemp's power numbers will show up. The fact that he is hitting .300 with that high an OBP tells me he is listening to his batting coach. Home runs are a result of sweet spot contact. They will come.

    Raffy can take Blake's spot in the 8 hole. I would rather see him in the lineup than Castro. If he doesn't come around, oh well. But, he is our starting SS.

    Gotta get. Important guy like me has important things to do.

    Today – it's trimming my bushes.

  8. lawdog says:

    If Raffy doesn't come around i think we could do very nicely with O-Rod leading off and putting Ethier in the 2nd slot hitting behind Manny.

    Pierre is playing like a man possessed who has something to prove. He will come back to earth and be a "good" player with no arm and a .290 avg, .325 OPB and 50 steals for another year or two when his legs start to go.

    Ethier, on the other hand, has tremendous up side. All 4 of those guys do. They miss Manny and his "devil may care" artitude and instruction by example of how to be one of the very elite hitters of all time. Having Pierre en fuego teaches them how to hustle and work hard. But n one of them are going to be banjo hitters or base stealers.

    Which elite pitchers are going to be on the market come trading deadline time in August? We should be looking there to see who we can get for Pierre and a handful of kids.

    Anyway we can get Andy LaRoche back in Dodger blue?

  9. Mark_Timmons says:

    Kenny Lofton had his legs at 40, why can't Pierre have his at 32 or 33 or 34?

    There is nothing to support your position. Juan has seldom been hurt. His body type is not the type that is given to those sorts of problems.

    The fact is: when we lost Manny for 50 games, Juan Pierre, Orlando Hudson, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Casey Blake stepped up – WAY UP! Andre Ethier flat out choked and this is a continuing pattern of his career. I'm tired of everyone making excuses for him. SCOREBOARD!

  10. Mark_Timmons says:

    His new name is his OLD NAME: MR. SOFTEE!

  11. Mark_Timmons says:

    There is no denying his swing and his ability, but unless he changes his thinking and approach, he will continue to struggle in the clutch.

    I truly hope he can change his thinking and change his life (and hitting).

  12. Mark_Timmons says:

    Where's Billy Russell?

    • Bill_Russell says:

      Hey Mark and the rest of the gang. I am recovering from cataract surgery. My vision is almost back to normal but I've had my one good eye on you guys for the past few days. Keep up the good work in here and I'll be putting my two cents in shortly. I am hoping for a split tonight. Go Dodgers….

  13. Ken says:

    Trade Manny and McDonald to the Braves for Jurjens

    Manny still has MORE home runs as the 3 starting Braves outfield combined

    Pierre MVP

  14. Joseph says:

    He'll end up hitting .290 because that is what he has done the last 3 seasons all while getting progressively worse each of the last 3 seasons.
    Juan Pierre's last 3 seasons are
    .292 .330 .388 .718
    .293 .331 .353 .684
    .283 .327 .328 .655
    Then this season he has put up a
    .384 .450 .512 .962
    He has not touched 300 since 2004. I don't care how much you like the guy personally or how much you dislike Ethier, over the last 3 years Ethier has put up better statistics and played better defense all while being younger and cheaper. If Pierre could play at this level for an entire season he would be a huge asset, hell if he had an obp around .370 he would be a good leadoff hitter, but having an obp around .325 if awful for a leadoff hitter Ethier on the other hand while struggling now is a better hitter, part of baseball is struggling, have you have been in a slump? He will come out of the slump just as Pierre will come out of his streak. What the Dodger should do is trade Pierre when Manny returns as right now his value has never been higher and we could get a good return for him.

  15. Mark_Timmons says:

    Joseph,

    I appreciate your comments and you need to understand that while I admire Juan's work ethic, I do not dislike Andre. He has always treated me with respect and I believe he has immense talent. I am just very frustrated by his approach and attitude at times. I believe that he can improve, IF he changes his approach.

    Right now, Juan Pierre has a .384 BA and a .450 OB%. He has NEVER did this well. For him to fall to the numbers you suggest, he would have to just flat-out sink to below .250 for 2 months. I doubt that will happen. This season most resembles his 2001 and 2004 seasons when he hit over .325 with an OB% of over .370.

  16. lawdog says:

    Going back in the years prior to this year where his .384 average has pushed him up to .302 lifetime, Pierre posted yearly batting averages of: .275, .292, .293, and .283.

    That looks like a normal .290 hitter who's having a career year to me!

    Give him three more years of playing every day and he won't maintain an average over .300 for his lifetime stat.

    Not that there is anything wrong with a .290 hitter who can steal 50 or more basis as he goes into his geezer years. That's certainly not chopped liver. But they say the legs are usually the first thing to go. I already think Juan is a little slower than he was when he first came to the club. But you don't want to build your future on a guy going into his mid 30s based on a career year over a guy who looks like the second coming of the Duke if you put a home run hitter in front of him or behind him in the lineup. Ethier has too much upside. Pierre will probably be looked back upon as the guy who saved our season when Manny went don for a third of the season no matter how far we go. But put him back in the field every day and deal with his pop gun arm and bat and we're silly not to chain our wagon to Ethier instead.

    In two years I think we'll be sorry we signed Blake to the huge deal and blocked third from someone who's ready down on the farm the same way Andruw blocked Kemp and Ethier. But I like him this year just like I like Pierre for 2009 as well.

  17. Mark_Timmons says:

    Now, this is just my opinion and I think everyone has one. We can disagree and still be Dodger fans. Time will tell who is rght or if the middle is where the truth lies.

  18. Ken says:

    The Dodgers need more pitching or a major transformation of the existing pitchers. The way that they are pitching will not have the same results later in the season as now. Some Stats that are in major conflict of the results:

    Of the 75 starting pitchers who have thrown the most innings the worst as far as # of pitches per AB
    #2 – Kershaw
    8 – Stults
    9 – Bills
    29 – Wolf

    However the pitchers with the most 0-2 counts
    #1 – Wolf
    11 – Bills
    45 – Kershaw
    69 – Stults

    Combine these 2 stats and see the major inconsistency of Billingsley

    Of the top 270 pitchers with the most 3-0 counts are
    #7 – Stults
    8 – Kershaw
    24 – Bills

    And the most walks on 4 pitches include some Dodgers with very few innings
    #13 – Kershaw
    19 – Bills
    26 – Stults
    64 – Weaver – WOW
    68 – Belisario
    90 – Wade
    100 – Kuo
    104 – McDonald
    111 – Ohman
    126 – Wolf

    Conclusion – Smoke and Mirrors – Get some more pitchers via trade or COACHING

  19. Mark_Timmons says:

    Ken,

    Your point is well taken – our pitchers do throw too many balls. Most of them are young and hopefully will learn, but I must also say that our pitchers have excelent "stuff" and when they have to throw it in the zone, they are very tough. I think that most will learn!

    • Ken says:

      Yes very young! The 3rd youngest in the NL at 27.3 behind only FL and PIT and 5th in MLB (DET & OAK). That is why the Dodgers should have signed Maddox as an additional pitching coach ( as I ssuggested in Feb)

  20. Ken says:

    Last 7 Days
    Kemp .393
    Pierre .387
    Blake .348
    Hudson .303 Obviously Tired
    Loney .300

    Either .250 Getting Better
    Furcal .250
    Martin .240

    Mota 0.00 Surprise
    Wolf 1.29
    Milton 1.80
    Belisario 2.25
    Leach 3.00
    Troncoso 3.86
    Bills 4.15
    Kershaw 4.50

    Wade 6.75
    Stults 9.82 DL??
    Weaver 12.27 Done ??
    Ohman 13.50

  21. Mark_Timmons says:

    Here's the deal with Kemp:

    He is hitting .302 with an OB% of .370.

    His dad and the rest of the Dodgers coaching staff has been preaching to him to just let the game come to him. Don't force the action. I believe that he is doing that and that soon – this year or next – the HR will come, but in the meantime, he is almost always a constant. Go back and look at his stats. He may have a few bad games, but his months are pretty level unlike Ethier and Martin with whom it's "all or nothing." Matt Kemp is very young – yonger than either of those players.

    While neither him, nor James Loney have the power numbers I'd like to see – they are confident and learning and growing. They are very good players and could become superstars if their power develops. Just standing by Matt, you can see his power, but James Loney is powerful in his own way.

    • PenosCabell says:

      Yes, Matt Kemp is having a good year. But he hasn't broken out like we all expected. I hope you're right, and the power numbers improve.

      James Loney is a good defensive 1B. A good solid hitter. But for a guy 6'2 220 lbs, he should have more homeruns.

      I think we've seen the best out of Russell Martin. As we discussed last week, we're never gonna see the huge numbers we saw from him in 2007 again.

  22. Michael says:

    Baseball is more than numbers, there is a human element too, or the Dodgers manager would be a MacBook. The only numbers that really mean anything are W's and L's. Leading your division by 8 1/2 games at the start of June works for me. Smoke and mirrors, just good old lady luck or just doing whatever it takes for the W. Baseball is a con-game, confidence. When you got it, you got it; and when you don't, well I don't need to go there. Great job of reporting from Chi-town Mark, wow what a thrill thaat must be. Here is a number I bet you didn't know. Raffys' best friend, ex-dodger and now a Texas Ranger has as many home runs as Matt Kemp.

  23. Mark_Timmons says:

    1. Pierre is a career .300+ hitter and is near .400 for the first time in his career. Why would you believe he will end up hitting .290? The man is fast, hustles every play, hits the ball on the ground and works harder than anyone. Unless you don't believe in Karma, this is what Juan Pierre's Karma is. BTW, Juan Pierre and I shook hands yesterday and I said "Juan, I am really, really happy for you." And you could just see the gratitude in his eyes as he thanked me.

    2. Andre Ethier has that great swing and has tanked the whole month of May. He has disappeared before. He is very inconsistent.

    3. There are two players the Dodgers media doesn't particularly like: Mota (they really dislike him) and Ethier ("too cool for school" is the quote). Get off your Ethier bandwagons and admit that I was right about Andy LaRoche and Andre Ethier.

  24. lawdog says:

    Stultz just got put on the DL. The Dogs are planing to call up Kuroda tomorrow, but they're also bringing up a kid from AA for his first cup of coffee in the bigs.

    Schlichting, 24, has never pitched in the majors. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2003 as an infielder, but was later converted to a pitcher in the Angels' organization.

    Schlichting was 1-0 with a 0.66 ERA in nine appearances with Chattanooga. He had given up only one run in 13 2/3 innings.

  25. Mark_Timmons says:

    I wasn't sure, but when I chanhed the roster at the top of the home page, today Travis' name was there and I thought he might be called up.

    Michael,

    I have been following Andruw, and maybe he'll get his mojo back to some degree. He is much better than last year, but they are very careful where the put him. Also, Texas is a launching pad, and they do have the best hitting coach in baseball.

  26. Ken says:

    Speaking of Union did you hear that when Obama told the Democratic party that he was going to run for President and that he respected Lincoln for the job that he did with the Union the party head said do you mean the Teamsters?

  27. lawdog says:

    Looking at your picture in the Chicago Press Box you can see the pain on your face Mark. Are you planning to get the hip replacement?

  28. Mark_Timmons says:

    And, yes I have played baseball and I know how good these guys are, but with Matt Kemp's erratic swing, he has never slumped like Andre Ethier (who has done it 4 times). But why is it that when Pierre does poorly, he is just "bad" and when Ethier does poorly, he is as a "good hitter, who will come out of his slump" Juan Pierre has a career .300 BA and has all of his career. He's a leadoff hitter who hits .300 (don't just single out his least 3 years) and steals 50-60 bases.

    That said, if Raffy comes back, the trade Juan – I am fine with that! Andre or Juan – whatever makes us a better team is what I am for.

  29. Mark_Timmons says:

    OH, Juan has a .career 349 OB%. and Raffy has a .350%.

    What a double standard of evaluation!

  30. Mark_Timmons says:

    All players have up and down years, but when you have 5,200 career AB's and have a .302 BA and .349 OB%, that is a pretty good barometer of what kind of player to are.

    Now, I do think he is having a "CAREER YEAR."

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