Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Thoughts on the Dodgers series

It has been a long time since I watched an entire regular season series between two teams. Any two teams. Maybe it happened in 2001. But I got to observe both games this week between the Dodgers and Padres. Talk about two different games.

Clayton Richard started Wednesday. That game kicked off at 3:35 which although not odd because the Padres play a lot of Wednesday afternoon games, it was odd because it was the first game back after a 5-game road trip. When was the last time a team played a day game following a cross-country flight? At least the Tuesday game had started at 10am our time.

LA started 4 lefties against Richard, another oddity because Richard is left-handed. Typically teams don't stack their lineups with lefties when facing a lefty. Then again, the Dodgers started SIX lefties last night against Edinson Volquez, so maybe it's not that unusual for them.

Wednesday's game did not start well. Eight pitches in the Dodgers led 2-0, the big blow being Elian Herrera's double, also his first major-league hit. Richard got out of it, and Chase Headley's HR in the home half brought San Diego back within one.

It may have also relaxed Richard. After giving up 2 hits in 5 pitches, he allowed 2 hits over the next six innings. Clayton didn't walk anyone for the first time since his 8 April start against LA, and his 6 K's matched his second-highest total in a game this season. Game Score: 67, second best to that 8 April game (72). Richard apparently loves both pitching against the Dodgers at Petco and pitching during the day.

On the other side, Dodger lefty Chris Capuano pitched pretty well himself. He allowed only one other hit besides the Headley HR, a hustle double by James Darnell. Darnell plays every game like it's his last. His aggressive approach paid off on this play; it wouldn't last night, as he sublexed his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch on Tony Gwynn Jr's line drive in the sixth.

If Capuano could have solved Headley he might have won this game. Chase followed his HR with a 10-pitch walk leading off the fourth. Headley came up with 2 on and 1 out in the sixth, saw seven more pitches, then lined a 2-run double up the gap in left-center to give the Padres the lead. Here's a cool statistic: At this point in the game Capuano had thrown 78 pitches, and Headley had seen 21 of them. Twenty-seven percent of Capuano's pitches had been thrown to Headley. Ridiculous.

Richard kept cruising. He gave up a 1-out double to Jerry Sands in the fourth, then retired the last 11 hitters he faced. Andrew Cashner came on and blew away the side in the eighth. Although Bobby Abreu broke the consecutive retired string at 15 with a 1-out single off Dale Thayer, Darnell made a spectacular diving catch to rob Andre Ethier, and James Loney fouled out to Headley to give the Padres a 4-2 win.

The only other weird things in this game were the two throwing errors by pitchers, one by each team. If one can throw the ball to the plate with precision at 90MPH, they should be able to toss it to first. Not so much. There'd be another pitcher throwing error in last night's game.

Between the games the Padres made a number of roster moves. Jason Bartlett was placed on the 15-day DL with a knee issue. Eric Stults was claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. The Padres called up Everth Cabrera (his first return to the majors since July 2011) and Alexi Amarista (acquired in the Ernesto Frieri deal). Both those players started last night.

By far, the biggest news was Orlando Hudson's unconditional release. Initially I thought this was just a fancy way of saying 'Designated for Assignment', but that's not true. If a player is DFA'd, the club places him on waivers for 10 days, during which time any other club can claim him; then the two clubs have ~10 days to work out a deal. If the player clears waivers, he can be sent to the minors or given his release.

When the guy is given his unconditional release, he just leaves. That's it - see ya.

I was a little bit surprised by that. O-Dog still has some value at the major league level. Yes he's 34, and he's hitting .211, but he's still a veteran guy who was a 2-time All-Star and a 4-time Gold Glove winner. Some team out there will give him another chance (hello, San Francisco?), wouldn't they? Couldn't a trade have been worked out once he was on the waiver wire?

Is the team better without him? Well they can't be much worse. Hudson struggled this year, and he struggled last year, at the plate. His defense is what it is, and this year by UZR/150 (-3.3) it's as mediocre as it was last year (-3.5), granted in about 1/4 the innings. I guess from that perspective why not let the kids play.

It's also worth noting Hudson isn't the sole reason San Diego has started 13-24. Carlos Quentin hasn't yet taken the field for a Major League game in 2012. Cory Luebke may need season ending surgery. There are 10 other Padres who have done time on the DL (not including Darnell, who may go there today). In some ways, though, Hudson and Bartlett became the most visible examples of what this team is lacking - sometimes sloppy defense and a lot of futility at the plate. One wonders how much time Bartlett has left on the roster.


Last night's game was no contest. The Dodgers walloped San Diego 8-1. If it weren't for Don Mattingly's decision to bring Todd Coffey in for the ninth inning - against whom the league was hitting .474 before the game - it would have been a shutout. More random-ness from last night:

- Volquez got squeezed right out of the gate. His first pitch to Dee Gordon may have been a strike, but his second one was definitely a strike. Nope, both called balls. Volquez struggled to get ahead of hitters the rest of the game.

- Was it my imagination or was Volquez throwing a lot of off-speed stuff early in the count? Seems his previous starts he's featured his 94-95 MPH fastball and worked off that. Last night he seemed to reverse that pattern. I thought initially he might be injured, but there was nothing wrong with his velocity so it must have been the game plan they tried to execute. Ted Barrett having a phone book for a strike zone didn't help.

- Bobby Abreu takes FOR-EVER to get into the box. Then, he steps out after every pitch to collect himself. No wonder games at the ML level last around 3 hours.

- Abreu's triple in the first was smoked. I thought Cameron Maybin took a good angle to the ball, it was just hit so hard it skipped past him. Stuff happens.

- It took 16 pitches last night for the Padres to fall behind 2-0. I guess that's an improvement over Wednesday.

- As good as Richard was on Wednesday, that's how good Aaron Harang was last night. He scattered 4 hits, two of those doubles off John Baker's bat. Harang also struck out 6 and didn't walk anyone. True to form, he allowed a lot of fly balls; San Diego hit 10 balls in the air (9 outs), but it didn't matter.

- Amarista made a very heads-up play to end the second inning. Mark Ellis' ground ball up the middle was hit such that Amarista had no play at first; so instead, and knowing that Gwynn Jr is aggressive, he threw behind the runner to third. Result - 4-5-2-5-3-4 putout that ended the inning. Nicely done.

- Maybin should have Ethier's fly ball in the fifth. There's no other way to say it. I bet if you asked him, he'd say he should catch that ball 100 times out of 100. Yes, it was hit hard; but Maybin was there.

- Darnell sold out trying to catch the Gwynn line drive. Unfortunately he was already moving downward when the ball glanced off his glove and he didn't have time to brace himself. I love the way this kid plays, but the risk of injury is always great with that style. Hopefully his DL stint isn't too long.

- Is it me or does Andy Parrino strike out a lot?  Eighteen K's in 77 PA (24%) seems like a lot.

- Alex Hinshaw had a bad-luck seventh. Cabrera couldn't corral Ethier's hard ground ball up the middle. Adam Kennedy rolled the ball down the third-base line, which was perfect since Headley was swung over into the hole. Harang hit a soft ground ball about 25 feet into no-man's land that went for a hit. Only Loney's single to right was well struck. Hinshaw ended up giving up 2 runs in the frame. Sometimes it's not your night.

- Memo to Mr. Amarista: For the Love of God, PLEASE pick a different walk-up tune. I'd rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard or someone dragging a cat across a washboard than be subjected to Jorge Cantu's theme music again on a recurring basis.

- Surprised Scott Van Slyke uses batting gloves. His dad never did.

- Harang managed to strike out on a foul bunt twice in last night's game. Baseball Reference doesn't let one search for foul bunt strike three's, or if they do I'm not smart enough to figure out how to write the search. I can't imagine there's been a lot of players who've struck out twice in the same game on a foul bunt. Maybe that minutae is only interesting to me.

Interleague starts tonight with the Angels from the Greater Los Angeles Basin. Signs indicate Albert Pujols is heating up, just in time for the Padres. Oh goody.

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