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Brandon League Gives Up Alcohol, Feels Great, Ready For 2015

Could giving up alcohol help Brandon League have a monster season?  Photo Source: Dodgers.com.

Could giving up alcohol help Brandon League have a monster season?
Photo Source: Dodgers.com.

In an interview Monday morning with J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group, Brandon League announced that he has given up drinking alcohol.

League said, “I was enjoying myself more than I should’ve been.”

League, 31, has been in the major leagues for 11 seasons now and has spent the last 3 seasons with the Dodgers after being acquired via trade from the Mariners.

While League has went through seasons of both success and failure, he felt that he needed to make a change in his life for the better. The right-hander who said that he has never had a problem with alcohol said that he feels much more energized now that he is no longer drinking and is also 20 pounds lighter entering 2015.

Since August of 2014 when he stopped drinking cold turkey, League has not had a drop of alcohol. By September, his energy level had greatly increased. The positive results from League’s life choices also translated to on-field success at the end of last season. In his final 9 regular-season appearances, League did not allow an earned run and had a 7/2 K/BB ratio.

With relievers like Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright and Chris Perez no longer a part of the organization and closer Kenley Jansen on the shelf for the first month of the season due to injury, League is expected to help shoulder the load with veterans like Joel Peralta, Chris Hatcher, Juan Nicasio, Dustin McGowan and J.P. Howell.

Alex Guerrero Wants To Help In The Majors, Not Play In Minors

Alex Guerrero is determined to make it and stay in the majors in 2015 and beyond.  Photo Source: MLB.com.

Alex Guerrero is determined to make it and stay in the majors in 2015 and beyond.
Photo Source: MLB.com.

In an interview Sunday morning with Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Alex Guerrero stated he has no intention of returning to the minor leagues.

Guerrero said, “I don’t want to go down. I’m not going down. I feel like I can get better here at this level and play every day. I think that’s what every player wants. You want to be in the Major Leagues and play as much as you can.”

Guerrero, 28, signed a 4-year, $28 million contract with the Dodgers last offseason after playing shortstop in Cuba. His contract included a clause that stated that he can not be optioned to the minors without his permission after his first season. Once signed, the team had tentatively penciled him in as the starting second baseman for the 2014 campaign.

Unfortunately for both Guerrero and the franchise, he suffered a hamstring injury while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and did not get enough reps. The team then asked fellow shortstop Dee Gordon to move to second base as insurance and to compete with Guerrero for the job. Gordon ended up winning the position with Guerrero spending the majority of 2014 in the minors. In 77 games in the minors, Guerrero hit .333 with 19 doubles, 6 triples, 17 home runs, 57 RBIs and 47 runs scored while playing at second base, shortstop, third base and left field.

Guerrero is expected to compete with fellow infielders Justin Turner, Darwin Barney, Enrique Hernandez and Erisbel Arruebarrena for 1 of the 2 projected back-up infield spots on the bench.

Manager Don Mattingly said that he expects Guerrero to see time at second base, third base and outfield this spring. He is confident that Guerrero is going to help this team in 2015. Mattingly quote, “This year is going to be a big year for him.”

Dodgers Sign Reliever Mike Adams To A Minor League Contract

The Dodgers have decided to add reliever Mike Adams to the mix.  Photo Source: CBS Philly.

The Dodgers have decided to add reliever Mike Adams to the mix. Photo Source: CBS Philly.

According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the team has signed right-handed reliever Mike Adams to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

The Dodgers have certainly been busy this week with the additions of right-handed starting pitcher Brandon Beachy, right-handed reliever Dustin McGowan, right-handed reliever Chad Gaudin and outfielder Travis Witherspoon. Now they have made another one.

Adams, 36, is a 10-year veteran who has spent time with the Brewers, Padres, Rangers and Phillies during his career. He was considered an elite level reliever from 2008 to 2012 but he has an extensive injury history.

J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group broke down his injury history this morning. Adams has had labrum and rotator cuff surgery in October 2008, inguinal hernia surgery in January 2012, thoracic outlet surgery in October 2012, labrum and rotator cuff surgery in July 2013, and sports hernia surgery in December 2013. He also spent most of this past season recovering from a frayed labrum.

Adams has a career ERA of 2.41, a 1.09 WHIP and a 409/126 K/BB ratio in 407.1 innings. When healthy he is a valuable piece to any team’s bullpen but as recent history as shown he has struggled greatly with that.

He will wear No. 0, positioning him to become the second active Major Leaguer to wear that number for the Dodgers, after outfielder Al Oliver in 1985.

Dodgers-LowDown Live VodCast February 27th, 2015 9:30 PM PST

Eric Becker and Ernie Villa broadcast live from San Dimas, California on Friday, February 27th, 2015 at 9:30 p.m.  You can watch the live stream and the replay here.  To speak to the hosts or to leave a voicemail with your thoughts, call in at (626)-578-5737!

 

Bigger Role for Justin Turner?

This off season the Dodgers inked a new deal with third baseman Justin Turner for 1 year and $2.5 million.  Now could the 31 year old veteran be expecting a bigger role?

Turner definitely made a case for a bigger role when he hit a .340 average last year.  Add that in his consistent defense, and the Dodgers may have a potential starter on their hands.

One possible job Turner could be competing for the is third baseman job against Juan Uribe, another aging infielder on the Dodgers roster. Last year Uribe hit for a great .311 average which is something to take notice of as well. The trouble with comparing these two averages is that Uribe had about 1oo more at bats than Turner did.

After not being tendered a contract by his previous team, the New York Mets, Justin Turner lit Los Angeles on fire, hitting .340 in 288 bats in a part-time role during the 2014 season.  Perhaps no game was bigger than Turner's two home run night against Madison Bumgarner in September.

After not being tendered a contract by his previous team, the New York Mets, Justin Turner lit Los Angeles on fire, hitting .340 in 288 bats in a part-time role during the 2014 season. Perhaps no game was bigger than Turner’s two home run night against Madison Bumgarner in September.

A big difference between these two players is that Uribe had a lot of trouble with injuries this past year as he was battling a hamstring injury. The aging veteran had to deal with staying healthy all of last year, which will definitely give a huge advantage to Turner. If Turner can stay healthy throughout the course of the season then the spot may be his to take.

In a recent media session with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, he indicated that Turner may be receiving many more at bats than he did last year. It’s evident that Mattingly is pretty high on Turner, but that of course doesn’t secure him the starting spot.

Mattingly also said that at this point Turner would not not be a guy that they would use everyday, but he definitely isn’t afraid to use Turner when they feel that they need to. Even if Turner isn’t starting at third base in certain games you could expect him to be used as a pinch-hitter if they needed one.

Another quality that works to Turner’s benefit is that he is a very versatile player who could play multiple positions in the infield. He has played second base at times, and the Dodgers may plan to use him at another position in the infield.  In fact, Turner started multiple games at all four infield positions last year.

The Dodgers have an infield of veterans who are getting up there in age. This off season they picked up veteran infielders Howie Kendrick (31) and Jimmy Rollins (36). If injuries were to plague our infield then Turner would definitely be considered as a potential player to fill the need for the certain position.

Frankly, with the consistent offense and defense that we saw from him last year it would be hard to say that Justin Turner doesn’t deserve a bigger role with the Dodgers. He had one of the highest averages on the team which is impressive even given the lower number of at bats that he had compared to the regular starters.

Even if Justin Turner does not turn out to be a starter for the Dodgers, he can still consistently hit the ball and he’s shown that he is capable of taking on much more responsibility with the team.

Andre Ethier: Right Place. Wrong Time.

Can someone be at the right place at the wrong time?

As strange as that phrase may sound it is possible.  Just ask Andre Ethier. The disgruntled Dodgers outfielder has not shied away from his discontent the last couple of years as his playing time has gradually diminished. Ethier has recently started to express his frustration.

“I want the opportunity to play every day. My mind hasn’t changed from when I told you guys that a couple of months ago” Ethier said. “I feel like when I get a chance to play every day, I put up the numbers they ask of me. For some strange reason, it just happened that coming off a good 2012 season, in 2013 they took games away. You start to wonder why that happened. I feel like if I get a good full year in and get the at-bats, it starts to add up. It’s tough when you get 300 at-bats and you’re expected to hit 15 or 20 home runs.”

In an attempt to rebut Ethier’s comments let’s state the obvious.

Every major leaguer wants to play every day, but the truth is that not every major leaguer is good enough to play every day. Dodgers fans know that Ethier can’t hit left-handed pitching. Since 2007 Ethier has always hit under .300 against southpaws and even during his All Star years of 2010 and 2011 his average versus lefties has been slightly above the unsatisfactory Mendoza line of .200.

Ethier has had the opportunity to be an everyday player since his arrival to Los Angeles. Has he made the most of it? Have his numbers improved?  Ever since 2006 when he averaged .351, his batting average versus lefties has dropped. In 2007 he hit .279, in 2008 it dropped to .243, and in 2009 he went all the way to .194.  There’s improvement in 2010 when he hit .233, but then in 2011 he hit .220 and from 2012-2014 there has not been a significant change change.

In case Ethier is still wondering why games have been taken away since 2013, in the words of Andrew Friedman, “information is king.”

The numbers don’t lie.  Even when the opportunity has been there the improvement has not been evident.

Just imagine, it’s late in the game.  The Dodgers, trailing by a run or two, start to rally with runners in scoring position, two outs, and Ethier comes up to the plate.

If he’s not facing a lefty at this point, the opposing manager will bring in a lefty. I think we all know how this scenario ends.

Besides all the issues with hitting lefties, as an outfielder there is much to be desired.  To this fan’s eye, Ethier displays below average fielding and below average speed.

Andre has had good moments as a Dodger but it seems like his days in Dodgers blue are numbered. As a member of a team with incredible talent up and down the roster, unfortunately stats and performance get magnified, and the weakest link will be exposed.

Whether Ethier ends up in Arizona, Baltimore or Boston, as rumors have placed him with those teams at varying points this off season and in the past, moving Andre Ethier will be one of the better moves the Dodgers can make right now.  Dodger Stadium is the best place to play baseball in the Major Leagues, but unfortunately it has become the wrong time for Mr. Ethier to continue being a Dodger.

The Dodgers’ New Regime & “What’s His Face” To Power 2015 Bullpen

Intro

“The Dodgers didn’t do enough to improve their bullpen this Offseason.” I keep hearing this and similar statements being thrown around all over the baseball media, radio, Twitter, and Dodgers blogs and fan pages. And they all have one thing in common-they’re all wrong.

To explain why, we must first take a little detour into two or three other franchises. Just two seasons ago, the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics had the third and fourth lowest payrolls in all of major league baseball, spending $60.6 million and $57.8 million, more than only the Astros and Marlins.

Rays and A’s

But despite their traditionally low payrolls, they have both been legitimate contenders in recent years. Tampa Bay made the post season in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2013, and Oakland made it in each of the last three seasons -2012, 2013, and 2014. While starting pitchers log the majority of innings for every staff and are widely regarded as the key to any team’s overall pitching success, the bullpen has become signifanctly more crucial in recent years. These two franchises have had very effective pitching from top to bottom, especially over the last few years. In 2012, The Rays and A’s led the American League in ERA at 3.19 and 3.4, and in 2013 and 2014 they ranked fifth and second, respectively.

After the Moneyball Revolution, Billy Beane and the A’s philosophies to winning long-term while spending sparingly on their roster became the best unkept secret in the baseball world. While Tampa Bay and Oakland have different processes and leadership, no other organization in baseball has been as consistent at winning ballgames in such small markets.

Billy Beane’s approach to “Moneyball” inspired a hit movie and has also inspired a lot of baseball executives to take deeper looks into statistical analysis when assembling and evaluating their teams.

Two of the great business and baseball minds behind their success were Andrew Friedman, who served as the General Manager of the Rays, and Farhan Zaidi, who was the A’s Director of Baseball Operations.

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' new President of Baseball Operations, observes spring training drills at Camelback Ranch on February 20th, 2015.  Photo courtesy of @DaaDozer

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new President of Baseball Operations, observes spring training drills at Camelback Ranch on February 20th, 2015. Photo courtesy of @DaaDozer

Last season, Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports profiled Zaidi’s background, talent and specific skill sets: “He studied economics from MIT and got his PhD in economics from Cal Berkeley; someone with some sense is going to make him their team’s general manager very soon.”  Posananski was right.

The Dodgers improved their overall franchise and in turn their bullpen this offseason before acquiring any players, when they plucked both of these guys from their small market franchises-hiring Friedman as the new President of Baseball Operations, and Zaidi as the new General Manager; marking 2015 as the first season under the new regime in L.A.

Dodgers GM Zaidi Farhan

Dodgers GM Zaidi Farhan takes to Twitter to answer fan questions, but more often uses his laptop to analyze player statistics and build competitive Major League Baseball teams.

Trends and Philosophy

Friedman and Zaidi have a unique philosophy when it comes to constructing a strong pitching staff and bullpen. One of these methods is known as “buying low.” In practice, this means signing pitchers who are coming off a less impressive year, but also possess the potential to have a strong bounce-back season and are willing to agree to a short-term, cost effective deal, while having a lot to prove.  Another trend is “depth,” which has been described by Friedman as having a high amount of arms with multiple options, and a diverse and dynamic slew of pitchers. Instead of “quality over quantity,” this signifies a different method: quality from quantity.

Philosophy In Action-Rays and A’s

While Friedman was pulling the strings in Tampa, he seemed to continuously strike lightning in a bottle with bullpen arms. Take Australian reliever Grant Balfour as an example. After having little to no success and struggling to hold a major league spot for the Twins and Brewers between 2001-2007, Balfour was eventually designated for assignment by Milwaukee. Friedman then traded for the 30-year old Balfour in exchange for pitcher Seth McClung in July of 2007.  In 2008, Balfour had a breakout season in his first full year with the Rays, posting a 1.54 ERA in 58 innings. He quickly became one of the top veteran relievers in baseball and became an All-Star in 2013, with Zaidi’s A’s.

Grant Balfour closing out a game for the Oakland Athletics.  Source: Getty Images

Grant Balfour closing out a game for the Oakland Athletics. Source: Getty Images

How about current Dodgers lefty J.P. Howell? Drafted in the first round by the Royals in 2004, Howell began his career as a starting pitcher, but had little success. In 2005, he went 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA in 72 innings. In 2006, Friedman acquired Howell via trade for infielder Fernando Cortez and outfielder Joey Gathright. Two years later, the Rays moved him to the bullpen where he flourished, going 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA while striking out 94 batters in 64 games.

Howell’s case is different than Balfour in that his breakout season came at the age of 25, but it displays that Friedman’s Rays also thrived in their development of younger pitchers. Friedman and Howell are now reunited with the Dodgers, along with recently acquired righty Joel Peralta, who also had success pitching in Tampa Bay.

Under Zaidi and Beane in Oakland, similar trends occurred with solid bullpen players who seemingly came out of nowhere. Dan Otero didn’t break into the majors until the age of 27, when he threw only 12 innings for the Giants and got hit hard with a 5.84 era. Zaidi picked him up, and the next season he posted an impressive 1.38 ERA in 2013 for Oakland, followed up by a 2.30 ERA campaign in 2014 with a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Another current A’s reliever, lefty Fernando Abad, was originally signed by the Astros in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic. In three seasons with Houston, Abad struggled, going 1–11 with a 5.10 ERA in 88 games while striking out just 65 in just over 84 innings.  After signing a minor league contract with the Nationals and getting DFA’d, Abad was acquired by Zaidi and Beane for minor league outfielder John Wooten.  Last season for Oakland, Abad posted an exemplary 1.58 ERA in 57 innings, while striking out 51 and walking only 15 batters.

These four relievers are just a few of many that Friedman and Zaidi had a hand in discovering, acquiring, and building into effective, every-day major league pitchers. Further, not only were these ‘pen arms effective, they were also extremely cost efficient.

During his breakout season in 2008, Grant Balfour only earned $500,000, and J.P Howell made less than $400,000, as the two relievers made a World Series run with Friedman’s Rays.  For Oakland, Dan Otero made just over $502,000 in 2014, and Fernando Abad made just under $526,000.  While the average relief pitcher makes nowhere close to what most starting pitchers earn, these are all very affordable deals for high quality relief pitching.

Before becoming a key part of the Dodger bullpen, J.P. Howell helped the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series in 2009.  Image source: zimbio.com

Before becoming a key part of the Dodger bullpen, J.P. Howell helped the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series in 2009. Image source: zimbio.com

The 2014 Dodgers Bullpen

One year ago today, the Dodgers believed they had their own star-studded bullpen which was being touted pre-season as one of the best in baseball. L.A. had standout closer Kenley Jansen in the prime of his career along with three other former All-Star closers all on one staff-Brandon League, Chris Perez, and Brian Wilson.

The 2014 Dodgers bullpen, much like the starting lineup, was largely a group of players with recognizable names, big recognizable contracts, and pitchers who were just a year or two (or three) removed from All-Star status. But by September, only two of these four were solid contributors. Wilson and Perez were liabilities on the mound, to the payroll, and were ultimately complete busts. Wilson made $10 million, while posting a bloated ERA of 4.66, giving up 25 earned runs and 49 hits in just 48 innings.  Perez was paid $2.3 million, finishing his poor performance with a 4.27 ERA, striking out just 39 while walking 25 batters in only 46 innings.

Jansen and League were effective down the stretch, but many still questioned the consistency of League in the set up role. League had a nice ERA of 2.57 and logged over 67 innings, but his 27 walks to 38 strikeouts got him into a lot of tough jams, causing Dodgers coaches and fans many anxiety-ridden late-game situations down the stretch.

Kenley Jansen has been a key part of the Dodger bullpen, but bridging the gap between the starting rotation and the 9th inning has been a problem for the Dodgers.

Kenley Jansen has been a key part of the Dodger bullpen, but bridging the gap between the starting rotation and the 9th inning has been a problem for the Dodgers.

Royals vs. Dodgers

Baseball writers and analysts love to use the 2014 Kansas City Royals‘ bullpen as a prime example of a deadly arsenal of under-the-radar type pitchers who were assembled to eventually become a unified, dominant force. During their World Series run, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland became known as the “three-headed monster,” blowing away opposing hitters at the end of games, which completely altered the outlook of their pitching attack, and helped to catapult their squad to becoming American League champs.

But the Kansas City “three-headed monster” was somewhat of a “What’s His Face” crew considering how far they had to come to become relief royalty. While Greg Holland was a reigning All-Star closer, Kelvin Herrera was just a fire-baller with a 3.86 ERA who had control issues in 2013.  And Wade Davis, a converted set-up man, was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball in 2013, going 8-11 with a 5.32 ERA.

Wade Davis was an unsuccessful starter before finding his niche as a reliever for the Kansas City Royals in their 2014 American League Championship season.

Wade Davis was an unsuccessful starter before finding his niche as a reliever for the Kansas City Royals in their 2014 American League Championship season.

In retrospect, not knowing what we know now, if it was the winter of 2013 and you had to start your 2014 fantasy baseball team with a bullpen of Jansen, League, Perez and Wilson, or Herrera, Davis, Holland and Aaron Crow, I would bet most of you would’ve chosen the Dodgers squad. I know I would have.

I don’t fault former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti one bit for the moves he made the last few years. The new ownership group basically handed him a blank check, so he went out and snagged the best baseball talent he could find and threw them together on one roster. L.A. came close to reaching the Fall Classic a few times, but it wasn’t quite enough.

After watching the Dodgers bullpen get blasted again in the 2014 postseason by the St. Louis Cardinals, having strong reservations about the 2015 squad is understandable. But the lesson we can learn from the Royals and even the World Series champion Giants (ouch! ouch..I know..) is that often times, the best bullpens in baseball are ones that appear to be make-shift on paper, or a bunch of “What’s His Face” guys at season’s start. We also learned from the Colletti era that a bunch of big names and big contracts doesn’t necessarily equal big wins in big games in October.

The Dodgers Now

So, here we are again, pitchers and catchers getting in their first workouts at Camelback Ranch for Spring Training in late February. And once again, Friedman and Zaidi look at a long depth chart of relief pitchers that altogether have been awarded very few all star appearances or big contracts. But this is not the Rays and this is not the A’s, this the Dodgers. In their past respective franchises, Friedman and Zaidi had no choice but to gamble on a few of these “What’s His Face” relief pitchers, knowing they could not afford to sign relievers to long term, big contracts. So, how will the 2015 Dodgers bullpen be different? And how will they be better?

“Depth and flexibility.” We keep coming back to these terms being tossed around daily by the new Dodgers front office. Some fans and writers have a solid grasp on the concept and believe that it works, while many others are skeptical. But what does “depth and flexibility” really mean for this crew?

With the limitations of small budgets gone, Friedman and Zaidi are now stockpiling as many low-risk, high reward arms as possible, like two kids in a candy shop who just got paid their allowance. A $261.6 million allowance. Now they have the freedom and resources to sign several pitchers with no reservations; pitchers who have been previously released, traded, or unsigned, now playing with a huge chip on their shoulders.

The foot injury to incumbent Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is going to sideline him for approximately 2-3 months. This would seemingly be a major blow to what was an already fragile bullpen last season. But this group is deeper, and ready to step in.

Just as they did with Balfour, Howell, Otero and Abad, Friedman and Zaidi are looking once again to catch a few strikes (or strike-throwers) of lightning in a bottle. Projecting that Howell, League and Chris Hatcher have productive seasons again and Jansen recovers smoothly from his foot injury, they would seemingly need a just few more solid and consistent arms to fill out the ‘pen in 2015.

Chris Hatcher, seen here at Camelback Ranch on February 20th, 2015, may be a significant piece at the back end of the Dodger bullpen this season.

Chris Hatcher, seen here at Camelback Ranch on February 20th, 2015, may be a significant piece at the back end of the Dodger bullpen this season.

Most MLB bullpens have about seven or so relievers on their 25-man rosters, and the the Dodgers can count up to at least a whopping 21 possible bullpen arm options in their current system going into 2015 spring training:

Returners:  Brandon League, J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez, Paco Rodriguez, Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, Daniel Coloumbe

New guys: Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta, Juan Nicasio, Adam Liberatore, Mike Bolsinger

Non Roster Invitees: David Aardsma, Sergio Santos, David Huff, Erik Bedard, Ben Rowen, Ryan Buchter

DL: Kenley Jansen, Chris Withrow

For a full view of the Dodgers’ spring training roster, click here.

Yeah, I know, there are some names on this list that I didn’t recognize at first either. But the exciting part about stacking up so many guys is that any one of these “What’s His Face” guys could possibly emerge as a solid piece at some point this season. This is a diverse group of pitchers; they’ve got power arms such as Baez, Hatcher, Garcia, and the injured Withrow, finesse strike-throwers such as Peralta, Rodriguez, Howell and Bedard, and even a submariner in Ben Rowen. And this list doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the farm system pitchers, with six of the Dodgers top ten prospects being hurlers.

Fellow correspondent Ernie Villa of West Coast Bias Sports breaks down some of these bullpen options, specifically highlighting David Aardsma, Erik Bedard, David Huff, Sergio Santos, along with potential rookies Chris Anderson and Julio Urias.

Though the Dodgers have been linked to veteran relievers such as Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain this offseason, I hope they don’t sign any of these guys or any other additional multi-million dollar bullpen pitcher for that matter- because they simply don’t need them.

My 2015 Dodgers Bullpen

Here’s my pre-spring training preference configuration of what the Dodgers relief staff should look like on Opening Day:

Long Relief: By Committee

Middle Relief: (R)Brandon League, (L)J.P. Howell, (R)Chris Hatcher, (R)Joel Peralta, (L)Daniel Coulombe, (R)Yimi Garcia

Set-Up: By Committee

Closer: (R)Pedro Baez

Next Guy In: (R)David Aardsma

As mentioned earlier, despite losing in the playoffs, Brandon League, J.P. Howell, and Kenley Jansen had very nice seasons in 2014 and should slot back into their spots in the ‘pen this year. Chris Hatcher, acquired from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade, has a live fastball and posted a 3.38 ERA with an impressive 60 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 56 innings.

While veteran righty Joel Peralta struggled last season, he has remained consistent by tossing a substantial amount of innings each year and getting the ball over the plate, as he walked only 15 batters last season for the Rays.

The Dodgers seem to be high on young lefty Daniel Coulombe, who will battle with Paco Rodriguez as the second left-handed reliever in the bullpen behind J.P. Howell. I think that Rodriguez could struggle again as he did in 2014 and start the season in AAA, leaving Coulombe with an open spot to win this spring.

Paco Rodriguez shows off the 3/4 delivery at Camelback Ranch, February 20th, 2015

Paco Rodriguez could be the second left-handed arm out of the Dodger bullpen if he can regain his 2013 form, but will have to compete with another young lefty, Daniel Coulombe, for that spot.

I believe that 24-year old Dominican righty Yimi Garcia is due for a breakout rookie season, as he possesses great stuff and impressed Dodgers leadership last September, giving up only two earned runs in ten innings, while striking out nine batters and walking only one.

Eric Becker of West Coast Bias Sports makes the case for in-house candidate Pedro Baez as the next best option to fill the closer role while Jansen is out. I completely agree with Becker, as Baez showed promise last season and possesses electric stuff. Similarly to Kenley Jansen, Baez is also a converted position player, as he is still learning the intricacies of pitching at the major league level. With the right training and development, he could emerge as a supreme power arm for back end of the Dodgers bullpen this season.

Pedro Baez and his 96 mile an hour heat may get a chance to fill the closer role for the Dodgers to start the 2015 season.

Pedro Baez and his 96 mile an hour heat may get a chance to fill the closer role for the Dodgers to start the 2015 season.

Who will be the middle relievers and set-up man?

This group is my top choice now, but it will probably change 20 times or so over the course of the season. And thats okay. The beauty of having true depth in a pitching staff of 21 or more possible candidates is that it serves as a legitimate insurance plan for many of the aches and pains a bullpen will incur throughout a long season; such as injuries, inconsistency, or overall poor performance. Many have speculated that the lack of middle relief depth in the 2014 Dodgers staff ultimately led to their downfall in the postseason.

But this new assemblage is already deeper, more balanced, and hungrier. To get a pitching staff through an arduous 162 game season of over 1,458 innings, it takes a village. And this village is built to win.

 

Dodgers-LowDown Pictures and Video from Camelback Ranch, February 24th, 2015

Dodgers-LowDown was on-site at Camelback Ranch once again this morning and got some great footage of what’s going on at Spring Training.  Check out the latest gallery from @DaaDozer and see a little video footage that was shot live.

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Here’s some bonus footage of Clayton Kershaw working on his pickoff move to second base.

Dodger Fans in the Community: Hiccups Payaso’s Pizza Project

Something amazing happens on the final Sunday of each month.  Dodger fans from all walks of life come together, meet up with a clown, and do a good deed.  This past Sunday, well over 40 volunteers came together to pass out slices of pizza, bottles of water, bags of chips and bars of candy to roughly 300 homeless.

Hiccups Payaso, also known as The Dodger Clown, has been doing good deeds around Los Angeles for some time now, and his nearly 3 year old mission to feed the homeless brings more volunteers with each passing month.

We went to Skid Row today to see the realities of Los Angeles’s homeless population, discuss some of the programs and services available, and to see what Hiccups is doing.

If you would like to find out what you can do to help or how to get involved, you can contact me directly at beckerwcbias@gmail.com or find Hiccups Payaso on Facebook.

A Woman’s Take: Maria Barajas Looks at Andre Ethier’s Past, Present and Future

Let us take trip down memory lane.

It was the year 2006 when new GM Ned Colletti and manager Grady Little took over the squad. After that disastrous 2005 season, change was eminent and the Dodgers bid farewell to Paul DePodesta and Jim Tracy, for good.

Front and back office moves brought the Dodger organization hope for better seasons ahead.  Already stacked with veteran players in Nomar Garciaparra, J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, and old man Sandy Alomar, Jr., to name a few, it was time to bring in new talent.

Enter the “kids,” Andre Ethier, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, and Chad Billingsley. They brought excitement back into the hopeful crowds who day in and day out experienced their stellar performances. Not to mention, with this new, young, handsome talent came swooning ladies (and some men) adding to the fanbase a different flare of excitement about these new faces.

The kids got off to a great start, ending their rookie season with a playoff berth before, unfortunately, being swept swept by the Mets in the first round. Never the less, it was the beginning of what seemed like a promising future…

youngins

Fast forward to present times where only one of those “kids,” Andre Ethier, remains.

Where is the Andre Ethier of old?

I’ll tell you where he isn’t…starting. He’s been very public about not wanting to stay with the Dodger organization if he wasn’t going to be a starting outfielder.

This poses a problem, not only for him but for the organization alike. If Ethier stays, we’ve come full circle and are faced with the same troublesome situation we’ve been faced with for the past several years: TOO MANY OUTFIELDERS.  If we move him, we’ll have to eat up a better part of the $56 million owed to him.

There is no best case scenario here. Unfortunately for Ethier, he hasn’t done well enough for the organization to shop him around. Starting in less than ½ of the 2014 season and giving subpar performances when given the opportunity, not even the smallest of markets are showing any interest.

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In nine seasons he’s shown the fans what he is capable of accomplishing. It wasn’t always like this after all: Ethier was once an offensive threat, hitting 25 home runs for three consecutive years.  And Dodger fans won’t soon forget his 30 game hitting streak in 2011.

But despite his pastaccolades, the man formerly known as “Captain Clutch” is only a shadow of the player he was just five years ago.  Sure, every player is entitled to have the occasional bad season.  But with his steady decline over the past few years and no signs of improvement, the window of opportunity is closing.

The question must be asked: with 2 years and a big chunk of change left on his contract, will Andre Ethier regain his confidence and prove he’s worth the $85 million?

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What Ethier needs is consistency.  Given the current construction of the Dodgers’ roster, with Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, and Carl Crawford appearing to be set to anchor the outfield in 2015, it doesn’t look like he’s going to win that starting spot he so desires.  Perhaps if Ethier fully accepts that he is now best-suited for a utility veteran role, maybe he will once again be that secret weapon but this time off the bench.

At the same time I have to ask myself: who am I kidding? Everyone knows Ethier can’t hit off lefties.  He’s beginning to seem more like Captain Crutch than Captain Clutch.  A lot is working against Andre Ethier.

Still, the die-hard Dodger fan who has watched Ethier at the plate and in the outfield since 2006 has got to be pulling to see him reprise his former glory one more time.

To all the swooning ladies (myself included), don’t fret, nothing has happened yet, I know many of you are still sad about the Matt Kemp trade, and Andre Ethier is still a Dodger (for now).  With a new season on the horizon, we will wait with anticipation to see what happens.