Yesterday, these were no wholesale changes on the Dodgers’ roster. Who the hell predicted that anyway? What a moron! No names will be mentioned to protect the guilty. Never speak of this again!
The first game of the doubleheader allowed the Dodger bats to break out against the Giants with 15 runs, as the Dodgers won 15-6. The Giants came back and won game 2 by a 8-3 score, even though they only had 2 extra base hits! Alex Wood was charged with 4 earned runs, but he wasn’t hit hard. The same was true with Daniel Hudson. Both pitched well enough to win, but “seeing-eye” bleeders did them in.
Wood was mowing them down and then a walk, a couple of bleeders, a double and he gave up 4 runs. Hudson had 2 outs with a runner on 1B and walked two batters: Bang – Double! Chargois gave up 1 hit to the first batter he faced and then got them out of the inning, but the damage was done. It happens – nothing to do but move on. It’s like that some days. Right about now, the bullpen is a mess and two former Dodgers (namely Morrow and Watson) are doing very well. Of course, if the Dodgers had signed Morrow and Watson and/or a few others, the pen would not be in the disarray it currently is, and if I had known what Apple was going to do, I would have quadrupled down on the amount of stock I bought 15 years ago. Hindsight is 20/10.
Let’s not forget why the Dodgers did not re-sign Morrow and Watson:
- Morrows’ injury history and Watson’s trending downward the past couple of years;
- They wanted to get under the salary cap; and
- “Buying” a bullpen is seldom the path to success.
Brandon Morrow has the stuff to keep up his great pitching, but Watson doesn’t. The only question is health with Morrow. He’s a great guy and I hope he stays healthy, but his history says not. The best bullpens have generally been built from within or with trades made that didn’t look so hot at the time. I said it when they signed Kenley: I would not have signed him for that amount of money! Last year, that conclusion looked pretty bad, but the Dodgers have him signed for this year and three more. Hopefully, he gets his problems worked out, but bullpen pieces are pretty fickle: Great one year. Horrid the next!
The Dodger starters are 5th in baseball in ERA and 3rd in WHIP. That’s pretty stinkin’ good for as bad as things have been. As bad as the pen has been, it is only 19th in baseball in ERA and WHIP. The fact of the matter is that the bullpen is a couple of good outings away from moving up 10 notches! Some of you only see the negative: as bad as Daniel Hudson’s line looked, I saw a lot of positives from the way he pitches. Let’s look at some of the other bullpen pieces:
- Tony Cingrani has struck out 17 batters in 9.2 innings with just 1 walk. He had one bad outing – I think he will be fine if his dead arm wakes up!
- Ross Stripling has been extremely effective with 16 strikeouts in 14 innings and a 0.63 ERA.
- JT Chargois has 13 K’s in 9 innings with a 1.93 ERA.
- Kenley Jansen, El Gasolino Baez, Scott Alexander and Wilmer Font have been horrid. Font is gone. Alexander is in the minors working on his control and who knows what is the deal with Baez and Jansen?
Here’s the good part: The Dodgers have the pieces to pick up a closer AND set-up man by the trade deadline, but Kenta Maeda is going to have to go to the pen. Could Dennis Santana or Mitch White step into the pen? They have the stuff, but what about the mental makeup? Striker Buehler is a keeper – he has to be in the rotation and I see him pitching 150 innings for the Dodgers. He allows Maeda to go to the pen.
The Dodgers have to think about what they do if Kenley doesn’t bounce back. What would it take to pry Rasiel Iglesias from the Reds? The Pirates will fall out of contention – is it possible to trade for Felipe Vasquez? There are others out there as well – some who are not even established as closers.
The Dodgers have not spent a lot of money on the bullpen… and it has worked! Spending money for expensive free agents and bullpen pieces is seldom the path to success – frequently the path to failure! The Cubs traded for Chapman, Quintana and signed Darvish (who has a 5.26 ERA). Their farm system is now ranked near the bottom. It does not appear their success is sustainable. I like sustainability and yes, it would be nice to win a World Series. FAZ has shown they know how to build a bullpen. They are still building. Kohler may be back. Don’t forget about Urias later this season. Then, there is Brock Stewart, whom I believe is a high-leverage reliever. There are lots of pieces in the minors – sometimes you have to trust the kids! They aren’t done! Watch and see!
- OK, they did call up Alex Verdugo and sent Scott Alexander to OKC to see if he can figure out the strike zone. I have watched Alex a few times on MiLB.TV this year, but seeing him in high def really emphasizes the “body makeover” he has undergone. By cutting out junk food, eating healthy and working out, he is obviously a “lean, mean, baseball machine.” He also showed a lot of base-running savvy in the 5th inning. While not a basestealer, he’s a guy who can put up a .400+ OB%. He may look good at the top of the order. He got two hits and a walk last night. I can see him staying. I can also see a trade looming…
- Now we might know why Doc has kept running Joc Pederson out there. His OPS is up to .812!
- Corey Seager looked far from injured – in fact he looked awesome! He had zip on his throws.
Dodger Chatter: Good Call Dionysis
Recently we have been down a bit on Quakes shortstop Gavin Lux. He certainly fell short of our expectations during the 2017 season and had a slow start in the California League during the present campaign.
Lux was the Dodgers first overall selection in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Indian Trail High School and Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Drafted, 20th overall, he was the first shortstop taken in that draft.
He had a relatively good, but not spectacular, first year as a professional in 2016 with a combined triple slash of .296/.375/.399 between the Arizona League Dodgers and Ogden Raptors playing all 51 games at shortstop.
As a 19-year-old he advanced to the Great Lakes Loons for the 2017 season and experienced some growing pains offensively and defensively. At the plate he slashed .244/.331/.362 and made a combined 24 errors playing 43 games at second base and 65 as a shortstop.
Lux’s Class-A season with the Loons was a definite disappointment for him and perhaps unexpected by those who have been following his minor league progress.
There are two ways to deal with baseball adversity. One is to accept that the game can be a bit cruel and unforgiving while the other is to see that as a challenge rather than a defeat.
Lux chose the latter and worked to come into the present season more prepared to play the game at a higher level personally and at the Advanced-A level to begin the season.
First he tackled his defensive woes at the fall instructional league.
“Our infield coordinator, Shaun Larkin, and a bunch of others in the organization helped me a ton – standing on my legs, fundamental stuff, finishing throws,” he said. “I played pretty tall last year. I didn’t really stand on my legs and I was kind of guiding my throws. The whole offseason, I worked on finishing my throws with my wrist.”
Secondly, he did his off season due diligence with the goal of getting faster and stronger and he seems to have accomplished both goals.
“[Over the] offseason, I got faster. For me, that’s a big part of my game,” he said. “If I’m on-base, I want to put pressure on the defense, or if I’m hitting a soft ground ball or bunting for a hit, that can only help your game. It’s another tool to help your team win and it’s something I plan on implementing.”
Dodgers director of player development Brandon Gomes told MiLB.com that the youngster has become “much more physical,” in part because of an off season weightlifting routine. Lux wasn’t so much concerned about getting bigger but more so to stay healthy and work on leg strength and explosiveness.
Lux acknowledges his struggles but has now taken adversity in stride and is gaining a better understanding of himself as a player and the demands of the game.
“My first [full] year, I was still learning what kind of player I am. And I’m still learning — I don’t think I really have a great idea yet,” the Dodgers’ 2016 first-round pick recently said.
He began the 2018 season with the Quakes by going 1- 20 in his first five games with eight strikeouts and one walk. Since then he had hit successfully in 14 of 16 games with six-multihit games, four of them with three hits each.
He is currently hitting .305 with a .414 OBP from the lead off spot. He has 12 runs batted in and 15 walks while striking out 17 times.
Lux recently had a five-RBI night and hit his first home run of the season as a result of taking what the game gives him. He knew exactly what he was looking for when he stepped into the batter’s box.
“They were kind of pounding me in all night,” the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native said. “Going up there, I was just thinking about cheating to a first-pitch fastball in and I got it. It was just sticking to the plan and approach, and it paid off.”
Lux attributes his recent surge at the plate to being consistent in his approach at the plate and with a couple of adjustments hitting coach Justin Viele has helped him with.
“Just pretty much staying consistent and trying to be the same person every night,” he said.
Dionysis has been in Lux’s corner since the season began. He has suggested that Lux might be compared to the Giants shortstop, Brandon Crawford. Both players hit left and throw right. Both are 6’2” with Crawford being 25 pounds heavier while Lux will play the entire 2018 season as a 20-year-old so is still filling out his body.
Crawford had his own struggles in minor league ball before settling in with the Giants for good in 2012. With his bat speed and control of the strike zone Lux too has the potential to hit double digit home runs but also has a base stealing potential that Crawford does not have.
Gavin Lux seems to have a baseball mentality, as does Brandon Crawford, and a sense that perhaps most of his minor league followers were not aware of.
“I think I control strike the zone well. I think I get on base pretty well, and when I do I want to run. I have a good feel for hitting, but I’m not trying to hit home runs or anything like that. The power will come if it comes, but I’m more concentrating on trying to be a good hitter. I’m trying to barrel baseballs — that’s what I’m focused on.”
Unlike Crawford he may well end up playing a stellar second base.
Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers