Mike Carlucci, Brandon Lee, and AD turn a triple play with mini-reviews for LAD, SD, and Detroit:
First Half Dodgers: Why Do They Rock So Hard?
In April, the Dodgers were primed to take the NL West by storm. With a new president and general manager on board, Los Angeles really did look like the best team money could buy. As the second half of the season begins, that more or less happened. Entering Sunday July 19, the Dodgers stood at 52-40 with a 3.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants for pole position in the West. In short, the robot was right, the season has been a huge success. Mostly. There are some performances of note.
Yasmani Grandal, acquired from the Padres in the Matt Kemp trade has been a revelation behind the plate. After several seasons of limited production at catcher (sorry, A.J. Ellis), the Dodgers finally have another bat: .276/.395/.516 with 14 homers and 10 doubles. With Matt Kemp looking over his shoulder at a giant fork, this trade has been all Dodgers so far.
Joc Pederson has already hit 20 home runs and has a .231/.365/.481 line despite hitting just .194/.319/.347 since the middle of June. The rookie not only earned a spot in the Home Run Derby, he came in second while losing out to hometown Reds third baseman Todd Frazier.
Who saw Justin Turner putting up a .900 OPS over nearly four months? It looks like the gains he made in 2014 were real. There are players who break out at the end of their 20s after all.
One guy who has turned in an unexpected performance in the other direction: Yasiel Puig. While struggling with injuries that have limited him to just 45 games so far, Puig has collected just 4 home runs and 11 doubles to go along with an OPS just south of .800. Puig hit .319/.391/.534 in his rookie year and .296/.382/.480 last season and has dropped in all measures to .274/.358/.435 in 2015. He’s still just 24 years old and is adapting to a new country, new language, and new philosophy of playing baseball, but ties to off-field issues aren’t a positive, even if they don’t mean his performance will suffer.
On May 21 Clayton Kershaw had an ERA of 4.32. As of July 18 it stands at 2.68. He’s the best pitcher in baseball and ready to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Zack Greinke has decided that a contract year (well, opt out year) is a good time to put up shiny numbers, like a 1.39 ERA and a scoreless innings streak that sits at 43.2. With these two guys about to pitch twice in a seven-game series their opponents have to be worried. And the Dodgers can’t be counted out of the Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto sweepstakes.
Brett Anderson has tossed 108 innings, his most since 2010, and he’s looked good doing it: 3.17 ERA so far. But can he handle a full workload?
Baseball Prospectus 2015 said Mike Bolsinger might “have the makings of a back-end starter. That’s worth the risk of sending a little cash to Arizona to grab him.” When the Dodgers lost Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, they turned to the 27-year-old righty and he’s performed yeoman’s work in 14 starts. He’s pitched to a 3.04 ERA over 77 innings while striking out 71 and walking just 27.
Kenley Jansen missed the start of the season with a DL stint but he’s been up to his old tricks closing out 16 games, pitching 22.2 innings, and striking out 41.
Andrew Friedman is approaching his first trade deadline with the Dodgers and if we can learn anything from his time with the Rays, anything is possible. With a legitimately contending team, a pair of aces, and a solid offense, the front office can be flexible on needs and acquire whatever they think will help win a World Series. Starter? Bullpen? They can go full John Hammond and spare no expense. Just don’t expect top prospects to be included in any deal.
Padres Midseason Check-In
by Brandon Lee
Last December everyone wanted to talk about the Padres! They made TRADES! They acquired PLAYERS! Sure, people had doubts about whether these moves would yield a real winner in San Diego, but at least they’d be better than the last four seasons.
2011: All-Star Break record: 40-52 // Final record: 71-91
2012: All-Star Break record: 34-53 // Final record: 76-86
2013: All-Star Break record: 42-54 // Final record: 76-86
2014: All-Star Break record: 41-54 // Final record: 77-85
2015: All-Star Break record: 41-49
Oh, well, look at that.
What went wrong?
Just about everything. Rany Jazayerli takes a deep look at the Padres’ season so far, from the play on the field, to how the trades have worked out for them (not well at all). Rany also ponders what the Padres would look like with their payroll space, good farm system, and emerging young talent. What could have been.
Did anything go right?
Not really. A 41-49 record might not be so bad in-and-of-itself, but considering that the Padres have very little room to grow (this team of veterans has no replacements coming, and the rebound odds for players like Kemp and Middlebrooks can’t be too high; plus the middle infield had been an issue going back to previous seasons), it could be their high point for the second half.
What happens next?
Sell, sell, sell! We picked the Padres as sellers on the pre-pre-deadline podcast, and that hasn’t changed. In fact, the Padres might be THE team to watch at the deadline – in a market with a ton of buyers and only a few sellers, San Diego could make their moves early and get a nice haul for some key pieces (not unlike the Cubs did last year when they struck before the market for starting pitchers really developed).
Still, though, looking at this roster, this many underperforming players limits who the team can move without veering into dreaded “sell low” territory. Will Venable, Joaquin Benoit, and Shawn Kelley will be highly sought after pieces as teams try to shore up their outfields and bullpens. Ian Kennedy will have value despite his 73 ERA+ and 5.46 FIP because he has been a league average pitcher in very recent memory. Justin Upton, of course, will be the one of the prizes at the deadline. James Shields, on the other hand, is a little more curious – he had few suiters at his asking price in the 2014-15 offseason, and that could make it even harder to move Shields’s contract (he’s owed $63 million over the next 3 seasons with a team option for year 4), or getting a decent prospect without throwing in some coin.
One year from now?
Destined to be boring forever, the Padres will again be 8 games under .500 at the deadline because that’s just What They Are. But really though, I have no idea what Preller is going to do, except make moves. Gonna be a fun deadline in San Diego.
Tigers Midseason Check-In
The Detroit Tigers hit the All-Star Break with a .500 record (44-44), a disappointing mark for a team that entered the 2015 season with championship expectations and having won their division the past four seasons. A strong start masked a weak finish to the season’s first half, although the absence of Miguel Cabrera — expected to spend six weeks on the disabled list — is hard to miss. The inconsistency that has plagued the Detroit bullpen finally infected the starting rotation, and the team’s troubles turning baserunners into, you know, runs, hasn’t helped the situation. After a few nice outings to begin the year, new starter acquisitions Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon didn’t waste much time regressing to the replacement-level performances we probably should have expected. Like Kate Upton, PECOTA was in love with Justin Verlander this offseason, but the old workhorse has only a few inconsistent starts to his name in 2015.
There are bright spots in the Motor City, of course. Yoenis Cespedes has been slightly better than advertised, and J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias appear driven to prove that early career breakouts weren’t flukes. Meanwhile, professional hitter Victor Martinez finally looks to be rounding into form after taking needed time off this spring to allow for a more complete healing of his left knee. David Price has been excellent, and Anibal Sanchez, while not the dominant force he was in 2013 and 2014, has been good enough as the second starter and, perhaps most importantly given his recent history, healthy to this point in the year.
It’s one thing to sit at .500 at the break. It feels like another thing to be nine games out of first place, though. While preseason projections generally hold more predictive value for the remainder of the season at this midway point, the Cabrera injury and pitching deficiencies are not ordinarily ingredients in a recipe for a second-half rebound. FanGraphs sees the team finishing the way they started by playing .500 ball the rest of the way. BP is slightly more optimistic, but playoff odds are slim (and slimming) no matter whom you ask.
I still think the Tigers should be buyers this month, and take one last crack at the World Series before initiating rebuild mode. The cost of that perhaps hopelessly optimistic approach will be the lost opportunity to trade Price — who will hit a free-agency payday this winter — now for value. With general manager and part-time wizard Dave Dombrowski also in the last year of his contract, the organization’s central question is how best to proceed with a “win-now” strategy when the tires have lost traction. While the Tigers’ future remains unwritten, the path forward is less clear than it has been in recent memory.Next post: Three Questions at the Midpoint for the A’s
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