Tag Archives: Carl Crawford

Decisions in the Dodgers Outfield

Dodger Stadium Centerfield

CENTERFIELD

Heading into the season the big story regarding the Dodgers outfield was their depth and whether or not they’d be able to find playing time for five outfielders, all talented enough to be everyday players in other places. Two months into the season and the talent is still there, unfortunately the production hasn’t been. While Yasiel Puig has continued his assault on the National League, the rest of the Dodgers outfield, particularly Matt Kemp has struggled, both offensively and defensively. Kemp’s defensive struggles in center field initiated a recent-three game benching of the former superstar.

With Matt Kemp no longer the everyday option in centerfield, the question now turns to who is the best option in center. From a sheer athletic ability standpoint the obvious answer is Yasiel Puig, who can cover the most ground. Unfortunately the talented young Cuban is still extremely raw and prone to errors. The best option on the current roster is Andre Ethier, who’s a sure handed option, but lacking in speed and range. While Ethier is dependable, he’s a far cry from the former gold glove defense that Kemp used to provide prior to his ankle injury.

LA Dodgers Outfielders

DODGERS LINEUP

So what is the ideal Dodgers outfield? Depth is a good thing to have, especially with injury. The problem is when too much depth equals too many options. For a team with postseason aspirations the Dodgers are eventually going to want to determine what their ideal outfield is. Right now, from a production standpoint that ideal outfield begins with Yasiel Puig and a whole bunch of question marks. Matt Kemp has shown flashes of his former self but is struggling offensively. Carl Crawford was an igniter in the postseason last year, but has an on base percentage under three this season. Andre Ethier is what he is, a dependable bat and reliable fielder, but not a difference-maker offensively.

The X-factor in all of this is the presence of Joc Pederson, still tearing up Triple AAA. Up until now the speculation around Pederson has been as a potential part of a blockbuster trade or as a late season call-up. Right now the Dodgers would be crazy to even consider a Pederson trade and should be pondering whether or not they should immediately call up the phenom. Pederson is dominating the Pacific Coast League as the fifth youngest position player in the league, with a .351/.454/.638 batting line. Pederson has 15 home runs and 14 steals. Since an impressive spring he hasn’t cool down at all, impressive everyone with his approach to the game and professionalism. He’s likely big league ready.

Dodger Yaseil Puig

PUIG

The Dodgers ideal outfield, right now, should start with Puig and Joc Pederson. The big question is whether or not one of them can play center field. They both have the speed to play center, but are both also a bit raw defensively with a corner outfield slot being their best position. With the remainder of the outfielders plodding along with pedestrian numbers, there’s no reason not to call up Joc Pederson. The Dodgers took off last season in early June when they called up Yasiel Puig. Pederson, if he continues the form he’s shown in AAA, could have a Puig-like impact on the Dodgers. Like Puig, his energy will make him an instant fan favorite. Like Ethier, he has the advantage of being a left-handed batter, adding additional balance to the Dodgers lineup.

LA Dodgers Outfielders

DODGERS

Of course if they call up Pederson they need to make a decision on a veteran player. Scott Van Slyke will have a role due to his right-handed power, while Kemp and his massive contract aren’t going anywhere. Ethier is a potential trade option, but it’s questionable how much value the veteran will have. Carl Crawford, due to his large contract, has no trade value. All Pederson can do it continue to force the Dodgers hand, with his play. He’d already be in the big leagues with most other organizations. The Dodgers shouldn’t allow their limited options with Crawford and Kemp to affect their decision-making. If the best option for the Dodgers is to replace Carl Crawford with Joc Pederson, the team needs to strongly consider the move, massive contract aside.

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The Return of Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw Returns

Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers welcomed back Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday night, just at the right time. In the midst of an extended road trip that included trips to Minnesota, Miami and Washington, the Dodgers find themselves in third place in a rejuvenated NL West. After a dominating season in 2013 that included a big margin of victory in the division over the second place Diamondbacks, the Dodgers find themselves fending off an improved San Francisco Giants team.

Kershaw pitched for the first time since the Dodgers kicked off the season Down Under in Australia. The two-time Cy Young winner dominated the Diamondbacks in Sydney and after six weeks off he showed the same form he had in late March. Kershaw tossed seven shutout innings, striking out nine and walking none, throwing just 89 pitches. The best Dodgers lefty since Fernando and Koufax returned just at the right time, to jump right into a division battle with the Giants.

San Francisco is off to a hot start with record of 21-12, currently the second best record in all of baseball. The Giants have won nine of their last eleven games. Their pattern of winning in every even numbered year is taking shape again. The Dodgers are currently 2.5 games behind the Giants and a big part of that advantage can be traced back to their success versus Los Angeles. The Giants have won four of six versus the Dodgers this season, taking two of three in the two series they’ve played.

CK Dodgers Pitcher

CLAYTON

After the Dodgers wrap up in Washington they’ll return home and jump right back into the rivalry as the Dodgers host the Giants in a four-game series. They’ll get a bit of a break since the Giants have put ace Matt Cain on the DL due to a cut on his ring finger. Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm will start the opening two games, with the Dodgers aces Zack Greinke and Kershaw starting games three and four. If Los Angeles can get off to a quick start and win one or two of the first two games they’ll be in position to win the series and start to build back momentum versus San Francisco. Maholm was due to move back to the bullpen when Kershaw returned, but the sudden injury to Ryu has kept the veteran lefty in the rotation for the time being. Beckett, coming off multiple injuries, doesn’t have a victory to show for it, but has pitched well this season. He currently sports a 3.14 ERA and has given up just 20 hits in 28 innings pitched while striking out 30. His solid secondary numbers, combined with the solid seasons that Haren is putting together, bodes well for the Dodgers near-term future.

Success versus San Francisco will require the Dodgers bats wake up a bit as well. While the offense has performed in spurts this season, they’ve also struggled at times. Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon, Juan Urible and Yasiel Puig are having outstanding years and have carried the Dodgers offensively. Conversely, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have largely struggled. Ramirez, arguably the Dodgers best hitter, will come around. The bigger question marks surround Kemp and Crawford and whether or not they can regain their past All-Star form.

KERSHAW DODGERS

KERSHAW

Tuesday night the offense broke through at the right time with the top five in the lineup all collecting two hits. Hanley Ramirez homered and drove in two runs, with reserve catcher Drew Butera hitting a three-run home run. A win in the series finale on Wednesday would give the Dodgers a series victory, a 6-3 road trip, and real momentum for the upcoming home stand that starts with the Giants.

For Clayton Kershaw the quest for a third Cy Young starts again. He has his work cut out for him to catch up to the top contenders, including Zack Greinke, but with a near flawless first start back from injury he’s off to a good start.

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The 2014 Dodgers look to finish what they started in 2013! With a monster roster including Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Either, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanely Ramierz, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Brian Wilson and of course Clayton Kershaw the Boy’s in Blue look to bring the World Series Trophy back to Los Angeles!

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What to do with six outfielders?

LA Dodgers Tickets

THINK BLUE

Heading into the offseason many national experts questioned how the Dodgers, when Matt Kemp returns, would manage having four starting caliber outfielders for five positions. With Kemp healthy and showing signs of his past self, as well as the evolution of Scott Van Slyke as a difference-maker versus left-handed starters and the AAA dominance of Joc Pederson, the Dodgers now have six potential outfield choices.

Ordinarily such extreme depth is a huge positive, but is five too many? Or, with Joc Pederson is six too many?

The Dodgers have a solid balance of right-handed and left-handed hitters, ideal for such a situation. There’s also a good mix of young and old, speed and power. On paper it’s an ideal situation. Unfortunately an ideal situation doesn’t always necessarily translate to a good balance on the field. Like any professional sport, baseball is a game of feel and tempo. Players who can play every other day and still perform can be unique. So who what is the Dodgers ideal starting lineup? By most accounts the preferred starting three-some is Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. It’s a solid mix of speed and power, the Dodgers ideal defensive arrangement. Thus far the Dodgers have done an excellent job of getting everyone playing time, with a couple of early season injuries (Puig) and a paternity leave thrown in (Crawford).

Dodgers Joc Pederson

PEDERSON

Even with a deep payroll the Dodgers will have choices to make in the near future. After a strong spring training Joc Pederson is dominating in Triple AAA will soon be ready to be an everyday major league player. Like Puig, Pederson is an all around talent who the Dodgers will want to play every day. After his big performance in the Cactus League Pederson is off to a tremendous start in Albuquerque, with a .442/.564/.884 batting line. In twelve games he has four doubles, five homers, four steals and 12 walks. Pederson, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is a local favorite having played his college baseball at USC. He’s a potential all-star, but also a major potential trade piece for a team looking to make a World Series run.

Would the Dodgers trade Pederson? A team like the Tampa Bay Rays would likely be willing to listen to a potential trade offer for David Price if it includes a player like Pederson. Price is arguably the second best left-hander in baseball (behind Clayton Kershaw) and he’d give the Dodgers an incredible starting rotation with three elite lefthanders and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers have the ability to sing a long-term deal with a player like Price, but the cost of dealing Pederson may be too much for a player like Price, especially when they could simply just sign Price in the offseason.

Yasiel Puig

PUIG

With Pederson on fire in AAA and the Dodgers batting lineup struggling of late the Dodgers may want to take a look at calling Pederson up. With the continued off-the-field distractions that Yasiel Puig provides, a spurt back in the minors could be good for Puig. This move would also give the Dodgers a real barometer of what they have in Pederson. Another potential move would be to call up Pederson as an alternative to Carl Crawford. With a massive contract the Dodgers have little flexibility with Crawford, but they also have the financial means to stash a player like Crawford on the bench. After a solid playoff season last year Crawford has struggled early on. The re-emergence of Dee Gordon has also given the Dodgers an alternative at the lead-off position. If Gordon can continue his solid play the Dodgers could very well be tempted to insert a player like Pederson in the lineup on an everyday basis.

The best move for the Dodgers may be to just hold tight and see how the season evolves. Matt Kemp has shown flashes of brilliance but his overall numbers have been inconsistent. If Pederson continues his assault on AAA pitching the Dodgers will find a spot for him in the lineup, somewhere. The ideal future lineup should consist of Puig, Pederson and a healthy Matt Kemp, but after the last couple of seasons Kemp will need to prove his ability to stay healthy.

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BY: Chris M.

NLCS Preview Los Angeles Dodgers Vs St Louis Cadinals

NLCS Dodgers Vs Cardinals

Dodgers Vs Cardinals

With the St. Louis Cardinals defeat of the Pittsburgh Pirates the National League Championship is set and will begin Friday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis with the Cardinals taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Down 2-1 in the NLDS the Cardinals won consecutive elimination games behind dominant starting pitching by Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. The matchup between two of the most storied franchises in all of baseball is the first postseason series between the two clubs since the Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the 2009 NLDS. The two franchises boast seventeen combined World Series titles, with the Cardinals second all-time with eleven.

Here are three things to watch in the NLCS:

Elite Starting Pitching: The Los Angeles Dodgers boast arguably the top 1-2 pitching combination in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers twenty-five year-old lefthander Kershaw is the odds on favorite to earn his second Cy Young Award in four seasons.  Greinke, who the Dodgers acquired via free agency this offseason, has long been one of the dominant right-handers in the game and won 15 games this season against only four defeats with an outstanding 2.63 ERA.  In the Dodgers 3-1 series victory over the Braves in the NLDS Kershaw had two outstanding starts, striking out 18 batters in just thirteen innings pitched with just one earned run given up. Due to the Dodgers decision to start Kershaw in game four of the Braves series the Dodgers will start Greinke in game one, followed by Kershaw on Saturday.

The Cardinals have their own trio of outstanding starters in veteran ace Adam Wainwright and rookie Michael Wacha. Wainwright closed out the Pittsburgh series with a dominating start in game five. He’s joined in the rotation by Wacha who pitched seven perfect innings in Pittsburgh in game four before giving up a solo home run in the seventh inning. Wacha exited the game with just one hit allowed and one earned run in an incredibly boisterous road environment.  The twenty-one year- old was a late call-up who nearly pitched a perfect game during the regular season. The remainder of the Cardinals postseason roster is to be determined, with a choice between Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.

The Season Series: The Dodgers took five of seven from the Cardinals this season including taking three of four in St. Louis in early August.  In the August series the Dodgers received outstanding starting performances from Ricky Nolasco, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke.  Ironically the lone Cardinals victory was the one game started by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw gave up just two earned runs but the Dodgers were unable to provide their starter much run support, ending the Dodgers club record fifteen game road winning streak. In the first game of the series Greinke out-dueled Wainwright in a tight battle.

For the Dodgers to prevail they’ll need Nolasco and Ryu to recapture the form they showed during the late summer Dodgers hot streak. After being acquired by the Dodgers from the Marlins Nolasco was outstanding, but struggled at the end of the season, perhaps due to throwing so many innings this season. Ryu, the Korean rookie, had a strong regular season but struggled in game three of the Braves series. The playoff schedule may allow the Dodgers to go with a three-man rotation, but it’s likely they’ll have to start Nolasco in game four back in Los Angeles.  They’ll need the right-hander to recapture the form he showed right after his acquisition.

The Cardinals Lineup:  The Cardinals don’t have the superstar they once had in Albert Pujols, but do have one of the deepest and most efficient batting lineups in baseball. The Cardinals are third in baseball in runs scored and on base percentage and fourth in batting average. The Cardinals had five players drive in at least seventy-five runs this season, with four regulars batting over .300. Second Baseman Matt Carpenter led the NL in hits, batting .318. Superstar catcher Yadier Molina hit .319 with 80 runs batted in.  Molina is on track for his seventh gold glove. Allen Craig led the National League in batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .315 with 97 runs batted in. Both Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran hit near .300 with between 22 and 24 home runs and 80 runs batted in. The Cardinals lineup will be a big challenge to the Dodgers pitching staff. One bright spot for the Dodgers is the Cardinals inconsistent offensive showing in the NLDS.  After leading the Cardinals all season in batting Carpenter hit just .067 in the NLDS with David Freese, Matt Holliday and John Jay also struggling at the plate.

The biggest key to victory for the Dodgers is getting off to a strong start in St. Louis, just like in Atlanta. If Greinke and Kershaw can be their dominant self the Dodgers have a strong opportunity to reclaim home field advantage upon their return to Los Angeles. The Cardinals are a battle tested club with significant postseason experience.  The spotlight won’t be too big for them and the Dodgers will face a hostile environment this weekend in St. Louis. With Wainwright starting game five the Dodgers have the luxury of avoiding the Cardinals ace in St. Louis. Wainwright will likely start game three in Los Angeles. The Cardinals game one and two starters are still to be announced but likely will be either Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn in game one and Michael Wacha in game two. Lynn struggled in game two versus the Pirates and Kelly and Miller both have very little postseason experience. The veteran Dodgers club may have an advantage versus the very young Cardinals rotation as the pressure gets ramped up even more in the NLCS.

Prediction: The Dodgers ride Kershaw and Greinke into the World Series, out-dueling the young Cardinals rotation. Dodgers win 4-2.

By:Chris Michaels