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Daily Dodger in review: Casey Blake -- at 37, does his falloff indicate a continuing decline?

CASEY BLAKE, 37, third base.

Final 2010 stats: .248 batting average, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, .320 on-base  percentage, .407 slugging percentage.

Contract status: signed for next season at $5.25 million.

The good: continued to stabilize a position that previously had been chaotic. Solid, positive, veteran clubhouse presence. Steady defensively. Modest offensive production.

The bad: modest offensive production. As a third baseman, more is required. All his numbers fell last season, and he’s not aging backward. With the Dodgers already having power-lite James Loney at the other corner, more is needed.

What’s next: The coming season is the final year of his contract, though the Dodgers have a $6-million option for 2012 with a $1.25-million buyout. He’s seriously going to have to regain his offensive groove to have any chance of the team picking up that option.

The always highly introspective Blake outwardly expressed dismay at his falloff but remained confident he still had outstanding years left.

"I just want another chance to play for something," Blake said.

The take: The Dodgers will watch him more carefully in the coming season, and he figures to see less playing time. Which is not the same as saying he’ll be the platoon player some favor (he hit .314 vs. lefties, .222 vs. righties).

"That’s something we have to address, perhaps," said general manager Ned Colletti. "He’ll probably play a little bit less than this year, not dramatically."

But it isn’t like they have someone ready to take over third or even split the job. I don’t care how "intrigued" Joe Torre was with Russ Mitchell; he showed little to indicate he’s ready to be even a part-time player.

And the only real free-agent third baseman of value is Adrian Beltre, who is going to demand a salary, and years, way out of the Dodgers’ league. And in truth, someone is probably going to overpay for Beltre.

So unless Colletti can work a deal, this is your Dodgers' everyday third baseman next season. He turns 38 next Aug. 23.

-- Steve Dilbeck

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

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Why do they want him back? He quit on the season just like the others.

Blake swings like a rusty old gate. The prospect of having him at third is only surpassed by the prospect of having having Theriot at second. And his defense - PLEASE.

One of my arguments about liking Blake lost a little steam upon further review. I still like him as our 3B next season, unless we make a clear upgrade. I'll take Casey rather than making a move for another middlin' third baseman.

Blake's fielding this past year was .957 - I would have thought higher. That's down from .973 in 2009 and .985 in limited time with LA in 2008. In Cleveland, he was at .962 in 2007, .939 in 2004 and .952 in 2003. Played lot of OF in between.

For 2010, only five NL 3B are higher - Polanco at .986, Headley at .977, then three more between .961 and .966.

There's also six players, including Blake, between .951 and .957. Thus, the position is middlin' defensively.

His .248/17/64 is definitely lower reaches of all 3B in NL. I think his offense will improve, though he's had good game timing for his 1-for-4.

If he raises both offense and defense a tick, he becomes among the top defenders and with a .280 average or better that would be pretty good. It would be above his career .264 average, but in line with his numbers from 2006-2009.

Barring something dramatic, 2011 would be his final year. I'm thankful we've had his stability.

Looks like we're stuck with him. I know people will be whining for the Dodgers to sign Beltre, but this is money we truly cannot afford to waste. It's a no-brainer.
Let some other team that can afford it waste the money.

We suggest Casey shed his beard to maximize aerodynamic thrust when swinging his limp bat.

Here's another angle,
How many other MLB teams would consider using Blake as a starting 3B next season?
.
P.S. McCourt, get out of town ASAP!

Love Casey Blake, but time is not on his side.

The old saying, up the middle defense and corner powers is the formula for success.

The 2011 Dodgers will have Ethier at one corner. Get a solid defensive center fielder and put Kemp in left. Loney will be Loney so here is hoping he hits for a good average and drives in 90 or more runs. SS and 2nd base are up in the air. As of now, Barajas would be my choice over Martin. The starting pitching should be improved over last season only if Kuroda and Padilla stays.
The big question: the bullpen and Broxton.

In other words, for the Dodgers to get to my first sentence of this post, they have a lot of work to do.

The big negative: McCourt.

Other teams that would consider using Blake?

Start the list with:

Mariners - Lopez (.239, 10 HR, 58 RBI, .960 fielding)
A's - Kouzemanoff (.247/16/71/.968)
Tigers - Inge (.247/13/70/.977)
Cardinals - Feliz (.218/5/40/.956) or Lopez (.231/7/36/.926)
Marlins - Cantu (.262/10/54/.909) or Helms (.220/4/39/.952)
Pirates - Alvarez (.256/16/64/.938) or Laroche (.206/4/16/.938)
Indians - Nix (.224/14/34/.885)

Not included, but on the radar:
Cubs - Ramirez (.241/25/83/.939)
Diamondbacks - Reynolds (.198/32/85/.951 - and 211 K's)

Granted, that's only 1 out of every 5 teams in MLB.

But considering what the best options are going to cost, like Beltre, the money would be more wisely spent on the costly pitcher(s) rather than the third baseman. If they can be found, we could - for example - buy a full compliment of 6th inning to 8th inning set-up men for what he'll command. And Blake isn't long term, just 1 more year at 5 and a quarter.

a) No one would take Blake. b) Ned is not going to cut him to pay a fulltime 3rd sacker. c) He will be here next year. d) Even D Baseball will figure out he needs to platoon Casey. (I've seen no evidence to the contrary he is any less seemingly clueless as Joe was.) e) Unfortunately, Ned shipped his backup 3rd baseman out (De Witt). That leaves a different untested rookie or another player to be signed. f) It won't be Beltre, who expects to be paid.

This adds up to the Dodger quandry that will define next season, and every season after Ned will remain Frank's doofus: Unbelievably poor planning. No different than Frank's own wild drunken-sailor spending on himself.

With rare exceptions, the USE-BY dates on Dodgers ballplayers seem to be about 35-36. After that, you're buying the DL and/or decline.

I see the Dodgers using Russ Mitchell to replace Blake on and off to give him rest.
I think Blake will play the majority of the games.
It probably would take a miracle to sign Beltre.

Let's dispense with the use of fielding percentage to evaluate defensive performance. Isn't that out the window now? Blake has actually been well above average defensively this year according to the best measure of defensive performance these days - UZR/150.

As for other teams that could use Blake, I'm not sure why the Pirates are listed in a post below. Pedro Alvarez is a potentially elite young player who they don't plan on moving off 3B any time soon.

I'd love to see an upgrade over Blake, but the Dodgers have more pressing needs - LF, 2B, SP #4, SP #5, and catcher.

Blake is toast. He was a foolish long term sign to begin with. It's a typical Ned and McGoo sign. Go find some Geezer who you can pay half of what you'd pay to a real player and hope he's good enough to get us to the promised land. Guess what? He isn't and wasn't.

Rumor is, McGoo is negotiating with Ron Cey to come back and play 3rd base for the next 5 years.

"Blake's Final 2010 stats: .248 batting average, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, .320 on-base percentage, .407 slugging percentage."

- Casey did just fine - in fact, he would have led the entire Dodgers team in both hrs and rbis... in 1968.

Sign Wilson Betemit to play against righties, and keep John Lindsey to play against lefties. It's conceivable that each of the four platoon players at the infield corners could have an .800 OPS or above if it's done this way. It's also highly likely that clueless Ned and Don won't see it this way, and keep throwing Casey out there to fail against righties, and Loney to fail against lefties (that's if the team keeps Loney, which they shouldn't).


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