Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue

Category: James Loney

Dodgers Web musings: Worst offensive infield in baseball?

Dee Gordon
Let's face it, there's not much clout there. The Dodgers infield is what you might call shy on power.

In his preseason analysis of the Dodgers, ESPN's Jim Bowden wrote: "The Dodgers have one of the worst offensive infields in the NL." Which I'm pretty sure would qualify it for one of the worst in all of baseball.

On the corners there is limited power from James Loney (12 homers, .416 slugging last season) and Juan Uribe (4 homers, a woeful .298 slugging, plus a .204 batting average). Mark Ellis is a solid glove at second whom Bowden correctly notes "has no speed or power and is in his declining years." And then there is speedy, though powerless, shortstop Dee Gordon.

And that would be half of your lineup.

Also on the Web:

-- At SB Nation, Eric Stephen is having difficulty building enthusiasm for the Dodgers' coming season.

-- Manager Don Mattingly tells Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick that he's more concerned about distractions over the ownership situation this spring than he was a year ago.

-- NBC Sports' Matthew Pouliot writes that the theme to the Dodgers' winter was quantity over quality.

-- The Times' Bill Shaikin writes that the 11 remaining ownership groups bidding on the Dodgers have been asked to submit revised bids before a second round of cuts is made by investment bank Blackstone Advisory Partners (read: Frank McCourt).

-- Wednesday's post here about the Dodgers trying to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term deal while his price is low brought some Web reaction. Chad Moryiama likes the logic but thinks Ethier is simply the wrong guy to utilize it on. Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness thinks that if Ethier waits until the end of the season, he might double his contract.

-- Long-time Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo is running a series of historical team photos at his MLB blog, including one with background on Kevin Waters, the team's handyman for over 20 years.

-- The New York Post's Kevin Kernan profiles Mattingly’s son, Preston -– a former first-round pick of the Dodgers -- after he signed with the Yankees as a minor-league free agent.

-- Let the investigation begin. The Dodgers blogger softball tournament last weekend, organized by the Left Field Pavilion for charity, was won by ... the Left Field Pavilion Forum 2.

-- CBS Sports' Scott Miller has a nice overview about what it’s like covering spring training every day for six weeks.

ALSO:

Second cut looming for Dodgers bidders

It's time for Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

James Loney says blow to head led to his odd behavior after crash

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dee Gordon walks back to the bench after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks back in August. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

Dodgers web musings: Clayton Kershaw is looking serious

Clayton-kershaw_600

Good news: Clayton Kershaw is apparently feeling challenged by his own success.

In a video, Buster Olney takes a look at Clayton Kershaw’s off-season regimen for the “Baseball Tonight” crew.

The reigning National League Cy Young winner told Olney:

“I feel like I have to go more over the top than ever because people are having these expectations that I’m going to come in and not be ready to go, so more so than ever I’m motivated to be ready to go.”

Also on the web:

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick previews the Dodgers heading into spring, saying they “look to improve upon last year's 82-79 record by loading up on pitching, improved defense and hope.”

-- Jon Garland lives. He’s signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians.

-- Kevin Goldstein has his annual list of the top 101 prospects for Baseball Prospectus. Sadly, only one Dodger makes the list: Zach Lee at No. 70.

-- Mike Petriello at Mike Scoioscia's Tragic Illness thinks the rest of the National League’s first basemen may have dumbed down to James Loney territory.

-- Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy looks at how the Dodgers roster was built.

-- Scott Andes at Lasorda’s Lair is worried what new ownership might mean for Dodger Stadium.

-- Eric Stephen, this time at SB Nation Los Angeles, on Tommy Lasorda being honored with a statue in the Dominican Republic.

-- In a video, Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Weisman reveals his own strigent off-season conditioning regimen.

-- The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker looks at the comeback attempt of Hong-Chin Kuo, who says: "It has to come from inside me.''

-- Tip to Weisman: Alex Bleth at Bronx Bomber takes a long look at new Yankee right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

-- Bryan Painter at The Oklahoman profiles new Dodgers assistant trainer Greg Harrel (includes video interview).

RELATED:

Why I owe Vin Scully cookies, and you owe me

Frank McCourt: A few words in praise of Dodgers owner

For Matt Kemp, the season doesn't start on Opening Day

-- By Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch against the Angels during an interleague game at Anaheim Stadium last season. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / July 2, 2011

The Dodger who can have the greatest effect on the 2012 season

  

Dodgers' Frank McCourt: MLB owners' new inspiration

He is the key to the Dodgers’ 2012 season, the one player in a position to most affect whether the team is again mediocre, or poised to make a postseason run.

Andre Ethier, a dismayed Dodgers nation turns its eyes to you.

The Dodgers went into the off-season talking about how they would make a run at a big bat. As you just might possibly have noticed, it never arrived.

Now even if you’re doing the massive assuming the Dodgers are for 2012 -– Matt Kemp will approach the same numbers, Juan Rivera will still drive in runs, Juan Uribe can’t possibly be as awful as he was in 2011, Dee Gordon will hold up over the course of the season, James Loney will more closely resemble his second-half self -– that still doesn’t figure to be enough to lift the team into the playoffs.

The one player who has the potential to have a massively better year in 2012 is Ethier.

The extremely talented, emotional, hard-working, inconsistent, prideful, exasperating All-Star right fielder.

After the 2009 season, Ethier was on the verge of superstardom. He hit 31 home runs, had 106 RBI and completed his second consecutive season with a slugging percentage north of .500. He started 2011 like he might make a run at the triple crown. Then came a broken pinkie from which he never seemed to fully recover.

Last year there was an early 30-game hitting streak in an otherwise disappointing season. Finally there was that odd, they’re-making-me-play-hurt rant, followed by denial, followed by season-ending knee surgery.

His final 2011 numbers: .292 batting average, 11 homers, 62 RBI, 67 runs and a career-low .421 slugging percentage.

There is plenty of room for improvement there, and if Ethier can do it, he can provide that big bat that was sorely missing last year. He is the one player who can make a dramatic difference in the Dodgers' lineup.

Which doesn’t mean it will happen, though I suspect it will. Still, prophesying Ethier’s future performance is like trying to predict the next Alec Baldwin remark. Could be really good, could be what the hell?

Now there are a couple of very good reasons to anticipate Ethier will bounce back with a huge season. Presumably he is healthy, his knee surgery was not major and that pinkie certainly should have healed by now. And he is in his contract year. He signed a one-year, $10.95-million deal this winter and can become a free agent for the first time at the end of the coming season.

General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers were interested in signing Ethier to a long-term deal, which so far hasn’t happened. Ethier took notice of Chad Billingsley getting a three-year deal last spring, and that was long before Kemp signed his $160-million deal this off-season.

Ethier may determine he'll be in a better negotiating position after putting in a full, healthy season, whether re-signing with the Dodgers or hitting the open market. Or maybe he would prefer the security of a big contract right now. It’s Ethier, so it’s a guessing game.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Ethier gave away 100 at-bats last season by letting his emotions get the best of him. That was almost 20% of his season. For a guy who bats in the middle of the order.

Ethier turns 30 in April, so you would like to think he’s maturing enough to stay focused and not allow setbacks to send him gyrating off course. He is an intelligent and, when he wants to be, highly charming (as demonstrated in the following MLB.com video) player. He and Kemp could own this town.

And if the Dodgers are going to contend, he’ll need to.

 RELATED:

Daily Dodger in review: Andre Ethier battles Andre Ethier?

If Stan Kroenke gets the Dodgers, doesn't L.A. get the Rams?

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers' James Loney won't face charges after freeway accident

James-loney_600

Would love to announce everything has been cleared up in James Loney’s arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence, after officials announced Wednesday he would not be criminally charged.

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Loney after all drug tests came back negative.

Which is very good news for Loney, and the Dodgers, though it doesn’t exactly explain how he drove his Maserati into three cars on the 101 Freeway on a weekday evening in November.

Loney refused comment to The Times on Wednesday through his agency, as he did when the news of his arrest first broke in December. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti previously said Loney told him he struck his head on something after the first collision and then could not remember what happened.

Which would include sideswiping the next two cars, trying to flee the scene and acting in such a manner that California Highway Patrol officers thought he was under the influence.

Hey, hit your head hard enough and odd things can happen.

The Dodgers were satisfied with Loney’s explanation, enough so that they signed him last month to a one-year contract for $6.375 million.

Loney, who turns 28 in May, is scheduled to return as the Dodgers starting first baseman after hitting .288 with 12 home runs and 65 runs batted in last season. His .416 slugging percentage was the third-lowest for any major league first baseman with a minimum of 500 at-bats.

RELATED:

Dodgers' Frank McCourt: MLB owners' new inspiration

If Stan Kroenke gets the Dodgers, doesn't L.A. get the Rams?

Potential Dodgers owners already reaching out to Derrick Hall

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers first baseman James Loney is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Colorado Rockies last spring at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times / May 30, 2011

Why Dodgers -- despite it all -- can still win the NL West

Matt Kemp
Because they play in a division where there is always hope. Every season, for most every team. Like it's required.

Parity hasn't simply arrived in the National League West, it's taken up residence. Not some shingle temporarily hung on the wall, but carved in granite at the front door.

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished last in the NL West in 2010 and then won the division last season. In five of the last six seasons, an NL West team coming off a losing season advanced to the postseason the next year.

The Dodgers are filled with "ifs" and crossed fingers and gambles. Not unlike every team in the division.

If Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe return to form, if James Loney hits like he did in the second half, if Matt Kemp approaches his 2011 season, if Juan Rivera can keep up his RBI form, if Dee Gordon can perform over a full season, if young closers Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen can keep it going, if new starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano pitch effectively ... then the Dodgers win!

There is no juggernaut in the NL West, no powerhouse team, nothing even approaching a dominant club.

Continue reading »

Dodgers sign James Loney for $6.375 million

James Loney
The Dodgers and first baseman James Loney agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract for $6.375 million plus incentive bonuses, according to CAA Sports, the agency that represents Loney.

Loney made $4.875 million last year, when he hit .288 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. Loney, 27, is eligible for free agency after the coming season.

Loney's .416 slugging percentage last season was the third-lowest of any major league first baseman with at least 500 plate appearances. The only players trailing Loney: Mitch Moreland of the Texas Rangers, who could be displaced if the Rangers sign Prince Fielder, and Aubrey Huff of the San Francisco Giants, who could be replaced by youngster Brandon Belt.

RELATED:

Dodgers sign Andre Ethier for $10.95 million

The Vicente Padilla Experience lands in Boston

Bud Selig could be haunted by deal over Dodgers

— Bill Shaikin

Photo: James Loney. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

The offensive emptiness that is the Dodgers 2012 bench

Dodger
Look real hard and you can find it. It’s there, just not exactly under the spotlight. Maybe not in hiding, though you could make the argument that the Dodgers will try it.

It is the Dodgers’ bench, such as it. And as it is, it’s wholly unimpressive.

Presenting your 2012 Dodgers in reserve: catcher Matt Treanor, infielders Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Kennedy, and outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands.

There’s some versatility and some nice defensive elements, but offensively there just isn’t much there. The power hitter is Sands, he of the 194 career at-bats? The left-handed bats are Gwynn and Kennedy?

This is all as currently scheduled, of course. And these things almost never go as scheduled. Which would explain why the Dodgers started last season with Xavier Paul, Hector Gimenez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. on the roster.

General manager Ned Colletti said he thinks this year’s bench can be superior to last season’s, before quickly asking which Dodgers’ bench he should reference.

"Unfortunately our bench ended up playing," Colletti said. "The bench was really the second bench."

Which is why the 2012 edition is so scary. Chances are, some of them are going to have to play more than expected. And this is what manager Don Mattingly will have to choose from based on last season’s numbers:

Player                         Avg.                OBP                 SLG

Treanor                      .214                .338                .291

Hairston                     .270                .344                .383

Kennedy                     .234                .277                .355

Gwynn                        .256                .308                .353

Sands                         .253                .338                .389

And as a group, it’s not like it’s a bunch of kids approaching their prime. Kennedy is 36, and Treanor will be in March and Hairston in May.

Plus you have to remember the Dodgers’ regular everyday lineup is already going to have its risks. Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon batted .304 last season but in only 224 at-bats, so we’ve yet to see if pitchers adjust to the slight Gordon. And A.J. Ellis is going to be the main catcher, and has a career .262 average with zippo power in 206 career at-bats.

There’s not a strong pinch-hitter in the group, either. Career averages as pinch-hitters: Treanor .200, Hairston .174, Kennedy .223, Gwynn .288, Sands .000 (only four at-bats). There's not really a reserve shortstop.

Last year the Dodgers wanted to start the season with a bench of Dioner Navarro, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames/Jay Gibbons. Navarro and Thames were busts, and Gibbons couldn’t overcome vision issues. Yet they still might prove a better group.

The Dodgers 25-man roster is basically set. If everyone makes it through spring healthy, there are no position openings.

 ``If it goes the way it’s planned, the team has some flexibility to it but not a whole lot,’’ Colletti said.

On days when Juan Rivera or James Loney don't start, the bench will get a boost but it could use plenty more. It could have used a Coco Crisp, but Colletti denied an interest in the outfielder before he re-signed with the A’s.

``Never had a conversation,’’ Colletti said.

Colletti is operating under budget constraints unworthy of a team playing in the second-largest market in the country, but such are the times when your team is in bankruptcy court.

And such is the bench.

RELATED:

It's Manny Ramirez in the role of a lifetime

Bud Selig could be haunted by deal over Dodgers

McCourt mum on Fielder, calls Dodgers sale interest 'fantastic'

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodger Stadium. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.

Presenting your 2012 Dodgers lineup (Updated)

Dodgers-logoOne thing about having an almost entirely set 25-man roster  -- you can start figuring out what the daily lineup is going to look like. Even if it is still December.

The Dodgers’ heavy off-season work, or at least their modest lifting, is all done. Unless you’re still the kind that holds out hope of an unexpected Prince Fielder signing.

But if no significant additions are coming, it’s not hard to visualize the Dodgers’ main daily lineup, at least against right-handers:

Shortstop Dee Gordon (L), second baseman Mark Ellis (R), right fielder Andre Ethier (L), center fielder Matt Kemp (R), left fielder Juan Rivera (R), first baseman James Loney (L), third baseman Juan Uribe (R) and catcher A.J. Ellis (R).

And let the rest of the National League tremble in its wake.

This is not necessarily a terrible lineup, though it’s dependent on a lot of things going right. Probably way too many things, but then the same can pretty much be said for the rest of the National League West.

Gordon hit .304 with 24 stolen bases in his 233 plate appearances of his rookie season. But he had only seven walks, leaving him with a .325 on-base percentage. Still, that’s a fairly small sample size at a young stage in his career. He figures only to get better, and is such lightning on the bases, he has to be given the leadoff spot. Anyway, there’s really no one else in that lineup to bat leadoff.

Mark Ellis split his time last season batting second and seventh, but hit .297 in the two spot, as opposed to .215 hitting seventh.

The Dodgers are gambling that a trio of hitters returns to form next season -- Ethier, Loney and Uribe. Ethier, 29, will be key. Coming off minor knee surgery, he has the most upside. And the Dodgers will need it if they bat him third.

All they want from Kemp is more of the same, which is the same thing as asking for everything. Kemp, who came in second in the N.L. MVP voting, could have a slight drop-off and still be one of the game’s premier hitters.

[Update: In the orginal post I had a brain cramp and wrote Kemp started the season batting third and late in the season was moved to fourth, which is actually reverse from what happened. My my No.1 fan, Benjamin Villarreal Camacho, ever-so kindly pointed out my mistake. Kemp actually hit slightly better in the cleanup spot (.647 vs. .569 slugging), so it remains to be seen which way Manager Don Mattingly goes in 2012.

Batting Rivera hitting behind Kemp was given credit for Kemp’s strong finish, so wherever Kemp bats, Rivera is likely to follow. Kemp hitting third, Rivera fourth and Ethier fifth only happened nine times in 2011.]

Mattingly could bat Uribe sixth instead of Loney, but he seems to like alternating his left-right bats in the lineup.

Uribe is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in Dodgers history. He has a lot to prove, and at age 33, not much time to prove it. The Dodgers are counting on Loney being the hitter he was the second half, which is understandable but difficult to depend upon. Anything offensively from A.J. Ellis is a bonus.

Against left-handers, Mattingly could choose to sit Loney and play Rivera or Jerry Sands at first. Ethier, too, could get spelled if he doesn’t improve against lefties (.220 last season).

Outside of Gordon and Kemp, it's a lineup devoid of speed. It could have decent power, but after Kemp, that's no lock either. There are plenty of "maybes'' with this group, but that could prove a season's theme.

RELATED:

Hedging your bets on the next Dodgers owner

Judge: Dodgers can pay creditors without selling TV rights

Frank McCourt's spinning Dodgers wheels got to go 'round

-- Steve Dilbeck

No way to end it: Dodgers non-tender Hong-Chin Kuo

Hong-chih-kuo_600

A surprise it wasn’t. Still, there was an undeniable sadness to the news Monday night that the Dodgers did not tender a contract to Hong-Chih Kuo.

Kuo is coming off his worst season (1-2, 9.00 earned-run average, zero saves), and staggeringly, his fifth elbow operation. He never could quite overcome his second career battle with anxiety disorder last season, nor an elbow you always feared was one pitch away from the knife.

The Dodgers did tender contracts to their three remaining arbitration-eligible players: Clayton Kershaw, Andre Ethier and James Loney. All were expected, though Loney left things slightly uncertain after his arrest last month for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Kuo, 30, had been in the Dodgers organization for 11 years, since he first appeared in one game in 2000 for Class-A San Bernardino. It was a game in which he blew out his elbow and later required the first of his two Tommy John surgeries.

Kuo always seemed to be making a comeback, battling back from surgeries and the yips, erasing the latest round of doubts.

Yet, the left-hander continually came back and in 2010 put together his finest season, with a 3-2 record and a team-record 1.20 ERA. He was dominant, ultimately taking over the closer’s role from Jonathan Broxton and earning his first selection as an All-Star.

A year later, it all came undone.

It’s difficult to write off Kuo for good. He has come back so many times. Still, you have to wonder if it hasn’t all taken a final mental toll, or maybe wonder how it possibly hasn’t.

He has talked about wanting to open a restaurant, and who knows, maybe he gets and accepts a non-roster invite to the Dodgers’ spring camp. General Manager Ned Colletti said Monday he was still interested in re-signing Kuo in some fashion.

How that plays out is unknown. What is known is, Kuo deserved a better ending.

MORE:

Dodgers' Matt Kemp would win MVP award over Ryan Braun in a new vote

Dodgers sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to two-year, $2-million deal

Dodgers won't add an MVP, no matter what happens to Ryan Braun

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo works against the Angels during an interleague game in Anaheim. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers need to tender Tony Gwynn Jr.

Tony-gwynn-jr_600

The hours are ticking away and Tony Gwynn Jr. waits.

Can we do away with the suspense? Do the Dodgers really need to play this game of contract chicken with Gwynn? Make the deal, or tender him a contract and go to arbitration. Seems simple enough.

Unless, of course, the Dodgers could be playing another game — how low can you go?

Gwynn is the one Dodger who is uncertain whether the Dodgers will officially tender him a contract prior to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline. I’ll go out on a thin limb here and say I’m pretty sure Clayton Kershaw gets tendered. Andre Ethier and, yes, James Loney, are going to be offered contracts. Hong-Chin Kuo, sadly, is not expected to receive an offer.

And that leaves Gwynn, who went through this last season with the Padres, who non-tendered him. Which made him available to sign with the Dodgers, which he did at what proved to be a bargain price at $675,000.

Gwynn played more than expected (a career-high 136 games) and better than most anticipated. He was as strong as advertised defensively, a little better than expected offensively and stole 22 bases.

In most ways, he was the ideal extra outfielder. And still would be.

So don’t risk losing him over a comparatively small amount of dough. If the bankrupt Dodgers are really planning on playing Juan Rivera in left most days, they’ll need Gwynn just as much this season as last. And although Jerry Hairston Jr. could play center if — deep breath here — injury were to befall Matt Kemp, Gwynn is the better defensive outfielder.

In a text to Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick, Gwynn said he was uncertain how it would all play out. Bring him back and end the suspense.

MORE:

Dodgers won't add an MVP, no matter what happens to Ryan Braun

Scott Boras: Dodgers, Mets shopping in 'fruits-and-nuts category'

Bill Plaschke: Ryan Braun needs to follow his own advice

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Tony Gwynn Jr. gets ready for batting practice last season. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video

About the Blogger

Recent Posts

Categories


Archives
 


Bleacher Report | Dodgers

Reader contributions from Times partner Bleacher Report

More Dodgers on Bleacher Report »




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: