Ok, so it isn't exactly a series preview...consider it a rest-of-series preview. Rob runs the great Dodgers/Angels site 6-4-2, and he was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about one of his teams for us. Without further ado:
Q: You've had the opportunity to watch Joe Torre in action for six weeks now--kind of like the previous decade, I'd imagine, only on local TV instead of national. What are your impressions so far?
A: Torre seems to be under the impression that the press release version of his team is the actual team; it's certainly the only explanation why Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones have both appeared as starters in various lineups. With Rafael Furcal out, it's simply shocking to have Torre miss what seems obvious to everyone else: Andre Ethier is the team's second best hitter, and the Dodgers can ill-afford to miss both while plugging in arguably worse defense (and certainly worse offense) in left.
Q: In Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, the Dodgers have a pair of outfielders who are underperforming the youngsters in every category but age. How do you see the outfield situation shaking out over the course of the season? Are there any other prospects who Pierre might end up blocking?
A: My inclination is to place the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of ownership. As Joe Sheehan recently pointed out in a Baseball Prospectus piece picked up by Sports Illustrated, the Dodgers are really three teams in one: the Paul DePodesta Dodgers, the Ned Colletti Dodgers, and the (VP of Scouting) Logan White Dodgers. Unsurprisingly, the Logan White team is the most productive as measured by value-for-salary, but the Colletti players -- which includes the likes of Jason Schmidt, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, and Andruw Jones -- contains all the deadweight. "Grady Little's inability to play his best players at the expense of those veterans was the critical factor in the Dodgers finishing eight games out in a competitive NL West", Sheehan opined, and it's absolutely a factor again with Torre running the team.
Unfortunately, it's unclear what the Dodgers will do going forward. Pierre's contract virtually dictates he will end up with playing time (almost certainly too much and at the expense of Ethier, from what we can gather so far). Likewise Jones' glove, and more, his arm represent a significant improvement over the noodle Pierre uses to toss his rainbow throws back to the infield. If there were a clearly superior outfield prospect in the wings, it seems likely that the Dodgers would have blocked that player, too. So, no, I have no idea how this will shake out, other than to say it will be done sub-optimally.
Q: Similar question: with Blake DeWitt playing well, Andy LaRoche stuck in AAA, and Nomar pretending to healthy sometime soon, what will happen at third? If you were running the team, what would you do about that spot?
A: I would tell Nomar his duties are limited to pinch-hitting and spot starting, or cut him. The best thing he's done for the 2008 Dodgers so far has to spend substantial time on the DL, thus giving Blake DeWitt an extended showcase. I don't think DeWitt is quite as good as he's shown so far, and LaRoche will probably, eventually, develop more power, but either or both of those young players can bring to the table more, now, than Nomar. (In case you can't tell, the big problem with this team is that it doesn't have enough injuries to the right players.)
Q: The Brewers aren't going to see Hideki Kuroda this series, but he hasn't gotten a whole lot of national coverage, so I'm curious what your impressions are so far. He's certainly gotten results--do you see that holding up as the league sees him for the second or third time?
A: League? Try, lineup. In Sunday's contest against Houston, he uncharacteristically carried a no-hitter into the seventh, but as Vin Scully mentioned in the TV broadcast, Kuroda tends to wilt the third time through the order. (Baseball-Reference doesn't show this data on his splits page, but you can get a feel for it by pitch count; after 75, his line goes ballistic to a slapped-silly .355/.412/.516.) Jon Weisman thought he was actually trying too hard, but it seems to me his stuff flattens out early. Fortunately, the Dodgers only need a third starter, or should; it's likely that with rotational ineffectiveness (Derek Lowe's groundballs haven't been coming as they used to, and Brad Penny's meatball catering service is giving the team fits), the team wiill have to bring up Clayton Kershaw earlier than they might like.
Q: Overall, the LA bullpen has been quite effective, but not in the way I would've expected. Beimel dominating while Broxton is scuffling? Fill us in on the pecking order behind Saito, and how you see this group performing over the course of the year.
A: Beimel wears the number 97, which tells you a little something about his psychology; he tends to blend into the background, but you're right that he appears to be dominating in the early season. Emphasis should be on appears, because in point of fact, he's second on the team for allowing inherited baserunners to score (so far, five have, one back of Scott Proctor's six), thus deflating his ERA while adversely affecting both the team and the pitcher(s) ahead of him. Broxton had the worst outing of his career on Sunday, giving up six runs while making only one out, but he'll revert to form; one of his hallmarks early on was his tendency to get in a funk and lose control on his fastball, and it looks like that's what happened.
The real question is what happens once Chan Ho Park turns back into the guy Texas knew and hated. By ERA, he's the third best pitcher on the team (2.16 in 25 IP), but there's no way he sustains that with his low strikeout rate. Scott Proctor is looking mighty like a midseason DFA or a slow regression to mopup duties, something that will be hard to accomplish given Torre's extended experience with him in New York. Most likely to replace him, and perhaps the biggest wild card currently on the 25-man, is Yhency Brazoban. The man with a name designed for Scrabble had a rough but scoreless go in the team's 7-1 Friday loss. He was all but unhittable for a couple months in 2004, but injuries sidetracked him. Even at league average, he could still be a useful part given the likelihood of both injury and ineffectiveness elsewhere in the pitching staff.