The Dodgers season is fading fast and it looks like 2010 will provide their first absence from the playoffs since 2007. Tyson Qualls analyzes what went wrong and if Dodger fans have a glimmer of hope for the future.
|What Went Wrong?The injury bug dominated the Dodgers throughout the course of the season. Frequently injured Dodger, Rafael Furcal, had one of his best seasons as a Dodger derailed by his recurring back problems. Manny Ramirez has played a total of 61 games so far this season and Andre Ethier was on a triple crown pace before a broken pinkie disrupting his rhythm. Sprinkle in key injuries to Vicente Padilla, Russell Martin, Jeff Weaver, Reed Johnson, Chad Billingsley, and Hong Chih-Kuo and you have a squad playing at less than 70 percent during the course of the season.
Blaming injuries as the sole reason is hardly fair, however, as all MLB teams deal with hurt players on a frequent basis. The inconsistency of the bullpen also sent the Dodgers spiraling out of contention. George Sherril never regained last year’s form and Jonathan Broxton has temporarily relinqueshed his closer role. Both players contributed to arguably the best 8-9th inning duo in the league in 2009, but could not get an out during the second half of 2010.
The digression of Matt Kemp and Russell Martin weighs heavy on Dodger fans as the question now becomes similar to a Clash song, “Should They Stay or Should They Go”.
Kemp spent the better part of 2009 being hailed as a five tool, once in a decade player. This year has been different. His average slumped to .254 and he is on pace to post the lowest SB, average, RBI, and hit totals since becoming a full time starter. While it may be easy to attribute the lack of protection from an absent Ramirez as the main factor, it may be that the league has figured him out and he needs to adjust in order to save his career.
While this is Kemp’s first trip down disappointment’s path, Martin has become a regular visitor. In each of the past three seasons, Martin’s HRs, RBIs, average, OBP, BB, SB, and 2B have all decreased. The Dodgers should be looking elsewhere for a catcher if Martin cannot regain his swagger.
Wait Til Next Year
Overlooked in the drama of Frank McCourt’s ownership is the recent success of the Dodgers. While it is easy to point the finger at the divorce and blame McCourt’s penny pinching ways for this season’s failure, it should be noted that during McCourt’s tenure as owner the Dodgers have made the playoffs four out of seven seasons.
If McCourt can put the divorce behind him and show more commitment to winning,(signing prospect Zach Lee certainly helped) the future in Los Angeles may not be so bleak.
Clayton Kershaw has been giving Dodger fans a reason to go to the park throughout this season and will continue to be a force for many years to come. Kershaw’s 163 K’s have him trailing only Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, and Adam Wainwright in that category.
Manny Wood will be closed for good next season, freeing up 20 million dollars for the Dodgers payroll. Whether that goes to the team or divorce court lawyers is still up for debate. However, what it does mean is that the Dodgers won’t have to pay exhorbitant amounts for a player who appears for less than half the season.
Notes from the Dugout
Short Stop Rafael Furcal experienced a set back in his on-going attempt to return from the DL. No time table has been set for his reappearance in the starting line up.
Prospect Zach Lee will not pitch this season, but will be joining the Ogden Raptors as a spectator while they prepare to play in the post season.
Jeff Weaver is expected to return from the DL this week, while Vicente Padilla may be out for the season with a bulging disk in his neck. Travis Schlichting was called up to replace Padilla.
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Frank McCourt’s penny pinching ways are no secret heading into baseball’s trading deadline. The Dodgers post season hopes will likely rest on the shoulders of the current roster. Can the Dodgers succeed with this lineup? Tyson Qualls offers a few budget conscious suggestions to revamp the team and gear up for a pennant race.
Send Garret Anderson to the Big Baseball Diamond in the Sky:
The former Anaheim Angel has performed poorly in the role previously held by Juan Pierre. As Manny Ramirez’s replacement, the 38 year old left fielder is currently hitting at a .188 clip. He has batted in a paltry 11 runs in 128 at bats. After watching his 0-5, 4 K appearance in the final game of the Dodgers-Giants series, it became apparent that Anderson has nothing left.
The Dodgers would benefit from giving that playing time to the younger generation. Xaiver Paul would undoubtedly improve production. Anderson’s roster spot would be better utilized with a call up for Jay Gibbons, John Lindsey, Prentice Redman, or Jamie Hoffman. Each of these players would surpass Anderson’s poor production.
Explore Trade Options for Russell Martin:
Even though Martin is a fan favorite, the fact of the matter is that his production has slipped every season since 2007. The former All Star has not lived up to expectations and has continued his downward spiral in 2010.
Martin is currently batting .245, which puts him on pace for the worst offensive season of his career. The Dodgers starting catcher is slated to reel in over five million dollars this season and moving him could free up cash. There is always a market for fleet-footed catchers with upside. Martin may also benefit from a change of scenery.
Find Bullpen Help:
Bringing in a front line starter is virtually out of the question, but the Dodgers could make a move to improve the bullpen for a much lower price. George Sherrill has been a shell of his former shelf, Hong-Chih Kuo cannot pitch on consecutive days, and Ramon Troncoso was optioned to work on his mechanics. A veteran like Octavio Dotel or Will Ohman would come at a significantly cheaper cost than Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt.
Notes from the Dugout:
Rafael Furcal’s tear at the plate was finally rewarded with NL Player of the Week honors. Last week Furcal batted a remarkable .538 with nine runs scored and a .571 OBP. The short stop’s recent surge comes after losing his father to an unfortunate accident on June 20th.
Torre has stated publicly that he believes the Dodgers will get help via trade before the deadline. The Dodgers’ manager was quoted as saying “I know [general manager Ned Colletti] has been exploring, and we’ve done it the last couple years, and my guess is we’ll get some help.”
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Baseball’s draft is far less predictable than its other professional counterparts. A first round selection is hardly a guarantee to perform at the premier level. Even with these lackluster expectations, there have been some disappointments. Tyson Qualls breaks down the top ten picks that have embarrassed management and made fools out of the scouting department.
|10. Shawn Abner: #1 Overall 1984 New York Mets
Drafted by the Mets, Abner never saw the light of day with the franchise. He would make his Major League debut three seasons later with the San Diego Padres. Abner underachieved and when it was all said and done, he finished with a whimper of a career. His mundane marks of .227, 11 HR, and 71 RBI do not represent that of a former first overall pick.
9. Mark Prior: #2 Overall 2001 Chicago Cubs
Prior vs. Joe Mauer as the top overall pick is the MLB’s version of Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning. While Prior does not have the poisonous personality of Leaf, he did disappoint nonetheless. Prior’s career started on the right track, but quickly derailed due to injuries. Having remained absent from the big leagues since 2006, Prior has four years of dust to shake off if he is going to make one last attempt at a career.
8. Todd Van Poppel: #2 1990 Oakland Athletics
As one of the poster boys for not living up to expectations, Van Poppel turned promising talent into a sub par career. The former Oakland Athletic posted a 5.58 career ERA and routinely reminded the team that they could have had Mike Mussina.
7. Mark Merchant: #2 Overall 1987 Pittsburgh Pirates
Merchant never played in the Majors. His selection one spot behind Ken Griffey Jr. is the closest he would ever get to fame.
6. Adam Johnson: #2 Overall 2000 Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins selected Johnson at #2 overall, but watched as their first pick of the millennium floundered at the highest level. Johnson last pitched in 2003 and finished with dreadful 10.25 ERA and a 1-3 record.
5. B.J. Wallace: #3 Overall 1992 Montreal Expos
Wallace’s best performance came during his stint on the United States Olympic team. Wallace struck out 14 batters in a single game, propelling him to the top of the 1992 pitching class. Unfortunately, that would be the peak of his career. A shoulder injury would end his profession as a pitcher before it could get started. Adding insult to injury, Wallace was selected ahead of Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Todd Helton.
4. Kyle Sleeth: #3 Overall 2003 Detroit Tigers
Similar to a few other top draft busts, injuries marred the career of Sleeth. After being drafted in 2003, Sleeth would last five injury-riddled seasons before calling it quits for good.
3. Matt Anderson: #1 Overall 1997 Detroit Tigers
1997’s top selection performed well in his first Major League season, posting a 5-1 record and a 3.27 ERA. Anderson was able to regularly top 100 MPH on the radar gun and looked to be headed for an inspiring career. Following an injury to a muscle in his armpit, the once flame-throwing right-hander could no longer hit 90 MPH on the gun, let alone 100. His career fizzled and he never returned to his pre-injury form.
2. Matthew Bush: #1 Overall 2004 San Diego Padres
Bush could write a manual on the worst possible ways to start a professional career. Altercations, brawls, and assault charges were the most interesting aspects of his tenure with the Padres. Bush is on pace to become the third top pick in history to retire without ever getting a taste of the big leagues.
1. Brien Taylor: #1 Overall 1991 New York Yankees
As the premier member of this list, Taylor continues the trend of mediocrity. Until Bush officially retires he holds the infamous distinction of one of only two top picks to never see the majors. (Drafted in 1966, Steve Chilcott is his counterpart)
Following a fistfight in 1993, Taylor never returned to his previous skill level. A glaring lack of control also contributed to the end of his career. Before being shown the door, Taylor would post record walk numbers. In 1996 he pitched 16.1 innings, walking 43 batters and going 0-5 with an 18.73 ERA.
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The Arizona Cardinals have experienced a heavy loss of talent since the completion of the season. Could that spell doom for the franchise? Or is it just a chance for the youngsters to step up and bask in the spotlight. Tyson Qualls completes his two part series with an optimistic approach to the upcoming season.
Wells Conquers the Curse of the Sophomore Slump:
The Cardinals’ best chance at gaining some swagger on the ground is former first round draft pick Beanie Wells. The young runner has more upside than Tim Hightower and should be able to take his game to the next level.
Last season Wells scored seven touchdowns while splitting time with Hightower. This year, look for Wells to take on the bulk of the carries and break the 1,000-yard mark.
Matt Leinart Becomes the Best Lefty in the Desert Since Randy Johnson:
Say what you will about Matt Leinart, the former USC quarterback has the potential to be a success. Finally given the keys to family car, Leinart will have every chance to lead the Cardinals in the upcoming season.
Leinart looked good in the mid-May OTA. If Steve Breaston or Early Doucet can step up and fill the void left by Anquan Boldin, Leinart could complete a season with more touchdowns than interceptions for the first time in his career.
The Giants Paid How Much?
The Arizona Cardinals dodged a bullet when they let Antrel Rolle depart for the New York Giants. While he is a capable safety, Rolle is worth nowhere near the amount of money shelled out by Giants’ management.
The former cornerback can often make spectacular plays, but offsets those by being beat deep regularly. The fact that the Cardinals found a suitable replacement, without breaking the bank, is at least a consolation prize for the exodus of talent that occurred during the off-season.
Cody Brown Recovers and Excels:
The Cardinals drafted Brown in the second round with the hopes that he would immediately contribute in passing situations. The UCONN standout was a virtual sack machine in college. Instead, the Cardinals watched as their newest weapon ended his season before it could begin with an injury.
This year Brown is back and with the losses of Karlos Dansby, Chike Okeafor, and Bertrand Berry, the future is wide open. Cardinals’ fans should prepare as Brown may have more of an impact than aging veteran Joey Porter.
The Dodgers have crashed into the same road block for two consecutive seasons. This year, if they are going to break through the NLCS and into the World Series a few essential components must fall into place. With the right mixture of youth and experience, this season has the Dodgers poised for another October run. Tyson Qualls provides five keys to a Dodgers World Series berth in 2010.
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