Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I’m glad I survived the Thanos purge.
We all should have seen the signs. The baseball deities, trying to make up for almost everything going the Dodgers’ way last season, have tipped the scales the other way this season.
There’s no other logical conclusion. Let’s recap the evidence, not necessarily in chronological order.
—About 30 Dodgers come down with the flu in spring training, causing some of the regulars to miss games they would use to get ready.
—Justin Turner, the cornerstone of the offense, gets his wrist broken by a pitch in one of the last spring training games.
—Tom Koehler, acquired by the Dodgers to replace Brandon Morrow as the primary setup man for Kenley Jansen, hurts his shoulder in spring training and is still not close to returning.
—During the final spring training game, played at Dodger Stadium, a sewage pipe bursts spilling some foul-smelling liquid onto the field, forcing the team to cancel the rest of the game. Not to mention the sight of members of the Dodgers grounds crew walking in the muck wearing shoes but no socks.
—In the second game of the season, Jansen, who seemed invincible last season, gives up a home run to lose to the Giants.
—Jansen blows two saves in the season’s first couple of weeks. He blew only one save last season.
—Corey Seager’s elbow injury gets so bad that he has to have season-ending surgery.
—Yasiel Puig crashes into the fence while making a catch and goes on the disabled list.
—Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is pitching like a staff ace, tears a groin muscle off the bone and will be on the DL until after the All-Star break.
—Scott Alexander, acquired to replace Tony Watson as the primary left-handed setup man, pitches so poorly he is demoted to the minors.
—Logan Forsythe goes on the DL because of a sore shoulder — though some people might consider that a blessing.
—Rich Hill goes on the DL because of a cracked fingernail. That actually is one of the normal things to happen this season.
—Chris Taylor goes from being one of the best leadoff men in the league to having an OB% below .300.
—Pedro Baez stumbles and falls off the mound, balking in the go-ahead run in a game.
—Everyone in the bullpen is horrible at the same time.
I could go on.
It’s obvious there is a higher power at work here. The Dodgers need a spiritual cleansing, perhaps using a bucket of fried chicken or maybe something involving Jobu from “Major League.” What is Dennis Haysbert doing, and can we get him to Dodger Stadium?
Taking all of the above into consideration, it is pretty amazing that the Dodgers are 14-17. And they won two in a row against the Diamondbacks, looking a lot like last year’s team while doing it. So maybe they already conducted an exorcism.
So fear not, Dodgers fans. There’s still 131 games left this season. More than enough time to reverse the curse.
Seager, Ryu out
Since the last newsletter, the Dodgers lost two key players, with Corey Seager undergoing season-ending elbow surgery and Hynu-Jin Ryu tearing a groin muscle to put him out at least two months.
So who replaces these guys?
For Seager, the Dodgers plan on using Chris Taylor at short and a combo of Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo in center. They also called up Tim Locastro from the minors, and he can play center too.
For Ryu, Walker Buehler will replace him in the short term, but they still would like to minimize his innings this season, so the odds of him staying there all season are slim. I’d expect Brock Stewart to get some starts in place of Ryu too.
Will the Dodgers trade for Manny Machado? It’s very unlikely. They are pretty adamant about staying below the payroll tax threshold, and acquiring Machado would require giving up a top prospect to get a guy who can leave as a free agent after the season. The Dodgers do not like doing that. I think the only way they trade for Machado is if they are convinced they can re-sign him after the season. And Machado would be foolish to give any indication of that since he can earn more if teams bid against each other for his services in the offseason.
If the Dodgers make a trade, it would be for a second-tier shortstop, such as Jose Iglesias of Detroit.
As for replacing Ryu, hey, Scott Kazmir is available!
Former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire, who put together the team that won the 1988 World Series, has graciously agreed to answer questions from Dodgers Dugout readers. Claire, who has been battling cancer for the last several months, is holding a golf tournament on Aug. 20 at Oakmont CC in Glendale to benefit City of Hope. The Fred Claire Celebrity Golf Classic will include many Dodger greats, and Tommy Lasorda will be receiving the Celebration of Life Award. For more information, check out the tournament website here.
So, email me your question for Fred by clicking here. I will send them to Fred and he will answer select questions in a future newsletter.
Ask Ross Porter
Hi, fans! It’s good to be back with you to answer your questions during this baseball season. Please send your questions to Houston, and he will pass them on to me. List the city in which you live.
Anthony Collins of Palos Verdes Estates asks: “Ross, I miss your analytic approach to baseball announcing. Have any Dodger pitchers ever batted higher than ninth in the lineup?”
Ross: Thank you, Anthony. Don Drysdale hit seventh in a 1965 game, the year he had a .300 average with seven home runs, and was used as a pinch hitter 14 times for a weak-hitting team. That was the only game Walter Alston let a Dodger pitcher bat anywhere but last. Don ranks sixth as the best hitting pitcher ever with 29 homers and 113 RBIs. Joe Torre had a Dodger pitcher bat higher eight times in 2009, and Don Mattingly allowed two L.A. pitchers to bat eighth. In 2015, Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants each hit eighth in the same game. Babe Ruth is the only starting pitcher in postseason history to bat anywhere other than ninth. He batted sixth for the Red Sox in the 1918 World Series. Tony LaRussa leads all managers by having his pitchers hit other than the ninth spot in 432 games. Joe Maddon is second at 210 games.
Gabe Delgado asks: “Why has there never been a woman umpire in the majors?”
Ross: Seven women have umpired in the minors, but only one in the last 11 years, and she is still there at a lower level. Pam Postema has come the closest. In 1977, she began a 13-year stint in the minors, the last seven at triple A, and was invited to umpire MLB spring training games for two seasons. Less than 1% of 300 candidates entering the two umpire schools will make it to the big leagues. Women account for a very small percentage of those, and the probability that a woman umpire will make it is less than 0.1%.
Bob asks: Hi, Ross, as a lefty myself, I was wondering if there have been any left-handed catchers in major league history?
Ross: Yes, Bob. There have been 32 left-handed catchers, and 29 of them played between 1876 and 1905. The other three are Dale Long (1958 Cubs), Mike Squires (1980 White Sox) and Benny Distefano (1989 Pirates). Why? No left-handed gloves are made for catchers; it’s tough to throw out a man at third base with a right-handed batter at the plate because the throw has to be around the hitter; and catching a throw home backhanded over the plate puts the body in the direct path of the slide, making an injury to the catcher more likely.
Friday, Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. San Diego (Joey Lucchesi, 3-1, 2.78 ERA) at Monterrey, Mexico, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 2-2, 3.76 ERA) vs. San Diego (Bryan Mitchell, 0-3, 6.07 ERA) at Monterrey, Mexico, 4 p.m.
Sunday, Dodgers (Rich Hill, 1-1, 6.00 ERA) vs. San Diego (Eric Lauer, 0-1, 10.13 ERA) at Monterrey, Mexico, 1 p.m.
Note: All three games count as home games for the Padres.
Some questions and answers about Seager’s injury. Read all about it here.