The Dodgers are 14-12. That translates to an 87-win pace, which would fall short of expectations, but still represents a decent jump from the 76-win pace heading into April 24. It also shows the benefit of one good series this early in the season.
The Phillies are not a particularly good baseball team, and the Dodgers took care of business this weekend at home. By sweeping Philadelphia, the Dodgers moved back above .500 and put themselves in a good position for this coming week, when they'll face the bottom-dwelling Giants and Padres. Playing well against lowly opposition is a crucial part of the baseball season. It creates a cushion that the Dodgers may need, especially given their sluggish April.
Here are the pitching matchups for the next three games against San Francisco:
Monday: RHP Johnny Cueto (3-1, 5.10 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (4-1, 2.29 ERA).
Tuesday: LHP Matt Moore (1-3, 4.80 ERA) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-0, 2.29 ERA).
Wednesday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-4, 6.32 ERA) vs. LHP Julio Urias (0-0, 1.59 ERA).
Now, to the mailbag. There is plenty to discuss heading into this week. You can send me questions on Twitter @McCulloughTimes. Let's do this.
Manager Dave Roberts was firm about this over the weekend, even after Cody Bellinger swatted a pair of home runs on Saturday against the Phillies. When Joc Pederson and Franklin Gutierrez come back, Bellinger will return to triple-A Oklahoma City.
In his first week in the majors, Bellinger displayed all the promise and problem of relying on a rookie in the majors. He struck out five times in his 10 at-bats against the Giants. Then he showed power and speed against the Phillies. He appeared to grow more comfortable by the day. His status as the organization's finest prospect appears unquestioned — which is why it makes sense for him to return to the minors, and give him time to play every day. At only 21, Bellinger needs as much seasoning as possible.
Because, to me, it appears clear that the Dodgers will be relying pretty heavily on Bellinger in the final months of the season. It does him little benefit to stew on the bench in the majors, not getting daily at-bats. In the near future, those at-bats will be in the Pacific Coast League.
Do not fret. He will not be there for long.
Because it makes little sense for Bellinger to sit on the bench, as we just mentioned. He also doesn't fill the role Scott Van Slyke fills. Van Slyke is a right-handed batter, who can back up Adrian Gonzalez against tough left-handed pitchers. Bellinger bats left-handed.
You can argue, of course, that Rob Segedin may be a better option than Van Slyke. Segedin is a right-handed hitter who can play first base or third base. Segedin can also play the outfield, although Van Slyke is considered a more reliable fielder.
Even so, Van Slyke has not been particularly productive this year. He hitting .129/.250/.258. He was a below-average hitter in 2015 (96 OPS+) and an even less effective hitter in 2016 (66 OPS+). Considering the Dodgers' history of futility against left-handed pitchers, they need their right-handed specialists to produce. Van Slyke has a minor-league option left, so perhaps Segedin or Trayce Thompson replaces him.
Segedin is on the disabled list with a strained big toe. And Thompson is hitting .023/.143/.023 in Oklahoma City. So maybe the Dodgers pull the trigger on O'Koyea Dickson, who is banging the ball around at OKC (1.012 OPS, six homers, five doubles in 19 games) and bats right-handed. They would need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, but it seems like that could be accomplished by shifting Brock Stewart to the 60-day disabled list.
I'm not sure this happens any time soon. It would be easier to just wait until Segedin gets healthy and hope Van Slyke rediscovers the form he displayed in 2014. But that was three years ago, and teams with championship aspirations require their role players to produce.
That would be a little strong, but Andrew Toles does need to hit to remain in the majors. He's a young player with minor-league options, so he can be sent down whenever. He's not an established veteran like Adrian Gonzalez, who has earned the right to work through his issues in the majors. If Toles slumps — and he did slump for most of April — he might get replaced.
And the best replacement appears to be Bellinger. It sounds like Andre Ethier won't be back until June, so that gives Toles some time to find his footing. He played well this past weekend against Philadelphia, and he delivered the game-winning hit Thursday in San Francisco. He may not be a prototypical leadoff hitter, given his lack of patience, but he provides a decent amount of power and a good amount of speed. He's a useful player.
As a short-term solution, like for a week or two, the Dodgers feel like it makes sense for Hill to stay in the bullpen. He can test his blister in one or two multi-inning stints and gauge the readiness of his finger for extended usage. That way, they don't upset the rotation and immediately plunge Hill's finger back into a high-stress situation. I know this sounds ridiculous, but at least the team wouldn't be repeating the pattern of earlier in the season, where Hill jumped from starting assignment to disabled list and back to starting assignment.
I do not see Joc Pederson hitting 30 home runs. Given his injury history, plus losing some at-bats given his limited playing time against left-handed pitchers, he profiles more as a 20-25 homer guy.
Corey Seager could certainly break the arbitrary, round-number threshold. He hit five in April, which puts him on pace for 30. He hit 26 last season, and April was his weakest offensive month. Home runs often feel fluky, but Seager possesses the sort of swing that rarely slumps for extended periods of time.
Here are a few recommendations:
1. "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" by Buster Olney. An intricate, painstakingly detailed account of the Yankees of the 1990s, told through the lens of their epic Game 7 clash with Arizona in the 2001 World Series. It's one of my five favorite books. I try to read it once a year.
2. "The Lords of the Realm" by John Helyar. Any time you wonder about why a player might leave his team in free agency, read this book, which essentially explains the business of baseball through the sport's collusion scandal in the 1980s. I am continuously amazed that collusion happened so recently. It seems unfathomable in our current age.
3. "Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life" by Richard Ben Cramer. This biography offers stunning insight, relayed with RBC's inimitable panache, into the depths of DiMaggio's inner discord.
Hard to say. On the one hand, Bray Wyatt appears quite popular with the fans. The crowd pops huge for his entrance. There was an outpouring admiration after he won the title in February. So the WWE must be doing something right.
Still, as a (theoretical) adult who still watches wrestling because he enjoys the in-ring product, I have no use for Wyatt's character. His promos are rambling belches of gobbledygook. He makes no sense. He resides within no interior logic. He just says goofy things, shows up in the ring after the lights go out and eventually, at the big shows, he loses.
Wyatt lost at Wrestlemania 30 to John Cena. He lost at Wrestlemania 31 to The Undertaker. He got jobbed out in that goofy angle with Cena and The Rock at Wrestlemania 32. He lost to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 33. It's hard to take a character like that seriously. Monsters don't end every program looking up at the lights.
Wyatt is a good worker, he has a unique look, and he hit on a gimmick that resonates with fans. But he's been treading water for years, and even after getting hot-shotted into the championship earlier this year, he's back where he started. I would describe my level of interest in watching him feud with Dean Ambrose or some other mid-card guy as "zero."
Wrestling is so stupid.
I appreciate the achievement of "Sandinista!" but it's hard to argue with "London Calling." The latter packs all the eclecticism of the former, only with less fat and greater heights: "Spanish Bombs," "Lost In The Supermarket," "The Card Cheat," "Death Or Glory," so many classics. That's a desert island record for me, along with "Clarity" by Jimmy Eat World and "Exile on Main Street" by The Stones.