The Dodgers Are Lucky And There’s Nothing Wrong With That

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Are you wondering how the Dodgers are 32-15 and 7 ½ games in front in the National League West?

Here’s how.

Journeyman utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. went 5 for 5 yesterday.

Two-time recipient of Tommy John surgery Chris Capuano pitched 7 innings of 2-hit ball, raised his record to 7-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.14.

Light-hitting veteran backup catcher Matt Treanor homered and is batting .290.

Treanor was playing in place of 31-year-old A.J. Ellis who, after spending 9 years in the minors and 4 in Triple A alone, is getting a chance to play regularly in the majors and has a slash line of .317/.442/.517 with 5 homers. He’s also thrown out 46% of potential basestealers behind the plate.

The Dodgers were flawed and for sale before the season started. They had a decent starting rotation led by reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and veteran Ted Lilly. They signed Aaron Harang and Capuano to fill out the fivesome hoping that both would provide competence. Their bullpen was questionable at closer and they had black holes in the lineup behind Matt Kemp. Kemp was carrying the offense on his back before he got hurt and they’ve held serve while he’s been out.

In spite of the hamstring injury to Kemp; non-existent production from shortstop Dee Gordon and third baseman Juan Uribe; the usual lack of power from James Loney; and a switch at closer from Javy Guerra to the strikeout machine Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have rolled merrily along taking advantage of slumping divisional rivals the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks and riding their starting pitching and surprising contributors to the best record in baseball.

Everything that could conceivably have gone right for the Dodgers has gone right.

The ownership problem was solved when a group fronted by Los Angeles Lakers’ icon Magic Johnson bought the club from Frank McCourt and installed respected sports executive Stan Kasten as the new team CEO. They’re received the above-and-beyond the call performances from Capuano, Hairston and Treanor and have the means to improve during the season. Since they’ve gotten out of the gate so well and no longer have to count their pennies because of ownership disarray, they’ll be able to do what needs to be done to improve the offense and contend for the duration. They need a bat and GM Ned Colletti will get it (Justin Morneau is high risk/high reward) because he has the money to do it. If they get into the playoffs, they have the starting pitching and strikeout closer to do damage once there.

The black clouds that have hovered over Dodger Stadium are lifting and a marquee franchise is back at the top of the standings. The Dodgers are for real and whether they achieved that status through luck and circumstance is irrelevant. They’re here to stay and are very dangerous in part because of pitching in part because of luck—in no particular order or preference. There’s nothing wrong with being lucky.

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The Francisco Rodriguez Free Agency Profile

All Star Game, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Name: Francisco Rodriguez.

Position: Right handed relief pitcher.

Vital Statistics:

Age-30 in January.

Height-6’0″

Weight-200.

Bats: Right.

Throws: Right.

Transactions: Signed by the Los Angeles Angels as an amateur free agent in 1998; signed by the New York Mets as a free agent in December 2008; traded to to the Milwaukee Brewers in July 2011.

Agent: Scott Boras.

Might he return to the Brewers? No.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Chicago White Sox; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; Texas Rangers; New York Mets; Florida Marlins; Cincinnati Reds; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

K-Rod has four pitches, which is a rarity for a reliever; he strikes out well over a batter-per-inning; despite high profile games he’s blown in the playoffs, he’s extremely reliable; his control appears worse than it is because he gets into a lot of deep counts and looks like he gets in trouble just for the sake of getting out of it—but he does get out of it; he doesn’t allow many homers; he works hard to stay in shape and loves to pitch.

Negatives:

He can be exceedingly selfish and stupid as evidenced by his assault on his father-in-law in the Citi Field family room in August of 2010. K-Rod was also openly displeased over the Brewers decision to never use him as a closer. When he’s asked to warm up, he likes to get into the game. His motion is stressful and despite his durability, as he ages, there’s always going to be the concern that he’ll eventually break down.

What he’ll want: 4-years, $50 million.

What he’ll get: 3-years, $35 million with a vesting option for a fourth year at $12 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Orioles; Rangers; Marlins; Dodgers.

K-Rod switched agents at mid-season from Paul Kinzer to Scott Boras. Mets GM Sandy Alderson pulled a skillful end-around on Boras by trading K-Rod to the Brewers before Boras was able to submit a list of teams to whom K-Rod could not be traded. The games finished option in K-Rod’s contract was worth $17.5 million for 2012, but neither the Mets nor the Brewers were going to come close to letting it kick in. K-Rod dropped the option for a bonus and his freedom. Boras will find a way to equate and surpass K-Rod’s history to Jonathan Papelbon‘s and will ask for a similar contract; after the way the summer went for Boras with his new client, he has to deliver on his promises.

Would I sign K-Rod? For teams that have a history of taking wayward players, straightening them out and putting them in a position to redeem their reputations and themselves, he’s a worthwhile shot—I’m talking about the Rangers. K-Rod would allow them to shift Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation.

The Marlins are throwing a load of offers around, but it remains to be seen who is going to take their money. They need a closer amid the uncertainty on and off the field of Juan Oviedo/Leo Nunez.

K-Rod is a real possibility for both.

I don’t expect the Dodgers or Orioles to be after K-Rod with any intent, but both clubs are unpredictable. The Orioles need a closer; the Dodgers might trust Javy Guerra, but Ned Colletti prefers veterans and if the Dodgers want to leap into contention, he might want to go get a “name”.

Will it be a retrospective mistake for the team that signs him? If they give K-Rod a Papelbon contract, they will regret it. If it’s for 3-years and the 4th year option isn’t the same as it was for 2012, then he’ll do the job he’s hired to do.

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The Ryan Madson Free Agency Profile

All Star Game, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Name: Ryan Madson.

Position: Right handed relief pitcher.

Vital Statistics:

Age-31.

Height-6’6″

Weight-200.

Bats: Left.

Throws: Right.

Transactions: Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 9th round of the 1998 MLB Draft.

Agent: Scott Boras.

Might he return to the Phillies? No.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; Baltimore Orioles; Chicago White Sox; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; Texas Rangers; Seattle Mariners; New York Mets; Florida Marlins; Cincinnati Reds; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

He has a good fastball and excellent changeup; Madson’s herky-jerky motion is all arms and legs and makes it difficult to pick the ball up out of his hand; he’s been mostly durable apart from some silly injuries from kicking things; he throws strikes and has experience in the post-season and with a difficult fanbase in a passionate sports town. Madson is good against both lefties and righties.

Negatives:

That herky-jerky motion isn’t gentle on one’s body and is especially stressful on his arm; he’s been heavily used since 2004. Madson wants star closer money with a limited closer pedigree; he’s struggled at times and can be prone to allowing the long ball; his strikeout numbers are fewer than one-per-inning.

What he’ll want: 4-years, $44 million.

What he’ll get: 3-years, $34 million with a vesting option for a fourth year at $12 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Red Sox; Orioles; Royals; Twins; Rangers; Marlins; Reds; Dodgers.

The Red Sox are not going after Madson unless his market crashes and he’s willing to take 2-years with an option.

The Royals are on the list because there’s a chance they trade Joakim Soria and if that’s the case, they’ll need a closer.

Dan Duquette likes having a legitimate, proven reliever at the back of his bullpen; Buck Showalter has had both a foundling-type short reliever and has used multiple people in the role; he’s also had that “one guy” and Madson can get out hitters from both sides of the plate.

The Rangers will sign a closer and move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation.

Jeffrey Loria is putting it out there that the Marlins are going to spend big with offers to Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols; they have to sign someone and with the questions surrounding Juan Oviedo/Leo Nunez, Madson fits.

Francisco Cordero might not return to the Reds as a free agent and Madson is about as good as he is.

The Dodgers somehow find money to spend despite their ownership mess; Javy Guerra did well as the Dodgers closer but Ned Colletti likes veterans and Madson is a veteran despite being relatively inexperienced in the job.

Would I sign Madson? The back-and-forth regarding Madson’s “agreement” with the Phillies and their denial that there ever was such an agreement is comical.

I detailed my suspicions when it happened, but here’s what I suspect, briefly: Madson and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro agreed to a contract; Amaro needed approval from team president David Montgomery; Montgomery wanted to know why the Phillies were paying so much for Madson when a bit more could get them Jonathan Papelbon; the deal was nixed; they went after Papelbon and got him.

Now Madson’s looking for work.

And the Phillies are better with Papelbon.

At a reasonable price I would sign Madson, but given that he’s represented by Boras and wanted 4-years and $44 million and that the Phillies preferred the more expensive Papelbon, I’d be extremely cautious before committing to Madson long-term. I don’t trust him and for that kind of money, a team needs to be sure they know what they’re getting.

Will it be a retrospective mistake for the team that signs him? If they guarantee $40 million, yes. If they get him for, say, 3-years at $27 million with incentives, no.

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