Every year Daniel Shoptaw, our good friend from Cardsconclave, also known as C70 does a series called playing pepper. In this series he talks to bloggers/writers of all 30 MLB clubs. He asks a number of questions about the Dodgers and we answer him as best we can. He’s actually been doing this for over 10 years now and I’ve been a veteran of the series.
This is my sixth time doing this, (I think) and every time I have enjoyed it. It’s always great to hear what other writers think and have to say about the Dodgers. It’s also cool to get their opinions on their own clubs as well. Isn’t this what writing is all about? That would be great baseball discussions. I would say yes indeed. Anyways you can check out this year’s playing pepper where I join my sister Stacie Wheeler, and Alex Campos from Dodgersdigest.
I also reversed the process by asking Daniel some questions of my own about the Cardinals. You can read them by just scrolling down below. I hope you enjoy!
- How would you rate the Marcell Ozuna trade? Do you think the Cardinals gave up too much?
The Ozuna trade was the real saving grace of the offseason. Going into the winter, there was a lot of hope that there would be big moves, activity, signings. And while the Cardinals have shored up some of their problems, most of the solutions were about as sexy as I am. Ozuna is a different beast, though. A young power hitter with a couple of years of control and, if 2017 is to be believed, an all-around game with power that he’s just now coming into.
Losing Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra stung a bit, but not a lot. Neither of those (nor the other two fungible prospects that went in the deal) were at the top of the Cardinal prospect lists and weren’t likely to make much of an impact on the ’18 squad. Alcantara, if he gets control, could be the big loss down the road, but the Cardinals have pitching. They needed the thumper that would sit in the four spot and they got it. I’d give that deal an A without hesitation.
- With Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh gone, who is the Cardinals’ closer?
Going into camp, the expectation is that Luke Gregerson, signed in the offseason, will have that role but even Gregerson recognizes that it’s not set in stone. With the signing of Bud Norris, who had 19 saves last year, plus the emergence of Tyler Lyons (#PatronPitcher….oh, wait, not my normal audience. Here, read this.), the ninth may be a competition in spring. If I had more confidence in the flexibility and creativity of Mike Matheny, I’d say you’d see a bit of a rotation in that spot during the season as well, but Matheny seems to do better with set roles.
- Will the Cardinals resign Lance Lynn? (obviously they did not)
No. I mean, sure, there are few absolutes in this world and anything can happen, but I’d basically put money on that not happening. The Cardinals never engaged with Lynn last year even on preliminary talks about an extension and from all indications haven’t even checked in this winter. There’s a strong case to be made for Lynn on a short-term contract, but I imagine he wants a five year deal and there were just enough indicators that suggest a decline is coming that this front office, who seems to be overly leery about making a bad trade or signing a bad contract, isn’t going to go in that direction.
- I see the Cardinals have a lot of young pitchers on the staff. Can the Cardinals compete for a postseason spot with so many young pitchers on their roster?
Why shouldn’t they? They’ve been dealing with young pitchers for years with success. In fact, if anyone in the rotation worries folks now it’s the old veteran Adam Wainwright, who has had a couple of down years and dealt with a few injuries. And there aren’t really that many young ones in the projected rotation anyway.
Carlos Martinez is an established veteran and Michael Wacha‘s been around since 2013. Miles Mikolas is a bit of an unknown quantity, but he’s spent three years in Japan after a little MLB experience so he’s not as young as you might think. The Cardinals will need production from Luke Weaver and probably some contributions from Jack Flaherty and maybe a couple of others during the year. I don’t think they’ll be the ones keeping them out of October if it happens, though.
- What happened to Stephen Piscotty, Diaz and some of the other promising St. Louis position player prospects? Did the Cardinals give up on them too quickly?
Figuring out some of these things is a crazy job, but I don’t think they gave up on any of them too quickly. You could make an argument that they could have stuck with Piscotty, who was distracted all year with his mother being diagnosed with ALS. Now that he’s in Oakland and closer to her, I expect (and hope for) a bit of a rebound for him. That being said, you don’t know that if he’d stayed in St. Louis if he’d have had the same improvement.
Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz went to Toronto in separate deals. I think everyone knows what you are going to get with Grichuk by now–good defense, solid power, ton of strikeouts, streaky hitter. He would have been fine as a fourth outfielder in St. Louis but he wasn’t going to crack the top three after the Ozuna deal and he’ll probably do OK as a Blue Jay, but I don’t think it’ll be a surprise or a regret that he’s gone. I like Grichuk but the Cards had him for long enough to realize he’s not going to be a superstar.
The jury is still out on whether Diaz was a complete flash in the pan. The Cards had him in the minors for three years and actually designated him for assignment during that span. Nobody claimed him and he stayed in the system. That seemed to wake him up and the last six weeks of 2015 were very good and you saw what he did in the bigs in 2016. Somewhere over the winter, though, his eye left him and he just couldn’t lay off pitches that he used to. He didn’t do much at Memphis last year either and I don’t think he’ll likely ever be more than a utility guy going forward unless he gets that patience back. Something to watch, I guess.
- Where do you see the Cardinals finishing this season and why?
I’m an optimistic guy (as this recent podcast will attest) and I still think that the gap between the Cards and the Cubs isn’t quite as great as many think. The Cubs are the favorite, true, but if things go right 90 wins or so isn’t out of reach for St. Louis. I think they’ll probably be in the wild card hunt all year long and grab one of them before it’s all said and done.
33 thoughts on “Conversations With The Enemy: Red Birds Edition”
Scott, you don’t think the Dodgers improved at all this pre-season? I think many of us would disagree, but I know you made this comment before the exhibition season started. Watching all the talent that the Dodgers have accumulated both in trades and the farm, it’s kind of astounding to me in the ‘potentiality’ of what this team can be for several years to come! Barring unforeseen problems, there are going to be some big stars on the Dodger teams that will surprise many of us. They are loaded, man. I expect an offensive powerhouse for some years with careful managing and physical conditioning.
The only weakness I can see is with pitching, but if Buehler turns into the star many think he will be, they will rock and roll all year. Kershaw, Wood, Hill, and Buehler (if ready) is a good rotation. Injury is always a spoiler that is why I emphasize conditioning, the #1 friend of any athlete.
I don’t think they really improved from last year. 100 wins is possible but doesn’t seem likely.
I agree about the talent appearing to be stacked, but since I also agree about the pitching it’s hard for me to be as enthusiastic as you are Jeff. If those guys come through all year, then yeah, 100 wins is indeed possible. I still have 94-96 wins and another Division title. Are they better than the rest of the NL? Yeah, I think so. Better than the Astros? Nope. Not until they beat ‘em.
I think it will be the Cards, Giants and dbacks slugging it out for the Wild Card.
It’s going to be another fun year for Dodger fans.
Totally agree. Fun year forthcoming. I bet even dr. freud would agree.
Back to back 100 win seasons is really tough. But the team is just loaded. I’m sure there will be a starter acquired at the deadline.
Let’s hope the bullpen rounds into the same form it has for the past few seasons.
Jeff, they have not improved that much and they sure do not look like a 100 win team again. The rotation is loaded with 5 inning pitchers which immediately puts a strain on your bullpen. So there is the reason for an 8 man pen, leaving you short on the bench and limiting your moves. They lost the 2nd best arm in the pen to free agency, Morrow, did not resign Darvish. They signed one free agent and he is out for who knows how long and he was supposed to be Morrows replacement….how I do not know because he has not shown that kind of skill in his MLB career. They traded for Kemp to reduce the payroll, they are more concerned with the luxury tax than getting better. Kemp has been great so far and I hope he has a great season. But judging from what I have seen this spring, the bullpen is iffy. And Hill looked like a AA pitcher today
I think they’re about the same club, minus a couple of guys. That doesn’t mean they’re not a very good team, because they are. But I think we’ll see the same results this year. 95-100 wins, division title and competition for another championship. I’ll bet they at least get back to the NLCS, hopefully the World Series. Back to back pennants would be wonderful. Of course a World Championship would be even better.
I agre with Scott. I don’t think they’ve improved. I think players will plateau and/or regress. And other contenders have improved. We will likely get into the postseason but it’s going to be hard to get back to the WS unless our young pitchers step up in the postseason.
I still haven’t seen a single game, but Grandal’s stats seem to be pretty good. He started dreadful, but has really come around.
Who has seen him? Is his swing or approach much different? Can you see how he has changed it?
Grandal’s swing is the same. He’s just on a hot streak. We’ve seen this movie before.
Grandal is hitting a very Grandal like .222. His OPS is high because of his very squirrel like 3 home runs in 27 at bats. I have only seen the video where he hit a cookie over the left field fence.
The real Rich Hill showed up today…..1/3rd of an inning pitched, 6 earned runs and a homer….way to go Richie! And you guys like this dud???? Please…..38 years old and molding….
Why do I love him?
Quotes like the following:
Rich Hill on his outing: “It sucked. It was complete horse(bleep). Pitching like that is totally unacceptable. … It doesn’t matter if it’s the Cactus League. You want to go out and have success.”
I know you have a bromance going with Richie the kid, he still is a 38 year old journeyman pitcher with limited skills and not much to show for a very mediocre MLB career. He is in my book, very iffy,,,,,and a 5 inning guy at most…of course FAZ the idiot loves those kinds of guys which is why Dodger fans will never see another 1-2-3 punch in the starting rotation as long as Friedman and Zaidi are running things, and forget getting premier players.
He’s got about $57 million, $48 million of that from us.
The contract is structured for him to make $16.67mm this year and $18.67mm next year. Believe it or not, according to $/WAR, he’s earned what he’s made so far. And we will probably see it happen again, 5 innings at a time. And he ain’t the only one.
This IS the staff FAZ put together and they did it purposely. I prefer strong starters, but the definition of strong is changing.
Yeah and baseball as we know it is that much worse because mediocrity rules. Real baseball players are not around anymore. There is so much money involved that players are mere market commodity’s and assets to be protected. To me, it sucks. I hate this kind of baseball. I would much rather watch a starting pitcher who can finish what he started. I dislike seeing leads disappear because the bullpen is so gassed in September. These guys today are no where near as good as their predecessors. Give me the game I grew up with anyday.
That game is gone brother.
I feel very much the same way. Several years ago, when players were threatening strikes and owners were threatening lockdowns, at a time when ticket prices continued to rise, I reached what I thought were my limits and tried to organize a fan strike for Opening Day. Let ‘em play the first game in an empty stadium. I basically got laughed out of the chat room and 50,000 showed up at Dodger Stadium.
As with damn near everything in the world today, this game, and everybody in it, is about money. That is just a fact. Is the product better? That is a subjective opinion. It’s clearly more popular, more money than ever is being made. The athletes are better than they’ve ever been, but I don’t think that necessarily means the games are better. The day of the complete game is in the rear view mirror, as is for the most part the stolen base, the well executed hit and run and the squeeze play. In a number of ways the game of baseball we grew up with is gone, but then so is the hot rod and the drive-in movie. Like our fathers and grandfathers before us we must accept progress as it is. I’m coming to terms with it and I’m doing my best tommaintain interest. Sometimes it ain’t easy, but by purchasing mlbtv I’ve once again agreed to throw my money at it.
So, buckle up in the metric train, fortify the bullpen, try to beat the shift by pulling the ball into it, forget the bunt, don’t run, swing for the fences no matter the count and hopefully have the opportunity to win the very last game on the MLB calendar.
Well, Good Morning Badger,
Wow! You are wound tight this morning. Can’t say I see anything that I disagree with but I will say that these changes you outline changed because of something. I think it is the management of most teams doing things that may or may not make baseball a better game. I am like you, I like it the way that I know it and the way it was. Unfortunately they do not see it that way. Those things like Hot Rods, the beach, drive in movies and fundamental baseball are in the past. How happy I was then. Now it is always we have to put up with BS. The whole attitude is different and it makes me sad.
Good morning to you pack.
Didn’t mean to sound wound up. I don’t feel tight. Like many of my friends I just feel a bit sad about how things are turning out. The world doesn’t seem better than it was when I was younger, and like many in their 70’s I feel a sense of loss.
As this article suggests, social scientists of today, like baseball scientists I suppose, attempt to quantify it, and I’m sure come up with algorithmic answers, but I think most of it is just a sadness in recognizing your ways of moving through space, like your father’s and grandfather’s ways, have become a thing of the past. I look around and I just don’t feel we’ve progressed consciously. I hope tomorrow’s kids, perhaps like those remarkable high schoolers in Florida, leave a more positive footprint than my generation did.
I don’t intend to give up interest in baseball. I still swing my bat every day. 50 cuts a day – 25 right handed 25 left. I used to do 100 when I was playing. On Monday I’m heading to Phoenix with a friend to see a game. SF v Cleveland. It’s a different game, yes, but I still enjoy watching the best in the world play it.
What you are forgetting about Hill, is that it isn’t his choice to come out of a game, after five innings!
In fact, he doesn’t like to come out like that, but he is going with what Roberts thinks is best for the team.
Because he is a team player.
Look at both the no hitters, he almost pitched.
I still think it is better to have at least three or four starting pitchers, to pitch six or seven innings more regularly, then not.
Because every year at the end of the season, into the post season, most team’s bullpens are wore out.
Because there has to be balance between the starters and the pitchers in the bullpen, to keep everyone more healthy and so neither the starters or the relievers, are wore out, at the end of the season.
And since they have been doing this five inning stuff with our starters in the rotation, who is more wore out at the end of the year, the starters who mostly pitched five innings, or the relievers that came into games early, all season long?
Not everything that is from older times in baseball, is necessarily wrong, but the same applies, to baseball today.
We do have something over the younger generation, because we didn’t stay in the house and watch TV or play video games as kids, we were outside playing baseball, and other sports, and being active.
That is part of the reason that the new generation doesn’t have a longer life expectancy, then we do.
I am at the very end of baby boomers, and very close to generation Xers, and these generations have longer life expectancies.
And that is one of the bad things about computers, and the other medias, beside the fact people don’t directly communicate with each other that much anymore, even on the phone.
Badger with another good post.
He’s on a roll.
Thought provoking. For whatever reason fan protests and online petitions seem to never go anywhere.
I do remember chat rooms fondly though.
Thank you for the kind words Bluto. I appreciate it.
MJ it’s my opinion that many of today’s pitchers either don’t trust their stuff enough to challenge hitters with strikes or they lack command. (or maybe their stuff just ain’t good enough?). Major League pitchers should get the job done with an average of 15 pitches per inning. They do that and they may be able to finish 7, depending on the pressure of the innings pitched. Some guys, Kershaw, breeze through, making it look easy. Some guys, everyone else, not so much. I’m still old school, what my grandpa taught me- throw strikes – high and tight, low and away and “change of pace” in fastball counts. Pitch to contact and trust your defense. I think that strategy is still applicable in today’s game. Throw strikes dammit.
You are so right, throw strikes, especially coming in, from the bullpen.
Darvish’s problem they use to say, was that he wanted to strike every hitter, out.
But getting soft contact, is better, especially since, it doesn’t require a pitcher to threw, to many pitches.
I have a lot of thoughts (for once)
1. I wonder if pitchers not “trusting their stuff” is because of scouting. Pitchers are more likely to pitch to batters’ weakness instead of pitching to their strength. Just a theory.
2. I think fundamentals (referenced somewhere above) are much more highly stressed than they used to be. Just look at fielder positioning and shifting. This is a fundamental thing.
3. Are we really lamenting the loss of the sacrifice bunt? What did that silly tactic ever contribute to the game, either strategically or aesthetically?
4. As for the steal, it was indeed exciting. That cannot be denied. But it’s value was dubious to say the least, especially when the game shifted to focus on batters getting on base and not making outs.
5. Back to Hill, I just love watching him. His recoil on the FB. The arm angles and different curve shapes. Just a blast.
I’ll take a shot at this:
1. command is about putting whatever pitch you choose exactly where you want it. I don’t even know what pitching to a batter’s strength means, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do it.
2. Fundamentals to me means is about mechanics, offensively and defensively. Positioning is strategic.
3. Pitchers sacrifice bunt. Hitters bunt for hits. In my day everybody knew how to bunt. As a #3 hitter most of my career I would back a third baseman up with a line drive down the line and when he’s backed up I could hit .400 bunting at him. Then I would often steal second and be in scoring position. You know who else could do that? Mickey Mantle. In 1956 Mantle hit .600 bunting, with an OPS of 1.200. He had 11 bunt hits and slugged 52 home runs that year. He was my favorite player as a kid. He was a lot of kids favorite player.
4. See 3.
5. Hill. He’s a’ight. A solid #5, like Wood, Ryu and Maeda.
You just proved my point there Badger. They are athletes, not baseball players. Most cannot lay down a bunt, hit the pickoff man or steal a base. I still love the game, just not the way it is presented or played today. You talk of popularity. Very true, but very few fans know the history beyond their own team and then most of them know little of that. It is all about launch angle, quality pitches and innings…….horse pucky. Babe Ruth knew absolutely nothing about launch angles, but he knew how to hit a baseball, play defense and even steal a base now and then. Screw the metric train. I am not all in and never will be. I watch the games, root for the Dodgers but I could care less about a players WAR. I just want to see a runner bunted into scoring position in a tight game, or Grandal actually get just a hit in a clutch situation without trying to hit the ball to Glendale. Which was by the way the home of the great Casey Stengel for many years. And MJ, I have not forgotten anything about Hill. I know he hates coming out of games and that it is managements decision. But that does not alter the FACT that he gives up a ton of first inning runs and is nothing more than a mediocre journeyman who is now 38 years old and sinking. You have your opinion of this team and I have mine. I like the old game better. I like pitchers finishing games and bullpens not burnt out by September. What do you think caused that losing streak last year? The team was tired. No way this bunch comes close to 100 wins. They might win the division, but their opponents improved more than they did. Now if Kemp has a good year that can alter the equation some, but I am a realist. They need as good if not better production out of every player on the team. They also need an unknown player in the bullpen to step up and be the Morrow of 2018. And right now I do not see many viable candidates for that job. So maybe FAZ will swing a trade at the deadline. But don’t hold your breath for an impact player anytime soon. Forget Machado and Harper.
Michael and Badger:
Ha ha ha,,,,,,,,,I don’t even like Dana Carvey, but that is funny……..looks like us too,,,,
Hill has an era just over three last year, and that is not an opinion.
And you of all people, should know not to put to much into a spring training game, from a verteran player, or pitcher, in this case.
And you know I don’t like when they take starters out, after five innings, either, so I don’t consider that old thinking, because it works.
There was a reason they had starting pitchers in a rotation, to balance the innings, in the bullpen, and the starting rotation.
Because baseball, has a very long season, compared, to other sports.
MJ I care less what his ERA is this spring. He is exactly what I said he is, a journeyman pitcher. That is all he has ever been. He turned a good not great year into a 3 year deal worth 48 million dollars. Baseball front offices value players different now than they did before. Guys who can pitch 6 quality innings have value and get paid unreal amounts of money. That does not make the game better than it was. In my eyes it is not the same. This is the way the game is now. I get that. It does not mean I have to like it or the players who play the game. Most of these guys are weak on basic baseball skills. You have pitchers who could not pick a runner off base if he was 40 feet off the bag. Hitters who cannot bunt, or do the basic’s like move a runner into scoring position by giving themselves up. You gauge players your way, I will evaluate them mine. Hill is not even the 3rd best starter on this team. He is a 2 pitch pitcher right now. Curve-fastball and that is it. He lacks control of either one and he is going to get hammered. I did not like him when they traded for him, I thought giving him a 3 year contract was stupid and I do not like him any better right now. There is nothing you or anyone else on this or any other site can make me change my mind on the guy. Every game he starts I will be looking to see if he can make it out of the first inning without putting the Dodgers in a hole like he did the other day. If he goes 6 innings, I will be surprised, more than that I will be amazed. He is what he is. Mediocre. Preach loving this ape to Bluto..he loves the guy. I do not think he even belongs in a Dodger uni.
Yeah, I’d love a rotation of Kershaw and four Hills, but since that’s not possible.
Buehler 2 IP, 2 K, 0 H, 0 R, 1 W. Fastball hit 99 mph. Already sent to Minor Leagues as we know. But he’ll get his shot.
The same comment I made last year holds for this year. In order to win, this team needs offense. Inadvertently, they added offense with Kemp. And, finally, there is muscle behind the starters, like Toles, Kike, & Verdugo. Even Farmer is ready to rock. This wasn’t the case for most of last year. We were a big slumping team until something woke them up and they went on one of the greatest runs we’ve ever seen. This was done with their lousy pitching, the same ones who couldn’t last more than 4-5 innings, giving up HR’s early and the lead. The bats more than made up for this deficit. It still holds. The bats have to make up for it again, except our bats look even better than last year. This is why I seem more positive than many others this time around. All that could change with a few key injuries.