A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 5/20-5/22 in Chicago
Offense: Jamey Carroll-SS, Aaron Miles-2B, Andre Ethier-RF, Matt Kemp-CF, Juan Uribe-3B, James Loney-1B, Rod Barajas-C, Jay Gibbons-DH Jerry Sands-LF. Bench: Juan Castro-UTIL, Dioner Navarro-C.
Thank Odin it's time for interleague play. The White Sox have gotten hot right before the feast on the Senior Circuit begins. You know a team has some problems when Jamey Carroll is your starting shortstop. But Rafael Furcal can't stay healthy and the demon-faced Hoosier is the best option. Carroll is one of those interesting players who almost always have a higher OBP than SLG, and this year is not an exception (.364 vs. .360). Carroll has some speed and can get on base, but is even less of a power threat than most pitchers. Jamey is a natural second baseman, making it fairly unsurprising that he's a little bit below average defensively at shortstop. It's kind of awesome that Aaron Miles and Juan Uribe are playing in the same infield, seeing as they were traded for each other back in late 2003. He is also the man who ended Juan Encarnacion's career. Aaron Miles has had one good season in his career (2008) and will be heading back to the bench once Casey Blake comes back from the DL. Like Carroll, Miles has no power. Unlike Carroll, Miles also has no speed, ability to get on base, or play good second base defense. But he did once stop an armed gunman. Andre Ethier has been in a bit of a slump since losing his 30 game hitting streak two weeks ago, as he hasn't had a hit since May 13. Ethier is a Carlos Quentin kind of right fielder: amazing bat, terrible defense. Andre will hit around .300 with 20-25 homeruns, but his hands of stone prevent him from becoming a truly elite player.Matt Kemp is finally having that breakout season that everyone has been waiting for for the past couple seasons. The Bison broke up with Rihanna, and maybe that was all he needed. Kemp is sporting .417 wOBA, thanks to an impressive .403 OBP and a .536 SLG. The 12 stolen bases (with a miniscule three caught stealings) are just a delicious icing on the cake. His BABIP is a bit higher than normal, but even with the regression kicks in, Kemp is going to have a monster year. He really shouldn't be playing center field, and it might behoove the Dodgers to shift him to a corner if they ever get the chance, though no one on the farm is ready to play a better center. Juan Uribe has parlayed his ability to play plus defense anywhere in the infield and hit the crap out of the ball when he makes contact into a nice post-White Sox career. I don't think anyone expects him to produce at the same levels he did the past two seasons, but he won't fall back below his pre-2005 levels. His game hasn't changed since leaving us: he crushes the ball, waddles around the bases, struggles to get on base, and plays good defense. He has no reason to be so sad. He'll go back to rotating between second base and short stop once Casey Blake comes back. James Loney is one of the worst regular first baseman in the game today. His bat would be great for a guy playing a key defensive position, but at first base it makes him highly replaceable. Homeruns aren't everything, but when you finish last at the position for the stat while not really contributing much else, you're a drain on your team. He will hit no more than 12 homeruns this season, will have a well below-average wOBA, and will most likely end up non-tendered and losing his job to the cheaper Jerry Sands.
Rod Barajas wouldn't have a job with the Dodgers if they hadn't made the ill-advised Carlos Santana for Casey Blake trade a few seasons back. Barajas has been slipping a bit when it comes to keeping baserunners from stealing, but this could be an more of an effect of his starting pitchers as he has shown an absolute cannon at the backstop his whole career. He strikes out a great deal and does not walk, but destroys the ball when he connects (career .174 ISO). He'll be worth his $3.25MM easily this year. It's always hard to figure out who an NL team will use as their DH in their first AL series. I have settled on Jay Gibbons as the man. The alleged steroid user may be losing his vision, which is terrifying and could end his career soonish. Gibbons has been an averagish player his whole career and has been a decent option for some left-handed power. He's just a part-time player and not nearly the mild threat he once was. Jerry Sands is the near future for L.A. in either left field or 1B, wherever they have a harder time finding a better option than what they currently have. Baseball America called Sands the best power hitter in the Dodgers' minor leagues. That power hasn't yet manifested itself yet in the bigs, but he should be about a league average hitter when the season ends. That's pretty good for a 23 year old.
Pitching: Clayton Kershaw-LHP, Chad Billingsley-RHP, Ted Lilly-LHP, Hiroki Kuroda-RHP, Jon Garland-RHP, Matt Guerrier-CL.
I'm going to handle this part a little differently for the non-Cubs interleague series. It seems kind of pointless to cover the entire pitching rotation when we won't even see 40% of it. That being said, we will look at Ted Lilly, Jon Garland, Hideki Kuroda, and temporary closer Matt Guerrier. I think it's officially fair to call a player a journeyman when they've played for 20% of the teams in baseball. That being said, Ted Lilly is the Dodgers' left-handed journeyman, which is kind of neat because they drafted him before shipping him out to Montreal. Lilly has always been prone to the longball, but you had to figure moving to Chavez Ravine might help mask that. It has not. 2009 was and will be the only season he lives up to his potential. He's a good third starter with good control and command, as evidenced by a K/BB over three that past three seasons. Lilly throws a mid to high-80's fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. The slider is his best secondary offering, and it's a fairly good one. Jon Garland is another old friend who doesn't need much scouting. The soon-to-be journeyman (one team away from my newly established cut-off!) has kept up his oh-so slightly above-average ways out west. Joining the NL has unsurprisingly allowed Jon to get his HR/9 below 1 while ticking his K/9 up about as much as one would expect avoiding the Travis Hafners and Jim Thomes of the world and getting to see pitchers at least twice a game, too. Garland is still a decent innings eater who uses a high-80's sort-of-sinker, a high-80's four-seamer, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The slider is good and the changeup has been improving, which he credits to his time with Padres manager Bud Black.
Hiroki Kuroda has quietly been a very good middle of the rotation starter for Los Angeles over the past few seasons. His peripherals since coming stateside are pretty impressive (3.18 K/BB and 0.76 HR/9), his only knock is a perceived lack of durability. With a better infield defense, Kuroda would be able to move up to the next tier of starting pitchers. He throws a sinking two-seamer in the low-90's, a four-seamer also in the low-90's, a slider, a splitter, and a curveball. Both the slider and the splitter are plus pitches and the two-seamer is good at inducing groundballs. Matt Guerrier defected away from the frozen northlands of Minnesota and got paid this offseason, getting a 3 year/$12MM contract. Guerrier was merely brought in to be a set-up man, but when Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Vicente Padilla all hit the disabled list at the same time, Matt had to answer the call. He's a good reliever, but not dominant enough to succeed long term as a closer. He should do fine for the time being, though if he's closing that forces other members of the bullpen to be promoted to roles they are also unsuited for. He throws a slider, a low-90's four-seamer, a high-80's two-seamer, and a curveball. They've all shown to be above-average pitches in the past.
Outlook: The Dodgers come into this series with the exact same record as our White Sox. Unfortunately for them, we're heating up while they're coming in a little colder. 2-1 series win for the good guys. Other than the Macho Man's passing, it's going to be a good day.