As the Dodgers return home from the frozen tundra of Colorado, they will begin a three game series against the Miami Marlins to kick off a seven game home stand. The series will feature two former Dodgers making their returns to Dodger Stadium for the first time since being traded. Dee Gordon, and right hander Dan Haren were flipped to the Marlins last winter in exchange for four players. One of those players was top prospect Andrew Heaney who was then traded to the Angels to get second baseman Howie Kendrick.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about seeing both of them. I was never particularly fond of Dee Gordon, and I still believe he is a one dimensional player. However he is talented, and I do wish him well in Miami. Haren on the other hand, I could give two pathos about. Haren really frosts my cookies.
Gordon, thinking about that ugly Marlin’s Park statue in center field-Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
He was mediocre at best with the Dodgers, and then once he gets traded to the Marlins, he starts pitching like an all-star again. Then he complains to the media that he only wants to pitch for a southern California club, hinting he would retire otherwise. Afterwards he denies making that statement, and unfollows the Lasorda’s Lair twitter account. What is wrong with you Haren? The veteran pitches on Tuesday night, and here’s hoping the Dodgers knock him out of the box in the third inning. Seriously Haren, lose, lose badly.
So in anticipation of the upcoming series, I virtually sat down with marlinmaniac editor Ehsan Kassim. We talked about the Marlin’s slow start, manager Mike Redmond being on the hot seat, and those two former Dodgers. You can also check out my answers to Ehsan’s questions below as well.
LL: How has Gordon been in the lead-off spot this year? Have the Marlins tried to get him to work on his plate discipline?
MM: Gordon has been a huge spark to the Marlins lineup. His .439/.462/.357 slash line and 2.3 fWAR have been among the best in baseball early on. When he hits, which has been often, the Marlins lineup has looked really good.
While Gordon is striking out a lot less now, 12.0% this season vs 16.0% career mark, he is still walking in just over 5% of his plate appearances. And while his hot streak has been fun, it’s been fueled by a ridiculous .495 BABIP. He’s not going to sustain that and once his BABIP falls, so will the rest of his line, unless he learns to walk more.
LL-Oh boy, 52 infield singles, and Gordon is suddenly the best player in baseball. Gag me.
LL: Giancarlo Stanton seems to have gotten off to a slow start, however he is still a beats and scares the living daylights out of me. Any reason for the slow start?
MM: It’s funny, what we call a “slow start” for Stanton would be an acceptable, if not best case scenario, for 75% of the league. That’s how good he is. Stanton has historically been a slow starter and teams are picking on his weakness of swinging at sliders down and away with two strikes.
Stanton is going to be fine, as the season wears on. Once he gets on one of his hot streaks, people will forget about his current struggles. Stanton’s regression to his career numbers should cancel out as Adeiny Hechavarria and Dee Gordon regress the opposite way.
LL: What’s up with Dan Haren? Why is he suddenly pitching so well? He was mediocre at best with the Dodgers.
MM: While Haren’s 2.68 ERA looks nice, he’s not been as good as that number. In fact, I’d argue he’s pitching worse than he did as a Dodger. He owns a 4.62 FIP and is striking out fewer than 6 hitters per nine innings. Even in Marlins Park, he is giving hope home runs at an alarming rate. His fastball velocity is now down to just 86 MPH, which is extremely troubling.
Haren right now is being held up by a .194 BABIP against and a 89.8% left on base rate. With the way he’s giving up fly balls and home runs, once those numbers regress to the mean, he’s going to implode and it won’t be pretty for the Marlins.
LL- I have to disagree with this. The numbers say differently. Haren has allowed just 6.3 hits per nine, and his WHIP is 0.9. He’s not really allowing many base runners either. While he is still allowing a lot of home runs, and his strikeouts have decreased. he’s still pitched very well. I hope he loses horribly.
LL: Do you believe that Mike Redmond should be let go because of the Marlin’s slow start? If so, how come?
MM: No I don’t and he’s not to blame for the majority of the Marlins mess. The front office built a flawed roster and literally has glued together a team. Redmond had nothing to do with that. While he’s not the sharpest manager, he’s not costing the Marlins games as much as fans would like to think.
LL: What do you think the reason is for the Marlin’s slow start?
MM: The Marlins started the season 3-11 and have gone 12-6 since that low water mark. The team has been playing much better of late, as evidenced by their record in the last 18 games, but they dug themselves quite a hole early on in the season.
Injuries to Christian Yelich and Henderson Alvarez have played a key role into the Marlins issues early on. Yelich is back now and still trying to find his groove. Alvarez should be back by the end of the week.
Bullpen inconsistencies, mainly from closer Steve Cishek, have also played a role in the Marlins struggles. They have blown a major league leading 8 saves this season, which is a major cause for concern.
MM: How has the transition from Ned Colletti to Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi gone for the Dodgers? What has your impression of their first few months with them in the first few months?
You stink Haren, lose badly please-Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
LL: The transition from the old school snake boot wearing Colletti, to the new school sabermetric minded Friedman/Zaidi has been pretty smooth. It’s been a bit strange though. I mean, Colletti was the GM for so long, and we all very used to how he does things. We knew almost exactly what kind of moves he would make almost before he made them. It’s a whole new world now with Friedman/Zaidi. The new brain trust does things differently. They believe in defensive shifts, advanced metrics, and have been moving around the final roster spot like a queen on a chess board.
These guys are very smart, and very savvy. They’ve committed to rebuilding the farm system, and they’ve built a very strong club this year.
MM: Dee Gordon is off to a hot start with the Marlins. How much do you guys miss him, or do you prefer Howie Kendrick?
LL: I can only speak for myself, but I prefer Kendrick to be honest. I think he’s just an all around better player. He hits, hits for power, drives in runs, and plays solid defense. No disrespect to Gordon. He’s a good ball player, and talented, and yes sometimes we do miss him. However I’ve always felt that he was a one dimensional player, that had trouble making contact. and he’s not going to hit .430 all season.
He’s basically a slap singles hitter with no power, and below average defense. He doesn’t get on base much either. The Dodgers wanted him to work on drawing more walks and getting on base more often because he was the lead-off hitter. Gordon didn’t really like hearing that, and things just didn’t work out. When you only walk 31 times, and strike out 120 times in over 500 plate appearances, you won’t get on base much. Remember, you can’t steal first base, no matter how well you run the bases.
MM: Alexander Guerrero went from a disappointment to an overnight sensation in no time. How has he done this and can he maintain his hot start? Does he have a position for himself?
LL: Guerrero was never a disappointment, management just never gave him a chance last year to prove himself. He only had like 10 at-bats last year. Stacie and I have always felt that Guerrero was not only major league caliber, but was a tremendously talented player. We both saw him for ourselves during spring training last year, and this year, Stacie actually posted videos of him handling third base, and hitting bombs during batting practice.
Last year I actually wanted him to be the second baseman over Gordon, and if he had been, then he wouldn’t have had his ear bitten off by Miguel Olivo, (Yes that was a thing that actually happened) and who knows how farther the Dodgers would have gotten had he been the second baseman, and not Gordon or at least been on the roster. Guerrero has a great short powerful stroke, and can play multiple positions (3B, LF, 2B, SS)
Unfortunately he does not have a position right now. So the Dodgers have been using him off the bench, and he fills in at 3B when Uribe needs a day off. He also has been playing some left field with the injury to Crawford. There will be opportunities for him to play throughout the season because guys are going to get hurt. At the least he’ll be able to keep pinch-hitting in the late innings.
LL: Well the club has always been worried about Joc’s high strikeout rates. But they feel as do most of us that those will decrease with time. I think he can maintain, especially since he is very adept at working counts and drawing walks. He just swings big on every pitch.
As for Seager and Urias, both are off to hot starts as well in the minors. The Dodgers just recently promoted Seager from the Texas League Tulsa Double-A club, to the triple-A Oklahoma City team. He had gotten off to a blazing hot start with Tulsa, hitting .375 with five home runs. He’s also been playing some third base as well, but only because the Dodgers want him to be a well rounded player, and able to learn a second position. Seager is the shortstop of the future, and Mattingly compared him to a young Cal Ripken Jr.
Urias is currently at Tulsa, and putting up great strikeout to walk numbers. He’s got a very bright future ahead. I don’t see either of them up at all until rosters expand in September. The Dodgers have a very deep club this year, and they don’t want to rush any of their two organizational prospects.
MM: Clayton Kershaw is off to a slow start. What has the issue for him been this season and how can he improve?
Call to the Pen
LL: I just recently wrote a post about this. Kershaw is off to a slow start, but I think a lot of it can be attributed to poor pitch selection, not enough of his off-speed pitches, and the National League recognizing his pitch patterns, and adjusting to him. Kershaw will need to make an adjustment himself. The scouting reports say that Kershaw throws a lot of first pitch fastballs, and in order to get to him, the reports recommend hitting his first pitch, So guys are coming up first pitch swinging on him more than we’ve ever seen before. Mix that in with his off-speed pitches not being what they normally are, and he’s been pressing a bit. He also has an ERA two runs per start higher with AJ Ellis behind the plate than Yasmani Grandal.
I think the main thing is that Kershaw needs to adjust, and evolve. He can’t be perfect and pitch shutouts every game. He’s going to give up some runs at some point. He’s had four consecutive dominant seasons in a row. He’s bound to have a down season at some point. He’s human. He is Clayton Kershaw, and he will be fine.
MM: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
LL: Monday will be Greinke. He’s been having a fantastic season thus far. He has pinpoint control this year, better than usual, and has been really attacking the strike zone. Tuesday is undecided, but we expect it to be youngster Mike Bolsinger, The right hander has been pitching in triple-A, but he got a spot start in San Francisco earlier in the season, He pitched very well in that start, allowing just one earned run in 5.1 innings. He even whiffed Buster Posey. He’s throws hard, and his fastball can reach up to 95-96 on the radar gun.
Wednesday’s game should be left hander Brett Anderson. He had gotten off to a slow start., but has had two good starts in a row. He throws a lot of off-speed pitches, and has had trouble pitching past the sixth inning.
MM: How do you think the series will play out? Any bold predictions?
LL: Well, the Dodgers have played very well at home this season. They are 13-2, and are hitting extremely well at Dodger Stadium. With that in mind, I would say the Dodgers win 2 of 3. I hope.