The Dodgers are underperforming, and Don Mattingly blames a lack of #want. Currently helming the cellar dwellers of the NL West, Mattingly laid into the team’s work ethic yesterday, and the quotes are dripping with vitriol and tobacco.
“We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,” he said before his suddenly inspired club walloped the Brewers, 9-2, on Wednesday afternoon. “There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,” Mattingly said. “It's not, ‘Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.’”
And, “I felt we got more out of our ability [last season]. I don't know about being tougher, but I felt we got more out of our ability.” I’m sure Hanley Ramirez (four games played this season), Zack Greinke (missed a month) and Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery) would wholeheartedly agree.
Mattingly’s solution? Benching Andre Ethier. With a 758 OPS and .274 TAv, Ethier hasn’t been any more of a disappointment than most other Dodger notables, but apparently drew his manager’s ire after getting himself tossed in Monday’s game. (Did he homer and triple in that game? Yes—Mattingly asks that you ignore that.)
The rub here is that Mattingly didn’t tell Ethier he would be benched. “Yeah, I take offense to that, without approaching me first,” said Ethier, who was otherwise fairly diplomatic about the situation.
There isn’t much to say from a statistical perspective about benching Ethier to solve the Dodgers’ problems. His replacement, Scott Van Slyke, cracked a pair of doubles yesterday, so Mattingly may not hear our criticism for a while yet. But it’s hard to sum this decision up any better than our Colin Wyers did via Twitter:
Does anyone have a more plausible explanation for Mattingly benching Ethier than "wants to be fired?"
— Colin Wyers (@cwyers) May 22, 2013
If you’re curious, a pair of Dodgers sources felt the need to anonymously confirm Mattingly wouldn’t be fired—in the next 48 hours, anyway.
Matchup of the Day
For most of his eight years in Anaheim, Ervin Santana was an All-Star, possible Cy Young candidate, maybe even Cooperstown-worthy… if only he’d pitched all his games in Anaheim. The flighty Dominican righty, who actually did make an All-Star team in ’08, has a career home ERA more than a run below his road ERA, and in 2007 authored perhaps the greatest home/road split ever, with a home ERA of 3.27 against 8.38 on the road.
Santana will make his first start against his old club tonight in Kansas City, and he’s finding his new digs suit him just fine. His slider is getting more whiffs in 2013 than ever before (21.3 percent; his previous best was 19 percent last season), and he’s holding opponents to a .233 TAv. That bizarre home/road trend appears to be holding up, too: 1.84 ERA at home, 3.81 on the road.
Santana’s slider will need to be at its best, because Mike Trout is officially hot. After a less-than-Ruthian April birthed a few Trout truthers, baseball’s genetic freak has put up a .343/.434/.757 month of May to date. On Tuesday, he became the youngest American Leaguer to hit for the cycle.
As he does with all same-sided hitters, Santana will try to get Trout fishing for the slider. He does an incredible job of it, getting right-handers to whiff on an amazing 66 percent of sliders low and off the plate in the PITCHf/x era. Not that we need more ways to break down Trout’s greatness, but look how he has dealt with right-handed sliders so far in his career. On pitches in that same zone, where two of every three swings vs. Santana come up empty, Trout has a .282 TAv. You’re supposed to spit on those pitches and wait for something better; Trout would be a big-league regular facing nothing but sliders low and away. Yikes.
What to Watch for on Thursday
With just five games on the slate, Thursday’s spotlight is undoubtedly on Baltimore’s promotion of right-hander Kevin Gausman, who will make his major-league debut tonight against the Blue Jays. Gausman threw just nine innings at High-A in 2012 and made his Double-A debut to start this season; after a decent April, he’s posted a 2.04 ERA in three May starts.
No team in baseball has used more starting pitchers than the Orioles’ 10. Jair Jurrjens, Jake Arrieta, Josh Stinson, and Steve Johnson (whose B-Ref page actually thinks he’s an Aussie Rules football player) all have tried and failed to lock down the fifth spot in the rotation. Now, with Wei-Yin Chen on the DL and Tommy Hunter seemingly no longer a rotation option, Gausman gets the call despite the paucity of high minors experience.
Our Jason Parks says that may not matter, writing before the season that “several evaluators thought he was ready to jump to the major-league level fresh from the amateur ranks.” As for the arsenal, Gausman’s “plus-plus fastball…can pound the zone at 93-97,” although he’s “more stuff than pitchability at present.” The fastball and changeup are further along than the slider at this point, and that shows in his 2013 splits—12.9 K/9 against lefties, and 6.6 K/9 vs. righties—so let’s see if the slider shows any signs of development tonight. Oh, and here’s an outstanding harbinger for a young flamethrower: in 46.1 IP, just five walks.