Archive for Dodgers

The Season’s Biggest Upset

Before every game, we publish estimated game odds. The odds consider the identities of the starting pitchers, and as the first pitch draws closer, the odds update to factor in the actual starting lineups. I’m not saying it’s an infallible system or anything, but it’s a neat little feature we have, even if it doesn’t get all that much use. And though this is by no means a rigorous test, consider the top 100 most seemingly lopsided games from the season past. Based on the calculated odds, the favorites in those games should’ve won 70 times. The favorites actually won 71 times. So things check out.

The favorite won the game with the single most lopsided odds. Max Scherzer and the Nationals were projected to have 78% odds against Sean O’Sullivan and the Phillies. The favorite also won the next-most lopsided game, and the next-most lopsided game, and the next-most lopsided game, and the next-most lopsided game. The five games with the most imbalanced odds all went to the team expected to win. We find our first upset in sixth. Which would then qualify this as the season’s greatest upset, taking into consideration only pre-game odds. It was an upset when the Royals rallied past the Astros in the playoffs, but that wasn’t a lopsided game at the start. It only became that way later. The biggest upset, considering pre-game outlook? We rewind to June 17, and we go to Los Angeles.

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Pondering an Andrelton Simmons/Yasiel Puig Swap

Last night, Jonah Keri got the baseball world buzzing with a series of tweets.

While we’ve seen a few deals struck already, Andrelton Simmons going west would be qualify as a pretty significant move, and so immediately, other reporters started checking in to see who the unidentified NL West club could be.

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Looking for a Kenta Maeda Comp

Since we don’t have much more than velocity readings from Japan, it can be difficult to rely on anything but scouting reports when evaluating pitchers coming over from Nippon Professional Baseball. And now that 27-year-old Kenta Maeda is once again rumored to be coming to America through the posting system, we’re once again left wondering how to place him in context.

We have his Japanese strikeout and walk rates, which we can compare to recent postings to find comparable countrymen. We also have his velocity readings and a general sense of the quality of his pitches that we can use to compare him to pitchers beyond just ones that have come from Japan. We even have one game of PITCHf/x data to help us look at the movement of his pitches.

And the few comparable players we produce might be the best we can do from out here in the public sphere.

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Clayton Kershaw Isn’t the Clayton Kershaw of Everything

I don’t know if Clayton Kershaw is going to win the Cy Young Award, but I know he deserves to as much as anybody else. Three years ago, he won the Cy Young by allowing a .521 OPS. Two years ago, he won the Cy Young by allowing a .521 OPS. This year, he might win the Cy Young after allowing a .521 OPS. Maybe he wouldn’t mind a loss so much; he’s already won three of these things, plus a league MVP. He’s not hurting for hardware. But then, it’s not like Clayton Kershaw likes to lose.

He is the total package, as a pitcher, as a player, as a person. On the field, he’s proven his durability. He’s turned himself into a good hitter for his position. He’s also a good defender, who’s difficult to run against. Few pitchers have Kershaw’s know-how, and few pitchers have his command. Kershaw throws what rates as one of the best fastballs in baseball. He throws what rates as one of the best sliders in baseball. He throws what rates as one of the best curveballs in baseball. He does everything, and he’s 27. There’s no such thing as an actually perfect pitcher, but Kershaw is as close as it gets. There are no meaningful weaknesses. He’s even now proven himself in the playoffs.

There’s just this one thing. This one nearly irrelevant thing, that bothers Kershaw even if it doesn’t bother anybody else. Ask anyone else, and they’d tell you that Kershaw is as good as they come. Ask Kershaw, and he’d tell you he wishes he could throw a decent changeup.

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History, Peaks, and Clayton Kershaw

In the opening minutes of his great documentary Baseball, Ken Burns characterizes the sport in terms that are both pleasing on their own and also relevant to yesterday’s post regarding Mike Trout‘s peak, and now today’s on Clayton Kershaw‘s:

“It is a haunted game, in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before. Most of all, it is about time, and timelessness.”

It’s a much more succinct and effective way of making the point I attempted to make yesterday, in that today’s players don’t yet have the luxury of having a legacy, in turn making it tough to contextualize their potential place in history while that legacy is still being built. Looking at what today’s players accomplished in their primes, relative to the primes of the ghosts (both figurative and literal) who have gone before can help us do that.

Trout’s place in history has been well documented and updated since the completion of his 10-win rookie season. For the better part of three years now, you’ve been hearing all types of Trout stats, included with some sort of “under __” age filter that places him alongside the game’s all-time greats like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays for his production, relative to his age. It’s been hard to avoid the company which Trout has kept.

With Kershaw, seems we haven’t heard that as much. Part of it, likely, is just Trout stealing the thunder. Part of it, likely, is that Kershaw didn’t begin truly dominating until his age-23 season, so the fun “under-21” stats weren’t as fun. Part of it, perhaps, is the ridiculous Kershaw postseason narrative. Probably the biggest part of it is just that pitchers are tougher to compare across generations, and it might be easier to “dismiss” the historic nature of what Kershaw has done by recognizing that it’s happened during one of the most depressed run environments the live-ball era has ever seen.

Even with the run environment considered, what Kershaw has done these past five seasons is absolutely historic.

Trout’s “peak” — his first four seasons in the Majors — already ranks as one of the 10 greatest peaks by a position player in baseball history. He’s not alone. Kershaw is currently in the midst of a top-10 all-time peak himself. We’re lucky enough to experience them both.

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The High Cost of the Dodgers’ Small Mistakes

For an athlete, a constant struggle in decision-making exists between the body and mind. When presented with a choice, there are two routes a person can take. The most informed route, typically, is to hand over the keys to the mind. The mind can think logically and, with ample time and preparation — sometimes just a few extra seconds — the mind can parse out a number of options, choose what it believes to the best one, and send the correct signal to the body.

But the body reacts faster. Under pressure, when an instantaneous decision is required, the decision-making process defaults to the body’s reaction, because it gets to skip the step of the mind parsing information and sending a signal. This is an involuntary response. The mind still parses, and still sends its signal, it’s just, sometimes, the body beats it to the punch. So it’s hard to fault someone when they choose the body’s reaction over the mind’s conclusion, because all that means is that the mind didn’t have enough time, in the moment, to trump the body’s reaction. Yet, here we are.

Before you can question Andre Ethier for his choices in Thursday’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly that scored Daniel Murphy and tied Game 5 of the Dodgers-Mets NLDS at 2-2, you’ve got to take a step back and examine how we got there.
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One of the Things That Makes Zack Greinke Special

If it’s a preview of Game 5 you want, here’s all that really needs to be said: Zack Greinke is good, and Jacob deGrom is good, and the rest of the Dodgers are good, and the rest of the Mets are good, and some combination of events is going to lead one good team beyond the other. Maybe the combination will be predictable; maybe a catcher will accidentally throw a return toss off of the batter’s hand in a tie game in the ninth. Maybe that counts as predictable now. We’ll keep our eyes out.

Any preview bigger than that is lying to you. If not lying, then implying this’ll be in any way foreseeable. There’s a game, and things will happen in it. What I want to do here isn’t project which team is more likely to win. Rather, I just want to point out a really neat thing about Greinke’s 2015 record. It does say more than a little something about the way that Greinke pitches, so in that way this is immediately relevant, but mostly I wanted to make sure to get this in somewhere before Greinke’s season was officially over. It might be over in a matter of hours. So, now’s the time.

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Clayton Kershaw Silences Mets, Narratives

The stories were silly to begin with. That the best pitcher in the world was somehow hardwired to falter when the calendar flipped from September to October. That the same hitters who floundered against Clayton Kershaw throughout the regular season would feast come playoff time.

The seven dominant innings Kershaw hurled against the Mets on Tuesday shouldn’t go a long way in changing anyone’s opinion of what Kershaw can do under the bright lights, only because the 50 innings prior shouldn’t have, either.

I probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know. Clayton Kershaw is incredible. At times, in the postseason, he’s appeared as something less than incredible, but lately, he’s looked more like himself. Even in his Game 1 loss to New York, which oddly seemed to fuel the anti-Kershaw postseason narrative, he was great, making what amounted to one real mistake to his apparent-kryptonite, Daniel Murphy.

Though the outcome of Game 1 was the opposite of what Kershaw desired, he pitched well, and so on the surface, it didn’t appear that much needed to change. Of course, that’s just the surface, and Kershaw goes well beyond the surface. Kershaw and catcher A.J. Ellis, that is.

Ellis contributed an enlightening article to the Player’s Tribune last month, concerning the act of catching Kershaw and Zack Greinke and the way each prepares for their starts. Pulling from that article:

“Before each of Clayton’s starts, he and I, with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, sit down together two hours before the game. Clayton dictates that entire meeting, running through the starting lineup in detail. ‘Here’s what I want to do … ‘ Hitter after hitter.

Usually he’s spot-on with his approach and it matches with my scouting and game plan. Occasionally, I’ll throw in my two cents, but I’d better make damn sure my two cents fits with what he wants to do, because otherwise he’ll snap at me. ‘I’m not doing that. That makes no sense.'”

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Appealing Chase Utley’s Suspension

As most baseball fans are by now aware, Chase Utley was suspended for two games on Sunday evening by Major League Baseball. The suspension relates to Utley’s controversial takeout slide of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night.

Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe, quickly announced that Utley would be appealing the suspension, as is his right under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement:

“A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable. Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation – break up the double play. We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions.

Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody. We will be appealing this suspension immediately.”

By appealing the suspension, Utley has temporarily delayed the imposition of his punishment, meaning that he remains eligible to play for the Dodgers until MLB holds a hearing on the matter and issues a final decision. However, with Utley conveniently already in New York City (the designated site of most appeals of this nature), MLB is reportedly planning hear Utley’s appeal today so that the matter can be resolved ahead of tonight’s Game 3 at Citi Field. Whether the appeal will actually go forward today or not, however, remains uncertain, as the Major League Baseball Players Association is reportedly pressing for more time to prepare Utley’s defense.

Given the unprecedented nature of Utley’s suspension, a number of commentators have already predicted that the punishment will either be reduced or entirely overturned. And while such an outcome is certainly possible, and perhaps even likely, it is not entirely inconceivable that the league will uphold Utley’s suspension.

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Kershaw-deGrom to Rival Arrieta-Cole Matchup

In the National League Wild Card game, we witnessed two aces going head to head in Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole. Arrieta pitched just as brilliantly as he had during the regular season, throwing a shutout against the Pirates and advancing to the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Gerrit Cole could not match the Cubs’ ace as the long ball plagued him, giving up as many home runs as Arrieta has in his last 156 innings. Cole had a fantastic season and possesses a very bright future, but he will no longer be a part of any matchup of aces the rest of this postseason. The rest of us can move on and look at the next one, as Dodgers’ ace and best pitcher in baseball for several years, Clayton Kershaw, is set to take on the Mets’ best pitcher and emerging star in Jacob deGrom.

The Kershaw-deGrom matchup lacks the urgency present in the Arrieta-Cole winner-take-all encounter, but strictly in terms of the pitching matchup, Game 1 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Mets should rival the Pirates-Cubs Wild Card game.

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Clayton Kershaw and Other 300 Strikeout Seasons

This Sunday, Clayton Kershaw has a shot to become the first pitcher to rack up 300 strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling turned the trick back in 2002. He needs just six strikeouts to get there, so theoretically he could do it by the end of the second inning. He and his Dodgers brethren will be squaring off against the Padres, one of the strikeout-ingest teams in baseballs this season, so he’s got a real good shot to get there, even if his innings are capped. So let’s for a moment say that he does. How would he stack up against the other members of the 300 K club?

First, how many players are in this club? Thanks for asking: there’s 14. Of the 14, five have done it only once (Bob Feller, Mickey Lolich, Mike Scott, Steve Carlton and Vida Blue) and nine have done it multiple times (Curt Schilling, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Rube Waddell, Sam McDowell, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson). Overall, these 14 players have hit the 300 K mark 33 times. Kershaw would be #34. You can see the whole list, via the Baseball-Reference Play Index, right here.

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Zack Greinke on Pitching Inside

After we finished talking about his changeup and what he learned from Felix Hernandez, after we finished talking about command for the Hardball Times Annual, after we talked a little about his slider and his sinker, after we talked about a few hitters, even after I’d said goodbye and shook his hand, Zack Greinke hovered. He wasn’t done. He had noticed something about pitching inside and wondered if the numbers agreed.

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What Zack Greinke Learned from Felix Hernandez Exactly

Zack Greinke‘s changeup may only seem different this year. By the stats, it drops a bit more and it’s harder, sure. But if you ask the pitcher, the pitch itself hasn’t changed much. “I throw it more this year,” he said when I asked him what was different about it.

If the systems have the change dropping more this year — estimates run from about a half inch to an inch more drop this year over previous years — there might be something else going on. The systems might be grabbing bad changeups and classifying them as sinkers, while calling the bendier pitches changeups.

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Under-the-Radar Rookie Hitters on Contending Teams

The crux of my duties here at FanGraphs is to project prospects who happen to be in the news. In most cases, this involves writing about highly touted minor league players as they’re called up to the big leagues for the first time. There’s certainly been no shortage of players from that phylum in 2015. This year has often been labeled the “The Year of the Prospect,” and rightly so. From Kris Bryant to Carlos Correa to Noah Syndergaard to Lance McCullers, we’ve experienced a historic wave of young talent matriculating to the big leagues. Top prospects often turn into productive big leaguers, so nobody would be surprised if several of this year’s crop of rookies went on to be perennial All-Stars.

But not all impact major leaguers come out of this mold. As Jeff Sullivan uncovered this past February, about one-third of the players who produce three wins in any given season never even cracked a Baseball America’s Top 100 list. The purpose of this post is to analyze, or at least call attention to, a few rookie hitters on contending teams who weren’t ballyhooed as prospects, but have still acquitted themselves well in the big leagues. The four hitters below came to the big leagues with little fanfare, but have already made an impact on the division races this year, and more importantly, stand a good chance of remaining productive.

Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis

Although he was a first round pick, Randal Grichuk underwhelmed throughout his minor league career. His 113 wRC+ as a minor leaguer was more good than great, especially for a future corner outfielder. And up until this season, he was best known as the guy the Angels selected before Mike Trout. Grichuk’s put together an excellent performance for the Cardinals this year, however, belting 16 home runs in 92 games on his way to a 142 wRC+. Grichuk’s had some trouble making contact, but has made up for it by being extremely productive in those plate appearances that haven’t resulted in a strikeout.

Grichuk didn’t crack any top-100 lists heading into the year, but KATOH still thought he was an interesting prospect based on his minor league numbers. Although his overall .259/.311/.493 batting line was nothing special, especially for the Pacific Coast League, KATOH was still impressed by the power he demonstrated as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. My system projected him for 4.4 WAR through age 28, making him the 81st highest-ranked prospect. It’s no secret the Cardinals have a good team this year, and Grichuk has been a big part of that success. The one obstacle for the 23-year-old is an elbow injury, which has limited him to pinch-hitting duties of late. If healthy, though, Grichuk’s pop should continue to power the Cardinals lineup this October, even if his batting average comes back to earth a bit.

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JABO: Kenley Jansen, Doing It All With One Pitch

Last Wednesday night, there was a moment when Carlos Gonzalez probably thought he might be able to come up big. Down two runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Charlie Blackmon had managed to single off of Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen just before CarGo stepped to the plate, and with a man on, one swing of the bat could’ve tied the game.

Then reality set in. The count went quickly to 0-2, and in that situation, Gonzalez was likely going to strike out. That isn’t an indictment of CarGo, just a statement of fact: Jansen strikes out 42.5% of all the batters he faces, and that figure rises to almost 67% after he’s ahead in the count 0-2. After managing to take a close pitch and foul another off, Gonzalez got a rare Jansen slider he couldn’t handle:

We often get used to dominant relievers being consistently great. For the elite guys, the end of the game is almost automatic most days, and the warm and fuzzy feeling you get as a fan knowing you have proven options at the end of a game is a special one. However, sometimes we need to take a step back and measure just how ridiculous the stats are that some of these great relievers are producing.

And so we have Jansen. We know he’s great. He’s been great for a few years now; with his almost sole use of a hard cutter, it’s easy and fun to compare him to a version of Mariano Rivera. With that lofty comparison made, it might not be surprising that he’s putting together a very unique, special season.

Consider this fact: Jansen went the first month and a half of his season without walking a batter. He was injured for April, but after he debuted in mid-May, he didn’t issue a walk until June 28th. During that time, he struck out 26 batters in 15.2 innings. That’s a mind-boggling mix of dominance and control, and it’s formed the basis of what Jansen has become in 2015.

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The NL Cy Young Showdown

It’s almost that time of year again, when individual hardware is bestowed on the best players in each league, complete with the requisite hue and cry from constituencies exhorting the merits of their respective choices. In general, I tend to not get too worked up about such things, but will dip my toe into such discussions when my interest is piqued. Last year, I thought that Felix Hernandez deserved to win a close decision over Corey Kluber in the AL Cy Young race. This year, the NL Cy race is a particularly interesting one, a three-way dogfight among Dodgers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw and Cub Jake Arrieta. Today, let’s utilize the batted-ball data at our disposal and try to make a call on this exciting race.

For the two Dodger aces, this is not their first Cy Young rodeo: Kershaw has won the award in three of the last four seasons, and Greinke won one with the Royals back in 2009. As for Arrieta, well, this is the first time he has even pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Kershaw, 27, and Greinke, 32, were slam-dunk, top-half-of-the-first-round high school blue chippers. Though Greinke has had some unique roadblocks along the way to perennial excellence, there likely aren’t many scouts who’ve watched either him or Kershaw from the beginning who are very surprised by what either has accomplished in the game.

Arrieta, 30, on the other hand, was a humble fifth-round Oriole draft pick out of TCU in 2007 who had previously been drafted out of high school and junior college. His progress through the minors was glacial compared to his Dodger peers, and he was eventually, famously dealt from the O’s to the Cubs along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman in the summer of 2013. Now Clevenger has done a nice job for the Orioles of late, but I’d still surmise that they would like to have a do-over on this deal.

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Dodgers’ $300 Million Payroll Not That Crazy

Back before the 2012 season, Frank McCourt owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had purchased the team in 2004, inheriting a club that featured a $105 million payroll in 2003. Nearly ten years later, he sold the team to the deep-pocketed Guggenheim-led group — handing over a club that also featured a $105 million payroll. Major League Baseball revenues had doubled during McCourt’s tenure as team owner — and salaries for players increased at something close to the same rate — but the Dodgers, sitting in one of the biggest media markets in the country, stuck to the status quo after fielding one of the bigger payrolls in baseball at the beginning of the century. The Dodgers have finally caught up with the times (some would say surpassed) in terms of payroll, but while their $300-plus million payroll might seem enormous, the team would still be right in line with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox if those two teams had not slowed their spending in recent years.

Prior to the arrival of the Dodgers’ new ownership and $8 billion cable deal, the Yankees were the only team to exceed a $200 million payroll. The Yankees crossed that threshold in 2005, but kept their spending fairly static over the following decade, only getting above $225 million once (in 2013) and falling below that mark last season. Their total outlay on players was often somewhat higher, given the luxury-tax payments the team was forced to make every season. Given the Yankees’ spending over the last decade and the Dodgers’ spending over the last few seasons, it might appear that the luxury tax is not much of a deterrent towards spending, but as Nathaniel Grow detailed back in May, the luxury tax has kept spending down at upper levels.

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Appreciating Vin Scully Appreciating Clayton Kershaw

It’s a perfect beginning to the end of the day.
— Vin Scully, remarking on the weather prior to last Wednesday’s Dodger game

When I was about eight years old I hid under my blankets past my bedtime. I did this because it was the only way I could listen to Jon Miller call baseball games. I had a little Walkman radio that picked up WTOP out of Washington DC, and if I turned its only knob just barely past the “off” position, I could put it to my ear and be at Memorial Stadium in North Baltimore and my parents wouldn’t be the wiser. Until now, I guess. Sorry, Mom and Dad! I spent many nights with Jon Miller and, in that way, I learned about baseball and fell in love with the game, the team, and the voice in equal measure. Years later, Peter Angelos bought the team and soon after fired Miller and, in doing so, ended my time as an Orioles fan. The point is, announcers matter. They are the adhesive that binds fandom to a team. And there is no better illustration of this fact than Vin Scully.

Scully began calling Dodger games in 1950 while the franchise was still in Brooklyn. That Dodger team contained a pitcher named Rex Barney. Barney would go on to become the PA announcer for the Orioles games that eight-year-old me listened to on the radio under his bedsheets. Ain’t life something? Sadly, Barney died almost two decades ago, his voice the last to grace the loud speakers at old Memorial Stadium and the first at Camden Yards. Through it all, Scully has called Dodger games. I’ve heard Vin Scully referred to as an institution, but Scully is more than an institution. Brookings is an institution, but nobody cares whether it’ll be around next baseball season or not. Scully is beloved in a way an institution is not. He makes baseball better, which, when you think about it, is no easy feat.

Scully was in the booth last Wednesday as Clayton Kershaw threw a complete game against the Giants in Los Angeles. He gave up six hits, one run, one walk, and struck out 15. It wasn’t even Kershaw’s best outing which is what makes it so amazing because for many pitchers it would easily be their best outing. If there’s anything that can enhance a Clayton Kershaw start, it’s Vin Scully. Here are his calls of each of Kershaw’s strikeouts.

Let’s listen together!*

*Note: to hear audio, place mouse on lower left-hand corner of each video and click speaker icon.


Strikeout One: Angel Pagan, 1st Inning, Slider

Clayton ready and the strike one [sic] pitch on the way… check swing… they look… and swing. And Pagan tries to hold up and strikes out.

Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about listening is the certain sounds a person makes around a specific word. Scully has a way of saying the word “two” that is just wonderful. He draws out the “oo” part in a way so delicious to the ear that we don’t want the word to end.

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Projecting Corey Seager

To say the Dodgers have a surplus of infielders on their roster would be an understatement. Justin Turner, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Guerrero and Jose Peraza all have their merits as major leaguers, and all happen to play either second base, third base or shortstop. Not all of them have had the best of seasons this year, but still: that’s seven players capable of playing the infield for just three spots.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the injury bug has taken a huge bite out of that infield depth. Kendrick, perhaps the team’s best infielder, has been out for nearly a month with a hamstring strain. Peraza and Hernandez, who’s been on a tear of late, also went down with hamstring strains last week. Suddenly, the Los Angeles didn’t look all that deep in the infield, especially considering how poorly Utley and Rollins have hit this year.

Enter Corey Seager. In an effort to shore up their ailing infield, the Dodgers summoned their top prospect to the big leagues last week, providing them with another option at shortstop and third base. Seager was the consensus top prospect left in the minor leagues at the time of his call-up. He topped just about every outlet’s mid-season prospect list this summer, and his .300/.346/.464 performance since August 1st certainly hasn’t diminished his case. Overall, Seager hit .293/.344/.487 in 125 minor-league games this year, with all but 20 of those games coming at the Triple-A level.

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Clayton Kershaw and 300 Strikeouts

Talk to any player in baseball and that player will tell you the most important thing is winning. That player will tell you he doesn’t care if he goes 0-for-4 if his team still wins the game. That isn’t always all true, but winning tends to be the priority, and at least in the moment, players don’t care so much about the numbers. It’s one of the many differences between baseball players and baseball fans. Players just want to go to the park and have their team get the job done. Fans want to consume as much baseball as they can, and that’s where the stats come in, to fill the void in between baseball games. Each day, a game entertains for three hours. That means numbers could conceivably entertain for 21 hours, given a particularly unhealthy individual.

Many of the best players in baseball are almost as entertaining on paper as they are on the field. Barry Bonds‘ player pages continue to amaze to this day, even though his career has been over for years. Clayton Kershaw is turning into a sort of pitcher version. Kershaw goes above and beyond what his own team would deem necessary. There’s no need for Kershaw to be this good. The Dodgers would still win if he were a little bit worse, but he’s not a little bit worse, so the numbers are like a toy box. If you want to observe Clayton Kershaw, and he’s not actively pitching, you can get by from looking at his statistics, because they’re like the numerical version of a perfectly-located curveball.

Kershaw pitched on Wednesday. He faced a lineup of players all worse than him, and he was something close to perfect, striking the hitters out 15 times. What that meant, for Kershaw, is that the Dodgers won a game against a division rival. What it means, for us: Kershaw has positioned himself to have a shot at 300 strikeouts.

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