NL West Report: Dodgers Must Trade Andre Ethier

The Dodgers situation should seem familiar to Rockies fans. Not the off-field dramatics - no, push that aside and you'll see a skeleton of a team comparable to the Rockies last offseason. There is a young ace coming off a near Cy Young breakout season, coupled with two sluggers capable of making a run at an MVP trophy.

Furthermore, one of those pieces started to degrade in value this season for the Rockies, and Dan O'Dowd responded by dealing Ubaldo Jimenez before (he believed) his value would diminish more. That parallel extends to Dodgertown as well.

In May 2010, TrueBlueLA hosted a "Triple Crown Watch" widget on their front page, noting that Ethier was leading all three categories in the NL by a fair margin. This April, the Dodgers' right-fielder compiled a 30-game hit streak. He was an All-Star just one month ago. Despite all this, dealing Ethier this offseason is becoming an obvious move.

Ethier himself saw the writing on the wall before the season and was quite vocal about it, but this season only pushes that reality further. With the Dodgers falling further out of contention, an aging team with financial problems would be wise to get younger. Ethier will enter his final year of arbitration in 2012 before becoming a free agent for the first time. He figures to be paid well then, but it probably isn't a good use of the Dodgers' money.

Despite a .286 average and .362 OBP that are in line with his career numbers, there is reason to be concerned about Ethier's performance going forward.

The biggest issue is the disappearance of his power. Ethier's ISO of just .127 is ranked 111th out of 157 qualified MLB hitters, behind the likes of Aubrey Huff, Juan Rivera and Dexter Fowler. It is comparable to the team ISO of the Oakland Athletics (.125) and the number posted by Mark Ellis in a Rockies uniform (.123). This is almost assuredly due to lingering effects from wrist injuries, but that doesn't mean his power will suddenly return.

His left/right splits are a concern as well. Ethier owns just a 56 wRC+ vs left-handed pitchers this season, 77 for his career. (For comparison, Seth Smith checks in with a season line at 59, career at 53). He has mauled right-handers enough that he still starts regularly, but that weakness vs LHP is significant and well established in over 870 career plate appearances.

Defense is another hole in his game. Ethier owns the fifth-worst UZR among MLB outfielders since 2009, and while he owns a positive score in 2011, Total Zone still grades him out just as poorly as ever.

I have been an Ethier backer for a while, and his ability to smoke line drives off RHP still very much remains. He is a fantastic hitter still, but he won't be a fit in Los Angeles past 2012, not on his career-making free agent contract. And not when he's being out-produced this season by a similar profiled player in Seth Smith. The Dodgers would be wise to get a couple young guys to infuse onto the roster. If they play their cards right, maybe they could get a young outfielder or a young starting pitcher.

NL West Report

Arizona (72-59, 1st, W3)

Last Week: 3-4.  0-3 @ Braves. 3-1 @ Nationals.  

You Should Know:  The Diamondbacks started former Blue Jays Aaron Hill and John McDonald for the first time Wednesday. Not only that, but their infield mates, Lyle Overbay and Ryan Roberts, are also former Blue Jays. Not only THAT, but all four of them actually started in those exact infield spots for Toronto on May 27, 2007. Pure silliness.

Divisional Change: Increased their lead to 2.5 games in the division.

This Week: 3 game home series vs. Padres. 3 game home series vs. Rockies.

News: The biggest waiver trade this week did happen in the NL West, but it wasn't with Wandy Rodriguez. The Diamondbacks traded Kelly Johnson to Toronto for 2B Aaron Hill and SS John McDonald. The deal is a bit confusing, as Kevin Towers gave up an underperforming second-sacker that was still having a much better season than Hill or McDonald are. It does, however, give Arizona a veteran shortstop in Stephen Drew's absence, which was a large motivator in the deal.

Upon being traded away from a potential playoff situation, Kelly Johnson felt a bit cheated. In that moment, Nick Piecoro was able to steal a wonderful, honest quote from Toronto's new second baseman:

"I think 'KT' (GM Kevin Towers) would rather throw up three times a day after eating than have his team strike out a lot" - Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson

#2 / Arizona Diamondbacks

6-1

195

Feb 22, 1982

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2011 - Kelly Johnson 114 430 59 90 23 5 18 49 44 132 13 3 .209 .287 .412

Ironically, Kevin Towers hasn't always been so against strikeouts. As Jack Moore pointed out on Fangraphs, Towers' strikeout motivated trades might actually be a result of the philosophy of manager Kirk Gibson.

The Diamondbacks left Chase Field and visited Philadelphia and Atlanta, where they either forgot how to hit, or they faced good pitching. One of the two. Either way, their week of offense was historically bad, as Jim McLennan points out.

Baseball America's Jim Callis wrote that the Diamondbacks had the best draft in the division and a top five draft class in MLB. His claim is not surprising.

Arizona has become an easy target for gutting their farm for Dan Haren, with most pointing to the deal as a classic case of the danger of dealing prospects. Four years since the deal, Jason Hunt analyzes the trade for MLB Daily Dish on several levels - the players directly involved and the traded those players facilitated. His conclusion - Arizona got a lot of value from Haren, and the deal is a wash if not a good trade for the Diamondbacks.

Tim Dierkes highlights Jerry DiPoto as a potential candidate for open GM positions this off-season.

Arizona cancelled batting practice before each of their last three games, all wins.

Finally, your must read humor link of the week, a fake NL West Summit between Bud Selig and the NL West teams, as concocted by Zavada's Mustache.

Transactions: Traded 2B Kelly Johnson to Toronto for 2B Aaron Hill and SS John McDonald (8/23). Designated UT Cody Ransom for assignment (8/24).

Injuries:  Justin Upton has a bruised left elbow after being hit by a pitch, but he is fine.

Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Geoff Blum fingers 07/25/2011
Alberto Castillo shoulder 07/30/2011
Xavier Nady hand 08/13/2011

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Juan Gutierrez trapezius 05/25/2011
Stephen Drew ankle 07/21/2011
Jason Marquis leg 08/15/2011
Star-divide 

Los Angeles (60-69, 4th, W3, 11.0 GB)

Last Week: 4-2. 1-2 @ Rockies. 3-0 @ Cardinals. The sweep of the Cardinals allowed the Dodgers toregain the lead in the franchise series 1002 to 1001.

You Should Know: Since August 9, the Dodgers are 6-0 in games started by Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda. They are 2-7 in games started by the rest of the rotation. The Rockies miss BOTH Kershaw and Kuroda this weekend.

Divisional Change: Gained 1.5 games on first place Arizona.

This Week: 3 game home series vs. Rockies. 3 game home series vs. Padres. 1 road make-up game @ Pirates.

News: In what might be the most humorous and obvious connection since Terelle Pryor to the Raiders, the Cubs are interested in Dodgers GM Ned Colletti to become their next general manager. He'd fit right there in continuing the tradition of filling a roster with overpaid veterans. Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness (a Dodgers Blog) explores the inescapable parallels between Colletti and Jim Hendry further.

Who will be the Dodgers' first baseman on Opening Day 2012? James Loney is expected to be non-tendered. Jerry Sands is being groomed as an outfielder. How about Scott Van Slyke?

There is little for a Dodgers blogger to write about in a positive way these days. That might be because Clayton Kershaw is hogging all the awesomesauce. Seriously, the 23-year-old lefty is having a ridiculous season and just might become the best pitcher of the 2006 draft class in the end.

Clayton Kershaw

#22 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers

6-3

215

L

L

Mar 19, 1988

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Clayton Kershaw 16-5 27 27 4 2 0 0 189.2 146 58 53 13 48 207 2.51 1.02

The rest of the Dodgers staff have a 44-64 record.

3B Casey Blake doesn't want to be done playing baseball, but his body may force it. Blake has a pinched nerve in his neck, and he is being forced to re-evaluate his future.

Transactions: Recalled C A.J. Ellis from AAA Albuquerque and designated C Dioner Navarro for assignment over "philosophical differences" (8/23). Optioned RHP Josh Lindblom to AA Chattanooga.

Injuries: Activated RHP Kenley Jansen from the 15-day DL (8/24). 3B Casey Blake is day-to-day with a sore shoulder. LHP Ted Lilly has a sore neck but should still start tonight thanks to acupuncture. SS Dee Gordon is on a rehab assignment and could return tomorrow.

Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries

Probable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Ted Lilly neck 08/24/2011

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jonathan Broxton elbow 05/04/2011
Kenley Jansen other-excused 08/24/2011
Rubby De La Rosa elbow 08/01/2011
Dee Gordon shoulder 08/10/2011
Jon Garland shoulder 06/02/2011
Vicente Padilla neck 05/14/2011
Juan Uribe abdomen 07/24/2011

Star-divide 

San Diego (60-71, 5th, W1, 12.0 GB)

Last Week: 4-1.  3-0 vs. Marlins. 1-1 @ Giants.

You Should Know: The Padres are 11 games under .500, but their run differential dictates a Pythagorean W/L of 66-65.

Divisional Change: Gained two games in the division.

This Week: 3 game road series @ Diamondbacks. 3 game road series @ Dodgers.

News: Heath Bell was claimed on waivers by the Giants this week, but a trade of Bell isn't likely. This is notable, because now that Bell has been claimed, he cannot be traded for the rest of the season (except to the Giants by today), so I get five weeks off from Heath Bell trade talk. Yay!

Padres sandwich pick and 54th overall selection Brett Austin turned down $1.5million from San Diego. For comparison, the Rockies signed 45th overall pick Trevor Story for under $1million, and Story was the highest above slot of any Rockies signee.

Nick Hundley was one of the best hitters in the entire National League in April. After slowing down, Hundley injured his elbow. Finally back, he's producing once again.  Hundley was awarded the NL Player of the Week Award on Monday.

Nick Hundley

#4 / Catcher / San Diego Padres

6-1

205

R

R

Sep 08, 1983

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2011 - Nick Hundley 56 191 25 52 10 5 5 20 18 54 0 0 .272 .343 .455

Rockies fans might be excited by a five game win streak, but it's worth noting the Padres had one last week too until Tim Lincecum broke it Wednesday in an epic battle for all Tims.

Transactions:  Designated RHP Pat Neshek for assignment (8/21). Neshek cleared waivers and was assigned to AAA Tucson (8/24).  

Injuries: Activated RHP Ernesto Frieri from the 15-day DL (8/21).

San Diego Padres Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chase Headley fingers 08/07/2011
Chris Denorfia hamstring 08/01/2011
Dustin Moseley shoulder 07/27/2011
Clayton Richard shoulder 07/05/2011

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brad Hawpe elbow 06/19/2011

Star-divide 

San Francisco (69-62, 2nd, L1, 3.0 GB)

Last Week: 2-5. 1-2 @ Astros. 1-1 @ Padres. 0-1 vs. Astros. Their loss yesterday came in a very intriguing pitching match-up, with the suddenly resurgent Ryan Vogelsong losing to Henry Sosa, a forgotten pitching prospect the Giants traded to Houston for Jeff Keppinger.

You Should Know:  The Giants have the worst run differential in the division.... At three games behind, the Giants are perilously close to falling 4.0 games back in the division. They haven't been that far back since May 5, and a sweep of the Rockies (powered by consecutive walk-off wins on Felipe Paulino) vaulted them back.... The Giants have lost the first game of their last ELEVEN series. So expect a loss tonight

Divisional Change: Lost two games in the division.

This Week: Final 3 games of a 4 game home series vs. Astros. 3 game home series vs. Cubs.

News:  Hank Schulman asked Tim Lincecum about his approach to hitting:

"I try to swing out of my ass if I get the opportunity. Doesn't work out often...ever" - Tim Lincecum

Kevin Goldstein pointed out this week that Lincecum once struck out 18 on 146 pitches in a complete game shutout in college, one in which he struck out teammate Brandon Crawford three times.

A major motion picture that might feature Billy Crystal is filming a scene at the home park of the Giants' AAA team, the Fresno Grizzlies tomorrow.

Carlos Beltran

#15 / Right Field / San Francisco Giants

6-1

215

B

R

Apr 24, 1977

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2011 - Carlos Beltran 14 54 5 14 1 2 1 3 1 12 0 0 .259 .273 .407

On this day in 2010, the Giants were 6.5 games out of first place. We know now they roared back to take the division and World Series championship, but it all started with a 10 game losing streak by the Padres that started a year ago today. Probably can't count on that from Arizona.

AT&T Park is a beautiful baseball facility. I'll just never get over how it could be so expertly designed, only to completely forget to design a space for the bullpen. The result is that the makeshift pen is old-fashioned style, in the field of play down either foul line, right in front of the fans. Great for the home arms, not so great for the roadies. Recently, Chad Qualls claims he was spit on by a Giants fan while sitting in the bullpen.

Transactions:   Recalled C Hector Sanchez from AAA Fresno (8/19).

Injuries:  Placed LHP Jonathan Sanchez on the 15-day DL Tuesday retroactive to August 17 and activated OF Carlos Beltran from the 15-day DL. OF Nate Schierholtz is day-to-day with a fractured right foot from a foul ball. Placed C Eli Whiteside on the 15-day DL with a concussion on August 19. RHP Brian Wilson is out indefinitely but did play catch yesterday. It is unlikely Wilson will be activated when eligible Wednesday. LF Pat Burrell started a rehab assignment as a DH in High-A San Jose Wednesday - he could return in a week or two. RHP Sergio Romo threw off the mound Wednesday for the first time.

San Francisco Giants Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Barry Zito foot 08/01/2011
Andres Torres leg 08/13/2011
Sergio Romo elbow 08/10/2011
Jonathan Sanchez ankle 08/17/2011
Brian Wilson elbow 08/16/2011
Pat Burrell foot 07/15/2011

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Buster Posey ankle 05/26/2011
Freddy Sanchez shoulder 06/11/2011
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