Joe Torre seems to have done absolutely nothing right so far this season. When he tried to sit Billingsley through the rain delay a week or so ago, he ended up bringing him in too early, which forced him out after 1/3 an inning. That was the same game that Joe Torre ordered his pinch-hitter (Juan Pierre) to sac bunt, which he screwed up, and then get thrown out at second to end the ballgame.
Last week in a tied ballgame in the 7th, with two outs, a runner on and Juan Pierre at the plate, Torre calls for Matt Kemp to pinch-run at first while letting Pierre hit. Pierre promptly got out. Pierre then exited the game for Scott Proctor. Huh?
Last year the Dodgers best two relievers, Saito and Broxton, made 146 appearances. So far they've appeared a combined nine times in 2008, with guys like Scott Proctor or Ramon Troncoso having thrown more innings.
After today, Juan Pierre now has more plate appearances on the season than Matt Kemp, who didn't get a plate appearance today, again -- Mark Sweeney was allowed to pinch hit in the eighth with a runner on and no outs -- instead pinch-running in the 9th.
Is Joe serious? Right now it seems like Joe Torre's signing is effectively adding $5 million to Pierre's contract. I'm not about to call him an idiot, but he's sure managed like one through the first twelve games of the season.
Torre's handling of a pitching staff is poor at best. Get used to it. As for Pierre, I think wanting to play him may be out of Torre's hands. I think the team wants him to get hot so they can trade him. As for the handling of Kemp, I'm not as high on him as most seem to be, so that doesn't outrage me.
Opening day Kemp batted 3rd... Since then he batted 7th three times, batted 2nd three times, and pinch hit in the 9-hole twice. There were also 4 games he did not play at all in (I included today since he only pinch-ran).
That is ridiculous, he is arguably the most talented player on the team and THAT is how you manage him?
By trying to get some value back for Pierre (if that's what they're doing - imagine if they were just playing Pierre because they think he rules??), they will cost themselves a couple of games. (Is Pierre even replacement level now?) If the NL West is close that could cost the Dodgers a play-off spot.
You guys might think I'm crazy, but I'm sticking to the "In Torre We Trust" motto.
I'm not really surprised by the lineup changes given that we don't have a pure #3 hitter, Kent and Jones are far past his prime, Pierre has been an OBP killer, and the lineup is just a hodgepodge of talent but Matt Kemp's talent is the only one immense enough to be worth noting and yet, he looks lost if you throw him a breaking ball curling away a few feet from the strike zone. I can understand it will take time to sort out the offense because quite frankly, we have an awkward mix of moderate potential with some veterans who only give us moderate upside at best at the plate.
That said, however, I'm surprised that there's this much lineup shuffling and we're heading into Week 3. I still think Loney's more of a #3 hitter than Ethier just because Loney is more of a for-average hitter, the optimal guy that you can play hit-and-run with Furcal and/or Pierre on base because he makes great contact for line drives even if Ethier can provide a little more sock. I thought hitting Martin in the 2-hole was a reasonable expectation out of Spring, but I'm a bit concerned because even if he can and feels like he can run, we need to keep him as fresh as possible as the season winds down, although without Pierre in the lineup, I can see him there because we really don't have a moderate speed threat beside him.
That brings me to Kemp. If the front office wants Torre to play Pierre a little more often to squeeze out as much trade value as you think, I'd have to think that there would be as equal pressure to play Kemp in some way. Colletti was very hesitant to deal Kemp because of his skill set and it seemed he was closer to an everyday job. However, Kemp tends to louse his playing chances at the same time. His IQ is a bit behind as far as a baserunner goes and Kemp just can't seem to solve the offspeed pitches consistently enough. He needs to learn to be more patient at the plate and if he's not getting a pitch that would be favorable to him, he should at least show improvement to take the ball the other way. That said, I think Kemp is a better fit in the 2-hole for his continued development. Sure, he probably won't see as many pitches as a Juan Pierre can, but this could be good learning ground for him to hit for contact, get on base, and let the power come more naturally. Seems a bit unorthodox in a real-life standpoint, but I think a fixture in the 2-hole for Kemp would be better for him than hitting middle of the order or at the 7th spot. This will give no excuse for Torre to keep sitting Kemp as often as he has been. The kid isn't going to adapt better if he can't see a Dan Haren or a Chris Young every now and then, period.
I believe the substitutions have been a bit off for Joe. I think in some situations he believes Pierre can let the opposing pitcher expend 8 pitches and get a productive AB even with an out, but often times, Pierre's just not making contact when it counts. I didn't get the decision to pinch-hit Mark Sweeney today instead of going with Kemp. Again, Torre is more hesitant for my liking with regards to Kemp just because Kemp seems to have a trigger-happy bat.
Andruw is doing some serious, serious pressing. He and Kemp are on the level in the regard they can't solve offspeed pitches.
As for Broxton/Saito, we've been so far behind games of late that they don't play much of a factor, but at the least, I'd think they would squeeze in more work even in situations when we didn't have the lead.
I don't think Joe's on the hot seat yet with the town preoccupied with the Lakers and yet another UCLA Final Four failure, but when you think of a team like Arizona that's looking like the head of the class in an otherwise crowded division off to a hot start, with Colorado & San Diego simply just going through the motions, Joe has some serious work to do in fielding a more consistent lineup. Remember, this is a team that struggled to post runs consistently for the last couple of years and I can see why there has to be tweaking every now and then to change things up, but if Joe keeps this up for another couple of weeks, he's just overdoing it for fun.
The Kemp situation doesn't surprise me in the least, he is a highly talented yet terrible ballplayer and those types really frustrate managers. He just does all of the little things wrong and has to try to make up for it in talent which I think he can do but when you have a semi viable alternative it is easy to cut out some of the playtime while he goes through growing pains.
I said it before but I don't think Kemp breaks 500 AB this year.