Facing uncertain future, Dye open to move to first base

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dye fielding.jpgWe still have so much to learn about defense, but one thing just about everybody can agree on now is that free agent Jermaine Dye isn’t any good in right field at this stage of his career.
Given the nature of the concepts used to measure defense and the smaller sample sizes being dealt with, stats rarely show a great deal of consistency from year to year. Dye is one extremely notable exception:
UZR
2006: -22.5
2007: -21.6
2008: -19.4
2009: -20.0
According to UZR, Dye has cost his team almost exactly 20 runs per year for four seasons running. There’s little doubt that he started his career as a fine defensive outfielder, but he had already declined considerably even before suffering a broken leg in the 2001 postseason. UZR says he was still acceptable until 2005, but that he’s been such a liability since that he was actually a sub-replacement player in 2007 and 2009.
The soon-to-be 36-year-old Dye can likely still contribute with the bat. While he finished last season in a brutal slump that dropped his OPS to 793, he came in at .302/.375/.567 with 20 homers in the first half. He hit .292/.344/.541 with 34 homers in 2008.
He’s also probably capable of making the switch to first base. He lacks an outfielder’s range, but he still moves around OK. Standing 6-foot-5, he’d certainly present a nice target for infielders.
That Dye is clearly open to the idea now makes him a far more attractive free agent target than he was a week ago. It should also help his case that every other notable free agent first baseman hits left-handed. It’d make him a better fit with the Braves or Orioles, two teams relying a great deal on left-handed power. The Mets, Giants and Mariners are others that could consider him at first base.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.