Who needs the minors? Mike Leake thriving in Cincinnati

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I criticized the Reds for having 2009 first-round pick Mike Leake completely skip the minors to join the Opening Day rotation, but so far the decision certainly looks like a good one.
Cincinnati is in first place and Leake became the latest pitcher to shut down the Astros with six scoreless innings yesterday, cutting his ERA to 2.45 with his ninth Quality Start in 10 tries.
Billed as a smart pitcher who made up for his lack of fastball velocity by throwing strikes and changing speeds with a five-pitch arsenal, Leake has been exactly that. His fastball has averaged just 88.7 miles per hour, but he’s thrown four different off-speed pitches at least nine percent of the time. Leake initially struggled with control, walking 12 in his first two starts, but has handed out a total of just 13 free passes in eight starts since.
He hasn’t pitched quite as well as the 2.45 ERA would suggest, as his 45/25 K/BB ratio in 66 innings is mediocre and Leake has been pretty fortunate in terms of the defense turning balls in play into outs and his stranding runners on base when they don’t. With that said, his Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) stands at 4.06, which is impressive for a 22-year-old with zero minor-league experience.
While nothing special his strikeout rate of 6.1 per nine innings is decent and he’s induced a good number of ground balls, so despite my skepticism about Leake being ready and some less-than-glowing scouting reports, he’s certainly looked like a potential No. 2 starter long term. Better yet, so far Dusty Baker has taken it easy with Leake’s workload, as he’s topped 100 pitches just three times with a high of 106.
Whether that’s Baker finally realizing that running young pitchers into the ground makes little sense or someone higher up on the Reds’ organizational food chain giving him those orders, it’s good news for the rookie right-hander who beat No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg to the majors by two months (and counting).

Phil Nevin: managerial candidate for the Nats, Mariners, Marlins and Padres

Phil Nevin

Phil Nevin retired following the 2006 season so he was too early to join the trend of All-Star players who, rather than simply wait around for a big league managerial job to be handed to them, actually went and managed in the bus leagues for a while.

He started in independent ball, jumped to the Tigers’ Double-A team and then Triple-A team and then, for the past two seasons, managed the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A club in Reno. In short, the man has paid his dues and has had good reviews from his players everywhere he’s been. So this is not too much of a surprise:


The Padres feel like the most natural fit given that Nevin’s best seasons came with the club and given that he makes his home just outside of San Diego. But all of those jobs are fairly desirable, either for personal reasons or because they’re fairly talented clubs who underachieved in significant fashion this year. Nowhere to go but up, right?

No hearing today: Chase Utley to be eligible once again

Chase Utley
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Chase Utley‘s suspension is quickly turning into a more theoretical than actual thing.

Following his Sunday suspension for sliding into Ruben Tejada and breaking Tejada’s leg, Utley appealed. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement players are eligible pending appeal, and because MLB, the union and Utley’s agent could not get together for a hearing yesterday he was eligible for last night’s game. Of course he didn’t play.

Now, Tim Brown of Yahoo hears from a source that there will be no hearing today either.

This is simultaneously interesting given how much of a to-do the whole matter has become and boring given how, in reality, Utley is a pretty unimportant piece of the Dodgers roster at this point and his presence or absence will, in all likelihood, not affect any game on a level even approaching the manner in which he affected Game 2.

Clayton Kershaw on short rest: an OK idea if Mattingly has a quick hook

Don Mattingly

Last night, as Brett Anderson was being tattooed by Mets batters, I wondered when we’d see Don Mattingly amble out of the dugout to take the ball from him. Turns out he didn’t. He let Anderson finish the third inning having given up six runs and turned it over to the pen for what was essentially a mop-up job.

Maybe that was defensible. Maybe Mattingly realized that, even though the Dodgers would end up scoring more than six runs on the night, the game was already out of hand. Sort of a gut thing, maybe. Let’s not dwell too much on that except to say that Mattingly’s hook was not terribly quick given that his pitcher was having issues.

His hook had better be quicker tonight.

Clayton Kershaw is going on short rest. Historically, pitchers haven’t done too well on short rest in the playoffs. But Kershaw, who pitched on short rest in both the 2013 and 2014 NLDS, has been generally OK. He has, at the very least, given the Dodgers a chance to win.

In Game 4 of the 2013 NLDS against the Braves he allowed two runs — unearned — in six innings. He didn’t figure in the decision in that one — it was the infamous “Craig Kimbrel standing in the bullpen but not being used as the Braves’ season effectively ended in the eighth inning for some reason” game — but the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS.

Last year’s NLDS appearance against the Cards was less-than-stellar. On regular rest he was beat up badly in Game 1, allowing eight runs in six and two-thirds. Then, in Game 4, he came back on only three days’ rest. And, for a while, he pitched well, allowing zero runs through six innings on 94 pitches. Normally Kershaw can go longer than that, but on short rest? Seemed like a bad idea to send him out for the seventh. Mattingly sent him out for the seventh, however, and eight pitches and a Matt Adams home run later the Cards led 3-2 and the Dodgers’ season was over.

Don Mattingly doesn’t have a lot of options tonight and didn’t really have them even before burning Alex Wood last night. He has to use Kershaw and it’s the right decision to do so. Go with what brung ya and go with your best. But he needs to remember that his best on short rest isn’t the same as his best at other times. He should plan for, at the outside, six innings from Kershaw. Indeed, he should be ecstatic if he gets six. A reasonable plan would be for less and to have a reliever ready to go at basically any time in the game.

The Dodgers’ entire season is on the line tonight and Mattingly’s job may very well be on the line too. If he’s on his keister in the dugout watching Kershaw put two men on with nobody out in a close game, he may as well just tender his resignation right then and there.