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View from the other side: Dodger questions for Eric Stephen of True Blue LA

With a series starting against the Dodgers, we have some Dodger questions for Eric Stephen of True Blue LA.

Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium
Stephen Dunn

The Jays start a three game series with the Dodgers tonight, at Rogers. The Dodgers matched our slow start, this season, but have fixed things and now are 50-47, a half game out of first in the NL West. I'd feel good for them, but I'm too busy being depressed for us.

I sent off a few questions to Eric Stephan of True Blue LA and he was nice enough to reply. If you want to read the flip side, True Blue did an interview with our someone named Scott Cooke, here. Oh. I see, that's a pseudonym for jays182 (who is apparently wanted by the law in California, so has to stay undercover).

The Dodgers had the same sort of bad start the Jays did, what's caused the turnaround? Do you think they will keep it up and make the playoffs?

It got really bad for the Dodgers for a while. There was speculation that manager Don Mattingly could be fired and they fell as low as 12 games under .500. But they have won 20 of their last 25 thanks to four main reasons: the return to health of most of the team, the emergence of Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez playing like an MVP, and solid pitching. They are a half-game back of Arizona now, and I do think the Dodgers will eventually pass the D-Backs and will win the division.

Is Yasiel Puig as good as he has looked?

Puig has been a revelation. The Dodgers have, on average, about $57 million worth of outfielders in Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, but the Cuban rookie has outperformed them all. Is Puig as good as he looked? He's not going to hit .400, though it was fun while it lasted. He has a complete package of tools and amazing plate coverage, so the talent is there. He is fighting a slump right now at 0-for-11 and has been exploited of late. Part of it has been pitchers adjusting to him, and part of it is that he injured his hip running into the wall at Coors Field on July 3. He is hitting .216/.255/.235 in 55 PA since that collision, with 18 strikeouts and three walks. I do think he will make adjustments and start to hit again, but it's just a question of when.

How is our old friend Brandon League doing? What's his role now?

League is doing well financially, as his magical "closer" label earned him a $22.5 million, three-year contract from general manager Ned Colletti in the offseason. On the mound he has been a disaster in 2013 and was banished from the closer role. His status right now is reclamation project, basically the seventh guy in a seven-man pen who will pitch in non-essential times of the game (he pitched the final two innings of a 9-2 win Sunday) trying to find the path back to effectiveness.

Who is your closer now? How confident are you in him?

Kenley Jansen is the closer now, just as he should have been at the start of the season and at the start of 2012 as well. Jansen is a remarkable story as he converted from catcher to pitcher midseason in 2009 and within a year he was pitching in the big leagues. In his first full season (2011) Jansen set a record with 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Jansen doesn't throw as hard as he once did, but he is as effective as ever, and the difference is his control and command. In 2011 Jansen walked 11.9% of his batters faced; this year he's down to 4.3%. Jansen has 69 strikeouts and just eight walks in 48 1/3 innings. He is the stopper in a pen that has been remarkably effective in all of July.

Who is your favorite Dodger to watch?

Though Puig is a must-watch player, either at-bat, in the field or on the bases, I'll go with Clayton Kershaw. He has been consistently great throughout his Dodgers career and is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. It is within the realm of possibility that Kershaw could end up ahead of Sandy Koufax as the best Dodgers pitcher ever.

Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers we'll see? I'm happy that Kershaw isn't one of them.

Hyun-jin Ryu has been a pleasant surprise this season, and has been a quality start machine. He doesn't throw hard but has command of all of his pitches, and I think the preseason comparisons to David Wells are apt; Ryu will give up some hits but is still quite effective. Chris Capuano has been Jekyll and Hyde of late. Since returning from the disabled list he has three starts with no runs and no walks allowed, and two starts where he got absolutely shelled. Ricky Nolasco just joined the Dodgers two weeks ago; he was lights out in his debut and has been so-so in his last two starts.

Anything else we should know about that Dodgers? Who is the true blue, Dodgers or Blue Jay fans?

Matt Kemp won't start on Monday, as he hurt his left ankle on a meaningless play at the end of Sunday's win. Sunday was Kemp's first game back from the DL for a shoulder injury, and he had three hits, including a home run and a double. Kemp's availability for the series is in doubt, which is a shame because for once the Dodgers are actually built to utilize the DH. The Dodgers are just 19-54 (.260) in AL parks since the start of 2005, the worst interleague road mark in MLB. As for who is true blue, well the Dodgers were first and my blog name is True Blue LA, so...

But I do love the powder blue Jays uniforms, so there is that.

Thanks Eric

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