With Jamey Wright being told on Monday that he will make the team, the Dodgers hope he will be the non-roster invitee pitcher to make the opening day roster and last the whole year with the club. In 2010, it was Jeff Weaver, and last year it was Mike MacDougal. Weaver struggled in 2010 in his after emerging from obscurity in 2009 with the Dodgers, and the club hopes for a better second time around for MacDougal this season.
MacDougal is tall and skinny, listed at 6'4" and 180 pounds, and his lanky frame provides for some weird mechanics. "Like Honey [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] says, he's a rag doll and all of a sudden this arm comes out," manager Don Mattingly said of his reliever.
In his four years prior to joining the Dodgers, MacDougal walked 95 batters in 132 innings (6.5 per nine innings) to go with his 99 strikeouts. Wildness has always been a problem for MacDougal, but he improved to the point last year where his 4.6 walks per nine innings was his best mark since 2006.
MacDougal became Mattingly's go-to choice in tough situations in the middle innings, inheriting a team-high 51 runners on base. The knock on MacDougal was that he somehow kept his ERA spotless (2.05 despite a FIP of 3.96 and xFIP of 4.02) while letting other pitcher's runners score, but he allowed 17 of those 51 runs to score, at 33% pretty much right at the league average of 30%. He also improved as the year went on, allowing six of his final 27 inherited runners to score.
"Anytime the manager or the team shows confidence in you it makes you feel like you are part of the team and they like you. It's good," MacDougal said.
That confidence in MacDougal led to a return engagement for 2012, signing a major league deal this year. But will MacDougal continue to be as fortunate this season? He entered 27 games with runners on base last season, and in those games he had 13 walks and 13 strikeouts in 16 innings, and opposing batters had a .410 on-base percentage. MacDougal's ERA in those games? 1.10.
MacDougal, 35, has struggled so far this spring, with seven walks and one strikeout in five innings, allowing six runs.
"Mac has one speed, and when he gets out of kilter, in his history, his command gets kind of crazy," Mattingly said. "This spring has been not near as clean as last spring."
Hearing MacDougal talk about his mechanics almost reminds me of Jerry Sands working on his swing, both on his own then with coaches.
"You get into doing something a certain way, and you think its the right way, but the results aren't exactly what you want," MacDougal said. "You figure out 'maybe I'm off a little bit,' so you watch video and look at year's past to try and stay on top of it.
"That's why Rick [Honeycutt] and Kenny [Howell, bullpen coach] are so great. Sometimes you get outside of yourself and think you're doing the right thing and you might not be. You are trying so hard, but it might be counterproductive."
Given MacDougal's frame and delivery, getting his mechanics in order is an ongoing and constant process.
"The main thing is to keep him mechanically going in the right direction," Mattingly said. "That's the battle for Kenny and Honey, and I think Mac until the day he quits pitching is going to have to battle staying in line [mechanically]."
The Dodgers are betting on MacDougal to turn things around once the regular season begins.
MacDougal suffered a non-displaced skull fracture on October 4, 2001, during his first cup of coffee in the major leagues, when he was struck in the head by a bat while leaning on the dugout railing. The bat slipped out of the hands of his teammate, Carlos Beltran.
MacDougal re-signed with the Dodgers for one year and $1 million guaranteed, with a $650,000 salary in 2012 and a club option with $2.35 million in 2013 or a $350,000 buyout.
Previous Player Profiles
2011: Walking in LA?
|2012 Projections - Age 35 Season|
I think MacDougal puts up a 4.32 ERA in 52 innings, with 44 strikeouts.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess MacDougal's ERA, number of innings pitched, plus anything else you would like to predict.