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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
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9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
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12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

Seventh Day Stretch
2005-04-25 08:05
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

In the past seven days ...

... Milton Bradley went 13 for 30, slugging .800.

... J.D. Drew had an on-base percentage of .517 and slugging percentage of .636.

... Jason Phillips had an OPS of .903.

... Hee Seop Choi was 5 for 15 with two walks.

... Cesar Izturis was 11 for 33 with one walk and 10 singles.

... Jose Valentin was 1 for 17 (his game-winning triple Wednesday was his only hit).

... Jason Grabowski, Paul Bako and Norihiro Nakamura combined to go 3 for 31 with a home run and three walks.

... Derek Lowe, Kelly Wunsch, Yhency Brazoban, D.J. Houlton and Steve Schmoll allowed no earned runs in 24 combined innings.

... the rest of the staff allowed 36 earned runs in 38 innings - an 8.52 ERA.

Comments
2005-04-25 10:33:38
1.   Ben P
Improved numbers aside, does anyone else think Choi actually looks more comfortable at the plate? As of about a week ago, his left hand seemed to be coming off the bat very early in his swing. He looked like he was hitting a one-handed tennis backhand. The last few games his swing has looked much smoother. Or maybe I'm just imagining that because I so badly want him to do well. It would both solve our first base problem and force DePodesta critics to eat yet more crow (especially if it were combined with a strong season by Penny).
2005-04-25 10:56:45
2.   DodgerJoe
To take the lack of depth a step further, I am concerned about the middle infield. I know it is early in the season, but don't you think that we should bring up a middle infielder. God forbid Kent or Izturis getting hurt, but who plays in that event.

And I have not heard of any progress on Antonio Perez's hamstring. Has anyone?

2005-04-25 10:57:07
3.   Screwgie
I wonder about that late, one-handed tennis swing that Choi exhibits sometimes. I think, and I could be totally wrong, that maybe that swing is just a by-product of his batting eye. He seems to have that one handed swing only when he is badly fooled by a pitch. Maybe he realizes he's been fooled well before the pitch arrives, and caught mid-swing, he simply gives up rather than wiff through like most batters.

Therefore, maybe his eye for pitches that causes the perception of Choi having a "slow" bat. Certainly his bat is "quick" enough when he times it right and gets a hit.

Just wondering...

2005-04-25 10:58:26
4.   Bob Timmermann
The LA Times reported that Antonio Perez is going to Las Vegas on a rehab assignment for three weeks. After that the Dodgers will have to decide whether to keep Perez instead of Nakamura or go with 11 pitchers.
2005-04-25 11:00:48
5.   Jon Weisman
Jose Valentin is not going on the DL - he just suffered a bruise. Antonio Perez is about to start a rehab assignment. Oscar Robles may be on call, and Jose Flores could arrive in a pinch. Jason Repko could probably be an emergency shortstop - he flailed there in the minors, but at least he's done it.
2005-04-25 11:40:15
6.   alnyden
I think it's going to be tough for Choi, Nakamura or Valentin to get into a goove if they are just platoon players. Tracy wants to play whoever is hot at the moment, but that means the person in a slump is benched and can't get out of it. I'd like to see Tracy commit to someone and let them start for a few months. If they fail after that time, so be it. The lineup is so all-over the place, it makes me crazy.
2005-04-25 11:55:35
7.   chumsferd
I think Choi does the one handed thing when he opens his hips too early. This could occur when he is fooled by a pitch, but more likely it's bad technique, since he hasn't done it in a while.

Valentin and Nakamura should be platooned because Valentin has a well established platoon split. i.e. he's WAY better as a lefty.

By mid-season, I predict:
izzy
choi
drew
kent
bradley
werth
valentin/nakamura
phillips/bako

with a rotation of lowe, penny, weaver, perez, houlton

and a pen consisting of at the minimum alvarez, schmoll, yhency, gagne

2005-04-25 12:02:31
8.   LetsGoDodgers
Nakamura the hitter is kinda scary, IMO. That crazy stance, that crazy swing. He looks like the kind of hitter that can't adjust, relying on the pitcher to throw the ball into his batting zone rather than adjusting his swing to hit the ball in another part of the strike zone.

They will catch on and eventually start busting him inside. Can Wallach help him to adjust? I'm not so sure.

2005-04-25 12:07:04
9.   Ben P
It's possible that Choi does the one-handed thing when he's trying too hard to hit home runs. If I remember correctly, Mark McGwire used to swing like that a lot (obviously it worked a bit better for him).
2005-04-25 12:11:47
10.   dzzrtRatt
Amid all the positive stats, the bench's sudden decline probably explains why LA was 4-3, and not 6-1, during the past seven days. The bench was incredibly productive during the first two weeks, but couldn't sustain it. That might be the difference between a runaway team and a "mere" contender.
2005-04-25 12:20:17
11.   Linkmeister
The Nakamura swing is similar to a right-handed Mel Ott, which isn't to say he's gonna produce like Ott. It looks like the classic "foot-in-the-bucket" style to me. (I'm trying to remember whether Nakmura is right-handed to avoid looking like an idiot).
2005-04-25 12:34:36
12.   Xeifrank
Are those numbers park adjusted? :)

vr

Xeifrank

2005-04-25 12:41:37
13.   DougS
My impression (based on nothing except watching on TV, granted) is that Nakamura fidgets and wiggles to stay loose while he's waiting for the pitch. He won't put up big power numbers with a swing like that, but maybe he'll turn out to be a good contact hitter. If he can keep spanking the low, outside pitch into the opposite field like he did on that run-scoring single yesterday, he'll be okay.
2005-04-25 12:55:42
14.   Linkmeister
David Pinto posted a link to this reprint of an article about batting stances from a Birmingham AL paper in 1888. Fun stuff, with some good old names (Dan Brouthers, Mike Kelly [Slide, Kelly, Slide!], and Cap Anson).

http://danagonistes.blogspot.com/2005/04/batting-styles-and-burgess-shale.html

2005-04-25 13:06:22
15.   Dello
Regarding one-hand swingers, Fred McGriff hit about 500 hrs that way. I saw a few impressive ones in Dodger Stadium (while he was with the Braves, unfortunately)
2005-04-25 13:09:49
16.   the OZ
Has anyone else noticed the shape of Nakamura's bat? Rather than being rounded or cupped at the end, it is sawed-off flat, like a military crew cut. I've never seen a bat like it.
2005-04-25 13:26:08
17.   LetsGoDodgers
Nakamura looks like he's closing his eyes and swinging away. I guess that would be more of a head in the bucket style.
2005-04-25 14:20:18
18.   Dello
I haven't seen too many of Nakamura's ABs, but of the ones I've seen everything is headed to right field. I don't remember him pulling anything. Which makes sense with all of the dancing he does up there. Makes me wonder what the average fastball speed is in Japan? or are they in love with offspeed pitches? The guy hit a lot of hrs in Japan.
2005-04-25 14:24:21
19.   subclub
The only hit of Nakamura's I can actually remember is the double (?) he smacked down the third base line in the home opener.
2005-04-25 14:32:27
20.   the OZ
The two commonly held assumptions I've heard or read about Japanese baseball are that the ball is slightly smaller (inflating power numbers) and that it is dishonorable to take a walk (hence, Ichiro's approach).

It's also a safe bet that the average fastball is below Major League level, just from the relative level of competition (AA+). Nakamura probably didn't see as many pitches 94+ in Japan as he'll see stateside.

Here are his most recent Japanese statistics, translated into MLB equivalents by Clay Davenport at BP. Here's a link to the publicly-available article:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3775

Over his best years, he was about .280/.370/.450, translated. The question is, is he still at his best at age 31 coming off of knee surgery.

2005-04-25 15:31:37
21.   GoBears
re: 20. I think that's dead wrong about the size of the ball. But the ballPARKS are smaller - at least some of them are. And before I'd blame Japanese culture ("dishonorable") for the lack of patience, I'd blame the same macho "be aggressive" attitiude that permeates the American product too. This reverence for OBP and hence walks is fairly recent (a few superstar exceptions like Ted Williams and Babe Ruth notwithstanding) and not uncontroversial.

I don't mean to imply that OZ is the source of these assumptions about Japanese baseball - he reported that this is what he's heard or read - but I think they're both overblown.

2005-04-25 15:43:13
22.   Suffering Bruin
I don't know about it being dishonorable to draw a walk. Sadaharu Oh had over 2500 of them in a 22 year career.
2005-04-25 15:43:50
23.   Suffering Bruin
And what Go Bears said in the second paragraph of #21.
2005-04-25 15:54:13
24.   the OZ
Thanks for your sensitive responses. I don't claim to be an expert on Japanese baseball (the motto for the Hanshin Tigers, as translated into English on their web site, is "Never Never Never Surrender"; that's about the sum of my authoritative knowledge), just things I've heard or read. Maybe I'll go on an Internet Quest to find more information about Nori and Japanese baseball in general, and provide actual links to things.

As a random aside, I remember surfing across TV highlights of Japanese baseball on some Japanese-language cable channel last year, and noting the odd swing and bat flip of the hitter at the plate as he homered to center. Little did I realize that that Japanese player would be a third baseman for the Dodgers.

2005-04-25 15:55:16
25.   Dello
I would expect that Nakamura and Choi should both expect to see a lot of fastballs in on their hands this summer.
2005-04-25 16:10:05
26.   Linkmeister
I read "You Gotta Have Wa" a long time ago, so I don't know if it's still relevant, but it was a good description of Japanese baseball (as was Whiting's other book, "The Chrysanthemum...").

Review of the first one here:
http://thediamondangle.com/books/wa.html

2005-04-25 16:11:13
27.   the OZ
Because my curiousity is piqued, and not to try and prove anyone wrong, I've begun my Internet Quest to learn more about Japanese baseball.

This site discusses some aspects of Japanese baseball, though I can not vouch for its veracity:

http://www.japanorama.com/baseball.html

It claims that the Japanse baseball is, indeed, slightly smaller, and the strike zone is slightly larger.

This site says the Japanese ball is smaller and lighter...

http://tinyurl.com/byfy4

This site discusses Japanses Baseball in greater detail, saying hte strike zone is larger near the batter and smaller on the outside half; also, the ball is smaller and wound tighter:

http://www.answers.com/topic/japanese-baseball

2005-04-25 16:19:09
28.   GoBears
I'm really surprised about the different ball. I'm willing to admit I'm wrong, but I'm shocked. As for the strike zone, well, it was only a few years ago here that every UMPIRE had his own strike zone, and admitted as much. Looked like that guy in COlorado yesterday had a different zone for each batter.
2005-04-25 16:30:27
29.   Bob Timmermann
Presently in Japan's Central League, the top players in OBP are all Japanese. The leader is Tomonori Maeda of Hiroshima at 463.

But in the Pacific Leage, the top three players in OBP are all foreigners. The leader is Alex Cabrera of Seibu at 407.

The disparity between the leaders in each league is due mainly to the Pacific League starting its season earlier than the Central League. Once the CL players get more PAs, the OBPs should get closer together.

Last year's CL leader in OBP was Mark La Rocca at 425 and the league leader in walks drew just 79.
The PL leader in OBP last year was Matsunaka of the Fighters at 464, but it was Benny Agbayani who led in walks with 86.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, who are managed by an American, Trey Hillman, are the first Japanese team that I've read about that actively preaches plate discipline and drawing walks.
Historically, that team has stunk, but they're in third place now (in place for a playoff spot) behind Lotte (managed by Bobby Valentine) and Softbank (which used to be Daiei and is managed by Sadaharu Oh).

2005-04-25 17:16:17
30.   Berkeley Doug
A little off topic, but I went to see the 51s play the Sacramento River Cats on Saturday evening and had a few observations:

1. Aside from his high pitch count, Edwin Jackson looked real good. He was often getting ahead of the hitters 0-2 and his fastball was consistently in the 90s, topping out at 94 mph on the stadium gun.

2. Joe Thurston (what ever happened to him?) had a nice game going 3-4 with a RBI. He was the designated "K" man meaning if he struck out everyone at the ballpark would get a food coupon. Fortunately, in this case, everyone went home hungry.

3. Is Henri Stanley French? The PA announcer was announcing his name "Ahn-Ree" Stanley. Also, he has the strangest practice swing I've ever seen. In the middle of his swing, he would stop his bat around the middle of the plate and then move it back and forth a couple of inches a few times. I've never seen anything like it before.

Also, I picked up the relatively recent "Sandy Koufax - A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy and I would recommend it. It is a very good read. His amazing statistics and ability are a given, but it amazing to read the reverence fellow ball players have of Koufax. If I could see anyone from the past play, I think I would definitely love to see Koufax pitch.

2005-04-25 17:16:56
31.   Rick A
Re #28,

According to MLB each batter does have their own strike zone:
http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/official_info/umpires/rules_interest.jsp

Though admittedly, the aforementioned ump's interpretation of the zone was inconsistent.

2005-04-25 18:10:01
32.   GoBears
re 31:. Well, yes, top to bottom. But the plate doesn't change sizes according to the batter. Side to side oughtta be constistent.

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