Monthly archives: July 2007
The Big Lineup Question Answered
Dave Roberts will be in center field for the Giants, according to Jill Painter of the Daily News.
Oh, and Barry Bonds will be in left.
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Dodgers Recall Delwyn Young
Filling Wilson Betemit's spot on the roster will be outfielder Delwyn Young, who has an on-base percentage of .400 and a slugging percentage of .608 with AAA Las Vegas.
A switch-hitter, Young has a 1.095 OPS against righties and .968 against lefties. He has 44 doubles, five triples and 16 home runs in 398 at-bats. That's some paddlin'.
As of this writing, the Dodgers haven't announced which of their existing 12 active pitchers they will jettison to make room for new acquisition Scott Proctor, who will not report to the team until at least Wednesday.
Gagne Goes to the Red Sox
The odds-on favorite to be the final image of the 2007 baseball season is Eric Gagne pumping his fist for the World Champion Boston Red Sox, now that Texas has traded the former Dodger reliever.
How does "Game Over" sound with a Boston accent? (Oh, and who will that final batter whom Gagne strikes out be?)
Update: I know Jonathan Papelbon's there. I'm still thinking, though ...
Betemit Traded to Yankees for Middle Reliever Proctor
Nine years after the Dodgers drafted him as a fifth-round selection, 30-year-old right-hander Scott Proctor will put on the Los Angeles whites and pitch for the team, after being acquired today from the New York Yankees in exchange for infielder Wilson Betemit if a single, unsourced report from ESPN.com's Buster Olney is true. (Update: The Associated Press confirms the preliminary agreement.)
Four years ago today, the Dodgers traded Proctor and Bubba Crosby to the Yankees in exchange for Robin Ventura, who batted .220 but had an OPS+ of 101 (100 being average) for Los Angeles as the team finished second in the National League West. (At the time, I called the trade "pointless.") Proctor became a major leaguer the following year with New York, and after two seasons of relative ineffectiveness, he came on in 2006 to throw 102 1/3 innings of relief (83 games) with an ERA+ of 125 (100 being average), striking out 89 while allowing 122 baserunners.
This season, Proctor has pitched 54 1/3 innings with slightly more difficulty ERA+ of 113. Beyond that, he has allowed 82 baserunners and eight home runs. His strikeout rate is declining. And he's been more lucky than unlucky, given that his fielding-independent ERA, according to The Hardball Times, is 5.49. He may be a victim of overwork, but that isn't likely to change in Los Angeles.
Still, with Rudy Seanez, after 3 1/2 months, finally becoming as unreliable as one would have expected in March, and with Dodger starting pitchers struggling to pitch past the sixth inning, even an average relief pitcher could help. Almost all relief pitchers have short shelf lives of effectiveness, and the Dodgers will just have to hope that they catch Proctor before he completely expires.
To shore up their banged-up pitching staff, the Dodgers traded a more valuable player than Proctor by shedding Wilson Betemit. While no All-Star, Betemit, particularly against right-handed pitchers, was quite simply one of the Dodgers' best hitters. He was often mocked for his propensity to strike out, but those strikeouts distracted the critics from realizing his value.
However many times he made an out, it was more rare than any Dodger infielder except Jeff Kent and James Loney. His slugging percentage was also higher than any Dodger infielder except those two. Much has been made of Nomar Garciaparra's July hot streak, yet few noticed that Betemit was even hotter, with a 500 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage.
Betemit lost fans because simply because of the type of outs he made, not because of the quantity. He was a book judged by its cover. And that always makes me sad.
That fact remains that the Dodgers will stick with Garciaparra and Kent at third base and second base for the remainder of the season as long as they stay healthy, so that there was no starting role for Betemit. And with Andy LaRoche, Tony Abreu and Chin-Lung Hu in the minor leagues, the Dodgers are also covered for the future. At least one of these players has a higher ceiling than Betemit.
One underrated consideration of the trade might be that the Dodgers, having already discarded Marlon Anderson, now find themselves losing yet another left-handed bat off the bench. They still have Luis Gonzalez or Andre Ethier on the days those outfielders are resting, but that's really it. Righties Olmedo Saenz, Ramon Martinez and Mike Lieberthal make up the rest of the bench, pending which hitter the Dodgers add to the roster. (If no other trades are made today, the Dodgers would probably send down Eric Hull or D.J. Houlton to make room for Proctor and keep the pitching staff at 12 pitchers, and then call up another hitter.)
I would have much rather seen the Dodgers give Jonathan Meloan a shot at aiding the bullpen before acquiring Proctor. In fact, trading for a middle reliever is almost by definition against good judgment, unless you're giving up a fringe minor-leaguer in the process. But given the reality that they haven't tried Meloan yet, given the pressing need for pitching help so that they can ease off Seanez, and given that the Dodgers were probably never going to warm up to Betemit even though he hit 19 home runs in 330 at-bats as a Dodger what can you say? You just hope for the best.
Farewell, Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh has passed away.
Football isn't my game anymore, but Walsh transcends.
Sports Illustrated had a wonderful feature on Walsh earlier this year.
Good Chad, Bad Chad
From the middle of my latest piece for SI.com's Fungoes:
Chad Billingsley has made eight starts this season for the Dodgers.
Weird, isn't it? He really has alternated good and bad starts.
By the way, did anyone see how close Andre Ethier's ninth-inning, two-out, 3-2 foul ball came to being a bases-clearing double that would have tied Sunday's game at 9-9? Missed it by that much.
Instead, the biggest news to come out of the ninth inning was Jeff Kent's strained left hamstring, which might keep July's hottest hitter out of Tuesday's game against his former team, the Giants.
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By request, an open-chat, spoliers-welcome chat thread for Harry Potter at Screen Jam.
Bill Robinson Dies, Brett Butler Hospitalized
July 29 Game Chat
Horton Hears a Boo
I offered my own take at SI.com on what will happen if Barry Bonds breaks the all-time homer record in Los Angeles next week.
"The Boos Heard 'Round the World" could come as soon as Tuesday in Los Angeles.You might be surprised by how the column ends. Maybe not - you tell me.
I know the Silent Treatment movement is gaining support, but I still expect the decibels to be off the charts at Dodger Stadium next week.
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Harken back to those arguments of the majority. I still giggle.
Many also want topless women on Page 3, as is done by some London newspapers. When exactly did newspapers stop deciding what people needed, what is good for them, as well as what they want?
Except in Nevada, sports gambling is illegal. If you are the Las Vegas Review-Journal, you run lots of sports gambling news and information. Everywhere else, you are contributing to the misunderstanding and sugarcoating of a possible crime.
The Pacers by 11 over the Cavaliers in February is useful for no other purpose than to bet. ...
Thursday morning, we learned about how to bet $100 to make $210 on which NBA player would become rookie of the year next May. We also learned there was a website called Skytowercasino.com, where we can go to learn more.
Harvey has taken the modernist view that all this gambling stuff is out there, and our responsibility is to address it, not ignore it. That is a persuasive argument.
Those who drool on themselves, of course, have no modernist views. We can only hope that, while newspapers chase web hits as their current path to survival, they also ponder whether high-minded coverage of stories such as that of (NBA referee Tim) Donaghy, while warranted, also comes off looking slightly hypocritical.
I guess you can make a case that people who don't bet might still want to know who the favorite in a game is. And I understand that ultimately it's up to the reader to be responsible with the information - that newspapers aren't always the best gatekeepers. In general, however, I just don't see an editorial argument to publish a gambling column in a Los Angeles newspaper. It strikes me as tacit support for an illegal activity. I'm not up in arms about it, but it still surprises me each day that the column's there.
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On The Griddle, Bob Timmermann describes a 1971 game in which the Dodgers won on a walk-off catcher's interference call. For me, the most amazing part of it is that the final play began with Manny Mota attempting a straight steal of home with the bases loaded two out and the score tied in the bottom of the 11th.
"I talked to (third base coach) Danny Ozark," Mota told the Times after the game (according to the game story Timmermann sent me). "He told me to watch the first pitch to see how he was throwing. Then I got the OK from Danny."
"As slow as (Joe) Gibbon was throwing," Ozark said, "I thought it might be worth a try. Manny did it several times last year. Gibbon was pitching very deliberately, taking two pumps and that gives a runner a pretty good advantage."
Reds catcher Johnny Bench jumped out in front of the plate to catch the pitch, denying batter Willie Crawford a chance to swing the bat and precipitating the catcher's interference call.
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Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast for Denver tonight, according to Weather.com.
Update: Mike Lieberthal will get another chance to start in place of Russell Martin tonight, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. Also, Derek Lowe is feeling better.
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Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
Rain Delay in Denver ... and Then Some
The start of tonight's game will be delayed - if it starts at all - according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Update: Rainout City. The game will be made up in September - which is good news for the Dodgers if for no other reason than rosters will have expanded by then. In the meantime, everyone gets a day of rest. I call this one a victory.
Update: Worse news for Derek Lowe, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
Lowe does not have a strained groin, but, according to a club official, he has "irritation in the left hip," and that's never good for a pitcher. In fact, that was the original diagnosis for pitchers Jason Isringhausen of the Cardinals last year and Justin Duchscherer of the Oakland A's this year, and both ultimately required arthroscopic hip surgery.
Lowe's symptoms -- sharp pain in the groin area when he lands on every pitch, but no pain otherwise -- are classic for that condition, as the pain is referred from the point of injury. He said he's had similar twinges in the past, but never repeatedly pitch after pitch as it was Wednesday night, and he was puzzled with the diagnosis of a hip problem.
He said the discomfort began when he warmed up for a Sunday emergency-relief appearance without stretching. Lowe said his MRI results were being sent for analysis to the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo., where hip specialist Dr. Marc Philippon is a pioneer of the surgical procedure.
Lowe played catch gingerly on flat ground before rain fell on Friday and said he was hopeful of testing the hip off a mound on Saturday. He said the entire hip area was stiff and sore on Friday, the expected aftermath of the gadolinium injection in Thursday's MRI procedure.
"Any time you're dealing with the groin area, you have to throw off a mound to see how the leg reacts," said Lowe, who suffered a bad groin tear while he was a Minor Leaguer. "When I throw off a mound, I'll be able to tell right away how it feels." ...
Not all tears require surgery. Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson, diagnosed with a labral tear at the end of Spring Training, returned after a month of rehab.
Brad Penny: NL MVP?
Brad Penny's hitting and pitching prowess this season is reflected in the news being circulated by the Dodgers' public relations department that Penny might become the first Dodger pitcher to have a higher batting average than ERA (if you are kind enough to ignore placement of the decimal point) since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 (.250 batting average, 2.48 ERA).
Although Penny's ERA rose to 2.51 after he allowed three runs in the sixth inning Thursday, his batting average climbed all the way to .293 thanks to a 2-for-3 night at the plate. In fact, Penny would be batting .317 if his third-inning line drive hadn't been turned into an unassisted double play by Todd Helton.
Besides Penny being a leading Cy Young candidate, it has actually started getting to the point where he is in position to receive Most Valuable Player votes. According to Baseball Prospectus, Penny's Value Over Replacement Player as a pitcher is 46.2 (tops in the National League). As a hitter, Penny's VORP is 7.1. The combined total of 53.3 places Penny third in the NL behind only Chase Utley of Philadelphia (53.5, but Utley just broke his hand) and Hanley Ramirez of Florida (53.4). While this doesn't factor in fielding for position players, it's still some pretty serious company to be in - especially when you realize how Penny has taken on the stature of staff stopper on a pennant contender.
In any case, what the whole batting average-over-ERA thing got me wondering was how Orel Hershiser could have avoided accomplishing this. In 1993. Hershiser began the year red-hot at the plate and only got hotter when summer arrived, crossing the .400 mark by going 2 for 2 on August 1 and getting as high as .424 (25 for 59) with an RBI double August 29. On that date, his batting average was well ahead of his 3.70 ERA.
As it turns out, Hershiser had a higher batting average than ERA all the way until the final batter he faced in 1993, on October 2 the Dodgers' 161st game that year.
He entered the game batting .366 (26 for 71) with an ERA of 3.48 (81 earned runs in 209 1/3 innings pitched).
Kip Gross immediately replaced Hershiser, who would have needed to either get another hit, or avoid getting an out while not allowing any more runs through at least the eighth inning, in order to get his batting average higher than his ERA again.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for enabling my research.
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Also from the Dodger press notes:
JORIS EST ARRIVE! Joris Bert, the Dodgers 19th-round selection in the June 2007 First-Year Player Draft will make his professional debut tonight for the Gulf Coast League Dodgers. Bert became the first player drafted out of the MLB's European Academy, and the French outfielder is drawing quite a bit of attention across the Atlantic. Arnaud Romera and Michel Goldstein of France 2, a news station in France, arrived at Dodgertown this morning to cover Bert and his debut. The news crew figures to be the first of several French electronic and print media interested in the 20-year old Bert.
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Tonight's 6:05 p.m. game:
Vin Scully, on the Colorado infield grass that smothered a Juan Pierre infield single:
"Holy mackerel, you could lose a poodle out there!"
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Takashi Saito, pitch-by-pitch, ninth inning, Dodgers leading at Colorado, 5-4:
vs. Ryan Spilborghs
vs. Cory Sullivan
vs. Kazuo Matsui
vs. Matt Holliday
12 pitches, four balls, eight strikes
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Brad Penny left after six innings and 90 pitches because of a cramp.
Injured pitcher Derek Lowe is still on the active Dodger roster as of this moment, according to Gameday.
While I'm as concerned about the state of the Dodger pitching staff as anyone here, let me give you something to keep in mind. The Dodgers' ill-fated pursuit of Julio Lugo last year arose in large part because of an infield injury - Jeff Kent did not play from July 18 to August 6.
Arguably, the current starting pitching situation is akin to losing three-fourths of your starting infield. But you have to ask yourself whether a short-term problem will only be made worse by creating a long-term problem via a poor trade.
If there's a good deal to be made, that's fantastic. But paying to plug a hole with junk is no solution.
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Tonight's 6:05 p.m. game:
The Long and Winding Road
Before Juan Pierre, before J.D. Drew, before Hee Seop Choi, before Jim Tracy, before Paul DePodesta, there was Frank McCourt. The Dodger owner was the original hot-button issue on Dodger Thoughts after reader comments were instituted. From the beginnings of his serious interest in purchasing the team, through the subsequent mass employee turnover below him, McCourt's actions inspired the kind of outcry that ultimately made me avoid writing about him as much as possible, just so I wouldn't have to worry about putting out the flames.
So when McCourt walked into the executive conference room at Dodger Stadium to join senior vice president of communications Camille Johnston and director of public relations Josh Rawitch in meeting the Dodger Thoughts Traveling Players on Saturday, what struck me most was the placidity of the occasion. Certainly, many of us had to be cowed by meeting Dodger authority in the flesh, and cognizant of the fact that we were guests in their home, but it certainly didn't seem as if too many people were still nursing heavy grudges or biting their tongues. Even Rob McMillin, whose motivation for creating his expert blog, 6-4-2, can be traced in part to grave concerns over McCourt, found himself rolling his eyes and biting his tongue, but not exactly spitting bile.
It's a measure of McCourt's success at this particular moment that in a contemporary sports world that seems to seek out controversy, no controversy currently dogs him. At a minimum, the crisis of the new Dodger Stadium parking system has reached a sort of equilibrium (more on that later). The revolving door of employees has stopped spinning. Financial losses under previous ownership have been curtailed. The team is in first place. Of course, there are still goals unattained, but there are no troops marching on Elysian Park.
McCourt has a good amount to be proud of, but how proud should he feel?
McCourt seems to have achieved an appropriate delegation of authority where he leaves personnel decisions to general manager Ned Colletti and other high-level executives, and focuses on the business of the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium as much as anything else. McCourt likes talking baseball, but he has placed his faith in his baseball people to make baseball decisions. He said Saturday that his proudest personnel decision was his hiring of Colletti. Every player transaction passes McCourt's desk for approval but every transaction gets it.
Further, in contrast to my pronounced initial fears that McCourt was purchasing the Dodgers as an excuse to exploit the stadium property in a massive real-estate deal, he has shown a real commitment to the team and to the ballpark. That commitment to Dodger Stadium has a limit: McCourt himself said 25 years (dating from 2004, I presumed). In 2029, Dodger Stadium will be 67 years old; asking him to commit now to playing in the stadium beyond that would be unreasonable.
In the meantime, McCourt has backed the commitment he has made with actions real investments in ballpark improvements in a multiphase plan encompassing seating, parking, concessions and amenities. And player payroll does not appear to have been an issue either. If Vladimir Guerrero had been a free agent last winter, the Dodgers would have been in the running to sign him, if not the favorites.
Over the past 3 1/2 years, McCourt has taught me patience. What initially looks grim might not turn out that way. Some screwups can be resolved. Others just don't seem to matter as much as people get used to them.
McCourt, for example, proclaimed the new seating at Dodger Stadium a success, glossing over the poor sightlines in the new field-level seats after they were put in. Still, it's true that after a re-do, few complain now.
He proclaimed the new parking system at Dodger Stadium a success. And it's true that for a non-sellout game, you get in and out of the stadium as fast as or faster than you did a year ago, though at a higher cost - and even McCourt conceded Saturday that at a sellout, there's still no avoiding traffic. Nevertheless, that's another crisis off the radar.
It's all something I will keep in mind as I contemplate the inevitable problems that will accompany the next phase of stadium improvements: food concessions and restrooms.
The Dodgers are literally digging into the Chavez Ravine hillside to make more room for their food operations, thus allowing, for example, every level to cook its own hot dogs, rather than rely on an elevator shuttle system. There's no reason to believe that the food setup won't look better and have all the potential for functioning better.
But after McCourt left us, when I asked Johnston whether anything would be done to spur the concessionaires to move faster, the answer was essentially that it was out of the Dodgers' hands. The food workers are not Dodger Stadium employees, and the Dodgers don't control them.
What that leaves you with is a 2008 automobile that is being driven by my grandmother. Now, my grandmother was a fine driver in her day, but now, thankfully, she knows she doesn't belong behind the wheel. No set of facility improvements is going to make up for the fact that if people aren't doing their job in an expert manner, if they can't even fake enthusiasm for their work, if they aren't capable of acting with speed, there isn't going to be sufficient progress. We'll have to wait.
Similarly, the next Dodger radio contract might present something of a no-win situation either stay with KFWB, which is limited in how much Dodger programming it can provide, or go to another station where the Dodgers might not be top priority either. We'll have to make do.
If it sounds as if I've surrendered to the McCourt charms, however, I wouldn't go that far.
If the overriding lesson I've learned during the McCourt ownership is that even though he breaks a lot of eggs, he ends up with a decent omelet well, there are still all those broken eggs to consider. As McCourt talked about how he felt he had all the right people working under him, I couldn't help but think about former announcer Ross Porter and the many other valuable employees who were cast aside gracelessly. As McCourt praised the on-field product, I couldn't help but wonder about how the franchise today assesses its strengths and weakness.
Clearly, a full-scale fan outcry isn't lost on McCourt, whether in regards to stadium parking or another incident in which he delivered his biggest mea culpa Saturday: taking the names off the back of Dodger uniforms before the 2005 season. But questions remain about how well McCourt can see problems on the horizon and whether he is any better at preventing them from snowballing than he was in the fall of 2005, when the Tracy-DePodesta conflicts sullied the franchise on the field and off.
For example: Whether it's due to Colletti, assistant general manager/scouting Logan White or underrated vice president/assistant general manager Kim Ng, the Dodgers have a pennant contender. That doesn't mean that the team hasn't made mistakes in the personnel department. Every team makes mistakes, of course, and no one expects perfection. But what kind of system do the Dodgers have in place to evaluate their personnel decisions and determine which transactions went south because of bad luck and which because of faulty - but improvable - reasoning?
This is a question I wanted to ask at the session, but unfortunately, I held off. Even if I had asked it, however, I don't know how meaningful an answer I would have gotten, because McCourt is not the type to do a lot of public introspection when things are going well.
Wins and losses are what matter in the end for a baseball team, but wins and losses aren't the best indicator of whether a general manager is doing the best job possible. When McCourt tells me that he has complete faith in Colletti, does that imply he believes Colletti will know how to improve his performance from the B or whatever grade he merits? Or does it imply that he thinks Colletti deserves an A? This is all immediately pertinent with Tuesday's trading deadline testing Colletti's judgment anew.
I no longer worry that the Dodgers are a franchise in peril, and that's important. I believe that McCourt has the best intentions, and that's important too. The next steps for me are to see whether the Dodgers can achieve their goals with more efficiency, and how McCourt will react when the next Dodger crisis comes. Having McCourt meet with us was personally gratifying, but it shed little light on those remaining questions. We'll have to see what comes next.
And now, I guess, the flames have been fanned.
Good News, Bad News, Zero News
Also, a correction from Monday: Dodgers assistant public relations director Joe Jareck should have been credited with the note on the consecutive games on base for Jeff Kent and James Loney.
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Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
Kershaw ... Gesundheit
He's our pet ... don't anyone try to take him from us.
But if you want to read Clayton Kershaw in his own words, check out this interview at Baseball America.
Retro Cycle Alert
You know how we keep waiting for the first Dodger to hit for the cycle since Wes Parker in 1970? This wouldn't be happening if Babe Herman were around. On this date in 1931, Herman hit for the cycle for the second time that season for Brooklyn.
Two years later, Herman did it again for the Cubs.
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Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
Saito Not Quite Convinced
Though the MRI on his shoulder was negative (that's good news, George Costanza and Michael Scott), Dodger reliever Takashi Saito told Dylan Hernandez of the Times he "wasn't completely convinced his shoulder problems were behind him."
When he had back trouble in Japan, he said, he underwent similar exams that revealed nothing.
"I still haven't played catch," Saito said. "Doctors are telling me I'm fine and I'm sure they're fine doctors. But I need to throw first, then throw in a few games in a row and feel nothing to convince myself I'm fine. Doubts will remain until then.
"That being said, it's emotionally relieving to be told by doctors that I'm fine."
Saito said he would play catch today and would make himself available to close if he wasn't hurting. But he also said that pain was no longer his only obstacle.
"I've been out for five days, so I've lost my feeling for the mound," he said. "I'm hoping I can get back in the relatively near future."
The good news is that the MRI showed no structural shoulder damange. And, according to Hernandez, Dodger trainer Stan Conte "added that spine specialist Dr. William Dillin also checked Saito and found nothing abnormal."
But the article left us with this apparent contradiction:
From the first paragraph: "Takashi Saito said he isn't certain he'll be able to pitch again without pain."
From the eighth paragraph: "Conte said Saito would be held out until he is completely pain-free."
So the coming days remain important. Conte expects the pain to go away. Saito isn't saying it won't, but apparently he'll only believe it when the pain does go - and stays gone.
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At Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer reports on the exciting induction weekend for the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals. What an experience he had.
Chad! Chad! Chad!
What a shame about the lost shutout on the final batter, but still, a complete game from Chad Billingsley - just what the Dodgers needed.
Update: Russell Martin on Billingsley, via Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
"Today, even when he fell behind, he got quick outs," said Martin. "He'd throw a good cutter and they'd pop it up. The adjustment he's made is throwing his offspeed when he's behind in counts and getting outs. Normally he gets swing and misses, and that tends to run up the pitch count. Now he's pitching more to contact. When he needs a punchout, he gets it. He's becoming, slowly, one of the best pitchers in the league -- 7-0, not many guys doing that."
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Upon the news Sunday of Mike Coolbaugh's death from a line drive that struck him while he was coaching first base for Tulsa, ex-Times columnist Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune immediately called Vin Scully:
Vin Scully has been saying it on TV for years. Telling it to deaf ears. Preaching, pleading, appealing to baseball to please listen before it is too late.
Monday morning, when word reached him that a first-base coach had been killed by a line drive, the mellifluous Hall of Fame voice of Dodgers baseball was on a phone line to the commissioner's office.
Bud Selig wasn't in.
"I spoke with a woman there," Scully said. "I said, 'Do me a favor. Please, please ask Bud to use all of his power to do something to make sure that a thing like this can never happen again.' " ...
"I've said it so often on the air," Scully said Monday from his California home, "a lot of viewers and listeners must want to scream."
He is no I-told-you-so.
Scully is genuinely heartsick. This is a day he has been dreading. For more than half of the 57 years he has been a narrator of this game, by Scully's own reckoning, he has harped on this topic ... and this is not a gentleman known to harp.
"I suppose I've been saying it for at least 30 years," he said. "My best platform came when I was doing the 'Game of the Week.' I mentioned it once during every game. ...
Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Underdog for the link.
Hull Recalled, But Saito Might Be Okay
Takashi Satio is not going on the disabled list - not now, anyway. His MRI revealed nothing (insert joke here), according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News, and he is on his way to join the team in Houston. Whether he can pitch Tuesday remains to be seen.
"This (injury) started with pain over a large area of his back and neck," Jackson wrote, "and it has since subsided to a small, localized area. Saito told Grady that was exactly what happened in Japan, and the localization of the pain told him then that he was almost ready to come back."
I'm still nervous, but okay.
The Dodgers made a roster move anyway. They called up Eric Hull, whose 3.18 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 51 innings with AAA Las Vegas has intrigued many, and sent down Eric Stults. Stults pitched well for the Dodgers and short of a unbelievably quick comeback by Randy Wolf, should return.
As I've said in other places, it's imperative that the Dodgers give Hull and/or Jonathan Meloan trials of at least a few games before they make a panic trade for a reliever. With the trading deadline coming in barely a week, this callup comes better late than never.
By the way, Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise reports that tonight's designated closer is Joe Beimel, with Jonathan Broxton scheduled to get the day off after pitching two games in a row. Broxton threw 40 pitches over the weekend. It doesn't seem to me that this is a demotion - nor, of course, should it be.
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Catching me completely by surprise, Dodger PR director Josh Rawitch passed on the news that Jeff Kent has reached base in 33 consecutive games, and will have the longest such streak in the majors this season if he makes it 34 tonight.
"There are two pretty good hitters with active streaks on his tail," Rawitch wrote in the team's press notes today. "Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard has reached safely in 29 consecutive games and Dodger rookie James Loney has been on the bases for 27 straight contests, going back to June 22. In the month of July, Kent is hitting .385 (20-for-52) and Loney stands at a .304 (21-for-69) since July 1."
This season, Loney has played in 34 games and reached base in all but two. On June 12, he appeared as a defensive replacement and did not bat. On June 17, the day of his ill-fated right-field adventure, he went 0 for 1. Every other game, he has gotten on.
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Tonight's 5:05 p.m. game:
Wrung Out To Dry
Despite my not beginning it until 11 p.m. Sunday, this week's National League West report on SI.com's Fungoes ended up being a fairly beefy one, led by informing the world of the Dodgers' tattered pitching staff.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have pulverized the once-formidable Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff to such an extent that three pitchers have started and relieved in the same week.Reading on, you'll see a chart that shows that Dodger relievers have averaged 66.4 pitches per day since the All-Star break.
Also noteworthy, for those of you who like to look ahead, is this peek at the stretch-run schedule:
Jockeying for first place with the Dodgers for weeks now, the Padres have played two fewer games then their Los Angeles rivals. In the final three weeks of the season, the Dodgers are off on three consecutive Mondays -- Sept. 10, 17 and 24. San Diego also has Sept. 10 off, but then closes with games on 20 consecutive days -- including a four-game trip to end the season in Milwaukee, against a Brewer team currently trying to fight off the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central title. If Milwaukee has clinched by then, it could be a cakewalk for the Padres, but if the Brewers need the wins, the Padres could have a rough final hurdle for the playoffs.In addition, the piece offers a few more tidbits from around the division. Take a look.
Thoughts As They Occur to Me
People aren't really going to be so simple-minded as to conclude that Jonathan Broxton can't close when once again, the defense let him down in the ninth inning? Working a day after getting the final five outs of a victory, Broxton was touched for two groundballs (one hit sharply) and a can of corn to right field, while striking out two. Seventeen of his 22 pitches were strikes. What weakness is that supposed to reveal?
The ball hit off Broxton to James Loney was a hit all the way, though. It was laced.
Eric Stults pitched well against the Mets again. From the second to the fifth in particular, he was superb.
How can you second-guess the decision to remove Derek Lowe after his 10-pitch seventh inning without talking to him and knowing what his physical condition was? Maybe he could have taken it batter-by-batter in the eighth inning, but in the middle of the game, that's one place where it's not for us to say what should have been done. It's not as if Grady Little couldn't see how well he pitched that inning, or had no reason to milk Lowe for all he was worth.
Basically, some situations require that the second-guessing not begin until the quotes come.
There are other pitchers I'd have on the roster before Roberto Hernandez, but if the only hit he allows in an inning is to Jose Reyes, I think that's par for the course.
Japanese-speaking Dylan Hernandez of the Times seems to be a better source for information on Takashi Saito than the Dodgers themselves. Hernandez was first to report that Saito fears his injury is more than general soreness. Now, the press has come together to let us know that Saito will have an MRI. The disabled list could be next.
Man, I wish Matt Kemp had caught that ball.
Two home runs in three days for Nomar Garciaparra? I don't think I had seen him hit two balls to the warning track in the past month.
And yet Kemp and Loney are the only Dodgers with a higher OPS this season than Wilson Betemit.
Sometimes this season (and every season) the Dodgers have won games because the opponent is going through a rough patch. There was no reason to think that the Dodgers wouldn't lose games when they were going through theirs. Winning Saturday or losing Sunday doesn't change the fact that the Dodgers need to make the correct personnel decisions, and it doesn't change the fact that errors hurt and injuries hurt more.
Clear eyes, full hearts.
* * *
Here's Rob McMillin's slide show from Dodger Thoughts Day. And since I underthanked Camille Johnson for getting Frank McCourt to speak to us, please allow me to rectify that. I still plan to write about the group's pregame conversation at some point.
Update: The Dodger Thoughts Choir sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Thanks, dzzrtRatt!
Don't We Look Loverly?
Home Run Derby
I'm too tum pluckered to write a proper writeup, but it was a great Dodger Thoughts day at the ballpark, kicked off by a surprise for the 30-plus attendees - a generous 90-minute question-and-answer session with, at different times, Dodger public relations director Josh Rawitch, senior vice president of communications Camille Johnston and owner/chairman Frank McCourt.
The discussion flew by in such a fashion that we were practically racing to get to our seats in time for the first pitch. Almost as quickly, the Dodgers fell behind by four. But what you realize about this Dodger team that has done a 180 this summer is that big deficits just aren't what they used to be. The team isn't really out of it when it's behind, is it? Matt Kemp's three-run home run was the highlight of eight unanswered runs scored by the Dodgers in the middle innings, and Jonathan Broxton got the final five outs to close out an 8-6 win.
So much more to talk about, but I really do want to thank the Dodgers for making this a special day from pregame to post. Rawitch took this initiative completely on his own, and it really means a lot. Sure, it's in his job description to promote relations with the public, but it's clear that he values what this site is trying to do - otherwise we wouldn't be worth this particular effort. And the Dodger players respected us enough to give us a victory to ride home with.
Further thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsguy for handling the tickets to perfection. Ah, sweet shade.
I did my best to make the rounds and try to talk to everyone, but I apologize for not reaching all of you. Next time, right?
Dodger Thoughts Day Game Chat
Hub Vid Bids Fans Bonjour
It's a little unclear to me how much impact this will have, but this shiny new addition to the Club Level of Dodger Stadium will help fans get better traffic information as they drive to and from the ballpark.
The transportation hub monitors all 255 acres of the Dodger Stadium parking lots, relaying information not only to KFWB's traffic reporters but Dodgers Radio 1610 AM, a newly dedicated station (devoted to traffic, I assume, not Vinny). Yes, the Big Dodger in the Sky is watching you.
"In addition, more than 40 Department of Transportation engineers and traffic officers are plugged into the Transportation Center providing traffic and parking updates from outside the Stadium," the Dodgers' press release said. "The hub also uses multiple resources to monitor all traffic throughout the greater Los Angeles area."
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* * *
Where I Have Vented and, If I Ever Felt Comfortable, Exulted About the Dodgers and Baseball in General
In the run-up to Saturday's Dodger Thoughts Day at Dodger Stadium, I honestly just about forgot why I picked July 21 in the first place: It's the fifth anniversary of Dodger Thoughts. (My old blogger site doesn't look like it used to. Who remembers the lavender days?)
Thursday night, before I recollected this, I was watching the series finale of The Larry Sanders Show, in which the show-within-a-show celebrated its 10th and final year on the air. And I was thinking, "Ten years well, that's something, but it's not really that much, is it?"
Then this morning I remembered my own anniversary, and I suddenly thought, 10 years that's a lot. Because five certainly feels like something.
I can't believe it's been five years. I can't believe I've been doing this longer than I was in college. I can barely remember what life felt like when I started doing this: no children yet, career all but at a dead end. The passion for the Dodgers was always there, but Dodger Thoughts itself arose out of a boredom and frustration that only my wife was really mitigating.
Nothing like that now. I'm now two kids to the wind, at a different job that is both satisfying yet also hungrifying. Each year, it seems, time becomes more at a premium. But I just keep wanting to write about the Dodgers.
Though there are some topics that I don't cover as much as I used to or as I wish to, particularly the minor leaguers, I find that when friends or relatives ask how often I post on Dodger Thoughts, I purposely undercut my actual output. I'm a bit embarrassed by it. Of course, some of my posts are very short, so even saying that I post X times a week is somewhat meaningless (even my own stats need park factors), but it's not too much of an exaggeration to say that Dodger Thoughts is an addiction.
It's interesting to reread my first, one-sentence post (which the headline above plays off of). It's fairly negative, or at least downbeat. That's in large part a product of the moment in which it was written: The team was in the midst of losing 11 out of 13 games. But I find that five years later, even when things are down, I do a lot less venting. When things go wrong, I feel less angry or if I get angry, it doesn't linger as long. As obsessed as I clearly am about the Dodgers, over the past five years I've put them in better perspective. Kind of an interesting contradiction, I find. As messed up as the team can be at times, I haven't figured out how not to be a Dodger fan.
Of course, over the course of the five years commenters arrived, and you have taken on much of the burden for me when it comes to rising and falling with the team. In some ways, your worry means that I don't have to. And I've learned a lot.
I often think about what I could be doing with my time if I weren't doing Dodger Thoughts or following the Dodgers at all, for that matter. Combine the watching, reading and writing, and we're talking hours upon hours a week. That's a lot of time to be spent on something that matters not at all, when time in my life is at a premium. There must be a lot of joy there somewhere. But is it morally wrong somehow?
In any case, through the years, many of you have kindly thanked me for what I have written, and I appreciate every note. I really do. In fact, I wish I were a little more secure so that I didn't need to appreciate it so much. (It's good, therefore, to check out the missives from people who wish I had never started the site.) But you should fundamentally understand that any time you have read what I've written, you're the ones who have been indulging me. The thanks really go from me to you.
Tomorrow, I'll be at the ballpark with some of you. I still haven't decided if I'm going to wear my Dodger Thoughts shirt my gut keeps telling me that we should leave the shirts at home and look as little as possible like a tour group in Branson but I'll try not to think about it too much. More than anything else and this cuts to the heart of why I do this site I'll just be hoping, like I hope 162 times a year, that the Dodgers win.
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This is a perfect moment to announce that Dodger Thoughts commenter ToyCannon has become a co-blogger at True Blue L.A.. Welcome to the program, TC.
Coors Field, Los Angeles
It's been quite a run, hasn't it?
Two days after giving up a Dodger Stadium record 26 hits, the Dodgers set a Los Angeles record for most hits in a nine-inning loss: 19 (according to Bob Timmermann).
All in good fun in one sense, but the Dodgers shredded their pitching staff again, on the eve of a Brett Tomko start. He needs to be the stopper - or, the Dodgers might need to send D.J. Houlton back down to the minors in exchange for reinforcements. (By the way, Jonathan Meloan got promoted to AAA Las Vegas today.)
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Am I wrong to laugh at this? From the Dallas Morning News:
(Eric) Gagne also has quietly expressed a willingness to give the Rangers a home team discount to re-sign here after this season.
From Dodger Thoughts, August 24, 2006:
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If it were me, I wouldn't write an article about the Dodgers' hitting improvement this summer without mentioning Matt Kemp and James Loney?
Whatever Bill Mueller has or hasn't done, it should be given full context.
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Update: Takashi Saito was unavailable Thursday - and might be unavailable Friday - because of shoulder soreness, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
Saito was exhausted to the point of being unavailable. He had pitched in three of the previous six games and had also thrown an inning in the All-Star game.
Feeling soreness on the back of his shoulder, Saito informed trainer Stan Conte that he needed a day of rest.
"I figured I shouldn't try to do too much because if I did, it could be a burden on my team for the next two or three weeks," Saito said. "It was hard to say because I know the bullpen is hurting."
Saito said he felt his shoulder throb Wednesday, when he earned his 25th save in a 5-4 victory over the Phillies. ... Saito, however, said that depending on how he feels, he might ask for another day of rest today.
Dodger Thoughts Day Update
I just sent an e-mail to Dodger Thoughts Day attendees with some details about the event on it. If you didn't receive it, please e-mail me.
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Two, Two, Two Chads in One
There is only one Chad Billingsley except when it comes to talking about Chad Billingsley. Then, there are two.
There's the starting pitcher who seems to use a hundred pitches an inning and just skates by, and the 22-year-old who is already performing better than most everyone his age.
When people debate Billingsley's value, it's not always clear which Billingsley it is they're talking about, and that can cause confusion.
But the thing is, there is only one.
He's the pitcher who isn't the best starting pitcher on the Dodger staff not nearly having the seasons that Brad Penny or Derek Lowe are. Billingsley is the guy who in his past three starts has lasted 16 combined in-nings while throwing 301 pitches. In that period, he has walked 10 batters and allowed 17 hits, six of them for extra bases.
Not great. Right now, when Billingsley takes the mound, there is suspense as to whether he'll last six innings. That's a fact.
But that same pitcher has already shown improvement from last season, reducing his walk rate by nearly 33 percent while improving his strikeout rate by roughly the same percentage Billingsley has 64 Ks in 65 2/3 innings in 2007.
Billingsley, who turns 23 on July 29, faces an interesting test in his next start, Monday at Houston. He will be coming off a career-high 113 pitches (and how noteworthy is it that that's his career high, meaning he has been well-protected or over-protected, depending on your point of view). We don't really know how he'll respond. Billingsley has alternated quality and sub-quality outings over his past five starts, and at a minimum, you'd like to see him bounce back again. But you don't know.
Still in an interview with NBCSports.com this morning, I was asked which Dodger was most likely to have a big stretch run. And I thought, there's Russell Martin, but you'd expect him to taper a bit under his workload by season's end. There's Rafael Furcal, but we don't know whether his ankle will allow it. There's Nomar Garciaparra, who is too due. There's Matt Kemp and James Loney and Andre Ethier, but they're already doing so well that it's almost impossible for them to kick it up a notch.
And my thoughts turned to the pitcher who struggled to get through five innings Wednesday: the one and only Chad Billingsley. He's young but improving. Overall, he's not overworked in the season's first 95 games, he has thrown 65 2/3 innings and 1,145 pitches. And the closer we get to the end of the season, the more he is going to face NL West teams whose strengths are mostly on the mound and not with the bat.
Not to dismiss the importance of averaging five innings per start as opposed to fewer, but Billingsley is not reliable now. So stipulated. But something more than wishin' and hopin' tells me that he's going to start seeming reliable before the season's out. He's learning, and the difference between him and the likes of Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson is, at age 22 23/24ths, Billingsley is already ahead of the curve.
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"Forty years ago today (July 18, 1967), a 22-year-old righthander only lasted five innings against the Phillies. Don Sutton gave up three runs and lost to the Phillies' Rick Wise, who pitched a shutout. Sutton record fell to 6-11; he would finish the year at 11-15."
Adjusted for the era, Billingsley's career totals at the same age and at the same stage are better than Sutton's.
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Here's something you might not have expected: For the season, the Dodger offense has most productive with runners on base, as Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times sees it:
Despite a lack of home runs (only the Nationals have hit fewer in the NL this year), the Dodgers have man-aged to get lots of at bats with runners in scoring position, and they have batted .292 in those situations (includ-ing a .366 average with runners on third). The interesting question is, how have they managed to rack up so many at bats with RISP?
Honestly, I'm not sure. They're only average in doubles and triples. But it appears as though the Dodgers are bunching their hits, batting .261 with no one on, but .294 with someone on base, any base. When you bunch hits together, runners move into scoring position and eventually score.
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Someone who has played the game actually values on-field performance more than clubhouse leadership, reports John Delcos of New York's Journal News.
It's Willie Randolph, the ex-Dodger and current New York Mets' manager:
That Julio Franco found work with the Atlanta Braves isn't surprising.
What was surprising, however, were the lack of references, especially when it came to the "clubhouse leader-ship" issue.
Manager Willie Randolph said Franco should get more playing time with the Braves, and the reason he didn't with the Mets was a .200 average.
"If you play, you have to produce. That clubhouse stuff is overrated," said Randolph, who volunteered the in-formation unsolicited.
What irked some players was Franco wouldn't hesitate to get in the face of some of the younger players about doing their jobs when he was hitting .200 with one homer with the Mets.
"To be a leader for me, it's not enough to talk all the time," Valentin said. "You have to go out and do it your-self."
Franco, who will turn 49 in August, said he wants to play until he's 50. He also said before leaving the Mets that "I can still hit."
I'd be jazzed to see a 50-year-old ballplayer. But if he's on my team, even if he's the nicest guy in the world, I'd want him to be able to help on the field. Otherwise, I've got a coaching slot for him.
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Update: The Cubs traded ex-Dodger Cesar Izturis to the Pittsburgh Tracys today for a player to be named later, reports The Associated Press.
In 65 games for the Cubs this season, Izturis was batting .246 with eight RBIs. His playing time had diminished after Ryan Theriot took over as the No. 1 shortstop.
Manager Lou Piniella said he initially penciled Izturis' name into the lineup for Thursday's game against the Giants before the trade was made.
"Cesar was a really good guy. He wasn't getting much playing time here," Piniella said. "In fairness to him, let him go somewhere where he can play."
The 27-year-old Izturis is in the final year of his contract.
"Theriot really took over the job," Piniella said. "There is nothing wrong with Izturis. Izturis is a good player."
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Update 2: Ned Colletti's tenure with the Dodgers gets a B- from Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus, to sum up a lengthy article.
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Update 3: Sports Illustrated writers present the best games they've ever seen. Unfortunately, a Cal grad writes about "The Play."
It's starting. That horrible time of year when any journalist can dream up any trade possibility they like and have thousands upon thousands take them seriously.
No offense, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News: You are being a simpleton. Your word, not mine.
The Dodgers have a first baseman in James Loney. They do not need to trade him and perhaps the No. 1 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball for another first baseman, even Mark Teixeira. It's not a case of choosing prospects over winning. Of all the positions where the Dodgers have the least potential for improvement, next to catcher, first base might be the tops.
You act as if the Dodgers are shooting themselves in the foot by not making this trade, as if Teixeira comes with a guaranteed World Series title. He doesn't.
You keep pushing this trade, and you need to stop.
* * *
Without fanfare, the Times appears to be upping its pursuit of the gambling reader (there's a joke there somewhere) by starting a general sports betting column, "Behind the Lines," by Bob Mieszerski. In a chart in the print edition, the Times prints the odds for the day's baseball games - I don't think I've ever seen them do that before, either.
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That was ... a lot of hits allowed last night.
Today's 12:10 p.m. game:
Update: The Dodgers have called up Roberto Hernandez to bolster the pitching staff, optioning Tony Abreu to AAA Las Vegas. Hernandez had a 6.23 ERA (70 ERA+) with Cleveland this year, but maybe he can drink from the same waters as Rudy Seanez. As recently as a year ago, Hernandez had a 3.11 ERA and 143 ERA+.
Hernandez probably walks too many guys to be truly effective, but with Mark Hendrickson and Chad Billingsley pitching on back-to-back days in the midst of a strenuous time, I don't know why the Dodgers waited until today to make the move (thus necessitating Jonathan Broxton pitching in garbage time Tuesday). But at least they made it.
July, We Fly
The Dodgers lead the National League with a .334 batting average and .399 on-base percentage in July. The team is fifth in slugging percentage (.470).
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The Dodgers Do Not Need To Trade for a Reliever
The Dodger bullpen needs better PR. Because even though it is one of the best in the game, even though it has been both consistent and effective, too many people don't realize it. In fact, some want the Dodgers to sacrifice a minor-leaguer or, amazingly, a frontline regular to shore it up.
Here's why the Dodgers shouldn't panic over their relievers.
Off the top, the team can't possibly improve the late-game tandem of Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton. Those two have been remarkable.
I doubt that I need to sell people on Saito at this point, but Broxton's June 7 collapse against the Padres seems to loom in people's memories. Aside from that game, however, he has been almost untouchable. Sunday's game against San Francisco marked only the second time since June 7 that he allowed more than one runner to reach base in an inning. He has also not allowed an extra-base hit since June 7.
Overall, since June 7, Broxton has pitched 16 2/3 consecutive shutout innings, allowed one inherited runner to score, and allowed seven singles and six walks while striking out 19. Opponents' OPS in that time: .343.
Could Broxton and Saito wear down by the end of the season? No more than any pitcher from any other team will have. There's no improving on these two. The late innings aren't a problem.
However, people have said that the Dodgers are having trouble bridging the gap between the starting pitchers and the late-inning specialists, ever since Chad Billingsley joined the rotation.
Those observers seemed to have missed the fact that the lefty-righty combo of Joe Beimel and Rudy Seanez have a combined 3.32 ERA over 81 1/3 innings. They're not infallible, but again, infallibility isn't the standard. The question is, can you improve on this group with an outsider? It seems unlikely.
Of course, I've been waiting all season for Seanez to melt down, so it wouldn't be fair of me to turn around and say that can't happen now. But if he did get hurt or wear down, there are few better candidates in baseball to replace him than Jonathan Meloan, who has allowed 41 hits and walks combined in 43 2/3 innings at AA Jacksonville while striking out 65.
That just leaves the back-end relief, currently occupied by recent callups D.J. Houlton and Eric Stults. Neither is an ace; both figure to be inconsistent. It's certainly possible to improve upon these two. But how much improvement, and at what cost?
Stults and Houlton are rarely pitching in critical situations. Those games that seem to be lost by a bad performance by the team's worst reliever in the fifth inning or the 12th inning are painful but also rare. They should not cause a disproportionate reaction.
The Dodgers are currently in a situation where Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko (or Stults or Houlton) could form the back end of the starting rotation for an indefinite period. If the Dodgers want to worry about something, they can worry about that with the same caveats that they should make sure what they acquire is worth the cost and better than what they have. (Think about it: The kind of pitcher the Dodgers could end up with in trade could look very much like what Hendrickson and Tomko looked like when they were originally acquired.)
In the meantime, if the Dodgers can't resist the urge to tinker with their bullpen, they should call up Roberto Hernandez or Meloan from the minor leagues immediately and find out whether they can be assets. There's no reason to play a guessing game with the trade deadline two weeks away. See what these guys can do for you now. It's very likely that Meloan on the team, the Dodgers will realize they have all the relief pitching they need, and they can focus on other things. Like the fact they have the best record in the National League and more talent waiting to come up from the farm system.
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One other important thing to note is that the Dodgers have already strengthened their late-inning run-prevention skills by improving their late-inning defense. With James Loney now at first base, Tony Abreu or Ramon Martinez often subbing in for Jeff Kent or Nomar Garciaparra in the infield and Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier taking over for Luis Gonzalez in left field in the late innings of close games, the Dodgers have made it that much harder for opponents to score.
Power and Efficiency
Here's an antidote for not leaving runners on base: three-run home runs.
The Dodgers had two of them tonight, which was quite lovely.
Anyway, it doesn't always work so well, but it turns out that tonight's game marked the first time in almost exactly nine years that the Dodgers scored 10 runs or more while leaving only one runner on base, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Home runs in that game? Gary Sheffield, Raul Mondesi, Matt Luke and Tripp Cromer. Luke's was a two-run game-winner in the eighth inning, after Sheffield tied things with a two-run shot on his own.
The only runner left on base tonight was Nomar Garciaparra in the first inning. In 1998, it was Tom Prince in the third.
Much went well tonight, lads.
Enough Is Enough
Either lift the seat before, or wipe the seat after.
* * *
In my latest piece on SI.com's Fungoes ... did you hear Barry Bonds had kind of a rough weekend?
Well, heck, his 2007 on-base percentage has just now dropped below .500.
Be Kind - Rewind
Ethier Quietly Shines - Again
There are many heroes from tonight's game - Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, James Loney - but since I've been kind of hard on him once or twice this season, I'd like to call out what Andre Ethier's been doing.
With his three hits tonight, Ethier moved his season OPS up to .800 and his career batting average back over .300. The outfielder still doesn't walk much, but his ratio of walks to strikeouts this season is almost one to one: to be precise, 25 to 29.
Ethier's on-base percentage for the season is now over .350 and since June 1, it's over .400. It's clear by now that Ethier's OBP is batting-average dependent; it's also clear that he's tough to strike out. Either the hits are falling for him or they're not, and right now, they're falling a lot. If tonight was any indication, it's been no accident - line drives jumped off his bat.
At age 25, Either's career OPS after 727 plate appearances is .826 - despite his bat abandoning him last September. Even if his numbers taper over the coming weeks, is it unreasonable to suggest that by 2009, he'll be a .900 OPSing player? Have I underestimated him this year?
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National League Leaders
49-39 .557 San Diego
Nine teams within 4 1/2 games of the top.
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According to Bob Timmermann's research on Baseball-Reference.com, Barry Bonds hit into two double plays in a game for the first time in 16 years.
Angell on Bonds
It takes an effort to remind myself that home runs are a sidebar of baseball but not its purpose. Once the unlovable Bonds - still perhaps the greatest and most consistent long-range hitter I have ever seen, including Ruth - has done the deed, I trust that, like other habitues of the game, I will be able to find the right place for his record in my baseball consciousness, with whatever asterisks are needed, just the way I did with Roger Maris's sixty-one homers (struck in a longer season than Babe's sixty), and with the jumped-up rabbit-ball averages of the early nineteen-thirties, and even with the rare dead-ball home runs knocked out in the sunlit, bribe-prone, alcoholic, and racist baseball times of my father.
- Roger Angell, The New Yorker
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And ... Brett Tomko on Brett Tomko, via Tony Jackson:
Tomko held court with us for several minutes in the clubhouse just now, admitting that the past few weeks have been "miserable." Said he is taking Sunday's start on its own merits, hoping he can go at least five innings, but is expecting nothing beyond that. He also said he can't see himself in a long relief role next season for the Dodgers or any other club. As for his recent struggles, he said. "It's pretty obvious how it has been going and how the fans have reacted. It wears on you. It hasn't been an easy situation. I feel like I have been throwing the ball decently and just getting poor results, so it's tough. I don't have a defined role in the bullpen. I just get in when the situation warrants or to eat up an inning or a couple. It has been a tough month and a half."
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Update: Randy Wolf is likely out for "weeks," according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Wolf, who received an injection July 5, still has some inflammation from a shoulder impingement and hasn't thrown since a July 3 start against Atlanta. He won't even begin tossing for several more days, so he's unlikely to start a Major League game for weeks.
How much uncertainty is there over the Dodgers' fate for the 2007 season?
At least this much:
Erickson ... Perez ... Tomko?
In a decision sure to dismay 99 percent of the Dodger fan base, Brett Tomko has been chosen to start Sunday's game in San Francisco, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
The Dodgers need a spot starter until Randy Wolf or Hong-Chih Kuo returns from the disabled list. Eric Stults or recently optioned D.J. Houlton were more deserving candidates based on their performances this season (the Dodgers are expected to go back to 12 pitchers sooner than later, remember).
The way he has been pitching lately, one would expect Tomko to have trouble getting out of the second inning - and if he did fail that spectacularly, pitching in his former home stadium, the run-suppressing Two Cups and a String Park, that might be enough to bring about his release. But I've seen too many pitchers fight off the fates to be sure Tomko won't slide by.
The Dodgers and Giants play a night game followed by two day games, beginning Friday. Will Barry Bonds play in all three games?
Update: At *touch* 'em all, Alyssa Milano mentions the following exchange between herself and Curb Your Enthusiasm co-star Jeff Garlin.
Marlon Anderson To New Orleans
Marlon Anderson signed a minor-league contract with the Mets - who have designated 47-year-old Julio Franco for assignment - according to D.J. Short of MetsBlog. Anderson will first report to AAA New Orleans.
The Mets, in case you haven't heard, have named ex-Dodger (and ex-everyone) Rickey Henderson as their new hitting coach. I, for one, will be rooting for a September 1 activation of Rickey.
I really want to thank Anderson for the great memories he gave us Dodger fans in such a short time. I'll cheer him any time I see him. Except in the library, where we must all be quiet.
Those Arms Were Made for Bunting
While reading this Baseball Prospectus article on great bunters (Willy Taveras of Colorado is currently putting Juan Pierre to shame), I came upon this unexpected tidbit - the greatest bunter in Los Angeles Dodger history might be none other than Steve Garvey, with 62 bunt hits in 75 career attempts.
Docu Chat: Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts Of Flatbush
HBO premieres Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts Of Flatbush tonight. Depending on how you get your programming, you might be able to begin watching as soon as 5 p.m. Pacific time, so consider this the equivalent of an open game chat thread. (The nominal West Coast premiere time is 8 p.m.)
Guess what: Spoilers permitted. The Dodgers do leave Brooklyn in the end.
Here's hoping that the special goes beyond the sappy and illuminates people who think the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles boils down to "Walter O'Malley is evil."
This is also a good night to make yourself acquainted with Walteromalley.com, if you haven't already.
Heading into the Second Half
Fungoes at SI.com looks back at the first half of the 2007 season today, division-by-division. In my report on the National League West, I find myself respecting San Diego while also keeping an eye on Arizona, which has plenty of room for in-house improvement of its offense.
An afterthought for years running when it comes to postseason baseball, the NL West has pulled closer to its league rivals, if not ahead of them. Four of the five teams in the division are at .500 or better, and collectively the NL West is 105-81 against the NL Central and NL East.
The grades given to each team, by the way, are in relation to their expectations going into the season.
Martin, Penny, Saito and a Bunch of Other Guys Play a Game Chat
Challenge: Predict exactly where Russell Martin will hit the first pitch he makes contact with tonight - foul territory included.
* * *
Today's All-Star game:
Are Dodger Pitchers Good Enough, Enough?
A game score of 50 or better by a starting pitcher gives the Dodgers an authoritative chance of winning a game. (See the end of this post to see just how authoritative.) So how often do Dodger pitchers get those game scores?
Caution: The following is not hard science.
Game scores, defined by Bill James, attempt to quantify a starting pitcher's performance in a given game. They are calculated in the following manner:
Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.
Keep in mind that Game Scores are not adjusted for park effects, quality of opponent, health or rest. But with those caveats, you can still get an idea of how consistently effective Dodger starting pitchers have been.
To generalize, a game score of 45 puts you in the neighborhood of a quality start (minimum of six innings pitched, maximum of three earned runs allowed). However, a 45 could easily mean that for the Dodgers to win that game, the bullpen has to pitch shutout ball or the offense will have to score, say, five runs or more. Both of those things are doable but hardly automatic. So for some, game scores of 50 or even 60 will be what's relevant.
Derek Lowe (19 starts): 21, 64, 68, 29, 46, 42, 75, 66, 36, 56, 62, 74, 62, 78, 75, 56, 59, 52, 38
Brad Penny (18 starts): 53, 68, 62, 49, 47, 66, 81, 64, 19, 67, 68, 40, 72, 66, 65, 72, 68, 21
Randy Wolf (18 starts): 46, 62, 54, 65, 45, 26, 58, 80, 51, 64, 69, 38, 34, 45, 35, 41, 50, 22
Mark Hendrickson (10 starts): 56, 61, 72, 36, 35, 35, 37, 29, 49, 56
Brett Tomko (8 starts): 76, 36, 45, 50, 35, 56, 7, 36
Hong-Chih Kuo (6 starts): 47, 66, 66, 10, 55, 22
Jason Schmidt (6 starts): 59, 40, 20, 71, 21, 40
Chad Billingsley (4 starts): 48, 33, 80, 45
50 or above:
60 or above:
By the way, the Dodgers are 37-10 (.787) when their starting pitchers score 50 or better and 29-4 (.878) when they score 60 or better.
If Wolf and Kuo can get healthy and Billingsley can kick it up just a notch as he settles back into his former role, the Dodgers would have five starting pitchers who could put the team in strong position to win more than half the time even with some slippage from Penny or Lowe. I count three ifs there, but as ifs go, they seem on the smallish side.
Update: How Penny turned things around, according to Lyle Spencer of MLB.com:
The big right-hander went on to deal for the Dodgers in the second half, but something wasn't quite right. Guys were turning on too many pitches.
It got back to him from inside sources - hitters who used to be teammates, mainly - that his windup was giving hitters an edge. He'd do something different in his delivery when he was getting ready to throw breaking balls, and word of things like that spread like a Southern California brushfire through the fraternity of batsmen.
Determined to eliminate this problem, Penny returned to a delivery he'd used early last season - bringing his arms all the way back behind his head, rather than stopping at his cap. This seemed to strip hitters of that little edge they'd found, and the big man is back in dominating form. He ranks right there with San Diego's dominant duo of Jake Peavy and Chris Young in the ERA race while moving along at a 20-win pace. He's 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA, trailing Young (2.00) and Peavy (2.19), who gets the start this time.
"I had a lot of people tell me in the spring that I'm tipping my pitches the other way," he said, wisely choosing not to identify the traitors to the hitting fraternity. "So I'm back to bringing my hands over my head. I started the season last year doing [that], and went away from it."
I just hope the faternity of batsmen survived the fire.
Pardon Me Sir, Could You Kindly Spare a Win for a Team That's Down On Its Luck
Things Go Wrong
Dodger Stadium was library quiet for the first few innings Friday, except for some scattered boos for Chad Billingsley at the height of his struggles during the third inning, boos that fortunately didn't snowball.
Silence went out the door, of course, with the Dodgers' two-out, five-run rally in the fifth off Dontrelle Willis to take a two-run lead, not only taking Billingsley off the hook for his three runs (and nine baserunners) allowed in five innings but putting him in position to go 6-0 on the season.
Grady Little immediately moved into protection mode, making a double-switch that I endorsed: D.J. Houlton pitching and batting in the No. 6 spot; James Loney at first base and batting in the No. 9 spot. The move shored up the Dodger defense, put Loney's left-handed bat into a game that Willis didn't figure to stick around in much longer, and gave Houlton (who until that moment I thought would be starting Sunday) a chance to carry the Dodgers to Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito - if not pull off the glorious four-inning save himself.
After getting out of the sixth inning, Houlton had gotten his first 15 major league outs of the season on about 55 pitches - outstanding. But he does give up his share of flyballs, and unfortunately for the Dodgers, Florida's Hanley Ramirez sent his second one of the night out of the park, cutting the Dodger lead to 5-4. An ensuing walk set in motion the bullpen turnstiles: Joe Beimel, Rudy Seanez and Jonathan Broxton were needed to get the Dodgers through the next four outs.
An insurance run would have been nice, but even without one, the Dodgers had something better than Allstate: Takashi Saito. The amazingly untouchable All-Star reliever had Thursday night off and was ready to go for the ninth. (To buttress the policy, Little went protectionist again, inserting Andre Ethier into left field for defensive purposes, even though it meant that Mike Lieberthal would be the only bat left on the bench other than, say, Brad Penny. Again, it made sense to go for the win.)
But Saito gave up a one-out walk, only his fourth of the season in 36 2/3 innings. You wonder how it's possible for him - for anyone - not to give up more, but at the same time, you also wonder how he could do this with the outstanding Miguel Cabrera on deck. Cabrera doubled in the tying run, and now the team was in trouble.
When the Dodgers didn't score in the ninth, because Saito had thrown 23 pitches the inning before, Brett Tomko entered the game, facing Florida for the first time since getting his only win of the season against them (he started that game with five no-hit innings). Tomko is this year's Odalis Perez, only with people skills - a once-regular starting pitcher fallen on extremely hard times, getting hit every which way.
The one thing Tomko hadn't been doing is walking people. From May 21 to July 2, Tomko walked one batter. But perhaps tired of making hitters so possible, or perhaps just tired, Tomko walked two of the first three batters he faced. One out later, ignominy. An easy-does-it squeeze bunt by Ramirez against a deep Tony Abreu brought in the go-ahead run, and Tomko was trailing again despite not having allowed a ball out of the infield.
The Dodgers actually loaded the bases on walks in the bottom of the 10th, presenting the possibility of Tomko coming away with a win for having held Florida to only one run. Not to be. Juan Pierre popped out.
Defeat was not an orphan Friday.
With a come-from-behind victory, the Dodgers would be 3-2 on the homestand. Instead, they are 2-3 and desperate for a long outing from a starter today, otherwise they may need a roster move just to carry them past Sunday into their three-game vacation. And that move, theoretically, could involve unloading Tomko, who has allowed runs to score in 10 of his 18 relief apperances this season. I don't buy into the idea that Tomko is worthless, any more than I bought into the idea that he was a quality starter when the Dodgers first signed him, but essentially, the only reason one would keep Tomko this year while getting rid of Perez last year is because of Tomko's personality. For what that's worth.
Alternatives include the existing minor leaguers (Meloan? Meloan?) plus two new signees at Las Vegas - 42-year-old Roberto Hernandez and 30-year-old Rick Bauer.
There's a lot the Dodgers can do, but in the short term, I think nothing will be more valuable for them than those four days off next week. Hopefully, they can sneak in a win or two before then.
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The man that Russell Martin is chasing for the all-time Dodger franchise record for steals by a catcher in a season was born during the Civil War. As it happens, the man might not really be deserving of the record he is credited with. But let's take a trip back in time regardless.
In 1884, 19-year-old Con Daily made his professional debut with the Union Association's Philadelphia Keystones (managed by Ireland native Fergy Malone, born in 1842). Daily played in two games, going 0 for 8.
The following season, Daily made his National League debut with the Providence Grays. Daily played in 60 games and batted .260 good enough for an OPS+ of 96. Daily played 48 of his games behind the plate and, reflective of the times, had 37 passed balls.
So what about the stolen bases? Daily's 1885 stolen base totals aren't available at Baseball-Reference.com, so we don't have evidence of his first career steal until 1886, when he joined his third team, the Boston Beaneaters. For the first time in his career, Daily achieved a plurality of playing time behind the plate for his team appearing in 50 of 117 games, batting .239 (85 OPS+) with two steals.
In 1887, Daily ended up playing behind 26-year-old Pop Tate in the midst of a humbling season, going 19 for 120 with nine walks (OPS+ 20). He did steal seven bases though.
For the 1888 season, Daily moved onto his fourth team, the Indianapolis Hoosiers (in their second year of existence). Daily had a bit of a rebound, batting .218 (OPS+ 62), and further established his baserunning ability, pilfering 15. Keep in mind the era, though the Hoosiers stole 350 bases as a team, led by outfielder Emmett Seery with 80. (Until 1898, stolen bases could be credited to a player who took an extra base on a hit, though it's unclear how religiously this rule was applied.) In 1889, Daily backed up Dick Buckley for the second year in a row and batted .251 in 62 games (79 OPS+) with 14 steals.
The NL left Indianapolis after 1889, and Daily found himself playing for Brooklyn Ward's Wonders of the Players League in 1890, managed by John Montgomery Ward, a future Hall of Famer who started at shortstop and was only 4½ years older than Daily. The catcher, now 25, batted .250 (66 OPS+) in 46 games and stealing six bases.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn in 1890, the Bridegrooms, in their first year in the National League, won the pennant. In 1891, Ward took over the team as their manager/shortstop, with catchers Tom Kinslow and Daily among those joining him. From the Brooklyn Eagle:
President (Charles) Byrne, at the request of Captain Ward, has signed Con Daily, one of the catchers of last year's Brooklyn players league team. Daily was very popular with the patrons of Eastern park last season, and was looked on as one of Ward's best players. His record as a backstop was very good, his fielding average for forty-six games being 959. He is six feet in height and is said to be able to catch the hardest pitching, the greatest speed having no terrors for him. In addition, he uses considerable headwork in his playing. He is quite an all around player, a hard batter and a fine base runner. Mr. Byrne considers him quite an acquisition to the team.
Daily played in 60 games, one fewer than Kinslow, and enjoyed the finest season of his career a stunning .320 average (121 OPS+), 65 points higher than any other he would have in his career. But sadly, in October 1891, Daily's brother Ed, an outfielder/pitcher for several teams since 1885 and the captain of the Washington Senators, died at the age of 29. According to the Washington Post (via BaseballLibrary.com), Ed died of "quick consumption."
On the heels of that tragedy, Daily, at age 27 and in his ninth year, became Brooklyn's primary catcher with a career-high 80 games (no, he didn't exactly rack up the innings like Martin does). And though his batting average dropped 86 points to .234 (86 OPS+), Daily stole 18 bases, which would be recognized as the franchise record 114 1/2 years later. Daily did play 13 games in the outfield that year, however and it's unclear to me whether we can assume none of his steals came as an outfielder. Further, because of the pre-1898 stolen-base rule, we're essentially comparing apples to grapples.
In 1893, Daily stole another 13 bases (in 61 games), but something more momentous occurred he finally hit his first major-league home run. The following season, his stolen base totals fell to eight, understandable in a year in which he hit a career-high 14 doubles and seven triples. (Perhaps Daily caught for another Con man that year, 20-year-old pitcher Con Lucid.)
It's at this point we finally get some small insight into Daily's personality. It appears Daily was a well-liked player; we learn this, ironically, from an Eagle article depicting a huge brawl he was at the center of in July 1894.
Those who pick on Con Daily as an easy mark in the future should go slow. ... Daily is a quiet and gentlemanly person off the diamond and on it, for that matter, until crossed. The most good natured person in the world will resent an attempt, whether accidental or otherwise, to deprive him of his livelihood. ...
President (Charles) Byrne takes a decided stand in the matter. To the EAGLE correspondent he said: "While Mr. Daily made a mistake, he was morally right and I shall uphold him for what he did. The Brooklyn club pays him a salary to protect the home plate and prevent the other side from making runs. We do not pay him to stand aside and allow the other fellows to march past him."
Daily was interviewed on the subject and said: "I know I made a mistake, but I could not help what I did under the circumstances. ... He jumped on me and knocked me down when there was no excuse for it and I hit him." ...
Toward the end of the 1895 season, in which he batted .211 (47 OPS+) with three steals, Daily's Brooklyn tenure came to a sudden and near-tragic end. On September 24, 1895, the following item appeared in the Eagle:
Con Daily, the Brooklyn club's star catcher, narrowly escaped death at Sheepshead Bay on Sunday. As it is, he is confined to his bed suffering from concussion of the spine and will not play again this season. Daily is ex-ceedingly fond of salt water bathing, and with Captain Mike Griffin was enjoying his favorite pastime Sunday afternoon. They were lolling about on the beach, not noticing the ebbing tide, when Con got up and dove head-first in about three feet of water. When he arose he shouted to Griffin, "Mike, I'm gone" and fell back. He was carried to the hotel and a doctor called. The physician suggested paralysis of the spine, but Dr. McLean of the Brooklyn club, who visited the injured player to-day, declared it to be concussion of the spine. He added that Daily will be laid up for two weeks. Only a few Sundays ago Daily saved a girl from drowning near the same place. (John) Grim will do all of the catching for the team.
Clearly, Daily had been beloved in Brooklyn beyond his offensive worth, but he was forced to move on. He tried to stick in the game playing under Cap Anson in Chicago in 1896, but while the 44-year-old Anson batted .331, Daily went 2 for 27 with one walk and one last stolen base.
For his career, Daily played in 630 games (catching in 550 of them) and had 2,222 at-bats, 541 hits, two home runs, a .243 batting average, .314 on-base percentage, .299 slugging percentage, 208 walks and 208 strikeouts, and 94 steals. And 262 passed balls. He lived to the age of 63, passing away on June 14, 1928, in Brooklyn.
Given the qualifiers that come with Daily's stolen-base totals as a catcher, I'm not sure Martin (who already has 16 steals this year) really should have to worry about Daily when it comes to the franchise mark for steals by a catcher in a single season. But there's Daily's story in any case, best as I can tell it.
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Tickets - Pleased?
If you ordered a July 21 Dodger Thoughts Day ticket, it should be coming through your e-mail this evening. If it's not there by Friday morning, contact me. Thanks.
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Independence Night Game Chat
Eric Stults gets the callup to take Randy Wolf's roster spot.
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Wolf Headed for DL
Randy Wolf looked truly enfeebled by the third inning of Tuesday's otherwise rousing Dodger comeback victory, so it comes as little surprise to hear in various press reports this morning that his next start will be skipped and that Wolf will go on the disabled list. From Dylan Hernandez in the Times:
Randy Wolf thought he could pitch through the pain that has been in his throwing shoulder for the last month.
He was wrong.
Wolf lasted only three innings in the Dodgers' eventual 7-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, after which it was decided that he would undergo an MRI on Thursday and skip his final start before the All-Star break.
"I've never had discomfort in my shoulder," Wolf said. "It's not something that I'm used to."
The pain, the byproduct of what is believed to be bursitis, interrupted Wolf's sleep Monday night. Asked why he went ahead to make his start, Wolf replied, "I thought it would loosen up."
But it didn't, which was in part why Wolf gave up six runs and walked four in his shortest outing of the season.
Unsaid in the story is whether Wolf told the Dodgers about his ongoing shoulder soreness - a month - before he made his start.
While thoughts of trading Matt Kemp or James Loney should be dismissed as paranoia at this point - like Russell Martin, they have established themselves as cheap but capable and exciting major leaguers, which so far is all that general manager Ned Colletti seems to need to see - one can't rule out the idea that the Dodgers will want to move forward with someone other than D.J. Houlton (who did record nine outs on 31 pitches in relief of Wolf on Tuesday), Mark Hendrickson, Hong-Chih Kuo or Brett Tomko filling the final two spots of the rotation. That's the case even though Dodger manager Grady Little offered the following glass-half-full assessment of Tomko to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick about Tomko:
"Right now, his confidence level is down," said Little. "We need this guy. He has a very good arm, and he needs to step it up. We'll keep running him out there."
Generally, I'd stand pat rather than rent a pitcher right now, unless Colletti whipped up an indisputably fantastic deal (which, at this time of year, seems unlikely). It seems to me that the Dodgers can at least weather the final five games heading into the All-Star break just by calling up Jonathan Meloan to shore up the bullpen. Let's not panic; let's not deal out of desperation.
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The aforementioned Gurnick article had an interview with the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic's Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who operated on Schmidt. What I liked about this is that it lays out the challenges of Schmidt's surgery without simply calling it a "success" - the simplistic assessment we were fed with regards to Shawn Green years back.
Some key excerpts:
ElAttrache said his research has found that the key to a pitcher's return can be not only what doctors find and fix, but what they find and choose not to fix.
"Labral tears are the low-hanging fruit, but they almost never live alone," said ElAttrache. "They appear with rotator cuff tears, chondromalacia [arthritic deterioration of the bone lining], bursa scaring, tendon fraying. But we're finding that after some repairs, the tissue winds up too tight, the range of motion is restricted and velocity is lost. Our most recent studies show that certain lesions in certain areas should be fixed. But some fixes can have the effect of reducing range of motion, and for a pitcher to return to his previous level, loss of range of motion is pivotal. So, our decision making has to improve for the pitcher to have a better chance of returning.
"The dilemma, when you get an MRI that shows more than one problem, is determining whether all - or just one, or some combination of pathology - is the cause of the pain. How you answer that determines how you deal with it and your chances of success. As a surgeon, you have to control yourself. Sometimes, fixing everything you find is not the best solution. The decision making is not always straightforward. You have to exercise surgical discipline and be a student of the problem."
Specifically with torn labrum, ElAttrache now uses suture anchors to reattach and strengthen labrum. Earlier procedures were limited to trimming ragged portions.
Unlikely Heroes of Glove
It shouldn't be forgotten that Jeff Kent made a huge fielding play Monday night, reaching the absolute limit of his 39-year-old range to flag a bases-loaded, two-out grounder with the game tied, 1-1, before throwing Atlanta's Jarrod Saltalamacchia out at first. Matt Kemp's two-run homer followed in the bottom of the inning.
The Dodgers then risked Joe Beimel for a second inning of work in the seventh, and thanks in part to an error, the Braves loaded the bases again. But Atlanta was stymied again (see, it's not just the Dodgers) when Beimel induced a 1-6-3 double play. The Dodger public relations department has taken to calling Beimel "The King of the Comebacker," noting that "since last season, Beimel is averaging 3.18 assists per nine innings, more than an assist per game than his nearest challengers." Who knew?
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Dodgers of the '70s Manny Mota and Lee Lacy got a nice review at The Hardball Times today from Steve Treder. Check it out.
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James Loney is batting third tonight, while Mike Lieberthal gets his second start since June 17 and Wilson Betemit his second since June 20.
Whose Cap Should They Wear in the Hall?
The arrival of summertime means that annual inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame can't be far away. With the ceremonies comes the usual question for players who swung or threw with more than one team: Whose hat will they wear upon their induction?
Though the following ex-Dodgers are no lock for election by any means, I thought I'd head off some potential controversy by breaking down whose hat they should wear on their Hall of Fame plaques.
Roger Cedeno: Cedeno was off the Dodgers before his 25th birthday, but he did have an on-base percentage over .300 with the team while stealing 23 bases in 27 attempts. Still, his career-best 1999 season with the Mets (109 OPS+), followed by two other not-disastrous seasons during his second New York tour in 2002-03, puts him in a Mets cap. Houston, Detroit and St. Louis will have to cry in their respective beers.
Juan Castro: Castro participated in a triple play in Los Angeles, but his dominant years including a career-best .290 on-base percentage in 2003 came with the Cincinnati Reds. Assuming his slick fielding held up in those years after the nice glove he displayed with the Dodgers, Castro should wear a Reds cap if he goes into the Hall.
Tom Goodwin: Goodwin started with the Dodgers before moving on to Kansas City, Texas, Colorado, back to Los Angeles, then San Francisco and the Cubs. Tough call here, but we'll let the Royals back Goodwin's Hall candidacy. He had exactly 150 stolen bases in exactly 200 attempts from 1995-97 in Kansas City while once busting the .700 mark in OPS.
Jose Offerman: I hold no grudge against Offerman, who augmented his colorful fielding in Los Angeles with five consecutive seasons of one home run or less (counting the year he homered in his first major-league game). Year after year, I insisted Offerman would come around. And so he did reaching the All-Star Game as a Dodger in 1995. Better offensive seasons came with the Royals in 1996-98 before he wound things down with Boston, Seattle, Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Mets. Honestly, the Royals can make a strong case for having Offerman, but by the time he was with them, he was moving around to less valuable defensive positions. I'm just not sure Cooperstown can let Kansas City take credit for both Offerman and Goodwin. If Jose Offerman goes to the Hall, he's going in a Dodger cap.
Jose Vizcaino: Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Indians, Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Giants, Cardinals. Looks like the tour may well have wrapped up for the Vizcount, 17 years after his major-league debut. He had nearly 400 hits while in Houston, including 11 in postseason play (in 62 at-bats). Though his best seasonal work came elsewhere, nobody beats the Viz when it comes to him wearing a Houston cap in the Hall.
Mike Morgan: Don't diss Morgan, who pitched nearly 2,800 innings with a 4.23 ERA for the A's, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Rangers and Diamondbacks. Whew. Morgan was an All-Star with the '91 Dodgers the year that it took a Dennis Martinez perfect game to beat him one Sunday in Los Angeles and his three years here are as good a body of work as he generated in the other 11 cities in which he pitched. Mike Morgan, if you get to make your speech, you'll do it as a Dodger.
Lenny Harris: Lenny's likable, but I still wish he hadn't passed Manny Mota for the career pinch-hitting record. As it happens, Harris had 423 total hits while he was a Dodger, more than he had with the Reds, Mets, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Cubs or Marlins. I feel that the Dodgers more than launched his career, and my only hope is that when he wears the L.A. cap during any induction speech that might come, he remembers his platoon partner, the late Mike Sharperson. They made an enjoyable combo, and I miss Mike.
Mike Maddux: Greg's brother no doubt will go to Cooperstown at some point but what if it were for his own induction ceremony as opposed to his sibling's? The 75 1/3 innings he threw in two stints with the Dodgers aren't going to cut it, so we'll have to choose between the Phillies, Padres, Mets, Pirates, Red Sox, Mariners, Expos and Astros. Though he pitched only two seasons in San Diego (1991-92), his ERA+ numbers were 154 and 151. Padre fans currently enjoying Greg's career can also look back with fondness at Mike's as he wears a San Diego chapeau to any potential Hall ceremony.
Matt Herges: This one's practically such a no-brainer, I almost shouldn't bother including him on the list. Though Herges pitched for all five NL West teams as well as the Expos and Marlins, his 20-13 record and sub-4.00 ERA with Los Angeles all but ensure that if he makes the journey to James Fenimore Cooper's old hunting (and haunting?) grounds, his headwear will have a Dodger insignia. Natty Bumpo would expect no less.
News: Getting On Base Is Good
Getting Lots of Bases Also Good
"Our total approach has been different," Dodger manager Grady Little said (per Tony Jackson of the Daily News) regarding the news that Bill Mueller will remain the team's hitting coach for all of 2007. "We're seeing more pitches, our on-base percentage has been better. I don't know how much of that you can attribute to one person, because a lot of personal responsibility goes to the players."
... and to the guys who fill out the roster and make out the lineup card. I mean, why wouldn't everyone want to be on this page? Are we to believe that the Dodgers weren't getting men on base because former hitting coach Eddie Murray was telling hitters to swing early in the count?
Anyway, as long as we're winning converts, here's something else I'd like to add to the Dodger hitting philosophy. It doesn't matter how many times a hitter strikes out if he produces more overall offense than a hitter who strikes out less.
Read that carefully. I'm not saying strikeouts are good. I'm saying strikeouts should be evaluated as part of the bigger picture. They may look worse than groundouts, they may not advance the runner, but if strikeouts are the price you pay to get a hitter who is better overall, than they're worth it. It really is that simple.
As pets go, I'd rather have a happy, affectionate dog who barks from time to time than a quiet, well-behaved flea.
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Most of you have probably read Paul Oberjuerge's intereview with Vin Scully in the San Bernadino Sun, but here are two exchanges I wanted to call out.
Q: Are you saying you will go on beyond 2008?
A: I wasn't really saying that because I said I wanted to talk to my wife. One of the difficulties of being in baseball is the degree of absence. And especially ... it was OK when the children kept your wife so busy, but now the children are all grown, and if she's not with me and it's a pain in the neck, she doesn't want to come in at 4 o'clock and get back home at 11 o'clock at night. The road trips are not that pleasant because of the late arrivals and all that kind of stuff. So it means a great deal of loneliness, and I understand that, and I feel badly about that, and so I think it will really be a question about how I feel both mentally, physically and about her and how she feels. Can we make some trips? Can we find a way to continue what we're doing? Or is it getting to be totally too much? So I don't know. We're going to have to spend the winter and certainly during the year next year, God willing, to make some kind of decision. ...
Q: Do fans talk to you about not retiring?
A: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I cannot tell you how often I hear the "Don't ever retire" ... and I talk to people and I see friends who have retired, and to me ... I learned a great lesson during the strike of '94, the 45-day strike. I was paid, didn't miss a paycheck. I would get up and have nothing to do and I would go play golf at Bel-Air and after a while that got old. Then I'd go up and have lunch with the guys and I'd go up and sit around with the guys and that got old. And all of a sudden, I was spending an inordinate amount of time in the hardware store ... and all of a sudden, I thought "Oh, my gosh, imagine if this was it?" And then I see fellas, and I can understand at 5 o'clock they're having drinks at the club because they have nowhere to go tomorrow. They don't have to get up fresh. If they have a hangover, so what? And it scared me, watching them. And that's going to be part of my concern if indeed we get down to what we were talking about (more years), because I don't know if I can handle it. Because I've been doing this for far more than half of my life. It's become my life.
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A lot happened while I was offline, and I'm not sure how much I want to go back in time to catch up. But here are two quick thoughts.
1) The idea behind my prefering Hong-Chih Kuo to Mark Hendrickson in the Dodger rotation has never been that on any given night, Kuo would always be better, but that over the course of the season, Kuo has greater potential to be better because he is young and figures to improve. Hendrickson, on the other hand, has known limitations.
Now, some have commented that Kuo's velocity is down, which could be signaling more arm trouble. That's another story. But assuming the two pitchers were healthy, I would still rather see Kuo out there - for the same reason it makes sense to have Chad Billingsley keep going out there as a starter instead of Brett Tomko. I'll take the risk that they will have rough outings - or that they might not even pan out - for the potential reward of long-term greatness.
It's counterintuitive, it seems to me, to have promising youngsters on a shorter leash than mediocre veterans. I'm not saying that always happens in Los Angeles, but when it does, it just makes me feel tired.
2) Maybe I am more of a Pollyanna than I want to believe, but I continue to find myself astounded by how much negativity can be directed toward the Dodgers during a week when they went 4-3 against their top two division rivals, remained within a game of first place and in wild card position, and within 1 1/2 games of the best record of the NL.
I know that the Dodgers are no lock to make the playoffs, and that if they do they will be underdogs to win the World Series. I know that there are questions about personnel choices on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I think many fans and media members betray a fundamental lack of understanding that the best baseball teams will average around 10 losses per month.
It's really not enough just to intellectualize it. You should feel it too. Losses happen. A lot. Be prepared, and I suspect you'll enjoy the games much more. (That's not the same as assuming they'll lose every game - that's overcompensating.)
You really get the sense sometimes that some people expect their baseball team to be perfect, and it just gets hard to take sometimes. Teams should try to do their best, and I'll continue to point out when I feel that isn't happening. But doing your best is a process toward a goal, not a guarantee of success.
July 1 Game Chat
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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