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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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2008 Opening Day Locks
2008-02-06 11:55
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

It's Spring Training Preparedness Week at Dodger Thoughts

Every player has a story to tell, a challenge to conquer, a skeleton to uncloset - even the players guaranteed to be on the Opening Day roster (unless they're disabled or traded).

Here are 21 locks that are loaded:

Starting pitchers
Derek Lowe, RHP: Lowe's tenure with the Dodgers has been applauded to the extent that a contract many people initially questioned has been something of a bargain. Lowe will be 35 this June, a year after he stopped being impervious to injury, and his ERA in the second half of 2007 was 5.23 (for the season, it was 3.88). So if you want to start worrying now, you can, but he probably remains a decent bet for an ERA around 4.00.

Brad Penny, RHP: A Cy Young candidate for much of 2007, Penny has won over some of his harshest critics. Curiously, the improvement in his performance and durability comes with a decline in his strikeout rate, to 5.8 per nine innings. His second-half ERA also jumped in 2007 (2.39 to 3.84). At the same time, opponents batted .302 on balls in play last season against Penny, which is not particularly lucky, and he still performed well. He also reduced the number of home runs allowed dramatically. As much as he has blossomed, Penny, who turns 30 in May, is more of an enigma than ever. Overall, I'd expect something closer to his second-half performance of 2007, but not necessarily worse.

Chad Billingsley, RHP: I'm telling you, the sky's the limit for this kid. In 20 starts last season, he had a 3.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 112 innings. The areas targeted for improvement, control (51 walks as a starter) and endurance (5 2/3 innings per start), are well within reach for the 23-year-old – in fact, hopefully solving the first will solve the second. I truly think he'll be the ace of the staff this season.

Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: Kuroda's chief task is to avoid the big inning. If he gives up three runs every six innings, his ERA isn't going to excite anyone, but he'll still be preserving the bullpen and giving the Dodgers a chance to win. But it won't be enough to pitch three shutout innings and then call for a rescue after hanging a four-spot in the fourth. Kuroda needs to provide damage control at the back of the rotation – anything on top of that will be a bonus.

Jason Schmidt, RHP: Schmidt's chief task is to tell the truth.

Swingman
Esteban Loaiza, RHP: I don't know, man. A 36-year-old pitcher coming off injury and with one above-average ERA+ season since 2003? What are we hoping for here? Aaron Sele 2006 is probably a best-case scenario – the Dodgers get 50 or so decent innings before implosion.

Bullpen
Takashi Saito, RHP: Joe P. Sheehan of Baseball Analysts expounded on the wonders of Saito. "The thing that really stands out here is how effective Saito's fastball is against right-handed hitters: 60% of the time, when a [right-handed hitter] swings against Saito's fastball, he misses it, which is an amazingly high amount of misses, for any type of pitch," Sheehan wrote. After watching him for two remarkable seasons, I'm a Saito acolyte. You just have to worry about the periodic signs of fragility. Some days, maybe even some weeks, Saito (38 on Valentine's Day) just won't be available.

Jonathan Broxton, RHP: Broxton, you'll recall, had that disappointing finish to 2007 when it appeared he was tired: 10 appearances in 14 days, 7 1/3 innings, nine runs, 11 hits, five homers. The Colorado Rockies would have been within their rights to vote Broxton a playoff share. Still, it's safe to expect we'll have the (not so) old Broxton back. Including the late-season meltdown, he still finished with a 2.85 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 82 innings, and only one other home run allowed. With Saito getting older, Broxton (he'll still only turn 24 in June) might be called upon to pitch in the ninth inning more this season. His OPS allowed in the ninth last season was .751, compared to .531 in the eighth. On the other hand, he was much less lucky in the ninth, with opponents batting .372 on balls in play (compared to .269 in the eighth). Generally, Broxton had no problem pitching in pressure situations (.634 OPS allowed from the seventh inning on in close games), showing that he is a closer in everything but name.

Joe Beimel, LHP: Beimel hasn't been a disaster against right-handed batters (.745 OPS allowed), which is why the Dodgers have been able to sneak full innings out of him from time to time. But he really remains at his best against lefties (.490 OPS allowed. 25 strikeouts of 108 batters), so the team shouldn't lose sight of what his true strength is.

Scott Proctor, RHP: Last season, Proctor arguably pitched better with no rest days (.684 OPS allowed) than he pitched with some rest (.738 OPS allowed in all situations). However, his ERA splits don't correlate with that – he had a 3.81 ERA with no rest, compared to 3.65 overall. ERA, of course, does not factor in inherited runners, but in any case, the perception that Proctor wears down with overuse might be faulty. My guess – he's just inconsistent, and not entirely reliable in late and close situations in general (.788 OPS allowed). In other words, the 31-year-old is a pretty typical major-league reliever.

Rudy Seanez, RHP: "If you subtract six or seven (bad) games, his ERA would have been under three,"Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. That's pretty much true of any pitcher, which is why, for example, I went out of my way to note that Broxton kept his ERA under 3.00 even when you include his worst games. Seanez did perform surprisingly well last season, but let's not start making excuses for him. He's 39, and there's not going to be much milk left in this cow. However, there's probably no better time to use him than early in the season.

Catchers
Russell Martin, C: If he had an OPS+ of 113, 19 homers, 32 doubles and 21 steals last year at age 24, what will he do this year? I sure am eager to find out. Meanwhile, keeping him rested will no doubt be a primary topic of conversation. In September, he OPSed .725 (after .944 in August). Though he might well get more days off early in the season, I am just not convinced it's possible to keep him firing on all cylinders in the final month. In the end, he's still a catcher. You can't count on him being the centerpiece of the offense in the final 30 games, no matter what you do. Just enjoy him while you can.

Gary Bennett, C: Almost hopeless offensively – his OPS+ has been below 70 every year since 2000 — though a 7 for 11 finish to the season raised his 2007 OPS from .546 to .621.

Infielders
James Loney, 1B: Naw, I'm not counting on the home run every 23 at-bats continuing from 2007 into 2008. Plus, his batting average on balls in play last season was a robust .350. Those signs point to a dropoff. On the other hand, how do you factor in the fact that this guy is just turning 24 in May and on the upswing of his career? Figure that he might have a slump to battle through – but hopefully, he'll be given the freedom to battle through it.

Jeff Kent, 2B: I'm gonna reprise old writings here. Now that he has been relieved of batting cleanup, now that the Dodgers can replace him defensively in the late innings without worrying about removing the centerpiece of the offense, Kent should continue to be an asset in 2008, even assuming he hits a post-40th birthday decline. It should be noted that he OPSed .863 after September 1 and .917 after the All-Star break last year.

Rafael Furcal, SS: He'll tease you, and unease you - all the better just to please you. He'll expose you, when he snows you off your feet with the crumbs he throws you. He'll take a tumble on you, roll you like you were dice, until you come out blue.

Nomar Garciaparra, IF: Garciaparra's OPS+ fell from 120 in 2006 to 78 in 2007. An atrocious first half (.654 OPS) dragged him down. His second half in 2007 (.814 OPS in 134 plate appearances), however, gives me hope that he can fill Olmedo Saenz's role better than Saenz did last season. (Saenz had an even more precipitous decline; his OPS+ fell from 132 in 2006 to 63.)

Outfielders
Andruw Jones, CF: Last year, in 659 plate appearances, Jones had 236 total bases (on hits), 70 walks, five steals and eight HBPs, while getting caught stealing two times and hitting into 16 double plays, for a total of 301 bases. According to Baseball Prospectus, he had a .258 EQA.

Juan Pierre, LF-CF Last year, in 729 plate appearances, Pierre had 236 total bases (on hits), 33 walks, 64 steals and six HBPs, while getting caught stealing 15 times and hitting into 10 double plays, for a total of 314 bases. According to Baseball Prospectus, he had a .255 EQA.

I'm counting on Jones improving from a career-worst year and providing better defense as well. But it is surprising how close the two were in offensive production in 2007.

Matt Kemp, OF: In 477 career plate appearances, Kemp has 25 walks and 119 strikeouts. That's the biggest concern about an otherwise precocious offensive performer. He also batted .411 on balls in play, which is the kind of average Andre Ethier had much of 2006 but was unable to maintain. Kemp's fast, but he's not The Flash. You might have to knock about 50 points off Kemp's 2007 on-base percentage of .373 ... unless he figures out some plate discipline. If he does, look out.

Andre Ethier, OF: Ethier's 2007 showed that a sophomore season doesn't guarantee improvement over freshman year. But with nearly 1,000 career plate appearances before turning 26, Ethier's OPS+ is 108, his on-base percentage is .357 and his slugging percentage is .464. That's nothing to dismiss. He also has earned some plaudits for his defense. Would love to see what he'd do if he were actually given some job security.

* * *

New Dodger chief marketing officer Dr. Charles Steinberg (do you have to say "Dr." even when it's not relevant?) has a lot on his mind, according to Doug Miller of MLB.com.

This could be good, and then again ...

There's plenty of room in Steinberg's head for more creative promotions and Dodger Stadium innovations. After all, according to Steinberg, sometimes all it takes is a personal experience or clubhouse coincidence to spark a summer-long fad.

"Try to tell me why everybody stops what they're doing and sings 'Sweet Caroline' in Boston," Steinberg says. "There's a Rally Monkey in Anaheim. The Beer Barrel Polka is a signature in games in Milwaukee.

"I don't think you can necessarily try to invent some gimmick and impose it. I think you need your eyes and ears open so that when something emerges and connects, you're ready to capitalize on it."

There's logic there ... although that logic could also be translated as "Beachballs for everyone!"

Comments
2008-02-06 12:03:36
1.   Brent Knapp
105 124 From previous thread. Thanks for the info on UCLA football. Hopefully the collective egos of the triumvirate don't ruin what could be the start of a dynasty.
2008-02-06 12:06:55
2.   ibleedbloo
Last season I began to notice that when ever a Dodger hit a home run, everyone stopped what they were doing and cheered. There was excitement in the stands each time a Dodger pitcher recorded a strikeout. Fans would hi-five after each double play the Dodgers turned.

There is plenty of excitement, no need for "the wave" lessons between innings. Honestly, does the rally monkey really create more excitement than the "noise monitor" the Dodgers use when they get a few men on?

2008-02-06 12:07:05
3.   Jon Weisman
Responding to Andrew's question about the Coliseum game (134 in the last thread) - how often do you get to go time-traveling? That's the appeal - to see a game the very unique way people 50 years ago saw it.
2008-02-06 12:09:37
4.   Eric Enders
Excellent, Jon. However, I wonder if even mentioning Broxton's ninth-inning splits gives them a legitimacy they don't deserve. Is there any reason to believe they're anything but sheer luck? Then there's the fact that his ninth-inning implosion in San Diego was actually a defensive implosion by his first baseman. Not that you could tell from the box score.
2008-02-06 12:09:39
5.   Bob Timmermann
(do you have to say "Dr." even when it's not relevant?)

The Lakers owner says "Yes."

2008-02-06 12:10:45
6.   Eric Enders
5 Tom Davis and Jack Ramsay also say "yes."
2008-02-06 12:12:56
7.   Jon Weisman
4 - I was just trying to head off shots against his ninth-inning ability preemptively. I think the whole thing about him not being able to pitch in the ninth is bunk.
2008-02-06 12:14:19
8.   Eric Enders
2 The Sweet Caroline Thing in Boston is pretty cool, believe it or not, as is the Beer Barrel Polka. But he's right on the money when he says it's something that needs to emerge and catch on its own. You can't force it or fake it; other teams have tried and failed miserably.

But he's completely mistaken when he says "summer-long fad"; you're not looking for a fad but something that will become a tradition, a ritual year after year, as the things mentioned above have.

2008-02-06 12:14:34
9.   Jon Weisman
They call me Dr. Buss!
2008-02-06 12:18:33
10.   Bob Timmermann
Sound the "Charge!" during a baseball game was a Coliseum invention, borrowed from USC football games.

From the Coliseum, it spread back throughout the rest of MLB.

2008-02-06 12:20:18
11.   D4P
Regarding Jeff Kent, you note that he "has been relieved of batting cleanup".

Is there anyone (in addition to me) that thinks Kent will be a better cleanup hitter (by which I guess I just mean "better hitter") in 2008 than Jones?

2008-02-06 12:32:19
12.   cargill06
11 it all depends which andruw jones shows up. if it's somewhere between the '06 and '07 jones (which i expect) it's a very close call
2008-02-06 12:49:04
13.   Eric Enders
It's conceivable Kent could be the best hitter on the Dodgers. It's also conceivable he could be the sixth best, behind Jones, Kemp, Loney, Martin, and LaRoche. Heck, maybe even Furcal and Ethier.
2008-02-06 12:50:29
14.   Jon Weisman
Oh my god. Ken Tremendous is Michael Schur of "The Office."
2008-02-06 12:51:30
15.   MC Safety
It would be nice to see Furcal carry that Caribbean OBP over into our leadoff spot.
2008-02-06 12:52:05
16.   D4P
13
Who's to say.
2008-02-06 12:52:46
17.   Bob Timmermann
14
So who unmasked him? Was it like a Mexican wrestling match?
2008-02-06 12:53:08
18.   Bob Timmermann
D4P,
You're welcome.
2008-02-06 12:54:29
19.   D4P
18
Thanks. I haven't had a chance yet to look everything over.
2008-02-06 12:54:35
20.   El Lay Dave
6 As does Jerry Punch. Of course, in his case, sometimes it's relevant, sometimes not.
2008-02-06 12:54:50
21.   Jon Weisman
17 - They unmasked themselves.
2008-02-06 12:57:26
22.   screwballin
regfairfield, meant to ask about your recent post: What is it about Penny that makes you think he's going to implode? Something you see in his numbers?

Coming from you, that worried me, because your comments always have something to back them up. But I guess I'm missing the warning signs.

2008-02-06 12:57:33
23.   Bob Timmermann
21
I prefer my idea about the wrestling match better.
2008-02-06 12:58:08
24.   Andrew Shimmin
3- Don't Dodger fans go time traveling every time they head to Dodger Stadium? My affinity for 1961 is not appreciably greater than that for 1962.
2008-02-06 12:58:16
25.   fanerman
Wikipedia has been updated.. haha.

Recently, Michael Schur acknowledged that he is one of the creative forces behind the unconscionably funny and satirical sports-minded site, FireJoeMorgan.com, writing under the pseudonym Ken Tremendous.

2008-02-06 12:58:40
26.   fanerman
23 So do I.
2008-02-06 12:59:17
27.   regfairfield
22 Decrease in strikeout rate, increase in walk rate, and way too little home runs per fly ball. Penny's lack of home runs saved him last year, but it's really hard to keep up rates like that without being a big time groundball pitcher.
2008-02-06 12:59:28
28.   Eric Enders
Ken Tremendous is Cousin Mose?

I don't think I can wrap my head around such a momentous collision of worlds.

2008-02-06 13:00:37
29.   Andrew Shimmin
I'm feeling a little D4Pish, so I should back off a little bit. It's not that I'm against the Coliseum; I think it's a fun idea. If 90K people like it, I must be the weird one. I just don't see why they like it so much.
2008-02-06 13:00:52
30.   regfairfield
14 Wasn't that the name of the main character in Michael Scott's screenplay?
2008-02-06 13:01:41
31.   Eric Enders
What's next? The revelation that Danica McKellar runs DodgerBlues.com?
2008-02-06 13:02:12
32.   D4P
I'm feeling a little D4Pish, so I should back off a little bit

Au contraire, this is exactly the point at which you should be pouring it on.

Knock it up a notch. BAM!

2008-02-06 13:02:23
33.   Eric Enders
30 Do you mean Agent Michael Scarn?
2008-02-06 13:05:54
34.   El Lay Dave
Dave King writes for Frank TV, if that's the right writer. The Toaster's Scott Long writes (wrote?) for Caliendo also (only for the NFL show?), I think. Perhaps they are acquainted.

Low-key and out of the blue; perhaps that's the best way to pull an internet reveal.

2008-02-06 13:07:59
35.   screwballin
27 OK, I misread that you meant implode physically.
2008-02-06 13:08:46
36.   cargill06
what is brad pennys contract situation?
2008-02-06 13:10:22
37.   regfairfield
36 Signed for 9.5 this year, with a 9.25 million dollar option for 2009.
2008-02-06 13:11:50
38.   cargill06
37 whose option?
2008-02-06 13:14:08
39.   Eric Enders
38 Ned's.
2008-02-06 13:19:56
40.   Marty
So Jon, does this make for an awkward interview for a staff position on The Office?
2008-02-06 13:20:53
41.   Andrew Shimmin
32- If I'd been feeling a lot D4Pish, that would have been my move. But I was only feeling a little D4Pish.
2008-02-06 13:21:17
42.   cargill06
so it's safe to say that penny is going to be in the rotation for '08 and '09 it is almost garunteed ned picks up that option even if he has say a low 4 ERA season
2008-02-06 13:21:59
43.   FirstMohican
Now how am I supposed to not picture Mose furiously typing away on a computer in the corner of a poorly lit barn as I read a FJM post?
2008-02-06 13:23:06
44.   old dodger fan
37 I thought it was $8.5 and $8.75 with a $2 million buy out for '09.
2008-02-06 13:24:32
45.   CajunDodger
42
Not only that, I could see Ned signing him to an extension next offseason. Something along the lines of 2/$35 million depending on how the pitching market shapes up.
2008-02-06 13:27:02
46.   DodgerBakers
What, you mean his real name isn't Ken Tremendous and he doesn't live in Partridge, KS and work for Fremulon Insurance?

He violated my trust!

2008-02-06 13:27:08
47.   regfairfield
44 There's a one million dollar signing bonus paid on 1/1/2008.
2008-02-06 13:27:24
48.   Jon Weisman
Okay, I felt I had to do a post about the FJM thing - mainly because I'm such a big Office fan. So I guess let's all move up there, even though I regret that there won't be more chat in this thread.

40 - I don't know. I'd say, I've got an icebreaker.

43 - LOL

2008-02-06 15:26:53
49.   Dodger Elite
Let's turn the classic "Ole!" chant into "L-A!" to drown out those annoying "Beat-LA" chants. 50,000 people chanting "L-A!" would make for a great signature cheer for Dodger fans.
2008-02-06 20:38:43
50.   Joe Pierre
Yes, the team. The starting pitchers, the long relievers, the catchers, the infielders, the outfielders, the middle relievers, the setup man & the closer. Follow the Dodgers today. I was suprised that Andy LaRoche wasn't mentioned above, is he already counted out? I'm wondering if we'll feel the same about the outfield at the end of spring training. Like say Ethier emerges. Our starters, to me, seem average. I hope they break out. Some offensive support would help. I have faith in the bullpen. Charlie Steinberg should visit Keyspan Park in Coney Island if he want to learn about exciting ballpark wildness or bring back the BUM, the team's true mascot.

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