Monthly archives: June 2003
Whether Dodger manager Jim Tracy's hyperbolic and brittle comments about a possible trade (I doubt that any reporter had the optimism to suggest that the Dodgers could procure a "savior.") are meant to convince himself or his players, these facts remain:
No, the Dodgers do not need to tear their team apart.
No, the Dodgers should not empty out what's left of their farm system.
Yes, the Dodgers should make any trade that can improve the team, short-term and long-term.
I've identified the players whom I see as the most likely acquisition candidates. They come from contending teams that are poor in the Dodgers' No. 1 strength: relief pitching. (This includes a team like Minnesota, whose bullpen is decent, but might use another reliever to push Johan Santana into the starting rotation.)
In most of these cases, a Guillermo Mota and a prospect of decent promise might suffice in a trade. In the case of a team like the Yankees, they might actually want the more expensive, name reliever like Paul Shuey - and might ask that the Dodgers take a Jeff Weaver in return. And for the superstar players, the Dodgers would probably have to ask themselves if they could part with Odalis Perez.
The big guiding principle: the Dodgers must make sure they acquire a player who can rake right-handed pitching.
Here are the teams, with their bullpen ERA:
Here are the players, with their at-bats, home-run totals and OPS against righties:
Aaron Guiel, Kansas City, OF: 49, 2, .894
Aaron Boone, Cincinnati, 2B: 236, 12, .847
Carlos Beltran, Kansas City, OF: 156, 9, .932
1) No one from the Yankees or White Sox seems like a viable target for the Dodgers.
2) With Brian Jordan and Dave Roberts gimpy, it would seem to make more sense to acquire an outfielder now, rather than worry about benching Adrian Beltre.
3) With 10 legitimate candidates on the table plus three superstars, it's hard to believe that there isn't one trade out there that could help both teams, and therefore be made.
Got this letter from Terry yesterday:
This doesn't directly deal with the issues Terry raises, but it does give me an excuse to put together a list I've been meaning to put together: Just how are recent ex-Dodgers doing in 2003? The intention of this first attempt at a boxed chart is to include all ex-Dodgers since Dan Evans officially became General Manager on October 3, 2001.
(MLEQA is a player's major-league equivalent average, as calculated by Baseball Prospectus - .260 being the average average.)
So, whom do you miss?
On the offensive side, well, you miss Sheffield's bat if not his attitude. Looking at things this season, had Sheffield never previously been a Dodger, you would probably trade Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez for him. But I still don't regret the trade that happened - Sheffield just made it harder to enjoy the team, and Perez may yield quality for years.
Reboulet and Houston are contributing in small parts, but I doubt anyone misses them. Grissom has done great. Karros has done well in Chicago, but since the Dodger offensive weakness is against right-handed pitching, I'd still rather have even the aging McGriff. Grudzielanek, as you can see, is really not having that wondrous a season. Jolbert Cabrera is filling his role just fine. Hansen is someone you might miss a lot, actually.
On the mound, there's very little to regret losing. Mainly, it still looks like the Dodgers gave up too much for Paul Shuey. Even though Shuey is having an outstanding year, the Dodgers gave up a lot of potential to shore up an area where they are now Marianas Trench deep. If I were the Dodgers, I'd strongly consider moving Shuey with his value high to get some prospects back.
Beyond that, though, there were some great trades in acquiring Guillermo Mota/Wilkin Ruan, Paul Quantrill/Cesar Izturis, and Dave Roberts.
(I don't know why there is so much space in between the charts. Can anyone help me with that?)
Test - Hoping to put
Test - Hoping to put the messy charts of days gone by behind me.
In the Dallas Morning News, an interesting article on Alex Rodriguez and the value of his contract points out that:
The contract will actually be paid over 20 years, not 10. Because $54 million is deferred, a Wall Street Journal estimate valued the contract at about $165 million, rather than $252 million.
If the Journal did the math correctly, the future Hall-of-Famer might actually be something of a bargain. Thanks to Jim Baker of ESPN.com for pointing out the story.
I'd like to take this opportunity to once again point out that the Dodgers were one pick away from drafting Rodriguez in 1993.
One Flew Over the Dodger's Nest
Staying one step ahead of the men in the white coats...
The Dodgers have all the hitting they need.
Oh, crap - they're on me. Kick it into gear, man.
Against left-handed pitching! Against left-handed pitching!
They don't look appeased. Make your case.
.283 average, .342 OBP, .448 slugging, .789 OPS against southpaws.
They're not saying anything. But why are they circling around me?
The Dodgers' OPS against lefties is seventh in the league.
They're scratching their heads. They're flummoxed.
OPSeses vs. lefties
Uh oh - they think I've gone bi-polar. Why did I have to mention McGriff? Think fast.
Kinkade plays first instead of McGriff. If Jordan's injured, you can even play Coomer at first with Kinkade in left.
No questioning that logic. I must be sane. Now, go for true enlightenment.
Cora should start against lefties, Cabrera against righties.
Cora should start against lefties, Cabrera against righties.
And ... scene.
The point of this little play has been to dramatize the revelation I had Wednesday night in watching the Dodgers improve to 15-4 against left-handed starters.
1a) Against lefties, Lo Duca, Green, Jordan, Kinkade and Beltre can put the bat on the ball.
1b) Against lefties, though it's a small sample, Cora is hitting decently.
1c) Against lefties, the Dodgers don't need to sacrifice defense at second base for the offensive boost of a Cabrera.
2a) Against righties, only three players have OPSeses over .700: Cabrera, Lo Duca and McGriff. Green is at .699.
2b) Against righties, Cabrera hits better than he does against lefties: .893 vs. .759.
2c) Against righties, the Dodgers do need to sacrifice at second base for the offensive boost of a Cabrera.
It's counterintuitive, but the Dodgers should consider playing Cabrera and Cora against same-sided pitchers.
And a minimum, if the Dodgers pursue a trade, they'd better make sure that whomever they acquire can rake righties.
An inning later, Giants pitcher Damian Moss was called for a balk by Tuesday night's Dodger antagonist, Angel Hernandez. The cameras immediately cut to Felipe Alou and Odalis Perez in their respective dugouts - both were laughing and shaking their heads, scoffily. Angel, we won't soon forget ye.
That's Not All from Angel
San Francisco 47-33 --
Is This What Happened to Daryle Ward on Tuesday?
Pack mentality: The Times, Daily News and Orange County Register all led today with the news that Jim Tracy might rotate Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis and Joe Thurston in a middle infield by committee.
Ron Coomer, who homered Monday, told Ken Gurnick that he would not accept an assignment to the minor leagues, but would instead ask for his release, and that if no other major league team showed interest, he would retire. There remains no room for him on the Dodger roster, so unless Adrian Beltre gets hurt in the next four weeks, March is essentially an extravagant paid spa workout for Coomer.
The Dodgers batted lefty Shawn Green third, lefty Fred McGriff fourth and righty Brian Jordan fifth Monday. Even though McGriff is an appreciably better hitter against righties than Jordan, I think it would be a mistake not to alternate lefty-righty-lefty in the regular season Š unless Tracy is willing to be very liberal in pinch-hitting for McGriff when a left-handed reliever comes in.
This isnÕt a Dodger note, but itÕs something that youÕd think would happen to the Dodgers. Monday, Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn injured his shoulder in a collision during a fielding drill. He collided with another pitcher: Brendan Donnelly. What kind of drill puts two pitchers anywhere near each other?
An Uphill Start
Eleven of the DodgersÕ first 14 games are on the road.
Ten of the DodgersÕ first 14 games are against Arizona and San Francisco.
Three games against Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, four games against Barry Bonds.
What would be a reasonable start for this team?
The season opens with a three-game series at Arizona, beginning with games against Johnson and Schilling. Avoiding a sweep would be nice.
Four games at San Diego follow. San Diego has a promising young rotation, but a questionable lineup. At minimum, you want a split. WeÕll set the target, though, at taking three out of four.
Then, we go up to Los Angeles for a whopping three-game homestand. The good news here is that at most, the Dodgers will face Schilling on home Opening Day, but Johnson will have pitched his second game in Colorado the previous weekend. The Dodgers need two out of three here.
Finally, up to San Francisco for four in the April cold. Since weÕre holding out for three out of four in San Diego, weÕll settle for a split against the Giants.
Follow that path, and the Dodgers begin a tough season-opening stretch Š a stretch with no off days Š at 8-6.
During that same period, Arizona and San Francisco each have 1) at least one series against the Milwaukee Doormats, and 2) at least one off day , which means they have better chances to get off to fast starts. In fact, San Francisco opens the season with San Diego-Milwaukee-San Diego Š itÕs not hard to imagine the Giants running off to 8-1 by the time they meet the Dodgers, and 10-3 afterward, even if they only split with L.A.
Arizona has a series with Colorado as well, so donÕt be surprised if the Diamondbacks start out around 8-4.
Of course, things wonÕt go by the numbers. The point is, just playing .500 ball and holding third place after the first two weeks would amount to a decent start by the Dodgers. Anything more would be gravy and reason to celebrate.
By the way, the Dodgers end the season on the road in San Francisco as well.
When should the Dodgers fatten up? From May 16 through June 5, the Dodgers play three games against Florida, six games each against Colorado and Milwaukee, and three games against Kansas City Š 18 games total, 12 at home.
One other scheduling note:
Putting the Proper Weight on OBP
OPS is a convenient barometer of batter performance, but those who have delved further have determined that the OBP deserves more weight than slugging percentage. David Pinto of Baseball Musings went to the trouble of calculating a weighted OPS for every major league regular. Bringing up the rear: Cesar Izturis.
Of course, you can still go to Baseball Prospectus for even more finely-tuned stats.
Oh, the Calamity
Dodgers at San Francisco, 2003
As Vinny kept saying, Tuesday was a bad night - and that included Vinny constantly referring to Daryle Ward by his father's first name, Gary. More about that later.
First, to get the headline out of the way, again, don't take the 0-5 record in one-run games at Candlestick as a sign that the Dodgers are a weaker team than the Giants. Take it as a sign that these two teams are as evenly matched as a coin toss, but the coin has landed on heads five times in a row.
Admittedly, the coin has landed very hard.
Until Tuesday, the costliest baserunning mistake by the Dodgers had been in the eighth inning of the May 10 game at Montreal, when Adrian Beltre got picked off second base with two on and none out in a 6-5 loss.
Like Beltre, Daryle Ward's mistake Tuesday has to be mitigated by the fact that his clutch base hit enabled the mistake. But there's one thing that should be emphasized. The replays showed that, as Jolbert Cabrera ran past second to third on Ward's one-out, ninth-inning single, Ward braked just off first base. Then, only after the throw came in from Jose Cruz, did Ward start to run to second.
It wasn't that Ward made a wide turn, as the beat writers reported this morning. This ballplayer, with one career stolen base in 458 games, thought that he was going to time the play and dash 89 feet from a near-dead stop to second base while the ball was in the infield. In other words, it was even more inexplicable than it appeared.
Beltre's subsequent game-ending groundout with the tying run on third base thus provided an epilogue on a night of frustration.
For the first time in my life, I predicted a balk. Mind you, I can explain the infield fly rule in French, but I still can't for the life of me understand what is a balk and what isn't. My sense is that balks are like cartoons in the New Yorker as depicted on Seinfeld - people, including umpires and cartoon editors, just sort of guess at them. (Just to be clear, I think the cartoons in the New Yorker are very clever and comprehensible.)
Anyway, though I certainly don't think the balk call is made consistently, there was something about the extra attention that Odalis Perez was paying to Ray Durham on first base in the sixth inning, a sort of desperation to keep Durham in place, that I felt that something bad was going to happen. And it did.
Was it the right call? Beats me. I watched the replays, and I've seen pickoff moves by other pitchers that are far more deceptive. I think it's like anything else in sports - if you have a reputation for doing something well, you get a lot more leeway from the officials. But it doesn't mean that this time, the call wasn't right.
I didn't spend any more of the inning questioning the call. Rather, I pondered whether baseball would be a better game with a no-leadoffs rule. A runner could only go once the pitch has been thrown. That would eliminate the balk rule and pickoff throws to first - neither of which represents the game at its best.
A no-leadoff rule would cut down on stolen bases and taking an extra base, increase double plays, and therefore cut down on offense. If that's a problem for you - and it certainly would be for the Dodgers - you could make one other change - reducing the distance between the bases to 85 feet. I know, I'm rearranging Stonehenge here, but I thought it an interesting notion. Please feel free to point out other pitfalls.
Meanwhile, there's no use in complicating a balk by giving up a home run. On the other hand, it might be time to admit that Marquis Grissom has a lot more baseball left in him than I or most people thought.
Coming off OPS seasons in 1998-2000 of .686, .735 and .639, Grissom came to the Dodgers in a trade for a rundown Devon White. Grissom then contributed a .654 in his first season in Los Angeles, and it was clear he was done.
Except that in a platoon role in 2002, Grissom did a nice job - OPSing .831. He OPSed .971 against lefties, and even beat his overall numbers of the past four seasons by OPSing .742 against righties. Still, he was a spare part, and not someone to whom you give seven figures of salary.
Well, in 2003, Grissom is back at .839 overall - and that's as an everyday player. His OPS against righties is .736 - not ideal, but for the second year in a row, at a level you simply wouldn't have thought possible. He's absolutely crushing lefties: 1.128.
And against the Dodgers, he's just been a killer.
April 10: Solo home run in the fourth inning of a 2-1 victory.
Against the Dodgers this season, Grissom has become Jim Eisenreich: in 40 plate appearances, a .989 OPS and four home runs.
For his part, Perez had allowed home runs in 10 of his past 13 starts.
Of course, blaming Perez for this loss would be in poor taste. Jason Schmidt dominated the Dodgers again, allowing no earned runs. His game score was 83, and he has now pitched two of the three best games against the Dodgers this season and three of the top 10.
And now, there's been a Jack Clark sighting. Hoping for a turnaround from the Dodger offense, hitting coach Jack Clark told Brian Dohn of the Daily News that "there's three or four guys in there capable of having a half like a (Carlos) Delgado."
Delgado has 23 home runs and 81 RBI to date. It is unlikely that any Dodger will finish the entire season with numbers matching those, much less in combination with a .441 on-base percentage.
Dohn goes on to write:
Clark's reputation throughout the organization is that of a hard worker who always uses positive energy, and he continues that. He said he is wearing the hats of a batting coach and a psychologist. Sometimes he emphasizes fundamentals and mechanics in the batting cage, and other times Clark sits and speaks with players about life.
Okay, so now we know Clark's philosophy. That's good. That's step one. Step two, then, is understanding that this philosophy is not working. Step three is trying something different. There may be no solution - we don't know. What we do know is that the current approach does not work. No need to prolong using it.
What will the effect be if Brian Jordan's aggravated knee keeps him out of the lineup for any long stretch? Such an absence will put HBP kings Mike Kinkade or Cabrera in left field. In half the plate appearances, Cabrera has more extra-base hits this season than Jordan. Perhaps Cabrera playing more left field and less second base will take some of the pressure burdening Alex Cora - though that's a desperado's hope. In any case, I don't presume that the offense will regress that much without Jordan - there just isn't that far to fall.
Or, perhaps, Dan Evans will decide to pull the trigger on a trade.
To wrap things up, let's deal with Vinny. Honestly, until Ward's baserunning mistake, nothing was more painful last night then Vin referring to Ward as Gary. Then, for Vin to make the same blunder in describing Ward's blunder, that was about all one could take. As is written in the introduction to Ian Fleming's Goldfinger:
Once is happenstance.
Not that I'm wishing to unleash James Bond on Vinny, but something had to be done. Vin Scully has never struck me as a man of great ego, but rather as someone all too willing to correct his mistakes - as long as he's made aware of them. Someone on the broadcast production team had the responsibility of getting into Vinny's ear and telling him about the Gary problem.
All in all, Tuesday could have been a great night for the Dodgers - just like the other four nights in San Francisco. Tonight, the Dodgers flip the coin again.
(Now that you've read this, you have to go over to Dodger Blues.com. No one expresses Dodger frustration better.)
The Wild Card Reveals Who We Are
In your mind, if you're a fan of the Dodgers, what's at stake each time your team plays the Giants this week?
In my mind, it's the playoff berth that comes with winning the National League West title. And that's a very specific choice of words.
It's not the division title alone that's important. Yes, it's fine to win one - it's a nice statistic, like a Kevin Brown winning an ERA title - especially if you haven't won a title in quite some time. But your overall goal remains winning the World Series, and missing out on the division title doesn't preclude that.
However, the wild card isn't what you're going after either. Here in June, there are eight National League teams over .500 and within six games of each other in the wild-card standings. The wild-card prize is like the inheritance you might get from that rich aunt you don't really know, depending on her mood swings. It's just not something you count on today.
No, it's all about the playoff berth that comes with a division title.
What this means is that while the wild card has diluted the importance of how a divisional race ends, it hasn't diluted the importance of that race while it's in progress.
If you're within shouting distance of a division title - and that still includes every team over .500 right now - the divisional race is the one that probably concerns you the most. Because in that race, you have the fewest teams to beat, and you will face those teams more often head-to-head.
That latter reason is why the Philadelphia Phillies, who are 8 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves but only 3 1/2-games behind the NL wild-card leading Dodgers, still must have the NL East race on their minds. The Phillies play the Braves 10 more times this year; they play the Dodgers three more times. One could argue that they actually have more control of their destiny in the NL East.
Meanwhile, a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates is closer in the standings to the NL Central-leading Cubs than the NL wild-card leading Dodgers, all the more reason for such a team to be preoccupied with the divisional race.
In a sense, the wild card serves no purpose for most of the regular season. One of the arguments for having a wild card is that it keeps more teams (and their fans) thinking that they are still alive for a playoff spot. But of the 30 teams in major league baseball today, really only three teams - Anaheim, Florida and the New York Mets - need the wild card to kindle their hopes. (And even a fan of the Marlins and Mets could question whether or not keeping their hopes alive is a good thing.) The rest are so far out of contention, not even the wild card can help.
By August, will more teams join those three? Quite possibly, if another division leader separates itself from the pack. However, it's also possible that the only major change in the standings in the next two months will bring Atlanta back to earth, meaning that even the Marlins and even the Mets would then be within range of an amazing divisional comeback.
Until September, because so much can change before the final month of the season, the wild card is irrelevant.
Once September arrives, the wild card can have its most positive effect - by manufacturing a race between good second- or third-place teams who live in a division with a runaway leader. However, as you know, the wild card also brings risks to September - as in a case when two teams within the same division are unchallenged as the best two teams in the league. Then, the wild card has eliminated the best race of the season.
Now, back to my original question: In your mind, what's at stake right now each time the Dodgers play the Giants?
Right now, we've got an honest-to-goodness pennant race - where every game counts and where we can fret over every loss. The existence of the wild card is of little consolation to a Dodger fan, even though the Dodgers are currently the wild-card leaders, because that position of "Wild-Card Leader" is so ephemeral.
But what would you rather have in September?
1) The Dodgers and Giants battling for the NL West crown, with no wild card consolation prize available?
As the Angels have shown, winning a World Series takes the sting out of losing a divisional race. The playoffs bring their own excitement, which you can't ignore. So as a fan of the Dodgers, yes, believe it or not, not knowing whether the Dodgers would beat the Giants, I would sell my soul and wish for Option 2. The playoff berth is what matters.
The playoff berth gives you a chance to be a champion. The legacy of being champion trumps that of being a finalist exponentially. Baseball's greatness is in the bounty of its intermediate events, its hits, walks, triples and balks - that help you measure achievement. But as far as goals go, as far as ambitions go, the only one a baseball team has is winning the World Series. Winning the World Series is truly forever. Throughout the 1950s, the Dodgers were great, but it's the championship of 1955 that resonates throughout the country.
No matter how many teams there are, getting into the playoffs is like a minor-leaguer getting called to the Show. It's why an NCAA basketball team celebrates winning the 64th spot in March Madness and the right to be annihilated by Duke. It gives you your shot at glory. It's the only means to the ultimate end.
It takes a special kind of person to root for a close pennant race that involves his team. It puts your shot at glory on the line. It risks long-term satisfaction for short-term thrills. Imagine yourself a Dodger fan in August 1951. Would you have rooted for the Giants to make it a race? If so, you are probably one of a kind.
Fifty-two years later, it might feel different. But put yourself in the moments as August 1951 became October 1951. As a Dodger fan, wouldn't you rather have made the playoffs as a wild-card team, rendering an historic pennant chase meanlingless?
Enjoy these June games between the Giants and the Dodgers, which combine the best of all possible worlds - two division leaders battling for the pennant, no qualifications, no guaranteed consolation prizes. Treat these games like September games. Right now, the chance to win the World Series is on the line. In three months, it may still be on the line. But on the other hand, you might find yourself in September with a wild-card berth at minimum in hand, just killing time until October.
Either way, the playoff-bound fan will still be happy. And that's sort of sad. The wild card increases a fan's chance in September to feel glory in October. It caters to selfish needs and desires. Selfishness is a fact of life; selfishness is real. No argument there. I just think that in a better world, we wouldn't have the wild card as an annual reminder that we are selfish people.
Fast Five From the Weekend
1) Until Sunday, the Dodgers had scored four runs or more in seven of their past eight games. That was a first for 2003.
It actually surpised me to find that the team had, twice, scored four runs or more six times in an eight-game stretch. (I hope that's not too confusing a sentence to read.)
Overall, the Dodgers have scored four or more runs 36 times in 74 games this season. They are 30-6 in those games.
2) Jose Mota did a nifty job as the commentator on Fox's Saturday telecast of the Dodger-Angel game. In contrast to every other Fox announcer that I've heard, he made thoughtful points in a conversational manner, as opposed to irrelevant or obvious points in a huckster manner. (Example: play-by-play man Thom Brennaman saying in the same broadvast that Jaime Jarrin is the nicest person in baseball. Why not just say that Jarrin is nice. Why so many things have to be sold with such hyperbole by Fox?)
Other than occasionally talking too fast, Mota really impressed me. I hope we see more of him and I hope that Fox doesn't give him the wrong kind of notes.
3) Have you ever noticed how often Eric Gagne doubles over? He doesn't do it out of pain or agony - he just does it, to catch his breath I guess or something. It used to scare me until I started seeing it all the time.
4) Dave Ross struck out three times Sunday, but his promise continues. In those three at-bats, he saw 18 pitches. In the first two at-bats, he blasted three enormous foul balls that together traveled about 1,000 feet. He then worked the count to 3-2 before striking out. He may be no All-Star, but he deserves playing time on this team.
5) There was a funny question on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard's Ask the Dodgers feature. Six-year-old Samson asked, "How do you hit a foul ball?" Four Dodgers gave entertaining if perplexed replies.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dave Ross
Backup catcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
Career games with plate appearances: 13
Career totals: .297 average, .381 OBP, .676 slugging, 1.057 OPS
Paul Lo Duca's hitting streak is over, but he did have a walk Thursday. As John Wiebe points out, you probably won't hear much about this, "because 'on-base streak' doesn't roll off the tongue or conjure up the memories like 'hitting streak.' "
The solution seems simple enough. A new word: "basing."
Paul Lo Duca has a 26-game basing streak. How's Paul basing these days. That Paul is one heck of a baser.
Make the world a better place, everyone. Spread the word ... literally.
The Villains' Villain
Jason Schmidt is the real deal. Backed by 80 years of home-run hitter in Benito Santiago and Andres Galarraga, Schmidt had the Dodgers fruitlessly waving at pitches like they were the gnats that plagued Chavez Ravine this week, striking out 11 in a 2-0 victory on Thursday.
Picking who has pitched the best game against baseball's worst offense is one competitive beauty contest, but I'm going to try.
As a shortcut to guide me, I'm going to use Game Scores. Here's the definition, from ESPN.com:
Start with 50 points.
Schmidt had a game score of 90 on Thursday, which you'll see is pretty damn great. In fact, Schmidt appears twice on the list. Here are the top 10 performers:
90 Jason Schmidt, San Francisco, 6/19 (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K)
* Dodger road game
Schmidt looks like the man, doesn't he. Overall this season, Schmidt is 2-0 with a 2.02 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers, striking out 25 in 22 1/3 innings.
After last night, I'm all but ready to appoint Schmidt the villain's villain for 2003 to date. But let me ask you this. Take another look at Shawn Chacon's performance, and consider that it was executed in Coors Field. Is that not perhaps the biggest piece of resistance the Dodgers have faced this year?
It's too bad that Chacon's game was a 6-0 blowout, otherwise he might have gone nine innings and we would have had an even better comparsion. Still, given the different park factors, I'm going to go with Chacon.
For good measure, here are the top Game Scores from the Justice League of America, otherwise known as the Dodger pitching staff:
87 Hideo Nomo, at Milwaukee, 5/24 (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 8 K)
The Dodgers have broken the 70 barrier 13 times - Brown alone has done it six times, compared to eight total by all Dodger opponents.
But the system, which puts a premium on innings, has rewarded Nomo for his two shutouts by making him - for a single game - the heroes' hero.
Update: Just found the top game scores in MLB on ESPN. Schmidt is on the list three times in the National League top 10, but his best game was not even against the Dodgers - he also posted a 91 against Chicago on April 30. Curt Schilling is No. 1 with a 96 - a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts. Nomo's 87 is tied with Schmidt's third-best game for ninth in the NL. (Please note that even though ESPN has the year wrong, it is up to date for 2003.)
Based on 2003 stats, the pitching matchup tonight looks like a mismatchup. However, Odalis Perez has made nine of 13 starts on the road, where he has a 5.53 ERA, and 39 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings. At home, he has a 3.14 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.
Perez was better at home last year too, though the difference was not as great. He also made the majority of his starts at home in 2002.
Jason Schmidt has been more consistent in 2003, to say the least. He has a 2.68 ERA at home and a 2.66 ERA on the road. His strikeout ratio is just slightly lower on the road - 0.96 K/IP on the road, 1.21 K/IP at home. Both stats are excellent in a non-Eric Gagne world...
Perez has 68 strikeouts this season; Gagne has 67. Can Perez maintain his advantage?
The Return of Mr. Highwire
A 32-pitch first inning for Kazuhisa Ishii? No problem.
I can't believe how relaxed I am as he throws ball after ball. In case you missed the reason why, this link will explain.
Today, Ishii is:
No. 1 in baseball in walks, but ...
He belongs in the circus.
No Flub, Bub
Dan Reines and baseball historian for hire Eric Enders both wrote to tell me that J.T. Snow's first name is also Jack, and so that Vinny did not necessarily make the flub I thought he had in the third inning of Tuesday's game.
My apologies for not knowing that there was a benefit of a doubt to give Vinny - and my congratulations to him on what now appears to have been a flawlessly entertaining broadcast.
1P + 30H = .600
Light schedule or not, the Dodgers have now won two straight from the third-best team in baseball, and become tied for the third-best team in baseball with a 42-28 record - .600. Now .600 - that's a gaudy number. That's a 97-win pace.
This may seem like an odd time to pick at the team, but nothing is forever and some things are barely temporary, as we note from the losing streak that followed the Dodgers' previous day tied for first place.
But for a while now, Brian Greene, or BigCPA as I now think of him, and I have debated the composition of the team. Brian thinks that over the years, the Dodgers have been too eager to pursue pitching and not eager enough to pursue hitting. My feeling has been that it doesn't matter which they pursue, as long as they make smart moves, but Brian believes at a certain point, the over-emphasis on pitching becomes inherently flawed.
Read our e-mail exchanges, and if you have any thoughts, send them over. How much does the imbalance of the team matter?
I enjoy your site and like the new look. Brief gripe for your consideration:
From your 4/12 entry "Quality Quality Starts"
"If the Dodgers keeping focusing on how many quality starts they've been getting, they're not going to go anywhere... Twice this week, the Dodger pitching staff was given three-run leads by its hitters. That's enough for a win. Both times, the staff blew the leads.... Pitching is clearly the Dodger strength. But let's not allow some phony measuring device like quality starts to give the pitchers more credit than they deserve or excuse them from trying to do better."
A month later now that the Dodgers are #1 in team ERA, #1 in bullpen ERA and have the #1 closer. With a 5 week sample size, it's quite evident that the #28 offense is the issue. Your piece today "This Is the Cause" spells it out perfectly. In 12 games in which Dodger pitchers have allowed 3 or 4 runs, the Dodgers are 4-8. These may or may not all be QS as defined, but you get my point. The pitchers have given the team the chance to win 25 games and they only have 16 wins.
I think Quality Starts is a great stat because it highlights games you "should win." Maybe it's better expressed like you've done, showing total runs allowed. Dodger pitchers have been underrated for years because of the anemic offense. Nomo should have won 20-22 last year. Ismael Valdes would have won 20 games 2-3 times easy with any kind of run support.
I've gotten a couple of comments on that 4/12 entry - doesn't look like I did the best job on that one. I still stand by what I was trying to say :)
Here's what I believe:
1) The Dodgers have great pitching and terrible hitting.
2) The Dodgers need to hold their opponents to no more than 3 runs in a game to win, because it's unreasonable to ask this offense to come up with more than 4.
3) If your barometer for successful pitching is the quality start, meaning that 3 runs in 6 innings is a success, you're then asking your bullpen to pitch shutout ball.
4) I don't think that's fair. The bullpen should have as much right to a 3.00 ERA (one run in three innings) as the starters. It shouldn't be 4.50 for the starters and 0.00 for the bullpen.
5) Therefore, for the Dodgers, a quality start isn't the best barometer.
By the definition of the term, Odalis Perez had a quality start yesterday. But it's tough for me to see it that way. Yes - if the Dodgers had scored four runs yesterday, they would have won - but only assuming the bullpen throws three shutout innings. If the bullpen can be expected to pitch that well, why can't I expect the starters to do better?
By and large, I think we're in agreement on the major points. The offense sucks, the pitching is great, and (I really appreciate this one) Ismael Valdes was unappreciated. I don't think that quality starts is a worthless stat - but I think it was being overemphasized. On 4/12, at least, I think the bullpen had been making the starting pitching look better than it really was. I was just afraid that the starters would rest on their laurels. There was, in fact, room for improvement.
I think, for the Dodgers, a quality start is two runs in six innings - or even two runs in five innings. That gives both the overachieving bullpen and the underachieving offense the cushion the team needs to win.
What do you think?
Here's how I think the Dodgers should measured. They should aspire (and we should expect) to be in the top 5-6 in the league in both ERA and runs scored. If that means a 3.75 era so be it. It's all relative. Trade your surpluses and address your shortages!
The reality is that in the past 20 seasons through 2002, the Dodgers have finished in the top 4 in runs/game only once! They've finished in the bottom 5 ten times! In ERA they've finished in the Top 3 13 of 20 years and in the Top 6 17 of 20.
Clearly Dodger Stadium favoring pitchers plays a part in this. But my view is the organization is just pitching obssessed in an offensive era. Most winning teams go with 1 or 2 superior starters, 3-4 4.50 era guys and slug it out. See Boston, SF, Anaheim, Seattle, StL. We have 5 excellent starters with Ashby waiting in the wings, the best middle relief and the #1 closer. Come on already!
Then look at the trade deadline moves the last two years. They bring in Trombley, Mulholland, James Baldwin, Shuey and Mr. Tyler Houston to save the offense. Or dare I recall Konerko/Reyes for Shaw.
They make no run at AROD, Damon, Rolen, Thome or Frank Thomas and skimp on offering Floyd. You know the story.
Here's my blueprint to get things moving in the right direction: Beltre for Nick Johnson. Youth for youth, we get a 1b, bigtime OBP, and power potential. Then we make a deal for Lowell, Randa whatever at 3rd. You still haven't shot your wad. Now you break the bank for Vlad or Tejada.
Maybe you can use your website to get the word out. :)
Also, I've attached the yearly team batting/pitching data for you. Do I smell a future column?
(I had an e-mail reply that, among other things, said that there's no way the Dodgers could get Nick Johnson for Adrian Beltre, but I can't find it. Let's move forward...)
While watching Kevin ($15M) Brown match zeroes last night with Darren (freakin) Oliver, I got to thinking about ballpark effects. If Dodger stadium is so pitcher-friendly, does this automatically mean you should allocate 3/4 of your payroll to pitching? If Darren Oliver and Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence and Livan Hernandez can put up zeroes in Dodger Stadium, why not save some money and just buy yourself an average staff?
I just don't think our "philosophy" makes sense. I read Dan Evans quoted somewhere recently that "in our ballpark you win with pitching and defense." Last I checked we had 2 division titles in 13 seasons in a division with 2 expansion teams and San Diego. How can this pitching-first philosophy still be considered so sacred?
Hey Brian -
You're right - there is more to be said on this topic. I'm sorry I haven't hit it yet.
Just to answer you,again for the time being...
1) I take Evans' quote with a grain of salt, but I don't think we have had that pitching-defense combo during most of the past 13 seasons. Certainly not the defense. And as you suggest, what looks like a good ERA may not be that good when you consider park effects. The pitching stats must be exceptional for the pitching to be above-average.
2) "If Dodger stadium is so pitcher-friendly, does this automatically mean you should allocate 3/4 of your payroll to pitching?" Of course not. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't. The point is, you don't build a payroll from scratch - you are always adjusting one or a few players at a time, based on the talent available and the talent you can get. It's not as if Evans is against improving the offense. But given the hand that he was dealt - for example, $33 million-plus to Brown, Ashby and Dreifort alone this season, all of whom are untradeable - there's a limit to what he can do.
3) "If Darren Oliver and Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence and Livan Hernandez can put up zeroes in Dodger Stadium, why not save some money and just buy yourself an average staff?" Again, I'm sure the Dodgers would love to save some money - but thanks to Kevin Malone, how do they do it?
Also, I think you're trying to have it both ways here. You are giving those pitchers credit for shutting down an offense that you yourself (correctly) indicate is poor. I think there's a pretty clear difference between Kevin Brown and Darren Oliver, despite how close last night's game was. Put them on opposite teams, and Brown's Rockies win the game by about a 5-0 score.
Overall - I agree with you. I think it's a myth to say that you win with pitching and defense. You win by having players who perform better than the other team's players, and it doesn't matter whether it's offensively or defensively. The Dodgers certainly could have their talent allocated better - of their top 25 players in the entire organization, I would say that perhaps 15 are pitchers. That's not a good balance. Yes, I'd like to see them make a trade to alleviate that imbalance, but it just ain't that easy. You have to be realistic. I take Evans' quote mainly as trying to put a good public face on what probably is a frustrating situation for him privately. I guarantee he'd like to unload Ashby and maybe Dreifort, but people only want Gagne and maybe Perez.
I especially like this point:
I emailed you last month about the Dodgers crusty old pitching-first philosophy. I think Dan Evans needs to go read Moneyball and quit dreaming of Koufax/Drysdale/Orel. The Giants play in a pitchers park and lo and behold they're 6th in scoring and 6th in pitching. Seems like better constuction of a team to me!
Hey Brian -
You must think me a total flake. I actually did go back last week and look at the chart you sent me and all the past e-mails - all valid information, but I just had trouble adapting it into a column.
But maybe this is the launching point - maybe I should just run our e-mail exchanges. Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong or oversimplifying, but it almost seems to me like you are advocating balance for balance's sake. We can both stipulate that the Dodger offense is criminally bad. But the important thing to me is run differential, not whether the team is balanced. A team could score 162 runs in a season and go 162-0, after all (an extreme example, but it sort of evokes the 2003 Dodgers, doesn't it?).
Why is it better (I'm not asking this rhetorically - feel free to answer) that the Giants, in a pitchers' park, are sixth in the league in offense and ERA? What makes balance better? The 2003 standings certainly aren't that strong an arugment for balance - the Dodgers are only two games out.
To me, the Giants are better right now, simply, because their run differential is greater than that of the Dodgers. Slightly, but there it is. And I don't need to look at where the pitching and offense rank.
The key, to me, is not to rebalance the team, but improve the offense more than you hurt the pitching. Am I willing to consider a reasonable package that includes Guillermo Mota for Mike Lowell? Sure. But I'm not sure that the Marlins would be. And that's the problem. Just because this is the most pitching-rich, hitting-poor team in memory doesn't mean that there's a good trade being offered. I'm in the middle of Moneyball now, and one of the key points is that for Billy Beane, it's all about relative value. It's not about doing a trade because you have to.
Now, you can argue that somehow, Dan Evans should be able to find a profitable trade, and I'd agree with you. But that's not something we can really know, right now at least. It could be that Evans, for example, is waiting the Marlins out, hoping they'll reduce their asking price. He might be doing the smart thing.
I don't know.
But do keep in mind that the Dodger pitching really is truly exceptional so far, and has compensated for the lack of hitting - imbalanced team or not.
Feel free to hound me on this!
Here's another way of looking at this balance issue. Just imagine for a moment that the Dodgers had Manny Ramirez batting cleanup instead of Jordan or McGriff (position aside). Then imagine a scrub 5th starter like John Burkett in the rotation. If Burkett gets 30 starts, with a better offense, great defense and the #1 bullpen, they've got to win 10-12 of those games, maybe 15 (The Red Sox are 8-5 in his starts despite his 5.75 era!). So maybe you've lost 5 team wins vs the typical Dodger starter. But you've got a monster in the lineup for 150 games! I'm not a fan of game simulations, win shares etc., but I have to figure you're much better off. I just don't think the Dodgers think like this. They can't tolerate a single gap in their pitching arsenal. That's why we get Trombley, Baldwin, Valdes, Mulholland and Shuey at the trade deadline!
Question for you:
No I don't think your a flake, but just to test you, here's a blog entry if I've ever seen one:
Did you know that the 1989 Dodgers finished dead last in runs scored an first in ERA?? It's in the spreadsheet I sent you! They won 77 games and finished 14 out. I can recall vividly the Dodgers trading Tim Leary/Duncan for Kal Daniels after that season. Amen! Mike Morgan had been a legit 6th starter in '89 and filled the hole. The next year their offense surged to 3rd in the league and they won 86 despite losing Hershiser for most of the year. With Orel back in 1991 and Strawberry signed, they posted a +100 run diff. and won 93 - their best team since 1988.
There has to be a moral in there somewhere for this 2003 team!
Hi Brian -
You got me. I can't think of a significant pitching-for-hitting trade since Pedro-DeShields. Of course, that one worked out so well...
Yes, Manny Ramirez is more valuable than the Dodgers' No. 5 starter, be he Dreifort, Ashby or Alvarez. But it's like when you proposed getting Nick Johnson a month or two ago. Great idea - but how do you get him?
The trades for Trombley, Baldwin, Valdes, Mulholland and Shuey et al were awful at the time and look even worse now. That fact doesn't make the question above any easier to solve. It's not like they haven't gone after hitters. Tyler Houston, anyone?
This offseason, the Dodgers will have an opportunity to go after a bigtime slugger. But right now, which I gather is the time period that concerns you most, the only power hitter available is Mike Lowell. And depending on the package, that's a trade I could get behind. And Dan Evans may get behind it too. Beyond that, what exactly can you do?
One reason the Dodgers' pitching is so good right now and the hitting is so bad is that they simply have gotten more mileage out of guys like Gagne, Mota, Perez, etc. than they have out of their hitters. They're just better at it right now. You can ask Shaquille O'Neal to start making 80 percent of his free throws, and maybe he can concentrate on that some, but the bottom line is, he's just not very good at it. That's the situation with the Dodgers right now. The Dodgers are paying Kevin Brown about $15 million this year and he's been awesome. They're paying Shawn Green almost the same, and he hasn't been. Last year, it was the opposite. That's just the way it's going. I think you're over-extrapolating the extremes of this year to previous years. The Dodgers have had obvious gaps in both their hitting and their pitching over the years. You've convinced me that they've tried to solve the pitching gaps more than the hitting gaps, but it doesn't necessarily mean that either gap was "solvable" - meaning that they could have made a move that would put them in the playoffs. Ultimately, in most of the trades of the past several years, their best move would have been no move.
So if there's a moral in the 1989-1991 Dodgers, I think that moral is to make moves to improve your club, but not to make moves out of desperation. If the Dodgers can parlay their pitching depth into a front-line position player, then they should go for it. But if you're thinking that somehow Wilson Alvarez or Steve Colyer is going to deliver a 40-homer player, it's just not realistic. I'm all for improving the offense, but show me how.
I think I'm ready to take this to the web...
Vinny at the Ballpark
John Wiebe of John's Dodger Blog sends the following:
Jon - Scully does three innings simulcast, remainder of the game on TV. So yes, he was talking to people who could presumably hear him. I'm one of the people who was overjoyed when he started doing the extra inning on radio, because there's nothing better than hearing the bio stuff while you're at a game. It adds a lot to the experience.
Three years ago on Memorial Day (Green grand slam vs. Mets), I turned on my radio while sitting in the right field pavillion, and a guy in front of me who didn't want to hear it said, "Cmon, the game's right here," while pointing at the field in case I was missing something. "Why do you need that?" My friends and I just stared at him, blankly, because this guy was so far off, no amount of explanation from us could bring him back. Later, we listened to his conversation with the people he was with, and we realized he was a Dodger Stadium first-timer.
I don't sit in the pavillions anymore. The top deck (for the same price!) is a much better view - you can sit directly behind home plate for $6.00 - I don't know of a better deal in baseball - and still gives someone an opportunity to go to a game on the cheap. And if you forget to bring your own radio, there are top-deck regulars who always bring their boombox. The whole level can usually pick up the game from someone.
By the way, John had an interesting, detailed post on pitch counts for Dodger starters earlier this week, and has promised us a follow-up soon. So be sure to check it out.
From Start to Finish, A Dodger Night (Groins Not Included)
Bonds smiles as, after three pseudo-attempts to pitch to him, Paul Lo Duca comes out of his crouch to take the fourth pitch as an intentional walk. The broadcast cuts to a Giants fan in the crowd holding a rubber chicken brought for the occasion.
Rich Aurilia whiffs at a tailing fastball for strike one, but from Tuesday's research, I know that an 0-1 count doesn't bother him. He then takes a change for 0-2, but fouls off pitches and takes a couple of close ones to work the count to 2-2. Vinny: "You can tell the intensity of the series. ... This crowd is groaning in the first inning, just like it's the ninth." After fouling off the seventh pitch, Aurilia grounds into a 6-4 force play to end the inning. Opportunity wasted for the Giants.
Giants starter Jesse Foppert gets leadoff hitter Dave Roberts down 0-2, then makes a great pitch that could easily have been called for strike three. Roberts survives, but then grounds out 4-3 on the next pitch. Vinny takes the opportunity to tell us that the Giants have 31 errors, the fewest in the National League.
Lo Duca comes to the plate with his 23-game hitting streak. Vinny adds the relevant information that it's a 26-game on-base streak, then puts it in further context by noting that Bonds is at 38.
Lo Duca fouls two high-inside pitches that he might best take. But after another foul on an outside pitch, he blasts a home run to left field. "Boy - this crowd is pumped," Vinny says with a continued trace of surprise. But again, he doesn't get carried away. He notes how rare home runs have been for the Dodgers this season, just as slumping Shawn Green grounds out. Brian Jordan's routine fly to center ends the inning.
Daryle Ward, activated from the disabled list and playing first base for a groin-injured Fred McGriff, makes a nice backhanded play on a grounder by Jose Cruz, Jr. Perhaps the Giants' hottest hitter in April, Cruz has been dropped to eighth in the order.
Vinny has built up Foppert as a potential hitter because he is a converted infielder, but Foppert enters the game only 1 for 17, and becomes Brown's first strikeout victim.
The Giants make their second tactical error - not for the first time this season, if memory serves. They intentionally walk perhaps the poorest hitting starter in the National League, Cesar Izturis. Again, even if the pitcher's on deck, you're just setting the table for more trouble. The fact that Brown grounds a sharp single up the middle, making the score 2-0, is great for the Dodgers but irrelevant to the poor decision.
Vin is also quick to note that Brown is not fooling many people - Marquis Grissom singles for the Giants' third hit.
As Feliz comes to bat for the first time, Vin surprisingly misses a nice gambit. He uses the phrase "sadder but wiser" in the same spoken paragraph in which he talks about Feliz' wisdom teeth being removed. Vin then also makes a flub, referring to J.T. Snow as "Jack" - the ex-Ram popping into his head. Snow has a groin injury - what's with all the groin injuries?
A 2-2 sidearmer pitch from Brown freezes Feliz. The angle of the pitch simply shocked him.
Durham reappears in the same situation as the first inning - one out, man on first. This time, he's swinging and singles. How about that?
Bonds is swatting at gnats as he comes to the plate. The gnats also surround Brown on the mound. Brown challenges Bonds, who hits a sharp grounder to second base. Cora justifies his placement in the game by starting a huge 4-6-3 double play.
Lo Duca comes up for the second time and hits a 3-1 fastball off the short fence in left field. I've often derided Bonds' fielding, but he gets the ball back into the infield quickly. Lo Duca has a double.
Green swings at a bad 2-0 pitch, down and inside. He's having problems. The next pitch, in about the same location, is wild - in fact, it's so wild that it blasts through the word "PARTS" in the behind-the-plate advertisement for KRAGEN AUTO PARTS. Never seen that before. Lo Duca takes third, and the infield moves to play halfway in a 2-0 game. Momentum now on his side, Green works out the walk.
Vin notes that cars are still in the parking lot trying to get to the game. He urges the drivers to be careful and not to rush. Does Vin do three innings on radio now, or is he talking to people that can't hear him?
Jordan's sacrifice fly makes it 3-0.
Shawn Green's left ear looks as big as the ear flap covering his right ear.
Green steals second uncontested off a preoccupied Foppert - only Green's second steal of the year. Ward flies out. Beltre is up. When will Foppert pitch away to retire Beltre, I wonder? Instead, Foppert leaves a fat pitch over the plate, which Beltre uses to single in the fourth Dodger run. Vin says, "It didn't look like Green was running as well as possible," which has been my point all season. He just doesn't run well any more, period.
Vin sometimes repeats his stories, but the first time you hear them, they're pretty good. Maybe it's because I've been spending too much time looking at stats, not at player bios. Anyway, Vin tells us something I didn't know about Santiago's terrible car accident from a few years back. The passenger lost a leg, and won $2.6 million from Santiago in a lawsuit.
Alfonzo hits into the second 4-6-3 double play in two innings for the Giants.
Izturis gets a single - no doubt again putting the fear of God into Giants manager Felipe Alou. But the Dodgers try a hit-and-run with Brown, and it fails, with Brown whiffing at the pitch and Izturis erased by Santiago. "So the Dodgers, I guess, feeling a little cocky ..." says Vin.
Many cuts to the Giant-Dodger fan-couple this game, but no cuts to the kids. A small cadre of anti-Vinny people on Baseball Primer's message boards get on Vin for going overboard on the kids, but he really doesn't do it as much as they say.
Roberts is retired to end the inning. He looks impotent at the plate.
Grissom then walks - the 500th of his career, matching Bonds' 2002 total.
Feliz follows with a single. Vin again puts Brown's shutout in perspective: "Every inning Brown has been pitching from a stretch. He has three strikeouts, two of three the opposing pitcher."
With Bonds on deck, Durham hits a slow grounder to Cora, who almost mitigates his fine play thus far by ballooning an underhand throw to first. Durham is out by half a step.
Green comes up and just like in the third inning, a low-and-inside wild pitch sends Lo Duca to third base. Santiago then saves another similar pitch from bringing Lo Duca home.
Green lines to Durham for an out. Bad luck for him that Lo Duca got a single and he got an out? Or irrelevant to the more important concern that Green is not hitting homers?
Jordan is retired, and then Chad Zerbe replaces Foppert to face Ward. A pitch hits Ward in the elbow and ricochets directly off Santiago's toe. Vin tells the story of a Dodger pitcher named Pete Mikkelsen who described making the perfect pitch - "it hit the batter, the catcher, and then the umpire in the neck."
Ward is spitting gushers at first base.
Beltre gets an 0-1 curve that he jumps on, but smashes foul. The Giant pitchers then come to their senses, and strike him out on an outside pitch. Is there an Outside-Pitches Anonymous that Beltre can join?
Bonds, leading off the inning, pops out. The Dodger boyfriend smiles ever so quietly to his Giants girlfriend.
Brown gets his first 1-2-3 inning, needing only eight pitches. He's thrown 73 for the game - on pace for 109.
Wilson Alvarez is warming up in the bullpen - just to get his work in, I theorize.
Another shot of kids comes - and Vin articulates his fascination with them. "Aren't they great to see taking in the excitement of the game, and at the same time, in their own world?"
The Dodgers go 1-2-3 themselves. The busted hit-and-run in the fourth seems to have doused their offensive fire. Just coincidence, probably. That fire was bound to be doused.
Brown will extend his streak of allowing two or fewer runs to 11 starts, but a nightmare is brewing. The trainer has come to the mound, and Brown is coming out. And perhaps Dreifort is thinking he won't be alone.
I switch quickly to Baseball Tonight on ESPN - they're talking about the game. Bobby Valentine has some interesting comments. He says that Brown has thrown nothing under 90 - fastball, slider or sinker. He notes that Brown sometimes stands off the rubber, which is illegal. Says Brown doesn't need to do it. And then ESPN shows a replay of Brown grimacing and limping after his sixth-inning groundout. Their collective breath-holding speaks for all of us.
Paul Shuey strikes out Cruz, then faces Neifi Perez. Perez is somehow batting .417 as a pinch-hitter, and then augments that with an RBI double. The Giant fan cheers for the first time all night.
Grissom grounds out. And on a 2-0 pitch, Feliz smashes one to Ward's right at first base. Ward smothers it for the inning-ending out - this is his best game as a Dodger.
Green gets just under a 1-2 curveball and misses hitting a home run.
The preliminary report comes in on Brown. A strained left groin - the epidemic continues. I have to assume that Brown is going to miss his next start. The last thing you want is for him to compensate for the injury and wreck another body part.
Jordan strikes out to end the inning. The Dodgers are counting on four runs being enough.
12 pitches, 10 strikes, 1-2-3.
This morning's Times brings the most coverage the Dodgers have gotten since Opening Day. Isn't it interesting that Bill Plaschke wrote more columns about the Dodgers in March than he has written since? Though I've missed the attention, I haven't particularly missed him. But his point today is legit: if only Green played to his potential, the Dodgers might have all the offensive kick they need.
The prognosis for Brown is positive - he may not miss a start, but I'm still not sure he should. For one thing, he's next scheduled to go on Sunday against the Angels. If they hold him back, Alvarez could take that start and Brown could pitch on Monday - against the Giants. I don't know if that would knock Brown out of his groove, or whether the Dodgers would do better not to have Alvarez pitch to a familiar AL opponent. It's just something to think about. But by all means, let's not rush Brown again.
With 67 strikeouts, Gagne has moved within one K of the National League Top 20. He's pitched 37 innings this season.
Lo Duca now has 22 of the Dodgers' 100 hits in June. That's, um, hang on, 22 percent!
Giants Among Us
Tuesday: Jesse Foppert (4-5, 4.18) vs. Kevin Brown (9-1, 2.00)
Four options after Thursday:
1) Dodgers are five games out.
So, who are these beasts to the north? Here are some trivial answers.
More Dodger Extremes
The Dodgers have baseball's top bullpen since 1974, according to STATS, Inc. numbers appropriated by Gregg Rosenthal, a Red Sox fan living in Los Angeles. Rosenthal found that the Dodger bullpen is No. 1 in ERA (2.02), batting average allowed (.196), strikeout-walk ratio (4.19) and baserunners per nine innings (8.77)
Rosenthal adds that the Dodgers have the best overall ERA compared to the league average since the 1906-1909 Chicago Cubs. The difference between the Dodger ERA (2.92) and the league ERA (4.36) is 1.44, or 49 percent of the Dodger ERA. Got that?
And lest I forget, Rosenthal also writes that this radical Dodger team can become the "best worst-hitting team ever," meaning that the Dodgers are well on their way to having the best winning-percentage ever of a team that finished last in the National League in scoring.
Good stuff - especially from an expatriate.
Not Pointing Fingers Today
Unusually bored on a hot day in the Valley in my usual position in the outfield at our Sunday morning softball pickup game, and with our team well out in front (not that these leads usually last), I requested a few innings at shortstop. Unfortunately, the first grounder that came to me took a bad hop (or was it just me?). Anyway, it went off my right index finger - a key typing finger, it should go without saying. To paraphrase Michael Jackson: "It's black. It's blue." But for peace in our times, I will persevere...
According to ESPN.com, of the 19 teams with records of .500 or better, the Dodgers have played the easiest schedule. Further, in July, the Dodgers play only nine games against teams with .500 or better records: six against St. Louis (four at home and only two on the road - how's that for a break) and three at Philadelphia.
But for the next two weeks, it gets Serious. Rigorous. Arduous. Six against San Francisco, six against Anaheim. How will it go? Well, the first nine will all be played in hard-core pitchers' parks, so it's hard to imagine that there won't be one low-scoring game after another - which means it could go any way you like...
Brian Dohn of the Daily News writes that Cora is bumming about being benched so that Jim Tracy could keep Cabrera's bat in the lineup against Cleveland's left-handed starters. The interesting thing is that so far this season, the right-handed Cabrera is hitting better against righties, and the left-handed Cora is hitting better against lefties.
It's a clear sign of Tracy's committment to Adrian Beltre, who of course isn't hitting anyone at all, that Cabrera isn't taking more time at third base. It is also clear that until Cabrera proves he can't hit, he should be playing. I'm honestly just not sure it should be at second base - or only at second base, at any rate. Second base and shortstop are where Cabrera's offense is mitigated the most by his defense. Tracy should work him throughout the outfield and corner infield positions...
Strangest Move of the Weekend
He made a move Friday that really blew me away. In the ninth inning of a tie game, Cora was on third base with one out. Tracy sent Dave Roberts in to pinch-run for Cora. Given how fast Cora is himself, think how little an advantage you gain by this move. Now think about what you lose - a great defensive player in a tie game, and the ability to use Roberts in a more pressing situation...
Call the AMA
By the way, the Dodger season totals now stand at 40 home runs, 36 sacrifice hits.
As for Ross, his three-hit performance Saturday reinforced my position that the Dodgers need a third catcher so that Ross can be used more often. Daryle Ward will presumably replace Bubba Crosby on the roster, but again, Jason Romano's value as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement is a luxury the Dodgers can't afford. (Of course, I'd still be happy to lose Ron Coomer, but I've given up hope of that happening...)
Can We Still Make Axel Foley References?
Agents of Peace
No Littleball for Little
Still, a warning. Dodgers ... don't try this at home.
The Baseball Blender
Have you seen The Baseball Blender on ESPN.com? It mixes the rosters of any three teams that you pick and determines the best starting lineup, the best bench, and who gets cut - based on OPS and ERA.
Amuse yourself as you try for a combination that will get someone from the Dodgers besides Paul LoDuca in the batting order.
Environmental Oddities, Reconciled
Updating this post ...
Dodger Stadium is a pitchers' park. Yet as of May 2, the Dodgers were hitting better at Dodger Stadium than on the road, and Dodger pitchers were pitching better on the road than at home.
Since then, things have normalized somewhat:
Through June 12
.608...OPS allowed by Dodger pitchers at home
On May 2, I had found that Dodger pitchers had been above-average in hitters' parks and below average in pitchers' parks - the opposite of how it should be. With further study, I concluded that if things reverted to form, the Dodgers' road record would improve considerably.
The reason for this was:
1) The Dodger margin of victory in road games in hitters' parks was high (4.2 runs per game), meaning that if the pitchers reverted to form, the Dodgers could still win.
2) The Dodger margin of defeat in road games in pitchers' parks was lower (2.6 runs per game), meaning that if the pitchers reverted to form, the Dodgers would start winning.
This has come to pass.
7-9.....Dodger road record before May 2
Now, here is an update of my chart from May 2, with:
1) the cities the Dodgers have played in
Obviously, the quality of the team in a given city affects the amount of runs scored and allowed in a given city. But since the Dodgers are in the unique position of having the worst batting and best pitching in the league, it sort of cancels out.
The Dodgers have played only 12 of their 65 games in hitters' parks this year. Except for an aberrant performance in Colorado, they have scored well in those parks. (To me, "well" for the Dodgers is above four runs per game.)
The Colorado aberration is countered by a poor pitching performance in San Diego. Otherwise, in their 53 pitchers' park games, the Dodgers have pitched well (below four runs per game).
So, the room for improvement that existed on May 2 has been filled, achieved, whatever. The strange pre-May 2 pitching stats hinted that the Dodgers were underperforming. That's no longer true. What you see now is basically what you get.
As the Dodgers head into Cleveland this weekend, playing in an above-average park and facing three left-handed starters, look for their offense to revitalize and look for their pitching to struggle, especially with Andy Ashby appearing in this series and Kevin Brown absent. But overall, look for the Dodgers to come out ahead. The fact that the Dodgers are outscoring and out OPSing opponents at home and on the road signifies that the Dodgers are a winning team (like the Giants, by the way).
The struggle between the Dodgers' bad hitting and their good pitching favors the pitching.
Fire Jack Clark?
Jason Reid's idea of a "bold move" (in the Times) is for the Dodgers to move Brian Jordan to the No. 2 slot in the order so that Paul Lo Duca can drop down and gain more RBI opportunities.
Frankly, I'd rather Reid have low standards for boldness than see him advocate willy-nilly change, but a better adjective for this suggested move would be "inconsequential." The theory is that because Lo Duca is the Dodgers' hottest hitter and is batting a team-leading .361 with runners in scoring position, he needs to be batting with more runners on base. However, Reid himself writes that Jordan, who this week was elevated to the No. 3 slot in the order ahead of Shawn Green, is himself batting .321 with runners in scoring position. The difference between the Dodgers' No. 3 hitter batting .321 or .361 with RISP is four hits per 100 in those situations, or loosely translated, about one hit per month.
Reid's case would have been better made using RISP-OPS, because the difference is more strongly in Lo Duca's favor, 1.068 to .831, but it still doesn't matter.
No, a bold move would be something like firing batting coach Jack Clark.
Like vice-presidents, batting coaches aren't really expected by outsiders to deliver any magic. This is in distinct contrast to pitching coaches. I can name many who have worked wonders: Atlanta's Leo Mazzone, St. Louis' Dave Duncan, Oakland's Rick Peterson among others. Who's the last impact hitting coach? Charlie Lau, who died in 1984?
But within an organization, behind the scenes, vice-presidents actually have work to do and results to produce. And it's hard for me to understand why the Dodgers would be satisfied with the results produced by Clark.
Really, why was Clark was even hired? His experience, according to The Sporting News, was one season managing the independent Class A-level River City Rascals and one season as the Dodgers' Class A hitting instructor.
"Yeah, it was a short journey. I was lucky," Clark said on the night he had his jersey retired by the Rascals earlier (that season). "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. You just got to catch a break. I think I sent a nice message by paying my dues here (with River City). I got some nice letters of recommendation from Jack McKeon and Whitey Herzog that helped me out, and it happened to be the right timing, the right place, with the right team."
We should all pay such dues.
Plus, he's a guy that no Dodger fan with memories of his 1985 home run off Tom Niedenfuer can rally behind. That homer shouldn't disqualify him for the job, but in the absence of other points in his favor, why go after him?
The Dodgers have had the worst hittting team in the majors this season, and nary a word has been said about Clark. Perhaps it's out of sympathy for his motorcycle injuries, perhaps out of an assumption that he isn't supposed to do anything. Shawn Green's slump is Shawn Green's fault; Adrian Beltre's slump is Adrian Beltre's fault. Maybe that's true.
If that's the case, cashier the position. Really. If Clark can't help where it counts, if his value is only in, say, getting Cesar Izturis to hit .240, than put him on unemployment. Or disability, if you're so inclined.
Otherwise, it's time to do something about the situation.
I said firing Clark would be a bold move. That doesn't mean I'm advocating it. Not first, anyway.
No, I'm going to stick with what I've said all season. I'm going to advocate something very, very simple - but very consequential as well.
The Dodgers must recognize that their primary problem is not that they are not getting enough two-out singles with guys on second base. Their primary problem is that they are the worst-hitting home run team in at least the past 10 years.
Once they recognize that, then they must determine whether Clark can help them solve that problem in any way. In other words, perhaps he has been led astray by Jim Tracy or some other higher-up telling him to focus on the wrong issues. If not, fire him. They cannot do any worse.
There is a real problem here. A tangible one. I don't know if the Dodgers can solve it, but it would nice if someone would at least acknowledge it.
Meanwhile, I'm reading rumors that the Dodgers would trade prospects for Roberto Alomar, who has two home runs this season.
This Should Go Without Saying
If Ron Coomer can be the Dodgers' designated hitter with a .416 OPS against righties as he was Tuesday night - and bat sixth, not seventh, eighth, ninth or 50th - then I should be writing for The Sopranos.
On the other hand, Hideo Nomo, fourth in the National League in ERA and third in innings pitched, may join locks Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne on the All-Star team. Ross Porter last night had a good Nomonote that I am going to appropriate.
Nomo's last 14 starts, 2002:, 3.74 ERA, 7-0
Meanwhile, Jim Baker of ESPN.com wrote of Tuesday's Dodger-Tiger game:
Is this what baseball in the Deadball Era looked like? With baseball's stingiest pitching staff visiting its most anemic offensive team in the toughest hitters' park in the American League, something was about to give and it wasn't going to be the scoreboard. The Dodgers and Tigers battled for 12 innings for a combined batting average of .138, slugging average of .150 (there was only one extra base hit - a double by Fred McGriff) and on-base percentage of .231.
Baker also highlighted an Ernie Harwell column in the Detroit Free Press in which the legendary broadcaster names Vin Scully the greatest broadcaster of all time. Harwell notes that "I had a minor role in Scully's ascent to fame. Two times in his career, he was my replacement."
A Star May Not Be Born
If you thought the combination of Paul Lo Duca's 18-game hitting streak, Mike Piazza's injury and expanded All-Star Game rosters guaranteed the Dodger catcher a spot in the Midsummer Classic after he was snubbed last year, you might be disappointed.
Here are the batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS for some National League catchers:
Javier Lopez, Atlanta .305 18 33 1.051
Among the hurdles Lo Duca has to overcome: Lopez is the clear frontrunner, Rodriguez is the leading vote-getter, Santiago played for National League manager Dusty Baker last year, and Kendall may have to serve as the Pirates' lone representative if Brian Giles, who has a .999 OPS but missed 23 games with injuries, doesn't make it into the outield. Additionally, you can make a case for Lieberthal, whose statistics are almost identical to Lo Duca's. (Less so for Moeller, who has only 134 plate appearances.) And as far as tiebreakers go, Lo Duca's defensive reputation is mixed, and I don't think he'll get points for handling the Dodger pitching staff.
Isn't it amazing, though, that there could be so many catchers batting over .300, with OPS numbers higher than Shawn Green's? Right now, the catcher position is much stronger than third base, where only Scott Rolen, Mike Lowell, Aaron Boone and Chris Stynes (of Coors Field) have an OPS above .800.
A strong first half in 2002 (.842 OPS) didn't get Lo Duca into last year's game, so you have to hope he makes it this year. But right now, at best, he's competing with Lieberthal, Santiago and Kendall for the third catcher spot.
Slate has had some great stuff with Moneyball and Bill James over the past week. Rob Neyer and James Surowiecki, an extremely lucid writer from The New Yorker, have been the key participants. Really worth reading if you haven't already.
1. The Book Club - Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Check out all three days of entries.)
2. A Conversation with Bill James
The All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Team
Quick - I told myself - without doing any research, name your all-time Big Blue Wrecking Crew.
Then - I told myself - I can't do it. I need to look this stuff up. Catcher - Piazza, easy. First base - Garvey, easy. Second base - hmm, probably Lopes. Shortstop - Wills was overrated, but who could take his place? Third base - Cey. Outfield? Lots to choose from. Starting rotation? After Koufax, could be anyone. Bullpen - after the past 15 months, can anyone top Gagne?
The reason for this mental ping-pong? ESPN.com has excerpted bigtime from
Aside from testing the all-time marketing question of whether giving you a free taste of the book will make you go out and buy the entire publication, this gives us a fodder-filled point for Dodger discussion.
This particular list picks a lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers only, although my understanding is that the book also includes a list for Brooklyn. For reference, here is the all-time Dodger lineup, year-by-year, so you can see who the candidates were.
I'm not gonna disagree too much with this list, because Neyer's a smart guy who's done a lot of work on this. But here are my alternative picks:
Sacrilege? Butler played 703 games in center field for the Dodgers, while Willie Davis played 1,901. But for most his tenure with the Dodgers, Butler was a stunningly effective player. Even adjusted for era, Butler comes out ahead. Davis' top EQA was .301; Butler topped that twice. (An average EQA is .260.) Butler's four top seasons, coming all in a row, are better than any four seasons you pick from Davis' career. If Gary Sheffield can be the left fielder over Dusty Baker (and he should be, I was surprised to find - Sheffield's EQAs with the Dodgers were .343, .316, .348 and .339), then I can pick Butler over Davis.
Another tough call. As a right-fielder with the Dodgers, Smith posted EQA marks of .297, .338, .328, .293 and .318. Working against him is that he rarely played an entire season: his game totals for those years were 65 (after his midseason acquisition from St. Louis), 148, 128, 68 and 92. Mondesi has lower EQAs: ..287, .290, .287, .305, .277, 280 but after the 1994 labor crisis season, never played fewer than 139 games. So I can certainly understand the case for Mondesi, but he can come off the bench on the all-time team.
That's it. I can't find a good argument against anyone else on the team. And although it's hard to imagine Eric Gagne won't be the all-time Los Angeles relief pitcher someday, I have to say I had never before really focused on the long-term excellence Jim Brewer brought to the team.
Just one more thing...
Problem? Uh, yeah. The Dodgers don't use a designated hitter. I don't even like the designated hitter. But when it comes to perhaps the greatest offensive force in Los Angeles Dodger history, I have to make a mention. I just don't know where to put him.
Offensively, Guerrero had the following EQAs with the Dodgers, starting in 1980: .306, .295, .323, .320, .298. .350, .283 (in 31 games), .332, .304. The guy simply mashed the ball. Guerrero ranks fourth all-time in OPS+ with the Dodgers at 149, behind Sheffield, Piazza and Smith. But Guerrero had 1,000 more plate appearances with the Dodgers than Piazza did, and 2,000 more than Sheffield and Smith. I think the difference between them is minor, but if I were ranking all-time Los Angeles Dodger hitters, I would probably go 1) Piazza, 2) Guerrero, 3) Sheffield, 4) Smith.
Defensively with the Dodgers, Guerrero played 373 games at third base, 239 games in right field, 199 games in left field, 108 games in center field, 104 games at first base, 12 games at second base, and was not very good at any of them. Which is why he's not on the official team.
I'm almost tempted to stick Guerrero in center ahead of Butler and Davis just to have him in there, but that seems more egregious than putting him in the position he was frankly born to play. We'll just wait for a game in an AL park to play him.
As for Neyer's question - who would be the all-time best Los Angeles pitcher if Buttercup had not been traded away, I've got to say, I have to vote for Pedro Martinez. His statistics adjusted for the current era make you think he would have surpassed Koufax or anyone else in a Dodger uniform.
At the time I voted in ESPN.com's poll, the votes were 87.1 percent in Koufax' favor.
Finally, here's my all-time Dodger batting order:
With Mondesi, Davis, Guerrero, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Bill Russell and Manny Mota on my bench, and Gagne, Ron Perranoski, Charlie Hough and Steve Howe filling out my bullpen.
That's a fun lineup.
Foul Ball Update
Apparently, this was Foul Ball Weekend. Just received from my brother:
I don't know about Saturday night, but on Friday night a ball came RIGHT to me. I stood up - banging my knee on the seat in front of me - and the ball came RIGHT into my right hand. And before I could grip it - it bounced up and to the right, landing at the foot of some Shlabotnik, who just picked it up and smiled goofily. My hand really stung, but that went away after a few minutes. My knee's been killing me ever since, and I was icing it all weekend.
And the game on Sunday was painful too. But for the normal Dodger offense sucks reasons.
Joe Shlabotnik, Your Life Is Calling
Could the eptless Dodger offense do worse than adding the noted slugger from the Green Grass League?
If Shlabotnik isn't the answer, the Dodgers should call up a third catcher to take the 25th spot on the roster. David Ross can hit better than Jason Romano, and probably as well as Bubba Crosby, but is forced to stay on the bench most nights in case Paul Lo Duca is hurt. A third catcher would allow more flexibilty. Koyie Hill, a switch-hitter, is batting .351 for Las Vegas. His major-league equivalent EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus, is .245. Calling up Hill, the organization's No. 4 catcher, would presumably leave the Dodger minor-league teams thin in this area - although so thin that the move shouldn't be made. Believe it or not, though, it does mean that the Dodgers miss Todd Hundley...
Romano, for his part, just has no role on the Dodgers. He cannot hit, and his value as a defensive replacement is mitigated by the fact that the Dodgers are rarely in a game where they can afford to remove an outfielder with a lead...
In fairness to Romano, it doesn't look like we're missing much right now in Luke Allen, whom the Dodgers traded for Romano. Allen is batting .290 for Colorado's AAA team. His MLEQA is .222...
In other trades, that Ruddy Lugo-Daryle Ward trade is looking like a gem. Ward is on the disabled list with a .361 OPS. Lugo is 0-8 with a 5.40 ERA for the Round Rock Express, Houston's AA team...
Ron Coomer is 5 for 15 with a double and two walks as a pinch hitter, 4 for 30 with three walks, an HBP and no doubles in other situations. He has an .804 OPS against lefties, .416 against righties. No homers in either case for the noted professional hitter...
Whenever I pick on McGriff's ability to hit lefties, he has a few good games against them. When I leave him alone, he withers. Well, McGriff now has a .561 OPS against lefties (.860 against righties). Mike Kinkade has a 1.287 OPS against lefties, .555 against righties. Kinkade's OPS against lefties is in only 23 plate appearances and includes four hit-by-pitches, but given the overwhelming evidence that McGriff can't hit lefties, Kinkade needs to be in there. (Be patient. Detroit's only lefty starter, Mike Maroth (1-11), pitched Saturday and will probably miss the Dodger series.) ...
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have announced that with McGriff now at 488 career home runs, they will place a "Countdown to 500" sign inside Dodger Stadium once he reaches 490. "That will add to the intensity and excitement and anticipation for the milestone, which the organization and his fans have been looking forward to since he was signed as a free agent," Dodger vice president of communications Derrick Hall was quoted as saying. Nope - it will just add more angst to an offense cornering the market in this commodity. Won't that countdown sign be a pleasure when McGriff ends the season at 498 and then leaves as a free agent...
The Dodgers are headed to American League parks this week and will need a DH. Instead of Shlabotnik, Kinkade and Jolbert Cabrera will get the call most of the time, either in the DH slot or in the field to allow a Dodger regular to DH...
In its three years of existence, Detroit's Comerica Park has had a park factor for batters of 97, 99 and 93 - almost as low as Dodger Stadium. The two teams that will be playing there Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have the 26th and 30th best offenses in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus. Let's get ready to rumble!!!
With Tuesday's game against the Tigers not on television, I'm going to assume that this is the Knotts starting for Detroit...
The Darren Dreifort situation has been covered sufficiently enough that I don't have much that is profound to add. About all I can say is that his performance under his current contract looks just dandy next to the Rangers' signing of Chan Ho Park, who is back on the disabled list. Park is 10-11 with a 6.06 ERA for Texas...
It hasn't made sense to me that Andy Ashby can't hack it as a starting pitcher, because my recollection is that he had a good season last year. However, he did finish with an 0-3, 7.91 September in which he lasted 11 1/3 innings in three starts. He's 36 years old in an injury-plagued career. So maybe there's a reason that a guy like Wilson Alvarez looks promising in comparison...
To me, the Dodger decision to call up Alvarez before Ashby had made his first start struck me as giving up on Ashby before he had begun. After all, the Dodgers had no qualms about plugging Giovanni Carrara in for a five-inning stint last year when they felt the need. Tracy claims that Ashby will be given four starts before he is reevaluated, but it just rings hollow to me somehow. Ashby is like the anti-Adrian Beltre: no leash...
I'm trying not to worry about Odalis Perez because in a fine 2002, he did have one bad month: He went 1-3, 7.59 in July...
Here is a list showing the difference between 2003 OPS and 2002 OPS for the main eight Dodger position players:
+.132 Paul Lo Duca
I wonder what Jordan thinks of the year he's having. He has only 11 extra-base hits all season - yet has almost broken even because his singles and walks are up.
That figure for Green is atrocious.
Lo Duca these days is a pleasure to watch though, isn't he? He's striking out more than ever before, but he is really stroking some nice hits. And I guarantee you, despite their different reptuations for speed, Green does not get an inside-the-park home run off the ball LoDuca hit Sunday...
I saw Tony Gwynn hit a most memorable inside-the-park grand slam on June 26, 1997 at Dodger Stadium. Brett Butler, playing left field, dove for the ball but couldn't catch it, and lay writhing on the ground in pain as Gwynn circled the bases...
As you can imagine, with this site, my interest in baseball has been more Dodger-centered than it had been in some time. But I tuned in for the Roger Clemens-Kerry Wood duel Saturday with anticipation, and though no milestones were achieved (imagine seeing a 300th win and a 4,000th strikeout in the same game), I was not disappointed at all. You could feel the buzz of the crowd. Believe it or not, I saw every at-bat of the game except Eric Karros' home run. I made a diaper change during the pitching change and didn't get back in time...
No, not my diaper - the baby's...
Many were shocked to see an ambulance come onto the field for Hee Seop Choi, but Dodger fans will recall two such events last season, for Kazuhisa Ishii and for Alex Cora...
The Cubs-Yankees game Sunday got 346 comments on Baseball Primer Game Chatter. The Dodgers-White Sox game got zero...
As far as the Dodgers tying the Giants and then falling five games behind, it recalls what I wrote April 22 when the Dodgers fell behind by 8 1/2 games early this season, but pledged they could make up the difference. It's not enough to merely be able to make up the difference. The problem with making up such a deficit is that all it gets you to is square one. That said, the Dodgers remain only 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot right now...
As it happens, Only Baseball Matters, my highly respected counterpart to the north, has basically counted the Dodgers out of the NL West race...
The Dodgers selected a Mike Piazza relative in last week's draft, but it wasn't Tony Piazza, who hit a grand slam Sunday to help send Southwest Missouri State into the College World Series. It was Thomas Piazza of Palm Beach Atlantic College...
I was unable to attend any of the White Sox games, leaving my .636 home winning percentage this season intact. But at what cost? Reports from the field indicate that a foul ball was caught in the Weisman seats Saturday night...
With Dave Wallace leaving for the Red Sox, it's hard to imagine the Dodgers won't miss him terribly. He's been a great baseball mind and a class act all the way...
Hi folks. I decided it was time for a new biography, one that didn't read as if I were having my first child for the second consecutive year.
So in no particular order:
I'm a native of Los Angeles, second generation on my Mom's side. Dad's from Chicago, and attended the last Cubs World Series as a 10-year-old in 1945. He is a lifelong Cubs fan, but the Dodgers were his No. 2 team even then, thanks in no small part to Jackie Robinson. Dad moved to Los Angeles as a teenager in 1951. His family got season tickets to the Rams that year, and they stayed in the family until the team moved to Anaheim in 1982.
My 13th birthday came in 1980, which is of some significance to the Jewish people. However, I was never a religious person. I flunked out of Hebrew school after my first year because most days, I stayed home to watch the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour instead of attending. I was not moved to change my ways when my older brother was bar-mitzvahed in 1976, nor when my sister was bat-mitzvahed in 1978. In the case of my sister, she had herself quit Hebrew school after a couple of years, but then did a crash course at the last minute when she realized that she was going to miss out on a heck of a lot of presents if she didn't get that bat mitzvah.
Me, I didn't want the presents that badly. I was a pretty content kid. But as the time approached, my father grew a little concerned that I would follow my sister's less-than-sincere path. So, in a fashion he compares to "The Devil and Daniel Webster," he made me an offer. If I gave up my right to have a bar mitzvah, my Dad would give me a lifetime pass to the Dodgers.
Yep, that was the offer. I hope it doesn't alienate the more righteous of my readers to learn that I snapped that offer up in a second. (I would say that about 10 percent of the people to whom I tell this story are appalled to some degree.) But that's why, in at least one respect, the Dodgers are my religion.
Some time passed as details were worked out. First of all, the Dodgers, believe it or not, did not sell a lifetime pass - just a mere season ticket. And at the time, I think the Dodgers had a waiting list for season tickets - demand was greater than their allotment of 27,000. Also, I think my Dad had already committed to the Rams for one more year, and didn't want to be spread too thin.
Anyway, starting in 1982, we were the proud owners of four season tickets to the Dodgers. (Guess my Dad didn't want me to have to go alone - or maybe he just had wanted season tickets all along...)
As far as ambition went, at age 3, I wanted to be a policeman. At age 4, I wanted to be a television star. At age 5, I combined the two ambitions and wanted to be on Adam-12. At age 7, I switched to wanting to be a TV weatherman. Then around the time I was nine or 10, I wanted to be Vin Scully.
That dream lasted for quite some time, until I realized I didn't really have much of an interest in talking for a living. By the time I graduated from high school in 1985, I had been Sports Editor of the school paper and had some inkling I might want to be a sportswriter. By my freshman year at Stanford, I was pretty sure of it. I started writing for the Stanford Daily my first week there. By the time I graduated, I had covered the College World Series in Omaha and Stanford's first appearance in March Madness in 47 years. I had a column and I loved it.
The next appropriate chapter of what has already become a stunningly long-winded biography can basically be found here. In short, I loved sportswriting, fulfilled a lifelong dream by covering games at Dodger Stadium, saw many current major leaguers play in their high school days - but got frustrated with it. I left to get a Master's degree in English at Georgetown in 1992, planning to become some sort of novelist/teacher. But I took a screenwriting elective, and got hooked. I moved back to Los Angeles near the end of 1993, right after wrapping up my quick degree, and went after the screen pretty much up to now.
Depending on your perspective, I had great success or none. I wanted to write for prime-time television, and got an agent to help me to do so, but despite some real close calls, including a tantalizing moment with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I never made it. Well, I did some uncredited punch-up work with Chris Leavell and Brax Cutchin on a short-lived sitcom, If Not For You, but that was it. I did sell about a dozen half-hour children's scripts for So Weird, Hercules, Men in Black, Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles and Max Steel, among other things.
I was making a living, but frustrated by the lack of job security in the business, I've found myself taking salaried jobs outside of screenwriting since 2000, and have been a writer/editor at our museum here in Los Angeles since April 2002. I still do some screenwriting - and, as you can see, some sportswriting - and hope to be paid for both again someday. (I've got two feature screenplays that aren't spoken for, if anyone's interested in snapping them up! Oh - and "Dodger Thoughts" doesn't run on spit and axle grease, either. Well, I guess it sort of does - but still!)
Okay, let's wrap this up. Hobbies? I play softball and ski whenever I can (the latter, of course, ain't as easy where I live). I root hard for the mighty Cardinal. I love great television and was as passionate about Hill Street Blues in its day as I am about the Dodgers today. I still sometimes think my future might be as a TV critic - I did some reviews for the Times in 2002. That'll be my next blog, at any rate.
Well, that's it. If you've read this far, you deserve a prize or some help. I'll close with this: While the amount of time I've spent writing here about other things is going to dwarf the amount of time I've spent on my family, suffice it to say, I'd be nowhere, nothing, nobody, without my wonderful wife and my wonderful daughter. Update: ... and son!
Update 2: I began freelancing for Variety in 2004, and moved there full-time as a features editor in 2006.
Update 3 (March 2008): And another son!
I would really like to be at the game tonight to cheer his return to Dodger Stadium when he throws out the first pitch. His debut in 1981 intensified the excitement, if not desperation, I had for season tickets to the Dodgers, which we got the following year. Whenever I see Fernando on TV, in highlights from his career or just this week with his hiring as a Dodger broadcaster, he really does bring an automatic smile to my face. I'm glad he's happy, and happy he's glad to be back with the Dodgers.
I have one comment about the first bookend of his estrangement from the Dodgers.
I was working at the Daily News in 1991 when word came that the Dodgers were releasing Fernando. I remember it clearly because I had the task of compiling a detailed history of his career for the retrospective we published the following day. I can't speak to what the Dodgers were telling Valenzuela during Spring Training, nor whether the Dodgers owed Valenzuela a farewell tour after he wore out his arm on their behalf.
But I can speak to the fact that his release was not much of a surprise, which makes it hard for me to believe that Fernando should have been mad that the Dodgers did not give him time to line up another job.
Despite his no-hitter and .304 batting average (.730 OPS/102 OPS+) in 1990, Valenzuela had the worst ERA (4.59) among Dodger starters that year. Then, his 1991 exhibition stats were awful on a team that would boast a rock-solid starting rotation: Tim Belcher (2.62), Mike Morgan (2.78), Bob Ojeda (3.18), Ramon Martinez (3.27) and a combination of Orel Hershiser (3.46) and Kevin Gross (3.58). Again, I don't know what the Dodgers were telling Fernando that March, but the wall had some prolific writing on it.
A couple of months after his release, Valenzuela signed with the California Angels. I covered his first game back, and there was a lot of excitement as well as the requisite dissonance of seeing him in another uniform (and one that did not highlight his figure nearly as well as the Dodgers' uniform did!). Unfortunately, Fernando allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings of a 5-0 loss, and then lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his second start before the Angels released him.
Fernando (I apologize for switching between his first and last names, but my desires to be familiar and respectful are competing with each other) did not return to the majors until 1993 but did have some productive moments, including a 13-8, 3.62 season with San Diego in 1995. (He also homered twice that year.) However, there's no mistaking that he did not have the stuff to pitch in 1991 - for anyone.
Looking back, I guess it would have been nice if the Dodgers had put Valenzuela on the disabled list in 1991 instead of releasing him. It would have cost them over $2 million to do so, and that was a lot more money back then. It would only have hurt the Dodger pennant efforts. But in hindsight, it might have been a small price to pay for some goodwill and good times that we have missed out on until this week.
Bottom of the 6th:
Dave Roberts doubles to left.
Paul Lo Duca sacrifices; Roberts takes third.
John with an H
As if a Dodger blog by a Jon wasn't enough, now there's a Dodger blog by a John. Check out John's Dodger Blog by "obsessed Dodger fan" John Wiebe. He's got some fun stuff on there, including a personal take on Tuesday's losing pitcher, D.J. Carrasco. I'd also scroll down to read his interesting account from Saturday, May 17 of a Fred McGriff riff. And I have to say, he's most kind in his references to this site.
Dodger John, your next step is to go after an endorsement from Farmer John.
The Great Race
Pennant race not enough? Here's something that will keep your interest in September.
Will the Dodgers finish the year with more home runs or more sacrifice hits?
Citizens of the other 29 great major league cities - especially Toronto - will be shocked to find such an uncertainty could exist:
HR SH Team
Little Ball doesn't come any Littler than that.
Can you imagine the last time a team had more sacrifice bunts than home runs? Without having the data handy right now to answer the question, my first guess would be pre-Babe Ruth times. Perhaps one of the Dodger teams of the 1960s did it, but I even have trouble believing that.
Paul Lo Duca, the Dodgers leading hitter in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS, a player who has struck out once every 12.1 plate appearances and hit into a double play once every 54.5 plate appearances, is third on the team, behind Kazuhisa Ishii and Odalis Perez, with four sacrifices. That doesn't seem smart.
The majority of the Dodger sacrifices do come from the pitchers, who have 19.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are on pace to finish the season with 98 home runs. No major league team has hit fewer than 100 home runs since Philadelphia hit 94 in a labor crisis-shortened 144-game season in 1995. In a full season, it's been 10 years since a team dropped below the century mark: Florida with 94 in 1993.
Robert from Priorities and Frivolities and I have had more than one e-mail discussion about the Dodgers' self-proclaimed need to play Little Ball and scratch across runs. I'm all in favor of the hit-and-run - that's how the Dodgers scored their only run Wednesday night, for example.
However, I don't believe that the scenario of winning by getting runs on a succession of single/sacrifice/single is a viable strategy. I would argue that opportunities for a base hit are even more precious for a team that isn't talented.
If the Dodgers somehow get a runner on first, does it really make sense for them to give up any chance at a hit just to move the runner up 90 feet?
If they deliver a single the next time up, all that delivers is a run. But they're down an out - a real sacrifice. If the third batter singles, they're probably way worse off than they would have been (unless the batter who bunted would otherwise have hit into a double play.) They've squandered the potential for a big inning.
If any other batter in the inning hits for extra bases, they're definitely way worse off than they would have been.
I can't help but wonder how the Dodgers would do if they banned the sacrifice from their arsenal for a month. Even banning the pitchers from doing it.
Ultimately, that won't happen. But the Dodgers' offensive problem is not their inability to scratch across a run in some random inning. It's that they can't get three runs. It's that they're having a power crisis of historical proportions.
Do keep in mind that this is a problem with the Dodger offense, not with the Dodger team as a whole. As Tim Kurkijan writes today, the Dodger pitching is also on a historic pace:
Through Wednesday, they led the major leagues with a 2.96 ERA, 1.36 runs below the major-league average. Their bullpen ERA is 2.04, around two runs below the league average.
The next best ERA in the National League is the Cubs' 3.63, a a gap of .67. Only four times in league history -- and not since 1953 -- has a team finished a season with an ERA .50 lower than the next best in the league. The 1907 Cubs hold the league record for the largest gap between first and second in ERA: .56. The Dodgers are on a pace to smash that.
It's a decent team. Remarkably imbalanced - remarkably strange - but decent.
Insert Cork or Sosa Pun Here
Wilton Guerrero, you may be excused.
Christian Ruzich of The Cub Reporter appropriates an interesting physics lesson that questions why anyone would even want to cork their bat. Check it out.
The Times, They Are Not A-Changin'
According to the Orange County Register, of the Dodgers 20 selections Tuesday, 17 came from high schools.
Chad Billingsley has the quintessential profile of a first-round draft pick - if you haven't read Moneyball.
You can read more about the Dodger draft here on Baseball America. Here's just one excerpt, quoting Dodger scouting director Logan White:
"People think I'm a high school guy," White said of the Dodgers' trend in his first two seasons coming over from Baltimore. "They always ask me if I'm a college guy or high school guy. We're an equal opportunity organization. The truth of the matter is, we draft who we think is the best available player."
My question is, if you think the best available player is from high school 85 percent of the time, doesn't that make you a high school guy? Not to start a political debate here, but if a company hired 85 percent of its people from one demographic, I'd say it would be time for some enforced affirmative action.
Anyway, this is all speculation, not confirmation, so please - no whining.
It really does seem as if Adrian Beltre is seeing pitches come at him from a funhouse mirror.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday, two out, tie game, Beltre got the count in his favor 2-0. He took a strike, then twice went after those diving breaking pitches that it seems anyone could see are nowhere near the plate. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Beltre fouled off the latter of those, to stay alive at 2-2.
The next pitch was a fastball that, from my seats between home and first base, looked way too good to take. Just like the 2-2 pitch to Fred McGriff on Saturday that was called a ball, allowing McGriff to stay alive and hit what would prove to be the winning home run. If anyone was watching on television, let me know if the 2-2 pitch to Beltre didn't look like a strike.
What is it that makes Beltre take that pitch and swing at the previous two? Is he simply programmed? "Swing at pitch No. 5. Take pitch No. 6." Does he simply have incredible strike zone judgment on fastballs and none on breaking pitches?
Anyway, with the count 3-2, it was clear that the next pitch would have to be more than perfect to be called a strike. And it wasn't - it was further off the plate, giving the Dodgers the victory. Give Beltre credit for having the poise to take it.
I wasn't focused on the aftermath, at least from the Royals' end, but I understand that Royals manager Tony Pena came out to argue after the game - if so, it had to have been about the 2-2 pitch.
Ultimately, it was a nice ending for Beltre on a night when Mike Lowell hit two home runs and drove in six runs off the American League's best pitching staff.
This Was No Day at the Beach
A guy walks into a bar - not a stranger necessarily, but someone from the neighborhood who comes around only rarely.
He hangs out, minding his own business for most of the night, when some of the regulars' uncouth behavior disturbs him. They're just a little too rowdy. There's a certain way you conduct yourself at a bar, he believes.
So, this humble stranger turns to the regulars - a large, boisterous bunch - and tells them, calmly, to cool it.
Can you just feel the bar's collective jaw drop?
Now imagine that you came to the bar with this guy.
That was how I felt Tuesday night at the Dodger game.
For about five innings, my wife, my Dad, a friend of his from high school and I sat in nondescript fashion, watching the Dodgers get baserunner after baserunner against the Royals without scoring most of them.
Then sometime in midgame - almost belatedly, one could argue - a beachball materialized in our section. The crowd, like a group of grade-schoolers whose leader is throwing around a paper airplane in class, gets giddy with excitement. And then the beachball landed at the feet of my father's friend.
As methodically as a factory worker, he picked up the beachball and put it under his seat.
My mouth was open wide. So was my wife's.
My dad's friend is a nice guy. A fun guy. The action seemed totally out of Brian Jordan field.
Morally, I think the guy he was in the right. It's always sort of bummed me out when fans are more interested in what's going on in the stands than what's happening on the field. There is a reason that ushers are charged with the task of taking beachballs away.
At the same time, it's clear how much people at Dodger Stadium enjoy a beachball - especially the keepaway game they play with the ushers. It's hard to begrudge them their fun - and I never would be the one to begrduge it.
But this guy did, and the reactions were interesting.
The catcalls came immediately - "Hey, you were a kid once!" - and then ceased just as immediately. It really was like Short-Term Attention Span Theater. By the time the next batter was up, it was as if the fans had forgotten about the ball.
Except for my wife.
She, who has never taken any passionate interest in the beachball follies, was embarrassed. And appalled. Morally appalled. Who was this guy to take away the fun of so many people?!
For an inning that seemed to last an eternity, she stewed like Lucy Van Pelt in a primo funk. She was as mortified, I think, as if someone had lit up a cigarette in the seat next to her and given it to our baby to smoke.
Finally, she seemed to come out of it. The seventh-inning stretch came, and we got up and swayed easily to the strains of Nancy Bea .
And then, my Dad's friend went to the men's room.
Immediately, it was clear that no one had forgotten about the beachball. The clamor came up from the crowd to get it - and my wife needed no clamor. She immediately had my Dad reach down and get it for her. She handed it to the girls next to her, who were eager to get it. With great enthusiasm, they batted it joyfully into the air.
Right into the hands of a Dodger usher.
Eric Gagne is tied for 27th in the National League in strikeouts. Gagne has more strikeouts than Greg Maddux. He has pitched 28 innings - 12 fewer than anyone else in the top 40. He has struck out 16.1 batters per nine innings...
I'll get some enjoyment out of seeing Kansas City make its first Dodger Stadium appearance, but interleague play is not sufficiently lusterful to justify its existence. Teams competing for the same playoff spots should play the same schedule...
Draft Update 3
Draft Update 4
With their fourth and fifth picks, the Dodgers took a high school outfielder and their fourth high school pitcher.
I won't be making any more updates on the draft today - from this point on, I'll wait for the commentary from the bigger sites to filter through.
Suffice it to say, an optimist might consider that the Dodgers have plundered territory that others have abandoned, and may end up with better properties as a result. A pessimist might wonder why the Dodgers are looking for real estate in a ghost town.
Third round: Cory Van Allen, LHP, Clements High School, Texas.
As I posted on the Baseball Primer message board, the Dodgers are obviously following the ideals of Jefferson Smith, acting most nobly in helping the 29 other teams draft well:
I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about the lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.' And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust.
You know that rule, Mr. Paine. And I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them. Like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine.
You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked, and I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause even if this room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place! Somebody'll listen to me! Somebody'll... (he passes out, knocking one of the huge pails of letters and telegrams (against him) down on top of him as he falls, nearly burying himself beneath them)
From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Draft Update 2
Dodger scouting director Logan White told MLB.com that Chad Billingsley is "a Tom Seaver-type of guy." Seaver, of course, starred at USC. White also compared Billingsley to Roger Clemens. Clemens attended the University of Texas.
At least the strikeouts are there. Billingsley struck out 138 batters in 56 innings, walking 16. Eric Gagne, eat your heart out.
With their second pick, the Dodgers went with ... a high school pitcher, Charles Tiffany.
Can't you just see these guys being traded in 2007 for a middle reliever?
The Dodgers are roulette players, through and through.
The Dodgers drafted right-handed pitcher Chad Billingsley from Defiance Senior High School in Ohio. Billingsley was not listed among the top 30 prospects - or on the bubble - compiled by Baseball America.
Of the 30 first-round picks, 12 were high school players, and three were high school pitchers.
Billingsley is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. MLB.com writes: "Well developed, muscular body. Similar to Kevin Appier. Fastball 91-93, occasionally 94, tailing, running life. 2-seam fastball, curveball, slider. Change shows potential. Throws 4 pitches. Signed with South Carolina."
Prelude to a Draft
I'll post again after the Dodgers make their first-round selection in today's draft. The big question: Will they again buck the growing wisdom, racing from radical to conventional, that it is safer to take college players than high school players?
James Loney appeared to make the Dodgers look smart last year in going the old (high) school route with his stellar Rookie League season in 2002 at age 18. This year, however, Loney is batting only .252 with an OPS of .688 in the A-ball Florida State League, so although he may of course make it, it's not going to be a cruise to the majors after all.
It's not that college players are locks to succeed. Bubba Crosby, for example, was a college man. Scouts rated him a dubious first-round pick in 1998, and only recently has he begun to even challenge that assessment. And as a Stanford graduate, it pains me to note that ever since Mike Mussina and Jack McDowell, baseball has been littered with the carcasses of lumpy Cardinal pitchers - the latest being Jeff Austin, who tied a major league record in May by allowing home runs to the first three batters of a game.
Nevertheless, there is solid research out there for anyone to see that your odds are better if you allow colleges to help you weed out the suspect prospects. If you don't, you're much more likely to end up with an abysmal draft history like that of the Dodgers.
There isn't much advantage in getting a younger guy - the point is to try to get the right guy.
Getting the Lowelldown
By reaching base in 13 of his past 25 plate appearances, has Adrian Beltre found himself - or found his trade value?
Flying rumors already have this air-traffic controller on edge, even though the non-waiver trade deadline is not until July 31. Flight 2919, connecting Los Angeles and Florida, carries the possibility that the Dodgers will go after Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell. Not only has the Los Angeles Times boarded this plane, but the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as well:
Like the Chicago Cubs before them, the Los Angeles Dodgers have made the Marlins' All-Star third baseman their top trade priority, major league sources said Saturday.
Former Marlins manager John Boles, now a senior adviser in the Dodgers' front office, apparently came away impressed after watching Lowell in a four-game series against Montreal last week. During a subsequent organizational meeting, sources said, the Dodgers decided to focus on acquiring Lowell to replace enigmatic third baseman Adrian Beltre.
As bait the Dodgers plan to use Triple-A second baseman Joe Thurston, who lost a spring battle with Alex Cora for the starting job. Thurston, 23, is hitting .284 with four homers and 20 RBI for Las Vegas.
Young right-handers Joel Hanrahan and Edwin Jackson and hard-throwing lefty Steve Colyer also could figure in the deal, sources said. Hanrahan and Jackson have ERA's in the low twos at Double-A Jacksonville, while Colyer had a 1.02 ERA in 16 relief outings at Triple-A.
The trouble is finding a taker for Beltre, hitting .203 with four home runs and 17 RBI entering Saturday's play. It's possible the Dodgers could include Beltre in a prospect-laden package, with the idea the Marlins would then move Beltre, 24, at a later date.
Here's a primer on the two principals.
Lowell is 29 years old, and debuted in the major leagues at age 24 with four singles in 15 plate appearances. Beltre is 24 now.
Lowell appears to have been an above-average fielder, based on fielding percentage and range factor. By the same stats, Beltre has been average.
Lowell had OPS+ marks of 108, 106, 116 from 2000-2002. Beltre's are 116, 93, 98.
Lowell's OPS dropped 195 points after the All-Star Break in 2002; Beltre's rose 183 points. Beltre was the better hitter in the second half last year.
In 2003, Lowell has been the second-best third baseman in the National League, behind Scott Rolen of St. Louis, according to Baseball Prospectus statistics. Playing home games in a ballpark that slightly favors pitchers, Lowell has 16 home runs and an OPS of .940 in 2003. On the road, he has an OPS of 1.037. Beltre's 2003, we need not speak of.
Lowell is earning $3.7 million in 2003 and will be eligible for arbitration in the offseason - the same as Beltre. A team could renounce its rights to either player in the offseason, sign a one-year contract with the player and then allow him to leave after 2004, or neogtiate a multi-year contract.
In short: Lowell is a better player than Beltre right now. Beltre's advantage is his remaining youth and potential; it's very possible that Lowell is in the midst of his peak season as we speak. Of course, Beltre will have to improve considerably just to regain his peak level of 2000. A likely scenario would find Beltre and Lowell meeting at the same level in the next couple of seasons - and perhaps continuing opposite trajectories.
As a Beltre loyalist, it shocks and saddens me to say this. But you can make a strong case for trading Beltre, a reliever (presumably Guillermo Mota would be one that the teams could agree on) and/or a package of Las Vegas 51s for Lowell.
For Marlin fans, the question is whether they would want Beltre at all - even if he is a better hitter than he has shown in 2003. The Marlins' have a third-baseman in AA, Miguel Cabrera, who is OPSing 1.030.
The point for Dodger fans is: this would be an exchange that would probably improve the Dodgers now without burying them in the future.
If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you know how hard it is for me to come to this point. I have invested so much hope in Beltre, and still believe he will succeed. But the degredation that is the Florida baseball market is making an opportunity available that the Dodgers might just have to leap at.
Put another way, it is very doubtful that if the Dodgers had Mike Lowell, they would trade him for anyone who wasn't an All-Star. He would be their best offensive player.
WeekOdds and WeekEnds
--Don't say that the Dodgers don't ever catch a break. Did you see the 2-2 pitch that Fred McGriff took Saturday night, just before hitting his two-run home run. That pitch caught plenty of the plate.
--Letting the Dodgers homer must feel like letting the Clippers win on the road. You know it's going to happen eventually, but it muse be humiliating to have it to happen to you.
--How about the starting lineup that beat the Dodgers on Sunday:
--The font on the left-field scoreboard is such that when the name of Brewers outfielder Scott Podsednik appears on it, it looks like "Scott Pooseonik." I don't know - it'd bother me.
--Despite getting picked off today, Jolbert Cabrera has ascended to the No. 1 spot among Dodger reserves. (Take that for what you will.) He is slugging .553 on his way to an .890 OPS, and played great defense at second base Sunday.
--Which makes Jim Tracy's decision to pinch-hit for Cabrera in the ninth inning Sunday all the more puzzling. I can understand not wanting to leave McGriff on the bench in a one-run game, but given a choice between sending him in for Cabrera or Ron Coomer, how can you pick Cabrera?
--"Bub-BA Bub-BA" chanted the crowd as the count went 3-2 to young Mr. Crosby, somehow left as the Dodgers' last hitter with the game on the line. It was a nice moment before the end.
--My dad's recommendation for the offseason: Shawn Green for Mike Piazza, straight up.
--If Roger Clemens hadn't started for the Yankees on Sunday, he could have won his 300th game in relief. Think about it. Not too hard, though.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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