Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: May 2006


Kent Can't
2006-05-31 15:02
by Jon Weisman

Another day has come without a solution to Jeff Kent's injured hand. An MRI is the next step, Kent reportedly told Fred Roggin.

That means Ramon Martinez will put his 1.176 May OPS - the best figure for any month of his career - on the line. Martinez's next-best month was a .917 OPS in June 2000, according to Retrosheet. The career .718 OPSer is 14 for 30 with two doubles, a home run and five walks this month.

* * *

Tonight's Game

And as a nice bonus:

Brandon Webb vs. Pedro Martinez

Still Not Satisfying
2006-05-31 09:50
by Jon Weisman

Steve Henson recounts the day after the Brad Penny blowup saga in the Times today. It still doesn't seem like there's any kind of consensus about Penny's health.
Continue reading...

Another Backer for the 'Home Runs Are Rally Killers' Theory
2006-05-31 09:08
by Jon Weisman

Dodger announcer Steve Lyons has gained notorious notoriety for his theory that home runs can kill a rally all too soon. Recently, Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 published a sampling.
Continue reading...

Cruz's Brother Is Missing
2006-05-31 07:21
by Jon Weisman

Jose Javier Cruz, the brother of Dodger outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr., has been reported missing, according to Eric Hanson and Robert Crowe of the Houston Chronicle. Jose Javier Cruz has not been seen since his truck was found on fire May 20 and last talked to family members the day before.

Suspended in Time
2006-05-30 13:45
by Jon Weisman

Eric Gagne has been activated so that he can finally serve that two-game suspension from a year ago that, somewhat amazingly, he hasn't served yet. Considering that the Dodgers have no plans to pitch Gagne before June 1, the punishment to Gagne himself is meaningless. But for the Dodgers, it will mean that thier bench is short a man, because Oscar Robles was sent to AAA Las Vegas.

Gagne's last official game was June 12 against Minnesota, the day Hee Seop Choi hit three home runs. The Dodgers were 33-27 (.550) at that point. The next game, in Kansas City of all places, the Dodgers began the eight-game losing streak that sent their season into a nosedive.

* * *

As the Dodgers close the chapter on 2005 draft pick Luke Hochevar, it's worth rembering that the only relevant issue with Hochevar is whether he is worth what he and his his agent are asking, and on this issue, respectable minds disagree. Given the kind of pitching $3 million or $4 million buys these days, I probably would have gone for the potential Hochevar has reportedly shown (I hedge only because I haven't seen Hochevar in person). Given the number of amateur pitching stars that fizzle, however, I can understand why a team would decline at that price.

On the other hand, some people are offended by Hochevar's behavior over the past year, and I still struggle to see why. Hochevar's choice of Scott Boras to represent him and his brief second-guessing of that choice (that led to the temporary verbal agreement with the Dodgers) are reasonable actions for a 21-year-old who a) like most people, would like to maximize his earnings and b) was certainly given more advice than he could know what to do with at that age. The idea that Hochevar should be demonized for these choices, that the Dodgers or their fans should take these actions personally, is pretty strange.

Hochevar has taken a huge risk in turning down what the Dodgers offered. If it proves to be a bad choice, that will be punishment enough for him. And if it proves to be a good choice, his rewards will have been well-earned. The game itself will take care of it.

* * *

Tonight's Game

Spare You, Spare Me
2006-05-30 06:26
by Jon Weisman

More and more, the Brad Penny blowup becomes less about the easily talked-out shouting match and more about how much pain he was pitching in Monday, how secretive he was being and how much risk he was taking.

"That's probably the slowest I've thrown in my entire career," Penny told Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise.

Then, there's this from Tony Jackson of the Daily News. On the one hand, Dodger manager Grady Little "downplayed" Penny's injury. On the other, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt indicates that the team didn't really know what they were downplaying.

"If anybody is ever hurt bad enough that he can't pitch, we won't pitch him," Little said.

Honeycutt also seemed surprised Penny had characterized his injury as being so severe.

"What (Penny) told us was that his arm wasn't 100 percent," Honeycutt said. "Part of their (players') responsibility is that they have to be honest with us. They have to be able to answer the question of whether they can go or not go. ... That (tirade) isn't something I condone. That wasn't a professional way to handle it by any means."

This story is dovetailing too well with the return of Eric Gagne. Last month on, I wrote about Gagne, who has often seemed to seek out winds he could throw caution to, but the message applies rather generally :

Even with the promise that the worst has to be behind them, it's time to play it safe. Gagne has been one of the most reliable relievers in Dodgers history, but if anything has become clear, it's that he cannot be trusted to monitor his physical condition. The Dodgers training staff should draw similar skepticism.

This isn't meant to be an insult. No one's saying this stuff is easy. But given that it's not easy, isn't it time that everyone involved started to take it easy? If the past two seasons have been the Dodgers' idea of being careful with Gagne, isn't it time to redefine what "being careful" means?

Between the lines, baseball's biggest sinner is the malingerer: the guy who doesn't run out a ground ball, the guy who asks for a day off to nurse the sniffles. But when you think about it, perhaps some cross words should be directed at the chronic gamer, the player who can't see that he needs to rest until it's too late.

For all the misfortune the Dodgers have endured since their last World Series title in 1988, Gagne was a gift. He was an off-the-radar minor leaguer with the modest potential to become an average starting pitcher, who instead became baseball's greatest reliever this side of Mariano Rivera. The Dodgers got a break in Gagne. They could use some more. But they also need to make their own breaks.

It's time to get real. It's time for everyone - Gagne included - to stop living on hope, to stop looking at Gagne as a superhero. Impatience is like kryptonite for a stubborn competitor like Gagne. If there is to be a next chapter in his career, it's time to be open about the pain and let the guy heal. Completely.

At the risk of this becoming a tirade, I'm staying on the Dodgers' case. Given their history, the Dodger staff and players, especially the players, need to understand how often playing in pain leads to decreased performance at a minimum, if not more serious, debilitating injuries.

Just because it's sometimes productive and occasionally heroic doesn't make it right. Every day isn't the ninth inning against Oakland in 1988.

In the end, I think all I'm asking for is a better culture of honesty. It goes without saying that I can't judge who is healthy enough to play for the Dodgers. But unless the Dodger players and staff are open with each other, they're not able to judge either.

Go Ahead, Make Me Nervous
2006-05-29 21:12
by Jon Weisman

This is the kind of stuff that drives me batty with Eric Gagne. From Patrick Donnelly at

Gagne wasn't especially pleased with his control and inability to hit his spots on Monday, but he said that was mostly due to the condition of the mound after it had baked in the sun for three hours.

"It was a little dryer than I expected," he said. "The whole thing mechanically was weird, just because I couldn't land my foot. Usually I'm on the right side of the rubber - the first-base side - and I wanted to stay there. I didn't want to go to the other side.

"It was just a bad landing - it happens a lot of places, especially during day games because it gets so dry. There was just a hole where I wanted to land, so I was landing on the side of the hill. It's awkward but you've got to deal with it."

Sure, I'm oversensitive. I'm oversensitive because Gagne messed up his body at least in part by fooling with his mechanics. So he can tell me it's no big deal and I can hope he's right, but there is nothing fun about hearing "couldn't land my foot" and "I didn't want to go to the other side" and "bad landing" and "a hole where I wanted to land" and "awkward."

(Earlier: "Getting a Save Situation for Gagne the Hard Way")

Let It Go
2006-05-29 16:52
by Jon Weisman

"It was the first jam I get in all year and I don't get a chance to get out of it," said Penny, who voiced his displeasure with Little on the mound before taking a swing at a water cooler with a bat in the dugout and yelling in anger.

"I wanted a chance to get that inning out of the way," Penny said, adding "I'm out there pitching hurt. ... I don't appreciate not getting the chance with a three-run lead to finish the inning."

- The Associated Press

Seems to me that Brad Penny's chance to get out of his jam came when he faced Wilson Betemit with runners on first and third, three runs in on five hits, and the Dodgers leading, 8-4. When Betemit singled and the tying run came to the plate, Dodger manager Grady Little earned the right to use his hook.

Penny says he was "pitching hurt" - that's a reason in favor of taking him out, not a reason to leave him in. The last thing he needs is to push the rock up the hill too hard.

I'm a big Penny fan, but he's got to think bigger than this. I'm glad that Little was. Hopefully, we'll easily move on.

Update: The thing with Penny is this. With a seven-run lead, his job is to throw the ball over the plate. Thus, the first few hits that get smacked off him are excusable. Not desirable, but excusable. But after a certain point, Penny has to bear down and pitch. He might not have felt he reached that point until the Betemit hit - and then was disappointed to have (in his point of view) the grass pulled out from under him.

But again, it's not as if Little or the Dodgers owed Penny the chance - particularly if he is pitching hurt. The only question is who is the pitcher best equipped to get the outs - and while most of us will take Penny over Joe Beimel any day of the century, seven batters into an inning with the tying run up was a good time to get Penny out of there.

Getting a Save Situation for Gagne the Hard Way
2006-05-29 15:50
by Jon Weisman

Salt Lake leads Las Vegas, 6-0 in the middle of the eighth inning. Eric Gagne will pitch the ninth for the 51s.

From Gameday:

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:0
Pitcher Change: Jason Bulger replaces Joe Saunders.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:3 O:1
Joel Guzman strikes out swinging.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:1
Wilson Valdez singles on a soft fly ball to center fielder Reggie Willits.

Bottom 8TH B:1 S:0 O:1
Delwyn Young doubles (16) on a fly ball to right fielder Nick Gorneault. Wilson Valdez scores. (6-1)

Bottom 8TH B:2 S:0 O:1
With James Loney batting, passed ball by Jeff Mathis, Delwyn Young to 3rd.

Bottom 8TH B:4 S:1 O:1
James Loney walks.

Bottom 8TH B:4 S:1 O:1
Eric Riggs walks. James Loney to 2nd.

Bottom 8TH B:1 S:1 O:1
Sergio Garcia hit by pitch. Delwyn Young scores. James Loney to 3rd. Eric Riggs to 2nd. (6-2)

Bottom 8TH B:4 S:0 O:1
Jon Weber walks. James Loney scores. Eric Riggs to 3rd. Sergio Garcia to 2nd. (6-3)

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:1
Pitcher Change: Chris Bootcheck replaces Jason Bulger.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:1 O:1
Chris Truby doubles (7) on a line drive to left fielder Anderson Rosario. Eric Riggs scores. Sergio Garcia scores. Jon Weber to 3rd. (6-5)

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:1 O:1
Eric Langill doubles (1) on a line drive to right fielder Nick Gorneault. Jon Weber scores. Chris Truby scores. (6-7)

Bottom 8TH B:1 S:2 O:1
Joel Guzman reaches on throwing error by shortstop Casey Smith. Eric Langill scores. Joel Guzman to 2nd. (6-8)

Bottom 8TH B:1 S:2 O:1
With Wilson Valdez batting, wild pitch by Chris Bootcheck, Joel Guzman to 3rd.

Bottom 8TH B:1 S:2 O:2
Wilson Valdez reaches on a fielder's choice out, pitcher Chris Bootcheck to catcher Jeff Mathis. Joel Guzman out at home.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:2
Delwyn Young hit by pitch. Wilson Valdez to 2nd.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:2
Pitcher Change: Jonathon Rouwenhorst replaces Chris Bootcheck.

Bottom 8TH B:0 S:0 O:3
James Loney grounds out, second baseman Howie Kendrick to first baseman Ryan Budde.

(Las Vegas could have scored even more runs but stopped so that Gagne would have a save situation - isn't it obvious? Then, in the top of the ninth:)

Top 9TH B:0 S:0 O:0
Pitcher Change: Eric Gagne replaces Greg Miller.

Top 9TH B:1 S:2 O:1
Mike Eylward grounds out to first baseman James Loney.

Top 9TH B:2 S:0 O:1
Adam Pavkovich singles on a sharp ground ball to left fielder Joel Guzman.

Top 9TH B:2 S:3 O:2
Ryan Budde called out on strikes.

Top 9TH B:0 S:0 O:2
Offensive Substitution: Pinch hitter Curtis Pride replaces Anderson Rosario.

Top 9TH B:1 S:2 O:3
Curtis Pride grounds into a force out, shortstop Wilson Valdez to second baseman Sergio Garcia. Adam Pavkovich out at 2nd.

* * *

Joel Guzman, by the way, went 0 for 5 playing left field. His OPS is .644 in May and .769 for the season in Las Vegas. Whatever's going on, he's not ready for a promotion. Delwyn Young (.963 in May, .831 for the year) is a more plausible choice if Jeff Kent goes on the disabled list. "Nobody's using the words 'disabled list,' but second baseman Jeff Kent missed his third consecutive start with a bruised hand suffered Friday night that doesn't seem to be improving," Ken Gurnick writes on

Or, the Dodgers might go back to 12 pitchers when Gagne is activated, which figures to happen in a couple of days if he comes away from today's outing feeling good.

Think of Somebody
2006-05-29 08:19
by Jon Weisman

Best wishes on this Memorial Day.

Today's Game

Kemp Recalled, Will Start Today
2006-05-28 07:45
by Jon Weisman

At least for now, Matt Kemp is making the leap from AA Jacksonville and will bat sixth in today's lineup. Inside the Dodgers has the news. Lance Carter has been sent down to AAA Las Vegas.

Quite a newsy lineup in general, with Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew are sitting out today's game. Four rookies are starting - Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Willy Aybar, with Aybar moving over to second base to allow Olmedo Saenz to play third.

No one in today's starting lineup is between the age of 25 and 28. (This used to say "between the age of 23 and 29," until everyone pointed out how wrong I was.)

Today's Game

Radio for Backup
2006-05-27 16:02
by Jon Weisman

J.D. Drew has a sore right shoulder and Jeff Kent has a sprained left wrist, according to Pete Kerzel at It doesn't sound as if Drew's injury is serious enough for the disabled list, and Kent may also be day-to-day. (He will be examined before Sunday's game.) In any case, the Dodgers will need more backup to make sure these guys are allowed to recuperate properly and to field the best possible team in any given inning that they're absent. So it's emphatically time now to return relief pitcher Lance Carter to the minor leagues and call up a sixth reserve player.

Though the first look may be to Las Vegas, Nate Purcell noted in today's game chat that AA stars Andy LaRoche and Matt Kemp did not play in Jacksonville's 1-0 victory over Huntsville this afternoon.

May 27 Game Chat
2006-05-27 07:58
by Jon Weisman
Tectonic Plates of Bullpen
2006-05-26 20:19
by Jon Weisman

Salt Lake at Las Vegas

Eric Gagne is scheduled to pitch tonight for AAA Las Vegas.

As for tonight's Dodger game, well, these things happen - and they were overdue for Brett Tomko. But the story of the game is in the bullpen, where ...

  • Odalis Perez pitched for the first time since the dawn of man. He faced five batters, with a wild pitch with a runner on third, two singles, a groundout and a double-play grounder. Won't knock your socks off, but it certainly presents him as a better-looking option than ...

  • Lance Carter, who came into a 6-3 game and allowed a walk, an RBI double, an RBI single, a double-play ball and a hard flyout to right. Look, Carter can pitch better than the nightmare he has been, but he can't pitch better than this on any trustworthy basis. Why he was in a three-run game is a bit of a mystery, when he can't even be trusted to mop up. He has become the Scott Erickson of this year's staff - relief version - and if he's still on the team and pitching like this when Gagne is activated ... well, let's just assume he won't be.

  • Tim Hamulack also gave up two runs. Once more, I've run out of energy to criticize by the time I get to him - let's just say he makes me miss Buddy Carlyle. I'll never get over Buddy not making it.

    Candidates for bullpen promotion besides Gagne? Well, Giovanni Carrara has a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings - but only four strikeouts. Franquelis Osoria or Hong-Chih Kuo could return. Eric Hull has a 1.21 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 32 strikeouts and only one home run allowed. He has walked 10, which is a little high. Greg Miller has pitched three shutout innings, but it seems a little soon for him.

    If Gagne looks stable, though, it would be nice to go down to an 11-man pitching staff. That might happen when Cesar Izturis is ready for activation.

    Update: Welcome to the Neon Jungle. Gagne enters the game in the ninth inning with Las Vegas leading, 8-5.

  • Strikeout of Ryan Budde swinging on a 2-2 pitch.
  • On a 3-2 pitch, eighth pitch of the at-bat, Abel Nieves grounds out. (Not exactly Assaulters with a Deadly Weapon Row)
  • Reggie Willits strikes out swinging on a 1-2 pitch.

    Seventeen pitches, 11 strikes.

  • Martin Rests, Borders Retires
    2006-05-26 14:31
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's Game

    Tonight's Weather

    Dodger catcher Russell Martin, who had been getting quite a workout lately, enjoys manager Grady Little's two-for-one vacation plan today, with Sandy Alomar, Jr. getting the start following Thursday's day off.

    In case you missed the news earlier, the Dodgers announced that veteran catcher Pat Borders has retired. The 43-year-old Borders had been playing in Las Vegas - a place he never intended to be, preferring to be near his home in Florida - since Martin's callup. Edwin Bellorin is now the next catcher in line, with Dioner Navarro still on the disabled list.

    Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast ...

    Humbled Angels
    2006-05-26 11:09
    by Jon Weisman

    With the Angels at Dodger Stadium last weekend, I turned my focus to them for my latest column:

    ... The Angels pride themselves on small-ball execution, but with the rare scoring opportunities provided by the team's AL-worst on-base and slugging percentages, mistakes have been magnified. The Angels pride themselves on clubhouse chemistry, but a shouting match between players broke out in full earshot of reporters after that frustrating May 18 loss. The Angels pride themselves as the ascending team in Los Angeles but got hammered 31-7 over three games last weekend by their I-5 rivals, the Dodgers.

    Finally, the Angels pride themselves on a blossoming farm system, but their rookies have been a net negative this season.

    If it all sounds bleak, it should. But if it all sounds bleak beyond repair, it shouldn't. ...

    Meanwhile, allow me to recommend Ken Arneson's thought-provoking piece at Catfish Stew, "A Good Haymaker." I'm still thinking about things he said in it.

    Update: The Angels have called up Jered Weaver to pitch Saturday, according to Mark Saxon of the Register. He will take Kevin Gregg's rotation spot. Jeff Weaver's six-inning, three-run victory this week in Texas saved the Angels from a difficult decision about him.

    Update 2: For more on Jered Weaver, check out Baseball Analysts.

    2006-05-26 06:40
    by Jon Weisman

    Originally published May 23, 2003

    Jody Reed never walked off the field with his head bowed in shame, bearing the crushing disappointment of a Dodger crowd robbed of glory.

    But Reed deserves a place right beside Mickey Owen, Ralph Branca, Terry Forster and Tom Niedenfuer in the Dodger Chamber of Horrors. The sickening cringe engendered by the memory of Forster serving up Joe Morgan's home run in 1982 or Niedenfuer tossing Jack Clark's in 1985 is every bit as applicable if you truly understand the mischief of Jody Reed. The difference with Reed is that his catastrophe came not in the hothouse mania of October but the cool epilogue of November.

    Branca cost the Dodgers a pennant. Owen cost them a World Series.

    Reed cost the Dodgers Pedro Martinez. No, he wasn't traded for Martinez. He cost them Martinez, as simply and horribly as a slow roller through the legs with the title on the line.
    Continue reading...

    An Off-Day Visit with Billingsley
    2006-05-25 16:43
    by Jon Weisman

    Las Vegas at Round Rock, 5:05 p.m.

    Top prospect Chad Billingsley is starting for the 51s (26-20), who have lost some ground in the standings with several top players going to Los Angeles. Tucson is .002 behind them, in a virtual tie for first place in the Pacific Coast League-Pacific South Division.

    Joel Guzman is not in the starting lineup. Guzman's numbers really don't jump out at you these days - .356 on-base and .446 slugging percentages are fairly tame for the PCL and below what Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Willy Aybar had done this year for the 51s. Guzman is still only 21, so it's no big deal - just that he still doesn't seem ready for the majors yet.

    Round Rock has a 27-17 record, good for second place in the PCL American South. The Express has shut out Las Vegas in two consecutive games. Guzman is 1 for 8 in that span.

    Round Rock starting pitcher Chris Sampson is 11 for 20 at the plate this season with a 1.171 OPS.

    The game-time weather (local time 7:05 p.m.) is partly cloudy, 92 degrees.

    Update: A rough start for Billingsley, as five of the first six batters reach base on a double, three singles (two on the infield) and a walk. But he strikes out the next two batters and escapes the first inning trailing, 2-1. Jeff Duncan and James Loney had singles and Dewlyn Young a sacrifice fly for Las Vegas in the top of the first.

    That's a Paddlin'
    2006-05-25 10:26
    by Jon Weisman

    Fifteen wins, three losses.

    Runs scored: 120. Runs allowed: 57.

    The last time I waxed about a Dodger hot streak was right when the team was 12-2 last year, and we know what happened after that. Still, other than the possibility that it might have been a jinx, there isn't much I really need to disavow about that post, which didn't suggest that the team would maintain such a ridiculous pace (though neither did I gather that the team would collapse under the weight of injuries and Jim Tracy-Paul DePodesta conflict). Mostly, it was about enjoying the long moment.

    Good teams and bad can go on 12-2 runs during a season, but for me, there's an aura to being 12-2. And since J.D. Drew homered in the eighth inning to tie the game and since Jose Valentin tripled in the 10th inning to win it, I haven't stopped shaking my head.

    Winning breeds chemistry. You can see it in the elation of Valentin, Odalis Perez, Milton Bradley, Duaner Sanchez - those are just a few of the people I saw jumping up and down in the dugout after the Dodgers took their first lead of the game. You can hear it in the fascination in the voice of Vin Scully, "privileged" to be one of the announcers for the all-time great Dodger team of 1955 and amazed that a group of guys thrown together in 2005 could challenge the camaraderie of their predecessors of exactly 50 years ago. And you can feel it in your own skin - that tingle that makes you so jumpy, you can't sit down. It's not life or death, it's just fun.

    That list of names in the last paragraph shows you how fleeting happiness can be, huh? That's Cautionary Tale No. 1.

    Cautionary Tale No. 2 is that the Dodgers' current run of 15 wins in 18 games has only served to put the team in second place in the National League West and tied for wild-card position with Cincinnati. So in a sense, they've only just begun … to contend. More from last April:

    Yes, the Dodgers will hit their rough spot. Last season, the team started 22-10 and built an eight-game lead over the Giants, only to go 15-25 and let San Francisco back in.

    But I've made this point during the previous two seasons - in 2003 when the Dodgers trailed the Giants early, and 2004 when they led them. The beauty of a cushion is that you can lose it. You have some breathing room. You can regroup. And if a team catches you by making up a lot of ground, odds are that team spent its best run and is due to fall back.

    So much for the cautionary tales. Now, for some bridled enthusiasm.

    I've said it often enough that I'm already tired of it, but my mantra all year has been that because it was becoming time for prospects to mature, the Dodgers would get better as the season progressed. That didn't take into account Aaron Sele somehow fooling major league hitters with his 84-mile-per-hour-or-less stuff, but I still have the faith. As Rob McMillin points out at 6-4-2, "It does appear that the Dodgers' streak lately has been fueled by a fair amount of luck on batted balls, but not overly so."

    This year's Dodgers are in a good group. Thirteen teams in Los Angeles Dodger history have had an 18-game run of 15 wins or more, according to Six of those teams finished in first place and six more finished in second (including the 1962 and 1980 teams that lost in pre-postseason playoffs). Nine of the teams won at least 90 games, and only the 1993 team won fewer than 88.

    Year18-Game RunSeason RecordNL (West) Finish

    Not bad. But the best sign for the Dodgers right now is the domination they've shown during the current run, OPSing an astonishing .894 (including a team on-base percentage of .400) vs. an opponents' OPS of .642 (according to Baseball Musings). They might not have a cushion in the standings, but they do have a cushion in terms of how they've been overwhelming their opponents. Only in 1965 and 2004 have the Los Angeles Dodgers doubled up their opponents scoring over an 18-game period (different times in '65, when the scoring in one stretch was 58-27). Think about this: For the entire season, the team has either won or held at least a three-run lead in 72 percent of its games this year.

    The NL West hasn't given up its fight yet, and the Dodgers will stop playing .833 ball any day now. A .331 batting average with men on first base, a .332 batting average with men in scoring position - no, I don't think numbers like those will hold. That doesn't mean there aren't reasons to be excited.

    Doesn't 'Cole Hamels' Sound Like a Cigarette?
    2006-05-24 16:03
    by Jon Weisman

    Maybe it's just me. Anyway, I'm still laughing at Cole Hamels Facts (thanks to The Griddle).

    Some examples:

    8. Jack Bauer calls Cole Hamels for advice.
    10. Fear itself is afraid of Cole Hamels.
    29. Cole Hamels expected the Spanish Inquisition.
    46. Kanye West almost needed to pay Cole Hamels royaties to release that "Jesus Walks" song, but Cole let it go, because he doesn't walk anyone so it couldn't really be about him.
    68. Cole Hamels will win 1 Cy Young... and 11 Cole Hamels.
    70. Cole was Bugs Bunny's private pitching coach.
    98. Cole Hamels understands Ulysses.
    116. Cole Hamels once struck a man out looking. Literally. Cole just gazed at him and the batter was retired on strikes.
    237. Cole has his cake and eats it too. And then he takes your cake, and eats that as well.
    240. For first grade show and tell, Cole Hamels just stood in front of the class.
    263. A Klondike Bar would do anything for Cole Hamels.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    No Lost chat on this site without my go-ahead. Maybe The Griddle will host a thread.

    Brad Penny, Close Up
    2006-05-24 08:15
    by Jon Weisman

    From Sky Kalkman of the Hardball Times:

    Penny's home-run rate has been amazing so far in 2006 - he's only given up two home runs in 53.1 innings. Keeping the ball in the park has been a strength throughout his career, but he's actually allowing more fly balls this season than in the past, in addition to fewer ground balls and more line drives. A shift like that in batted ball profile would tend to imply an increase in home runs, but Penny's only allowing 3 percent of fly balls to leave the yard, compared to a career norm of about 9 percent. ...

    Unless Penny continues to be historically stingy with the homeruns, expect his ERA the rest of the season to be at least 3.75. If he can stay healthy enough to pitch 200 innings, however, his 2006 season will still garner a lot of attention, especially if the Dodgers continue to rebound from 2005 and challenge for the division lead.

    * * *

    Jeff Weaver battles to stay in the Angels starting rotation ...

    Angels at Rangers, 11:05 a.m.

    When Worlds Collide ... in a Good Way
    2006-05-23 13:51
    by Jon Weisman

    Hope you'll excuse or enjoy the following stat-happy cruise ...

    Some people value walks, others value the stolen base. Right now, the Dodgers are getting close to the best of both worlds. The team ranks second in the major leagues with 197 walks, fourth in the majors with a .357 on-base percentage, tied for first with 42 stolen bases and tied for sixth with an 80.8 percent stolen-base success rate.

    That, plus some strangely effective pitching - the Dodgers are third in baseball in ERA despite being 19th in strikeouts per inning pitched - has soothed a power deficiency that has left Los Angeles 21st in the majors in hitting home runs and 16th in slugging percentage.

    The sluggish strikeout rate for the pitchers, plus the fact that the Dodgers have been slightly lucky as far as the opposition's batting average on balls in play (.288, 11th-lowest in baseball) has me thinking that the pitching has a good chance to decline. However, if the team can preserve its judicious rate of home runs allowed (sixth-best in baseball), the ERA might stay reasonably in line.

    Meanwhile, there's every possibility that the Dodgers will avoid an on-base slump, thanks in part to the recent additions of Willy Aybar and Russell Martin. Walkers such as Rafael Furcal and Jose Cruz, Jr. must also be given due credit for their strike-zone judgment in a season in which pitchers have had no reason to fear challenging them.

    In addition, even taking into account Furcal getting thrown out on five of his past nine steal attempts and Kenny Lofton's somewhat strange adventures trying to take an extra base, the team's baserunning looks like it can continue to be an overall asset. When it comes to baserunning, good or bad, I'm guessing that what you see after 40 games tends to be what you get for the whole year. Maybe I'm wrong.

    In any case, baserunning is secondary to on-base percentage - the team wouldn't have all these baserunning opportunities if they weren't getting on base to begin with. With both things working, at least for now, the Dodgers have found a way around their power shortage. Isn't it nice that despite all fears, walks have been embraced (however accidentally) by the current Dodger team?

    * * *

    Though they helped market the concept of "Tracyball" in embarrassing fashion, I've been impressed with how clearheaded the Pittsburgh beat writers have been in evaluating Jim Tracy's tenure with the Pirates. In calm fashion, while keeping in perspective the overall situation in Pittsburgh, they continue to raise questions and poke holes. The latest example is this chat with Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

    nice_throw__Barry: Under "Lloyd Tracy" the Pirates have been playing very poor fundamental baseball. I have not been cynical and have preached to my friends to give Tracy's staff 2 months for the teaching to set in. Will Tracy be able to stop the 5 years of poor fundamentals, or will a change in players be the only cure?

    Dejan Kovacevic: So far, it seems just about everything Tracy preached on a daily basis through spring training has failed to come about. More walks? No, last in the league. Throw more strikes? No. Moving runners along? Not at all, as has been highlighted in these past couple of games. Steals? Good ratio -- 21 of 26 -- but not much of a total. Winning one-run games? Well, you know how that one has turned out. It remains to be seen how much of this is on the coaches and how much on the players, I agree. For the moment, though, it looks bad for both.

    Steve_Z: Geez Dejan, Tracy's killing us with Jose H. and Jeremy B.? What's he thinking about?

    Dejan Kovacevic: On the first count, Tracy clearly feels a loyalty to a player who did quite well for him on a 2004 Dodgers team that he holds in - how to put this? - the very, very, very highest regard. Just as clearly, that player is no longer the same, and one wonders how much longer this can last. As for Burnitz: Don't overthink it. Management signs someone to a guaranteed $6.7 million, and he is going to play. Even Burnitz has acknowledged this much.

    lz1: Jim Leyland has done wonders with the Detroit Tigers this season so far. How do you think he would have fared in comparison with Jim Tracy if Leyland was indeed the current Pirates skipper?

    Dejan Kovacevic: Probably better, but maybe not for the reasons you think. I will cite two: 1. He was intimately familiar with the talent at hand from having spent so much time at PNC Park over the past few summers. As a result, it is far less likely, I think, that he would have tried to alter anything about the styles of Zach Duke, Chris Duffy, Jose Castillo and others. That might have allowed all those players to continue their natural progressions. 2. He would have thrown enough food about the clubhouse to feed half of Sudan. ...

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    OPS by Position Update
    2006-05-22 16:33
    by Jon Weisman

    Considering how well the Dodgers have been doing lately, the fact that they're even or down in OPS at six positions compared to April 17 indicates how bad things got on offense for a while.

    Dodger OPS by Position (Through April 17/Today)
    P: .248/.273
    C: .825/.795
    1B: .766/.953
    2B: .775/.773
    3B: .990/.829
    SS: .594/.636
    LF: .952/.839
    CF: .854/.797
    RF: 1.097/.946
    PH: .591/.695

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    This is the first major league game with opposing starting pitchers from Korea, according to the Dodger press notes.

    Nomar Garciaparra is getting the night off, with Olmedo Saenz replacing him and batting third. The six-seven-eight rookie combo remains intact.

    Dodgers Sue Hartford over Compensation for Shuey
    2006-05-22 13:52
    by Jon Weisman

    Paul Shuey ended his official major league playing career on a high note, with a 3.00 ERA in 69 innings as part of the spectacular Dodger pitching staff of 2003.

    The unofficial end wasn't so lovely: Shuey spent 2004 on the disabled list before retiring in 2005 after a comeback attempt in the Cleveland Indian organization fell short because of injury troubles. Even today, payment of the final portion of his contract is still an issue. The Dodgers have sued Hartford Life Insurance Company for failing to fulfill a $1.7 million insurance claim arising from the hip condition that sidelined the former reliever.

    According to court documents filed Friday (the link will enable you to download a copy in PDF form), the Indians took out an insurance policy in 2001 to cover Shuey, then assigned the policy to the Dodgers when Shuey was traded in mid-2002. Hip problems began to manifest on a serious level for Shuey in 2003. He had surgery following that season, and ultimately never pitched in a regular season major league game again.

    A point of contention appears to be whether or not the thumb injury that Shuey suffered during a 2004 Spring Training fielding drill should affect the claim:
    Continue reading...

    Check and Mate
    2006-05-22 09:55
    by Jon Weisman

    The detective's side of baseball reappeared Sunday, when Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt espied a pattern among Angel hitters and advised Derek Lowe to change his pitching style. Steve Henson of the Times describes ...

    ... a radical game plan that had Lowe uncharacteristically jamming left-handed hitters with four-seam fastballs.

    "I've never thrown so many four-seamers in my life," he said. "Everything I threw inside was a cutter or four-seamer."

    Lowe's bread-and-butter pitch is a two-seam fastball that sinks. Honeycutt noticed that the Angels' left-handed hitters tend to hang over the plate looking for pitches low and outside, such as the pitch from Brett Tomko that Dallas McPherson drilled for an opposite-field home run a day earlier.

    So Lowe countered with four-seamers that moved up and in. ... The Angels' best opportunity, in fact, came in the first inning, but third baseman Willy Aybar made a nice play charging a topper by Robb Quinlan with two out and the bases loaded.

    "He walked two in the first but set a different tone," Honeycutt said. "He got them thinking."

    Over time, this stuff tends to even out as adjustments and counteradjustments are made - the real brilliance is to find a chess move that will transform a season for you, not just one game. That doesn't take anything away from a Sunday in which the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep, and showed how silly the discussion was last year that the Angels had taken long-term control of Los Angeles in some sort of seismic shift. Fortunes rise and fall, and heaven help the folks who think they have everything figured out.

    * * *

    Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 was kind enough Sunday to give myself, Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts, Halofan Mat Gleason and others our first taste of life in a Dodger suite. It was a real nice group, and I appreciate him supplying good food and a Dodger victory to go with it.

    * * *

    One inning pitched for Odalis Perez since May 2, none since May 14. I can understand the need for Perez to be a mop-up man while everyone figures out what's next - unless he's really misbehaving, Perez is one Torch Seo Trilogy from re-entering the starting rotation - but for now you have to wonder, with Lance Carter back on the roster, shaky as ever, what do you do with two janitors?

    A Great Day for the Aybar Family
    2006-05-20 23:17
    by Jon Weisman

    Steve Henson has it covered in the Times:

    Willy, 22, made an outstanding backhand stab at third base on the first play of the game, pulled the Dodgers even with the homer in the sixth and triggered a three-run rally in the eighth with a one-out walk.

    Erick, 21, made his first major league start and had his first two hits against Brett Tomko, including one that helped fuel a fourth-inning rally that extended the Angels' lead to 4-1.

    The Dodgers needed a pinch-hit home run by J.D. Drew to end a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning and solid work by a trio of relievers to hand the Angels their 16th loss in 21 games.

    But an intriguing subplot involved the Aybar brothers, born only 10 months apart and able to witness one another flourish on a grand stage — one they barely dared dream of growing up in a tiny house on a sewage-infested river in Bani, Dominican Republic ... according to a Washington Post story in 2001, the Aybars slept in the same room as their parents and two sisters in a concrete-and-tin house choked with dust from trucks roaring down a nearby dirt road. When the river overflowed during the rainy season, water would seep into the house and the family would flee to a nearby school for shelter.

    P.S. That thing I said Friday about Willy Aybar not fielding with authority? I take it back. (And I can't believe the ball he homered off of. It was practically on the ground. On an 0-2 pitch, it was a vintage no-no-no-yes!)

    * * *

    Update: Workouts in left field have been going well for Aybar, and he will make an appearance there soon, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. In another oh-by-the-way report from the Dodger medical staff, Henson reports that Jason Repko's ankle will need another month to heal, (longer than any team would want to go with Ramon Martinez as a fifth outfielder). So Aybar may get a crack.

    Henson's notebook lead is that the Dodgers are considering Jacksonville prospect Matt Kemp for an early jump to the majors to take the spot, but that seems to make less sense. For one, that would be rushing a prospect, something I didn't think this year's regime was too into. Six weeks of AA ball is not the usual preparation for the majors.

    For another, though Kemp is a more experienced defensive outfielder than Joel Guzman or Delwyn Young of AAA Las Vegas, it's not like there's a rule against using inexperienced outfielders if Aybar is going to get a shot. The discussion may reflect nothing more than some quiet dissatisfaction with Guzman, whose plate discipline is improving but perhaps not fast enough.

    In any event, let's just see what happens with Aybar before worrying about who's coming next. For my part, I think it would be nice if they just let Aybar settle in at third base unless two more Dodger outfielders pull up lame. I'm not sure the need to get Olmedo Saenz and Aybar in the same starting lineup is so important.

    * * *

    Maybe this was obvious, but just passing along the news that Inside the Dodgers says that catcher Dioner Navarro (along with outfielder Ricky Ledee) will take rehabilitation stints in the minors whenever they come off the disabled list.

    * * *

    Sunday's Game

    25 Hits
    2006-05-19 23:24
    by Jon Weisman

    1) The Dodgers had their most hits in more than 75 years, setting a team record for Los Angeles.

    2) Aaron Sele almost duplicated his last home start (against Milwaukee). He was on the ropes early, gving up six hits before he got his seventh out - but recovered and cruised long enough to get the win, again.

    3) Jose Cruz, Jr. made a fine throw from center field with one out in the second inning to hold a runner at third base and essentially enable Sele to turn things around.

    4) Sele's offensive support in his three starts for the Dodgers is 9.7 runs per game.

    5) At one point I wrote down on paper, "If you don't homer off Jeff Weaver, you've failed." Weaver had allowed a home run in every start he made this season since his first start, but managed to give up 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings without being taken deep.

    6) Andre Ethier got two hits off Weaver, a single off Angel lefty specialist J.C. Romero and a homer off Brendan Donnelly on his way to a 5 for 5 night. Ethier found a clever way to preserve his perfect night - hitting a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

    7) Nine Dodgers had multi-hit games Friday.

    8) Ethier did miss a chance to become the second No. 16 to go 6 for 6 this decade for the Dodgers and the third Dodger to get six hits in a game in May in the 2000s.

    9) In the last two games I have attended. Ethier has batted 10 times, and he has hit the ball solidly all 10.

    10) Rafael Furcal was caught stealing in the first inning in a steal attempt that reminded me of Oscar Robles, but he made a great backhand play at shortstop in the fifth in support of Sele.

    11) The caught stealing might have been the only thing to prevent the Dodgers from scoring in every inning. They settled for tallies in innings 2-8.

    12) From innings 2-5, the Dodger scoring was 1111. In the sixth inning, the debate became if the Dodgers got to 11 runs, whether that would be counted as part of the picket fence.

    13) "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson was the background music for the mid-game blooper reel. Explain.

    14) Willy Aybar went 2 for 6 by the skin of his teeth. His double in the fifth inning, which broke the game open, barely got past first baseman Robb Quinlan. His infield single in the eighth was one of a few lazy plays by the increasingly checked-out Angels - Hector Carrasco failed to cover first.

    15) Aybar can make good plays on defense, but he did not field with authority. The first hit of the game was a hard grounder that got past him - difficult, but a play you want him to make. He later backpedaled on a rather easy chopper. But that was the worst of it.

    16) Russell Martin (3 for 6, plus a throw-out of Chone Figgins trying to steal) just looks fantastic.

    17) Surpassing the inanity of the scoreboard note mentioning Martin as the 222nd Canadian in major-league history was this one for Sandy Alomar, Jr.: "Debuted his 'Sandy Alomar Steak Sauce' in 1998." The question isn't even whether this is the best thing you can say about Alomar. Is this the best thing you can say about his steak sauce - that it debuted?

    18) Letting Aaron Sele bat with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, knowing he might only have an inning left? Nah.

    19) Aaron, at least bunt or take the intentional strikeout in that situation. Don't hit into a double play.

    20) Ethier played the entire game, and I mean played it, throwing out Mike Napoli at second base in the ninth.

    21) The Dodger bench is so thin right now, they can't even replace players in a blowout adequately. J.D. Drew also played the entire game. (Kenny Lofton is expected back Saturday.)

    22) Thanks to the Dodgers scoring at least 10 runs, those of us who were in attendance can go to Hooters to get 10 free chicken wings within 48 hours.

    23) Do we have to?

    24) Does the offer expire 48 hours after the game ends or 48 hours after the 10th run? These are big questions.

    25) The Dodgers had their low point with a five-game losing streak that occured inside of three weeks ago but seems like further in the past. The Angels are having their low point now. And it's lower.

    And all it means is we have a new game tomorrow.

    * * *

    Saturday's Game

    Purgatory's Bells
    2006-05-19 14:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Lance Carter has been in limbo long enough, the Dodgers have decided, recalling the right-handed reliever and sending Franquelis Osoria down to Las Vegas.

    A comparison of Carter and Hong-Chih Kuo at AAA:

    Carter: 8 1/3 innings, 1.08 ERA, six hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts
    Kuo: 8 innings, 1.13 ERA, four hits, six walks, 11 strikeouts

    Whatever. In other minor league news:

  • Justin Orenduff pitched six no-hit, three-walk innings for AA Jacksonville on Thursday.

  • The Luke Hochevar door has been opened a crack, according to Baseball America:

    Hochevar was the 40th overall pick to the Dodgers last June out of Tennessee, and after a long holdout, his case took a strange turn over Labor Day. Hochevar switched agents from Boras to Matt Sosnick and agreed to a $2.98 million deal. However, after getting in touch with Boras, Hochevar switched agents again and never signed the contract, pulling out of the deal.

    The aftermath became acrimonious, and talks broke off. Hochevar joined other past Boras clients in joining a team in an independent league. In his case, it's the Fort Worth Cats of the American Association, and Hochevar had looked good in two outings, one an exhibition and one a regular-season game. His fastball, slider and changeup all had flashed above-average potential, but the effects of his long layoff were evident in his lack of consistency.

    "We're cautiously optimistic that there's an outside chance (to sign him)," Dodgers scouting director Logan White said. "I've seen his first two starts and I'll go back and see him again. Then (GM) Ned (Colletti) and I will get our heads together and see what we can do."

    * * *

    Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon may be reduced to pinch-hitting duties this weekend for the Angels, according to the local papers.

    Tonight's Game

  • Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door
    2006-05-19 09:35
    by Jon Weisman

    The Angels come to Dodger Stadium tonight a troubled team. Their record has fallen to 17-24, tied for third-worst in the American League.

    Thursday's 8-4, 10-inning loss to Toronto ended in the 11 p.m. neighborhood, which meant that many morning papers didn't have postgame quotes. But plenty went on in the clubhouse after the final out, as this write-thru from Mike DiGiovanna of the Times illustrates:
    Continue reading...

    Dioner Demotion Delayed
    2006-05-19 07:15
    by Jon Weisman

    The announcement on whether Dodger catcher Dioner Navarro will stay in the majors won't come for a few days, the Dodger beat writers report this morning. Navarro is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday but needs more time - mais oui - for his bone bruise to heal.

    Not that the Dodgers seem bothered, as Bill Plunkett of the Register writes.

    The Dodgers are 9-2 when Martin starts at catcher, 11-12 when Navarro starts. Unable to win more than two games in a row and mired at a season-low five games below .500 (12-17) when Navarro was injured by a foul tip May 4, the Dodgers have since won 9 of 12.

    The difference has been just as dramatic in other ways. Dodgers pitchers have an ERA of 3.28 when Martin is behind the plate, more than a run lower (4.31) than for any other catcher.

    Martin has yet to be charged with his first error or passed ball. Dodgers pitchers have thrown two wild pitches in the past 12 games after throwing 10 in the first 29.

    Martin (1 of 4) hasn't had much more luck throwing out base runners than Navarro (0 of 16). But the opponents' running game has slowed down lately. After giving up 25 stolen bases in the first 29 games this season, the Dodgers have allowed four in the past 12 games - a slowdown that coincides with Martin's arrival.

    Some of those statistics are of misleading value - it's always nervewracking when you start attributing win-loss records to a single player. Tony Jackson of the Daily News looks closer at the catcher ERA numbers and finds that the difference between Martin's and Navarro's (3.56) is pretty negligible - the non-Martin figure above was jacked up by Sandy Alomar, Jr. (5.33). In any case, I seem to recall that the theory that catchers have a significant impact on ERA was debunked by Baseball Prospectus. Maybe someone can help me find that link.

    Overall, though, Martin has certainly earned the praise he's been given, and is in Los Angeles to stay for now. Plunkett gathers that the Dodgers will send Navarro to AAA Las Vegas, rather than stash Alomar on the disabled list:

    When asked if Martin and Navarro could share the Dodgers' catching duties without hindering the development of one or both, (Dodger general manager Ned) Colletti's response - "I don't know about that" - is delivered slowly enough to read between the lines.

    Burleigh Grimes, You've Changed
    2006-05-18 17:36
    by Jon Weisman

    I thought I knew you. Now you're Burleigh Grime$. I hardly know you now.

    Mostly Pointless Comparison II
    2006-05-18 10:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Rafael Furcal's first 39 games as a Dodger:
    .326 on-base percentage
    .301 slugging percentage
    .627 OPS
    10 stolen bases in 14 attempts
    28 years old

    Delino DeShields' first 39 games as a Dodger:
    .348 on-base percentage
    .265 slugging percentage
    .613 OPS
    14 stolen bases in 15 attempts
    25 years old

    For those mostly pointlessly keeping track, here's the prequel.

    Confidence Man
    2006-05-17 20:44
    by Jon Weisman

    Turns out Takashi Saito was ill and unavailable to pitch today, making the Dodgers that much thinner in the bullpen in Colorado and the pressure on Danys Baez that much greater.

    Given that, it surprises me even more now than it did this afternoon that Grady Little removed Jonathan Broxton after a one-two-three seventh inning, even with lefty Todd Helton leading off the eighth. But so it went. Joe Beimel took over in the eighth and got in trouble, but Baez came in and got a double play, than wiggled out of a Vin Scully Deuces Wild special - two on, two out, 2-2 to Helton - to close the game out on a pop fly to right field (in an at-bat in which Helton really was uppercutting his swing).

    Here at Dodger Thoughts, we had a long postgame discussion in the comments about the boost today's save would provide Baez. The double play in the eighth "gave me a lot of confidence," Baez told reporters. "It was like I was back in charge." Does that mean anything. Some people said so, but I was more skeptical. Here are some of my responses:

    All this talk of the importance of making Baez confident is a little disconcerting. I'm sure he was confident right up to the time his slump began. I'm sure he was just as nervous pitching in San Francisco last weekend as he was today.

    Baez is what he is - a guy who will sometimes do the job, maybe more often than not. Neither today's game nor the San Francisco collapse are indicative of any trend. It's good that he got the save today because he got the save today. It doesn't make him a better pitcher going forward. ...

    Even a confident Baez is completely mediocre, and a Baez lacking in confidence is not much worse. Even a confident Baez will still miss with his pitches, he will still tire. Why do I say this? Because back when Baez was "confident," this was happening. ...

    If Baez is really a professional, he understands that sometimes you lose with your best stuff and win without it. Yes, he'll be relieved today that he's not in some Job-like nightmare, but I think that's about as far as that goes.

    If Baez faces Vlad Friday night with two on and two out in a one-run game, I don't think his chances of success or failure have been altered significantly by what happened today. He'd still be in deep trouble, and hoping. He'll know he can get Guerrero out, but I absolutely refuse to believe that he pitched to Helton thinking that he could not get Helton out. ...

    What I'm saying is that confidence is only of X value, and that all kinds of other human frailties come into play.

    Iowa Baseball Confederacy
    2006-05-17 20:21
    by Jon Weisman

    For those of you who are familiar with it, wouldn't it be something out in the spirit of W.P. Kinsella's The Iowa Baseball Confederacy if Barry Bonds' quest for 714 and 715 home runs were, well, endless?

    Rocky Mountain Mistake
    2006-05-17 07:14
    by Jon Weisman

    When a pitcher walks the first three batters of the game, you had better be able to walk home if you're going to try to score on a hit.

    Instead, on a play almost as infuriating as a blown ninth-inning lead, Dodger outfielder Kenny Lofton was thrown out at home on J.D. Drew's no-out, bases-loaded, first-inning single off Byung-Hyun Kim in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Colorado.

    Steve Henson of the Times provided third-base coach Rich Donnelly's explanation of why he waved Lofton in.

    A day earlier, Donnelly sent pitcher Brett Tomko from second base on a similar hit. Hawpe's throw was up the line and Tomko was safe. Donnelly felt this was a tougher play because left-handed Hawpe had to move to his right for the ball. Plus, speedy Lofton was running.

    "Our scouting report said that when Hawpe has to move side to side, his throws can be off line," Donnelly said. "I felt bad because I didn't want to stop the inning."

    The throws can be off line. But will they be off line? Not necessarily. And with none out and a pitcher absolutely on the ropes - Kim had thrown 22 pitches before getting that first out as a gift - there is no way the Dodgers should have taken a calculated gamble. It's not as if Lofton hasn't been getting thrown out on the bases in other games. Donnelly hit on 12 and drew a face card - that should never happen.

    Yes, it's easy for me to say that a thousand miles away about an instinctive play. But if that was instinct, than Donnelly needs to make an instinct adjustment.

    In other news:

  • Neither Kenny Lofton nor Jeff Kent are expected to miss much time - besides today's game - after leaving Tuesday's with a leg cramp and back stiffness, respectively, Henson said.

  • Russell Martin is here to stay, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. might be stashed on the disabled list to accomodate the move, Henson added. (And so begins a great coaching career for Alomar?) I almost thought Martin hurt himself running hard on a grounder last night, but no one made any mention of it.

  • Willy Aybar had a single and double as an injury replacement and figures to play today with Kent sitting, but also had a bad throw late in the game which Nomar Garciaparra saved with an acrobatic catch and tag. This lends credence to the latest idea floated in the Times - that Rafael Furcal could move to third base when Cesar Izturis returns. The Aybar situation is becoming very much like last year's drama with Antonio Perez, it appears - perhaps without Perez's subsequently reported attitude problems. Anyway, don't freak out before it happens - Izturis hasn't even begun his rehabilitation assignment yet.

  • Lefty pitcher Greg Miller is one step closer to the majors: He'll be moving up to AAA Las Vegas this week, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register.

    Update: has posted a big package saluting Albert Pujols, and I contributed a piece on his Top 10 career highlights - which I found I couldn't narrow down to fewer than 11.

    Update 2: Aybar is batting fifth today, according to Inside the Dodgers, Andre Ethier sixth and Ramon Martinez seventh.

    Update 3: Maybe the Diamondbacks shouldn't be throwing stones, but this is still funny. According to Baseball Prospectus, the AFLAC trivia question on the Arizona broadcast of the San Diego-Arizona game Monday was, "Name a Padre."

    * * *

    Today's 12 noon game

  • Riding the Grady Train
    2006-05-16 08:06
    by Jon Weisman

    Two choo-choos for Grady Little for being flexible and not worrying about who the Dodger closer is. Little did exactly the right thing in Monday's game against the Rockies: Rather than remove someone who had retired the side on 11 pitches, Little let Takashi Saito pitch the ninth inning. Saito gave up a solo home run, but I'll never get on a pitcher's case for challenging a hitter in the ninth with the bases empty and a multi-run lead.

    That Saito looked good for a second inning doesn't mean you can't have Danys Baez or Jonathan Broxton or whoever warm up in the ninth to back him up. If Saito were to get in a jam - say, I don't know, bases loaded, that sort of thing - then you should be ready to go to a fresh pitcher. Saito after 30 pitches is not the same as Saito after 10. Just like you might ask a reliever to bail a starting pitcher out of a seventh-inning jam, you can ask a reliever to bail another reliever out of a two-out, ninth-inning rumble.

    As for Monday's starting pitcher, Brett Tomko, he gave up a scary number of fly balls during an otherwise enjoyable seven-inning performance, but if he really has raised his game from mediocrity - and he's still got a whole 4 1/2 months to prove otherwise - perhaps it is because he, like Jason Repko, made the right adjustment.

    "My change-up used to be about 84 to 85 mph," Tomko told Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise. "It's about 79-to-80 range now ... if I make a bad pitch with it, you still have a little bit of speed to throw them off."

    Tomko also got Little through a tough decision regarding when to take him out. After retiring 15 in a row, Tomko gave up a one-out solo home run in the seventh and a two-out walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. In another ballpark, this might have been when I'd have pulled the trigger; in Coors Field, it was probably worth a shot to try to get pinch-hitter Jason Smith. And Tomko did, on his 13th flyball out of the game.

    The Grady Train is still not an entirely smooth ride, however. Despite a nice game in the field on Friday, two defensive misplays Saturday have strapped third baseman Willy Aybar to the bench for at least three consecutive games - sassy-fielding Oscar Robles has been announced has tonight's starter, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register. Yes, Olmedo Saenz has been hitting well, and with groundball artist Derek Lowe taking his turn as tonight's starting pitcher, the Aybar decision doesn't seem entirely punitive or capricious, but it's still disappointing. Little further told the media that Saenz needed a rest, implying that Saenz will return soon.

    The Dodgers continue to anticipate an infield logjam next month, when Cesar Izturis comes off the disabled list. Everyone is thinking out loud on the subject, but Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports that moving Rafael Furcal to the outfield is not considered an option - nor should it be. Whatever's ailing Furcal in the field wouldn't be solved by such a move - it's only going to lessen his overall value.

    Update: Here's an piece by me on how much the Dodgers are relying on young players this season despite the presence of big-name veterans.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers roster has been like the runway at LAX, with players flying on top of each other in ways only an air-traffic controller could love. The past hasn't left yet, but the future is arriving. They're in the air, they're on the tarmac, and they're headed ... somewhere.

    Even though it's only the middle of May, the Dodgers already have used nine rookies or second-year players who are 25 or younger -- with every expectation of more to come this summer. Check out any Dodgers game this week and you're likely to see three rookies in the starting lineup and another one or two coming out of the bullpen. And for the most part, the biggest names in the Dodgers' farm system have yet to arrive. ...

    Update 2: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus wrote about watching the 51s play.

    Even with Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, Willy Aybar and Jonathan Broxton all recently promoted to L.A., the 51s still feature some very good prospects. Foremost among these is Joel Guzman, a rangy 21-year-old in his first season in left field. Guzman did not have a good night, showing considerable impatience at the plate while going 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch. He had a terrible at-bat in the fifth, striking out on a 54-foot breaking ball with the bases loaded and no one out. He's a project, still working on becoming a baseball player, but the raw tools were apparent even to an untrained eye like mine. I think Jermaine Dye is a realistic expectation, and he has a higher upside than that.

    Quite simply, we don't talk enough about Logan White, the Dodgers' head of player development. He's put together a terrific system that I think is going to yield a number of division champions in the second half of this decade.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Nomar: So Far, So Good
    2006-05-15 09:04
    by Jon Weisman

    Those who had opinions this past offseason on the signing of Nomar Garciaparra came in three groups: those who wanted Garciaparra at any position, those who didn't want Garciaparra at any position, and those who wanted Garciaparra at a position other than first base. It's important to remember that some who disliked the idea of Garciaparra as a first baseman (okay, I was one of 'em) didn't dislike the idea of Garciaparra on the team.

    Garciaparra's numbers in 20 games this year are rather gaudy: 1.099 OPS, five home runs - a much-needed bat while the Dodgers waited for Jeff Kent to come around. His defense at first base has looked rather acrobatic as well, at least on receiving throws. I still wonder if Garciaparra could have also been productive in left field - maybe, maybe not - still know that the inevitable slump that every player has will taper his stats, and still doubt that his health problems are behind him. As it is, he has still only played in 52 percent of the Dodgers' games this year. Like the team, we haven't seen him go much about .500.

    Despite missing so many games, though, Garciaparra has been the Dodgers' most valuable player on offense (according to Value Over Replacement Player from Baseball Prospectus). Like J.D. Drew in 2005, a little Nomar has gone a long way.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Ninth, Schminth
    2006-05-14 10:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Framing discussion of the Dodger bullpen struggles in terms of "Who should be the closer?" is a pretty big waste of time. The problem isn't who pitches last for the Dodgers, it's that the pitching staff simply hasn't been able to hold leads consistently, whatever the inning.

    Today's Game

    May 13 Game Chat
    2006-05-13 08:30
    by Jon Weisman
    Breathe In
    2006-05-12 22:04
    by Jon Weisman

    So this is what it's like to have rookies come up and produce.

    Andre Ethier, .906 OPS
    Willy Aybar, 1.100 OPS
    Russell Martin, .962 OPS
    Jonathan Broxton, 1.50 ERA

    I like it.

    Breathe Out
    2006-05-12 21:56
    by Jon Weisman

    This story by Peter Yoon of the Times about the need for more high school referees and umpires illustrates why we have to find a way to control our anger at sporting events:

    Referee and umpire associations throughout the country have reported a need for help. Games, especially at levels below varsity, are routinely understaffed, regularly rescheduled and sometimes canceled because of the lack of qualified officials.

    In a day of two-income households, it has become more and more difficult to recruit competent people away from their day jobs for 3:15 p.m. games to earn a meager stipend.

    Add the ever-increasing number of violent outbursts against game officials and the task of recruiting becomes even more difficult. ...

    Referees and umpires realize that it's part of the job to deal with occasional outbursts, but violence is becoming more common. According to documents obtained by The Times, there were 1,104 reports filed with the Southern Section detailing incidents that warranted player, coach or fan ejections during the 2005-06 fall and winter sports seasons.

    "We get more reports of assaults on officials than we ever have in history," said Barry Mano, president of the National Assn. of Sports Officials. "It's a developing problem at the high school level, but the potential for mayhem is great…. I think acting out has become more acceptable."

    Even if an official is incompetent, it's no excuse for violence. I'm really not sure why that's such a difficult concept for people.

    It's a Day Ending in 'Y'
    2006-05-12 15:39
    by Jon Weisman

    And so we have another Dodger headed to the disabled list: If it's Friday, it must be Bill Mueller. Oscar Robles takes the roster spot, but we'll hope that Willy Aybar gets the start over Robles or Ramon Martinez.

    Not counting injury rehabilitation assignments, nine players on the 25-man roster have spent time in Las Vegas since 2005: Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton, Franquelis Osoria, Takashi Saito, Aaron Sele, Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, Aybar and Robles. And I expect that number to go even higher sooner than later: Chad Billingsley, Joel Guzman and yes, Giovanni Carrara, Hong-Chih Kuo or Lance Carter could all make it up.

    Update: Mueller could easily be out longer than 15 days, according to Ken Gurnick of

    Realistically, the team expects Mueller to require arthroscopic surgery to remove the spur, which would sideline the veteran for four to six weeks. (Grady) Little conceded that surgery was a strong possibility.

    "We're really concerned," said Little.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    2006-05-12 11:16
    by Jon Weisman

    What happens when humbling experiences fail to humble?

    I've only been following the mess in Pittsburgh from a distance, not enough to monitor lineups or in-game maneuvers, but enough to see that whatever excuses there might be for the Pirates' losing, ex-Dodger manager Jim Tracy has imported his pattern of not taking responsibility for any portion of it.

    Given the resources the Pirates had, it would be wrong to blame all the Pirates' losing on Tracy. But as there was in 2005 with the Dodgers, there has again been plenty of finger-pointing by Tracy everywhere but at himself. And that's, well, that's a little too perfect for those of us who grew tired of his arrogance. Certainly, if the Pirates were winning, Tracy would not be shy about promoting his brand of baseball (with the phony Pittsburgh press appelation "Tracyball") as the reason.

    If Tracy can only win when the talent is good, it's fair to ask, what good is he?

    Putting any schadenfraude aside ... I am interested in knowing what are the real problems with the Pirates and what are imagined. Which should Tracy be doing that he isn't? What shouldn't he be doing that he is? Some of the Pirates' problems are clearly not Tracy's fault. Which ones are?

    And what has Tracy done right? Feel free to make arguments in his defense, besides the aforementioned "it's not all his fault" - that's covered. What proactive moves by Tracy have paid off?

    I'm not interested in piling on. I'm interested in objective reviews of the situation.

    For Everyone in Attendance ...
    2006-05-12 09:55
    by Jon Weisman

    There's a list of "Unfortunate Baseball Promotions" at McSweeney's. Here are my favorites:

    Estranged Spouse Night

    "The Scientology of Baseball"

    Gillette Straight Razor Giveaway, as part of "Turn Back the Clock" Night

    Scotts Turf Builder Dandelion Seed Night

    "Race Toward the Cure!" Night (featuring a performance by the Cure)

    Laser Pointer Night

    I Don't Know, Third Base
    2006-05-11 15:28
    by Jon Weisman

    With Bill Mueller nearly hitless in May and Willy Aybar coming up hot from Las Vegas and knocking a ninth-inning pinch-hit RBI single today, some naturally will wonder if Aybar should be in the lineup.

    It's a fair debate - at least, I don't expect unanimity. The key is to have the debate on the right terms. It should be whether on an average day, Aybar is better than Mueller. It should not be whether Aybar is better at his best than Mueller is at his worst.

    Yes, Aybar can go out there and hit better than .050. So can Mueller.

    Baseball is not automatic. Baseball is constant adjustments. A .300-hitting baseball player doesn't hit .300 all season. He has .400 streaks, and .300 streaks, and .200 streaks, and .100 streaks and everything up, down and in between.

    Sometimes players go in the tank, and sometimes players are ready to take the world by storm. We need to step back and have perspective.

    I like Aybar. I'd like to see him play. I don't see harm in giving Mueller a day off. But I honestly don't know who will be the better hitter going forward. I don't think it's clear. I just know that Aybar has really come on over the past nine months, and that Mueller is someone who has made successful adjustments his whole career.

    * * *

    Eric Gagne feels good, according to Ken Gurnick of

    I'm rooting for Gagne, but I no longer ascribe any meaning to his self-diagnoses.

    In happy theory, though, the return of Gagne and the apparent maturation of Jonathan Broxton could really make the Dodger bullpen look a lot better. Gagne is tentatively scheduled to start a rehabilitation assignment in Las Vegas in two weeks, Gurnick writes.

    * * *

    Today's loss was a shame, but it feels different than the losses of last week, when the wheels were flying every which way off the Winnebago. This loss feels more like a flat tire - just fix it and move on.

    I'm unman enough to admit that I usually call AAA for that. Given the number of Las Vegas 51s now on the Dodger roster, I guess the Dodgers have already done the same.

    Mulled Whine
    2006-05-11 15:26
    by Jon Weisman

    In this great big cruel world of ours, if someone does something that is wrong but ultimately harmless, do you tell that person, or let it go?

    I've had several of these lately, and I'm having something of an existential crisis about dealing with them.

    Ooh, Don Noodles
    2006-05-11 10:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Forty years ago today, Don Sutton threw the first shutout of his career. Bob Timmermann has the details in today's Random Game Callback at The Griddle - and I'm sure he'd welcome your thoughts or recollections.

    * * *

    Today's 12:10 p.m. game

    Businessman's special. Too bad I'm not a businessman.

    Divisional Standings
    2006-05-10 23:43
    by Jon Weisman

    .526 NL West (90-81)
    .515 AL East (86-81)
    .512 AL Central (86-82)
    .512 NL Central (105-100)
    .468 AL West (65-74)
    .457 NL East (75-89)

    Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whew
    2006-05-10 14:08
    by Jon Weisman

    Russell Martin's dash home with the winning run Tuesday night for the Dodgers was mad, I tell you, mad.

    Keep in mind that the sprint from second base came seconds after potential winning run Kenny Lofton was thrown out trying to advance from second to third on Martin's pop fly single to left with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth (Lofton misjudging how quickly Houston shortstop Adam Everett would be able to get the ball back to the infield). The next batter, Olmedo Saenz, then hit a liner to right.

    Thus beganeth the mayhem:

  • Though there was a considerable chance that Houston outfielder Jason Lane would catch the ball, Martin took the calcuated risk of being doubled up and immediately broke for third.

  • Even though Lane fielded the ball on the short hop, Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly waved the fast-for-a-catcher-but-nevertheless-still-a-catcher home.

  • Lane's throw to Brad Ausmus was in time but ever so slightly up the line, allowing Martin to slide around the attempted tag.

    In fewer than 10 seconds, there were three different ways for the Dodgers to pick up their second consecutive out on the basepaths. We could have had a very angry Dodger fan base. But Martin dodged every bullet. I guess Martin is ... a Dodger.

    Martin's debut has been fairly fantastic, and he's rapidly winning hearts and minds everywhere. It will certainly be interesting when Dioner Navarro, who was turning his season around before he got his bone bruise, comes back from the disabled list. Obviously, the hot hitter who is 4-0 when he starts is going to get some votes, but we'll see what happens over time.

    I'm always fascinated when a player comes up from Las Vegas and posts better numbers in the bigs than he had in AAA, as Martin is doing. Willy Aybar was another example of this last year (as was Navarro himself, almost). You'll see some 0 for 4s and some fielding miscues from Martin soon enough, but it has been a lovely beginning. He has shown a good knowledge of the strike zone, hit with power and moved with agility behind the plate.

    I'm still partial to the idea of Martin and Navarro sharing the catching job in the majors. I still believe that 3 1/2 games a week is plenty of work for a young catcher to stay involved while also staying fresh, and that Sandy Alomar, Jr. would best serve the team as a coach and off-roster stand-by in case someone gets hurt, but I know many disagree with me.

    * * *

    Update: Unable to play a man down for even a week while carrying 12 pitchers, the Dodgers announced they have placed Jason Repko on the disabled list and called up last year's September Sunshine, Willy Aybar, who as most of you know has been the organization's best hitter in AAA Las Vegas.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

  • When Bonds Almost Became a Dodger
    2006-05-09 17:20
    by Jon Weisman

    Yep, Dodger history's axis might have tilted bigtime if this one had gone through.

    As Isi Baly wrote at Dodger Profiles, the Dodgers had trade talks with the Pirates during the 1989-90 offseason about acquiring Barry Bonds. You'll probably share Baly's amazement that Dodger third baseman Jeff Hamilton would have been a significant part of a Bonds-worthy package.

    Today, I asked Claire what he remembered.

    "I do recall we had an interest in Barry Bonds during the time period mentioned and did try to make a deal with the Pirates," Claire wrote in an e-mail. "I can't recall all of the details of the trade discussions but I know our interest in Bonds was high and we hoped to make the trade and have him play center field."

    Thanks to Baly, here's an excerpt of what Ross Newhan wrote for the Times on December 22, 1989.

    General Manager Larry Doughty has denied the Pittsburgh Pirates are about to deal left fielder Barry Bonds to the Dodgers for third baseman Jeff Hamilton and pitcher John Wetteland.

    Doughty talked to Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire on Wednesday, but no deal was worked out.

    "Fred Claire and I resolved that we didn't have a deal but that we would leave the lines open into spring training," Doughty said.

    Wetteland, 23, was 5-8 with a 3.77 earned run average as a rookie last season.

    "I really got the feeling that Fred Claire was not going to move one of his established pitchers," Doughty said.

    If the Dodgers acquire Bonds, they would probably play him in center field, where he began his major league career. He moved to left field in 1987, when the Pirates acquired center fielder Andy Van Slyke from St. Louis.

    The Pirates are interested in Hamilton so they can move third baseman Bobby Bonilla to right field.

    The Dodgers' need for another outfielder lessened Thursday when they signed free-agent Hubie Brooks to a three-year, $6-million contract.

    Baly added in his own post that "there was another article that stated (Tim) Belcher would be part of this deal, but I could not locate it tonight. Perhaps it was a Daily News article ..."

    This is when I turn to Bob Timmermann for fast action. He found Matt McHale's Daily News article of December 22, 1989, which had much of the same news as Newhan's but added the following:

    "Pittsburgh did not think John Wetteland was established enough," McHale wrote, "and wanted either Tim Belcher or Ramon Martinez, like Wetteland a rookie."

    Martinez, of course, was on the cusp of several outstanding seasons for the Dodgers. He had a 3.19 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings as a 21-year-old in 1989 before blossoming in '90 with a 2.92 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 234 1/3 innings. Belcher had sub-3.00 ERAs in '88, '89 and '91 before being traded to Cincinnati with Wetteland in the ill-fated Eric Davis deal.

    Bonds was coming off a simultaneously good but disappointing season in 1989 - 125 OPS+, 19 home runs - but would rev it up to become National League Most Valuable Player for the first time in 1990. Hamilton, most famous perhaps for being the losing pitcher in the Dodgers' 22-inning game in Houston in 1989, had for what it's worth his best season as a Dodger that year - 86 OPS+, 12 home runs - but played in only seven major league games in 1990, going 3 for 24, and was out of the majors for good by the end of 1991.

    In retrospect, of course, almost no price seems to high to pay for Bonds circa 1989-90, but what are you gonna do? At least Martinez and Belcher pitched well for the team, for a short time (sigh). Had the deal gone through, however, this would have had a heck of a butterfly effect on Dodger and baseball history. Just one scenario: Bonds and Mike Piazza eventually in the same lineup, and with that, and with the Dodgers down a starting pitcher, maybe they wouldn't have been able to afford letting Pedro Martinez go.

    And then Pedro blows out his arm two years later. Or something like that. It's always something.

    Sleep well …

    * * *

    This is not the game chat thread. The game chat thread can be found below.

    Perez Activated, Robles Optioned, And ...
    2006-05-09 17:02
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers will go with 12 pitchers while trying to solve the Odalis Perez conundrum. The team announced Perez is back, and that they have optioned Oscar Robles to Las Vegas.

    I hope this doesn't qualify as burying the lead, but believe it or not, the Dodgers also announced the signing of Giovanni Carrara to a minor league contract - Carrara's third stint with the organization. He was most recently with the Pirates' AAA team in Indianapolis. A rational mind would see this move only as an impulse to kill minor league innings, and not as a major league solution.

    Update: Blue Notes reports that Aaron Sele will start in San Francisco on Saturday and Perez will work out of the bullpen this week.

    * * *

    Bill Mueller is back in the Dodger lineup tonight, which also features Jose Cruz, Jr. batting second and Jason Repko batting seventh against Houston lefty Andy Pettitte.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Match the Dodger Season with the Actor, Actress or Minor Celebrity
    2006-05-09 09:56
    by Jon Weisman

    I'll start it off.

    1927: Buster Keaton
    1941: Humphrey Bogart
    1947: Rita Hayworth
    1963: Sean Connery
    1978: Loni Anderson
    1985: Jeff Bridges
    1987: Andrew McCarthy
    1998: Paula Marshall

    My theory is that the performer should in some way evoke both the era and the quality or feeling of the season. It's a theory in progress, though.

    We'll be giving strict scrutiny to 1988.

    Sele vs. Perez
    2006-05-08 07:01
    by Jon Weisman

    The pitcher dazzled his Dodger teammates by allowing only one run in 5 1/3 innings. He followed that game by holding the Giants to one run over seven innings, and then smothered another division rival by allowing only one run over six innings.

    The pitcher was Odalis Perez, and the succession of superb starts is the reason I'm not sold on Aaron Sele as a starting pitcher nor on abandoning Perez completely.

    Sele pitched very well in Dodger Stadium on Sunday, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings. He had a shaky first two innings, but could have emerged unscored upon if he had been able to field a hard comebacker by opposing pitcher Dave Bush. With the bases empty, Sele works as quickly as any Dodger pitcher I can remember. Perez, meanwhile, has given up seven runs in each of his past two starts.

    Look, I'm always looking for a trade that will improve the team, so if the Dodgers can get one, super. But I'm skeptical. So, operating under the premise that Sele and Perez will be organization-mates for a little while, I would just hesitate before crowning Sele the superior pitcher. While it could be that Sele is getting a third or fourth wind - and how great would that be - it's also still possible that Sunday was the highpoint of a last, Ericksonian hurrah.

    Meanwhile, Perez's recent streak could be the result of distraction over his mother's possibly terminal illness. Perez could be in a simple slump, like Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal or whoever. Dodger manager Grady Little is most assuredly partly responsible, demonstrably leaving Perez in games past the point of effectiveness. Perez also might need a wakeup call, a real challenge to his standing on the team.

    I don't dismiss the possibility that Perez's best days are behind him. He may have lost his ability, he may have lost his desire. The pitcher has been almost maddeningly inconsistent, and there does come a Kaz Ishii-like time when you just want to retreat from the mystery. But there are several open-ended questions about the situation, and I would just caution people from overreacting to the fact that Sele has been better than Perez for 10 days.

    Of course, in the end, I'm hoping Chad Billingsley is an answer.

    * * *

    Dodger legend Fernando Valenzuela has been elected to the Shrine of the Eternals of the Baseball Reliquary, along with Josh Gibson and Japanese baseball pioneer Kenichi Zenimura. The Shrine is a Hall of Fame for people "who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics." I believe this is a wonderful and deserved honor for Valenzuela.

    May 7 Game Chat
    2006-05-07 10:17
    by Jon Weisman
    This Would Be Fun if My Kids Were Older
    2006-05-06 18:20
    by Jon Weisman

    From the press notes:

    For the first time in Dodger Stadium history, fans and their family can sleep on the outfield grass. The inaugural Dodger Stadium sleepover will be on Sunday, July 9 following the game against Giants. For $300 per person ($250 for full season ticket holders) fans will get field level seats to Sunday night's game, dinner at the new Loge Terrace compliments of Outback Steakhouse, a Dodger pillow, commemorative t-shirt, late evening movie on DodgerVision and other on-field activities. Space is limited to 300 fans, so act now. For more information, visit

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Mostly Pointless Comparison
    2006-05-05 22:11
    by Jon Weisman

    Paul LoDuca, 1998-2000: 174 at-bats, 42 hits, four doubles, five home runs, 16 walks, 18 strikeouts, .241 batting average, .306 on-base percentage, .351 slugging percentage, .657 OPS, 26-28 years old.

    Jason Repko, 2005: 276 at-bats, 61 hits, 16 doubles, eight home runs, 16 walks, 80 strikeouts, .221 batting average, .281 on-base percentage, .388 slugging percentage, .669 OPS, 24 years old.

    Update: If there is a point to this comparison, and I'm not sure that there is, it's that people often forget how weak LoDuca looked at the plate before his 2001 season. Just about the only thing he had going for him was his plate discipline. It's not common, but every once in a while a guy just comes out of nowhere, and I am starting to wonder whether Repko, at least against lefties, is one of those guys. He's mostly a dead pull hitter, and I don't know how far he can go with that, but it's getting hard to overlook how solidly he's hitting those southpaws. He lacks LoDuca's knowledge of the strike zone, but he makes up for it in power. Of course, as an outfielder, Repko must be a better hitter than a catcher would be to be productive.

    Repko's ninth-inning throw last night, by the way, was pedestrian - about 250 feet. It wasn't automatic in the sense that nothing is automatic for us humans, but it would have been heartbreaking to see it go awry. I don't think a center fielder could ask for a more routine play at the plate. Admittedly, it would not have been easy for Kenny Lofton's arm.

    2006-05-05 22:10
    by Jon Weisman

    [I saw United 93 today. If you prefer to skip the following, I understand.]
    Continue reading...

    May 5 Game Chat
    2006-05-05 18:08
    by Jon Weisman
    Oh, Did 1962 End Badly?
    2006-05-05 13:12
    by Jon Weisman

    Kinda. Via The Griddle, you can revisit the crushing finale to the Dodgers' 1962 season, as seen in Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: A Complete Guide to the Worst Decisions and Stupidest Moments in Baseball History.

    Russ Martin to Invade Wild, Wild West?
    2006-05-05 08:18
    by Jon Weisman

    Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh ... off a cliff ...

    More influx of injury and woe last night at Dodger Stadium. The big news is that minor league catching prospect Russell Martin may be on his way to Los Angeles today. No one is saying that specifically, but reporters such as Bill Plunkett of the Register give us reason to speculate:

    Catcher Dioner Navarro was struck in the right wrist by a foul ball in the second inning and will have X-rays and a CT scan this morning with the news not likely to be good.
    Continue reading...

    Major TV Detour Ahead
    2006-05-05 08:15
    by Jon Weisman

    Stuart Levine is Senior Editor for the features section of Variety - aka, my boss when it comes to my freelancing over there. With the 2005-06 television season close to wrapping up, we decided it might be fun if we did a Roeper and Ebert number on the past year. Stu didn't seem to think we should get paid for this, so it's running on Dodger Thoughts. Here's how it went:
    Continue reading...

    Kentrifried Steak
    2006-05-04 10:06
    by Jon Weisman

    How bad has it been for Jeff Kent? Last month was the second-worst of Kent's career in OPS.


    In the past, Kent has usually recovered from bad months. Only in June-July 1994 has he had consecutive months with an OPS below .750.

    Following the worst month of his career in April 1995, Kent's OPS jumped to .779 in May, .840 in June and .944 in July. He slumped in August (.654) but then was at .887 in September. Kent was 27 years old that year.

    No month has gone unscathed by Kent: five times he has an OPS below .750 in April, three in May, two in June, six in July, two in August, three in September.

    Of the months on this list, Kent's April 2006 has the fourth-best on-base percentage – a passable .310. But April 2006 had Kent's second-worst slugging percentage: .244 – his first time slugging below .300 in a month in 11 years. Kent has slugged below .300 in a month only three times in his career.

    Only five of Kent's 21 sub-.750 OPS months have come in the 2000s: one a year for the past five years. Keeping in mind that this isn't park-adjusted, Kent has been remarkably steady.

    I wish I could tell you whether his current slump is due to age, health or just one of those things. (Despite a consistent line-drive percentage, Kent's batting average on balls in play this season is .211, compared to .298 in 2005 and .309 in 2004.) But if it continues past May, that'll be a first for him.

    Sources: Retrosheet, Hardball Times

    Update: Here is a link to Kent's hit chart at He has had four balls reach the warning track in his first 12 games at Dodger Stadium this year. You can also use the drop-down menus to see how he has done in other ballparks and years.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    It Just Gets Worse for Odalis
    2006-05-03 22:58
    by Jon Weisman

    Odalis Perez is in the Dominican Republic visiting his ailing mother, and I wish them both the best. But whatever country he is in Sunday, the Dodgers may replace him in the starting rotation - as suspected - according to Ken Gurnick at

    Dodger manager Grady Little did not do much to spin the situation positively for Perez, wrote Gurnick.

    Pressed further on Perez's recent outings, Little said: "We're not in the position of liking people who are getting worse. We need him to be a little more productive."

    Gurnick added that because Chad Billingsley pitched tonight, he is unlikely to get the call to start Sunday - it would be on three days rest. Aaron Sele is the most likely candidate for a promotion.

    Congratulations are in order for Andre Ethier (walk and first home run), Dioner Navarro (rallying from the nadir), Olmedo Saenz (game-tying three-run homer) and Jae Seo (six innings, one run). The rest of the team ... yikes.

    Can anyone tell me if the Dodgers warmed up a reliever when the Padres loaded the bases against Seo with one out in the fifth inning, score tied 1-1?

    Meet Me on Pepe Frias Boulevard
    2006-05-03 14:41
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's Game

    * * *

    Tugging almost directly at my obscure but memorable heartstrings, Dodger Profiles by Isi Baly offers snapshots of the team's supporting cast through the years - with footnotes! Enjoy some of the names that are already on the board:

    Charlie Manuel
    Jeff Hamilton
    Mike Fetters
    Von Joshua
    Phil Ortega
    Phil Hiatt
    Jim Campanis
    Dennis Springer
    Karl Spooner
    Jim Hickman
    Dave Goltz
    Pepe Frias
    McKay Christensen
    Tom Candiotti
    Steve Bilko
    Billy Ashley
    Eddie Ainsmith
    Hank Aguirre
    Morrie Aderholt
    Bert Abbey
    Don Aase

    Looks like the alphabetical approach might have gotten abandoned partway through. No matter. Any site that takes note of Pepe Frias' Dodger tenure is good by me.

    You Shouldn't
    2006-05-03 10:13
    by Jon Weisman

    Three Things Grady Little Does Right
    1) He is not shy about benching underperforming name players and trying promising no-name players.
    2) He gives no-name players extended trials in the lineup, rather than yanking them out after one game.
    3) For the most part, he is aggressive with his player moves - managing the nine-inning game rather than worrying about having reserves for theoretical extra innings. For the most part ...

    * * *

    Once upon a time on Taxi, aspiring actor Bobby thinks he has hit it big with his career and gives his boss, taxi cab dispatcher Louie, a glorious kiss-off - only to have to come crawling back for his job when things don't pan out. When Louie hears this, he is dancing with giddiness at how deeply he's going to rub it in on Bobby, salivating at the shame he'll get to inflict.

    Alex, the moral center of the show, intervenes before Bobby's return to try to prevent Louie from kicking Bobby while he's down. Louie is incredulous at the request, and asks, out of curiosity, why on earth he wouldn't tee off. Alex is almost at a loss on how to respond, but finally says the only thing he can say:

    "You shouldn't."

    "I shouldn't?"

    "You shouldn't."

    Which, of course, is absolutely preposterous in Louie's eyes. Gloriously, transcendently, he mocks Alex for the thought. Louie's eyes are practically spinning like propellers, he is so revved up for Bobby's arrival.

    And then Bobby comes in ... and Louie lets him off the hook.

    It was a great moment of television. And it was so arfully done, it was believable, too. But to some extent, or at least in some circumstances, it's a fantasy.

    It's pretty clear that to some extent, Dodger manager Grady Little holds this fantasy for his starting pitchers. He looks at a situation where a starter should thrive and sees something of a moral imperative for that pitcher to do so. The latest example of this was when Odalis Perez was allowed to give up seven runs in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 10-8 loss to Arizona - four of them on a game-tying grand slam to Chad Tracy.

    "(Perez) has to get (Tracy) out in that situation," Little said, according to Tony Jackson in the Daily News. "He's our starting pitcher, and he had been staked to a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning. That's the guy you have to get out. He kept firing ... but it wasn't good enough. There have been too many times this year when we have squandered five-run leads and six-run leads, and it's starting to get old."

    There is a reason for holding back on warming up relievers too soon - you don't want to burn them out in the bullpen. And yes, a starting pitcher with a 6-0 lead should be able to get through the fifth inning.

    But just because he should go five doesn't mean he can. When a pitcher with the track record for implosion that Perez has gets in trouble, you have to be ready to step in preemptively, just like Alex did with Louie.

    With a 6-0 lead, Perez gave a home run, a bunt single and a walk. This didn't put him on the edge of the cliff - especially with pitcher Jason Grimsley coming to bat, but it did put Perez a couple steps away. That's the moment you make a call to the pen and get someone up. (I don't know when Little did so - although news reports indicate it wasn't this soon.)

    Perez got an out from Grimsley, then gave up singles to Craig Counsell and Eric Byrnes that made the score 6-2 with the bases loaded and still only one out.

    This is the critical moment. And I want to say, there is an argument for keeping Perez in to face Tracy - the odds of a grand slam are low. The argument against keeping Perez in is that there's very little proof that Perez is much of a tightrope walker these days.

    Perez gave up the grand slam. Look - it happens. Here's where things get a little crazy, though. Now you're in a brand-new, tie game with about 4 1/2 innings to go - and Little still left Perez in the game to walk go-ahead run Luis Gonzalez. This is where you start to wonder whether Little is managing his starting pitcher with emotion rather than calculation. There was no saving the bullpen now. Seven batters into the inning, what did he think Perez had left? What was the point?

    As far as fear of burning out the bullpen goes, you cross that bridge when you come to it. As I've written in the past, the gamble you take in trying to stretch out a starting pitcher to rest your bullpen is that you risk having to work the bullpen even harder. Nothing is more important than putting out that fire - only when you are out of firemen should you tolerate a controlled burn.

    In Perez's previous start at Houston on April 26, Little let Perez allow seven runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings. In that game, unlike Tuesday night, Perez was in trouble almost his entire start - but Little displayed that high threshold for pain. Why? What does Perez have to do to get an early hook? The Dodger offense scored five runs for Perez last week and eight runs this week - all wasted.

    Except in the case of Lance Carter, the Dodger bullpen has been inconsistent - meaning its members have been alternately good and bad. So they don't inspire a high level of trust. Doesn't matter - that's not an excuse to leave a faltering starting pitcher in. It is better to take the chance that you will get a Dodger reliever on one of his good days than continue to use a pitcher who is objectively, visually having a bad day right in front of you.

    Despite the length of this critique, I'm not turning on Little. As I said at the top, he's doing some things I really like. The team he is managing has definite weaknesses to go with its strengths, and I don't know how much better than its 12-15 record it should really be. Regarding most of the one-run losses, I don't recall many instances of them turning on a Little decision.

    I think the answer here might be for a personnel decision to be made that will sidestep this problem. I don't know if this is being discussed, but I think that depending how Jae Seo does tonight against San Diego, Perez could be a candidate to get at least a temporary demotion to the bullpen. He's had three bad starts to go with three good ones - maybe his next start will make or break his immediate fate. Certainly, because it was former Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta who re-signed Perez as a free agent, there would be no in-house reputations at stake with the move.

    Depending on which side of the bed current GM Ned Colletti woke up on that day, the Dodgers would then call up either Aaron Sele or Chad Billingsley - neither of whom would (or should) be on anything but a short leash in their opening starts.

    In the absence of that, I am hoping that Little has lost a little patience with underperforming starters, as he had with his ragged batting order.

    * * *

    About that batting order ...

    Ailing shortstop Rafael Furcal has hit two balls to the warning track this week. Not that fly balls are to be his specialty, but I'm thinking there may be a little snap coming back to his bat.

    Slumping second baseman Jeff Kent remains a mystery.

    With 10 singles, two doubles, four triples, seven walks and six steals without being caught, Kenny Lofton has 39 bases in 66 plate appearances (.591). Count me skeptical that he can keep this up, but he's been good so far. By comparison, J.D. Drew has 66 bases in 108 plate appearances (.611).

    Making his major league debut Tuesday, Andre Ethier recovered from an 0 for 3 start (including a double play) with a double and a ninth-inning walk.

    House o' Cards
    2006-05-02 20:27
    by Jon Weisman

    Three blown leads of five runs or more in the first 27 games might be some kind of record for these men in blue.

    Overall, the Dodgers have 15 losses - nine, as has become so publicized, by one run. Look at the runs scored by the Dodgers in those one-run losses: 10, 8, 6, 1, 4, 4, 3, 5, 2. Nearly five runs per game, and at least four runs in six of the nine games.

    Here are the run totals for the offense in the other six losses: 3, 5, 0, 1, 5, 8, or 3.7 runs per game. The Dodgers are averaging 4.3 runs per game in their 15 losses, and have scored at least four runs in nine of the 15.

    Bad luck is certainly a part of the Dodgers' sub-.500 record, but of the part that isn't luck, I'd point to the pitching more than the hitting.

    In either case, mere character and chemistry isn't going to save this team. These veterans already know what to do. Whether they can do it is a matter of valid debate right now.

    Does it seem like I write a post like this about every year?

    Is Pitching in Las Vegas Actually a Good Thing?
    2006-05-02 10:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Maybe Las Vegas was telling the truth after all. Maybe the crazy hitting environment there is a good test rather than a useless one.

    It's early in the season, but for now, all we know is that even though the barometric pressure and such presumably haven't changed on the Strip, the 51s suddenly have (or had) nine pitchers who have thrown 10 or more innings with ERAs below 4.00 there.

    0.00 Jonathan Broxton
    0.82 Eric Hull
    1.38 Joe Beimel
    1.59 Chad Billingsley
    2.43 Aaron Sele
    2.96 William Juarez
    3.00 D.J. Houlton
    3.09 Luis Gonzalez
    3.43 Eric Stults

    In 2005, they had two pitchers with 10 innings and ERAs under 4: Franquelis Osoria and Derek Thompson, both of whom acquitted themselves passably in the majors.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Cody Ross, Ricky Ledee Put on Disabled Lists
    2006-05-02 10:06
    by Jon Weisman

    If you read the morning papers, you already know that Dodger reserve Ricky Ledee has been placed on the disabled list with a groin injury and that Andre Ethier has been called up to take his spot on the roster and start in left field tonight.

    The latest news among Dodger Opening Day reserve outfielders is that Cody Ross, traded to the Reds late last month, has also had to go on the disabled list with a bruised finger, suffered when he was hit by a pitch while striking out in his first at-bat with Cincinnati.

    The Dodgers now have six guys on their 25-man roster who have played for Las Vegas this year: Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton, Oscar Robles, Nomar Garciaparra and Ethier. Ethier had a .947 OPS and crooked numbers in every category except home runs (1). He has a higher on-base percentage but a lower slugging percentage than Bryan Myrow had when the Dodgers called him up last season with a .950 OPS. Jason Grabowski had a .916 OPS in Las Vegas in 2005; Ross and Chin-Feng Chen were in the .850 range. Norihiro Nakamura was at .818.

    Of course, the guy who makes you throw all those numbers out the window is Willy Aybar, who had a .775 OPS with Las Vegas but busted .900 easily with the Dodgers. This season, Aybar is leading the 51s in virtually every offensive category and has a 1.039 OPS.

    It's in my nature to be optimistic about Ethier, but we shouldn't get our hopes up too high. He certainly doesn't appear to have significant home run power right now, but perhaps he can keep a rally going.

    More good notes from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2, here and here.

  • Aaron Sele was named PCL Pitcher of the Week following his string of 12.2 scoreless innings last week. Similarly, in a piece of good news for the Catfish (who could use some — they're 2-5 over the last week), Brent Leach struck out 14 of 15 outs he made while surrendering zero earned runs over 5.0 IP. The effort won the Sally League's Pitcher of the Week award. ...

  • Kelly Wunsch is not pitching for Las Vegas, and is only doing strength exercises. He has had a setback in his rehab.

  • Eric Gagne has made 50 throws from 75 feet and "said he felt good", for whatever that's worth.

    Bill Plunkett of the Register reports that Gagne "will take today off and resume his throwing program in Los Angeles on Wednesday."

  • Don't the Clippers Always Win?
    2006-05-02 09:44
    by Jon Weisman

    There's been a request for a Clippers celebration on this site - which I endorse wholeheartedly. Who can't appreciate the heights this year's team has achieved - with perhaps more to come.

    The Clippers, by the way, are undefeated in games in which I covered them: 1-0. As usual, Bob Timmermann was kind enough to track down my Daily News game story from January 15, 1991. Call it a Not-So-Random Clipper Game Callback:
    Continue reading...

    Okay, Now Broxton's Up and Carter's Down
    2006-05-01 11:46
    by Jon Weisman

    Per Inside the Dodgers ...

    * * *

    From the Dodger press notes:

    When Dodger reliever Joe Beimel debuts his #97 for the club, he will have the honor of donning the highest uniform number ever worn by a Dodger player during a regular season game. Currently, the distinction is shared by Joe Medwick and Charlie Dressen, who both wore the number 77 in the 1940's.

    I remember reading that Beimel chose the number as a tribute to something or someone, but I've forgotten what. It'll come to me, I hope.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    2006-05-01 10:02
    by Jon Weisman

    New from me on Why pitchers who induce groundballs like they were going out of style are at once more intriguing and less reliable than people might think.

    There's something very tantalizing, very Holy Grail, about the groundball pitcher. Visions of 27 outs on 27 pitches dance in one's head. Why waste three fastballs or more in pursuit of a strikeout when you can set a batter down with one easy sinker?

    Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, for example, is Lancelot of the Knights of the Ground Table. According to The Hardball Times, Webb annually induces ground balls on two-thirds of the balls that batters put in play against him. Webb has emerged as one of the top young pitchers in the game, and you could be forgiven for thinking that ground balls are the fast track to success for a big-league hurler.

    Cooler heads realize it's not that simple. By and large, groundball pitchers have to work at least as hard as strikeout artists to get their outs. And what can be really confounding is how much punishment opposing offenses can inflict upon some of the groundballingist of groundballers. A few unlucky bounces here, and the smallest cluster of line drives or fly balls there, are enough to do a pitcher in.

    The first problem is the home run ball. Thanks to the detailed statistics that are kept today, we can learn which pitchers give up the highest percentage of homers among the fly balls hit off of them. The leaders in this category last season were Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Webb, who just happen to be No. 2 and No. 1 in getting the most groundballs per balls in play.

    Contrary to expectations, groundball pitchers regularly populate the lists of most home runs allowed each year. ...

    Carter Retained Despite Minor League Option
    2006-05-01 07:49
    by Jon Weisman

    Lance Carter does have a minor league option remaining, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News - making the decision to keep him on the major league roster that much less explicable.

    Jackson also supplements my thought Sunday that Derek Lowe ended his start prematurely:

    Lowe left the game following the sixth inning, during which he turned his left ankle when he stepped in a small hole on the side of the mound and then took a line drive from Mike Cameron off the instep of the same foot. Lowe said after the game he didn't think either injury was serious enough to sideline him.

    Finally, in a sidebar, Jackson writes that infielders are saying that they are have trouble picking up balls coming off opposition bats against the new color of the seats at Dodger Stadium:

    The seats in the dugout club now are pastel yellow. Baseballs that have been rubbed down with mud - something umpires routinely do before games - certainly can't be described as pastel yellow. But they are close enough that some Dodgers infielders are complaining that they can't initially see the ball against the background of the seats when it is hit at them.

    * * *

    Hong-Chih Kuo more or less previewed his demotion in comments he made Saturday to Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise:

    Kuo said he has been struggling with his location and relying primarily on his fastball and slider.

    "The last three games, I can't throw low," Kuo said Saturday. "And every time I try to throw strikes, I throw a little high."

    Meanwhile, every time Eric Gagne throws, I get nervous. But he did some tossing for the second day in a row Sunday, according to Otto.

    * * *

    Anyone who is a fan of the Lakers and the Dodgers had to feel a certain Even Steven feeling when the incredible Dodger collapse immediately followed the incredible Lakers rally. By the way, has anyone commented on how similar the end of regulation of the Lakers-Suns game was to the end of the UCLA-Gonzaga game in the NCAA tournament?

    * * *

    Update: From Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:

    Pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas, Billingsley took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Friday night, lowering his ERA to 1.59 in 28.1 innings. In his last three starts he's allowed just seven hits in 18.1 innnings while striking out 20. Add in that he's pitching in the Pacific Coast League and his home park is a hitting paradise, and the degree of difficulty makes his accomplishments that much more impressive. A scout who recently saw Billingsley thinks that the righty might be the answer to the Dodgers' bullpen woes. He thinks Billingsley could handle the switch, that it would keep his arm fresh, and that he could learn on the job. Sounds like Pedro Martinez' entrance to the big leagues. Why don't more teams do that?

    I also feel that middle relief in the majors can be a great apprenticeship for a starting pitcher, though I have to admit that in Billingsley's case, I've been wanting to see him stay in the starting rotation kind of groove. The two main things are that I don't want him overworked, and I want him to be allowed to make mistakes in the majors without the world criticizing him.

    In the same piece, Goldstein throws some cold water on the Andy LaRoche hype. He points out that La Roche is batting .273 with 16 home runs in 440 at-bats away from Vero Beach over the past two seasons. Are LaRoche's numbers really so bad, especially considering that some of them come in the tough AA hitting environment he is now in? "I'm not writing LaRoche off, but I am concerned," Goldstein says. I guess, for now, that's a reasonable straddle.

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

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