Monthly archives: June 2006
Overnight Baseball Talk
If you're not interested in the thread below ...
Comedian Fantasy Draft - 1975
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Schoolteacher Ken Aven invites you to check out his first novel, Chavez Ravine Echoes. Here's the description:
Hidden beneath the vast acreage of Dodger Stadium's parking lot is an almost forgotten Mexican/American community that once thrived in the area known as Chavez Ravine. A journey to uncover the culture and vibrancy of the displaced community is embarked upon after a late night serendipitous meeting between Dodger third baseman, Joe Shapiro, and Dodger marketing assistant, Liz Reyes. Using diary pages from a young 1950s Chavez Ravine inhabitant to guide them, Shapiro and Reyes's fictionalized voyage of discovery will bring to life the fascinating truths of Chavez Ravine and the forces that conspired to destroy the community.
Padres Hire DePodesta
Former Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta has joined the Padres as Special Assistant for Baseball Operations, reporting to CEO Sandy Alderson. Thanks to reader DaveP for the link.
I can only imagine the reactions coursing through the veins of different Dodger fans. Yikes. Hope everyone stays cool. It's a new horse, so let's not beat the dead one.
I will note that the hiring reunites DePodesta with Dave Roberts!
Draft Pick D'Alessio Stays In School
Power-hitting 2006 Dodger draft pick Andy D'Alessio will not be signing with the team, he told Derek Redd of the Anderson Independent-Mail:
D'Alessio, Clemson University's junior ABCA second-team All-American first baseman and a 10th-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, has decided not to sign with Los Angeles and return to Clemson for his senior year.
The way the sentence is constructed, it sounds like he's giving up the Dodgers and college. But the bottom line is, he's not going to L.A.
The money Los Angeles offered was not enough to entice him to sign, D'Alessio said. He had hoped for a $100,000 signing bonus, but the Dodgers offered $60,000, a number much lower than what was offered by the Cincinnati Reds when they chose D'Alessio in the 10th round after D'Alessio's senior year at Barron Collier.
D'Alessio knows his bargaining power will take a hit as a senior signee, but he said the money he'll be offered as a senior won't be much less that what he was offered this year. And the prospect of finishing his degree in business management tantalized him.
I can respect that.
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Longtime sportswriter Lewis Leader presents a 25-man roster of those who have played for both the Dodgers and Angels in this freelance piece for the Times.
They've shared or competed for the affections of Southern Californians since 1961, coexisted in the same stadium one calling it Dodger Stadium and the other Chavez Ravine from 1962 through 1965, and, again, jointly use the prefix Los Angeles.
Since 1961, the Angels' first season as an expansion franchise and the Dodgers' fourth after relocating from Brooklyn, 81 players have played with both clubs, Aaron Sele the most recent.
The list stretches alphabetically from Don Aase to Geoff Zahn. It includes Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Frank Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Murray, and some whose local stays you might have missed altogether. Consider Bobby Darwin. He played in one game for the Angels in 1962 and 17 with the Dodgers in 1969 and 1971. Remarkably, he pitched and played the outfield.
Included are numerous pitchers and outfielders who had solid careers with each club, but few middle infielders. In forming a squad of 25 who performed with both teams, the first criterion was that each member had some significant role with each team. That wasn't always possible, however, and personal favorites soon came into play. ...
Jeff Weaver did not make the team.
Report: Angels To DFA Weaver
A pitcher having about as bad a season as Odalis Perez is about to be made available. You might have heard of him. From Mark Saxon of the Register:
The team plans to bring up rookie pitcher Jered Weaver from Triple-A Salt Lake after a two-week demotion and to designate his brother, Jeff, for assignment - a move likely to take place today.
The Angels still could get some talent in return for Jeff Weaver, but they are resigned to swallowing the remaining $4 million they owe him. The Angels would have 10 days to trade the elder Weaver.
Several teams are desperate enough for pitching that they will make a run at trading for him, especially since it is likely to cost them only about $150,000.
Jered Weaver likely will pitch Monday or Tuesday in Seattle. The Angels tried to trade his older brother for weeks but found no teams willing to pay a pitcher with a 3-10 record and 6.29 ERA that much money. The story will be different if the Angels pay his salary. They might at least get a prospect in the deal.
(I should caution that the report has no on-the-record source.)
1) Doesn't this have sort of an East of Eden quality to it? Or am I stretching? Which actor plays Jeff Weaver in the remake?
2) Weaver had two problems pitching for the Dodgers last year that no longer exist. The first was Jim Tracy, who would leave Weaver in too long and not back him up soon enough with the bullpen. (Little, for all his Pedro reputation and all the struggles of the Dodger bullpen, is mostly aggressive with pulling a starter.) The second was Weaver and agent Scott Boras' expectation that Weaver deserved a rich, multiyear contract.
3) An Aaron Sele-like no-harm flyer on Weaver would be a good experiment. It would be worth a shot to see if Weaver can return to the level he showed with the Dodgers at his best, at the risk of finding out he will pitch as poorly as Perez has.
4) A Mark Hendrickson-like lose-a-prospect flyer on Weaver is not worth the trouble. I'd rather take the risk of Weaver pitching well elsewhere than the risk of a Dodger farmhand playing well elsewhere. (Obviously, Jason Romano-caliber prospects don't figure into this.)
Here are Dodger general manager Ned Colletti's latest remarks on the future, filtered through Bill Plunkett of the Register:
The performance of players such as (Russell) Martin, (Matt) Kemp, (Andre) Ethier and (Chad) Billingsley in the big leagues this year only has confirmed their value to the Dodgers, Colletti said. Parting with them is something he has become increasingly reluctant to do.
"When I came here, I took the approach that I wanted to have something in place that would enable this organization to be in it every year," Colletti said, echoing a mission statement deposed GM Paul DePodesta also said.
"I'm not prepared to sacrifice that - as I wasn't at the Winter Meetings when teams came to us with trade proposals involving those same players. I'm not inclined to take '07, '08, '09 and delete the opportunity we have to be successful year after year in order to better us for the next three months.
"I'm still walking that balancing act. It's not easy, and a lot of teams don't even try. I'm inclined to give it a try and stay with the young kids."
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"Wow! A fresh cup of coffee in 60 seconds. Not bad. Not bad at all."
- Kemp's reaction upon receiving a coffee machine as a gift (quote from Allison Ann Otto of the Press-Enterprise).
Ah, the childlike wonder of potential ad spokesmen.
Retreating Into My Own Little World
Wednesday was the first day in my memory that I read all the comments on Dodger Thoughts as they passed but didn't participate once. The primary reason was that I was a bit burned out from the previous day's discussion on the Mark Hendrickson trade, which many of us found worth examining to a degree beyond its importance to the Dodgers' immediate fortunes. Sort of the way we examine the Dodgers to a degree beyond their importance to our living and breathing. We just do.
As the day went on, there were a couple of places where I felt I could jump in and say something without it sending me to bed with a cold compress on my forehead, but each time I was on the verge, I found myself in love with the idea of continuing my fast. Many times, comments are like Lay's potato chips and you can't stop at one.
So instead, I silently digested another Dodger wipeout at the hands of an American League team, digested Odalis Perez's latest outing, digested Cesar Izturis' OPS finding its home below .700. I rooted for the Dodgers to make a game of it - just make a game of it - and Olmedo Saenz heard me with his three-run double.
My father-in-law, a Mets fan, made a joke about which one of us will be unhappier reading the papers following Wednesday's games. I courtesy laughed. Clearly, I would be unhappier, given that his team is in first place by a lot.
I watched the bottom of the first inning of the morning's game on TiVo after the kids were in bed and decided that Perez probably couldn't reach the infield grounder that set up Minnesota's grand slam, no matter how much effort he might have made. All along, I thought about writing something, but I never did.
For my first three decades as a Dodger fan, that's pretty much how it went. I would have mostly an interior dialogue. Dodger Thoughts came about when I saw an opportunity to stop talking to myself all the time. While there hasn't been a day that has gone by when I haven't been grateful that outlet, Wednesday was nicely nostalgic, nicely peaceful. It was nice to have some alone time.
And today, the Dodgers are still the Dodgers.
A Kid Grows Up in '68
Rich Lederer, Baseball Analysts:
I couldn't play baseball. I couldn't ride my bike. I couldn't even run. Well, now that I think about it, I really never could run all that well anyway. To wit, my high school coach used to time me running from home to first with a calendar. I can hear him now, "January, February, March, April..." I wasn't all that bad. I mean, I don't think I ever made it into May. Mickey Mantle could run to first base in 3.1 seconds. I could run to first base in 3.1 months. But the Mick could only do that hitting from the left side. I had the disadvantage of being a right-handed hitter.
In any event, I was sidelined that summer. I was instructed by my doctor to rest and apply ice to my knees frequently. I don't think the ice bags helped my pneumonia much, but my lungs seem to clear up at about the same pace as the improvement in my knees. I was a prime candidate for Osgood-Schlatter as it generally afflicts children in a "growth spurt" between 10 and 15 years old who are involved in sports. I was always tall for my age, but I shot up several inches that year. The good news is that I lost all my baby fat and was as slim as I had ever been.
What's a 13-year-old boy, who has no clue about girls, to do in his summer between seventh and eighth grades when he can't play his favorite sport and is mostly confined to home? ...
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Odalis Perez pitching in the Central time zone on a weekday morning. Brings back memories ...
Dodger manager Grady Little told Bill Shaikin of the Times that he doesn't anticipate leaving Perez in the rotation after today.
"We've been down that road enough," Manager Grady Little said. "I think he's valuable for us in the bullpen."
But, you know, things change. Except with Russell Martin. Martin is the designated hitter today - but batting last, of course. It's not a big deal, but keeping Martin at the bottom of the order seems to represent the often flexible Little at his most rigid.
Sandy Alomar Jr. is starting at catcher, probably for the last time in a long while. Hmm, and J.D. Drew and Nomar Garciaparra are on the bench against Twins duplicate ace Johan Santana.
Quoth the Raving
In Wednesday's papers, there will be stories about the Mark Hendrickson-Toby Hall acquisition. Reporters will have quotes in the story analyzing the deal.
Though it deviates from common practice, they should talk to at least one statistical expert for analysis of the trade. Not me, but someone from Baseball Prospectus or The Hardball Times or the like. Not in place of talking to players, managers, general managers or scouts. Not at all. But just to have that voice in the discussion. Even if it's a minority voice, they should help let the information out.
(To be fair, since I haven't done so in my reports on the trade, I'll get a quote from a baseball insider if I'm able.)
Statistics, whether they are simple as ERA or more complex, are going to appear in all the articles. Let someone who really knows their stuff talk about them, just as those who really know the game between the lines talk about that. There are insights to be had. Really, that's a good thing! Analysts may be raving, but they're not necessarily mad.
Most of us know that baseball doesn't have to choose sides between scouts and stats - and that, in fact, some form of statistics is part of baseball tradition. Let's take the opportunity to make the reviews of today's trade a place where we can have a more complete picture. The readers can dismiss what they don't value, but at least give them a chance to see the stuff.
Having a quote from a baseball stats expert does not mean the end of humanity.
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Tough opposing pitcher tonight in Francisco Liriano (2.17 ERA) - Dodger fans will have to hope that stats don't tell the story for one night. Coincidentally, Liriano was traded away by the Giants when Ned Colletti was assistant general manager. I'm not pinning Colletti with the crime - I just thought the timing was funny, coming on the day that a Dodger prospect was traded.
My very best thoughts go to ESPN's Peter Gammons, who has been stricken with a brain aneurysm, his colleague Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe reports.
You can comment at The Griddle, but I just wanted to send my best wishes here.
Permalink | No comments.
Something Ventured, Nothing Gained?
The Dodgers have officially used struggling pitcher Jae Seo to trade for an older pitcher whose credentials are worse than Seo's.
The fear about acquiring Seo was that his 2005 performance was a fluke. As my previous post (below) illustrates, there should be an even greater fear that Mark Hendrickson's 2006 performance is the same.
In the meantime, trading catcher Dioner Navarro for catcher Toby Hall is a clear damning of Navarro's future by the Dodgers. Though he perhaps will give Dodger manager Grady Little the confidence to rest Russell Martin an extra day each week, Toby Hall isn't a win-now or win-for-the-future player. No backup catcher is. Maybe Navarro deserves that evaluation, but I think there's considerable doubt, considering how much time he has to develop.
On top of it all, the Dodgers have taken on additional salary (although they are getting some cash from Tampa Bay) and are throwing in a player to be named later. The transaction just doesn't make sense to me.
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti's best work on the pitching staff have been the acquisitions of players who didn't look that hot - Aaron Sele and Takashi Saito. The favorable return was unlikely, but investment was appropriate. He seems to do better when staying away from the flavor of the month, which is all Hendrickson appears to be.
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The Dodgers also announced that Brett Tomko is going onto the disabled list. For now, Hall will join the Dodgers and give them three catchers - meaning that Sandy Alomar, Jr. becomes a de facto pinch-hitting specialist.
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Update: Hendrickson currently has the lowest percentage of line drives allowed in baseball, according to the Hardball Times. According to Dodger Thoughts commenter Regfairfield, who writes the blog Dodger Math, line-drive percentage tends to fluctuate due to luck. As Hendrickson's line-drive percentage regresses to the angry (the term I'm using because I'm tired of saying "regresses to the mean"), the number of hits he allows will rise, because line drives tend to be converted into hits more often than any other type of ball in play.
Tom Meagher, who used to write the sharp baseball blog, The Fourth Outfielder, elaborates:
"No, it's not something he will keep up," Meagher said. "In fact, it's kind of a sign of a stronger collapse to come. Pitchers do not wake up one morning with the ability to keep batters from hitting line drives. In terms of persistence of skill, LD% is at the bottom with HR/Fly, behind K, BB, and G/F. While the fluctuation Hendrickson is seeing is at the extreme, it is just fluctuation. ...
"Now, I don't mean to imply that it is impossible that Hendrickson has made some major change and that his pitching has improved considerably this year because of a change in his skills. It's not just his LD% that's down, he's also getting more Ks and BBs this season, so one could look at his line and decide that he's changed. However, to do so requires a great deal of naivete and wishful thinking. If he truly had made a significant change - had added velocity, came up with a new pitch - then we might assume there was a reason for the change in his line. But I've heard nothing about that being the case, and the team who would know best whether it was true is the one that just sent him packing. ...
"Performance fluctuates greatly all the time, and the fact that a perfect storm of fluctuations away from his career norms has only yielded Hendrickson a 3.81 ERA should be disquieting enough."
You Can't Stop the Chatter, You Can Only Hope to Contain It
Many folks this morning are talking about a rumored trade for Tampa Bay pitcher Mark Hendrickson. I'll break my rule about talking about rumors to just say this much.
As a pitcher, Hendrickson is soaring ... like a man in a barrel at the top of Niagra Falls.
The 6-foot-9 former basketball player is 32 and coming off three seasons where his ERA was below average. His career ERA over 646 1/3 innings is 5.01. Last season, he had a year worthy of the current starting pitchers the Dodgers would have him replace: a 5.90 ERA (73 ERA+), with 14 baserunners per nine innings against 4.5 strikeouts.
In 2006, Hendrickson's ERA is down to 3.81. This career-defying performance through 90 innings is predicated on a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) allowed of .258 - the 12th-lowest of any pitcher in baseball with more than 70 innings. He's had just about as many balls in play, striking out 5.1 batters per nine innings, but thanks to more balls finding gloves, Hendrickson has reduced his baserunners per nine innings to 12.
Now, you can all that luck or skill if you want, but this is the very best Hendrickson can do - and it isn't that spectacular. And it's tenuous. Last year, Hendrickson's BABIP allowed was .329. The year before, it was .300. Unless Hendrickson has truly mastered the game during the past offseason, somewhere in between last year and this year is the real Hendrickson.
One thing Hendrickson might have going for him is that it would be an easier road in the National League West than the American League East. But Hendrickson's former Devil Ray teammates, Danys Baez and Lance Carter, don't provide much support for that argument.
You never really know who's going to work out and who's not. I've almost been as wrong about the starting pitching this year as Ned Colletti. I didn't predict Jae Seo and Odalis Perez would struggle so much. I think I was right about Brett Tomko being mediocre, but I've been wrong about Aaron Sele (so far).
If there's a lesson here, though, it is not to trust the most recent 13 starts of a veteran pitcher. I understand the frustration with the Dodger starting pitching and the imperative to do better, but essentially you've got Perez and Seo at their worst and Hendrickson at his best. Should we assume they will stay that way - given that Perez, Seo and Hendrickson are all perfect illustrations of how much mediocre pitchers fluctuate in performance, of how unreliable recent history is? (Odalis Perez has gone from 4.56 ERA/.292 BABIP in 2005 to 6.33 ERA/.388 BABIP in 2006. He's done a reverse 2006 Hendrickson, or, if you prefer, he's approximated what Hendrickson did from 2004 to 2005.)
A reasonable hope for Hendrickson is that he would come here and give you a 4.00 ERA over six or seven innings. Think about that. That's the hope.
There's no actual trade for Hendrickson for me to write about, but he was worth discussing. There is a price that he'd be worth, but beware of fool's gold.
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Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News blogs a nice obituary for the inventor of the Dodger Dog, Tom Arthur, complete with recollections from former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley.
"The Dodger Dog was definitely his idea; he deserves all the credit," said O'Malley. "It worked out all the details about the extra long casings with the Clougherty family at Farmer John, and they brought it to us one day and asked if they could try an extra-long hot dog.
"We said, sure, try it out. Everyone respected his judgment, and we respected him since the late '50s, when he was doing the concessions for us at the Coliseum. There was no harm in trying it out. And it was a hit from the start."
There seems to be some question about what year the Dodger Dog was introduced. Hoping to get an update.
Update: Hoffarth passes along the news that Dodger team historian Mark Langill pegs the debut of the Dodger Dog to the 1970s:
... the first references to Dodger Dogs in the game programs were in 1970 - the first year Peter O'Malley took over as team president. A hot dog at the stadium could have been unofficially called a "Dodger Dog" without it necessarily being the longer version. A program ad for Farmer John has the tagline: "Try the Dodger Dogs at the Stadium."
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I have read your blog for the past year but never written in until
DAVE ROSS HAS 10 HOME RUNS THIS SEASON!!!! THE MOST ANY DODGER HAS IS 9!!!!
I don't know if you were aware of that or not, but THIS IS INSANE. His
GAMES: 37 ABs: 99 AVG: .323 OBP: .397 SLUG: .697 OPS: 1.094
(OPS OF 1.094!!!! THAT IS MANNY RAMIREZ LEVEL!)
I know that 100 at bats is a small sample size, and flukes can happen,
HOW ARE DODGER FANS MISSING THIS SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE?
-Nick C., 16, Sherman Oaks
Whither the Jungle?
Sometimes I pitch column ideas to SI.com; sometimes my editor pitched ideas to me. The first time I did an Eric Gagne story for SI.com was my idea, but I found it interesting that only two months later, I was asked to revisit Gagne and look ahead at the Dodgers' future with or without him ...
The memory of Eric Gagne entering a ballgame is one of the most profound that fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers have.* * *
In other news, surgery is not scheduled for Dodger prospect Andy La Roche, according to Baseball America. LaRoche had been diagnosed with a slight labrum tear earlier this month, but BA writes that he's back on a throwing program.
"He threw Saturday and he threw today and feels OK," Dodgers scouting director Logan White said on Sunday. "It's just now where he's throwing with no pain, though he hasn't really aired it out yet. So we'll see, but we're pleased with the way he's responded."
LaRoche has been hitting off a tee and took some live batting practice over the weekend while the team was in Tucson.
Thanks to Dodger Thoughts reader ToyCannon for passing along the report.
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June 25 Game Chat
Some Improvement for Gagne
The nerve pain in Dodger reliever Eric Gagne's throwing arm has diminished over the past four days thanks to the use of neurontin, a drug designed to work on the nervous system, according to Dodger head athletic trainer Stan Johnston.
"He's improving," Johnston said during a pre-Dodger Thoughts Night Out interview Friday. "We're waiting for him to have no pain."
Gagne seconded Johnston on both counts, saying that he is feeling better but that he knows he has to take his time.
"(I) want to make sure everything's fine, and everything's clean in there," Gagne said.
Johnston suggested that Gagne could begin an exercise program as soon as Monday if the pain is gone. The Dodgers say that Gagne's arm is structurally sound, and the nerve issue is the only thing preventing Gagne from returning to the mound. In April, Gagne had a nerve in his right arm removed after complaining of pain during the first week of the 2006 season - his second surgery on the arm inside of 12 months.
Gagne said that he felt a little stiffness warming up in the bullpen before his last game June 6, but that it was nothing that he hadn't felt in the past when he was healthy. But he thinks that when he entered the game, he overthrew a changeup - "rolled it over too much" - and tweaked the nerve. Subsequent treatment with anti-inflammatories did not help.
"It got better and we started some exercises, then it got sore again," Johnston said.
The switch to neurontin seems to have brought renewed optimism, however cautious. If the progress continues, Gagne can resume exercises before moving forward, according to Johnston.
Gagne added that he isn't sure that a rehabilitation assignment in AAA Las Vegas will be necessary, and that he could be on the Dodger Stadium mound in July.
"It's not a bad injury," Gagne said. "It's just a nagging injury."
Still, it has been a long, impatient road for Gagne, whose injury spiral began in March 2005 when he injured his knee during a Spring Training pepper drill. When asked how Gagne has handled his time on the sidelines, Johnston said sympathetically, "not very well."
"He's very frustrated," Johnston said. "He's such a competitor. He lives to be a big part of the team."
Interviewing Gagne, it was easy to be swayed by the feeling that he knows his body, that he will be as patient during this rehabilitation as he says, that he will warm up as carefully in the future as he promises and ultimately, that he's right to believe he will help the Dodgers this season. Walking away, it was hard not to feel paranoid that preventing further injury was beyond his control.
Can he really be on the mend? Why couldn't he be on the mend? Fool me once and all that.
The implication was that further rest after Gagne's pain disappeared was unneccessary, but the question I didn't ask is whether that is a certainty.
Overall, Gagne and Johnston seemed quite humbled by the struggle.
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A Grand Night Out
For our first offline get-together, could we have asked for much more than an easy victory, an opposing pitcher that was ineffective long past the point of reason, a visit to our cheap seats from Dodger public relations director Josh Rawitch, continued excellence from Cesar Izturis at third base to humble the host, and an all-around good time had by friends of Dodger Thoughts and friends of friends of Dodger Thoughts?
Update: Photo Album 1 (ToyCannon)
Night of a Thousand Dodger Thoughts Stars
Give or take 970 ...
We'll be somewhere in the vicinity of Aisle 12, row FF in the Reserved Level if you happen to be there ... and be sure to look for us on TV! We'll be the people indistinguishable from the other people.
It Runs in the Family ...
... and then it aches.
Jayson Werth's sister, UCLA freshman heptathlete Hillary Werth, missed the indoor track season with leg problems and had surgery Wednesday, according to Robert Burns of the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois.
Werth was able to compete in the javelin and shot put in the outdoor season before having her operation. Burns wrote that she has struggled with injuries for more than a year now.
Werth suffered multiple stress fractures in her foot that ended her high school career in April of 2005 after winning both hurdles races at the Spartan Invitational.
After an off-season full of casts, crutches and rehabilitation, Werth began to work under the UCLA coaching staff's master plan for her to compete in the heptathlon.
The stress fracture healed, but the calf injury prevented Werth from being able to run. So she concentrated on two facets of the heptathlon: the javelin and the shot put. ...
"My body is a little beat up right now," she said. "But when I first got out there, they told me that I would be running around."
Werth said she usually spent every weekend with her brother, the Dodger outfielder whose return date from wrist problems is still to be determined.
The notion that Adrian Beltre only performs well when he is motivated is absurd.
The idea that he wasn't motivated during the times in his career that he has slumped is absurd.
The idea that he can turn it on and suddenly excel at the theoretical moment he becomes motivated is absurd.
Beltre struggles to maintain his best level of performance, for whatever reason. He falls into bad habits. For all the theories about Tyler Houston, bone spurs, drugs, Dodger Stadium and ennui, we don't really know why this is.
It's more than plausible - it's realistic - that Beltre has moments of high focus and motivation when he can't hit a lick, and moments when without even thinking about it, the game comes easy like Sunday morning.
If you care to, show me how you know that Beltre didn't care about his performance in 2005 with Seattle. Because everyone with the Mariners that I know of says the guy was working his butt off.
Too many times, we assign pop psychology or knee-jerk explanations without merit. We should aspire to do better than that - whether or not we're motivated to.
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Hey, I've Heard of Dan Uggla!
Get a high-resolution snapshot of baseball's top rookies via Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts. Several Dodgers are part of the ensemble cast.
In the meantime, I'm voting for a cooling-off period on discussion of the Dodger pitching. You don't have to comply, but that's where I'm at.
And ... exhale.
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While you're exhaling, you can mull over this contest at Monster.com in which you can win a trip for two to the All-Star Game with on-field press credentials, $2,000 and most extravagantly, your own blog!
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Update: Admittedly, he's writing from inside the organization, but Josh Rawitch expresses on Inside the Dodgers some of what I'm feeling today.
I know I haven't posted very often after games, but before I leave the stadium, I think it's important to let the fans know that we all share your frustration and continue to work towards improving the team. The biggest thing that I try to remember during losing streaks is that they are bound to happen during the course of a long season. That doesn't make them any easier to take, but as most of you will remember, we had lost five in a row heading into that Cinco de Mayo game and then became the hottest team in baseball. It's happened before and it can happen again. ...
I know my job is to stay positive, but hopefully it will rub off some of the readers. The key really is to not get too down when we're losing and not get too far ahead of ourselves when we're winning.
I will break my silence on the pitching just long enough to say that I wondered this morning why eight innings of shutout relief by the Dodgers had to be wasted in a single loss Saturday, when just a fraction of them would have come in so handy Wednesday. But overall, while many of us worry about what mistakes the team might make in its efforts to improve itself, I'm just in the mood to relax about it.
Checking In on the Dodger Defense
Earlier this year, in my SI.com article on different systems for evaluating defense, I included John Dewan's Plus/Minus system, which is the centerpiece of his book, The Fielding Bible. Today, Dewan offered me a midseason update on some Dodger fielders.
To refresh or initiate your memory, the Plus/Minus system charts the distance, speed and type of every major league batted ball, computes how often each type of ball is converted into an out, then calculates how many plays that each individual player makes relative to the average glover.
"The most interesting Dodgers' angle that has come out of our early season look at the Plus/Minus system is that Nomar Garciaparra has gotten off to a good start defensively," Dewan said. "In his short time at first base, he's already a +6 thus far this season. This is not entirely surprising given that he's spent his career as an infielder, and primarily as a shortstop, the most important defensive position on the field."
Last year's major league leader at first base, Mark Teixeira, was +17 for the season. Carlos Delgado brought up the rear at -23.
"Nothing else on the team looks out of the norm (Kent -3, Lofton -1, for example)," Dewan added. "The No. 3 right fielder over the last three years in the plus/minus system is J.D. Drew (+25 from 2003-2005). He is off to a good start again at +9."
Drew achieved his +25 in 1,966 innings. By comparison, Ichiro Suzuki leads right fielders from 2003-2005 with a +48, but in 4,160 innings.
Dewan's information is proprietary, so I couldn't get numbers for the entire team. But since Willy Aybar has been in the news recently, I batted my little eyelashes to see if I could persuade Dewan to give me Aybar's fielding numbers for the year. Dewan took the bait.
"Aybar is +2 at third base in limited exposure," Dewan said. "Frankly, it's too small a sample size to make anything from this. But it's nice to know it's not -15 or something really bad."
Dewan said that in his short time with the Dodgers this year, Bill Mueller was -2 at third base.
Finally, many people are wondering about whether Rafael Furcal is a better defensive shortstop than Cesar Izturis. From 2003-2005, Furcal is +38 (3,790 innings) and Izturis is +33 (3,669 innings), thanks largely to Furcal picking up a +26 (1,306 innings) compared to Izturis' +4 (918 innings) in 2005. Basically, both are considered to be among the top fielding shortstops in baseball, which makes Furcal's run of errors this year either misleading or perplexing.
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Vinny really tsks: Do you really want to be the guy that Vin Scully decides to sue? From CBS.
Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully and his wife, Sandra, are suing a contractor, alleging their Thousand Oaks home was damaged because of shoddy work during construction of a second-story deck.
The civil action filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges breach of contract, negligence, fraud and negligent misrepresentation on the part of Kevin Persons Inc., which does business under the name of Grounds Maintenance Services.
The Scullys are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. ...
The story goes on to describe the involvement of one Joe Kent. Not Jeff Kent, Joe Kent. That could have been really interesting.
* * *
Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has caught on to former Dodger manager Jim Tracy's humility deficit.
For almost 40 years, dating to Danny Murtaugh, Pirates managers have been low-key men who were long on humility. The last thing they wanted was credit for success. That goes for Murtaugh, Bill Virdon, Chuck Tanner, Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon.
Almost to a man, they deflected praise. That's not Tracy's style.
When it was mentioned to him over the weekend that the Pirates were the only National League team to have the same five pitchers start every game, his answer was hardly of the "Aw shucks," variety.
"We've done a terrific job in that regard," he said. "A lot of that has to do with the way we've handled these pitchers."
That might be true, but did Tracy have to spell it out in such a self-promotional manner? Besides, it's not as if he has a history of injury-free rotations. In his five seasons as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he averaged 10 starters per season. ...
There's more - including Smizik's description of a Tracy "brain cramp" the same night Tracy sold out Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson for not making a tough play.
* * *
Vin Scully expressed some exasperation - which is so rare that it's always news - at the Dodgers swinging too often at the first pitch lately. As usual, he's justified. Scully obviously doesn't think there's no occasion for jumping on the first pitch, but you can tell he thinks the Dodgers have become too impatient.
"It's amazing - absolutely amazing," Scully said after when Matt Kemp grounded out on the first pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday.
I get a little impatient when people automatically criticize hitters for swinging at the first pitch, but yeah, the team seems a little skittish right now.
Cesar Izturis is to start at third base for the Dodgers on Thursday - a punchless return to the days of 2005 when the left side of the infield was manned by Izturis and Oscar Robles - but try not to freak out.
Things change, and Dodger manager Grady Little acknowledges it. From The Associated Press:
When asked if Izturis was the everyday third baseman, Little replied: "For now. Two weeks from now, I'll let you know."
Izturis is a preposterous choice to play third base - only at his hottest, as he was in early 2005, does he generate enough offense to be an above-average shortstop. Unlike Rafael Furcal, he can't make up for a hitting slump with stolen bases or walks. At third base, he'll have to save a truckload of runs with his glove to make a difference.
But Little has not come across this season as someone who sticks stubbornly to an idea beyond its expiration date. His experiments may seem like longshots at times, but they do end.
Aybar Sent Down
In a turn of events I think no one could have predicted, Ramon Martinez has essentially won the third-base job for the time being.
This year, Martinez has a .400 on-base percentage and .448 slugging percentage, while Willy Aybar has slumped to .364/.443. As a result, Aybar has been optioned to AAA Las Vegas to make room for the activation of Cesar Izturis.
While I wouldn't expect Martinez to hold at his current numbers, you can see Dodger manager Grady Little thinking that Martinez should be given the chance to see how long his hot streak can last, especially with Aybar's inconsistent defense.
Unfortunately for Aybar, he does not have the track record to get the deference that Rafael Furcal (.329/.335) has received. Furcal made an absolutely spectacular catch of a line drive in Oakland on Friday, but overall he has continued to struggle. But unlike the veteran with the $39 million contract, Aybar can be stashed in Las Vegas while the Dodgers assess the future of Izturis.
In announcing Aybar's demotion, Inside the Dodgers said that Izturis will see a little time at third base. So the position could continue to be a revolving door for a while.
Ultimately, the lesson is that veterans with guaranteed contracts may slump, but rookies with options may not. It takes a special talent to know when you should cut a veteran with superior numbers to retain a rookie with inferior numbers but the potential to get better. I'd take Aybar over Martinez in any one-on-one face-off, but even though it might not be the smartest thing to do, the safest thing is to keep them both in the organization.
* * *
The chart below isn't meant to draw any firm conclusions, but to add some information to the discussion of the Dodger starting pitching problems. It does nothing more than answer the question, "Of the total innings thrown by a team's starting pitchers, how many of those pitchers currently have ERAs below 4.75?"
For example, for the Dodgers, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Aaron Sele and Chad Billingsley have ERAs as starting pitchers below 4.75. Their innings as starters add up to 231 2/3, which is 59 percent of the 392 2/3 innings thrown by Dodger starting pitching.
The 4.75 cutoff was chosen arbitrarily, to represent a figure below mediocrity but above incompetence (though these ERAs are not adjusted for park-effects). Basically, I wanted to know how many starting pitcher innings have been thrown by pitchers that, overall, have been bad.
The chart reveals that the Dodgers are 14th in the National League in total starter innings (meaning they're going to the bullpen more than most teams), 13th in starter innings thrown by sub-4.75 starters, and 11th in percentage of starter innings thrown.
Not surprisingly, pitcher-friendly San Diego ranks at the top of the charts - even with Jake Peavy clocking in off the charts at 4.81 - but check out such teams in hitter-friendly cities as Cincinnati and Colorado near the top. Considering that the Dodgers (along with Washington) play at a fairly friendly pitchers park, you can see how badly they compare to their rivals.
Basically, while every team could do better with its starting rotation, you're not wrong if you thought the Dodgers were suffering more than most.
But, woe is Philadelphia. Woe.
Dodgers Get Stewed
Ken Arneson and Catfish Stew have things covered today - in pictures.
In case you missed it/don't forget: Dodger Thoughts Night at Dodger Stadium is Friday.
Tremendous Father's Day Gift
Vin Scully talks about his stepfather, Allan Reeve - the man he called "Dad" - to Steve Henson of the Times:
Dad was working late as usual, finishing up a 14-hour shift at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Vin Scully had finished his homework and was getting sleepy. Although something was on his mind, he couldn't wait up, so he wrote a note and put it on his dad's breakfast plate before going to bed.
It was 1943 and Vin was 15. His stepfather, Allan Reeve, left for work each morning at 4:30, riding buses and subways to the shipyard, often not returning home until after nightfall.
Reeve had an opportunity to take a civilian job on a ship headed to the combat zone in Europe. The money would be good, maybe even enough to get the family out of its $40-a-month, fifth-story walk-up apartment in Washington Heights.
Vin had only a hazy memory of his biological father dying of pneumonia 11 years earlier, but he knew the toll it had taken on his mother, Bridget. The thought of losing Reeve, a reserved, pipe-smoking Englishman who had brought stability and love to the household, terrified him. ...
I hope the time I spend following the Dodgers has some value, because there are so many other things I could be doing with it. I guess I have to console myself with the fact that Scully does the same thing - and has some of the same misgivings, as we see later in the story - though at least he fed his family with it.
The Times also has stories from Sam Farmer on the fathers of John Wooden, Arte Moreno and Anita DeFrantz. You won't be shocked about the kind of man Joshua Wooden was.
Happy Father's Day.
* * *
Scintillating to a Fault
When Oakland reserve designated hitter Antonio Perez was called out on strikes in the 17th, Dodger relievers had completed an improbable nine shutout innings, lowering the bullpen ERA this season from 4.60 to 4.41.
Unfortunately, they needed 9 1/3.
Russell Martin caught 258 pitches tonight. Jason Kendall caught 256.
Unless a roster move is made, at least two Dodgers who played the entire game tonight will have to start Sunday. Here's the lineup I proposed:
If you don't like Penny at first base, then probably Kent or Furcal starts.
Update: Got to be careful about deadpanning on the Internet. Yes, I was joking about Penny.
LaRoche Labrum Lamentably Lame
Third base prospect Andy LaRoche, 22, has a slight labrum tear in his throwing shoulder, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
The second paragraph below is meant to be soothing, but it's making me queasy:
LaRoche, playing for Triple-A Las Vegas, heard a pop and felt a sharp pain. He had an MRI and was examined on Saturday by Dr. Frank Jobe, who believes the injury was caused by the dive and not the throw.
Jobe prescribed 10 days of rest before deciding whether surgery would be necessary. Trainer Stan Johnston said that surgery was not necessarily a given, because many players function despite such tears.
"Function" is a pretty loose word choice, and that's what bothers me. "Function" does not mean "perform at maximum capability." Eric Gagne, at this point, is trying to get back to functioning.
Furthermore, surgery doesn't always solve the problem, as we witnessed with Shawn Green, whose doctors removed damaged cartilage and didn't repair his labrum at all. Green has remained in the game, but his power has never been the same. He's functioning.
Hopefully, LaRoche's condition isn't so serious, but this isn't exactly the same as stubbing your toe.
LaRoche was 4 for 12 with two homers and three walks in four games with Las Vegas. He had OPSed .902 in 62 games with Jacksonville this year before his promotion.
Update: Here's a two-year old article by Will Carroll for Slate on labrum injuries.
Update 2: Dodger Thoughts commenter Vishal points out that Troy Glaus has regained his power despite a previous labrum injury.
* * *
Gurnick goes on to add these rehabilitation updates:
What'd I Say?
From the Dodger Thoughts 2006 Spring Training Primer, February 8:
Takashi Saito, P: This year's Norihiro Nakamura, pitching side. A 36-year-old (on Valentine's Day) pitcher with a 3.82 ERA in Japan last season doesn't excite.I still think that Sele will go the Brett Tomko route, and that Martinez's high batting average is a fluke. But for now, these were three whiffs.
Some that I got less wrong:
Lance Carter, P: There's nothing particularly distinguished about Carter, but the quotes from Colletti upon his acquisition last month indicate the GM's strong belief in him. It's hard to believe Jonathan Broxton isn't better, but ...
* * *
Dodger Thoughts Night at Dodger Stadium, Friday, June 23
* * *
Navarro Officially Sent to AAA
Again, Inside the Dodgers provides the early news. Really has been nice of Josh Rawitch and friends to pass along lineups and notes so early this year.
J.D. Drew is sitting again - though lefty Barry Zito is on the Oakland mound, we'll await more news on Drew's health. Willy Aybar and Andre Ethier will be on the bench as well.
* * *
It's On: Dodger Thoughts Night at Dodger Stadium
When: Friday, June 23, 7:40 p.m. I'll arrive as early as possible after work - ideally by 6:40 p.m.
Where: Dodger Stadium, Reserved Level, Section 12. The Dodgers are hosting Pittsburgh on Fernando Valenzuela Bobblehead Night.
Tickets: Thirty tickets have been reserved at a cost of $12 each by Dodger Thoughts commenter ToyCannon. (Many thanks!) E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with "DodgerThoughtsGame" in the subject header to reserve your seat(s) and arrange payment. If more people are interested, we'll try to scrounge up more tickets - but because of the bobblehead giveaway, the game may sell out, so act as quickly as possible.
Update: For a $2 Ticketmaster service charge, your ticket can be e-mailed to you. See Comment 11 below for more details.
Also: If you would like to purchase a copy of The Best of Dodger Thoughts, this is a great time to do it.
Catching Up With ...
... Paul DePodesta.
... Milton Bradley.
Graduation Day (Wear Sunscreen)
My niece's elementary school has adopted the motto, "We have two gifts to give our children. One is roots, the other, wings." I have to say, those are fine choices. Roots made a tremendous impression on me when I watched it night after night as a nine-year-old, and one of my first spec scripts to try to get screenwriting work was a Wings episode entitled "Nuts & Burials," in which all the characters became preoccupied with how they would spend eternity. In humorous fashion, of course.
I'm just sorry I missed it when the Roots and Wings DVD boxed sets were being handed out to all the kids. I suppose they do that on the first day of kindergarten.
Anyway, I was at the school Wednesday for my niece's sixth-grade graduation, which seems an appropiate enough setup for the major league debut today of Chad Billingsley, born a mere 10 years and 10 days before my niece.
I was taken back to my own sixth-grade graduation in 1979 from Saticoy Elementary School, located proudly in North Hollywood on Ethel Avenue, a street that never fails to bring Vivian Vance to mind. (For another story about school days, check out Bob Timmermann's piece today on nearby Kennedy High School at Baseball Analysts.) Sixth grade had a weird start for me because it was my first year at the school after six years at Collier Street Elementary in Woodland Hills. I was the newest kid in the class and just about the shortest. But I bonded with friends over Mork and Mindy and Steve Martin's A Wild and Crazy Guy, and before I knew it, I was comfortable. And then, before I knew it, I was being pushed up to the majors.
At our graduation, we listened to a speech, sang "We've Only Just Begun" and most importantly, I danced with Susan Stein, one of two girls there whom I liked and who was as short as me. (Nothing came of it, because back then I only kissed other girls in sanctioned forums such as "Truth or Dare.")
On the program for my niece's graduation, there were echoes: a speech by the school principal and a scheduled song, "Time of Your Life." What's funny is that I immediately assumed that this would be the theme song from Dirty Dancing, before realizing that I had the title mixed up and that kids today are hip enough for Green Day.
It's a melancholy song, a song that even Seinfeld used in its series-ending clip show to bring a touch of poignancy to its finale. Instead of looking ahead like the Carpenters did, the song looks back.
Another turning point;
Time grabs you by the wrist;
So make the best of this test
It's not a question
It's something unpredictable
So take the photographs
Hang it on a shelf
Tattoos of memories
For what it's worth,
It's something unpredictable
When a player reaches the big leagues, are his eyes completely forward? Or is there any amount of lament for when less was demanded of him, for when he was less openly on trial?
I hope when Billingsley arrived in San Diego, with all the preparation he needed to make for today's start, that he allowed himself some time to just sit back and savor what he's accomplished. I trust that he did.
In closing, students of Dodger Thoughts, I pass along this utilitarian piece of advice from my niece's principal: "Remember your strengths and your competencies." I'm a little puzzled by the distinction, but it seems like it will come in handy at some point.
(And confidential to my niece ... I loved your speech.)
* * *
Rookies in the lineup from No. 5 through No. 9: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Willy Aybar, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley. Is this a Dodger record for a pre-September game? (Other than the franchise's first season, of course.)
It Takes Me Back
Not that baseball isn't a team game, as we're sadly being reminded ...
Meet the Press
Although I know better than most to take postgame quotes with a healthy amount of skepticism, it pleases me to hear people say the right thing or offer some semblance of introspection or honesty. Honestly, I think I really do get a warm feeling inside. Like puddin'.
Dodger pitcher Aaron Sele, for example, could have shirked responsibility for Tuesday's loss, in which he was victimized by two Rafael Furcal errors and some America's Funniest Center Field Videos submitted by Kenny Lofton. Instead, as Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports, Sele took the brunt.
(Dodger manager Grady) Little called the errors "the difference in the game." Sele disagreed, at least outwardly.
"That happens," said Sele, who gave up five runs (one earned) and walked a season-high five batters over four innings. "A starting pitcher has to keep the game close, and I wasn't able to do that. (Errors) are part of the game. I just have to make some better pitches."
I'm never going to be Sele's biggest fan, but he won me over some with those comments. Contrast them with the words of Scott Erickson last year.
Commenters have pointed out this Ericksonerpt in Steve Henson's Times article today:Separately, in Henson's notebook in today's Times, Little expressed nicely tempered satisfaction for the fine relief work Takashi Saito has put in this season.
"How many bullets he's got left in his arm, we're not sure," Little said of Saito. "But we like what we see."
It was a nice balance of appreciation and realism.
Joel Guzman, I fear, is going to get a negative reputation. He reportedly pouted and didn't run out a ball in Las Vegas when the Dodgers called up Matt Kemp ahead of him, and Tuesday night, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com desrcibed Guzman as "sour" after Guzman was demoted to Las Vegas.
"I have nothing to say," Guzman told Gurnick.
The expectation for any player meeting the press, if he can't be truly engaging, is to go into Crash Davis mode and say all the right things. While it's possible that Guzman is a pouter in the worst way, as the Las Vegas incident would suggest, it is fair for Guzman to feel sincere disappointment that he hasn't had the kind of year that Kemp has had.
Guzman's reason for being sour could ultimately be harmless. Nobody likes a demotion, and just because you can't muster immediate equanimity doesn't make you a bad person. The guy is only 21, and being sour when he doesn't find success might not indicate anything more than his passion. Let's get to know him a little better before we judge.
As for the bete noir of 2006, Perez offered a similarly bitter no comment in reaction to his demotion to the bullpen Tuesday (though Gurnick called Perez stunned). Perez has become this year's pinata in more ways than one, and the widely circulated story about how he canceled his charitable ticket giveaway program because he wasn't getting enough appreciation indicates how self-inflicted some of his wounds are.
Yet for some reason, Perez hasn't gotten to me the way Eric Karros and Jim Tracy did when their performances declined and their comments to the press showed they were in complete denial about it. In part, this is because Karros and Tracy had so many defenders that it bothered me that they could be so easily forgiven, while Perez - dating back to his conflict with LoDuca and continuing with the grief he took for not wanting to hurt the team or himself by pitching with a finger injury - has never seemed to have many people in his corner.
In part, it's because I can't get the feeling out of my head that Perez's mother's illness is affecting him. Not that this entitles him to be a jerk, but I can understand how he might have difficulty mustering his best behavior.
I don't really like being in the position of defending a pitcher with a 7-plus ERA and dubious social skills, but I guess I'm not convinced that the unraveling we're witnessing this season is permanent. I feel someone needs to speak up for that possibility, and because few others will, I will. I can take the beating if (when) it turns out I was wrong.
* * *
You Be the Manager
It's not as homespun as giving orders to the manager by holding up signs at the ballpark, but today at SI.com, I put together an interactive column that invites you to fire everyone and hire yourself:
Hot dogs, Cracker Jack and second-guessing the manager. If you're a baseball fan, at least one of these is whetting your appetite right now.So enjoy, and after you're done, come back so we can talk about how much I overthought my Trevor Hoffman decision.
Billingsley Becomes a Dodger
Inside the Dodgers has the news on Chad Billingsley, who will start Thursday. Odalis Perez returns to the bullpen and Joel Guzman to Las Vegas.
Jae Seo has a doctor's appointment for tomorrow. He left tonight's game after one inning of relief.
The 26th Man
This afternoon, the Dodgers announced that they had activated Jeff Kent but held off revealing who would leave the active roster. It's mystifying why it wouldn't be Eric Gagne, or if it is, why it would take so long to announce.
Even if Gagne has convinced the Dodgers that he is ready to pitch, why would they believe him? Why would they rush him back into action? Here you have them giving Jeff Kent, who has a good record of health, more time than he needed to recover from his injury. Why would Gagne be treated less gingerly?
If they haven't already, someone should hide Gagne's uniform.
(And then, if everyone wants him to pitch so badly, he can pitch in his skivvies. That should take our minds off his arm troubles.)
Update: For those just tuning in, Gagne went on the disabled list again - and will be there more than 15 days.
"Although Gagne's placement on the DL is retroactive to last Wednesday, he won't be ready when he's eligible to return next week," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote. "He will need to play catch, then throw off a mound, then probably face hitters. And none of that will happen until the nerve is completely sensation free. In (Brad) Penny's case, while there was constant therapy, the keys were time and patience."
Regarding the starting rotation, Gurnick wrote in his notebook that "manager Grady Little said the next five games tentatively line up with Brad Penny, (Brett) Tomko, (Odalis) Perez, Derek Lowe and Aaron Sele."
"But you know the way it is around here," Little told Gurnick. "It's subject to change at a moment's notice."
* * *
Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of Erico?
Since the year 2000, Scott Erickson has pitched for five major league teams and compiled the following record: 79 games (58 starts), 347 innings, 247 earned runs, 620 baserunners, 51 home runs, 141 strikeouts, 6.41 ERA.
In his best season of the century, Erickson had a 5.55 ERA compared to a league average of 4.38, for a park-adjusted ERA+ of 79.
Talk about the guest who wouldn't leave. You may know me as something of a bleeding heart, but it's hard to feel too bad for someone who has had such a long, sloppy goodbye.
The New York Yankees designated Erickson for assignment Sunday. Maybe, just maybe, this is it.
* * *
Members of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, another place to chat about the Dodgers, have kindly invited Dodger Thoughts readers to join them for a get-together at the Dodgers-Nationals game July 28. Click here for details. Since I've proven incapable of planning such an activity - though someday, I hope to do it - it might be a nice place for all of you to meet up.
LaRoche Go Boom
Dodger prospect Andy LaRoche was promoted to Las Vegas today and hit a two-run home run on the first AAA pitch he saw.
After a slow start, LaRoche was OPSing an impressive .901 in the tough hitting environment of AA Jacksonville, with nine home runs, 41 walks and 32 strikeouts.
You would have figured Jacksonville would have suffered this year with most of last year's crew now playing in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, but leading up to LaRoche's promotion today, the Suns had won 12 straight and 22 of their past 25.
Alomar vs. Lofton
Unnoticed in the celebration of Sandy Alomar, Jr.'s game-winning pinch-single at Colorado for the Dodgers on Sunday was how surprising it was to see him pinch-hit at that particular moment, replacing center fielder Kenny Lofton with one out and the go-ahead run on second base in the ninth inning.
To be honest, it was Little's second daring move of the inning. The first was to have Joel Guzman pinch-hit for Danys Baez followed by Olmedo Saenz for Ramon Martinez, instead of going with Saenz and Martinez and saving Guzman for later.
After Guzman flied out, Saenz doubled and Russell Martin doubled, tying the game with Lofton due up. I had no problem with the boldness of using the Dodgers' final catcher and position player to try to win the game right there, instead of worrying about extra innings. No slam against Lofton, but I'm glad that Little doesn't find him sacred and is willing to consider alternatives. And I'm not big on saving players for innings that might not come. At the same time, I wondered if the move made sense on any level.
Looking up the numbers today, I find that Lofton had a .375 on-base percentage vs. lefties in limited opportunities from 2003-2005 and .361 this season. Alomar was 6 for 13 (.462) against lefties this season, but had an on-base percentage of .270 against them the previous three seasons. Overall this season, the only other significant edge Alomar has over Lofton is in slugging percentage, an edge that's both slim and recent.
The decision to use Alomar seems to have weakened the Dodgers' chances of winning in nine innings as well as 10 or more. Best as I can tell, Little either read a lot into Alomar's 6 for 13, wanted more than just a single or was simply playing a hunch. I haven't heard any reports that Lofton was hurt, which would mootify the need for an explanation.
In any event, Alomar was a strike away from having the move backfire when he went the other way and singled in Martin. I'm still not convinced it was the right move, but I can't say I went to sleep unhappy about it.
Update: I didn't look hard enough at the splits of Colorado pitcher Brian Fuentes. His success against lefties further makes the case for using Alomar. Thanks to the guys in the comments below for pointing this out.
Feeding the Roster Beast
Jeff Kent is due back from the disabled list early this week. He can replace Eric Gagne, who is on the active roster in name only.
The rumor train, driven with authority by Steve Henson of the Times, has Chad Billingsley en route to Dodgerland for a Thursday or Friday start - he can replace Joel Guzman, who had an okay, James Loney-like debut in the bigs (not everyone can break out like Matt Kemp at 21) and can now go back to Las Vegas to continue undergraduate study. The Dodgers would still have 11 pitchers. And given the way the season has gone, isn't it time for Billingsley to get his shot? Last year, it was around late May/early June that it became Derek Thompson Time, and Thompson was no Billingsley.
Dioner Navarro will be ready for activation soon, but with Russell Martin usurping the starting job at catcher, the best Navarro can do is be a reserve. And even though, as Henson confirms, Sandy Alomar, Jr. is "as much a coach as a catcher," that .367 batting average (and yes, .367 on-base percentage) will no doubt point Navarro into the same classes as Guzman.
Henson notes that Kelly Wunsch is pitching again, for the 51s. Hong-Chih Kuo has done well since his recall, so Joe Beimel could get short-timed to AAA if Wunsch is recalled. Other transactions between the back of the bullpen and Las Vegas are certainly possible.
That still leaves the question of Cesar Izturis, who is well into his rehab stint. I had Izturis pegged to take Guzman's spot after Kent took Gagne's, but that was before the Billingsley talk became serious. Izturis' rehab can be extended further, giving us a chance to wait and see. But if Billingsley sticks, who goes? Jae Seo or Odalis Perez, leaving the Dodgers with 10 pitchers? Willy Aybar or Andre Ethier, ridding the Dodgers of two key players in their ascendance to first place? Ramon Martinez, who is OPSing .850 and would be much more content than Izturis (if anyone's asking) to be a reserve?
Somehow, I sense that another injury will solve this roster crunch. At least until the almost inevitable Izturis trade.
No Pitcher Is Better Than Some
On-the-money quote from Grady Little passed along by Kevin Pearson of the Press-Enterprise:
If (Eric) Gagne is put on the DL and replaced on the 25-man roster by (Jeff) Kent, that would leave the Dodgers with 11 pitchers on the roster.
"If they are the right people, I wouldn't mind going with nine," Little said.
* * *
Brett Tomko, who was hammered again Saturday, expressed confusion that opponents are taking advantage when his location is off.
"I feel like I'm making good pitches," a shellshocked Tomko told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. "But I feel like when I make a mistake, I'm not getting away with anything."
In other words, Tomko is wanting his mistakes to be forgiven. In the words of Vin Scully, "Aren't we all?"
* * *
The Dodgers announced the following draft picks have signed: "Bryan Morris, the club's second first-round pick (No. 26 overall) is the highest Dodger draft choice to sign so far. Preston Mattingly (No. 31 overall) also signed last night, as did Kyle Smit (fifth round), Justin Fuller (11th round), Michael Rivera (17th round), Matthew Berezay (21st round), John Martin (24th), Esteban Lopez (25th) and Joseph Jones, an 18th-rounder who is the son of Dodger scout Hank Jones."
* * *
Pearson adds that Kenny Lofton is scheduled for a day off today. With J.D. Drew likely to rest his Saturday injury, a Joel Guzman-Matt Kemp-Andre Ethier outfield and five-rookie lineup could happen. But it probably won't.
Guzman himself is questionable after getting hit by a pitch Saturday.
This Is What I'm Talkin' About
"As long as I can feel anything, I can't throw," (Eric) Gagne said. "When the nerve is irritated, it has to go away completely. It's just time, but we don't know how long that takes."
That was a lesson (Brad) Penny learned at the end of 2004 and into 2005, when he suffered a rare arm nerve injury and aggravated it trying to rush back in September for the stretch run. Penny was more deliberate when he returned in 2005 and missed the first three weeks of the season to be doubly sure that his nerve was fully healed. He has had no further problems with it.
- Ken Gurnick, MLB.com
Keep this in mind, by the way, if you're planning on questioning J.D. Drew's toughness. Drew doesn't play through every injury (though he plays through some) and risk making them worse. Maybe that doesn't mean he's weak. Maybe that means he's, I don't know, sane.
* * *
Chad Billingsley tonight: five innings, four hits, two runs, three walks, one hit batter, six strikeouts, 103 pitches. I only mention this because I figure people might be wondering.
I have never seen as many blasts off Colorado bats die at the Coors Field outfield walls as I saw Friday.
Here's a link to the Walteromalley.com obituary for Rollie Seidler, the longtime Dodger executive and husband of Terry O'Malley Seidler. Rollie Seidler passed away Thursday.
Perez Isn't Done - But Billingsley Might Be Better
At 3.91, this year's Dodger starting rotation has its lowest ERA since the 2003 rotation finished at 3.49. This is somewhat amazing because Jae Seo has been like unwrapping socks on Christmas morning, and Odalis Perez has been downright malodorous.
Perez's ERA is 7.02 overall and 8.02 as a starting pitcher in 2006. Without even trying, Perez has extended the tradition of horrible Dodger starters to a third year, taking the baton from Scott Erickson (7.22 in 2005) and Hideo Nomo (8.25 in 2004).
Perez has alienated many of even his biggest supporters with his body language, his susceptibility to the big inning, his dismissive quotes and above all, his overall performance, and the last thing I came here with today is any kind of predetermined agenda to defend him. Perez is 28 years old, young but not so young that he couldn't be facing the end of his career.
Unlike Erickson and Nomo, however, there are signs that Perez is capable of a turnaround.
On balls hit in play off Perez this season - balls that in theory Perez has little control over - opponents are batting an astonishing .395. So, there is more than a little truth to his recent shrug to the media that he has been unlucky. In previous years, the BABIP against Perez has been .292 (2005), .272 (2004), .299 (2003) and .255 (2002).
The BABIP is more significant this year because Perez's strikeout rate is slowly declining, down to 5.74 per nine innings. Perez can't afford as much bad luck as he could before - and he certainly can't afford as much as he's having this year.
But the thing about luck is that it can change. I've even heard it does change from time to time. It would be extremely unlikely for Perez's BABIP to remain anywhere close to .395 - among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings last year, the highest BABIP was .358. Even Jose Lima was only at .320.
At the same time, there are other numbers already in Perez's favor. Perhaps most importantly, teams are giving Perez death by a thousand pinpricks rather than a sledgehammer. Perez has allowed five home runs in 42 1/3 innings as a starter, the equivalent of 19 over 162 innings. That's fairly acceptable - in fact, it's an improvement on his career numbers.
Even though opponents are batting .353 overall against Perez this year - 92 points over his career average allowed of .261 - the increase in slugging percentage allowed by Perez is only slightly higher. It's 109 points - .522 this year vs. .413 over his career. Opponents are not hitting Perez with much extra power compared to previous years.
Although he's keeping the ball in the park, Perez is walking 2.55 batters per nine innings, a better rate than Brad Penny or Derek Lowe. Perez is also striking out batters more often than Lowe, and Perez's groundout/flyout ratio is 1.46: slightly below his career average of 1.62, but an improvement over last year.
Batters are getting plenty of Perez pitches to swing at, and they're hitting them, but they're not hitting them very far.
Perez is not going to make any kind of late run at the Cy Young award this year or ever again. But the stubbornness in Perez that we find so annoying could work to his advantage, because given the opportunity, Perez can perform over the rest of the season at the level people expected of him: at a league-average ERA or better. Producing six innings of three-run ball would make a big difference in the Dodger season - as you can see by looking at the other back ends of the Dodger starting rotation.
It's worth noting that Seo has also been on the unlucky side on BABIP, allowing a .305 batting average. The bigger problem with Seo is that he has also been giving up 1.91 home runs per nine innings - more than doubling his 2005 rate with the Mets. Whereas the increase in Perez's slugging average allowed is in line with the increase in his batting average allowed, the difference between Seo's slugging percentage allowed and batting average allowed this year, 237 points (.290/.527), is well above his career differential of 177 points (.272/.449).
Seo's overall ERA of 5.40 this season is much better than Perez's, but he probably needs to make a more tangible adjustment to gain any improvement in his statistics. Not that it can't be done - Lowe has lowered his nine-inning home run rate from 1.14 last year to 0.54 this year - but the challenge for Seo at this point in the season is greater than that of Perez.
Brett Tomko's situation is somewhere between Perez's and Seo's - his BABIP is .301 and he's allowing a home run every six innings, but his strikeouts are actually on an uptick, and the slugging against him isn't hugely out of line with his career numbers. With an ERA still below five (not that pitching Saturday in Coors Field is likely to help) and some room for better luck, Tomko remains someone who will have his good stretches to go with his bad. It's the way most of his career has gone.
Next to Lowe, Aaron Sele has been the luckiest Dodger starting pitcher, with a BABIP of .246. That figure, along with a strikeout rate that Sele hasn't displayed since 2000 and home run and walk rates that are honestly the best of his career, has allowed Sele to pitch at near-maximum capacity. It goes to show you that anything is possible and if Dodger general manager Ned Colletti or anyone can prove they knew this might happen, we'll all be really impressed, but short of Sele having dabbled in necromancy, these are four very tenuous prongs to stand on.
If I had to rank the Dodger starting pitchers going forward, it would be:
And yes, by September, if not sooner, AAA Las Vegas pitcher Chad Billingsley should be one of the five-best Dodger starting pitchers available. If he can put up a 3.97 ERA in Jackpot Central, allowing 53 hits (seven home runs) and 29 walks in 65 2/3 innings while striking out 72, he can do well in Los Angeles. If Billingsley maintains or improves his numbers for the next month, and the Dodgers can't get five league-average starting pitchers from the current six (a high standard, no doubt about it, but one completely worth striving for), they should pull the trigger and call Billingsley up. They should do this before they convert Jonathan Broxton or Hong-Chih Kuo into starting pitchers, and they should do this before they let bad starting pitchers undermine the rest of the staff in the second half of the season.
* * *
Collins Makes Some Lemonade
Dodger scouting director Logan White gets a great deal of credit for the success of this year's Dodger rookies, and rightfully so, but director of player development Terry Collins deserves his share as well. Tony Jackson of the Daily News throws some his way this morning.
Collins looked like he was on his way out the Dodger door after his selection to manage the team by Paul DePodesta reportedly became the reason DePodesta was abruptly fired. (Talk about awkward ...) However, Collins has certainly made the best of things since he was relieved of his last managerial post in Anaheim in 1999, and you might argue that he has been more valuable as farm director than he could have ever been as manager.
The laid-back, congenial White is the man generally credited with building the Dodgers' pool of minor-league talent. Collins, who is part drill sergeant and part father figure, is the man who is developing them. Or, as he would prefer to put it, the man who hired the managers and coaches who are developing them. ...
This isn't Collins' calling. After finishing second five times in six seasons as the manager of the Houston Astros and the Angels, he believes he was meant to manage and hopes to do it again one day. But this is Collins' present vocation, and he is determined to do it well for as long as he does it.
The goal isn't to get every player to the big leagues, because the reality is that the vast majority never will make it. The goal is that the players who do get called up will be ready when they get there. To Collins, that means staying ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting them, often moving them to the next level before they master the one they're at.
That's because Collins wants his players to struggle. After all, he figures if they learn how to fight their way out of a slump in the minors, they will be better prepared to battle their way out of one in the majors.
A Day at The Office
I did a quick feature on the man behind Dwight K. Schrute's blog, Schrute-Space - along with another piece on T.R. Knight of Grey's Anatomy - for Friday's Variety.
Dwight Schrute is cut from many cloths -- many comically shaped, weirdly fabricated, strange-to-the-touch cloths.T.R. Knight:
If Charlie Brown had ever grown up and pursued a career in medicine, he might have become George O'Malley, the character who always seems to be having one "good grief" moment after another on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."
During the first interview, Wilson was so level-headed - enthusiastic but thoughtful - that I became all the more impressed with his talents on The Office. If you're a fan of the show, be sure to check out Dwight's blog - as well as that of Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam. Jenna/Pam also has a MySpace page, although I'll admit to being way behind the curve with regards to MySpace.
A First Pitch to Remember
Dodger Thoughts reader Jibin Park threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium Monday night - with a little something extra, I might add. Here's his tale (along with some photos):
It was quite a surreal experience. I was on the field about an hour before game time, chatting with none other than Larry King of all people. I see Scott Boras talking on his phone, and sitting behind him is Dumb and Dumber star Jeff Daniels.
Precisely at 7:00 p.m., I am introduced onto the field as a special guest from Waddell & Reed and Los Altos High School. I had planned on going through this big routine of taking off my glove and walking around the mound - things that I used to do when I was a relief pitcher at Claremont McKenna not too long ago. Instead, I'm on the rubber and it sinks in that I'm on the mound at Dodger Stadium. So I don't shake the catcher (my older brother) off nor do I engage in any pre-first rituals that I had planned.
I go from the stretch, but consciously in an Eric Gagne-like half-stretch, half-windup. I take a big leg kick, and I fire the pitch. The ball tails a bit and goes low and inside (to a righty). My brother half-trots to the mind and shakes my hand and we are whisked off next to the Dodger dugout, and the National Anthem is played. We then go right past the Dodger dugout. In a jovial manner, Eddie Murray acknowledges my group (partly because my brother already knew him during his internship with the Padres as Dave Winfield's intern), and I say "what's up" to Odalis Perez as he's leaning on the rail of the dugout. Somewhat in a daze, Odalis acknowledges my greeting.
We're escorted to the club section. I sit down, and about 1 minute later after a Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado bomba, the Dodgers are down 3-0 and I think to half-jokingly think to myself, "Man, I could do better than that."
It doesn't quite end there. After the game, one of my friends who was with me on the field said that one of the Dodger employees that works the gun (his name's Tom) approached him and asked if he was the one that caught the first pitch. My friend (Steve) said no. Tom informs him that I was clocked at 82 mph and that that was the hardest that he's seen from a first pitch in the five years that he's been there.
The whole experience was somewhat short, surreal, and sweet.
Can't wait to get the DVD that the Dodgers said they'd provide so that I can see what actually happened.
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This other story came in through today's comments from DT reader Greg S:
Got to sit in the dugout boxes last night and about an hour before the game, Russell Martin, Sr. was sitting there by himself. So I went up and introduced myself and talked with him for quite a while. He is a really nice guy and of course very excited for his son. After reading the Plaschke story, I thought he might be a bit strange, but he was quite articulate and said all the things a good dad would say. Mostly excited but also concerned about his son being famous (quickly) in a place like L.A. Anyway, it was just a nice story (both in the Times and Vinny talking about it), and I can confirm first hand that he is enjoying every minute of it.
Mueller Heads Down Valentin Path
Taking a break from the woes of Eric Gagne for a moment ...
Though Dodger third baseman Bill Mueller got off to a better start in April than last year's free agent signee at the position, Jose Valentin, it looks as if Mueller is going to end up having a similar season. Like Valentin, Mueller was sidelined early on by a knee injury, and his recovery is not going well.
"Mueller's knee is not responding well to May 15 surgery," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com said, "and he will seek a second opinion from Vail orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Steadman. Mueller has had three operations on the right knee."
Valentin, meanwhile, is having a little bit of a rebound at age 36, playing second base for the New York Mets. It's nothing spectacular, but presumably it's what former Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta had in mind when he signed Valentin to be the 2005 stopgap at third.
Valentin, 2005: 184 PA, .598 OPS, .232 EQA, -6.9 VORP, $3,500,000
I never got comfortable with the Valentin signing, whereas I saw some potential (to go with some health risk) in picking up Mueller when it happened. Furthermore, Mueller still has a chance to pull things together by the end of the year (though I don't think anyone knows when we'll see him next), and Valentin still has plenty of time to let things fall apart.
But in the end, Mueller's principal value to the Dodgers might just be what he did for them just for the season's opening couple of weeks, and maybe, what he might provide on the trade market. Maybe he'll contribute in the stretch run of 2006. Maybe he'll follow Valentin into a resurgence - in Los Angeles even, if for some reason Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman or Andy LaRoche don't prevent it.
Otherwise, on-the-field memories of Mueller in a Dodger uniform might be as few as those of Valentin.
An MRI on Eric Gagne revealed no damage, according to Inside the Dodgers. With an off day Thursday, Gagne will not pitch again at least until the team arrives in Colorado on Friday. The Dodgers plan to reevaluate him that day. I wouldn't call this an entirely clean bill of health.
Andre Ethier and Willy Aybar draw the bench today, as the Dodgers tease but continue to hold back their five-rookie lineup. J.D. Drew is also sitting, with Matt Kemp batting fourth and Joel Guzman fifth. Jose Cruz, Jr., whose platoon differentials favor him against lefties, starts against Tom Glavine.
* * *
Pitches seen by Guzman:
Guzman hasn't gone deep in any at-bats, but he is taking pitches here and there. In 14 plate appearances, he has taken the first pitch in eight of them. Although he hasn't always had a good swing, he has swung and missed only three of 37 pitches he has seen so far.
One thing I've noticed is that he has tried to go to right field more than I would have expected.
* * *
Last week, John Manuel of Baseball America had a long profile on the difficult high school career of local product Nick Akins, who was drafted by the Dodgers in the 13th round Tuesday.
In search of a better school in a calmer neighborhood, Akins transfered from L.A. High to El Camino Real - perennial home of great baseball teams and academic decathletes - in Woodland Hills before his junior season, according to the article. But Akins was not rewarded for his two-hour bus rides each way.
Akins' 2005 season came to a head in an ugly melee during a game against Sun Valley Poly High. The Akins family says the Poly team taunted Nick with racial epithets and intentionally beaned him during the game, making a pitching change and bringing in its hardest thrower for the task. No one disputes that after Akins was hit with a pitch, he trotted to first base while his father approached the Poly High dugout.
"I walked in the dugout. I was wrong for doing that," Damon Akins said. "I'm bigger than the average guy. When I walked in, one of their assistant coaches grabbed me, and it started. Only when the players started swinging at me did Nick leave first base. He came to get his dad's back."
Another area of agreement: Everyone wishes the fight, which resulted in several injured Poly players, hadn't happened. ...
(El Camino Real coach Matt) LaCour agrees that Akins is still paying for his dad's mistake. When informed that two scouts had predicted Akins could go as high as the third round, however, LaCour sounded surprised.
"Nick just has to learn the work ethic that it will take for him to be successful," LaCour said. "He's a nice kid. He's not disrespectful. He has the tools; for him it's about controlling the beast in terms of his swing."
* * *
Here's a different kind of draft trauma, as reported by Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Deadspin provided the link.):
Picking up a phone to answer a call from the Seattle Mariners, highly regarded pitcher Brandon Morrow suffered an injury to his pitching elbow Tuesday that may have to be repaired by "Tommy John" ligament replacement surgery.
"I don't know what happened," said a distraught Morrow, a right-hander from the University of California. "I just reached for the phone on the table and all of a sudden I had this sharp pain. I heard a little pop. Honestly, I didn't do anything unusual."
The call was to tell him that the Mariners selected him with their first-round pick, fifth overall, in the amateur baseball draft. Club general manager Bill Bavasi cautioned that nothing about the injury was definitive.
"We know a little bit about pitching injuries, and there's always a possibility it's just a cramp," Bavasi said. "He told us he can't pick up a can of soda without severe pain. But you know how kids exaggerate."
If this had been a story on The Onion, I would have been less surprised. (I should probably be more clear that the article has been reported to be a spoof, though I think it practically begs to be taken seriously and misread.)
* * *
Dodger scouting director Logan White is chatting online at 3 p.m.
Sigh of the Times
Eric Gagne looked more relaxed to me for most of the ninth inning Tuesday than he did in his first 2006 appearance Friday. His arm seemed to have an easier motion and his landing seemed less ginger. But by the time he made his final pitch, people were noticing him grimacing - and that he could or would not extend his pitching arm to shake congratulatory hands.
Then we find out from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com that Gagne is still not 100 percent.
Gagne struck out Carlos Delgado on a 2-2 fastball that had some life leading off the ninth. But on an 89-mph fastball to David Wright, Gagne appeared to experience discomfort as he bounced off the mound. He went on to strike out Wright on a changeup.
Endy Chavez flied out on a first-pitch changeup to end the game, but when catcher Russell Martin went out for a handshake, Gagne extended his glove and not his pitching hand. Gagne emerged from the trainer's room 30 minutes after the game still in his uniform.
Throughout his recovery, Gagne has spoken confidently that the surgery solved a problem that also resulted in an operation last summer. He had not mentioned soreness during the most recent recovery.
Although Gagne's discomfort was apparent, he continued to pitch, and nobody from the dugout went to the mound. He twice hit 92 mph with his fastball, but more often was around 89. Afterward, clubhouse comments were carefully worded.
* * *
Last year, it was two blasts from the past - Antonio Perez and Jayson Werth - kicking Pedro Martinez to the curb. This year, it was a blast from the future, Matt Kemp. Amazing.
I don't know when Kemp will see his next fastball, but it should be none too soon if you're an opposing pitcher.
You can't bench this guy. Not yet. I like Andre Ethier, and Kenny Lofton does his thing, but you cannot bench Matt Kemp right now.
Update: "[The pitch to Kemp] was the best pitch I made all game," Martinez told Newsday. "He caught me there. He ambushed me."
* * *
For those who are interested, I have a new article on Variety discussing whether television comedies that are improvised deserve more recognition for their writing.
Few will storm the Emmy barricades so that improvised comedies like HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm""Curb Your Enthusiasm" can win awards for writing. But is it time they did?
Oh, By the Way - Pedro's in Town
Dodger Thoughts, June 3, 2003:
Dodger scouting director Logan White told MLB.com that Chad Billingsley is "a Tom Seaver-type of guy." Seaver, of course, starred at USC. White also compared Billingsley to Roger Clemens. Clemens attended the University of Texas.
Dodgers' Top Pick: Kershaw
Baseball America Draft Day Blog
First pick: 10 a.m. Baseball America says that according to multiple sources, the Kansas City Royals will take former Dodger draftee Luke Hochevar with the first pick.
10:05 a.m.: And so it is predicted, and so it is done.
10:15 a.m.: The Dodgers take left-handed high school pitcher Clayton Kershaw with the seventh overall pick. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kershaw is the first prep player picked this year.
"Considered to be the top high school arm in the draft," MLB.com said, "Kershaw's fastball sits in the mid-90s to go along with a big curve and workable changeup. An oblique injury hasn't scared teams off."
Not scared by an injury risk? Yeah, that sounds like the Dodgers.
I asked Nate Purcell, who studies the draft like it's every final exam he will ever take at the University of Arizona rolled into one, what he thought of Kershaw. Purcell is very high on the pick.
"He is athletic and a competitor," Purcell said. "He throws a heavy, heavy fastball with great late movement - ranges from 90-98 - and a plus curveball, and will only get better as he matures. He shows a feel for his change-up that has a chance to be a good pitch as well. All in all, this is the best (the Dodgers) could have done, and Logan White made Dodger fans proud again. He could even take the (Chad) Billingsley route and be up in LA in three years."
10:30 a.m.: The Dodgers take junior college right-handed pitcher Bryan Morris, 6-3, 175, with the 26th overall pick.
"The Rays' third-round pick from last year, he played two ways in JC and actually broke a bone in his wrist sliding head-first," MLB.com said. "His best offering is a plus, plus curve, though he also has a fastball that can hit the mid-90s."
Said Purcell: "In last year's draft, Bryan Morris was the player I really wanted at 40 until Hochevar fell. The Devil Rays goofed up with Morris and should have gotten him signed. He profiles as a true power pitcher and being from Tennessee, he reminds me a lot of Matt Cain of the Giants. His fastball is plus from 90-97 and his curveball is a true hammer, a 12-6 off the table breaking ball that Baseball America rates as the second-best breaking ball in the college class. I think Morris could be fast-tracked. Starting out next year at Vero Beach and being in Jacksonville by next summer. He certainly has the stuff to do that."
Update: At Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer writes:
Morris may not be as well known as many college pitchers because he played for a community college in Tennessee. However, he earned Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors while fashioning a 10-1 record with a 0.82 ERA, which included a no-hitter vs. Southwest Tennessee and a four-hit, complete-game shutout with 14 strikeouts vs. Hiwasee in the playoffs.
Morris is my type of pitcher. The 6-3, 175-pound RHP has a plus fastball and a power curve. Moreover, the freshman recorded 122 Ks in 88 IP (12.48 K/9) and induced nine groundouts (and only two flyouts) in that Hiwasee shutout last month. He was drafted in the third round by the Devil Rays out of high school last June. The two sides supposedly agreed on a $1.3 million bonus that greatly exceeded the slot money, but the deal was never consummated due to an inability on the part of ownership to pull the trigger. Morris chose to attend Motlow State and join his dad, who is the assistant coach, for one year.
Without seeing him pitch before, I'm still going to give Logan White a big thumbs up on this draft pick.
10:55 a.m.: Leading off the sandwich round with the 31st overall pick, the Dodgers surprise with high school shortstop Preston Mattingly, a son of former Yankee great Don Mattingly.
Preston is 6-3, 205. Speculation at MLB.com was that given the reported low quality of talent in this year's draft, the Dodgers have taken a chance on genetics.
Dodger Thoughts reader Underdog supplied this story from the New York Daily News:
In photographs, 18-year-old Preston Mattingly looks like a teen Donnie Baseball. However, on the field he might be more athletic than his father. Preston was clocked at 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash, according to his coach at Evansville Central High, Jason Engelbrecht. One talent evaluator estimated that there are only about 20 players in the majors who would be clocked that fast every time.
"He can run, that's for sure," said Mike Radcliff, the Twins' scouting director who has scouted Preston Mattingly. "He's very athletic, has a real nice frame (6-3, 195 pounds) and you can project him to be strong."
Every team but the A's has scouted Preston, and the Yankees are one of the most active clubs - scouting director Damon Oppenheimer watched Preston two weeks ago.
Preston is "a throwback in this era of specialization for high school kids," Engelbrecht said, because he played three sports. Preston spent the last two summers playing AAU basketball instead of baseball - he does live in Indiana, after all - and even his dad says he's raw.
Still, he hit .478 with 23 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 30 games this season. In addition to his abilities, he wowed scouts with his demeanor.
Ah, character and bloodlines, character and bloodlines. And raw, raw talent.
"He's a three-sport athlete with a gifted bat, plate discipline and more speed than his dad had," Jim Callis of Baseball America wrote. "But though he has good tools, his future position is much in question. No word yet on whether Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has fired any scouting personnel for letting Mattingly get away, but Dodgers official Tommy Lasorda did tweak him after announcing the pick by saying, 'Thank you, George.' "
11:40 a.m.: At Inside the Dodgers, Logan White compared Kershaw to Dave Righetti and Morris to John Smoltz. Given that, you would almost think they should have been drafted in a different order.
The Dodgers' next pick is in the fourth round, 113th overall. So that concludes this morning's coverage!
One more thing about Matt "The Bison" Kemp's first week in the big leagues.
When he grounded out to the pitcher with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a 3-3 tie Sunday, Kemp experienced his biggest disappointment since his three-strikeout debut. But what was striking about the play was this. Kemp clearly got fooled on the pitch, leaning in and then ducking back as the ball rode in on him. He ended up with a defensive half-swing, tapping the ball up the first-base line. (If you follow this link to Kemp's hitting chart at MLB.com and click on "g" for grounders, you can see approximately where the ball was headed.) Kemp's recoil from the check-swing left him staggering a couple steps behind the batter's box on the third-base side of home.
Stil, from his heels, Kemp exploded toward first base and - I had to watch the replay three times to believe what I was seeing - just barely missed passing Phillies pitcher Geoff Geary before the tag. And let me tell you, if Geary had missed the tag, it would have been very interesting to see if he could regroup and make the throw to first base to beat Kemp. An easy out almost disappeared in a whoosh.
If Kemp could somehow be Raul Mondesi with better plate discipline ... oh my. I'm definitely getting ahead of myself, but hey, if I don't stay ahead of myself, Kemp might pass me in a cloud of dust.
Kemp will start tonight's game on the bench, however, according to Inside the Dodgers. If ever there was a team unlikely to suffer from September burnout, at least on offense, it's the Dodgers and their ever-rotating starting lineup.
* * *
Pregame entertainment: My brother Greg's latest project, the second season of the Disney animated series W.I.T.C.H., premieres tonight on Toon Disney. The start time appears to be 6:30 p.m. locally, but your timeage may vary.
W.I.T.C.H. inhabits a sort of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer spirit and universe, though understandably without that level of darkness or adult content. Greg wrote tonight's episode and was co-executive producer on all 26 of the upcoming season. I wrote four episodes of the series, staring with the sixth of the season, and I'll let you know when it airs - most likely sometime in late July.
* * *
Drysdale and Kennedy
My dad's friend Ed Medvene got two seats behind home plate for the Dodger game against the Pirates on June 4, 1968. Don Drysdale took the mound that night, and nine innings later, he had broken the National League record for consecutive shutout innings held by Carl Hubbell and the major league record for consecutive shutouts held by Doc White.
Drysdale pitched a three-hitter, walking none, hitting one batter, of course (Manny Mota) and striking out eight. Maury Wills grounded out with a runner on third and two out in the sixth inning to end the biggest scoring threat. Dodger first baseman Wes Parker made 17 putouts, and only one out was recorded by a Dodger outfielder.
It was a Tuesday night, the night of the California presidential primary. The game ended in two hours and 20 minutes, and so my father and his friend made the short drive to the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy was being crowned the winner of the Democratic primary, to take in the scene there. My dad recalls seeing Kennedy at the hotel, which was torn down this year, though he didn't stay long enough to hear him speak.
"Then we left, and between the time we left and the time we got home, (your mother) was just sitting in front of the TV set, just stunned," he said.
* * *
Maury Brown of Baseball Prospectus makes the case today for inducting former Dodger owner Walter O'Malley into the Hall of Fame, along with former baseball players union chief Marvin Miller.
I'd like to ask how these two individuals could be absent from Cooperstown in the first place. Both men altered MLB's landscape forever. Both changed the conventional thinking in MLBboth in terms of labor, and in terms of business. Both men directed their respective constituencies, either directly or indirectly. Both men are iconic. ...
If anything, it's that relocation that sets O'Malley apart from others as a visionary. No, it's certainly not the only reason he should be inducted into the Hall (we'll get to the rest later), but O'Malley's leap from one coast to the other so dramatically altered MLB's course that it's hard to imagine how different it was before the Dodgers and Giants relocated. Not just the act of the move was remarkable. With the relocation came changes that would alter how ballpark design, marketing, and broadcasting would be done in Major League Baseball.
* * *
Two non-Dodger injury notes from Will Carroll at BP that remind us of the importance of caution when dealing with injuries. Dodgers, take note.
1) Albert Pujols might need be strapped to a gurney to keep from coming back to soon. Carroll writes:
Complicating the analysis is both Pujols' lineup value and his demonstrated ability to play through pain. Coming back too quickly can be devastating for any muscle strain. The body rebuilds the muscle with scar, weakening it by definition, though muscle can of course be strengthened around the tear. Retearing the muscle creates a vicious cycle of problems that can cause the type of career-altering cascades we've seen in the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. or Gil Meche. I'd expect the Cards to be ultraconservative with this injury, keeping Pujols on the shelf beyond the minimum, but less than the oft-quoted six weeks. It is going to be a Charybdean temptation for both manager and staff to write Pujols' name on the lineup card, one that will need to be balanced by the field, medical and front office staff.
2) There may well have been a connection between Roy Oswalt's tight hamstring a week ago and his back problem Sunday.
There is no question in my mind that Roy Oswalt has a cascade injury. In the always-great Alyson Footer's article at MLB.com, Oswalt all but says so himself. "I may have altered my mechanics," he says, referring to what he did after straining his hamstring. Oswalt is now dealing with mid-back spasms, an unusual location. Elsewhere in the article, we get clues. Oswalt's back only acted up when he threw curves, meaning that his mechanics remained altered into this session. Mid-back spasms usually involve some muscles rather than structural problems, so this isn't as bad as it sounds. The Astros medical staff will have to stop the pain-spasm cycle, the Astros field staff will have to keep Oswalt from altering his mechanics, and Oswalt will have to listen. A decision on the DL won't be made until mid-week and would follow an as-yet-unscheduled MRI.
In the same article, Carroll called the latest injury to ex-Dodger Gary Sheffield "devastating."
Furcal, Garciaparra Rest
Inside the Dodgers has the lineup.
In Honor of Matt Kemp and His Fans at Dodger Thoughts
Kevin: Ooo. . .
Dave: What's that I see--
Kevin: Ahh. . .
Dave: --On the horizon?
Kevin: Ooo. . .
Dave: I see an eagle, and--
Kevin: Ahh. . .
Dave: I see some bison. These things are America to me. . .
Kevin: [trying to harmonize, but slightly out of tune] America to me.
Perez Replaces Seo in Rotation
'Tis a rotating rotation, tisn't it?
Jae Seo now goes on Aaron Sele watch.
Today, the Dodgers threw a 188-pitch two-hitter, walking nine and striking out 14.
By the way, if I'm not mistaken, Aaron Rowand has robbed Andre Ethier with the same diving catch two games in a row.
Update: In their fairly persistent pruning of the bullpen, the Dodgers have sent down Tim Hamulack after another strikeout-heavy but otherwise shaky performance and recalled Hong-Chih Kuo.
I know, I know - some are waiting impatiently for Danys Baez to get his pink slip. But this year, you have to slide all the way down the totem pole before that happens. Baez has unshimmied past Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton (and of course, Eric Gagne), maybe Joe Beimel (which is still so strange), but there's still a couple spots to go.
What Do You Think of These Memories?
Updated and corrected post (3:35 p.m.)
Despite what this article by The Associated Press says, Sunday is not the 30th anniversary of Tommy Lasorda's tirade against Paul Olden after being asked about Dave Kingman's three home runs that day. That game was played May 14, 1978.
I knew right away something was wrong with the article, but Bob Timmermann helped me figure out what it was. I found a three home-run game by Kingman against the Dodgers in 1976, but it was an 11-0 New York Met whitewashing. The Dodgers then lost a 14-inning game to the Mets only two weeks later on a Kingman homer, but the score was 1-0. (In that game, the Dodgers used three pitchers and the Mets two. The teams played the 14 innings in 2:52, thanks in part to the Dodgers going 3 for 43 with one walk.)
In the game that actually precipitated the rant, Kingman hit his third home run of the game off Rick Rhoden.
And now, we can pick up the AP narrative, ill-timed as it is.
Looking back on the incident, Lasorda showed remorse for allowing his temper get the better of him.
"I'm sorry that I did an interview like that, and I'm not proud of it,'' Lasorda said Saturday. "I've been married now 56 years, and I've never used a word of profanity in front of my wife, my children, or anybody else's wife or children. But on the ballfield, I'm bad. I'm really bad.
"So when that guy talked to me, I was as low and depressed and dejected as you can get. I mean, we lose the game in 15 innings, I had to go into my starting pitchers, and it knocked the daylights out of me. Then this guy comes in at the very moment I sat down and asked me `What is your opinion?' So I proceeded to tell him what my opinion was.''
(Saturday game chat continues in the thread below.)
The Scoreboard That Knew Too Much
When week-old rookie Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp came up to bat for the first time tonight, the scoreboard said he had two home runs. And soon, he did. It was the next 400 feet of the giant steps being taken by him and the Dodgers.
But thanks to reliever Danys Baez's inability to get anyone out in the seventh, it wasn't enough. The main difference between Baez and the discarded Lance Carter right now is that Baez gets left in longer when he's in trouble.
In truth, though, the only move I didn't get by Dodger manager Grady Little tonight was taking out Odalis Perez after one inning in the top of the sixth, when his spot was due to lead off in the bottom of the fifth. Removing Jonathan Broxton after the subsequent inning, when he has gone two innings as often as he has, might have also seemed strange but was mainly a function of that previous move. Coming after what appeared to be an astute double-switch with Kemp (replacing Jae Seo and Jose Cruz, Jr.) that set up Perez to pitch multiple innings, the quick hook for Perez after a shutout inning was surprising.
Seo, by the way, was throwing strikes early, but seemed to get nervous when he found that his strikes could easily be tattooed. He then struggled with his location, got pinched by the umpires a little bit perhaps, and ultimately couldn't get the job done. He stands to lose his spot in the rotation, though I wouldn't be surprised if things remained fluid for a while longer.
The loss overshadows another flexing of the offense by the Dodgers, who scored six runs even with J.D. Drew mostly on the bench. In his first start (as a cleanup hitter, which seems like a big deal to me mainly because Russell Martin can't even get to the No. 7 spot - otherwise I don't really care), Joel Guzman got a hit and a walk, and made contact with a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, unfortunately doing the one thing you didn't want him to do - hit into a double play. Guzman wasn't tested much defensively at third, but the big guy (and I mean, big guy - he and Kemp could give half the Fearsome Foursome a run for their money) did come in to field a slow grounder and throw the batter out.
You forget, when so many other things have been talked about over the past 12 months, that not so long ago, the Dodgers were all about Eric Gagne. You forget, until he returns to the biggest roar of the night, even though the team is losing.
Gagne still lands off the mound ugly - when he got his strikeout, he did such a hop, skip and jump he could have been Willie Banks. It doesn't make me feel good. But I guess that's Gagne, and he's back. Welcome back.
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How Many Rookies Tonight?
Don't know yet at press time ...
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Cruz Still Missing
The ex-wife of Jose Javier Cruz, the
Karla Lynn Cruz does not believe her husband was fleeing Puerto Rican authorities. She said they failed to extradite him in April when he was jailed in Harris County on a fugitive warrant.
Though he has left their home on occasion, she said, Cruz would always call to keep in touch.
"He would never have his (cell phone) off. His phone is just going straight to phone mail," she said. "My 11-year-old left numerous messages on his phone saying, 'Daddy, please call me.' "
The couple divorced last year after 11 years of marriage, but they continued raising their daughters together. His ex-wife said she still loves him.
Their relationship was improving as Cruz's roofing business was growing, Karla Lynn Cruz added. Cruz, she said, could always be relied upon to pick the girls up from school and soccer practice. The last time she spoke to him on the morning of May 19 the couple agreed that he would pick up the girls from school. He never showed up.
At the One-Third Mark - How Good Are the Dodgers?
Sometimes, you go to Circuit City or Best Buy and you pick up a new gadget, and then you bring it home and find it doesn't fit, or it doesn't work right, or it isn't really what you needed.
And sometimes, you go to the stores and come home with Russell Martin, Willy Aybar, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton.
It's an awful fancy time in the Dodger rec room these days. After a third of the season, the Dodgers are on a 93-win pace. As many of you know, the team has soared near the top of many offensive charts in the National League: first in runs, hits, walks and on-base percentage, second in OPS and stolen bases (fifth in stolen-base percentage), and sixth in slugging percentage (despite being 10th in home runs).
The pitching staff is third in ERA at 3.91, which nicely averages out the fact that the team currently has no pitcher with an ERA between 2.87 and 4.38.
There are dueling senses that the team is playing over their heads, yet because of injuries and opportunities for young players to mature further, the best might still be yet to come. We'll see which train of thought makes it to the station at season's end, but in the meantime, here's a position-by-position look at the team through 54 games.
You'll see right away that this analysis leaves out defensive statistics, which would probably boost the case for Martin. But looking at the young catchers offensively, their offensive production is fairly close and if anything, Navarro could benefit more from a change of luck. Which is not to say that Martin won't or shouldn't start when Navarro is activated from the disabled list. But should Navarro go down to Las Vegas? Even Alomar's high batting average in the early going hasn't translated into anything significant, except when you look at his runs created, which surprisingly matches the others. Ultimately, this isn't a big deal, but though I think Navarro is clearly the better second option, if the team just wants Martin to catch six games a week anyway, Navarro might as well play regularly in Las Vegas.
Not much to say here. Garciaparra has been fantastic, and it would take a big reversal to make him anything less. Still feels like even money as far as him avoiding another injury, but Loney has been on fire in Las Vegas since his return there, and of course, there's always Saenz to hammer away against lefties. Joel Guzman would also get a look.
Kent was recovering nicely from his abysmal April before his recent injury, which will hand playing time at second base to Martinez and Willy Aybar. As you can see, Kent seemed to really run into some bad luck, yet still greeted the disabled list with a nice .284 EQA. Martinez has played way over his head his 2006 OPS is higher than any previous single month of his career except June 2000. Robles didn't get the Colorado feast that put him on the map last year, and got passed over in Thursday's promotion of Guzman. With Cesar Izturis soon to return, we might not see Robles until September.
Well, it's not all bad. Furcal has improved his numbers slowly, though we're still missing any sign of extra-base power (.335 slugging), and he could have been luckier. Six caught stealings and 11 errors haven't helped. Suffice it to say, the Dodgers' winning ways have shrouded the disappointment of general manager Ned Colletti's most expensive outlay, but maybe that's a good thing, as it will give Furcal time to rebuild and avoid becoming this decade's Delino DeShields, free-agent style.
Will Aybar stop hitting by the time Mueller returns? Aybar continues to appear to play over his head, apparently, but he sure looks good doing it. More than the catching situation, this could be the stickiest position battle this summer, because it involves a veteran who would demand, you know, respect.
Are you surprised to see Cruz has racked up 177 plate appearances? It reminds you how recently the Dodgers called up Ethier, who has blasted the ball beyond even Colletti's wildest dreams. With the return of Ledee and Jason Repko still far off, Cruz isn't going anywhere. However, Dodger manager Grady Little more or less benched Cruz for a period in April to play Repko - so if Ethier and Matt Kemp remain viable, Cruz will be the last in the rotation. If the worst outfielder on the team still has an above-average EQA, that's not half bad.
I hope Repko and Jayson Werth are friends, so they can commiserate over what might have been. Repko's leap in performance was just starting to become believable when his leap in the air saddled him with an unbelievable ankle sprain. By the time he returns (much less Werth), there may not be any playing time left. It's hard to believe that Kemp is already ready to be a major leaguer, but we can't rule it out yet. Meanwhile, Lofton looks awful to me defensively, but has met expectations on offense. The good news is that no one is getting playing time by default.
Drew could be better something's a little weird when his EQA is lower than not only that of Garciaparra but also Ethier, Aybar, Martinez and Saenz. But Drew has played much more than those guys and is contributing steadily.
Okay. The best thing you can say about the starting rotation and it's a nice change from 2005 is that they're not walking guys. (By the way, in case you missed it in the fine print above, the per-nine inning numbers are translated statistics to factor in park effects.) Penny, Lowe and Sele are supplementing their fine control by keeping the ball in the park. But a decline seems inevitable for all but Seo and Perez (and has already begun for Tomko). Sele is flying so high that it's not clear how he's getting oxygen, but Perez should be able to step in and at least prevent a complete crash landing. Overall, though, the team is going to get blasted a bit. Could Chad Billingsley duplicate what the rookie hitters have done? The Dodgers may need him to.
Baez has the strongest - or strangest - numbers for someone who doesn't seem that reliable. Saito is a huge surprise, but as long as he keeps fooling batters, he should do fine. Hamulack also strikes guys out, but he does too many things wrong to occupy more than a temporary spot on the team. Beimel is the bullpen's Sele but like Sele, at least he's had control. While Osoria and Kuo took their lumps, Broxton has sizzled. His ERA is all too good, but at the same time, the two home runs he has allowed came in blowout victories. Carter is a discard someone else deserves the next chance that comes. And of course, we'll hope Brazoban, comes back strong. I don't know, though - if Eric Gagne can hold it together, the bullpen has a pretty good feel to me.
Someone else can tell me if the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks are also playing over their heads, but for now, even if the Dodger lineup keeps changing, it looks like we'll have a pennant race all year long.
Opening the Door for Joel
Jeff Kent is, not surprisingly at this point, going to the disabled list. And still caught up in Prospect Fever, the Dodgers have recalled Joel Guzman (despite his May slump). Inside the Dodgers reports.
Guzman is not in the starting lineup tonight, but we do have the four-rookie combo of Matt Kemp (batting second), Willy Aybar, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin. Ramon Martinez is healthy enough to play second base. Perhaps soon, though, we'll have Guzman at third base and Aybar at second to give the team five rookie starters. And then all eyes will be on Chad Billingsley to make it six ...
Update: A new starting lineup has Olmedo Saenz at third base and Aybar at second base tonight.
Update 2: Matt Kemp's first home run, as called by Vin Scully. (Who else would you want to call it?)
Fastball is whacked down the left-field line, in the corner and ... fair ball! Home run, Matt Kemp.
Though I'm sure it has happened, I don't recall any Dodgers specifically hitting a ball as high off the left-field foul pole as Kemp did.
Update 3: Dodger manager Grady Little confirmed to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Guzman will play some third base. Gurnick added that "Little said (Bill) Mueller is healing 'slowly' from May 16 right knee surgery, which can be interpreted to mean the five-week prognosis for his return might have been overly optimistic." Cesar Izturis and/or Kent could be activated before Mueller returns.
Among the other disabled, Gurnick reports that only Dioner Navarro is showing progress. Ricky Ledee, Jason Repko, Jayson Werth and of course Yhency Brazoban are not near (to varying degrees) returning.
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Lots of 'Stat Electricity'
Much to his credit, J.A. Adande of the Times responded online on his blog, Overtime, to critiques of his Sunday column, "Stat Electricity Provides No Buzz," whose theme could probably be summarized in his closing paragraph: "The lesson: Don't focus on the spreadsheets. Just watch the games."
Here's a longer excerpt of the original piece:
People turn to stats because they have a need to control the uncontrollable, to find certainty in a chaotic world. Of course, that goes against the essence of sports. We watch the games precisely because we don't know what will happen next. If we really wanted an assured outcome, we'd spend all our time watching ESPN Classic instead of ESPN.
One of my favorite baseball moments came a couple of years ago, when Hideo Nomo was on the Dodgers and Randy Johnson pitched for the Diamondbacks (and pitched like Randy Johnson). Nomo whacked a double to the wall over the drawn-in outfielders. The sheer improbability of it made me laugh. And that's what makes baseball great. Things that shouldn't happen can happen.
Four of the last five World Series champions were teams that didn't make the playoffs the previous season: the White Sox, Marlins, Angels and Diamondbacks. I didn't see any algorithms that predicted those results.
Sometimes people become so obsessed with the formulas they forget what works on the field. The Dodgers' acquisition of Nomar Garciaparra and dismissal of Hee-Seop Choi didn't fit into the stats perspective, but it's working pretty well right now. When Garciaparra is healthy, he can hit.
You can tell right away that Adande was taken aback by the response he received.
"The last column I wrote before I took some time off apparently hit on a touchy subject," Adande writes today. "Not Kobe-touchy, but I didn't realize diminishing the value of statistics would hit some people like a dentist's drill without the Novocain. At least when you anger the stats crowd they come back with more rational responses than 'You're just a stats-hater!' "
Among other e-mails, Adande published the one I sent him:
J.A. -In his rebuttal to the rebuttals today, Adande pointed out, quite fairly, that he "never said there's no place for stats," but he also reiterated that he feels statistics are overvalued and that there are many things statistics can't measure.
As I've written in the past, I believe that even though subjective qualities such as confidence can't be measured individually, many are ultimately, cumulatively reflected in stats. If confidence helps a player hit, then those hits will register in his batting stats. If selflessness makes a player dive, than that selflessness will manifest in his fielding stats. It's not that stats are perfect - and certainly, the unexpected always happens - but I would argue that many sports fans, and certainly many sportswriters, undervalue stats as opposed to the opposite.
"Statistics don't really tell me what I need to know," Adande writes, "they don't provide the best answer for the question I get asked more than any other: who's gonna win?"
True. But neither does anything else from Adande's list of "confidence, determination, intelligence, poise and so many other things that are impossible to quantify." Confident, determined, intelligent, poised players lose every day. That's why I'm still mystified by Adande's line of thought, which seems to demand more of statistics than it demands of these other things he values even more. Ultimately, e-mails like mine don't seem to have been very persuasive for him.
But I appreciate his at least giving attention to them.
Investigation into Cruz Disappearance Continues
More details are emerging about the search for Jose Javier Cruz, the brother of Dodger outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr., courtesy of Robert Crowe and Eric Hanson of the Houston Chronicle, but they have perhaps only deepened the mystery.
Cruz has been in legal trouble, and barring the possibility that this whole thing is a big misunderstanding, the optimistic scenario would have him hiding out from the authorities. (There is a warrant for his arrest in Puerto Rico, though apparently no urgency to extradite him.)
Cruz, 34, was last seen by family members May 19 at his home in the 10300 block of Huntington Place. Cruz, who has had a troubled past, was wanted in Puerto Rico on theft and forgery charges.
Records show he has been arrested on charges of robbery, assaulting his wife and stealing from his father. His ex-wife, Karla Lynn Cruz, reported him missing to Houston police at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"She said she last saw him around 6 a.m. (May 19) when she had gone to work," said John Cannon, a Houston Police Department spokesman. "She stated that Mr. Cruz was to pick up their kids from school in the afternoon, but he never did."
A day later, on May 20, Katy police alerted Karla Lynn Cruz that her Chevrolet pickup had been found engulfed in flames.
According to another article by The Associated Press, there were "accelerants" used in the truck fire, leading to it being investigated as arson. The fire itself had no human casualties.
Dave Studeman, whom I'd like to give the nickname "Graphmaster Flash," takes a look at the Dodgers and Angels this morning in "Ten Things About Los Angeles Baseball" for the Hardball Times.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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