Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: September 2006


Mr. Efficiency
2006-09-30 21:44
by Jon Weisman

Greg Maddux: 73 2/3 innings as a Dodger, 919 pitches, 12.5 pitches per inning.

Career totals: 4,616 1/3 innings pitched, 61,874 pitches, 13.3 pitches per inning.


Hello, October!
2006-09-30 17:00
by Jon Weisman

On that Saturday afternoon two years ago, I was holding my son when Steve Finley hit the grand slam to put the Dodgers in the playoffs. Today, not at all contrived, my daughter was in my lap when Takashi Saito struck out Lance Niekro to put the Dodgers into baseball's glory race.

It was an incredible September. For that matter, it was an incredible two months. The Dodgers have won 40 of their past 59 games (.678).

The team seemed to leave everything on the field down the stretch, and though the individual stats might not have impressed, they added up real nice.

Celebrate, everyone. And then get ready for the big stuff next week.

Division Series Information

If the Dodgers are NL West Champions
Tuesday, October 3: Houston or St. Louis at Los Angeles
Thursday, October 5: Houston or St. Louis at Los Angeles
Saturday, October 7: Los Angeles at Houston or St. Louis
Sunday, October 8: Los Angeles at Houston or St. Louis (if necessary)
Monday, October 9: Houston or St. Louis at Los Angeles (if necessary)

If the Dodgers are the NL Wild Card
Wednesday, October 4: Los Angeles at New York
Thursday, October 5: Los Angeles at New York
Saturday, October 7: New York at Los Angeles
Sunday, October 8: New York at Los Angeles (if necessary)
Monday, October 9: Los Angeles at New York (if necessary)

The wild card would save me some babysitter bills, but I'll sacrifice if I must. Update: Although midweek day games could ruin me. Man, I knew I shouldn't have taken that new job.

Backbones and Back Moans
2006-09-30 08:42
by Jon Weisman

From the Elias Sports Bureau and, relayed by Dodger Thoughts reader Bhsportsguy:

The Dodgers trailed the Giants 3-0 on Friday night in San Francisco but scored two runs in the seventh inning and two more in the ninth to win 4-3. It was the third straight game in which the Dodgers overcame a deficit of at least three runs to win. They won the last two games of their series in Denver despite trailing by three runs in each game. It's the first time in 81 years that the Dodgers have won three consecutive games in such fashion. The franchise, then representing Brooklyn, last strung together three straight wins in that manner in June 1925, all against the Cubs in Chicago.

* * *

Brad Penny is hurt, was hurt, has been hurt, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times:

Brad Penny is expected to throw in the bullpen before today's game, testing whether the back tightness that forced him out of Thursday's game has subsided enough to enable him to pitch effectively. If the Dodgers must play a tiebreaker Monday, Penny is the scheduled starter.

Stan Johnston, the Dodgers' trainer, revealed Friday that Penny was diagnosed with what he called a "slight bulge" in two disks several months ago. After Penny complained of back spasms in April and May, Johnston said the Dodgers sent him for an MRI examination that showed "normal wear and tear that everybody has" and "nothing pressing on any nerves."

At the time, the Dodgers put Penny on an exercise program to strengthen the back muscles, and Johnston said the discomfort did not return until Penny's previous two starts.

Although Penny's earned-run average is 6.25 since the All-Star break and 6.83 this month, Little repeated that Penny would be included in a playoff rotation "if he's healthy enough to pitch."

But he may not be. We'll learn more today about whether Penny will join New York pitchers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez on the sidelines.

* * *

Phillies at Marlins, 10:20 a.m.

Brewers at Cardinals, 10:20 a.m.

Dodgers at Giants, 1:15 p.m.

Padres at Diamondbacks, 1:15 p.m.

Astros at Braves, 4:05 p.m.

Reds at Pirates, 4:05 p.m.

Bob Timmermann previews the day's action at The Griddle.

Update: Julio Lugo gets the start today (with Jeff Kent moving to first base) instead of James Loney. And remarkably, Lugo bats third. Andre Ethier is in left field.

Update 2: Bob Timmermann suggests that Vin Scully might do all nine innings on radio today with Fox's national team broadcasting the Dodger game on television. Scully, remember, had the call of Steve Finley's division-winning grand slam on radio in 2004. Update 3: Josh Rawitch of the Dodgers confirms it.

Almost Heaven, West Division
2006-09-29 22:26
by Jon Weisman

It didn't look like the Dodgers' night. Hong-Chih Kuo was throwing strikes (58 in 80 pitches, six strikeouts, no walks), but Randy Winn hit a deep and confusing shot in the bottom of the fifth inning that Kenny Lofton spun around and couldn't catch. That led to a 3-0 San Francisco lead before the Dodgers had their second hit of the evening.

But then J.D. Drew smacked a two-run homer off the railing in front of the bay behind right field in the seventh inning. And in the ninth, Mike Stanton, no one's idea of a closer, allowed a single to Jeff Kent, a walk to Russell Martin, a single to Olmedo Saenz (amazingly, allowed by Giants manager Felipe Alou to face a lefty), and then threw a ball in the dirt that didn't bounce up to catcher Eliezer Alfonzo's glove but instead rolled under it to the backstop, allowing Martin to dash home with the go-ahead run as if he were on a scooter.

In the bottom of the ninth, Takashi Saito allowed two one-out singles, the second golfed by Winn on a hit-and-run play with the ancient Steve Finley going from first to third. But Ramon Martinez, who has been tending his sick baby for most of the past two weeks (thankfully, without grief from management), made a reaching catch of a foul ball in the seats by pesky Omar Vizquel. Martinez quickly looked back to the infield, but Winn was able to tag up and bring the winning run to second base.

Mark Sweeney, batting with first base open and Barry Bonds no longer in the game as a threat in the on-deck circle, took a called strike three from the amazing Saito, and the Dodgers moved into a tie for first place (the Padres remembered how to lose), and clinched no worse than a tie for the wild card at regular season's end Sunday.

Greg Maddux will pitch for the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon, by which time the team might be in the playoffs if Philadelphia loses in the morning. Either way, Maddux should throw 60-80 pitches if only to get his work in, much less if the Dodgers need to bank another win. However, it is worth noting what Grady Little told Ken Gurnick of today.

Little also said he would scrap Sunday's start by Lowe if the Dodgers clinch a Wild Card berth on Saturday in order to save Lowe for the postseason, even if the Dodgers still had a chance to win the division. He said he would also rest beaten-up veterans like Jeff Kent.

"Our objective is to get to the playoffs," he said. "Once we get in, we start setting up for the playoffs.

At this point, I'm inclined to agree with him. Dodger fans just have to hope that's a decision Little gets to make.

Nomar Garciaparra, who aggravated anywhere from one to 10 of his injuries on an eighth-inning swing and miss, looks very unlikely to play Saturday in any case - and I wouldn't rule out the fact that his body's last domino toppled, and he'll miss some real time. But hopefully for the Dodgers, there will be something to celebrate Saturday. They certainly have plenty to be happy about tonight.

Marlon From Heaven
2006-09-29 15:10
by Jon Weisman

Marlon Anderson's statistics as a Dodger, pro-rated over 162 games:

.441 on-base percentage, .850 slugging percentage, 1.291 OPS, 49 home runs.

Marlon Anderson's career statistics, pro-rated over 162 games:

.316 on-base percentage, .395 slugging percentage, .711 OPS, 10 home runs.

* * *

Phillies at Marlins, 4:05 p.m.

Astros at Braves, 4:05 p.m.

Reds at Pirates, 4:05 p.m.

Brewers at Cardinals, 5:10 p.m.

Padres at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.

5 2 4 9
2006-09-29 01:53
by Jon Weisman

Good Loney to you all! And isn't it a lovely Loney?

The Dodgers need only one victory or one Philadelphia Phillies loss over the season's final three days to ensure they're playing ball past Sunday (in a tiebreaker game, at least). Any two from those categories puts the Dodgers firmly in the playoffs.

To win the NL West, the Dodgers either need a combination of five Dodger victories and San Diego Padres defeats, or ... the Padres go 0-3, the Dodgers 1-2, the Phillies 3-0, and then the Dodgers defeat the Padres in a tiebreaker game Monday.

Should that tiebreaker game come, it will be the Dodgers' first since 1980, when Dave Goltz started and lost to the Houston Astros. Already, you can see the debate brewing over the potential for Dodger manager Grady Little to choose slumping, backsore Brad Penny to start the Monday tiebreaker.

This is as good a time as any for me to again debunk the myth that Fernando Valenzuela should have started that game at the end of the 1980 season. It's a myth that Fernando was even available to start. Putting aside the fact that he had never started a game in the majors to that point, he had pitched two innings the day before (Sunday) and two innings two days before that (Friday).

Valenzuela did pitch two innings in the tiebreaker, but had Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda sent him out there for longer, we might never have seen Fernandomania at all. Just an earlier arm injury.

Don Sutton, by the way, got the save the day before. Basically, the Dodgers were just out of pitchers in 1980.

Anyway, the Dodgers might not even want to win the NL West. As a wild card, they would face a New York Mets team that won't have Pedro Martinez pitching. If San Diego is the wild card, then the Dodgers might face the red-hot Houston Astros.

But it's not good to worry about such things until the playoffs are a reality. And they are so, so close to being a reality.

Update: Here's an expanded look at the weekend ahead in the National League that I did for this morning:

Go ahead. Indulge. You've earned it.

In fact, get fired up. You've been watching this game, this silly game where grown men go on a field and hit a ball with a stick, for six months, like you do every silly year. And now, with only three days left in the regular season, there are no fewer than 18 games that could directly impact the National League playoffs.

You get your TiVo working right, and you could spend 54 consecutive hours or more this weekend watching the entire NL season play out before your eyes. That doesn't include potential makeup or tiebreaker games that could be played Monday -- or even Tuesday or Wednesday!

Six NL teams are still alive for three available postseason spots, and only the New York Mets -- who seem to have clinched about 27 years ago, as compressed as the season has become -- are fully in playoff preparation mode. (And rest assured, with their injury problems, the Mets have some preparing to do.)

Feeding the frenzy is the fact that no contending teams are playing each other, which may not do much for one's High Noon aspirations, but otherwise pushes scoreboard watching to the max. September insanity hit new levels of crazy Wednesday when the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros combined to play 29 innings (using nearly 50 players between them), then continued Thursday with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning a 19-11 slugfest and the Phillies starting a game (and losing) at almost midnight.

We're rolling around in it now, and man, it's beautiful. ...

Also, there's good stuff going on at Screen Jam. Check it out.

Madness, Sheer Madness
2006-09-28 14:50
by Jon Weisman


Alive - Not Kicking, But Very Much Alive
2006-09-28 08:59
by Jon Weisman

Minus the October spotlight and Dennis Eckersley on the opposing hill, Nomar Garciaparra's performance over the past 10 days has been Kirk Gibson-like. Garciaparra's been beaten up, down and sideways, limping along the basepaths but mashing the ball.

Remember, part of the Gibson story was he didn't play in any World Series games after Game 1 in 1988. The home runs don't make the injuries disappear. For his part, Garciaparra is expected to start today's game in Colorado on the bench - though ... drum roll ... he may pinch-hit.

* * *

Had the Phillies lost in the 14th inning Wednesday night, I suspect they would have been talking about that game for years in Philadelphia. As it is, they are still very much on the Dodgers' heels.

Astros at Pirates, 9:35 a.m.

Dodgers at Rockies, 12:05 p.m.

Phillies at Nationals, 4:05 p.m.

Reds at Marlins, 4:05 p.m.

Brewers at Cardinals, 5:10 p.m.

Padres at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.

* * *

Update: This story in the Times has gotten a lot of interest: The Dodgers will be switching out of their Class A affiliation with Vero Beach into the California League. Caveat: Bill Shaikin's report cites an unnamed source for the news.

This doesn't necessarily mean the Dodgers will stop going to Vero for Spring Training, though there has been much talk of that.

The Dodgers also announced this week that they are moving their other Class A affiliation from Columbus, Georgia to Midland, Michigan. Say hello to your new friends, the Great Lake Loons, via this report from the Midland Daily News.

Update 2: Ken Gurnick at confirms the move of the Dodgers' Class A team from Vero Beach to point undetermined in the California League.

Wall-to-Wall Baseball
2006-09-27 21:10
by Jon Weisman

It wasn't the four-homer night of last week, but it was an incredible night of baseball. The Dodgers, Padres, Cardinals, Phillies and Astros, all fighting for the playoffs, were all involved in see-saw affairs - and for Philadelphia and Houston, it was a see-saw they almost couldn't get off of.

The evening ended in almost flawless fashion for the Dodgers. Washington was doling out hope and frustration in equal amounts, but finally succumbed to Philadelphia in the 14th inning, 8-7 (despite a pinch-hit single by former Dodger minor league pitcher Beltran Perez, the 47th player used in the game). Earlier, however, Albert Pujols hit a three-run, third-deck homer off Cla Meredith in the eighth inning to send San Diego to defeat and allow the Dodgers to move within a game of the Padres, while maintaining a one-game advantage over the Phillies.

With four games remaining, the Dodgers' magic number for clinching a playoff spot is four - to win the NL West, it's six. (Yes, second-place teams can have magic numbers - they just end up being larger than the magic numbers of first-place teams.) St. Louis, meanwhile, holds off the Houston charge for one more day, despite the Astros' 15-inning victory over Pittsburgh in a game that involved 46 players.

It was hardly a flawless night for Dodgers starting pitcher Derek Lowe, who allowed 10 hits and fell behind, 4-1, but he got through six innings in 90 pitches, setting up not only Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito to close out the game, but also setting himself up to return for his Sunday start on three days' rest.

It was also great to see Andre Ethier put the bat on the ball in a big situation, with a 1-2 count against him, and ground a clean single into right field to tie the game in the sixth inning. Ethier's triple-happy teammates also got two key blasts from J.D. Drew and Marlon "Merlin" Anderson that lifted the Dodgers toward their comeback victory.

The Dodgers have now won five of their past six games.

* * *

Saito was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee again. His 22nd save, setting a Dodger rookie record:

vs. Kaz Matsui
0-0 fastball called strike high in zone
0-1 pulled on the ground foul
0-2 way outside
1-2 fouled at plate
1-2 soft fly out to Lofton in left-center

vs. Jeff Baker
0-0 called strike
0-1 slider low, swung on and missed
0-2 slider low, taken
1-2 fastball down the middle, called strike three

vs. Jamey Carroll
0-0 ball
1-0 called strike
1-1 slider looped into center field for single

vs. Jeff Salazar
0-0 inside, swung on and missed
0-1 outside corner, tailing away from lefty, swung on and missed
0-2 just missed the low outside corner, taken
1-2 slider on the hands, fouled toward the Colorado dugout
1-2 fastball, swung on and missed

17 pitches, 13 strikes, four balls

September 27 Stretch Run Chat
2006-09-27 15:35
by Jon Weisman
Almost All Hands on Deck
2006-09-27 08:53
by Jon Weisman

Five games to go, and every one of them may count for the Dodgers. While we wait to see whether the right side of the Dodger infield will tear every muscle in its collective body, there's some debate about how the Dodgers should be handling their starting rotation for these final days.

Dodger manager Grady Little has chosen to go with Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Hong-Chih Kuo over the next three games, with Greg Maddux and Lowe coming back on three days' rest Saturday and Sunday if necessary. Some are questioning whether Chad Billingsley's turn in the rotation should be preserved instead of rushing Maddux and Lowe back, and others are wondering whether it shouldn't be Penny, if anyone, who gets bypassed.

Billingsley had a fairly magnificent August, with a 1.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts against 12 walks in 30 innings. He then missed most of September with an oblique injury. That injury allowed him to rest his arm - he's at 157 innings for the year including his minor league totals - and after a rocky return, Billingsley threw five passable innings last Thursday, allowing nine baserunners but only two runs - basically, a July outing for him.

Meanwhile, Penny has struggled mightily in four of his past five starts and six of his past eight. Lowe, currently the ace of the staff, had a terrible July, so the idea that Penny can turn it around isn't far-fetched. But it isn't near-fetched, either.

In the end, I don't know how much confidence I have in either Penny or Billingsley to pitch in Colorado on Thursday afternoon, and I don't see a decided advantage in either one. My hunch is that something's physically wrong with Penny, and that might be enough to make me go with Billingsley. Basically, I would put Penny up against the wall and threaten him with a winter without hunting if he is concealing any physical ailment. If he passed that test, however, I think I'd let him take the hill.

As for the larger question of whether it's prudent for Lowe and Maddux can go on three days' rest, I find myself surprisingly at ease with it. Though I'm normally against sending anything less than full-rested pitcher out there, there has been a decent amount of evidence that Lowe and Maddux aren't bothered by the occasional quick return. Lowe seems particularly resilient. Maddux seems more bothered by how many pitches he throws in a game than how much time he has between starts.

"I don't get as sore as I used to (after starts) so it should be easy," Maddux told Bill Plunkett of the Register. "I don't throw hard enough to get sore anymore."

Certainly, Maddux may be good for no more than five innings Sunday - and in fact, after Lowe's start tonight (if not including it), I would expect the Dodger bullpen might throw as many as four innings a game. So the mission for Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, above all else, is to figure out how to get Billingsley in the mental state to come out of the bullpen ready to throw strikes. Though he won't start another game in 2006 with the playoffs on the line, Billingsley could still be critical to the Dodgers' postseason dreams.

September 26 Stretch Run Chat
2006-09-26 15:25
by Jon Weisman
The End in Saito
2006-09-26 07:25
by Jon Weisman

Family bonds may pull 2006 Dodger relief savior Takashi Saito back to Japan after this season, Bill Plunkett of the Register reports.

Saito is caught up in the pennant race and has not made a decision, according to Plunkett, but will listen carefully to his loved ones when that time comes:

Saito has two daughters, ages 11 and 8. Since leaving for Vero Beach, Fla., in February, he has seen his wife and daughters twice. They came to Florida for a week in spring training when the girls' school was on spring break and again in California in the summer.

Colletti understands the feelings that could lead Saito to make his time in the U.S. a one-year wander.

"We'll have to wait and see," Colletti said. "I can understand it, to some point. At the same time, he's had a pretty good experience here. Once may not be enough."

Saito agrees his time with the Dodgers has been a good experience, on and off the field. The diversity of Los Angeles and the large Asian population in the area has made it a "very easy transition to life in America," Saito said.

* * *

You'll probably find it on your own, but it's hard to let Steve Henson's intimate profile of Ned Colletti in the Times today pass without a mention. Henson did a thorough job talking to the influential people in Colletti's life and painting a full portrait of the man, with the only missing piece being perhaps finding out what Colletti has or hasn't learned from the 2006 deals that haven't worked out. (To be fair, that piece wasn't the point of the feature.)

Addressing a side note of the story: You hear stories about high school counselors telling students that they're not good enough to apply for college and you wonder, how is this possible? How can someone in that position tell a kid, any kid, to give up? I don't think it matters what era we're talking about: A bad high school transcript is not a dead end if the desire is there to turn it around.

* * *

This week, I'd like to see Olmedo Saenz get more at-bats than he has since Julio Lugo arrived.

Saenz is not a good on-base guy against right-handed pitching, but he has the power to threaten an opposing team - whereas Lugo doesn't have either of these qualities in his favor right now. Against lefties, of course, Saenz is even better.

The Dodgers are scheduled to face three right-handed starters in Colorado before taking on lefty Noah Lowry in San Francisco on Friday. With groundballers Greg Maddux and Derek Lowe opening the Colorado series, Wilson Betemit will probably get the call at third base, but for Brad Penny's start Thursday and then Hong-Chih Kuo's Friday, I'd give Saenz serious consideration.

* * *

The Phillies blinked. It's on.

Nomar Encore
2006-09-24 16:37
by Jon Weisman

Less than two months ago, it appeared that Garciaparra had either priced himself out of the Dodgers' future plans or would grab a big chunk of salary to remain. Barring a heroic finish to the season, Garciaparra now stands to merely attract another one-year contract with incentives or a two-year deal at affordable rates. A three-year deal would seem out of the question.
- Dodger Thoughts, "Nomar No More?" September 10

Aye, mateys, it's been a pretty heroic week for Nomar.

But I'm not here to talk about 2007. I'm here to talk about your bumbling, stumbling Dodgers, who still haven't given up the ghost in 2006. However many easy wins they're not getting, they're still getting enough the hard way. If Friday's game was a third-down conversion, today's came on fourth down. And the drive is still alive.

Hard to complain about Brad Penny when Hong-Chih Kuo has been a September gift from the gods. As for the decision to let Oscar Robles bat in the ninth with the game on the line, all I can say is, like Grady Little must have, I had suspended rational thought. I was believing, though I shouldn't have been. I was hoping against the odds for magic. And it came ... eventually.

Philadelphia and San Diego have dominated the week, yet they haven't shaken Los Angeles yet. That's the spin I'm using.

* * *

The Final Seven (Minus One)
DayDateSan Diego (83-72)Los Angeles (82-74)Philadelphia (82-73)
MondaySeptember 25at St. Louisoff vs. Houston
TuesdaySeptember 26at St. Louisat Coloradoat Washington
WednesdaySeptember 27at St. Louisat Colorado at Washington
ThursdaySeptember 28at Arizonaat Colorado at Washington
FridaySeptember 29at Arizonaat San Franciscoat Florida
SaturdaySeptember 30at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida
SundayOctober 1at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida

If Philadelphia finishes ahead of a tied Los Angeles and San Diego, there would be a tiebreaker game for the National League West title in Los Angeles on October 2.

If San Diego finishes ahead of a tied Los Angeles and Philadelphia, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in Philadelphia on October 2.

If Los Angeles finishes ahead of a tied San Diego and Philadelphia, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in Philadelphia on October 2.

If San Diego and Los Angeles finish tied ahead of Philadelphia, San Diego would be the NL West champion and Los Angeles the NL Wild Card.

If all three teams finish tied, San Diego would play at Los Angeles to decide the NL West champion October 2, and the loser of that game would go to Philadelphia to decide the wild card October 3.

Um, Why? Anyone?
2006-09-24 09:08
by Jon Weisman

Brad Penny has faltered in the second half, no doubt. But is it me, or is no one asking why an ERA that was below 3.00 for the first half of the season would soar to nearly 7.00 in the second half?

Why has be become so hittable? Is it arm trouble? Is it a failure to challenge hitters? Are his good pitches easily fouled off until his bad pitches come?

What's Penny working on? What's the pitching coach working on?

After another poor Penny start, we learn little more than, "Well, that was another poor Penny start" - punctuated by Bill Plaschke of the Times going off on Penny's character deficiencies. Is that all we get? Penny was due to slide a little from his outstanding first half, but now he's in Odalis Perez territory. It's excessive. What's the story?

* * *

If the Padres and Phillies are going to win every game they play, there's not much you can do about it. Beyond that, I'll wait before pronoucing the Dodger season over. After Monday night, after 17 out of 18, I owe them that much.

* * *

Marlins at Phillies, 10:35 a.m.

Pirates at Padres, 1:05 p.m.

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.

September 23 Stretch Run Chat
2006-09-23 17:30
by Jon Weisman
Survive and Advance
2006-09-22 22:15
by Jon Weisman







Doing what they need to do.

The Dodgers seem to be having the hardest time of any of the three-to-make-two teams. But they're hanging in there.

Let me add Rafael Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra to the list. Furcal had a hit, a walk, and a good catch of a line drive. Gimpy Garciaparra had two hits and turned the challenging 3-6-3 double play to end the game.

But back to the top. Derek Lowe: 2.08 ERA since August 1.

J.D. Drew, whom so many like to give grief, calmly blasts a game-breaking home run in the seventh. Mr. Passive's September OPS: 1.099.

Russell Martin - he'll rest when the season's dead.

Marlon Anderson - are you kidding me? He officially became folklore-qualified Monday, and just needs the Dodgers to make the playoffs to become folklore elite.

Joe Beimel's season is as shocking as Takashi Saito's. The two have combined for 141 2/3 innings with an ERA of 2.54. Saito, with 99 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings, has been an artist. A painter and a poet.

This was a gritty victory. This was a third-down conversion in your own territory. You need these.

* * *

Good post on the virtues and vices of the Dodgers' balanced offense at True Blue L.A.

September 22 Stretch Run Chat
2006-09-22 17:42
by Jon Weisman
Furcal Shines
2006-09-21 17:45
by Jon Weisman

Rafael Furcal has moved up to becoming the 27th-most valuable position player in baseball this season and the most valuable Dodger, according to Baseball Prospectus. At No. 26 overall, for comparison, is Mets third baseman David Wright.

Furcal's post-May 1 stats: .377 on-base percentage, .493 slugging percentage, .870 OPS.

Previously: "Furcal Climbing Toward Expectations"

* * *

Diamondbacks at Padres, 7:05 p.m.

Pirates at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Team Tipping Point
2006-09-21 09:45
by Jon Weisman

Pirates65-87.42814Dodgers79-73.52013 1/2
Last three games between them:
Pirates 2, Dodgers 1Dodgers 2, Mets 1

The better team doesn't always win. It's why we play the games, and why there's hope for the underdog and fear for the overdog. It's why the 1988 World Series was possible. And almost universally, the sports world has chosen not to honor the better team, but to honor the winning team.

The Dodgers are in between great and bad; the chances of them losing to a doormat and defeating a potential champion are about equal. They offer nothing if not suspense. Will the 3-2 pitch be hit or missed, will the ball travel 380 feet or 400? They are log-rolling on a see-saw.

* * *

I see two schools of thought on the current bullpen crisis. One is to ride it out, because like all things with the Dodgers this season, it's probably cyclical, and the relievers will regroup. Brett Tomko, for example, isn't a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, nor is he a plus-9.00 ERA pitcher.

The other choice is to try some rested arms that people haven't seen in a while, no matter how shaky their credentials might be. Call up Franquelis Osoria, despite an inconsistent year. Move Eric Gagne to the 60-day disabled list and add Mark Alexander from Jacksonville, even though he struggled in Las Vegas. Wish upon a shooting star named Greg Miller. If you can't beat 'em with moxie, beat 'em with mystery. Exploit matchups if there's an opportunity.

The way I see it, these schools can merge. Without knowing how much the minor leaguers have been working out since their season ended, I'd build up the bullpen. Even if the experiment were to fail in one game, you buy an extra day's rest for the beleaguered veterans. But this race is too close now not to have all hands on deck, however clumsy they might turn out to be.

* * *

Adding to those who have wrapped up the First Game of the Century better than I have is Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times, who merges game events with reader comments from Dodger Thoughts and Ducksnorts to give a multidimensional reprise of that magical night.

* * *

The Final 10 (Plus One)
DayDateSan Diego (79-72)Los Angeles (79-73)Philadelphia (79-73)
ThursdaySeptember 21vs. Arizonavs. Pittsburghoff
FridaySeptember 22vs. Pittsburghvs. Arizonavs. Florida
SaturdaySeptember 23vs. Pittsburghvs. Arizona vs. Florida
SundaySeptember 24vs. Pittsburghvs. Arizona vs. Florida
MondaySeptember 25at St. Louisoff vs. Houston
TuesdaySeptember 26at St. Louisat Coloradoat Washington
WednesdaySeptember 27at St. Louisat Colorado at Washington
ThursdaySeptember 28at Arizonaat Colorado at Washington
FridaySeptember 29at Arizonaat San Franciscoat Florida
SaturdaySeptember 30at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida
SundayOctober 1at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida

If Philadelphia finishes ahead of a tied Los Angeles and San Diego, there would be a tiebreaker game for the National League West title in Los Angeles on October 2.

If San Diego finishes ahead of a tied Los Angeles and Philadelphia, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in Philadelphia on October 2.

If Los Angeles finishes ahead of a tied San Diego and Philadelphia, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in Philadelphia on October 2.

If San Diego and Los Angeles finish tied ahead of Philadelphia, San Diego would be the NL West champion and Los Angeles the NL Wild Card.

Update: If all three teams finish tied, San Diego would play at Los Angeles to decide the NL West champion October 2, and the loser of that game would go to Philadelphia to decide the wild card October 3.

It's Time for More Music and Les Walrond
2006-09-20 15:50
by Jon Weisman

The starting pitcher for the Cubs today at Philadelphia: Les Walrond, 29 years old, 18 2/3 career innings, 18 earned runs allowed. Perhaps his average of eight strikeouts per nine innings will win out.

* * *

Cubs at Phillies, 4:05 p.m.

Diamondbacks at Padres, 7:05 p.m.

Pirates at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

For One Day, A Team Takes Over a City, A Game Takes Over a Country
2006-09-20 08:00
by Jon Weisman

Pure, glorious torture.

One of the wonderful things about Tuesday was to see the entire community share in the wonder of the Fourmer game. (No, I know that doesn't really work, but you know what I'm talking about.) You might not have even known there was a community until Nomar Garciaparra's exclamation point flew into the left-field bleachers. So many people were talking about it, and man, so many people were writing about it.

And it killed me not to be able to join in. Monday night was a blessing, but my Tuesday work schedule was a curse.

It was humbling to see everyone else do everything I wanted to do: recount their tales of attending or not attending, transcribe Vin Scully's call, round up reactions, pull together video montages, interview participants, write open letters to their sleeping children. I wanted to do it all. Instead, I was just left with being an ordinary fan blessed with having experienced the event live. It's okay, but I'm jealous.

The genius of Scully is that he doesn't need any extra time to put his stamp on history, not one extra moment. He speaks directly into history. And I was locked inside my own head, nothing more, a shadow of my fourmer self. (Hey, that time it works.) The frustration confirmed both my passion and my limitations.

Fortunately, Monday wasn't about me. Monday was about all of us who, no matter how cynical we get, can continue to be amazed. I reveled in sharing everyone else's joy.

* * *

Now, it's Wednesday, and like Festivus, real life intrudes on the celebration. The Dodgers lost the game after, allowing 10 runs or more for the third time in four games. The hitters have come alive, Marlon Anderson has turned into Superman - not only blasting the ball but also nearly making a catch that would have been about as incredible as Monday's comeback - but the bullpen is getting hammered, reeling from another spin of the Wheel of Inconsistency.

Have you noticed yet that the team never looks the same from week to week? I long ago stopped guaranteeing future results on past performance for the 2006 Dodgers. I just wait for them to peel the fruit and find out what lies beneath, sweet or sour.

Back To It
2006-09-19 17:45
by Jon Weisman

What, we don't get a week off?

Tonight's Game

Help Me
2006-09-19 11:46
by Jon Weisman

I can't think. I can't think about anything else.

Almost ... Almost ... YES!
2006-09-18 23:10
by Jon Weisman

It has been a Friday night and Saturday night combined emotionally, but now it's starting to feel like Monday. ...

This crowd is beside itself with joy. You can come down the wall now. ...

A lot of the folks that left have decided to come back, so welcome back. ...


A high fly ball to left field - it is a-way out and gone! The Dodgers win it, 11-10! Ha ha ha - unbelievable!



I forgot to tell you. The Dodgers are in first place.

- Vin Scully

* * *

The most intense game of the year, the most incredible game of many a year, ends in elation ... almost.

The Dodgers exorcise the ghosts of April 30 ... almost.

Down four in the ninth, four consecutive home runs - a first by a major league team since 1964, according to Vinny on the broadcast. And all it is is ... almost.

Exactly 200 pitches thrown by Dodger pitchers and still alive ... almost.

Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew and Marlon Anderson all OPSing over .950 in September, and ... almost. Hold the Padres to two runs on Sunday, score nine runs on Monday ... almost.

Almost nothing. YES!

Perhaps the greatest game at Dodger Stadium since, or including, the September 11, 1983 game. The moment doesn't surpass Kirk Gibson, maybe not even Steve Finley, factoring in context. But the game surpasses their games. The game was stunning.

Seven home runs, tying a Dodger Stadium home record - practically a footnote.

How can you not be trembling?

Remember your evening sedative? You may need to induce a coma to calm Dodger fans now.

SD 400 000 023 1 - 10 15 0
LA 112 000 014 2 - 11 19 2

Your Evening Sedative
2006-09-18 17:43
by Jon Weisman

Tonight's Game

Not to be fatalistic, but if the Dodgers led the National League West by 1 1/2 games after tonight's contest, you probably wouldn't feel completely secure about their chances of holding that lead. So no reason to despair if Jake Peavy and the Padres push the Dodgers down by that much.

No doubt, a win tonight would be a huge boost for Los Angeles going forward. And I wouldn't dismiss the Dodgers' chances of defeating Peavy tonight. The NL West has been particularly persistent this year in humbling those who think they've got things licked.

In any event, contrary to popular belief, nothing gets decided tonight except one game.

Wild one tonight in Philadelphia, home of the Dodgers main wild-card rival. The Phillies are trying to make magic after falling behind to the Cubs, 8-0. A grand slam by ex-Dodger Jose Hernandez boosted Philadelphia to six runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Ryan Howard struck out with the tying runs on.

Rough Weekend, You Betcha
2006-09-18 11:36
by Jon Weisman

Three last-inning bullpen losses in six games with Takashi Saito sitting them all out is tough to take, but I won't fault Dodger manager Grady Little for not using Saito in the third loss Sunday. Derek Lowe was outstanding for seven innings, Joe Beimel was an appropriate choice for the left-handed eighth, and Jonathan Broxton made sense for the ninth if you accept the Dodgers not knowing he was tipping his slider, a postgame realization that Broxton revealed to the media.

San Diego's pitchers won Sunday's game - the Dodger pitchers didn't lose it.

Other musings:

  • Why the same populace that was forced to endure Oscar Robles batting third in 2005 is now subjected to Julio Lugo in the No. 3 spot in 2006 is something for human rights watchers to investigate.

    Lugo is capable of something. He hit a little bit with Tampa Bay and has drawn a walk or knocked a single occasionally in Los Angeles. But the fact that he may be a good-hitting shortstop for some other team in 2007 does not make him a No. 3 hitter in a pennant race in 2006. He hasn't even shown the power to hit a loud double.

    I've taken a stand in not wanting to give batting orders more importance than they deserve - the only comment I've made all year, I think, was about the Ramon Martinez incident. But Little's faith in Lugo is unjustified. Whatever you think of Jeff Kent or J.D. Drew, they shouldn't be pushed aside for Lugo.

    Nomar Garciaparra, who could have pinch-hit Sunday with the tiebreaking run on base in the seventh inning but instead held off until the ninth, is expected to return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight, so that Lugo will return to his third-base platoon and when he plays, bat in either the second slot or lower down.

  • Take this with a grain of Morton's, but Andre Ethier's swings just looked a little late to me Sunday. I don't think there was much wrong with his strike zone judgment - just his timing.

  • The Dodgers flashed "She is gone!" on the left-field scoreboard after Russell Martin's game-tying homer in the seventh. I admire the spirit, but I think that hallowed phrase should be as retired as Sandy Koufax's 32, not brought out for a homer that is a galaxy removed from Kirk Gibson's.

  • When Trevor Hoffman entered the game to protect San Diego's 2-1 lead, I had little hope of Dodger magic. When the free-swinging Garciaparra, of all people, worked the count to 3-2, I perked up. But then he struck out. But then Rafael Furcal walked, and I thought, stolen base, Kenny Lofton single, maybe this could happen. Nope.

    Mostly, I wondered whether Little would allow Lugo to make the last out, whether he believed so much in Lugo or hoped so much for his redemption as to give him a final at-bat with first place on the line. O Lmedo Saenz, Where Art Thou?

  • Introducing Screen Jam
    2006-09-18 11:06
    by Jon Weisman

    So, I am somewhat carefully, somewhat carelessly expanding into new territory with a site devoted to entertainment and some non-Dodger Thoughts: Screen Jam.

    Please look at it simultaneously as a work in progress and a place to have some fun. I'm launching the site much as I launched Dodger Thoughts - without a clear intention of what I want it to be - but hope that the ride will be enjoyable.

    Dodger Thoughts remains my first priority, but readers of the site will probably understand the use of having this second outlet.

    Rocky Mountain High - Ten Years Later
    2006-09-17 06:56
    by Jon Weisman

    September 17, 1996

    Los Angeles Dodgers   IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
    Nomo W(16-10)          9     0   0   0   4   8   0

    * * *

    September 17, 2006

    September 16 Game Chat
    2006-09-16 18:22
    by Jon Weisman
    Medium and Sweet
    2006-09-15 23:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Greg Maddux has that somethin' somethin', but he has probably pitched his last complete game.

    Contrary to custom, Maddux more than his manager seems to decide when he comes out of a game. Tonight's near no-hitter at Dodger Stadium is the latest example. From The Associated Press:

    Greg Maddux wasn't certain he would have kept pitching even if his no-hitter hadn't just been broken up.

    Maddux held San Diego hitless through the first 6 1-3 innings Friday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers ' 3-1 victory over the Padres that increased their NL West lead to 1 1/2 games.

    The 40-year-old Maddux (13-13) finished the seventh inning, figured he had had enough and came out of the game.

    Would he have continued if Brian Giles hadn't gotten that single?

    "Probably, maybe, I don't know," Maddux said with a smile. "My arm was OK. I was mentally tired."

    It's sort of amazing when you think about it. What's it like inside that head?

    Nomar Garciaparra, who suffered a quad strain, is not guaranteed to play Saturday. But Andre Ethier, who just missed a bases-clearing double pinch-hitting, is expected to start, according to Ken Gurnick at

    Jeff Kent nearly broke apart scoring from first on J.D. Drew's double, and looks so stiff out in the field. He's a candidate to play first base if Garciaparra sits, but the Dodgers might have to caddy him like Barry Bonds at this point.

    At Ease
    2006-09-15 18:30
    by Jon Weisman

    Okay, I admit it. I'm not feeling the pregame tension I should be feeling with the postseason on the line and two weeks to go. I'm not grasping the disappointment I'll feel if the Dodgers miss the playoffs or the elation I'll feel if they make it. I know both of those emotions are out there, but they just aren't penetrating yet.

    When the game starts, when the stakes are right there in front of me, I think it'll hit. I'm not made of stone, after all.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    Striving for Relevancy
    2006-09-15 09:55
    by Jon Weisman allowed me to preview the upcoming Padres-Dodgers series for their galactic audience today.

    ... This is the last time San Diego and Los Angeles will face each other this season. Should the Dodgers lose even two of the four games, they will have dropped a single-season club-record 13 to San Diego, something that will require the world's greatest craw surgeon to remove should Los Angeles miss the playoffs. San Diego would almost seem to have less to worry about, except for the fact that the Dodgers have a nifty .620 home winning percentage this year and a combined 35-13 record (.729) against their four remaining opponents after the Padres.

    If the Padres let this opportunity to pass Los Angeles slip away, they might not get another. One can rightfully scoff at the quality of the National League this year, but the Dodgers or the Padres enter tonight as leading candidates to make baseball's Final Four. In the past six seasons, only once has a team with a league's best record won a World Series. So as vulnerable as Los Angeles and San Diego have been at times this season, this isn't a little sandlot game for the kids. The stakes are real.

    Playoff Watch
    Dodgers lead division by half a game and have a three-game hold on a playoff spot.

    W-L GB
    77-69 ---- I Love
    76-69 0.5 Thirty More Miles to
    74-72 3.0 Freedom
    74-72 3.0 Left My Heart in
    73-73 4.0 It Never Snows in
    72-74 5.0 WKRP in
    71-74 5.5 Home to
    70-76 7.0 Welcome to
    69-77 8.0 Tucson,
    68-78 9.0 Bound for

    Current Series
    Padres at Dodgers
    Giants at Cardinals
    Reds at Cubs
    Marlins at Braves
    Phillies at Astros
    Rockies at Diamondbacks

    Simpleton's Forecast
    Cincinnati and Florida manage to cling to the race through the weekend.

    2006-09-15 07:57
    by Jon Weisman

    A fine story to save so we'll always know how it started: Tom Lederer (Rich's brother) writing at Baseball Analysts on the origins of the first laser radar gun timing of a pitcher, Nolan Ryan.

    ... Meanwhile, on an asphalt parking lot at the Rockwell International facility in Anaheim, the Rockwell engineers sought to test their device in a dry run before taking it to the stadium for an upcoming Ryan outing.

    My father arranged for Angels catcher Charlie Sands, a disabled list victim for much of August, to assist in the test by catching a 22-year-old lefthander whose fastball would be the subject of the trial procedure. I was that lefthander. Although I had enjoyed success as a pitcher -- my high school career ended by winning the Southern California large schools championship and I played a summer for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, a collegiate league team that included future major leaguers Randy Jones, Craig Swan, Jim Crawford and Bruce Bochte -- I was two years removed from my last competitive season.

    Following a sufficient warm up on the moundless parking lot, the engineers announced that they were having trouble getting a reading. They explained that they didn't expect to have any trouble getting a reading on pitches that were at least 85 miles per hour. Upon hearing that, Sands could barely suppress his laughter. I clearly remember the incredulity in his voice as he said, "If this guy could throw 85 miles per hour, he wouldn't be out here pitching in the parking lot." So much for that career.

    Attention for the project then turned to conducting the test during an upcoming home start for Ryan. If successful, an official clocking would be announced and turned into a promotional opportunity for a subsequent start at the Big A. ...

    Wind up the whole story, and then catch Rich's nice follow to the piece here.

    Kuo and Bro
    2006-09-14 15:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Just a thought: Could Hong-Chih Kuo's successful return to starting this year (so far) re-open the door for Jonathan Broxton to do the same next year?

    Kuo was on his game today for the second start in a row: in six innings, 93 pitches, 65 for strikes, 28 balls to 24 batters, three hits, seven strikeouts, and no walks by the former lack-of-control freak (admittedly, this was against the Cubs). Of Kuo's 18 outs, 13 came by strikeout, groundout or pickoff.

    In 12 innings at Shea and Wrigley, Kuo walked three while allowing seven fly outs and one extra-base hit, the two-run triple today by the wonderfully named Angel Pagan. Kuo is throwing the ball over the plate, and hitters aren't doing much with it.

    It's too soon to know if Kuo's healthy run will continue - for one thing, he pitched against two teams not known for doing much against left-handers - but it's got me wondering nonetheless.

    Broxton was a starter until little more than a year ago, when he was moved to the bullpen to accelerate his trip to the bigs. It has certainly paid dividends, though there has been a lingering feeling that a pitcher with his ability shouldn't be wasted in the bullpen.

    That feeling has been countered by a fear that Broxton's stuff would decline if extended for longer outings. Why mess with a good thing right now? Well, Kuo's transition might make you think twice.

    Ultimately, with Takashi Saito a year older and the rest of the bullpen in some sort of performance, rehabilitation or contractual limbo, everyone just might conclude that the Dodgers need someone like Broxton in the bullpen anyway. However, I don't think that you should let your bullpen dictate your rotation. Your rotation pitches more innings, so that's where the agenda should begin. Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, perhaps Kuo ... then who? Starting pitching is so hard to hunt for. Broxton could be the guy.

    I'm not firmly calling for Broxton to try starting again in 2007, but I'd love to see it discussed, Brett Tomko meltdowns or not.

    * * *

    I don't think that there was anything wrong with having Tomko start the bottom of the seventh inning today, especially against Henry Blanco. In fact, Tomko got two of the first three batters out. But Dodger manager Grady Little probably should have had a backup plan for the emergency that ended up arising - tying runs on base with Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee coming up. (Update: Broxton was warmed up in the bullpen, according to Ken Gurnick of

    Broxton's failure to get Ramirez out in Monday's game probably was a factor in Tomko staying in today's game (and allowing the game-winning three-run homer). But again, we return to muse upon Takashi Saito. His role has become so defined that he is barred from pitching to a single batter on the road if it isn't part a one-inning save opportunity. As a result, in three games in Chicago, he faces three batters, throws 12 pitches, all with a six-run lead, and sits out the two games that could be lost on a single pitch. That just can't be right.

    * * *

    Update: Question in the hopper: If you could have one team's current roster and a $100 million budget for 2007 (i.e., for most teams you'd have money to spend, for a few you'd have to cut back), whose roster would you want?

    Ethier's Tired, But Martin Isn't?
    2006-09-14 09:55
    by Jon Weisman

    It's not as if fatigue from his first September of pennant-race baseball couldn't be bringing Andre Ethier down - it's just that it's surprising this theory is so strong when his rookie teammate, beat-up catcher Russell Martin, has been steady.

    Martin has a .385 on-base percentage and .767 OPS for the month, pretty good considering that all but three games have been spent on the road, where he has been a poorer hitter (.933 OPS at home, .670 on the road). If anyone should be pratfalling, it's Martin, but he's been solid and has 10 days worth of home cooking awaiting him.

    Ethier has struggled to a .547 OPS in September, including a dismal .179 slugging percentage, but it hasn't been all bad. His on-base percentage has held strong at .368. Remember when people wondered whether Ethier could draw a walk when his hits disappeared, when his apparent luck on batted balls in play vanished? Well, Ethier's BABIP has slipped from over .400 to .375 rather abruptly, but while going 4 for 28 at the plate in September, Ethier has drawn nine walks in nine games.

    There have definitely been rocky moments for the young leftfielder, who has been in the starting lineup only once in the past five games (over six days), as Bill Plunkett writes in the Register:

    (Dodger manager Grady) Little pointed to Ethier's last at-bat in Tuesday's 11-inning defeat as an example of why he needed a break. With two outs in the 10th, J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent worked Cubs reliever David Aardsma for consecutive walks, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. Ethier swung at the first pitch and grounded weakly to the second baseman.

    "That's a sign," Little said. "That was not good, a little out of character for him."

    Ethier said he is working on a mechanical thing in his swing to correct a tendency "to leak open on my front side." But he said he feels fine physically and doesn't feel run down by the grind of his first major-league season.

    "I was telling someone before - sometimes you (stink), sometimes you don't," Ethier said. "You just hope you don't (stink) too much, and at this time of the year you hope you (stink) less."

    It all comes back to adjustments. Seems like it always does. Though Ethier could have continued to play and quite possibly produced as much as his backups, the decision to rest him makes a good amount of sense. It may well allow him to breathe. Beyond that, it would have been a shock if Ethier gone the entire season without a dip like he's having now - and again, his ability to take a walk should be seen as a silver lining. Ethier should be back in the lineup most of the final two weeks, with every possibility of making a final contribution to the pennant pursuit.

    * * *

    Tueday, the Giants gained a game on the Dodgers in the standings thanks to a 9-8 Dodger loss against a last-place team. Wednesday brought a 9-8 Giant loss to a different last-place team, and the Giants gave the game right back. Even steven.

    * * *

    Surgeon's Delight: The stitched-up arms of Hong-Chih Kuo and Wade Miller face off against each other at Wrigley Field today. Skyrockets in flight?

    Today's 11:20 a.m. game

    Your Appetizer, Sir?
    2006-09-14 08:36
    by Jon Weisman

    Nothing like arriving at work and having some scoreboard watching waiting for you.

    Padres-Reds, 9:35 a.m.

    What Dodger Had The Highest Baseball IQ?
    2006-09-13 16:34
    by Jon Weisman

    It's a question inspired by something I read over at

    My first instincts are to say either Orel Hershiser or Fernando Valenzuela, but there are certainly other candidates.

    * * *

    Tuesday night's loss feels like a blip to me. I can't explain why, given how streaky the team has been. All I can say is that I shook it off pretty quickly, perhaps surprisingly quickly.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    A Rested Saito Watches Dodger Bullpen Lose in Extras
    2006-09-12 21:07
    by Jon Weisman

    We ran through all the arguments in the game chat thread, starting at comment 378, and I still will never understand how you can keep your best reliever, Takashi Saito, out of a game in which one run will cost you that game.

    Update: The 17 runs in the game were scored by 17 different players - the highest total since at least 1974 with each player scoring no more than once, according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings.

    Update 2: Some have voiced a concern about overworking Saito, but he has pitched zero innings since Friday and one inning since last Wednesday. In the first 12 days of September, Saito has thrown 45 pitches, allowing one baserunner in 10 batters. If he needed to be rested, then the Dodgers have a much bigger problem than any of us have realized.

    It was just one decision in just one loss. All I'm saying is that I don't understand the decision, not that the decision was the end of the world.

    Is This Game Chat Even Necessary?
    2006-09-12 16:48
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's Game?

    Tonight's Weather

    Update: The first pitch has been thrown on schedule.

    * * *

    From the Dodger press notes:

  • Minor League batting champion James Loney has not stayed in the same city for more than nine days since July 28. At that time, he was in Las Vegas and since then he has been to Los Angeles (2 days), Cincinnati (3 days), Miami (3 days) back to L.A. (9 days), Tacoma (4 days), Portland (5 days), Colorado Springs (3 days), back to L.A. (2 days), Milwaukee (3 days) and New York (4 days) before arriving in Chicago (4 days). By the time he returns to Los Angeles on Thursday, Loney will have traveled approximately 15,834 miles in a span of almost seven weeks.

  • Incredibly, the all-time series between these two teams is separated by just one game, with the Dodgers holding a 1,004-1,003 advantage. L.A. has posted an 11-10 record since the 2003 season began.

  • Save October 2?
    2006-09-12 13:50
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers triumphed in the Great American Coin Flip Sweepstakes and will host any tiebreaker game that comes up after the end of the scheduled regular season. (Thanks to The Griddle for the pointer.)

    The Dodgers' losing record against San Diego did not come into play with regards to a tiebreaker game. However, if the two teams finish tied and both teams are guaranteed playoff spots, San Diego would be the division champion, without a playoff.

    And with that, you may now revisit the inglorious end to the 1996 season.

    Codavy Ross
    2006-09-12 09:50
    by Jon Weisman

    Cody Ross2075092121655.307.478.784
    David Ross21056151183258.361.605.966


    Both ex-Dodgers are superior hitters against left-handed pitchers, but both also racked up the majority of their plate appearances against righties.

    * * *

    I knew that James Loney had improved his stats in his second turn in the big leagues, but I didn't focus on how much until this morning.

    Note this sample-size-challenged comparison with Nomar Garciaparra for 2006:

    Plate appearances: Loney 89, Garciaparra 463
    On-base percentage: Loney .348, Garciaparra .378
    Slugging percentage: Loney .506, Garciaparra .509
    OPS: Loney .854, Garciaparra .886
    EQA: Loney .284, Garciaparra .297

    Loney has struck out four times this season, though he has hit into seven double plays.

    * * *

    Playoff Watch
    Dodgers lead division by 1 1/2 games and have a 3 1/2-game hold on a playoff spot.

    W-L GB
    76-67 ---- Dodgers
    74-68 1.5 Those Annoying Padres
    73-71 3.5 Those Surprising Marlins
    72-71 4.0 Those Phunky Phillies
    72-71 4.0 Those Annoying Giants
    71-72 5.0 Those Fading Reds
    70-73 6.0 Those Better-Late-Than-Never Astros
    69-74 7.0 Those Didn't Win In '94 Braves
    68-76 8.5 Those Annoying Diamondbacks
    67-76 9.0 Those Plucky Rockies

    Current Series
    Dodgers at Cubs
    Padres at Reds
    Mets at Marlins
    Phillies at Braves
    Astros at Cardinals
    Rockies at Giants
    Nationals at Diamondbacks

    Simpleton's Forecast
    The NL West strengthens its hold on the wild card by the weekend.

    Update: It's raining in Chicago today, according to Dodger Thoughts reader Robert G. Higgins, and the forecast is borderline at best for tonight's Dodger game.

    Update 2: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at the National League Cy Young race today, lamenting that Brad Penny could get consideration because of his win totals but noting that Takashi Saito is a better choice than Trevor Hoffman among reliever alternatives. Brandon Webb of Arizona and Chris Carpenter of St. Louis are the frontrunners.

    Update 3: Dodger Stadium ranks 26th among major league ballparks in's Fan Value Index, hinting at a flaw at the methodology.

    Beating the Big Top
    2006-09-11 06:45
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodgers are one of the best teams in the major leagues this season against the top 40 starting pitchers in baseball, posting a .571 winning percentage and scoring more than four runs per nine innings against them, according to David Pinto at Baseball Musings.

    While this provides no guarantee that the Dodgers will make the playoffs (other top teams on the list include Arizona and Atlanta), it does provide some encouragement should they do so.

    * * *

    If you haven't read Alex Belth's Bronx Banter today, please do. It's so worth it.

    * * *

    Update: The image and story of sleeping Daily News reporter Tony Jackson no longer appears at Inside the Dodgers.

    It's funny, there's a really unfortunate picture that a museum photographer took of me yawning in the galleries at LACMA a few years back. I would be bummed if that were posted on the Internet, even though, you know, everyone gets tired. The people here at work sure seemed to get a big kick out of it without causing me too much collateral damage.

    A Happier 9/11
    2006-09-11 00:02
    by Jon Weisman

    Originally published September 11, 2003

    Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.

    It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.

    The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall ... and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.

    In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.
    Continue reading...

    2006-09-11 00:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Originally published May 5, 2006

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

    That Ain't Bad
    2006-09-10 13:34
    by Jon Weisman

    Two wins out of four games at Shea Stadium. That should thwart some of the talk that the Dodgers can't beat good teams and can't beat them on the road. Should the Dodgers play the Mets in October, it will also hinder comparisons to the 1988 season, in which the Dodgers defeated New York in the National League Championship Series after winning only one game against the Mets in the regular season (1-10). (In 11 games against New York in 1988, the Dodgers scored 18 runs.)

    Were the two victories this weekend flukes? Someone better equipped than me will have to come up with the last time two pitchers won their first major league starts against the same team in the same series, as Hong-Chih Kuo and Eric Stults did Friday and Sunday. On the other hand, the Mets' offense has been held to one run or fewer in four of its past eight games - three of those times against left-handed starters. New York's OPS against lefties is .045 below its OPS against righties. Something to consider.

    But two wins out of four games at Shea Stadium. That ain't bad.

    Oh, and Nomar? Well, he needed the kind of game he had today. Every home run he hits between now and the end of the 2006 season could roughly add another $500,000 in negotiating power for his 2007 salary.

    * * *

    Tip to headline writers - avoid the cheap puns on Eric Stoltz movies in Monday's papers. If you're going to go that route, better make it good.

    Nomar No More?
    2006-09-10 09:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Remember that big, multiyear contract that Nomar Garciaparra had played himself into. It's looking more and more like a fairy tale.

    As many of you know, Garciaparra has slumped since the All-Star break: .276 on-base percentage, .350 slugging percentage, .626 OPS. Those are numbers that make you think of Cesar Izturis (in fact, Izturis has an OPS of .623 for the season) - which makes them completely inadequate for Garciaparra's role as a first baseman.

    Garciaparra may be battling injuries, a slump, an ancient curse - it doesn't really matter. The story of his comeback season has downshifted - he is once again a player, however enticing, who can't be counted on for a full season of high-caliber production. His overall 2006 OPS of .875 is fine, and he might still be able to hit at times like he did before the 2006 All-Star Game, but he's about as risky to invest in as he was in the 2005-2006 offseason. He has ended up being good, but not great ... healthyish, but not healthy.

    Less than two months ago, it appeared that Garciaparra had either priced himself out of the Dodgers' future plans or would grab a big chunk of salary to remain. Barring a heroic finish to the season, Garciaparra now stands to merely attract another one-year contract with incentives or a two-year deal at affordable rates. A three-year deal would seem out of the question.

    Does that make Garciaparra more likely to remain a Dodger in 2007? On the one hand, he's more affordable; on the other, James Loney becomes a more viable alternative at first base, leaving the Dodgers to invest capital elsewhere.

    The best chance that Garciaparra has of increasing his value the Dodgers - or any team - is to show the willingness to play more than one position. At first base alone, Garciaparra is a risk, but if he could play first, second, third, short and left, then there might more motivation to pay him according to his reputation. A more athletic Olmedo Saenz wouldn't be a bad thing to have.

    But Garciaparra doesn't strike you as the kind of guy who wants to move around the diamond, does he?

    Given that the Dodgers have young talent at first and third base, and have already committed to overpaying for aging skills at second base in Jeff Kent, I'll speculate that if Garciaparra doesn't start hitting in the next three weeks, he'll end up as a second baseman for some other team in 2007.

    * * *

    Dodger public relations director Josh Rawitch hangs Tony Jackson of the Daily News out to dry. How will Jackson avenge?

    * * *

    Today's Game

    September 9 Game Chat
    2006-09-09 08:59
    by Jon Weisman
    September 8 Game Chat
    2006-09-08 15:00
    by Jon Weisman
    2006-09-08 07:00
    by Jon Weisman

    Jack Curry of the New York Times tries to offer perspective on the crazy team from Los Angeles:

    Andre Ethier is comfortable being uncomfortable, so he is comfortable playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ethier said he stayed motivated by not letting himself feel that he was in a firm position. So these unpredictable Dodgers are the perfect team for the rookie outfielder.

    In this quirky season, the Dodgers have spent two weeks as the worst team in the major leagues and even longer as the premier team in baseball. Sometimes, the Dodgers scare the opposition. Sometimes, they scare themselves. ...

    True enough, though Curry later uses the word "listless" to describe the Dodgers' performance in a 7-0 loss Thursday, the same word that popped up in the game thread comments here. So, I'll reiterate my postgame counterpoint:

    I can't imagine the Dodgers lacked for motivation on a team or individual level. The team is also just one day removed from a comeback victory. Calling them listless or a team that gave up because it fell behind doesn't stand to scrutiny.

    The Mets, the best team in the league, got the big hits tonight, while the Dodgers got several baserunners but did not make the key plays they needed. I watched the game and saw players (including Jeff Kent) diving, running hard, a bit overeager at the plate and jittery in the outfield, but anything but listless.

    I don't understand the rush to question the effort of a first place team in a close race, a team whose members still have much to prove, either as rookies or as vets trying to retain playing time.

    In other words, "listless" is misused a synonym for a poor performance. The Dodgers simply flailed.

    With Hong-Chih Kuo making his first major league start tonight, the Dodgers should be anything but listless again. Whether they will win is another matter.

    * * *

    People in New York (or at least Ben Shpigel of the New York Times) love ex-Dodger Jose Valentin:

    Any lineup featuring Jose Reyes at the top and Jose Valentin batting eighth is bound to wreak havoc. ... (Dodger manager Grady) Little had a prime seat to watch Valentin blast a 425-foot home run and drive in another run, reinforcing his status as the league's most dangerous No. 8 hitter.

    This has been brewing for a while. Previously on Dodger Thoughts, from June 8, 2006:

    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 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
    Mueller, 2006: 126 PA, .759 OPS, .266 EQA, 1.6 VORP, $4,250,000 (2006), $5,250,000 (2007-08)
    Valentin, 2006: 103 PA, .838 OPS, .273 EQA, 6.4 VORP, $912,500

    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.

    Obviously, the last paragraph of that post turned out to be correct, but the paragraph before it was all too optimistic.

    Photo Fun
    2006-09-08 06:33
    by Jon Weisman

    ... courtesy of Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts. After the smiles on the faces of Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, the next thing I noticed was the name of Roy "1 for 1" Gleason (more about him here) above a locker.

    September 7 Game Chat
    2006-09-07 15:30
    by Jon Weisman
    2006-09-07 11:01
    by Jon Weisman

    Decent players are inconsistent great players, mediocrities are inconsistent good players, bad players are ... just bad players.

    The Dodgers are truly madly decent, with teammate after teammate capable of competing for Player of the Month and Loser of the Month consecutively. Derek Lowe, Matt Kemp, Nomar Garciaparra (slumping significantly of late), Aaron Sele ... need I go on?

    Right now, the starter of tonight's game in New York, Brad Penny, is on the wrong side of the Ferris Wheel. In this season of mental and physical hithers and yons, I predict Penny will right himself before season's end. Maybe even tonight.

    Of course, that means Lowe has a dog start left on him this month. So it goes. Decency is not always its own reward.

    Nevertheless, Penny can be good, so Penny will be good.

    2006-09-06 12:05
    by Jon Weisman

    In the 1984 Pioneer League Junior Varsity cross-country finals, I made up ground on a hard hill climb, defying expectations, neared the leaders, followed most of them in missing a turn and going off course, retraced my steps and ran my lungs out to hold on to a respectable finish.

    That's your 2006 Los Angeles Dodgers - pride and joy on the line, arms flailing, dashingly ill-prepared, a hint of talent here and inadqeuacy there, a surefire winner on Everybody Gets a Trophy Day, and potentially an actual champion of the lesser gods if the finish line would just show up at the right time.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    September 5 Game Chat
    2006-09-05 16:00
    by Jon Weisman
    September Morn
    2006-09-05 06:09
    by Jon Weisman

    Edwin Jackson's first career major league start came in September, on the ninth day of the month in 2003. Looks like the first start for Hong-Chih Kuo or Eric Stults could come in September, on the eighth day of the month in 2006.

    (Who's your favorite triage starter from this decade? Jackson, whose debut was so much fun? Elmer Dessens, who started the division-clinching game in '04? Or are you more the Masao Kida, Scott Mullen, Kevin Beirne or Victor Alvarez type?)

    Jackson's victory pulled the Dodgers, who were hopelessly behind in the National League West race, within two of the NL Wild Card lead. The Dodgers pulled within a game of the lead a few days later, but never got ahead, losing out to the eventual World Series champions from Florida.

    The Dodgers' lead in the NL West in 2006 has been cut to two games, meaning they're not assured of being in first place by the time Saturday's game comes.

    Aaron Sele remains a candidate to take that start in place of Chad Billingsley, whose oblique injury became further annoyed as an unscheduled portion of the on-flight entertainment to Milwaukee. Whoever doesn't start Saturday will be a possibility to take Mark Hendrickson's next turn if the tall lefty falters tonight. Bill Plunkett of the Register has also reported Kuo has a potential starter in Chicago next week.

    There's some consternation about Dodger starters not lasting past the fifth inning, but with expanded rosters, it's just a matter of adjusting. The next-best thing to using someone like Jonathan Broxton in a close game late is to use him in a close game early. Unless he's taking the day off, get him in there. Then, if you run out of pitchers, you can go to the recent callups like Giovanni Carrara. Especially after September 1, there's little excuse for using your bullpen in inverse proportion to the game situation.

    This Is Me
    2006-09-04 10:29
    by Jon Weisman

    The person on other message boards posting messages under my name wishing that the Dodgers lose ... not me.

    Merry Labor Day!

    * * *

    Today's Game

    September 3 Game Chat
    2006-09-03 11:28
    by Jon Weisman
    Juggling the Rotation
    2006-09-02 16:37
    by Jon Weisman

    Tonight's starter for the Dodgers, Brad Penny, was listed in the team's game notes as the probable starter for Wednesday's game at Milwaukee - that would be on three days' rest. Aaron Sele is starting Sunday in place of injured Chad Billingsley, followed by Greg Maddux on Monday and Mark Hendrickson on Tuesday. So I'm wondering if Penny was listed in error in the spot where Derek Lowe would be - or if the Dodgers might be giving Lowe an extra day off after a frenetic week.

    In any case, no word on when Hong-Chih Kuo's first start might be. Following their trip to Milwaukee, the Dodgers head to New York to place the National League-leading Mets.

    Does it go without saying that the Dodgers need to be extra careful with Billingsley? Their history in judging recovery times for oblique injuries has not been impressive lately.

    * * *

    Tracking the Dodgers' pursuit of record roster usage in Los Angeles ... Marlon Anderson became the 47th member of the 2006 team. Six more to go to reach the record of 53, set in 1998. Though Einar Diaz is waiting in the wings, it looks like they'll fall short unless they make a few more callups.

    * * *

    Tonight's Game

    September 1 Game Chat
    2006-09-01 18:00
    by Jon Weisman
    Taking Stock After the Anderson Acquisition
    2006-09-01 06:42
    by Jon Weisman

    The Dodger bench against right-handed pitching has been a tool kit with a hammer (Olmedo Saenz) and little else, and even the hammer isn't quite right for the job. So the pursuit of a player like Marlon Anderson makes sense on a couple of levels. (The "but" comes later in this post, so wait for it.)

    Anderson's OPS against righties this season is .799, about the same as Saenz's .792. Adding Anderson to the team not only gives the Dodgers an additional option against righties, it also frees Saenz to start games against left-handed pitchers instead of Julio Lugo or Wilson Betemit. And it's against lefties that Saenz really excels, with an OPS over 1.000 since at least 2003.

    But ...

  • Anderson's OPS against righties might be a fluke. In 857 at-bats from 2003-2005, it was .684. Overall, he's a below average hitter, with an EQA below .260 every season since his age-27 season in 2001.

  • Coming up for his third callup, James Loney could be a better hitter against righties than Anderson already.

  • Jhonny Nunez, the player the Dodgers traded, struck out a batter an inning in the Gulf Coast League at age 20 and allowed no home runs. While that league is not the proving ground that higher levels are, it seems a little early to assume that the 6-foot-3 righthander can't make it in this pitching-deprived world.

    There are the side notes of the Dodgers investing money in the deal (Anderson is signed for 2007 at $925,000, though according to Ken Gurnick of, the Washington Nationals will pay $400,000 of that), and the fact that the Dodgers now have five backup infielders in Saenz, Anderson, Lugo, Loney and Ramon Martinez (with an Andy LaRoche debut also to come). At some point, the sheer number of players on the roster limits the potential collective return on investment.

    After nearly a year on the job, we can be pretty confident of a few things regarding Dodger general manager Ned Colletti. He does prize certain high-caliber minor leaguers, and it's a testament to that critical fact that I never once worried that he would send the exciting Matt Kemp to Boston for aging pitcher David Wells. Colletti is willing to let these young guys develop and appreciate when they are doing well.

    The other fundamental truth about Colletti is that he runs a baseball team the way some of us buy clothes. We will go to the store and buy four pairs of pants hoping that two will look good. If you always know what you're getting, you won't understand, but sometimes the dressing-room mirror lies, and the only insurance against that is to make multiple purchases and be prepared to live with the detritus gathering lint in your closet. For the most part, Colletti is shopping at Old Navy and not Barney's, so the cost isn't overwhelming - but there is a cost, and one of these days he's gonna really regret what he spent on a pair of ill-fitting slacks.

    Colletti isn't stupid; he's just insecure or cautious - pick your preference. He's the guy that got both Andre Ethier and Mark Hendrickson, who got both Greg Maddux and Lugo. He almost seems to know he's fallible, so he's always trying to solve both problems that exist and problems that might come up - and this includes problems that he would consider of his own creation (Jae Seo). In a sense, although it seems a lot to ask of us not to look at his maneuverings individually, the only way to judge Colletti is through his moves collectively. Colletti knows some moves work out and others don't, and that's going to keep him shopping.

    That brings us to Thursday night. For all the time he has been with the Dodgers, Colletti has not come up with a left-handed pinch-hitter that satisfies him. So for the final month of the 2006 pennant drive, he gives himself two: Anderson and Loney. One through a trade, one through the minors. One should work out, one probably won't, and both will probably have at least one big moment that will justify their existence if the Dodgers reach the postseason. (I still have visions of Lugo throwing making a couple of key defensive plays in August - they don't justify his acquisition, but they did help the team briefly.)

    Colletti is a stock that goes up and down. For the year, I'd consider him up, but it's not a steady incline. He's volatile, in the CNBC sense. He zips and dips, and given his approach, it looks like he'll zip and dip as long as he's here.

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    About Jon
    Thank You For Not ...

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