Baseball Toaster Dodger Thoughts
Monthly archives: February 2007


Lasorda Says He'll Not Sue To Defend Honor
2007-02-28 16:44
by Jon Weisman

Lasorda, 79, didn't want to talk about the allegations — except to deny them and insist he had never spoken to Gibson, let alone paid for sex. He said he probably won't sue her, despite his attorney saying he intended to do so.

- Steve Henson in the Times, on the latest involving Tommy Lasorda.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Lasorda Says He'll Sue To Defend Honor"

Police Intrasquad
2007-02-28 10:22
by Jon Weisman

The first (and only?) intrasquad game of 2007 is in the disposable books. Tony Jackson has a quick recap:

Luis Gonzalez was hit by a pitch from Mike Megrew, and a collective gasp went up in the handful of spectators that constituted the crowd for today's intrasquad game, but everything turned out fine. Derek Lowe was ineffective, but it was his first outing of the spring, so nobody really cared. And Fernando Tatis and Larry Bigbie, two veteran, non-roster outfielders who are likely to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, each homered, Tatis off Megrew and Bigbie off D.J. Houlton. Oh, and Marlon Anderson had a setback in his surgically repaired right elbow during batting practice. He'll be held back for the next few days, but it isn't expected to be an issue for long.

Update: Steve Henson writes in the Times:

Anderson, a nine-year veteran who helped the Dodgers to the playoffs with a sensational September, is a lock to make the roster. Yet he was trying to play through the pain without letting anyone know the way a rookie might.

"We had to remind Marlon that [tomorrow] is March 1 and not May 1," Manager Grady Little said. "We won't push him too much."

The New Stats - They Mean No Harm
2007-02-27 21:31
by Jon Weisman

From Dodger Thoughts, February 19, 2003, for Murray Chass. Just to show that we should be past statphobia by now.

In fact, we really are well past it - note how much more ubiquitous OPS has become in the past four years, to the point that OPS is starting to seem junior league - only Chass, who wrote today that "new-age statistics (threaten) to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein," is among those who don't seem to realize it:

The New Stats - They Mean No Harm

Calculus killed me. Math was easy until calculus. After that, math became Sanskrit. So I get that there are limits.

But the new baseball stats that are coming into use today - they aren't calculus. So don't be afraid. Give them a chance.

It's often said that no sport depends on numbers for its popularity more than baseball. Numbers like 61, .406 and 1.12 have volumes of meaning that bridge generations.

That said, many baseball fans, writers and professionals are resistant to, if not critical of, any hint of excessive or, dare I say it, newfangled statistical analysis. (By the way: 27 words in that sentence and six commas, for a ratio of 4.50 WPC.) These people can be longtime fans who worry that stats will suck the romance out of the game, or managers who feel that stats can't substitute for human observation. Statisticians are often perceived as a threat to the game itself.

In no way am I a statistician, but I'd like to speak up in their defense - and explain why this matters to Dodger fans.

The Suits and the Dungarees

Everyone will have their limit, based on how much they want to know and how much they want to learn. But it seems to me that baseball is not baseball without numbers. It is a poetic game, to be sure, and a visual one. But fundamentally, you keep score. One team gets more runs than another. Stats help us evaluate who helps their team get more runs than another.

This shouldn't be like a high school war between the jocks and the geeks. Watching a player has its role, and evaluating a player with numbers has its role. They can co-exist.

That said, can we agree that it's okay to use newer, better stats?

Some people are fiercely loyal to the stats they grew up with, and are offended by change. Batting average is cool, but OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) is too much. (Can I get away with a WKRP in Cincinnati reference here? It's a battle between "the suits and the dungarees.")

In the end, we all need clothes.

Look, I take the purist side on many issues, like being anti-DH and anti-wild card, but I don't do so for the sake of being a purist, but because I think the game was better without those changes.

I get that there will always be some magic to a player's batting average, to the idea of trying to hit .400 or even .300 and of avoiding .200, so I don't want to see batting average eliminated from the records.

But it's becoming clearer that magic and poetry are about the only value that the batting average statistic has. People should not be affronted by the idea that measures of performance that are newer and more reliable than batting average have been discovered, such as OPS. People should be encouraged that they can offer more informed explanations about why Eric Karros is no longer a very good player.

In particular, the media should not live in denial.

Pull Up a Chair for OPS

OPS is a relatively new concept. It's second-hand to me now, but I don't think I've been aware of it for more than a few years. Of course, a few years is better than nothing. I revel in the ability OPS has to provide a one-shot indicator of a player's performance. Clearly, it is more effective than batting average, and nimbler than citing separate on-base and slugging percentages. Some media outlets, such as, have come to realize this.

And yet, I'm pretty sure that the next reference to OPS in the Los Angeles Times will be the first.

The Times is the paper of record in Los Angeles, so it does not need to take change lightly. But it should also strive to provide the best analysis of any given subject. Certainly, a minority of its readers are going to be familiar with OPS. But I think if this is the best tool at hand, providing both efficiency and simplicity, then the Times beat writers should learn it and use it.

Same goes for Vin Scully. There's no announcer for whom I have more love or respect. But past achievement does not eliminate the need to adapt - just look at Kevin Brown. There are better tools available today, and I am dying to see Vinny look beyond the old school stuff and use them in his broadcasts.

(It has to be Vin, by the way. If Ross Porter does it, more power to him - but he's so criticized for his reliance on numbers that the citywide resistance may be vitriolic. And if Rick Monday does it, will anyone notice amid his rambling? Even though he has his detractors, Vin has the necessary authority to put OPS into use in Los Angeles.)

My own audience, such as it is, is a mix of people who used OPS before I knew what it was and people who may still be in the dark about it. But you know, you've got to learn sometime. It's not like the Times explains what ERA is every day. If a media outlet uses vocabulary that the reader doesn't understand, I don't see a problem with the reader having to do a little self-education.

Stats are part of the game. Everyone should agree on that. Sure, let Dusty Baker ignore OPS, play a hunch and let Shawon Dunston into a World Series game (and watch him hit a home run). But can a better stat like OPS at least be part of the discussion? I don't see why not.

EqA - Obscurely Wonderful, Like Fernando in 1980

I was gonna say Jack Fimple in 1983, but it turns out his OPS was only .658, and I thought that might be controversial.

Anyway, I'm not saying OPS is not the be-all and end-all.

I'm studying this stuff more, trying to understand all the statistical tools out there. Not as an end to itself, but as a better means to do the evaluation of the Dodgers that I'm trying to do.

In using OPS, I'm ahead of the mainstream curve, but I still trail the cutting-edge curve.

The latest item I'm just now starting to work into my baseball vocabulary is Equivalent Average, or EqA, which appears to be even more useful than OPS.

Baseball Prospectus defines EqA as "a measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. The EqA adjusted for all-time also has a correction for league difficulty."

You can see the advantages right away. OPS doesn't make any of the above corrections. So when I use OPS to compare Shawn Green to a player from another team, like Raul Mondesi -- much less a player from another era, like, oh, Mel Ott, I have to guess at the adjustments that I must make.

Additionally, in a manner that serves to appease or entice the so-called purists, the EqA scale is deliberately set to approximate that of batting average. An average EqA is .260 - which on a gut level, seems like the batting average of an average ballplayer. (Does it hurt the case for EqA if I wish they had picked .250? You know - a simple 1 for 4?)

For now, OPS remains handier because it can be located on many baseball websites and can be calculated very easily. EQA is not nearly as accessible. The only EQA chart I know of is on the Baseball Prospectus site, and it's not comprehensive.

I also have to mention that in this, my first experience writing about EqA, the shift between capital and small letters is tiresome. I hate to be insolent, but can I write EQA instead?

Let's try it. Write me if it bothers you.

In any case (literally), I'm going to start to try to work in EQA into my articles, hoping it provides some use, while acknowledging that it might be another gateway drug for me to an even more obscure if effective stat.

Here are some relevant 2002 EQAs for the Dodgers, and where they ranked in the major leagues within their given position (minimum 502 plate appearances):

.265 Paul Lo Duca (6th among C)
.294 Fred McGriff (14th among 1B)
.262 Eric Karros (21st among 1B)
.242 Mark Grudzielanek (16th among 2B)
.259 Adrian Beltre (15th among 3B)
.292 Alex Cora (in 291 plate appearances - would be 5th among SS)
.201 Cesar Izturis (in 449 PA - would be worse than all 19 SS regulars except Neifi Perez)
.284 Brian Jordan (14th among LF. Barry Bonds was at .457!)
.277 Dave Roberts (in 472 PA - would be 13th among CF)
.289 Marquis Grissom (in 367 PA - would be 11th among CF)
.322 Shawn Green (5th among RF, 21st among all players)

Beltre really does have a ways to go, doesn't he. Good thing he still qualifies as young. Of course, no one on the team is has more ground to cover than Izturis.

You can see the similarity in the EQA scores between Lo Duca and Karros, but the difference as to where they rank in their given positions.

McGriff, Jordan and Grissom were more above-average than I expected. And Cora, for his position, was really high - and it's not like he had an infinitesimal amount of at-bats. With his fielding ability, doesn't it seem strange that he is an underdog for a starting job this year? Or is it that human element that makes it wise to make him a backup? Seriously - I'd like to know.

Barry Bonds was 87 points higher than the next-best major leaguer, Manny Ramirez (.370).

No, I don't need OPS or EQA to tell me Barry Bonds had a better season than anyone else last year. But those stats say it more authoritatively, and are of great use in putting in perspective the mediocrity that is the Dodger lineup. I hope that the Dodgers are paying attention. Better stats might have helped prevent some of the horrible decisions made in recent years. Tom Goodwin - hello?

And though I hate to mention football as a role model, that sport has been using a complicated statistical formula for ranking quarterbacks for about 25 years. No one seems to mind.

Everyone who is a baseball fan should embrace OPS, if not EQA. They're great fun and easy to spell!

I wish I had Vin's number.

Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus wrote a classy response to Chass tonight.

Life After 30
2007-02-26 22:05
by Jon Weisman

Two weeks ago, I shot baskets for the first time in close to a year and found the ball extraordinarily heavy and the hoop mystifyingly difficult to penetrate. I mean, it was pathetic.

One week ago, I skied for the first time in close to a year and, a couple days into the trip, found myself carving through the snow better than I ever had in my life. In the middle of the week, I took off my skis at the top of the High Alpine lift at Snowmass, Colorado, carried them as I hiked uphill for five minutes to Hanging Valley Wall, put them back on, and proceeded over the narrow lip of a double-black-diamond run, cutting my way through the trees with hardly a hesitation, except to catch my breath or savor the moment.

I was on Cloud 10. I still am, thinking about it, and only wish I were back there to aim for Cloud 11.

It's simply fascinating to me that at an age when proven athletes are declining, there's one sport at which I could be improving. But then again, I find the whole sport fascinating. I could take the same run over and over again, but it's never the same. The paths change; the conditions change (on Tuesday, visibility was going from sunny to fogged in on seemingly every other run). I'm gaining strength and then losing it and then regaining it and then re-losing it. I'm choosing different routes, different approaches, different kinds of rhythms. I'm going for quick, short turns on one set of moguls, then trying to go deeper and longer on another. I'm learning something on nearly every run - although I forget some of what I learn a couple runs later.

It's not as if skiing isn't a demanding sport, and it's certainly not as if I'm in the best shape of my life. With the kids and the blog, if I exercise more than once a week, or twice a month, that's a miracle, Mandy - a true blue spectacle.

But somehow, nine months shy of my 40th birthday, I'm the best I've ever been. Somehow, even though I have been skiing since 1975, in never being able to ski more than a week a year - some years not at all - it has just taken me this long to learn to ski. My understanding of the sport has apparently come about so slowly that my ability to improve continues to outpace my physical decline, for now.

In contrast, I played basketball hundreds of days a year in my teens and twenties, and quite possibly learned all the technique I was going to learn. Not all the technique anyone can learn, but all that I was going to.

If I had learned to ski faster, I would have been better 10 years ago than I am now, because there's no doubt that physical conditioning makes a huge difference in one's ability. But inadvertantly, I left myself room to grow.

This phenomenon doesn't necessarily explain, say, Dodger reliever Takashi Saito having a breakthrough year at age 36 last season. But it does make me believe in the possibility of the late bloomer, the player who got a late start on his path to the bigs, who may not ever be as great as he might have been with an earlier launch, but still has unattained potential past the normal player's prime.

There's a time limit for major leaguers, of course, but there is life after 30.

As for me, I'm not looking forward to much about turning 40, but I'm hoping there are still even bigger, blacker runs left for me. And I'm thinking that around the time I turn 45, when the kids are a little older, I'll try to pick up rock climbing again. I haven't done that in years.

* * *

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Old Friends"

* * *

Update: In the spirit of this post:

The Dodgers announced that they "will hold an open tryout at 9:00 a.m. this Thursday to which any professional or amateur free agent can attend. The event will take place at Dodgertown on Fields 5 & 6, with registration beginning at 8:00 a.m. Participants must bring their own equipment and be dressed in baseball attire. For more information, call (772) 569-4900."

Saito Has More To Show
2007-02-26 20:17
by Jon Weisman

In praising Takashi Saito at (that's what I get for not pitching an article because I think I've written too much about the Dodgers), John Donovan notes:

Like many Japanese pitchers, Saito throws at least five different pitches and, for the most part, he's thrown only three of them in America: the shuto fastball, the curve and the slider. (Martin (Dodger catcher Russell Martin) says he's seen Saito mess around with a split-fingered fastball, too.) With hitters more aware of him and what he throws, Saito may be forced to open his bag of pitches.

The concern right now with Saito is whether his current leg woes will set him back this season. But Saito and the Dodgers are taking the right approach in easing him into action.

Lasorda Says He'll Sue To Defend Honor
2007-02-26 20:14
by Jon Weisman

Dodger Thoughts hereby acknowledges salacious allegations against Dodger executive Tommy Lasorda, in case people were wondering, but sees no purpose in having a discussion of them, because I like to at least pretend I'm above it all.

I guess one thing that goes through my mind is that if the accusation is false, I'd find that worse than the alleged act. That might be a paradox. But so it goes.

Bottom of the Morning To Ya
2007-02-26 11:03
by Jon Weisman

Russell Martin will likely start the season batting sixth, writes Tony Jackson, with Wilson Betemit and Andre Ethier to follow (not necessarily in that sequence). For all the fretting about lack of power in the Dodger lineup, it's worth remembering that the bottom of the batting order figures to be one of the best in the National League.

Update: Greg Miller will be in the Las Vegas starting rotation if he doesn't make the big league bullpen, according to Grady Little via Steve Henson of the Times.

Little's Head Is in the Right Place
2007-02-25 21:55
by Jon Weisman

But whether it's just wishful thinking from Dodger manager Grady Little is another issue. From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:

Dodgers manager Grady Little said three days ago he didn't want career leadoff man Juan Pierre to change his approach despite the fact he was being dropped to second in the order behind Rafael Furcal, but now he has asked Pierre to be more patient at the plate.

"We talked to him about (that)," Little said. "It might help him get on base more." ...

The question is whether Pierre, who is seven years into what essentially has been a successful career in the majors, can make such an adjustment - or if he should even be asked to, considering the Dodgers lured him to Los Angeles this winter with a five-year, $44 million contract based on the player he already was.

"I'll just go out and play my game," Pierre said. "I don't get a lot of walks, but ... it's not like I'm just up there hacking."

The biggest knock against Pierre is his career on-base percentage (.350) isn't what teams look for from a leadoff man. Pierre doesn't draw many walks, a fact he blames on his lack of power because pitchers aren't afraid to challenge him when they are behind in the count. ...

Little added that he doesn't expect to have Pierre try to bunt Furcal over much, saying that "we're not going to be giving up outs when we have a runner on first who is fully capable of stealing a base."

I still am surprised that Little turned to the faltering Brad Penny in last year's playoffs, because for the most part as a Dodger manager, he has been so rational.

A Happier Pierre Story
2007-02-25 15:21
by Jon Weisman

From Tony Jackson at Tony and Doug Inside MLB:

An elderly fan approached Andre Ethier as Ethier walked back toward the clubhouse after today's workout. The fan introduced himself as a former high school teammate of Ethier's grandfather, Pierre Ethier, at David Prouty High School in Spencer, Mass., and presented Ethier with a well-preserved, black-and-white 1947 team photo, with Ethier's grandfather leaning on a bat in the lower-right corner. Ethier, whose grandfather died two years ago, was overjoyed the receive the gift. Pierre Ethier played professionally, climbing as high as Triple-A, and won a Texas League batting title in the early 1950s. Andre Ethier won the Texas League batting title with Double-A Midland in 2005.

Meanwhile, this from Diamond Leung's Press-Enterprise blog:

Here's a Grady-ism on the fifth-starter situation, the only lingering one this spring:

"It's a puzzle, but it's one of those jigsaw puzzles that has big pieces."

Little also told Ken Gurnick of that he expects to see pitcher Greg Miller in a major-league uniform this season. Presumably, a Dodger uniform.

La Roche Eyes Repko's Spot (Or Not)
2007-02-25 08:09
by Jon Weisman

With Juan Pierre slated to play every inning, the Dodgers don't need a backup center fielder on their 25-man roster. That means Jason Repko's principal value comes as a pinch-runner and right-handed backup in right or left field.

While we're a long way from him proving to be proficient in the outfield, the fact that Andy La Roche will be shagging flies, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News, amounts to some competition for Repko (who, perhaps not coincidentally, talked about the possibility of being traded with Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise).

James Loney, expected to backup at first base and the outfield and be one of only two left-handed bats off the bench, almost certainly will make the opening day roster instead of a 12th pitcher, because the Dodgers don't need a fifth starter during the first week. And although La Roche might be the team's third baseman of the future, at this point Wilson Betemit figures to start the season as the full-time hot cornerer, in light of Dodger manager Grady Little's vote of confidence expressed to Ken Gurnick of With Betemit being given dibs, Ramon Martinez, Marlon Anderson and Olmedo Saenz (and even Nomar Garciaparra in an extra-inning emergency) could back him up.

But if La Roche, who has never played in a major-league game, can handle the outfield without embarrassing himself, this could be a savvy, low-key way to break him in to the bigs - getting a few at-bats off the bench while pushing Betemit. While the odds remain that La Roche won't travel with the Dodgers for the opener, his candidacy just became more viable. (If Betemit puts a firm hold on third base, La Roche could do the reverse of what many expected: starting in Los Angeles and then going to Las Vegas.)

As always, all this speculation will be rendered moot by the first injury to a Dodger starter in April, in which case there would be room for all these fellas.

Update: Never mind? Steve Henson writes today in the Times that talk of La Roche playing the outfield has "cooled."

Nice Weather We're Having
2007-02-24 13:13
by Jon Weisman

Still calling this vacation. Priorities in the absence of any meaningful Dodger news:

3) The Independent Spirit Awards
2) UCLA-Stanford
1) Getting outside

Update: Screen Jam is hosting an Oscar pool. Join in!

Update 2: For some reason, I always look forward to seeing pitchers pinch-hit. This year, Randy Wolf will fulfull that role for the Dodgers, according to Steve Henson of the Times.

Biggest Dodger pinch-hitting pitcher moment of the past 25 years: Tim Leary, August 13, 1988.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts (March 11, 2003): "Slash"

2007-02-23 08:53
by Jon Weisman

I'm continuing a short breather before fully engaging in Spring Training, but please feel free to continue chatting away. I should be back in action by Monday.

One idle thought: It has dawned on me again that I have been neglecting writing in any depth about the various rankings of the Dodger farm system. The commenters here and other Dodger blogs continue to carry the ball on this (and many other matters, of course), which is cool. I might try to sum up some of the discussion in the next week or two.

Bring Me Some Games
2007-02-21 21:12
by Jon Weisman

Is it true that if you go too long without feasting on boxscores, you get scurvy?

The Pierre Paradox
2007-02-20 16:16
by Jon Weisman

The Juan Pierre debate is already old, aging like Ralph Macchio in that made-for-TV movie about that disease that ages you ahead of your time.

Know what I'm saying?

It's become one of those things. People not only disagree but disagree over and over again.

Pierre is that same intersection where people crossed paths over Hee-Seop Choi and J.D. Drew. It's worlds-colliding stuff. You try to rest your case, and you can't. If you think the Pierre signing was a mistake, you say so, and that's that - until some other writer extolls Pierre's virtues and you ... fight ... it ... but ... you can't help but respond.

And then if you're a Pierre paisan, you might come to this site and read comment after comment bashing Pierre and hold your tongue until ENOUGH! You see value in Pierre instead of an abyss, and you say so.

Essentially, it's something we have to live with. Pierre's every success or failing, at-bat after at-bat, stolen-base attempt after stolen-base attempt, will become evidence for and against - with each side claiming ownership of the big picture.

I offer no counsel except to suggest that everyone resist the deification or damnation of Pierre when they can, since there will be plenty of both whether we like it or not, and that people on both sides try to keep perspective. To oversimplify, that means understanding that however bad you think Pierre is, he does some things of value, and that however good you think Pierre is, listen when people outline his limitations.

I think the Pierre signing was a mistake, but I'll be rooting for him to prove me wrong while I also root for something even better to come to the Dodger lineup. It's not much of a juggle to keep that much of an open mind.

This much I know: Pierre is not worth rending garments over. His name is already becoming as polarizing as Drew and Choi - because people just saw different things in them in ways beyond convincing - and it's just not worth the angst. Drew and Choi taught us that these debates come and, almost thankfully, they go.

'Alter My Lifestyle To Fit the Fast Lane'
2007-02-19 15:17
by Jon Weisman

Latka Gravas intently studies Playboy magazine, and he turns into Vic Ferrari. Now that's a transformation worth talking about.

Brett Tomko tinkering with his windup, or the annual Maury Wills tutorial of the baserunner/bunter who could use more help in every other area - that's about as exciting as teaching Latka how to be a better mechanic.

The Dodgers' most famous March tutors are Wills and Sandy Koufax. All adequate and good, but where's the legend who will wring a little more power out of this team? That's the classic I want to see over and over again.

Vero Beach Memories
2007-02-18 10:10
by Jon Weisman

I saved this remembrance, sent to me late last year from Dodger Thoughts reader and University of Central Missouri history professor Eric G. Tenbus, for the opening of Spring Training. Hope you enjoy it.
Continue reading...

Dodger Thoughts Kids Weekend
2007-02-17 11:11
by Jon Weisman

A little experiment: I wanted to dedicate a thread to the young'uns. If you're below the age of, say, 13 and reading this, or if a parent is willing to encourage their kid(s) to say a few words here, let's hear something from you about the Dodgers or baseball. Who do you like? What do you like? What are your favorite memories?

Or, grownups can just tell us stories about their kids and baseball.

Comments can be as short as you like - name your favorite player and be done, or go on and write longer. And of course, no teasing allowed - you don't have to worry about saying the popular thing.

Don't know if anyone is game for trying this, but I thought I would give it a chance.

(For regular open chat, continue using the most recent active thread.)

Favorite Films of 2006
2007-02-16 20:08
by Jon Weisman

At Screen Jam, I have ranked my favorite films of 2006. It's just my opinion and only as good as the paper it isn't printed on. (Apologies to Michael Scott.)

This will be my last big film post before the Oscars, so feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on the year in film.

If I Were a Rich Man ... Oh Wait, I Am
2007-02-16 18:04
by Jon Weisman

Check out this bit about longshot roster candidate Matt White, from Ken Gurnick at

White is a 29-year-old left-handed journeyman pitcher in camp on a Minor League contract who's pitched a total of 9 2/3 Major League innings in nine professional seasons and he's sitting on a gold mine.

Actually, it's a rock quarry.

Four years ago, White bought a 50-acre piece of property in Massachusetts from his ailing Aunt Josephine, who was going into a nursing home. He planned to build a house on the property, but discovered it to be absolutely covered with rock. A geologist determined the property was loaded with mica schist, a slate-like shiny metamorphic stone used for patio decks and other construction.

"I never built the house and instead started selling the rock," said White, whose father runs the business. "It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The geologist said I've got 24 million tons of it and it sells for $100 a ton."

So, according to White's math, he's sitting on a $2.4 billion mountain of rock. That's billion, with a "B." The property cost him $50,000.

P.S. This is Seo just. Hurray!

Lunchtime Morsels
2007-02-16 12:04
by Jon Weisman

Looks like the Times might be more aggressive this year in posting its Dodger notebooks online earlier in the day, rather than conceding Ken Gurnick of dibs on first position. Before lunchtime on the West Coast, Steve Henson tells us that Takashi Saito was only musing about not returning to the U.S. this season as a negotiating ploy.

"From the beginning, I told my agent I wanted to re-sign with the Dodgers," he said Friday through a translator after taking a physical along with the rest of the team's pitchers and catchers.

"I never thought about what I would do if I didn't sign, because in my mind there was no other choice. I never thought about alternatives."

And he never pursued a multiyear deal.

"I haven't thought about anything past one year," he said. "We'll see where we end up, take a lot into consideration and see what happens.

"I didn't ask for a two-year deal. I played in Japan under multiyear contracts more than once and it didn't go well. I think a one-year deal keeps me motivated to challenge myself."

Henson adds that Mark Hendrickson is rebelling against the idea of being a reliever, and that Matt Kemp and Andy LaRoche are serious about trying to make the team from Day 1.

Kemp played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, adapting to the culture and finishing strong after a slow start. He was motivated by a deep slump during his call-up to the Dodgers when pitchers adjusted after he hit seven home runs in 82 June at-bats.

"I worked on hitting sliders in the D.R.," he said.

He also returned with lasting memories such as driving past 12-year-old boys playing a pickup baseball game in the street at 3 a.m.

"They have such love for baseball," he said. "It was amazing."

As a former child, that sounds fantastic to me. As a current parent, I'm going, "Whaaaa?" Sad, huh?

Meanwhile, revealed that the Dodgers were the third-most popular pick to win the World Series in a survey of 30 MLB managers and general managers. And Janie McCauley of The Associated Press catches ex-Dodger Milton Bradley wondering if he'll ever have a breakout year instead of a breakdown year.

Update: Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers expects Tony Jackson of the Daily News to blog more often during the day.

"While manager Grady Little plans to try Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre in the leadoff spot in spring training, he will settle on one or the other during the season," Jackson writes today. "Little said today that he won't switch them during the season based on who is pitching for the other team."

Ethier Has an Arm (Well, Two - But You Get the Idea)
2007-02-15 08:01
by Jon Weisman

In this article rating outfield arms of 2006, John Walsh of The Hardball Times finds that both Luis Gonzalez and J.D. Drew were below average, Juan Pierre was below average but better than Kenny Lofton, and that Andre Ethier was tops among left fielders in baseball.

If you buy in, it means the Dodger outfield will be about as good at throwing runners out and holding them as it was last season.

Walsh writes:

I consider five different situations when an outfielder's throwing ability comes into play:

1. Single with runner on first base (second base unoccupied).
2. Double with runner on first base.
3. Single with runner on second base.
4. Fly out with runner on third base, fewer than two outs.
5. Fly out with runner on second base, fewer than two outs (third base unoccupied).

For those plays, I add up how often the runner is thrown out or how often the runner is "held," i.e. prevented from taking the extra base. A comparison with league average allows me to rate the outfielder's arm. ...

The Rodney Dangerfields of the outfield throwers, left fielders never get no respect. Nevertheless, many left fielders save (or cost) their team significant amounts of runs each season. The cream of the crop in 2006 was the Dodgers' Andre Ethier, who doubled his expected kill total and was also excellent at holding runners.

I don't recall anything exceptional, one way or another, about Ethier's arm. Ethier's ranking benefited from an assist rate that was double the league average, and it's true that rookies and/or weak arms are often tested so much that their assists rise unexpectedly. But Ethier also held more runners than the average left fielder, so something good was going on.

Or maybe teams were just waiting to hit the ball to Lofton.

Choo Choo Soul
2007-02-14 14:48
by Jon Weisman

With their Spring Train leaving the station (perhaps with Genevieve conducting), the Dodgers added Choo Freeman to their all-aboard call today, according to Ken Gurnick at

The 27-year-old outfielder's given name is Raphael Deseption Freeman. He chug-a-chugged an OPS of .639 in nearly 200 plate appearances for Colorado last season.

Gettin' To Be About That Time ...
2007-02-14 10:00
by Jon Weisman

If you're not in the mood for Spring Training already, has a classic photo gallery that should get you there.

For more Dodger-related news, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranks the team's farm system fifth in baseball, writing that "as usual, the Dodgers have a well-rounded collection of talent, including a number of high-ceiling young players who could help move this ranking up next year."

Tampa Bay is first (no thanks to the Dodgers in this case, since neither Edwin Jackson, Joel Guzman nor Sergio Pedroza are reasons why), followed by Dodger division rival Colorado, Southern California rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and cross-country rival New York Yankees.

Arizona is sixth. Both Arizona and the Angels are top-heavy in hitting, according to Goldstein, while the Dodgers are more balanced. The Yankees have more talent in pitching.

San Francisco is 17th and San Diego 29th.

Update: Gaslamp Ball has posted the first of a two-part interview with ex-Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta. (Thanks to Bob Timmermann for letting me know.) Before you get into a fever, the conversation is almost entirely about the Padres, DePodesta's new organization - though the Irony Board has approved this excerpt.

DePodesta: I think one of the most important aspects of any manager is being a relationship manager with his players. Really being able to motivate them and get the most out of them that you possibly can. In reality that's the job of all of our field staff in the minor leagues and the major leagues. Get the absolute most out of every player that you possibly can.

Missing Gagne in My Heart
2007-02-13 08:14
by Jon Weisman

Although Eric Gagne was MIA most of the past two seasons, I'm still going to feel pangs for a while when I see his name.

They hit me this morning while reading this short article from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, in which we get the news that Gagne will throw from a mound for the first time since having surgery to address a herniated disc in July. With the story comes that unmistakable, unforgettable Gagne optimism:

"I'm anxious to do it," Gagne said Monday from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. "I've been throwing from up to 150 feet, and my arm feels great. But for me, it's exciting to get back up there and throw. I want to perform, perform, perform. But I've had to take it cautiously since my injuries. I've learned my lesson."

Dodger fans know that no one is less reliable to assess Gagne's physical condition than Gagne himself, but somehow, with him preparing to put on another major-league uniform for the first time ever, I can't shake the feeling that this time, he's going to be okay.

Those subjective feelings on my part won't stop Gagne from returning to the disabled list this season if that's his destiny. At the same time, I continue to wish that the Dodgers had risked some Juan Pierre/Luis Gonzalez/Mark Hendrickson/Joe Beimel money on a Gagne gamble, just because when Gagne's healthy, he's a symphony.

If budgets were tight, I certainly would understand letting Gagne go, but that wasn't the case. It breaks a lot of rules, but he's one player I would have rather let go too late than too early (not that that didn't already happen, obviously, when you consider the past two seasons).

I guess when it comes to Gagne, I'm disturbingly human.

A footnote comes from Steve Henson's recap in the Times today of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti's path through the offseason. When Scott Boras client J.D. Drew opted out of his contract, a common perception was that Colletti would refuse to deal with Boras in the future, partly explaining how Gagne ended up in Texas with a fairly affordable $6 million-plus-incentives-contract for 2007.

But after all that died down, Colletti did sign a minor Boras client with a history of injuries, Chin-hui Tsao. So there is a line Colletti is willing to cross to deal with Boras - as there should be. One should be able to say no to Boras without withholding all dialogue with him.

Anyway, that's all petites pommes de terre. This morning, I'm thinking about Gagne. And I know, life goes on without him. Life already has. I just haven't completely let go.

Update: Results of Gagne's visit to the mound, courtesy of Grant.

New closer Eric Gagne called his first trip to the top of a pitcher's mound since surgery last July "great."

Gagne threw off a mound at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home Tuesday and had no issues. Gagne had back surgery last July after just two appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is expected to report to camp with the rest of the Rangers' pitchers and catchers Saturday and should not have any limitations this spring.

Gagne said this week that he expects to have a typical spring training. He plans to throw about 10 innings, which is typical for a closer.

Herges To Sweep NL West?
2007-02-12 15:23
by Jon Weisman

Ex-Dodger reliever Matt Herges signed a minor-league contract with Colorado today, according to The Associated Press - giving him a sporting chance of playing for all five National League West teams in his career.

Dodgers, 1999-2001
Padres, 2003
Giants, 2003-2005
Diamondbacks, 2005

Herges turns 37 on April 1. He had an ERA+ of 100 last season in 66 games for Florida, allowing 122 baserunners in 71 innings while striking out 36.

2007-02-11 10:08
by Jon Weisman

Diamond Leung of the Press Enterprise reminds us that the Dodgers' radio agreement with KFWB ends after this season.

The marriage with an all-news station has been bad for the kids since the very beginning, undermining those who want maximum Dodger coverage as well as those who want KFWB's news coverage at any given moment.

The Dodgers absolutely should find a different station for their radio home.

Leung's brief report:

The Dodgers are discussing a new broadcasting contract with KFWB-AM (980) as its current five-year deal with the station ends after this season, but the team could end up choosing another flagship.

"They're talking to everyone," said KLAC-AM (570) general manager Don Martin, adding that at least five stations were talking to the Dodgers. "We're interested. Who wouldn't be?"

Marty Greenspun, the team's executive vice president and chief operating officer, declined comment through a spokesman.

* * *

Update: Maury Brown interviewed Charley Steiner for The Biz of Baseball.

Arbitration! (Let's All Arbitrate and Have a Good Time)
2007-02-10 14:40
by Jon Weisman

2007 Standings

Dodgers 1-0
Beimel 0-1

* * *

David Pinto of Baseball Musings covered the MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference, where Dodger vice chairman and president Jamie McCourt spoke.

Update: Ms. McCourt's speech starts with a "how baseball relates to the American dream" section, but she's getting into analytics now.

Update: She says winning is their equivalent of producing shareholder value.

Update: There's been a lot of talk today about getting to know players and their character. McCourt is expanding on that, how each level of the organization knows the player differently, and how that gets communicated through the organization.

Update: McCourt used to score games when she went to see the Orioles with her dad.

Update: "Players are part of our sales force." MLB as an organization needs to realize that.

Update: As part of remodel of Dodger Stadium, they want to shorten concession lines.

Update: Speech was short on analytics but long on platitudes.

One Way or Another, Dodger Offense Will Be Offensive
2007-02-08 09:32
by Jon Weisman

Here's my hopefully not-too-simplistic look at the positive and negative of the Dodgers' ongoing offensive predicament at Note the embarrassingly Carrie Bradshaw-like poser setting up the rest of the column:

Southern Californians don't all set out to be different. Sometimes, it just ends up that way.

And so it goes with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who against their fondest desires will again try to generate a winning offense via the baseball equivalent of windmills and solar power.

The 2006 Dodgers were alternative energy mavericks. Despite finishing 15th out of 16 National League teams in home runs, Los Angeles outscored its opponents by a greater margin than every other NL squad except the New York Mets.

Then, with every intention of boosting their home-run power, the Dodgers instead lost co-leader J.D. Drew (20 homers) to free agency, replacing him in the batting order with 39-year-old Luis Gonzalez, who hit 15 out of the park in 2006.

With Los Angeles' other major offseason offensive acquisition being the fleet-of-foot, free-of-muscle Juan Pierre (1,007 career games, 12 home runs), wags have wondered whether the deadball era will make an untimely return to Dodger Stadium. Can the Dodgers repeat their above-average offense, or are they tilting at windmills?

A Closer Rests
2007-02-08 08:07
by Jon Weisman

"Closer Takashi Saito suffered a minor injury to his right calf during a training run in Japan and has halted workouts," writes Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise in a story led by James Loney's optimism for 2007.

Injury ... rest. I like it.

"I don't think I'll have any problems being able to pitch at full strength once spring training games start," Saito told the paper through an interpreter.

* * *

Great Bob Gibson stat from David Gassko at The Hardball Times:

Did you know that in 1968, Gibson hit for almost as high an average (.170) as opposing batters hit off him (.184)? That fact is so impressive, it doesn't even require commentary.

* * *

Update: According to my day-by-day baseball calendar, Davey Lopes was traded to Oakland for Lance Hudson 25 years ago today, breaking up the legendary Dodger infield. Just shows the tricks memory plays on you – I thought that came shortly after the '81 World Series ended.

And This Year's Scott Erickson Scholarship Goes To ...
2007-02-06 13:50
by Jon Weisman

... Joe Mays!

Yes, Joe Mays, who has pitched 206 2/3 innings since 2003, allowing 147 earned runs while striking out 74 batters. Joe Mays, you have earned yourself an all-expenses-and-then-some trip to Vero Beach!

* * *

Grady Little chatted on today and mentioned that the signing of Luis Gonzalez threw the chances of Rafael Furcal batting third "out the window." He likes Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Gonzalez at 3-4-5, though I'd expect Gonzalez to slide out of the fifth spot as the season progresses.

Little also implied that Jason Repko and James Loney are likely to make the Opening Day roster and that Nomar Garciaparra would not play any third base.

As expected, Little has penciled in the first four starting pitchers, with the fifth slot subject to a competition that will include Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, Mark Hendrickson, Brett Tomko and Eric Stults. (And Joe Mays, I guess.) The news here mostly is that Hendrickson and Tomko would contend for a starting role, instead of being locked into the bullpen.

One thing I am decidedly not going to worry about, though, is preseason speculation about who the No. 5 starter will be in April. Yes, it's possible the Dodgers will start the year by choosing a veteran for the wrong reasons. But if both Billingsley and Kuo, for example, start the season in the bullpen, is that really going to be so bad? Well, maybe, but at least their arms will be rested for the long, hot summer. The only thing that can seriously go wrong in March or April (besides injuries) would be for the Dodgers to trade a prospect for rubbish.

And ultimately, the Hendrickson and Tomko talk might just be to have them be in a positive frame of mind heading into Spring Training. Little is the same manager who took Hendrickson and Tomko out of the rotation last year (slowly but surely). He's not the one who acquired them - it's only right that he treat them with respect. After the season's underway, the worrying can begin.

(Rob, sincerely, you're completely right - sometimes I should be more cranky. I promise - the thought of Hendrickson or Tomko over Billingsley or Kuo eats at me - but I just can't say that out loud!)

* * * hero Sean Forman was interviewed by John Donovan of today, which prompted me to take a closer look at the Baseball-Reference Wiki.

It's a great project, but one thing I can objectively say it is missing is input from Dodger Thoughts readers. I would love to see some of the people here jump on. If, for example, anyone were to feed the R.J. Reynolds or the tres Pedros (Pedro Astacio, Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Martinez) pages with some DT-inspired background, I'd be tickled blue.

2007 Opening Day Roster Locks
2007-02-06 05:00
by Jon Weisman

Having given the Opening Day roster locks short shrift in past Spring Training Primers, finally I'll take the time to give them due attention this season.

Remember - no one's saying these guys couldn't be hurt or traded, but otherwise, they're in like Clipper Flynn.

Starting Pitchers
Derek Lowe, RHP: My impression of Lowe over the past two seasons is that he has a sensational month, a terrible month, and some pretty good months in between. He seems to periodically fall off his game for ultimately tangible reasons, which is good - the mystery has a findable solution. His contract, which people like me thought the Dodgers would be trying to unload here in year three, is now a bargain. He's turning 34 this year, but it feels, if I may be allowed to feel, like a young 34. His durability continues unabated. As surprising as it seems, there's something reassuringly stable about him, and while Jason Schmidt is being called the new ace, Lowe might be the one who racks up the most cumulative effective innings.

Jason Schmidt, RHP: I've got an uneasy feeling about Schmidt, though perhaps I shouldn't: He rang up 213 1/3 innings last year with an ERA+ of 125 and 180 strikeouts. He hasn't thrown fewer than 172 innings since 2001. He's only half a year older than Lowe. But I'm just paranoid he's going to pull up lame. Fortunately, the Dodgers' sixth starter is Hong-Chih Kuo or Chad Billingsley - not bad.

Lowe, 2006: 218 IP, 97 runs allowed, 88 earned
Schmidt, 2006: 213 1/3 IP, 94 runs allowed, 85 earned

Brad Penny, RHP: He can be All-Star great, and he can the guy you cringed at when they brought him in for relief in the playoffs. Let's see how he does with an offseason's worth of rest. Clean slate.

Randy Wolf, LHP: If he's just league-average, that should be okay - but understand what that means. It means some five-inning, four-run outings mixed in with the seven-and-threes. It means some games when he's going to need some help. But if he can avoid those three-inning, six-run games, that should work for starters. (Get it? Starters.)

Takashi Saito, RHP: There's no reason he should be immune from the relief pitcher roller coaster, but he showed such a nice mix of pitches last season, I give him a fighting chance to approach his wonderful 2006 season. (But not match it - his ERA+ was a freakin' 222 last year.) What's most disconcerting is how he showed so much so late in his career - could it be a mirage?

Jonathan Broxton, RHP: I've got nothing bad to say about this guy. Just 22 1/2 years old and superb. Facing 320 batters last season, 95 baserunners and 97 strikeouts. MVP of the 2007 bullpen.

Brett Tomko, RHP: Tomko's 29 2/3 innings as a relief pitcher were marred by a horrible series in Chicago, when he allowed six runs in an inning and a third and blew two saves. Outside of that, his ERA was 1.91. And so no, he shouldn't be dumped for a useless prospect - he qualifies as a major league pitcher. But he is a highly paid reliever. He would be a modestly priced starting pitcher on many teams, and I can't see why the Dodgers shouldn't be able to find a way to take advantage of that and get something meaningful in trade. Ideally, Tomko would give the team a great April out of the bullpen and general manager Ned Colletti would sell high. But I'd be happy to see the Dodgers make the move now.

Mark Hendrickson, LHP: Hoping that Hendrickson has been reborn as a reliever is a little like hoping that it rains on the day you're too sick to go to the ballgame. It's a cut-your-losses frame of mind, one that is far short of your original hope. Yeah, he's been seeing a psychologist; yeah, he might cut loose over two innings knowing he doesn't have to go six. He should uptick as a reliever. But the last man on your staff isn't supposed to be someone that cost this much.

Russell Martin, C: Potentially the most popular Dodger and the face of the team, Martin played in 144 games last season with Las Vegas and Los Angeles, plus the playoffs. His OPS after August 1 was roughly 100 points lower than before, but it was still pretty great for a 22-year-old catcher. He threw out about a third of the runners attempting to steal on him, too. Some of you will get worked up over his spot in the batting order, but don't let it spoil the fun of watching this guy play.

Mike Lieberthal, C: A better hitter than last year's backup, Toby Hall, and certainly figures to be happier to be in Los Angeles. His career OPS+ is an above-average 102, and it will be interesting to see how playing once or twice a week affects that.

Nomar Garciaparra, 1B: It seems wrong to be pessimistic about a guy who was essentially a hero of the Dodgers' playoff run. But it's hard to escape the feeling that we saw him at his best last season - playing three-quarters of the season, hitting the ball for about half of that, hitting only occasionally for the other half. Honestly, is there any reason to believe his body will allow him to improve upon him being a middle-of-the-road first baseman?

But enough pessimism. Garciaparra won't be an easy out, will have James Loney helping him rest, and should provide some more memorable moments in 2007.

Jeff Kent, 2B: In a decline year for him, a year in which he actually was an easy out throughout the first month, Kent was still the No. 5 second baseman in baseball offensively. Defensively, he looked like Stonehenge by year's end, but what are you gonna do? Oh, and by the way, it's been said that Kent took on a new offseason regimen to come into Spring Training in better shape. I think that's what Odalis Perez used to say he did.

Rafael Furcal, SS: Like Kent, Furcal got off to a slow start at the season's outset. To some extent, this is a pattern for Furcal, which is a pet peeve of mine. It's one thing for injuries to play a role, as they may have last season, but otherwise I can't fathom a logical reason for a player to begin each year in a slump. At some point, you have to be able to fix it. Anyway, Furcal ended 2006 with such lofty production that he might be the team's No. 3 hitter on Opening Day. More likely, I think, he ends up No. 2 as he tries to repeat one of the best seasons by a shortstop in 2006.

Wilson Betemit, 3B: Discussed at length here.

Olmedo Saenz, 1B-3B: Saenz only played 78 innings at third base last season - if you don't see him there in April or May, you might never see him there again. And he's probably the third-string first baseman as well. That leaves him to focus on his hitting, which has been nice: OPS+ numbers for his three Dodger seasons of 123, 113 and 131. Although he has been monstrous against lefties, he has also improved against righties (calling to mind an old Dodger Thoughts piece, "Only If He Hits Righties Does He Hit Lefties"). One of these years - maybe this year - Saenz will prove all too mortal, but for now, few pitchers will want to face him in the late innings.

Luis Gonzalez, LF: The guy hits 52 doubles and still ends up with a nothing season. It's gonna be like reliving the Fred McGriff fadeout.

Juan Pierre, CF: Discussed in detail here. Some folks will be counting his hits and steals, and some will be counting his outs, and rarely shall meet the twain.

Marlon Anderson, UT: As unbelievable as he was last September, it was such an aberration that there's a good chance he won't even be good enough to be on the team this September.

* * *

Update: Brian Kamenetzky of Blue Notes has an interview with Dodger youth guru Logan White. Also, there's a fun story about the Washington, D.C. baseball blogging community from Barry Svrluga at the Washington Post.

Femur the Lemur
2007-02-05 20:30
by Jon Weisman

I retired J.D. Drew as a subject with my most recent post on him, so I'm just passing this article along with the following comments.

1) Well, he's trying.

2) He's trying in a way that's a little different than I would.

3) But maybe not so different than the reporter would.

4) Now, that you've read this, rather than us getting all sucked into another Drewbate, let's pretend that instead of Drew, the article was about a happy animated lemur named Femur.

The Dodger Thoughts 2007 Spring Training Primer
2007-02-04 05:00
by Jon Weisman

Hey, it's February! Did you hear me? February! Pitchers and catchers ... and infielders and outfielders, they're all going to be, you know, reporting!!

Man, it feels like it's been forever, but believe it or not, we're just about ready to get to it.

So around this time every year, I preview Spring Training, with the caution that while it's fun to see bats and balls back in action again, Spring Training battles are overrated. Drawn to conflict like shepherds to pie, people spend a month agonizing over who will win the position of least significant player on the 25-man roster. Strangely compelling, I know, but sometimes it's easy to get carried away.

In any case, I take the time to point out the players that are going to Spring Training just for show and should quickly be dismissed, and what inevitably happens is that at least one of those players ends up playing a noteworthy role.

Previewing 2004, it was Yhency Brazoban.

Yhency Brazoban, RHP: Acquired from the Yankees in the Kevin Brown trade. With a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings for Class A Tampa, he's the best player in the world named "Yhency."
In 2005:

Oscar Robles, IF: Almost 29, he had some nice Mexican League numbers in 2004. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, he is that rare player thinner than me.

D.J. Houlton, RHP: Rule 5 draftee needs to make the team out of Spring Training or be sent back whence he came: odds strongly against it.

Last year was a humdinger, though at least I saw something in a player who would be called The Bison:

Check Back in a Year or Two
Matt Kemp, OF: A true outfield prospect, it's not impossible that the 21-year-old Kemp could be the first of the 2005 Vero Beach Dodgers to make the bigs.

Joe Beimel, P: ERAs below 4.00 last year with Durham and Tampa Bay. He's been assigned uniform No. 97 - not for sentimental reasons as far as I know. (Note: Actually, it turned out that it was.)

Eric Stults, P: Some kind of wonderful? Jacksonville 2005, 3.38 ERA; Las Vegas 2005, 6.58 ERA.

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.

Ramon Martinez, IF: Do we really need to force the Dodgers' original Ramon Martinez to compete in the team encyclopedia with a 33-year-old infielder who OPSed .639 last year?

Fodder's Fodder
Aaron Sele, P: The Ghost of Scott Erickson. The 35-year-old hasn't had a major-league ERA below 5.00 since 2002, and he barely strikes out a batter every three innings.

Not that I didn't get a lot of the others right, but still, it's sort of amazing to me that you can enter the exhibition season with a group of players you think will make the team, and then a tier beneath that of alternates, and then still have a tier beneath that capable of surprising you. Fun with fallibility!

So on we go to this year's Spring Training Preview, with an eye on which invitees will make the 25-man Opening Day roster ...

Locks (18)
Only a disabling injury or a trade can stop these guys from making the Opening Day roster:

Starting Pitchers: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf

Bullpen: Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson

Catchers: Russell Martin, Mike Lieberthal

Infielders: Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Wilson Betemit, Olmedo Saenz

Outfielders: Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, Marlon Anderson

Most Likely to Succeed (7)

Andre Ethier, OF: The biggest non-lock lock, I'm only hedging my bets in the slightest in the event that his September slump continues in March, and the Dodgers start to wonder. It's not as if Dodger manager Grady Little isn't capable of deciding Ethier shouldn't start, and if that happens, Little may recommend a month in AAA to kickstart Ethier's season. Many consider Kemp and James Loney to have a higher ceiling than Ethier, and it's not impossible that they could be climbing the ladder while Ethier stumbles.

Hong-Chih Kuo, P: In contrast to Ethier, the question here is whether Kuo can build upon a hot end to the season. He pitched better as a starter than as a reliever, so perhaps it's rotation or bust, but these things can change in a moment. It seems likely that they'll find a spot for him, rather than see him waste healthy innings with that exciting arm in the minors.

Chad Billingsley, P: Has every right to believe he should be in the 2007 rotation, but plenty of reason to expect he'll start the season in the bullpen. Working against him making the first five in April is the notion that he might be able to fill a bullpen role better than Kuo (to me, evidence is still circumstantial) and that like any young pitcher, softening his innings at the start of the season could have long-term benefits. Working against him even making the Opening Day bullpen is that at times last year, he did a tightrope walk to keep his ERA down, escaping a lot of jams.

If Randy Wolf looks shaky in March, maybe he'll be the one to get the bullpen slot for a while, with the excuse being that he just needs a little more time in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Think about it, then forget it.

Joe Beimel, P: Last year's fodder is this year's lefty specialist - probably. Hendrickson is guaranteed more money and has the potential of doing the same job while serving as a backup starting pitcher, and there are just too many alternatives to the arbitration-eligible Beimel for him to be a sure thing. But he'll probably be there.

Ramon Martinez, IF: The acquisition of Julio Lugo last summer buried Martinez: He reached base four times after August 1, including his game-winning 16th-inning home run August 29. Lugo's gone, but Anderson isn't, and he can play some infield. There's no doubt the Dodgers want to keep Martinez around - they just resigned him in the offseason, after all - but if you're not hoping that enough players develop to push him off the roster, something's wrong.

James Loney, 1B: Here's where the fun (or agony) begins. Poised to enter the lineup the moment Garciaparra or Gonzalez land on the disabled list, Loney could also start in right field. He could also end up in AAA to keep his bat fresh, though after he led the minors in batting average, few want to see that (even if leading the minors in batting average does not preclude you from improving.) A 12-man pitching staff would likely push Loney off the roster if no position player began the season injured - but how likely is complete Dodger health? There's no reason for the Dodgers not to carry five outfielders, and little reason one shouldn't be Loney, especially when he can also give Garciaparra a breather.

Jason Repko, OF: With Pierre signed to start every game in center field, and with the Dodgers boasting four potential righties off the bench in Lieberthal, Saenz, Martinez and Andy LaRoche, Repko is the 25th man - and that might be his peak. In fact, I originally put LaRoche ahead of Repko, but changed my mind at the last minute on the theory that Betemit would get a chance to be a full-time third baseman, and the Dodgers would want to see LaRoche dominate AAA first. Plus, justified or not, Repko just has that late-inning Gonzalez defensive replacement feel. Another thing that would boost Repko's Opening Day roster chances immeasurably is if the Dodgers were brave enough to let Garciaparra play some third base (but don't count on it).

Next in Line (6)

Andy LaRoche, 3B: With Betemit perhaps begging for a platoon partner, the promising LaRoche has an outstanding shot at making his major league debut ASAP. I'm not impressed that people say LaRoche has fully recovered from his labrum surgery - we've been led astray before - but he can still be considered a strong candidate to make the team.

Matt Kemp, OF: Could the Dodgers be rooting against Kemp having a big spring and complicating their outfield plans? Doubtful, but he could really create havoc if he hits like he did last July. The thing is, there's little reason for the Dodgers not to set their decision about Kemp in stone now: Spring Training stats are meaningless, so a power binge by Kemp in Vero Beach shouldn't make a difference. On the other hand, if he gets in some good licks against some legitimate major league offspeed stuff, it will be hard for the homer-starved Dodgers to look away. Basically, expect Kemp to start out tearing up Las Vegas and threaten to make Gonzalez or Ethier a reserve or trade bait by Flag Day.

Elmer Dessens, P: All kinds of scenarios put Dessens on the team, except the most likely one, because there are still at least 11 pitchers ahead of him. Kansas City is paying his 2007 salary as a result of the complicated Odalis Perez trade, so Dessens is like a free lift ticket on a stormy day at Mammoth - you can force yourself to make use of it, or you can forget it and keep cozy and warm. The funny thing is, he's not a hopeless reliever, and it might make the most sense for the Dodgers to trade Tomko to a team that needs starting pitching, pick up a prospect and let Dessens be the middle-inning righty behind Broxton and Saito. (That might also make Tomko happier.)

Chin-hui Tsao, P: A former top prospect with Colorado who hasn't pitched competitively in almost two years, Tsao is exactly the kind of low-risk gamble that can add zest to your bullpen stew and make demoted starters like Tomko even more expendable. But whether Tsao is major-league ready remains to be seen.

Jonathan Meloan, P: A fifth-round draft pick in 2005, Meloan is rocketing upward. In his 91-inning minor-league career, he is averaging 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings against exactly nine baserunners. Though he has only 10 2/3 innings of experience above A ball, fans in the know are salivating at the prospect of having two Big Bad Jons in the bullpen.

Fernando Tatis, 3B: Here's what I wrote about Olmedo Saenz in 2004 ...

Getting no publicity right now as a roster candidate, the 33-year-old Saenz had a 113 OPS+ in 2002 before missing much of 2003. Doesn't hit the home runs that (Jose) Hernandez does, but sort of resembles Jolbert Cabrera - some doubles, some walks and a disproportionate number of HBP (42 in 1,076 career plate appearances). My official dark horse.
Tatis, despite slugging .500 in 56 at bats for Baltimore last year, does not inspire the same optimism, but with his two grand-slam name a couple good spring at-bats and a general manager disinclined to give rookies key roles in April, Tatis could steal a roster spot.

See You Mid-Season? (13)
Yhency Brazoban, P: For one stretch during my 2-year-old son's lifetime, Brazoban was the Dodgers' top reliever when Eric Gagne wasn't available. Still a mere 25, Brazoban will begin the year in the minors or on the disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but by summertime he may be one of the best relievers available to add to a major-league roster.

Larry Bigbie, OF: The lefty outfielder had a 120 OPS+ with the 2003 Orioles, but has had little to show since. Whie he could surprise, the most likely outcome for Bigbie is a Larry Barnes-like cup of coffee in 2007.

Eric Stults, P: Stults pitched admirably in two starts in September, most notably at Shea Stadium, but the development of the Dodger rotation has buried him. One question on Stults' mind might be whether the Dodgers would turn to him for a spot start before Hendrickson.

Greg Miller, P: Yes, it was Miller who, with Edwin Jackson, was the high hope for the Dodger rotation three years ago. Miller was coming off a year in which he sizzleaned the Florida State and Southern leagues with a 2.21 ERA as an 18-year-old. Health problems followed, but he may be on the way back. Based on how often the Dodgers rotated players in and out of their bullpen last year, there's no reason to think Miller couldn't get a turn.

Tim Hamulack, P: Driftwood. He struck out a batter an inning with the Dodgers in 2006, but allowed two baserunners per frame in the process. He is the only participant in the ninth/10th-inning collapse at San Diego April 30 yet to be exorcised by the team.

Eric Hull, P: Pitching mainly in relief, Hull kept his ERA with Las Vegas down to 4.19, struck out more than a batter an inning, but had almost as many walks allowed as hits. In 2005, he had a 3.38 with AA Jacksonville as a swingman.

Delwyn Young, OF: The 24-year-old regressed in 2006 (.783 OPS in AAA Las Vegas) and finds a real uphill battle ahead of him. Converted from second base to the outfield, he is now blocked. Though he hit 18 homers with the 51s, don't look for much out of him until at least 2008.

D.J. Houlton, P: The sometimes 2005 No. 5 starter spent 2006 in Las Vegas and posted a 5.60 ERA, striking out 7.3 batters per inning. If you look at his month-by-month record, a poor May killed his chances of coming to the Dodgers' rescue when Odalis Perez melted down, but he showed some improvement as the year went on. Like Stults, he is now buried, but like Stults, he could come up and hold a team to three runs in five innings on a given day - meaning that he's another guy to have in the AAA rotation as insurance.

Damian Jackson, UT: OPSed .666 as a reserve with Washington last year. Just one of those guys looking wistfully at Ramon Martinez the other.

A.J. Ellis, C: At the catcher position, you have your starters, your veteran backups, and then your young players aspiring to be veteran backups. Ellis, 26 the day of the home opener, is in the latter group. He OPSed .677 in Jacksonville, which puts him in position to be a butt-splinter reserve should Martin or Lieberthal get hurt. At the very least, he could be the No. 3 catcher when rosters expand.

Ken Huckaby, C: Huckaby, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Dodgers in '91, spent seven years in the organization without ever playing a regular season game for the team. He racked up close to 300 of his 450 career major-league plate appearances with Toronto in 2002. He will probably compete with Ellis to be the first catcher called up.

Dario Veras, P: Anyone remember the great Quilvio Veras kerfuffle of 2003? A former starting second baseman with San Diego, Veras batted .294 in Spring Training with the Dodgers that year, causing some of the exhibition enrapturable to fret about the Dodgers letting him go. (It turned out to be the last major league baseball ever saw of him.) Dario, a pitcher listed at 6-1, 155, was originally a Dodger signee from the Dominican Republic and enjoyed a nice 29 innings with the Padres of '96. Baseball Cube has nothing on him after 2001, but he was described as an "ace closer" for a Taiwan team last season and threw some decent innings in winter ball.

Rudy Seanez, P: Seanez threw his first professional pitch more than 20 years ago and has appeared in 760 games when he hasn't been taking advantage of that timeshare he bought at DL Boca Vista. Retirement appears to be beckoning - it's not as if he can't knock out the occasional 1-2-3 inning, but if he makes the team, Dodger Spring Training will have taken some hairpin turns.

Check Back in a Year or Two (5)

Scott Elbert, P: Sandwiched between Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw in the "Let's get excited" line of starting pitchers, Elbert has struck out 346 in 310 2/3 minor-league innings. Sure to start the season in the minors, Elbert very possibly will finish it there to keep his service clock at zero. That's not to say he couldn't outpitch some guys that will make the team, but at the same time, with five walks per nine innings in the minors, it's not as if he has nothing to work on. He turns 22 in August.

Tony Abreu, IF: The Baseball Cube hasn't yet figured out that he's the same guy as Etanislao Abreu. Progressing gently up the ranks.

Zach Hammes, P: Wild but effective enough in Vero Beach in 2006, then raised some eyebrows with a 1.23 ERA in winter ball, Hawaiian-style. Only three inches shorter than Hendrickson.

Mike Megrew, P: Pitched in Vero Beach in 2004 (3.41 ERA in 22 starts), missed most of 2005, then returned to Dodgertown in 2006 (3.52 ERA in 53 2/3 innings.) Turned 23 in January.

Chin-lung Hu, SS: Long considered a defensive whiz, playing in the Southern League predictably depressed his stats. Moving up to Vegas should help remedy that, but his bat is still a huge question. Perhaps within a couple of years, we'll learn how many runs he can drive in with his glove. He turned 23 Saturday.

Luke Hochevar, P: Just kidding.

Fodder (3)
Wilson Valdez, IF: Only a few people know why Valdez was added to the 40-man roster, and they've been mum up to now. He has no bat and a terrible stolen-base rate, and Hu is the guy with the defensive rep.

Matt White, P: Revised by commenter Benaiah: "The good: he is left handed, in his peak productivity years and doesn't give up many home runs (.85 for his career in the minors). The bad: he doesn't strike out many (6.61/9 in the minors), walks plenty (3.71/9), and has 4.16 ERA in the minors, plus he has gotten rocked in brief appearances with Seattle, Boston and Washington. He was solid, with so-so peripherals in AAA last year, at 29 years old. He is the longest of long shots to make the team."

Jeremy Hill, P: The Dodgers signed the 29-year-old Hill, who threw 10 1/3 innings with the 2002-03 Kansas City Royals, on Friday. He had a 3.62 ERA with Newark last season.

Fodder's Fodder (2)

Sandy Martinez, C: Hey, he's only 34 - way younger than Pat Borders. On the other hand, he has four major-league hits this century. This is what a vintage AAA backup looks like.

Travis Smith, P: The righty reliever has bounced around for 11 professional seasons. His 111 2/3 innings in the bigs are his bragging point; his 6.53 ERA in the process will still charm his grandkids.

He DFAed in 50 Days
2007-02-01 15:30
by Jon Weisman

If the Dodgers want pitcher Franquelis Osoria back in the organization, they can grab him. Acquired by Pittsburgh on December 13, the Pirates just designated him for assignment, giving Osoria little more than a William "Hank" Harrison-like tenure with the team.

New Year's Irresolution
2007-02-01 13:40
by Jon Weisman

[I originally wrote this just before New Year's Day, then held onto it because I thought perhaps it just didn't hit the right tone. But on an otherwise idle Dodger Thursday, I reread it over lunch and thought I'd throw it out there...]

In the film Blood Diamond, there's a scene in which Jennifer Connelly's journalist character Maddy Bowen mocks the impotence of her own work. Her articles about the victims of African conflict diamonds (diamonds smuggled to support one side or another in war) will jerk a tear, maybe even generate financial aid, but they ultimately won't be enough to dent the overwhelming hopelessness of the situation.

Writing about evil is not enough, Bowen argues. It can have meaning, but to actually combat evil, it has to have the facts that can bring down the criminals. It has to directly affect change.

Now, films about serious issues, films that point out the horrors of the world, films that shout at you to act and rightfully pronounce you guilty for ignoring the problem, do have the power of making you question your attention to sports, of fiddling at the ballpark while Rome is burning. Ultimately, this is something many of us make peace with, regardless of our proactive contributions to society. We conclude that we're entitled to some pleasure in our lives, some frivolity. If we can't have fun, what's the point?

Furthermore, for all its flaws, sport itself can be a valuable endeavor, reaching and teaching the young (and sometimes old) in ways straightforward schooling might not, as well as providing an outlet for our desires and frustrations.

But how much sports is too much, especially when sports is the end in and of itself?

The question seems trite to me from almost every angle, but is it wrong for me to ask myself (not for the first time) whether the amount of time I spend on baseball is justifiable? And whatever skill I bring to this writing about baseball, whatever small contribution I make, how would it not be better if I directed it elsewhere (unless the skill itself is directly connected to baseball, and doesn't transfer)?

Even if it is just writing and not acting.

The simple answer is that obviously, there are better things to do with our time than baseball. The larger answer is that we are not going to eliminate the pleasure principle. It's as immutable as, well, evil. Utopia doesn't exist.

We compromise, but somehow, the compromise isn't balanced right. Somehow, I feel I should find a way to channel more personal resources to making the world a better place. I just never seem to do it. You could argue that I have excuses or that it's inexcusable.

On a small level, I used to throw money at the problem - $25-$50 checks to any number of charities. But with the growing family, that's actually become more painful to do.

Anyway, there's a neighborhood meeting coming up about whether the local community can do anything to improve the state of our public junior high and high school. I'm going to go, on a night that I would otherwise be home writing or watching television. Maybe it'll be the start of something. Maybe it'll be nothing.

Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
and baseball.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Dodger Thoughts

02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

09  08  07 
About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with