Sep 13

Trivial pursuit: Driving 65 in Albuquerque

In Cogs and Dogs today, I mentioned the 42 pitchers that Albuquerque used this year. In all, the Isotopes ran through no fewer than 65 players in 143 games. Nine countries and 21 U.S. states were represented on the team, most commonly the Dominican Republic.

Jamie Hoffmann led Albuquerque in plate appearances with 608; Tim Corcoran in innings with 107.

Click the link in the first paragraph to see the whole list. It’s a trivia bonanza.

Sep 13

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 13


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJeff Weaver – middling player of a middling team.

Man, this takes a long time to do now.

               
9/13 8/23 8/9 7/26 7/12 High Low Player Comment
1 1 1 1 1 1 20 Clayton Kershaw Needs three strikeouts to become youngest Dodger with 200K since Ramon Martinez (1990).
2 2 3 3 5 1 5 Hiroki Kuroda Losing record (27-29) as Dodger despite 3.59 career ERA.
3 3 4 4 3 1 11 Andre Ethier .716 OPS in 380 plate appearances since return from DL May 31.
4 4 6 10 10 4 12 Chad Billingsley After decline from 9.0 K/9 in ’08 to 7.4 in ’10, this is a key stat to watch in ’11.
5 5 2 2 2 2 14 Rafael Furcal Needs to play in 15 of Dodgers’ final 19 games to reach 100.
6 6 5 7 8 6 18 Hong-Chih Kuo ERA after first outing of season: 54.00. Has improved since.
7 7 10 8 9 1 11 Matt Kemp Who are the only Dodgers besides Kemp to have 100 more K than BB? Cory Snyder and Mike Marshall.
8 8 15 16 14 8 21 Jamey Carroll Carroll, Kemp have team-high 49 walks; Ethier 48.
9 9 7 5 6 5 24 James Loney One home run in past 36 starts.
10 13 12 11 11 6 16 Casey Blake Can we find a platoon partner for him? .943 OPS vs. lefties in ’10.
11 11 9 9 7 4 13 Jonathan Broxton Since minor-league debut in 2002, has never balked.
12 12 11 6 4 3 12 Manny Ramirez Last home run was June 19.
13 17 25 NR NR 17 25 Ted Lilly Worst HR/9 rate (1.6) on Dodgers. Could become third L.A. Dodger pitcher to give up more homers than walks (min. 10 HR) after Newcombe, Mulholland.
14 14 13 14 15 2 15 Russell Martin Despite injury, still ranks second in NL in catcher assists this season (59).
15 10 8 12 17 8 25 Vicente Padilla 3.80 ERA in 151 1/3 innings as Dodger, including playoffs.
16 15 14 15 13 12 15 Blake DeWitt After good start, now in 8-for-56 slump with Cubs (three walks, one homer.)
17 18 17 13 12 5 26 John Ely Threw over 100 pitches in first three Dodger starts, then only once in past 12.
18 19 20 20 19 8 20 Reed Johnson Remains strong against lefties, except for lack of home runs against them.
19 24 26 26 NR 24 26 Kenley Jansen No walks, seven strikeouts in past four outings (four innings).
20 16 16 17 21 7 21 Carlos Monasterios Tied with Kuroda, Kershaw in race for most HR allowed by Dodger pitcher in ’10, one behind Padilla.
21 27 33 NR NR 27 33 Jay Gibbons His HR on Sunday was 17th by a Dodger cleanup hitter in 2010.
22 NR NR NR NR NR NR Rod Barajas 26th all-time in HR by L.A. Dodger catchers, one behind Navarro, Pena and Prince.
23 21 28 NR NR 21 28 Ryan Theriot In 0-for-21 slump, with three walks.
24 22 21 21 22 21 24 Travis Schlichting One of two Dodgers with 1.000 winning percentage this year.
25 20 19 18 16 15 22 Jeff Weaver Sunday outing was his first appearance in September. Has pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings since coming off DL in late August.
26 23 23 24 24 9 24 Ramon Troncoso Three HR in 82 2/3 IP last year, seven in 44 2/3 this year.
27 25 18 19 18 17 25 Ronald Belisario 24 baserunners in 12 2/3 innings since return from restricted list.
28 26 32 NR NR 26 32 Octavio Dotel Has allowed more walks than hits as a Dodger.
29 28 34 NR NR 28 34 Scott Podsednik Battling plantar fasciitis, according to Tony Jackson.
30 29 24 23 20 7 29 Ronnie Belliard Career batting average of .273, but never hit .300 in a single year.
31 30 27 25 25 23 30 Justin Miller Finished AAA season with 1.95 ERA, 9.0 K/9.
32 31 22 22 23 15 31 Xavier Paul Twelve HR with Isotopes this year, but no homers in 121 at-bats with Dodgers.
33 33 30 28 27 25 33 Jon Link One of 42 pitchers used in Albuquerque this season.
34 34 31 29 28 23 34 Brad Ausmus Will finish career seventh all-time in games caught.
35 32 29 27 26 19 32 A.J. Ellis Hasn’t homered at any level since 2008.
36 36 36 35 36 26 36 George Sherrill Still probably has a good five years or so left as a pitcher who can get out lefties.
37 37 37 31 30 17 37 Ramon Ortiz Ranks sixth all-time among Dominican-born pitchers in HR allowed (222).
38 NR NR NR NR NR NR Juan Castro Oldest Dodger to play one game for team in a year since Manny Mota in 1982.
39 NR NR NR NR NR NR Trent Oeltjen First “Oe” Dodger since Joe Oeschger in 1925.
40 NR NR NR NR NR NR John Lindsey Had .477 OBP, .719 slugging vs. lefties for Albuquerque.
41 38 38 32 31 27 38 Nick Green Has played for nine organizations in past seven years.
42 35 35 30 29 29 35 Chin-Lung Hu Career batting average dropped below .200 Sunday.
43 39 39 33 33 3 39 Charlie Haeger Bookends with Isotopes: 0.7 HR/9, 7.0 BB/9.
44 40 40 37 NR 37 40 James McDonald Take away seventh inning Aug. 27, and his Pirate ERA is 3.10 in seven starts.
45 42 42 36 35 22 42 Russ Ortiz The Russ Ortiz era
seems so long ago. Baseball has a long season, doesn’t it?
46 NR NR NR NR NR NR Russ Mitchell Of his 15 outs, 13 have been hit in the air.
47 41 41 34 34 16 41 Garret Anderson Second all-time to Ramirez in career hits for 1972-born players.
48 43 43 38 32 32 43 Scott Elbert Career minor-league K/9 is 10.4.
49 44 44 39 NR 39 44 Jack Taschner Spent eight days on active roster.
Sep 12

Welcome to the 2011 Dodgers, Jay Gibbons


Steve Campbell/APWill Jay Gibbons be receiving congratulations from fellow Dodgers in 2011?

The stories of Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas have interesting similarities – two Southern California high school grads, cast off by other teams, who have thrived in the dog days of the 2010 Dodger season.

They are also both free agents after the 2010 season. They’ll go after the best deal they can get, just as the Dodgers will go after the best players they can get. But with Gibbons hitting his fifth Dodger home run – one more than Barajas – in the Dodgers’ 7-4 loss at Houston today, it’s starting to seem destined for the parties to come together for 2011.

Neither player is going to price themselves out of the Dodgers’ budget, however limited that might be, so at a minimum, Gibbons and Barajas should have a spot carved out on next season’s bench. Barajas’ playing time depends rather specifically on what the Dodgers do with Russell Martin. The Dodgers’ third-outfielder situation is murkier; I don’t think the Dodgers are simply going to hand left field to Gibbons – especially with his defensive limitations – but he certainly looks like a guy who could get at least 250 or so plate appearances next year. The bar is not high.

By the way, as the Dodgers look for a third starting outfielder next season, don’t rule out that it could be a center fielder, with Matt Kemp moving to right field and Andre Ethier to left.

* * *

  • Carlos Monasterios exchanged four outs for four runs (three earned) in his shortest outing as a Dodger starter. This season, though not without its highlights, has obviously been a learning experience for Monasterios. Though he’ll certainly be somewhere in the Dodger organization next year after surviving an entire year in the majors as a Rule 5 draftee, I confess I have no idea of how much he’ll contribute to the 2011 Dodgers.
  • John Lindsey got his first major-league hit – a sinking drive to left field while pinch-hitting in the fifth – and a bevy of congratulations, hugs and smiles in the dugout thereafter. Matt Kemp in particular was showing Lindsey the love.
  • In the fourth inning, James Loney ran his way out of his 40th double of the season by instead extending it into his second triple. No problem, because in his next at-bat, Loney got a two-bagger. He is the fifth Dodger since 1990 to reach 40 doubles.
  • Russ Mitchell is now 0 for 14 in his major-league career, but followed Loney’s triple with what at the time was a game-tying sacrifice fly, after Gibbons’ three-run homer.
  • In his first major-league start since Oct. 4, Chin-Lung Hu made a costly throwing error in the first inning on a potential double-play ball, but also made a couple of fine plays in the field. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts at the plate.
  • Purely subjective, but Ramon Troncoso seemed to have nothing at all going for him in his two-inning relief appearance today (five hits, one walk). His arm just seemed fried to me.
Sep 12

The race wasn’t over in July

As the July 31 trading deadline approached, there was a case that the Dodgers should become sellers instead of buyers. But that case rested on what was best for the franchise long-term, not on the idea that the team had no shot of making the playoffs in 2010.

While some began pronouncing the 2010 Dodger season dead with two months to go, while I was ridiculed at times for suggesting that a three-game series in July with the Padres wasn’t a must-win, what we’ve seen again – as we’ve seen more than once in recent seasons – is that a single-digit deficit in the standings doesn’t bury a team if a third of the season is remaining.

Sure, few foresaw that the National League West-leading Padres would lose as many as 10 games in a row, but it was hardly out of the question that they would come back to earth in some fashion – say, 11 losses in 15 games or something like that. If you’re trailing but you can sniff the pennant race, you don’t need to hold your nose.

The Dodgers were seven games out the morning they traded for Ted Lilly. Insurmountable? Well, San Francisco was six games out of first place as late as August 28, and they have been playing for first place in San Diego this weekend.

Colorado was 11 games out of first place as late as August 22. The Rockies are now only 2 1/2 games out with three weeks to go.

The Padres may well prevail, but they are sweating.

With any meaningful combination of wins on and off the field over the past six weeks, the Dodgers would be in the thick of the playoff hunt today. That didn’t happen, and I suppose some people would say they knew all along it wouldn’t, but if all the wheels hadn’t come off at once, the Dodgers would still be playing important baseball. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, the 2010 Dodgers had a better record on July 31 than the playoff teams of 2008 and 2006. It wasn’t over, not at all.

The Dodgers would be better off today if they had gone into seller mode, and I would have understood it if they had – in fact, as I’ve said many times, part of me has always wished they would start an offseason in summertime. But I still think many fans are too quick to give up on a team. It’s sort of telling, really, how many people can’t wait to abandon hope.

Sep 11

Vicente Padilla’s season might be over

Vicente Padilla has perhaps already made his final start as a Dodger. He was scratched today from his Sunday start with a recurrence of the bulging disc in his neck, and Joe Torre told reporters that he didn’t expect Padilla to return soon – and the season doesn’t have much more than soon left.

Padilla has pitched 95 innings for the Dodgers this year, 54 2/3 of them in an eight-start stretch in which he had a 1.32 ERA. The rest of his 2010 Dodger season has consisted of 40 1/3 innings with 35 earned runs allowed (7.81 ERA).

More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Sep 11

A Happier 9/11

It has been seven years since this piece was first published: September 11, 2003. A lot has happened since then – including a very happy September 18, 2006. But this game will always remain special, and I hope you don’t mind me continuing to remember it on this date.

* * *

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

Sep 10

Remember the time … Dodgers 4, Astros 2

It was the most meaningless victory to date of the 2010 season, but it was nice, like running into an old friend from high school after some dark times.

Though they once again wasted a strong start by Hiroki Kuroda (six innings, six baserunners, one run), the Dodgers got some strong late-inning relief pitching from Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Octavio Dotel, stretching tonight’s game long enough for Jay Gibbons to hit a two-run homer in the top of the 11th inning for a 4-2 victory.

Gibbons’ defense in left field almost thwarted his own heroics – he caught only one of the three balls hit to him during extra innings – but Dotel pitched around the extra baserunners for a two-inning victory.

Gibbons, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, hit his fourth homer in his 39th plate appearance as a Dodger, tying him with Rod Barajas (45 plate appearances after going 3 for 4 tonight) for eight place on the Dodgers’ 2010 roster. Both Gibbons and Barajas are making strong cases for the Marlon Anderson/Ronnie Belliard Award, and all the good and bad that implies.

Sep 10

‘Time isn’t holding us …’

Does this generation have a Talking Heads? Hard for me to imagine that it does.

Anyway, it’s been nearly a lifetime since the Dodgers’ last victory, but they’ll give it a go.

* * *

Former Dodger Tim Leary has been named the pitching coach for Cal State Northridge, writes Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.

Sep 09

Pagliacci’s team

The analogy doesn’t quite work, but the above was the best I could come up with for the latest result. Los Angeles got a rare first-inning lead on Andre Ethier’s two-run homer, but gave it up for good on a three-run homer by Houston third baseman Chris Johnson in the sixth inning. The Dodgers lost their sixth straight game and fell to 69-72.

Only four Dodger teams have finished below .500 since 1988. According to my research on Baseball-Reference.com, no Dodger team has ever entered September with a winning record and finished the season with a losing record.

Sep 09

Flexible lineup in Houston

Still true:

No matter how rough things might get this year for the Dodgers, no matter how many disappointing twists and turns there might be this season, expected or unexpected, I don’t think I’ll be as unhappy as I was today when, after battling ants at the kitchen sink, on the kitchen counter, near the kitchen table, near the doors to the yard, in the kids’ bathroom and in the guest bathroom for every free minute I had, I sat down exhausted on the living room couch, a place of sanctuary, and found, on either side of me, more ants.

Sep 09

Dodgers’ 2010 season: One step forward, five steps back


Scott Wachter/Icon SMIRonald Belisario: 2.04 ERA in 2009, 5.32 ERA in 2010.

It wasn’t even a headline. It was just a little item in Tony Jackson’s Dodger notebook from the earliest days of Spring Training, appearing below the day’s top news: “Blake shaves signature beard.”

Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario will be late to spring training for the second season in a row because of visa problems in his native Venezuela …

There was no indication of how late Belisario would be, or much reason to think it would affect his 2010 season. And it was but one pitcher in a deep Dodger bullpen, one of the best in baseball the previous year.

The Dodgers had other things to worry about. Who would be their fifth starter? What condition would Manny Ramirez be in? Would Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley come back from disappointment? How would the ownership strife affect the team? So Belisario’s going to be a little late. So what?

But as it turned out, Belisario’s visa problem, which was never completely explained, was a pinprick in the Dodger life-raft. The other concerns didn’t completely go away, but strangely, it was with Belisario’s absence that the air slowly began leaking out of the 2010 Dodger season.

Without Belisario, the Dodgers weren’t as prepared for George Sherrill to misplace his mechanics or for Hong-Chih Kuo to begin the season with soreness in his left elbow. It put an extra strain on second-year reliever Ramon Troncoso, and compelled the Dodgers to keep both Russ and Ramon Ortiz on their Opening Day roster. Four times in the team’s first eight games, Dodger relievers ended up with an L next to their names in the box score. In a year that begin with promise but also uncertainty, the Dodger bullpen was supposed to be the anchor of the two-time defending National League West champions. Instead, it was the first sign of the unraveling.

And as it turned out, there was plenty to unravel. Among the many other fraying threads of a year gone awry were these:

Garret Anderson: Remember when Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz were competing for the role of top left-handed pinch-hitter? Each came with health concerns, so come March, the Dodgers decided to take a look at Anderson, perhaps the most costly look since Lot’s wife checked her rear-view mirror. Anderson had the lowest adjusted OPS (29) of any Dodger with at least 150 plate appearances since Maury Wills in 1972 and second-lowest of any grown man in a Dodger uniform in 99 years.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Dodgers got about six productive weeks out of Vicente Padilla in 2010.

Sour start: Inviting speculation that he was implicitly criticizing the state of the team’s pitching, Joe Torre passed over Hiroki Kuroda to give the first pitch of the season to Vicente Padilla. The Dodgers subsequently began the season on a grim note, with Pittsburgh’s Garret Jones homering in his first two at-bats against Padilla en-route to an 11-5 pounding of the Dodgers. Pittsburgh began the season 2-0 over Los Angeles; the Pirates are 45-92 since.

Bullpen bottoms out early: Torre used Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ third and fourth games of the season, with leads of eight and six runs. In the fifth game of the season, Troncoso and Sherrill were asked to protect a two-run lead in the ninth, and failed. This, as it turned out, was not an aberration.

Death to flying things: Seemingly quelling fears about the back of the Dodger starting rotation, Charlie Haeger struck out 12 in six innings during his first start of the season. But one out before Haeger’s outing was over, Matt Kemp bobbled and dropped a fly ball, leading to an unearned run that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-4 and setting in motion a season Kemp is already trying to forget. Jeff Weaver gave up two more runs in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers came home from their first road trip of the season 2-4.

Manny needing medical: With a .500 on-base percentage and .619 slugging percentage, Ramirez heads to the disabled list for the first of three times in 2010 with a right calf strain. In the 13 games he had played to that point, the Dodgers had scored 93 runs.

Many needing medical: A day later, the struggling Padilla went on the DL. A week later, it was Rafael Furcal. Haeger, in something of a mercy killing, landed on injured reserve following his eight-strike, five-run start against Colorado. And then just after Ramirez returned, a broken pinky sidelined Andre Ethier and halted his MVP-caliber start to the season.

Lima’s time: It had no bearing on the Dodgers’ playoff hopes, but the passing of Jose Lima can’t go unremarked upon when talking about things gone wrong.

Elbert’s Elba: Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect at the start of the year, gets called up, walks three in two-thirds of an inning, and isn’t heard from again.

Broxton’s season turns: With the Dodgers continuing to ache for reliable setup men, the All-Star closer’s season 180s with a 48-pitch nightmare against the Yankees.

Another Belisario mystery: Just when he had righted himself on the field, Belisario disappears to the restricted list for a month.

The end of Elymania: The shot in the arm provided by rookie John Ely ricochets on the Dodgers when he posts a 7.49 ERA in his final seven starts before being sent back to Albuquerque.

Fruitless acquisitions: The Dodgers trade Blake DeWitt, James McDonald, Lucas May, Elisaul Pimentel, Brett Wallach, Kyle Smit and Andrew Lambo for Ted Lilly, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Theriot and Scott Podsednik – and then go 14-15 in August and 1-6 to start September.

Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
The Dodgers are more than a hair out of the playoff chase.

Absent offense: The team’s second-half OPS is .647. No Dodger with more than 50 plate appearances has an OPS over .750 since the All-Star break.

More injuries: Furcal and Martin succumb again in August, Martin for the season.

To shield themselves from these falling rocks, the Dodgers had the sustained excellence of Clayton Kershaw, Kuroda and Kuo, the comeback of Billingsley, the valuable off-the-bench contributions by Jamey Carroll, and occasional hot streaks by various other players from time to time, from Ramirez, Ethier, Furcal and even Kemp (in April) to Carlos Monasterios, Kenley Jansen, Ely, Padilla and Lilly. There was the nine-game winning streak in May. There was even a walkoff balk.

It wasn’t enough, not nearly. The Dodgers didn’t have the kind of protection they needed against so much pummeling. Too many expectations went unmet. In the starting lineup, you can’t find a single player who didn’t take a step back in performance and/or health.

Despite the McCourts, the Dodgers had a contender on paper. But that paper got shredded, much like Ronald Belisario’s visa application.