Feb 28

Dodgers win with pitching, hitting and no defense

Spring Training, Day 3

Highlights:

  • Clayton Kershaw allowed only an unearned run and three baserunners in three innings with three strikeouts.
  • Trayvon Robinson had a fourth-inning triple that gave the Dodgers the lead for good.
  • Jamie Hoffmann singled, doubled, scored and drove in a run.

Lowlights:

  • Kershaw, Dioner Navarro and Justin Sellers made errors in a grotesque third inning.
  • Travis Schlichting gave up three runs on four baserunners in an inning of work.

Sidelights:

  • Kershaw walked leadoff batter Juan Pierre, who was then caught stealing.
  • There were more remembrances of Duke Snider, including these from Jay Jaffe, Ross Newhan and Ross Porter, who transcribes an old interview with the legend.
  • The Dodgers have the second-toughest opening schedule in the National League, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, with 22 of their first 38 games against teams that were .500 or better last year and 21 of their first 38 on the road. “No team in the majors has a more difficult schedule right out of the starting blocks,” he writes, “with 19 consecutive games to open the season against clubs that finished over .500 last year, including six games against the Giants and back-to-back series on the road at Colorado and San Diego. And then, after that initial burst of games against NL West teams, they get back-to-back four-game series against the Cardinals and Braves.”
  • Spring training continues to make for colorful departures, as this chronicle of Matt Kemp’s attempted exit from Diablo Stadium by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy shows.
  • Alex Belth writes at Bronx Banter about Eliot Asinof’s novel “Man on Spikes,” published before Asinof’s “Eight Men Out.”
  • Paul Francis Sullivan chronicles for the Hardball Times the many paths that former Dodger (and former nearly everything) Mike Morgan crossed.
Feb 28

Jim Murray, 50 years later

It was 50 years ago this month that Jim Murray’s sports column debuted in the Times, notes Larry Harnisch of the Daily Mirror. Some selections from his opening work:

I am against the bunt in baseball — unless they start batting the ball against John McGraw batted against. The last time the bunt won a game, Frank Chance was a rookie. …

I’m glad the Rams traded Billy Wade. I won’t say Billy was clumsy, but on the way back from the line of scrimmage with the ball he bumped into more people than a New York pickpocket. I have seen blockers make ball-carriers look bad. Wade was the only ball-carrier I ever saw make the blockers look bad. …

I really don’t understand why the Angels haven’t signed up Bob Kelley to do their broadcasts. He’s the only guy in town who can prevent Vin Scully from throwing a shutout. …

Here’s what Murray wrote 50 years ago today, about Eli Grba, the Angels’ No. 1 pick in the expansion draft:

“Eli Grba” just isn’t a name you lead off with. It’s like laying down a bridge hand beginning with the deuce of trumps. Your partner is apt to head out of town without waiting to see the rest and we were afraid the Angels’ supporters would similarly run for cover when they failed to see a face card turned up at Boston. …

But there is a solution, it seems to me. The Angels now, granted Mr. Grba is a first-class pitcher even if his name sounds like something that a space chimp might say upon landing, should shop around not for a player or two but a vowel or two.

They might tap their own roster. Kluszewski, for instance, has letters to spare. But Klu runs to a surfeit of “z’s” and “s’s” and they don’t quite fit the bill. If the Angels had a farm system, they might bring up an “i” or two to the parent club. The Dodgers are loaded, but I can see Fresco Thompson scanning the high minors and reporting “not a lousy, stinking ‘e’ we can trade you in the whole lot …”

Feb 27

Dodgers look sharp against Angels


Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and Marcus Thames feel fine in the sunshine.

Spring Training, Day 2

Highlights:

  • Looking to return to form and function, John Ely faced eight batters and allowed one hit, striking out three and walking none.
  • The Dodger bullpen followed with seven shutout innings from Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso and Jon Link.
  • Two hits from Rafael Furcal in his Spring Training debut.
  • Jamie(Jamey)’s got a glove: Diving defensive plays from Jamey Carroll at short and Jamie Hoffmann in left field.
  • Rod Barajas hit the Dodgers first homer of the spring.

Lowlights:

  • I didn’t see the play, so I don’t know how bad it was, but after hitting a two-run single in the first inning, Matt Kemp was picked off. Something for him and Davey Lopes to talk about?
  • Andre Ethier struck out in both his at-bats.

Sidelights:

Feb 27

‘The Misfits’ at 50


A combination of nostalgia for Duke Snider and this being the night of the Oscars has made me want to call back this post I wrote in 2005 about my favorite movie, “The Misfits.” This month marks the 50th anniversary of its release.

… Time and again in tense physical and emotional struggles, “The Misfits” takes the guileless idealism that we are born with, tears it down, and then rebuilds it. It shows how crushing the disappointment can be when the world does not live up to our expectations, and yet how few of us can resist trying to reinvent the world so it will. It shows how flawed we are and yet how sympathetic, how deserving of rescue, we can be. It shows the battles of our lives.

If it isn’t clear how this film relates to Dodger Thoughts and baseball, consider how often the team and game we love seem to let us down, and how often so many of us (though certainly not all of us) return to them, reconfiguring our passion for them in what we hope will be a workable equation. And how often we are rewarded for our pains. …

Feb 27

Farewell, Duke Snider


Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesThe Duke of Flatbush

My tribute to Duke Snider, who died this morning at the age of 84, from “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know …”

National Baseball Hall of Fame
Duke Snider joined the Hall of Fame in 1980.

“With two runners on base and the Dodgers leading, 5-4, in the 12th inning, Willie Jones drove a 405-footer up against the left-centerfield wall. Duke isn’t a look-and-run outfielder, like Mays. He prefers to keep the ball in view all the time if possible, and he was judging this one every step of his long run to the wall. There it seemed he was climbing the concrete ‘on his knees,’ as awed Dodger coach Ted Lyons put it. Up and up he went like a human fly to spear the ball, give a confirming wave of his glove and fall backward to the turf. The wooden bracing on the wall showed spike marks almost as high as his head. It was such a catch that, although it saved the game for Brooklyn, admiring Philly fans swarmed the field by the dozens. Duke lost his cap and part of his shirt and almost lost his belt.”
– Al Stump,
Sport

Edwin Donald Snider gets third billing in the Terry Cashman song, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” – a placement that seems to celebrate as well as diminish his legacy. Snider was one of the greatest center fielders of all time, up there with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, but he was forever proving himself, to the Dodgers and to baseball history.

“Duke was so talented, and he had a grace about him,” said his Dodger roommate for 10 years, Carl Erskine. “They talk about (Joe) DiMaggio and how he carried himself on the field. … His outfield play and his running the bases and his trot for the home run, he just looked class, man.

“The thing that bothered Duke was, no matter how well he did, the coaches (and) managers always said, ‘He can do better than that.’ They always kind of made Duke feel no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t satisfy everybody. It was bothersome for him.”

Snider, a Compton High School graduate from Los Angeles, even had a love-hate relationship with Ebbets Field fans, as Maury Allen writes in Brooklyn Remembered. “Snider always wore his emotions on his sleeve,” Allen said. “A home run in a key spot would produce that Hollywood handsome grin. A strikeout with the bases loaded and the Brooklyn fans booing his very name announcement the next day would result in a week of sulkiness.”

APTaking his cut, c. 1950.

Ultimately, like the way he climbed that Ebbets Field wall to save the game against the Phillies, Snider reached magnificent heights. He had eight full seasons and two partial seasons with EQAs of .300 or better, more than any other Dodger ever. He had at least 40 homers in the Dodgers’ five final seasons in Brooklyn, and a career .295 batting average, .380 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He hit an all-time Dodger record 389 homers.

In a 1955 article, Sports Illustrated chose Snider over Willie Mays: “In every sense, the contemporary hero of Flatbush, prematurely gray at the temples in his 29th year, is a picture player with a classic stance that seldom develops a hitch. Next to (Ted) Williams, Snider probably has the best hitting form in the game. And, like Williams, he has amazing eyes — large, clear, calm and probing. With each oncoming pitch, Snider tenses and then throws his full 195 pounds into it, if he swings, with a smooth, lashing motion.”

The Duke was much, much more than a name in a song.

This is a tectonic passing. The Duke is iconic, a legacy carved in granite.  We will truly miss you.

Feb 27

Faster, Dodgercat! Kill! Kill!


Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesJames Loney and Jamey Carroll run, run like the wind, run like the wind.

Angels at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m. (Prime Ticket, MLB Network)
Rafael Furcal, SS
Casey Blake, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Marcus Thames, LF
Hector Gimenez, DH
Rod Barajas, C
(John Ely, P)

* * *

  • Jackie Robinson’s 1946 Montreal apartment will be commemorated in a ceremony Monday, reports the Canadian Press (link via Baseball Think Factory).
  • Once again, Andre Ethier has scored low in a defensive rating – this time David Pinto’s statistical assessment of right fielders from 2006-10 at Baseball Musings.
  • Nice feature on Bill James from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (again via Baseball Think Factory).
  • Beware of cactus at Salt River Fields, new Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, notes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
Feb 26

Fifty Dodgers get into the action as exhibition play opens


Above – Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com interviews Jerry Sands.

Spring Training, Day 1

Highlights:

  • Matt Kemp hustled his way to a second-inning run, as documented by Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
  • Hiroki Kuroda faced the minimum in two shutout innings, and dual starter Tim Redding crawled out of his sickbed to throw two scoreless frames himself.

Lowlights:

  • In 18 innings spread over two games, the Dodgers drew two walks, though they did rack up 15 hits against the Giants.
  • Carlos Monasterios and Oscar Villarreal each gave up four runs in an inning.

Sidelights:

  • Facing mostly Angels starters, Rubby De La Rosa was one out away from completing his second shutout inning when he gave up a two-run homer to Mark Trumbo.
  • Calacaterra has a photo of the funny midgame path some Dodgers took after their work was done against the Angels.
  • A total of 50 Dodgers played today: 25 in each game.
  • Update: Karen Crouse of the New York Times has a lovely profile of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw, post Zambia.  (Thanks to Bob Timmermann for the link.)
  • Update 2: Both Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com have pieces on Scott Elbert.
  • Update 3: The agony and the ecstasy.
Feb 26

Happy Spring Training Opening Day


Morry Gash/AP“See, in Scottsdale, the guy on the top bunk has gotta make the guy on the bottom’s bed all the time. It’s in the regulations. If we were in Tempe, I would have to make yours. But we’re going to Scottsdale, so you’ve gotta make mine. It’s regulations.”

Dodgers at Angels, 12:05 p.m.
Jamie Hoffman, LF
Dioner Navarro, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Hector Gimenez, DH
Russ Mitchell, 3B
Jerry Sands, 1B
Justin Sellers, 2B
Juan Castro, SS
(Hiroki Kuroda, P)

Dodgers at Giants, 12:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Jamey Carroll, SS
James Loney, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Marcus Thames, DH
Xavier Paul, LF
Gabe Kapler, RF,
Ivan De Jesus Jr., 2B
Aaron Miles, 3B
(Tim Redding, P)

* * *

For your morning reading pleasure: Howard Cole of Baseball Savvy has a nice interview with uber-fan blogger Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.

Feb 25

App-endicitis

Pennant Preview from Steve Varga on Vimeo.

While folks are talking about the arrival of the 2011 version of the MLB At Bat mobile application, which is fairly indispensable in my world, there are other new portable treats out there.

One is the historically oriented “Pennant” for the iPad, illustrated in the clip above. If you sit through the whole demonstration, you might find it more than a little bit cool.

In addition, the Bill James Baseball IQ App has just been introduced.

What other baseball apps have you guys used? Anyone have the Fangraphs app?

* * *

  • Andre Ethier and Ivan De Jesus Jr. are the main subjects of Tony Jackson’s notebook today for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Joe Torre is expected to be named Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations Saturday, reports The Associated Press.
  • Adrian Beltre’s Texas career is off to a sluggish start — he’ll miss a couple of weeks of Spring Training games with a calf strain, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
  • John Kilma writes about “the new generation of pitching that is quickly accelerating college baseball’s role as fertile ground for professional pitching development “for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

The first Spring Training radio broadcast is Saturday at 12:05 p.m. Pacific on KABC 790 AM. The first Spring Training telecast is Sunday at 12:05 p.m. Pacific on Prime Ticket.

Dodger baseball is under 24 hours away …

Feb 25

Think this shade of blue

These 1940s Brooklyn road uniforms will be worn by the Dodgers at six midweek day games in 2011.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

From the Dodgers:

Each of the games will feature half-price food and drink, including alcoholic beverages, for the first time ever at Dodger Stadium, with a special half-price six-game ticket plan available for fans who want to attend each of the games.

Nearly 50,000 votes were cast at dodgers.com/throwback with the winning uniform edging out the 1911 road uniform by less than 2,000 votes.

Though the original uniform worn in the 1940s was made of a highly reflective satin fabric to make it more visible under the lights for night games, the throwback jerseys will maintain a similar feel as those worn by the Dodgers throughout the 2011 season.

Feb 25

Rest didn’t help Casey Blake much in 2010


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireCasey Blake

One of the many mantras of the 2011 preseason has been the Dodgers’ determination to get more rest this year for Casey Blake, who turned 37 in August.

That made me curious as to whether Blake (whom Tony Jackson wrote about Thursday for ESPNLosAngeles.com) actually performed better when rested last year. And the short answer is, he didn’t.

I went through the 2010 game logs, and here’s how Blake performed.

Total: 146 games, 571 plate appearances, .320 OBP, .407 slugging percentage, .727 OPS.
No days off: 110 games, 425 plate appearances, .332 OBP, .397 slugging, .729 OPS.
One day off: 22 games, 91 plate appearances, .252 OBP, .342 slugging, .594 OPS
Two or more days off: 11 games, 47 plate appearances, .319 OBP, .410 slugging, .729 OPS
One or more day off: 33 games, 138 plate appearances, .275 OBP, .364 slugging, .639 OPS.
(The plate appearances don’t quite match up to his season total, because I left sacrifices out of the equation. Also keep in mind there were some games Blake played in without batting.)

First of all, I’m not going to pretend that a .727 OPS is what the Dodgers want out of their third baseman. But it’s hard to say that rest made it any better.

Given that Blake played so many games without no rest, there’s still the question of whether he would have been better down the stretch had he rested more early. Here’s his OPS by month: .833, .827, .692, .556, .812, .634. Did he burn out at mid-summer, then rally in August, then burn out again?  Or is it just a case of luck as much as anything? (Blake’s July batting average on balls in play was .207, August was .338.)

This data doesn’t take into account matchups or game conditions, and it’s certainly susceptible to small sample size issues. But at a minimum, it should make people think twice about how much days off actually helped Blake. Not that I’m suggesting that he play 162 games, but it’s fairly easy to posit a theory that frequent play keeps Blake’s batting eye honed in. Or, that rest just isn’t that much of an issue, and the Dodgers should just shrug their shoulders and play him when they have no better option.

How often will Juan Uribe at third base and someone like Jamey Carroll (.380 OBP vs. righties last year) at second base be a better combination? You tell me.

Feb 24

Padilla has surgery, could resume work in three weeks … or more

Vicente Padilla had his surgery today. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. Steve Shin, who conveyed the results to Dodgers trainer Stan Conte at Camelback Ranch.

“Stan said it went well,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “[Padilla] is supposed to be back in Arizona sometime [on Friday], and he’ll start the rehab process. What I got was that his best outlook is three or four weeks, then he’ll start tossing.”

Because this type of surgery is so rare among pitchers, there are no plans for how long the rehabilitation will last. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday, the day before the surgery, that he had been given reason to believe Padilla would return sometime during the season’s first half. …

* * *

  • Kenley Jansen’s spot on the roster seems even more secure to me after this tweet from ESPN the Magazine’s Molly Knight from Camelback: “Mattingly says Jansen will work 7th inning typically, 8th when Kuo is unavailable and could close if Broxton has gone three days in a row.”
  • My favorite tidbit from Ken Gurnick’s roundup of Dodger non-roster invitees at MLB.com is on Ramon Colon: “This is his 15th professional season and he had a great Spring Training last year to make the Royals Opening Day roster, but after a month he was released and wound up pitching in Korea. He signed with the Dodgers because they became his favorite team when they signed his older brother, Daniel, in 1989.”
  • More details on the pitching plan on Saturday from the Dodger press notes: “In Scottsdale, Dodger right-handed hurler Tim Redding will get the start and is scheduled to be followed by RHP Carlos Monasterios, RHP Oscar Villarreal, RHP Jon Huber and LHP Wilkin De La Rosa. Over in Tempe, RHP Hiroki Kuroda will make his first start of the spring and is scheduled to be followed by RHP Rubby De La Rosa, LHP Scott Elbert, RHP Lance Cormier, RHP Roman Colon and RHP Luis Vasquez.”
  • Also from the press notes: “A contingent of Dodger employees will take on a group of White Sox employees looking to avenge their loss in the 1959 World Series in a “friendly” softball game on Field 1. The skirmish will take place at 6 p.m. and admission is free.”
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven passes along this photo of Walter O’Malley in Cuba in 1959. Cutline: “Officials and players of the Reds and Dodgers received a warm welcome from Fidel Castro’s forces when they played two games at Havana, March 20-21. In front row, left is Gabe Paul, general manager of the Reds. In the second row, standing, are Bud Holman (with beret), a Dodger director, and Walter O’Malley (wearing deputy sheriff’s badge), Dodger prexy.”
  • Happy birthday, Nancy Bea Hefley …

* * *

Update: The Dodgers “plan to add one more Cactus League game to their schedule to be played sometime in late March in Tucson, Ariz., to benefit the Christina Taylor Green Memorial Fund,” according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.