Aug 26

A night not to balk at being a Dodger fan


Mark J. Terrill/APMr. 30-33, Matt Kemp, is now on pace for 37 homers to go with 41 steals this season.

Ted Lilly giving up an early home run? Typical game.

The Dodger offense struggling to put a single run on the scoreboard? Typical game.

A six-run rally driven by two balks, a James Loney homer and a Dodger joining the 30-30 club? Not such a typical game.

Mark J. Terrill/APJim Tracy wasn’t seeing straight after two balks were called on his team in the seventh inning.

The Dodgers trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but they rolled a six on the Rockies and moved directly to a 6-1 victory.

It was the Dodgers’ fourth straight victory, their second in a row with a six-run inning, and their first with confirmation that Vin Scully would be back for more in 2012.

Working on a 1-0 shutout, Colorado starter Esmeril Rogers walked Andre Ethier and Aaron Miles, and Rod Barajas (after being forced to bunt for two pitches) singled to load the bases. However, the Dodgers seemed doomed – rather typically doomed, as it were – when Ethier tried to score on Jamey Carroll’s fly ball to center field and was thrown out, as we’ll get to continue hearing Vinny say, “from you to me.”

But after pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked – I’m not sure about the smarts behind that one, by the way – Miles goaded Rogers into committing a balk that moved everyone up and tied the game. And then, with runners on second and third, Justin Sellers’ single drove in two more runs to give the Dodgers the lead.

A bitter Rogers was relieved by Matt Reynolds, who immediately picked off Sellers – only to have another balk called. That was all Jim Tracy could stand, and he couldn’t stands no more, his determination to protest the call getting him thrown out of the game.

With the reprieve, the Dodgers doubled their fun. Loney hit his seventh home run of the season – five of them against Colorado – to make the score 5-1. And then Kemp hit his crowning-glory absolute rocket to center.

Loney, 2 for 4, is now 13 for his last 21 with a walk and 22 total bases: a .636 on-base percentage, 1.048 slugging percentage and 1.684 OPS.

Kenley Jansen made a successful return from the disabled list with a 14-pitch perfect eighth inning, and Scott Elbert took on the ninth, allowing two hits but no runs. Lilly got the win with his fourth outstanding start out of his past five, a stretch in which he has a 2.20 ERA.

* * *

Tweets from Beto Duran of ESPN Radio:

  • Vin Scully held impromptu press conference in elevator after game. By far coolest ride ever!
  • Vin “winning and losing doesn’t bother me, it’s just love of people. Just don’t know what I’d do”
  • Vin on announcing return during game. “Didn’t want to make big deal. Not trying to be a Brett Favre”

Aug 26

And for dessert: Matt Kemp, 30-30

Matt Kemp slammed his 30th home run of the season to center field to cap a six-run seventh inning and become the second Dodger (after Raul Mondesi) ever with 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season.

The ball went almost to the same exact spot as Jose Canseco’s grand slam in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Aug 26

Vin Scully – the Cookie Monster – says he’ll be back in 2012


Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesVin Scully at Jackie Robinson Day in 2007

Vin bless us every one.

Vin Scully told fans watching the Dodgers-Rockies game tonight that he would return to broadcast Dodger games in 2012, his 63rd season behind the mic with the team.

As he has in recent years, Scully will call Dodger home games and road games in Colorado and west of the Rockies.

Scully began speaking by holding up a chocolate-chip cookie:

“Every year this time of year a nice lady in Woodland Hills named Mrs. Marti Squires sends me some chocolate-chip cookies. This year when she sent them in the letter it said, ‘This is a bribe to get you to come back next year.’ Well, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, I mean, you and I have been friends a long time. But after a lot of soul searching and a few prayers, I’ve decided that maybe we can do it. We’ve decided that we will come back with the Dodgers for next year. God’s been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. I asked him one more year at least and he said, ‘Okay and be quiet and eat your cookie.’ I’ll do the same thing. Let’s go back …”

The timing of the announcement isn’t unusual – in fact, it came only four days earlier in 2010 – but it comes in the wake of T.J. Simers’ column in the Times this week about a Dodgers marketing survey that included an evaluation of Scully among its questions. The ensuing controversy – driven by the idea that the survey was a path toward the Dodgers letting Scully go – grew way out of proportion, however weird the question seemed, especially considering that right in Simers’ column was a quote from the Dodgers saying that Vin’s job “is his as long as he wants it.”

But in any case, there’s no more welcome news this year than this.

Aug 26

Memories of a ballpark storm

When I was in graduate school at Georgetown — not long after my near-encounter with Dana Delany — my dad came into town, and we decided to go to up to Camden Yards, the almost brand-new ballpark up in Baltimore.

About 90 minutes before the game, we bought tickets behind home plate from a scalper, seemingly unaware that a near-hurricane was moving toward us. Soon, the rain came down in torrents, the wind was blowing everything upside down, the game was canceled, and my father and I were headed back to D.C. in my Scirocco in one of the most harrowing drives of my life, culminating in a flat tire when I drove almost blindly up a curb. Though my car wasn’t a wreck, I nearly was.

Though Dad and I never saw a game together in Baltimore, fortuntately I moved back to Los Angeles in time for the 1994 Northridge earthquake and MLB strike.

All my best to you Easterners …

Aug 26

Minutia, Minushka

Catching up on some news …

  • Kenley Jansen has been activated from the disabled list. Josh Lindblom was sent to Double-A Chattanooga, where he will bide his time until he can return, in 10 days when rosters expand or sooner if there’s another Dodger injury.
  • Dee Gordon was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but Gordon did not play Thursday. It does not appear that the Dodgers will wait until when rosters expand September 1 to activate Gordon, which would mean that Eugenio Velez might not remain on the 25-man roster for long (though would no doubt clear waivers).
  • Ted Lilly is responding well to acupuncture treatment, he told Gurnick.
  • Don Drysdale’s daughter Drew is scheduled to sing National Anthem and God Bless America at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • While much talk about the Cubs’ general manager vacancy has centered on Ned Colletti, it’s former Dodger general manager Dan Evans who might be a more likely choice, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dodger prospect Jerry Sands is breaking some eggs – that is, making some significant adjustments with the hopes of deriving long-term benefit. From Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

    … “It’s been real tough, cause I came back down and I knew I needed to change some things, but it’s tough to totally overhaul in the middle of the season and be productive,” Sands said. “I want to get back up there, but I want to look like I learned something.

    “It was tough having to change things I’d done for years and then change them right over. The hot and the cold stretches have been a part of me learning, just a process of what I have to do to be more consistent.” …

  • Clayton Kershaw “stands to become just the fourth Dodger in the 128-year history of the franchise to post three straight seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or higher,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser are the others.
  • Stephen also passes along the news that outfielder Kyle Russell has gotten a late-season promotion from Chattanooga to Albuquerque.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey caps its visit to St. Louis with a long, thoughtful piece about sportswriting.
  • The man himself, Bob Eubanks, talked to Dodger historian Mark Langill about the Beatles, setting up this weekend’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles playing Dodger Stadium (via Blue Heaven).
  • The friendly folks at Bronx Banter passed along “10 Things John Sterling would say in a hurricane” from IT IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS… caught.
  • On target as always, Joe Posnanski about “the myth of pressure.”

    … This line — that it’s easier to put up numbers without pennant pressure — is a lot like that. Nobody can possibly believe this. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw: If it were easier to put up numbers in non-pressure situations, then players would consistently and obviously have better years on lousy teams than they do on good ones. Does this ring even the slightest bell of truth? Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter would have put up better numbers had he played for Kansas City? Does anyone believe that Albert Pujols would be so much better if he had spent his career playing in the carefree world of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Roy Halladay was great for mediocre Blue Jays teams and is great for outstanding Phillies teams. Hank Aaron was the same great player with the same great numbers when Milwaukee won, when Milwaukee almost won, and when Milwaukee wasn’t very good at all. …

    If you’ve read this blog at all you know: I’ve covered a lot of bad teams in my life. I’ve been around some good ones, too. And as far as “pressure” goes, well, from my observation, it’s not even close. There is infinitely more pressure on players on lousy teams than on good ones. Obviously, this depends on how you define pressure, but if the textbook definition of pressure is “the feeling of stressful urgency cause by the necessity of achieving something,” well, absolutely, there’s way more pressure on the lousy teams.

    … Think about it: What pressure is there on players in pennant races? The pressure to win? Sure. But players come to the ballpark energized. Everyone on the team is into it. The crowd is alive and hopeful. The afternoon crackles. Anticipation. Excitement. There’s nothing in sports quite like the energy in a baseball clubhouse during a pennant race. Players arrive early to prepare. Teammates help each other. Everyone’s in a good mood. There’s a feeling swirling around: This is exactly the childhood dream. The added importance of the moment could, in theory I suppose, create extra stress. But the reality I’ve seen is precisely the opposite. The importance sharpens the senses, feeds the enthusiasm, makes the day brighter. Baseball is a long season. Anything to give a day a little gravity, to separate it from yesterday, to make it all more interesting — anything like that, I think, is much more likely to make it EASIER to play closer to one’s peak.

    A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming — after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they’re negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You’ve got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You’ve faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You’re down 9-3 anyway.

    It’s absolutely AMAZING to me when a player puts up a fantastic year even when the team around him stinks. …

Aug 26

Close non-encounters with Dana Delany

Once upon a time, that time being about roughly 20 years ago, I was driving (maybe for the last time) my family’s old 1964 Ford Falcon. I think my cherished 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco was in the shop.  I was on Ventura Boulevard waiting to make a left turn onto Coldwater Canyon Avenue. I looked in my rear-view mirror, and driving the car waiting behind me was the lovely and talented Dana Delany.

This took place, I believe, shortly after the “China Beach” era. And the thought occurred to me, as a single man in Los Angeles, how nice it would be to meet Dana Delany. And then another thought occurred to me: What if I had to suddenly slam on my brakes after I made my left turn and Dana Delany collided with what was my family’s dated and rather expendable station wagon. She would be so apologetic, and naturally she’d want to make it up to me, perhaps over a drink …

I made my left turn, took another glance in the rear-view mirror as Dana Delany made hers … and then I kept on driving. It wasn’t my seize-the-day moment. What might have been … I’ll never know.

But this much I do know.  The key to the whole plan was making sure Dana Delany thought she was at fault. Crashing into her with my vehicle: That never would have worked.

Aug 25

Rounding the bases: The journey of ‘Moneyball’ to the big screen

The serpentine journey of “Moneyball” from bookstores to the big screen is given perhaps its most detailed portrayal yet in this piece by writer and Dodger Thoughts amigo Bennett Cohen for San Francisco magazine.

… Starting in 2004, the evolution of the screenplay proceeded in typical Hollywood fashion: One writer after another was brought in to either polish or rewrite it entirely. In the movie business, writers tend to be treated the way the Pony Express treated horses: Ride them until they drop, and then get another, who might make the movie funnier, sexier, more exciting, or just plain better. It’s not clear how many writers or drafts Moneyball had, but four writers, including three of Hollywood’s elite, shaped the project more than any others.

I’ve read one version by each of them, versions I ferreted out online, where some screenplays meant to be confidential end up as PDFs. (Leaking scripts is common in Hollywood, but none of these was slipped to me.) Honestly, I’ve yet to read one that was bad. They’re not even wildly different from one another. But the changes from one to the next make for a fascinating case study of how Hollywood deals with true-life material and will have particular meaning to Bay Area folks, who know this baseball history and have a stake in seeing it represented accurately. Could Hollywood do justice to Billy Beane’s complicated personality and the reality of what has happened to the A’s since 2002, the time of the triumphant story told in the book? …

Aug 25

The ups and downs of Chad Billingsley


Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley has been unable to keep his ERA below 4.00 this season.

In an early scene of the underappreciated classic “Joe vs. the Volcano,” Mr. Waturi (Dan Hedaya) is on the phone repeating to an unseen caller, “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?”

The different answers to that question, when it’s asked of Dodger starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, are helping rebuild his case as the Dodgers’ MPP: Most Polarizing Player.

One thing to realize is that Billingsley, while not a staff leader, remains 25th in the National League in Wins Above Replacement as well as Fielding Independent ERA in 2011, according to Fangraphs. To be the 25th-best pitcher in a 16-team league, simple math tells us, is to fit right in as a solid No. 2 starter relative to the rest of the NL.

Let that sit with you for a moment. Whatever you might think of Billingsley, most NL pitchers are worse. And that’s in what anyone would stipulate is a down year for Billingsley.

Just the same, it would be impossible not to acknowledge a widespread level of disappointment with the 27-year-old righty – not to mention a significant number of people who can’t stand it when he takes the mound.

The roots of this are deep, and date back to nearly three years ago, when Billingsley briefly stole MPP honors from such title-holders as Juan Pierre, Manny Ramirez, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Kemp.

Billingsley entered the 2009 season with a career ERA of 3.39 and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, coming off an age-24 season in which his 3.14 ERA was seventh in the NL (and his FIP was fifth). We’re talking about an elite pitcher at age 24.

Billingsley then threw 6 2/3 innings of seven-strikeout, one-run ball in the Dodgers’ sweep of the Cubs in the NL Division Series, probably the most forgotten 6 2/3 innings of Billingsley’s career.

That’s because, at a moment where Billingsley was everything you could ask for – at a time when the Dodgers had suddenly become favorites to reach the World Series, and he was one of the main reasons –  he fell apart in the NLCS. In two starts, he lasted a combined five innings and allowed 10 earned runs in taking two of the Dodgers’ four losses to the Phillies. And of course, it was the nature of the meltdown – when he was accused of not having the backbone, guts or other body parts to stand up for his teammates and brush back Phillies hitters in Game 2 – that torched his reputation.

Thanks to those two games, roughly half of the Dodger fanbase threw everything that Billingsley had accomplished in the first three seasons of his career  out the window to serve the story that he was a loser. Everything he has done in the three seasons since has been refracted through that prism.

For example, how many people remember that Billingsley came right back in 2009 and – despite breaking his leg in an offseason accident – pitched exceptionally enough to make the All-Star team, with a 3.14 ERA and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings in the first half? And how many people remember the second half, when the first prolonged slump of his career eventually knocked him out of the postseason starting rotation? There’s your divide, and it’s stark.

The funny thing is that in August and September of that 2009 slump, Billingsley’s ERA was 4.21 – hardly Haegeresque. But no doubt many people remember his entire second half of that season as a complete collapse, and probably think he was blasted by the sixth inning of every start he made in that time. In fact, there are still people who probably think Billingsley fades in the second half every season, ignoring 2008 (2.99 ERA) and 2010 (3.00 ERA).

It was a shame that Billingsley knocked himself out of the opportunity to redeem himself in the 2009 postseason. Still, he continued rebuilding his credentials in 2010, with a 3.57 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings, enough for the Dodgers to commit $35 million to him for the next three seasons, 2012-14.

But Billingsley has been inconsistent again in 2011. In May, he had a 2.63 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 41 innings, lowering his season ERA to 3.46 at the end of the month. Since then, it’s been a mixed bag, with his ERA rising to 4.07, which would be the highest of his career if it stays there.

If Kemp were having the kind of season that Billingsley is having … well, Kemp did have that season. He had it in 2010, when everyone questioned his effort and not a few people wanted to give up on him.

Billingsley, on the other hand, does not seem to have his effort questioned, but even this year, his mental approach to the game has been challenged.

“I know he can get the job, but can he do the job.”

Billingsley’s problems might be less mysterious than all that, however. His strikeout rate has dipped for the fourth consecutive season, from 9.01 in 2008 to 8.21 in 2009, 8.03 last year and 7.46 this season – a figure that is neither bad nor great, but the trend is kind of discouraging. In the past year, his walk rate has gone up from 3.24 to 3.84, virtually as much as his strikeout rate has gone down.

What does it all mean?

In direct contrast to his reputation, Billingsley has repeatedly shown the ability to come back from adversity. From the 2008 postseason, from his broken foot, from his 2009 slump, Billingsley has always found a way. But this, quietly, might be his biggest challenge of all. It might require nothing more than a tweak, or it might require something much more substantial. Can he do what Kemp did?

In the history of the Dodgers, only eight pitchers have had more strikeouts before turning 28 than Billingsley, and three of them are in the Hall of Fame. Only 13 pitchers have had a better park- and era-adjusted ERA before turning 28 than Billingsley. He is, objectively, one of the best young pitchers in more than 100 years of Dodger baseball.

Another one of those is Billingsley’s teammate Clayton Kershaw, who poses a standard that Billingsley probably won’t be able to live up to. But Billingsley’s inability to match Kershaw isn’t what will make or break him. He doesn’t have to be Kershaw-good to be good.

The question is not whether Billingsley has been a good pitcher for the Dodgers up to now. The question is whether he is slipping just as he’s entering what should be his prime. There’s every chance that he’ll bounce back to be as good as he ever was. But in the process of figuring that out, the MPP trophy seems headed his way.

Aug 24

Never-jealous Ellis can relish without embellish in latest Dodger romp


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesA.J. Ellis on his first official trot.

Since there’s no way you can’t be rooting for A.J. Ellis, there’s no way you can’t be a happy camper today.

Less than a day after bidding farewell to Albuquerque — quite possibly for the last time after spending most of the past three seasons there — the 30-year-old Ellis hit his first major-league home run, the icing on the Sara Lee of the Dodgers’ 9-4 victory over St. Louis.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Cardinals and, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, at this moment are the same distance out of first place as St. Louis in their respective divisions.

The day after washable-tattooing the Cardinals with 13 runs, Los Angeles stamped it up again with a six-run third inning in which the first eight batters reached base. Matt Kemp’s two-run single (RBI No. 96 and 97) put the Dodgers ahead to stay, 2-1, and the hits just kept coming after that, including an RBI single from Ellis.

Ellis’ home run — the third by a Dodger catcher in two days — came in the fifth inning, in his 200th career plate appearance. Juan Rivera hit a two-run homer in the seventh.

The 22 runs in two games were the most by the Dodgers since they rolled 23 on the Reds on April 20-21 last year. All eight Dodger starting position players had hits — James Loney’s two singles and a double gave him 17 total bases in his past 17 at-bats — while pinch-hitter Eugenio Velez extended his major-league hitless streak to 27 at-bats this year and 36 overall.

Hiroki Kuroda allowed a first-inning run, shut out the Cardinals for his next five innings, then allowed a two-run homer to Gerald Laird (scoring a 4-for-4 Skip Schumaker) in the seventh. Kuroda finished his seven innings with eight hits allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.

In 12 starts from June 1 through August 8, Kuroda had 24 runs of support. He has matched that in his past three starts.

Aug 24

At the Summitt

The news that Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 59 has stuck with me. Not that there’s ever a right age for this, but it just seems too young.

Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins, who co-authored Summitt’s autobiography, has a lengthy interview with her. It’s worth your time.

* * *

Tuesday’s 13-2 victory was the first by the Dodgers by that score since 1955, when they won two games 13-2 within a month of each other.

Aug 23

Mas Barajas: Catcher crushes Cards in 13-2 Dodger rout

So, Rod Barajas has raised his all-time Dodger slugging percentage without Dioner Navarro as a teammate to .681.

Barajas had 10 total bases tonight, a season high for the Dodgers, hitting two home runs and a double and driving in four runs in Los Angeles’ second highest scoring output of the season, 13-2 over St. Louis.

Matt Kemp got the Dodgers going in the first inning with a three-run home run, the MVP candidate’s 29th of the season, and later added a double of his own. Justin Sellers contributed two doubles and a single.

And while there was an emergency pitcher on this Dodger road trip, it wasn’t James Loney but rather the Cardinals’ Skip Schumacher, who struck out Trent Oeltjen to start the ninth inning but later surrendered a home run to Aaron Miles (career ERA 3.60) before finishing off his inning.

Clayton Kershaw … well, shoot, he needed 108 sweaty pitches just to get through his six innings of shutout ball, so what good is he? Just good enough to lower his ERA to 2.51 (third in the majors) and reach 200 strikeouts for the second consecutive season, the first Dodger to do that since Chan Ho Park in 2000-01, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. He’s also the first under-24 pitcher since Dwight Gooden to reach 200 two years in a row, wrote Steve Dilbeck of the Times.  Kershaw trails Justin Verlander for the major-league lead in strikeouts, 212-207.

After pitching two scoreless innings, Blake Hawsworth was given the chance to preserve the shutout with a three-inning save – trying to become the eighth Dodger with a save this season – but loaded the bases before allowing a run-scoring double play. Hong-Chih Kuo gave up an RBI single before notching the final out.

Aug 23

Dodgers replace Navarro with Ellis

Choosing not to wait until rosters expand September 1, the Dodgers have designated catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment and recalled A.J. Ellis from Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.

Navarro had a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 202 plate appearances for the Dodgers, throwing out 14 of 55 basestealers (25.4 percent). His performance had actually improved in recent weeks, with Navarro posting a .337 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances since Independence Day, and three times this year (on June 19, July 9 and July 20) he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger victory.

But overall, Navarro failed to justify the $1 million contract he signed Dec. 14, an attempt by general manager Ned Colletti to buy low on a 27-year-old one-time All-Star who had a .569 OPS from 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

The transaction gives the Dodgers an opportunity to take another extended look at Ellis – though his credentials as a low-power, high-OBP threat seem well-established. Ellis has a .364 OBP in the majors this year and a .467 OBP with Albuquerque.

Barring any offseason moves, Ellis and Tim Federowicz (recently acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade) are leading candidates to split catcher time in the Dodger starting lineup next year, though Barajas could return as a free agent if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his $3.25 million salary. Barajas has a .699 OPS and, remarkably, is second on the Dodgers in home runs with 12.

Navarro could return to the Dodgers in September if no team picks him up, but it seems more likely now that Federowicz will get his first taste of the majors then.

* * *

  • Not a lot of middle-of-the-order bats will be available this offseason, writes Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • St. Louis reacts, mostly negatively, to Tony LaRussa’s Monday managerial machinations. See here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • How did “Moneyball”  stay alive? Mark Harris writes about the film’s tale of survival for New York Magazine.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey enjoyed being in the St. Louis press box Monday.
Aug 23

Who is the 2011 Dodger Rookie of the Year?


Jeff RobersonNathan Eovaldi

It’s early, I know, to be asking the question of who the Dodgers’ top rookie of 2011 is. But Nathan Eovaldi’s fourth consecutive Start of Decency – if not heroic, at least decidedly upright – had me thinking again about how many different rookies had contributed to what limited success this Dodger team has had.

Just to take Monday’s game as an example, Dodger rookies pitched eight of the nine innings, allowing a total of one run.

If you were picking now, who would be the 2011 Dodger Rookie of the Year?

The definition of a rookie is no more than 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club (not counting time after rosters expand September 1) before the current season. Here’s how I might rank them:

  1. Rubby De La Rosa, P: 60 2/3 innings, 3.71 ERA, 8.90 K/9, 1.40 WHIP
  2. Javy Guerra, P: 31 2/3 innings, 2.27 ERA, 7.11 K/9, 1.20 WHIP
  3. Kenley Jansen, P: 37 innings, 3.65 ERA, 14.84 K/9, 1.19 WHIP
  4. Nathan Eovaldi, P: 22 innings, 2.05 ERA, 5.73 K/9, 1.18 WHIP
  5. Scott Elbert, P: 25 innings, 2.88 ERA, 8.64 K/9, 1.00 WHIP
  6. Josh Lindblom, P: 19 2/3 innings, 2.29 ERA, 5.95 K/9, 0.97 WHIP
  7. Dee Gordon, SS: 114 plate appearances, .248 on-base percentage, .270 slugging percentage, 12-for-15 stealing
  8. Jerry Sands, OF-1B: 144 plate appearances, .294 on-base percentage, .328 slugging percentage, 10 doubles
  9. Trent Oeltjen, OF: 65 plate appearances, .387 on-base percentage, .438 slugging percentage, 11 walks
  10. A.J. Ellis, C: 56 plate appearances, .364 on-base percentage, .222 slugging percentage, nine walks
  11. Justin Sellers, SS: 39 plate appearances, .282 on-base percentage, .361 slugging percentage
  12. Russ Mitchell, IF: 31 plate appearances, .258 on-base percentage, .269 slugging percentage, one memorable home run
  13. Ivan DeJesus Jr., IF: 35 plate appearances, .235 on-base percentage, .188 slugging percentage

Some comments:

  • There’s a really strong case for Guerra to win the award, in how he stepped up and provided an anchor for the bullpen after Jonathan Broxton and Vicente Padilla went down for basically the season. But De La Rosa started out as an effective reliever before becoming a mostly effective starter, and something tells me that he could have done just as well had he remained in Guerra’s role. Perhaps by the end of the season, I’ll change my mind, but I think right now De La Rosa is the cream.
  • That being said, there’s an argument to be made that Jansen (26 baserunners, 48 strikeouts, 1.27 ERA in 28 1/3 innings since April 22) has been better than both of them.
  • Eovaldi’s low ERA is mitigated by his low strikeout rate and limited innings. Based on reports that the Dodgers will limit his innings in September, he might slip further.
  • Elbert and Lindblom have quietly been as reliable as you could have hoped for, especially considering what their slides before this season. I think that puts them ahead of the batch of Dodger position players.
  • Gordon got the edge over Sands thanks to his defense and his steals, which if added to his total bases would put his slugging percentage above Sands’ slugging.
  • Oeltjen has better offensive numbers than either Gordon or Sands, thanks to a rather stunning walk rate (not unlike Ellis), but I’m subjectively downgrading Oeltjen based on how little impact I really think he’s had.
  • Sellers could easily move into the top 10, but with Gordon expected back by September, I don’t know how much higher he’ll go.

What do you all think?

Aug 22

A pair to remember: Dodgers score two in ninth to edge Cards

Ah, 2009 National League Championship Series Game 2, I remember you well.

The stakes weren’t the same (I feel like I’ve made that point a lot lately), but given the alternative, it was a nice surprise to see the Dodgers rally after eight innings of tough pitching and score two in the ninth inning – just as they did in that wonderful twilight at  Dodger Stadium two years ago – for a 2-1 victory over St. Louis.

One out after Juan Rivera was hit by Chris Carpenter’s final pitch of the night and Justin Sellers pinch-ran, Aaron Miles absolutely ripped a Fernando Salas pitch to the gap in right-center field for a game-tying triple. The next batter, Rod Barajas, hit a grounder to Rafael Furcal, who had just come in the game at the top of the inning despite his injured thumb. With the infield in, Furcal tried to backhand the ball, dropped it, picked it up, then threw wide of home, allowing Miles to score the go-ahead run.

Javy Guerra, in his first game since blowing a save in Colorado, started out by inducing a pop out from Albert Pujols, before retiring Corey Patterson for the second out. Then, old friend Furcal hit a 60-foot chopper that was rough enough for an infield single, but John Jay popped to left field to end the game.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed only one run – on Lance Berkman’s second-inning home run – in his five innings, completing his outing by retiring David Freese with runners on second and third. (Rivera made a nice play right before that to keep Daniel Descalso from scoring on Skip Schumaker’s double.) Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier and Guerra each pitched an inning of relief, and Furcal was the only one of 13 batters in that stretch to reach base.

James Loney went 3 for 4, making him 7 for 8 in his past two games.

Aug 22

Furcal sidelined as Dodgers hit St. Louis

After making all 125 of his starts this season in the cleanup spot, Matt Kemp moves up to No. 3 tonight, while Andre Ethier drops to No. 5.

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So yeah, changing uniforms did nothing to protect Rafael Furcal’s health. From Stephania Bell of ESPN.com:

… Furcal must seriously wonder who or what is out to get him now. After breaking his left thumb in early April on a headfirst slide and then straining an oblique in June (resulting in another month away from the game), Furcal suffered a freak injury while on the road with his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals, this weekend. It wasn’t even an injury sustained during the course of playing baseball. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Furcal suffered a “severe thumb sprain” when he stumbled as a wooden step leading to the batting cages at Wrigley Field broke. In an effort to brace his fall, Furcal’s thumb was twisted resulting in the injury. The bad news? This injury is to his right (throwing) hand. The good news? Well, it’s not the same thumb he broke this spring. And maybe, if things really do happen in threes, his 2011 injury woes are now over. As to when he’ll be able to return, there’s no immediate answer as much will depend on how soon the pain and swelling subside and when Furcal can regain his grip.

Furcal has a .280 on-base percentage and .351 slugging percentage in 83 plate appearances with St. Louis. Alex Castellanos, who came in the trade for Furcal, has a .443 on-base percentage and .771 slugging percentage (including 12 doubles) in 88 plate appearances with Double-A Chattanooga. With Springfield before the grade, Castellanos had a strikeout-walk ratio of 3.9 (94-24), but with the Lookouts, it has been 1.3 (14-11).

Chattanooga is averaging 7.3 runs per game this month.

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From the Dodger press notes:

1) “The Dodgers allowed a pair of first-inning runs on a Carlos Gonzalez home run yesterday at Colorado, but have allowed the fewest first-inning runs (35) in the majors the season. Los Angeles is on pace to allow just 45 first-inning runs over the course of the season, which would be the fewest by a National League team in the live-ball era.”

2) “Nathan Eovaldi will make the fourth start of his career tonight and has posted back-to-back quality starts after allowing two runs over six innings on Wednesday at Milwaukee. Since World War II, the 21-year-old is only the seventh pitcher under 22 years of age to open his career with three consecutive starts of five or more innings, while allowing two or fewer runs and less than five hits.”