Sep 09

Revisiting 1979

Rock bottom Turning point Up top All together
1979 Dodgers 36-57 (.387) July 19 43-26 (.623) 79-83, third place, 11 1/2 GB
2011 Dodgers 37-51 (.420) July 7 33-21 (.611) 70-72, third place, 12 GB (through Thursday)

After the 1979 season, the Dodgers rallied in 1980 to force a tie for the National League West title after 162 games. Proposal: We take the 163rd game away from 1980, which really did the Dodgers little good, and stick it at the end of the 2011 schedule, which is missing a game and where it will do much less harm.

Sep 08

Variety gives ‘Moneyball’ strong review

My Variety colleague Peter Debruge reviewed “Moneyball,” which premiered today at the Toronto Film Festival. Here are the first and last paragraphs:

Throwing the conventional sports-movie formula for a curve, “Moneyball” defies the logic that auds need a rousing third-act championship game to clinch their interest. Instead, writers Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin resurrect the old adage “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” to drive this uncannily sharp, penetrating look at how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane helped reinvent baseball based on statistics rather than conventional wisdom. Sparing auds the technicalities but not the spirit of financial reporter Michael Lewis’ business-of-baseball bestseller, “Moneyball” should appeal beyond — if not always to — the game’s fans. …

Another approach might have treated the source material as exposition for a more conventional baseball story, but “Moneyball” is content to draw back the curtain and find drama in the dealings. Miller’s low-key style suits that strategy nicely, breaking up shop-talk scenes with artful, quiet moments in which Beane steps away from the action, nicely captured by d.p. Wally Pfister. Though Soderbergh’s talking-heads idea fell by the wayside, the end result does employ a fair number of documentary techniques, cutting to MLB footage to illustrate the team’s on-field performance and featuring a score by Mychael Danna that echoes Philip Glass’ work on several Errol Morris pics.

“Moneyball” officially opens in theaters September 23.

Sep 08

Game 2 drowned out

The Dodgers’ quest for a .500 record has been thrown for a loop!

Game 2 of the Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader has been officially canceled without a makeup date, the Dodgers announced, meaning that the Dodgers will probably end up with no more than 161 games this season. They’re gonna need a lot more rain sometime this month to finish with the same number of wins and losses now.

With that out of the way, let’s all gather to watch Double-A Chattanooga in its Southern League playoff opener.

Sep 08

Dodgers get all-hands-on-deck victory, 7-4

Tony Gwynn Jr.’s two-run double in the ninth broke a 4-4 tie and propelled the Dodgers to a 7-4 victory in the first game of their scheduled doubleheader against Washington today.

The Dodgers took a funky approach to building a 4-0 lead. Dee Gordon, who went 4 for 5, was thrown out at home twice on fielder’s choice grounders by Matt Kemp, and each time Juan Rivera followed with a two-run double.

After the Nationals tied the game against Chad Billingsley, the teams remained scoreless until the ninth, when Gwynn drove home Jerry Sands (who was hit by a pitch) and Rod Barajas. Gordon then followed with an RBI single to cap the Dodgers’ scoring.

Javy Guerra, the seventh Dodger pitcher (all six relievers throwing hitless ball), pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 16th save, with Mike MacDougal surviving a leadoff walk in the eighth to get the win. Josh Lindblom pitched a career-high 2 1/3 innings in relief of Billingsley.

Sep 08

Billingsley’s tailspin: approach or injury?

Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley’s ERA rose to 4.30 today.

So, which logic do we follow?

Is it the logic that Chad Billingsley is afraid to trust his stuff? That his mechanics have gone awry?  Or that might be hurt?

Billingsley was chased with one out in the third inning of today’s lidlifter against Washington, after he gave up the Dodgers’ early 4-0 lead. Billingsley surrendered four runs on a single, three doubles and a home run in the third, capping an ugly outing in which he allowed eight of his 15 batters to reach base.

Despite concern rising about his performance on this site two weeks ago, Billingsley actually had a halfway decent August, with a 3.77 ERA while averaging more than six innings per start. But his strikeouts per nine innings fell to 5.5 while his walks were at 4.1.

In September, it’s just gone off a cliff. Billingsley has made two starts and lasted a combined 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 14 hits while walking six and striking out five.

It may well be that this is a problem of execution (and no, I don’t mean the old John McKay joke). But given the history of the Dodgers and their players (punctuated this year by Jonathan Broxton and Andre Ethier) trying to slide by with injuries rather than address them, Billingsley’s health is the first question that comes to my mind.

If he’s healthy, then this is the perfect time of the year to work out his issues. But if he’s hurt, gutting it out only serves to hurt Billingsley and the franchise.

Sep 08

Andre Ethier not expected to play again this season

Andre Ethier appears to have become the third Dodger starting position player to call it a season because of injury, joining Casey Blake and Juan Uribe. Less than two weeks after the controversy about his injured knee broke,  the decision has been made that solving the problem is more important than seeing how long it can be tolerated.

From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Ethier has left the club to consult with famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., concerning the right fielder’s continually troublesome right knee.

This appears to be an indication Ethier, who has been an All-Star each of the past two seasons and is a key member of the Dodgers core, won’t play again this season. He already was expected to have surgery on the knee after the season, and this could mean he will have it sooner than that.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s comments to reporters before the Dodgers doubleheader in Washington on Thursday made it sound as if that is a foregone conclusion.

“We knew his symptoms, and it hadn’t gotten worse, but we don’t want it to get worse,” Mattingly said. “It definitely doesn’t sound like something that will be with him the rest of his career once it is taken care of. We will go into next year expecting him to be fully healthy for spring training. … By getting this taken care of now, it allows him to heal and get his work done and come to spring training ready to go.”

Ethier has been playing through pain in the knee since last season and considered surgery last winter before ultimately deciding against it. He received a series of three injections of orthovisc, a synthetic fluid that lubricates the knee, over a three-week period that ended three weeks ago, but that hasn’t lessened the discomfort. …

“You start making changes to get away from pain, and you can easily get away from your base,” Mattingly said.

Sep 08

Dodgers, Nationals say ‘Let’s play two (innings?)’


Bureau of Engraving and PrintingNot everyone went to Best Buy on Wednesday. Ted Lilly (middle left) and Clayton Kershaw (middle right) of the Dodgers saw a demonstration on the currency production process at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. More about the visit from U.S. treasurer and diehard Oakland A’s fan Rosie Rios.

Prime Ticket for Game 1 of today’s scheduled doubleheader; KCAL Channel 9 for Game 2.

It’s time to participate in Tangotiger’s annual Fans Scouting Report. Head on over before today’s game.

All-time single-season leaders in strikeouts per nine innings, minimum 40 innings pitched: Kenley Jansen is now No. 2 with 15.04.

Sep 07

Rain of error: Dodgers, Nationals say ‘Let’s get it on’ – but will they?

“Really?”

Dee Gordon

The Dodgers and Nationals shouldn’t feel bad.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing with my day, either.

At around 1 p.m. today, word came out from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that Major League Baseball was pushing the Dodgers and Nationals to try to get today’s game played, despite their earlier official postponement in the wake of wet weather in Washington.

Subsequently came sundry tweets of confusion that included players wondering what was going on, including this from Gene Wang of the Post: “In #Nats clubhouse. @JLannan31 just asked Detwiler: ‘Can we leave?’ Detwiler said he didn’t know. He’s in street clothes tho.”

This led to the rather priceless tweet at the top of this post from Gordon, who had previously announced that he and Matt Kemp were taking the day off to go to Best Buy.

Two hours before scheduled gametime, the Nationals announced they were opening their gates. About 90 minutes before originally scheduled first pitch, the Dodgers officially announced they had gotten on board. Of course the game itself still remains dependent on what the clouds do with their day.

I still can’t help wondering, as I wrote on Twitter, if the Nationals and Dodgers played today’s game on Strat-o-Matic with Mattingly and Johnson rolling dice, would anyone remotely object?

Update: Before 3 p.m., word came that the game, once again, had been postponed in favor of a doubleheader Thursday.

Sep 07

Does Matt Kemp need a rain dance?

While I ponder what a potential rainout of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader — with the games unlikely to be replayed — might do to Matt Kemp’s MVP chances, here are some links:

  • Juan Uribe’s season-ending surgery for a sports hernia is today, the Dodgers announced.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation offers a history of suicides among baseball players, with some particularly grim anecdotes from the distant and more recent past.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. on the broken dreams of Ivan DeJesus Jr.:

    … In addition to his two walks in 35 at-bats with the Dodgers, DeJesus had just 16 walks in 245 plate appearances over 57 games in Triple A through July 21, just 6.5% of his plate appearances. However, as the season wore on DeJesus showed improvement with 29 walks in his final 43 games, walking in 14.6% of his plate appearances during that span, showing glimpses of his prior days as a viable prospect. DeJesus even hit six of his eight home runs this season in a 16-game span in mid-August.

    Whether it was for attitude, or performance, or both, DeJesus did not get the call. Again. If the Dodgers thought anything of DeJesus, he would be up with the big league team. It appears his days in the Dodger organization are numbered, which is a shame.

    It’s not clear to me why, even if De Jesus doesn’t loom large in the Dodgers’ future plans, he would get buried by Eugenio Velez, who is 0 for his last 40 in the majors — unless the Dodgers’ share the same perverse fascination with how long Velez’s streak can go on that we do.

  • Stephen also points out that Andre Ethier now has at least 30 doubles in five consecutive seasons, a figure exceeded by only four players in Dodger history: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey.
  • Don Mattingly gave an interview to Jim Rosenthal of Los Angeles Magazine (link via L.A. Observed, which also points to a science-flavored Times op-ed piece by Frederick M. Cohan related to Sandy Koufax’s perfect game). An excerpt from the Mattingly interview:

    Managers have people second-guessing them all the time. But even you’ve second-guessed some of your decisions in the press.
    If you don’t second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better. Joe would always tell me that you are going to make decisions. Some of them are not going to work out, and it does not mean that they were the wrong decisions. I have had many occasions this year where I questioned and second-guessed my decision in a game, but it comes down to learning from mistakes and being accountable for what you did right or did wrong.

    Can you think of a decision you second-guessed recently?
    The Mets had Jason Bay waiting on deck with an open base, and I could have walked the lefty hitter and pitched to Bay. Instead the lefty got a hit, and I kicked myself for not challenging Bay and walking the other guy with an open base. We all have the temptation to be backseat drivers when it comes to decisions that don’t work out the way we want. …

  • Is Biz of Baseball founder and Dodger Thoughts friend Maury Brown bringing down the Jim Crane ownership of the Houston Astros (with an assist from Frank and Jamie McCourt) before it even begins? Take a look at this piece and this one by Brown and judge for yourself.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America stacks Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout’s 2011 season against the best ever by age-20 players.
  • Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore looks at the offseason market for catchers (in case the Dodgers decide they need to stick a dagger in A.J. Ellis’ heart one more time.
  • A big topic of conversation in the online sabermetric world Tuesday was this piece appearing on It’s About the Money, which calls into question the value of the Wins Above Replacement stat because of its reliance on fielding metrics that are questionable. This led to a discussion at Sean Foreman’s Baseball-Reference.com blog (including the comments) about how much consistency one should expect in fielding stats for individual players from year to year.
  • Baseball Toaster founder Ken Arneson explores on his new blog why he’s not ready to “commit to a life as a chicken.” I can relate:

    … It’s partly because I don’t have all my ducks in a row in my personal life to make that practical right now. I quit writing regularly two years ago because I was juggling too many balls in my life, and I ended up doing a half-assed job on all of them. I hate feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, I hate feeling like I need to work 24/7 in order to avoid feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, so I resist making commitments that would create any expectations. Hence, for now, this blog, where I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with maximum flexibility and minimum commitment. …

Sep 07

Run, don’t walk: The life of Dee Gordon

All-time single-season leaders in stolen base-walk ratio (minimum 100 plate appearances):

1) Infinity Gus Getz, 1916 Brooklyn Robins: nine steals, zero walks
2) 12.0 Joe Cannon, 1979 Toronto Blue Jays: 12 steals, one walk
3) 8.0 Dee Gordon, 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers: 16 steals, two walks

Dedicated pinch-runner Herb Washington has the most steals in a season without a walk: 29.

Source: Baseball-Reference.com.

Sep 07

Strasburg and Lilly: Mach speed and mock speed

From ESPN Stats and Information, regarding Tuesday’s starting pitchers:

Category   Stephen Strasburg   Ted Lilly
Total pitches        56       105
Time on mound      21:28     54:40
Average inning      4:18     10:56
Longest             5:06     16:36
Shortest            3:20      4:47
Seconds per pitch   23.0      31.2
Sep 06

Dodgers don’t stress Strasburg, rally off relievers

The Strasburg Express arrived on time Monday and operated with Strasburgian efficiency.

In his first major-league game in more than a year, the post-Tommy John surgery Stephen Strasburg positioned himself for a victory despite a reported 60-pitch limit, shutting out the Dodgers on only 56 pitches over five innings.

“They say the most difficult aspect for pitchers returning from Tommy John isn’t necessarily velocity, but control,” wrote David Schoenfield of ESPN.com. “Strasburg had no issues with location in this game.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dodger veteran Ted Lilly suffered through a 32-pitch inning, came away with a scoreless tie (and three strikeouts), then gave up three runs in the second, two of them earned, the other coming thanks in large part to his throwing error.

But while Washington could revel in the return of their prodigy, it was the Dodgers who celebrated at game’s end. A three-run rally immediately off two relievers immediately after Strasburg’s exit tied the game, and then Rod Barajas’ two-run double in the eighth inning pushed them ahead for good in what became a 7-3 victory.

Barajas had actually grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning, but seized his chance at redemption with two out in the eighth, driving home Andre Ethier (who had a two-run single in the sixth and a two-run double in the ninth) and Aaron Miles with two out in the eighth.

Lilly, who struck out only three in his last start, had nine in five innings tonight and retired 11 of his final 12 batters. Matt Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen combined for six strikeouts in two innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Justin Sellers saved Mike MacDougal a run with a leaping catch of a Chris Marrero drive toward right-center with Steve Lombardozzi on third.

Finishing the game, Javy Guerra loaded the bases but got the Dodgers’ 16th and 17th strikeouts in the ninth, matching the Dodgers’ highest total in a nine-inning game since 1990, one shy of the team record. Ramon Martinez struck out 18 by himself in that June 4, 1990 game.

Gordon, who speed-doubled to lead off the game for one of the two baserunners off Strasburg, had three hits and a stolen base.

Nationals relievers allowed 14 baserunners in four innings. The Dodgers would have scored more, but speedster Tony Gwynn Jr., who entered the game as a pinch-runner managed to get thrown out at third base and home in consecutive innings.

Sep 06

Federowicz gets called to the show

The Dodgers have recalled John Ely and Jerry Sands while purchasing the contract of Tim Federowicz from Albuquerque. Federowicz will become the 48th player to suit up for the 2011 Dodgers once he gets in a game.

When that will happen is a bit murky. Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweeted that Federowicz might not play until the last week or two of the season because Don Mattingly wants him to get used to his “new environment.” Aside from this making more sense if Federowicz were joining the Terra Nova Dodgers, I can’t quite believe that Mattingly thinks it’s necessary for the young catcher to have no game action for more than a week. It’s not as if the Dodgers have been doing that with any of their other young farmboys this year.

In a procedural move, injured pitcher Vicente Padilla was moved to the 60-day disabled list, so the number of players on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster remains the same.

Meanwhile, to give Sands at-bats, Don Mattingly will have to take some playing time from either Juan Rivera or Andre Ethier. That could mean more angst for Ethier, whose saga gets scoped out by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.