May 07

No Guerrantees

I would imagine after his latest blown save Sunday – leading to the Dodgers sixth loss in the ninth inning or later in their past 18 games – Javy Guerra might be moved to pitch in different game situations for the time being, with Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen pitching later in games.

That won’t necessarily help the Dodgers until Guerra solves what’s not working for him, regardless of when he’s pitching, but I can understand why it feels worth a try. What Guerra is capable of achieving hasn’t changed, but his ability to execute has gone at least temporarily awry. The downside is that the best time for on-the-job problem-solving is when the team is losing by a few runs, and no one wants to see that.

One thing to keep in mind about Guerra is that he has options remaning, so that if he doesn’t sort things out soon and the Dodgers decide to make a move to Shawn Tolleson or activate Matt Guerrier, Guerra could be the one that comes off the active roster. That’s not necessarily what should or would happen, but it is an alternative to releasing a veteran. And patience with the bullpen must be wearing thin. Remember, about a year ago at this time, Kenley Jansen briefly went to the minors.

Meanwhile, Justin Sellers should be with the Dodgers for tonight’s game against San Francisco following Jerry Hairston Jr.’s unfortunate hamstring injury, which has left the Dodgers with Dee Gordon (below) and Adam Kennedy as their only two fully healthy left-side infielders. A couple of weeks ago, the Dodgers lost on a Sunday at Houston, 12-0, but this most recent Sunday defeat was more painful.

Photo of Dee Gordon © Todd Coffey/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Photo of Ted Lilly © Dee Gordon/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

May 06

The return of the Cool-a-Coo?

Dodgers at Cubs, 11:20 a.m.
Matt Kemp is resting a tight left hamstring but is available to pinch-hit, according to pregame reports. Kemp has started 123 consecutive games, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., and played in 392 in a row.

However, the start of today’s game is delayed by rain. 

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

Apparently, a Cool-a-Coo resurrection is possible after all.

All my research had shown that Cool-a-Coos, the greatest dessert treat in sports history, had disappeared when the company had gone out of business, but according to Bill Shaikin of the Times, they’re being manufactured by a small company under the name of “Mr. Cool.”

If it’s the real deal, then the Dodgers absolutely need to bring them back as soon as possible. And please, don’t try to sell me on the Its-It. It’s not the same thing.

Elsewhere …

  • Looking ahead: After today’s game, the Dodgers have four consecutive series against their four National League West rivals. Three of those series are at home.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Information), Chris Capuano had an 0-1 count on 20 of 26 batters he faced Saturday.
  • Teams are starting to shift against Matt Kemp, writes Christina Kahrl for ESPNLosAngeles.com – taking into account his tendency not to pull the ball.
  • John C. McGinley will play Red Barber in the upcoming Jackie Robinson movie 42, writes Dave McNary of Variety.
  • Tommy John surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and Luis Tiant have been elected to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals. They finished in the top three by receiving at least 33 percent of votes. Just missing election this year were Lefty O’Doul (32%), Dizzy Dean (30%), Manny Mota (29%), Don Zimmer (29%), Steve Bilko (27%), Charlie Finley (25%), and Glenn Burke (24%). Induction day is July 15.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times becomes the latest to wonder why Jerry Hairston Jr. wouldn’t be the Dodgers’ regular third baseman even when Juan Uribe is healthy. The argument is that Hairston would wear down – the response would be whether Uribe isn’t already worn down.
  • Alex Castellanos and Scott Van Slyke were named Triple-A all-stars for the month of April by Baseball America.
  • Wrightly or wrongly, third baseman David Wright, an obvious trade target for the Dodgers, is likely to remain a Met, writes Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
  • The Cubs have designated Blake DeWitt (.305 OPS) for assignment.
  • A shoutout to Scott of venerable Rancho Park Pharmacy, thanks to Scott mentioning these words last week when I picked up my prescription: “R.J. Reynolds.”

 

May 05

Capuano shining bright for Dodgers

It’s some consolation that while he’s making me look silly, Chris Capuano is doing the same to opposing hitters.

In February, I called Capuano a shaky bet, and while there’s still a long way to go this season, he’s been plenty steady so far, lowering his ERA to 2.21 with seven innings of shutout ball today as the Dodgers took a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning at Chicago.

Capuano has struck out 36 in 36 2/3 innings while allowing only 42 baserunners and three home runs, numbers that even surpass what Hiroki Kuroda did in his first six starts a year ago. Against the Cubs, Capuano struck out seven in seven innings while giving up three singles and two walks, and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning that was keyed by a Dodger error.

My concern over Capuano was that he hadn’t pitched a full-season of above-average baseball since 2006, despite the healthy strikeout rates he has posted in his career, including the period after his surgery. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t be good, but I felt this was a case where the negatives were likely to outweigh his positives.

That’s why I’m still hedging my bets about what he’ll do over the course of this season (and next), but it’d be wrong for me not to celebrate how strong he has been for the Dodgers so far. Capuano has improved with every game and is now working on a streak of 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Let’s face it: You can complain about things that haven’t gone the Dodgers’ way, but Ted Lilly and Capuano combining to go 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA? That’s gold, Jerry.

Capuano also hit a big two-run double in the second inning, joining Bobby Abreu and Dee Gordon in backboning the Dodger offense today. Matts Treanor and Kemp added sacrifices of the fly kind.

Capuano left after throwing 100 pitches, 70 for strikes. Adding to the joy, Ronald Belisario made his first official appearance as a Dodger in more than a year, notching a perfect eighth inning on 11 pitches with one strikeout.

Update: Jamey Wright allowed a run in the ninth on a bloop single, defensive indifference and another single, but finished off the 5-1 victory.

May 05

The state of the Dodger bullpen

Dodger bullpen losses since April 17
April 17: Guerra allows two in bottom of ninth at Milwaukee.
April 18: Guerrier allows one in bottom of 10th at Milwaukee.
April 24: Guerra allows one in top of ninth vs. Atlanta.
April 25: Guerra allows three in top of ninth vs. Atlanta.
May 2: Wright, Elbert allow three in bottom of ninth at Colorado.

In their past 16 games, the Dodgers have gone 8-8. Five of those eight losses since April 17 have come in the ninth or 10th innings, and another, Friday’s 5-4 defeat against Chicago, came after Dodger relievers allowed a key run in their first inning of work.

Dodger relievers have a 4.38 ERA this season (compared to the starters’ 3.13) and have allowed 44 percent (17 of 39) of inherited runners to score. Last year, Dodger relievers had a 3.92 ERA, and 33 percent of their inherited runners scored.

It might be natural to conclude from this that the bullpen is a disaster. It’s not, but it has definitely shaped the Dodgers’ .500 play of late.

Two veterans – Todd Coffey and Mike MacDougal – have been almost completely ineffective, with MacDougal losing his job after only 5 2/3 innings this year. (Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes that MacDougal never found his command after batting a finger injury and the flu.) Coffey, for that matter, has only pitched 2 2/3 innings himself in 2012.

A younger pitcher, 26-year-old Scott Elbert, has allowed opponents to go 12 for 27 with two home runs and three walks, for a 1.204 OPS – something close to a Matt Kemp figure. Left-handed batters are 5 for 13 with a home run and a walk (1.159 OPS).

On the bright side, Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen have been nearly flawless this season. Each has had two disappointing games – and yet the Dodgers have won every one of them. Lindblom allowed two inherited Padres to tie the game April 15 and gave up three runs against Colorado May 1, but neither outing cost the Dodgers a victory. Jansen has held opponents scoreless in 13 of 14 games since Opening Day, the only blemish being the two-run home run he surrendered to the Padres on April 13 – another game that the Dodgers pulled out in the end.

In addition, Jamey Wright, with the exception of his ninth-inning defeat Wednesday, has been useful.

That leaves us with Guerra, the pitcher who has done the most to shape the current perception of the bullpen.  Guerra began the year with six consecutive scoreless appearances, and even after his first blown save at Milwaukee, came back to retire the side in order with two strikeouts in each of his next two games.  Two weeks ago, Guerra had a 2.16 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings and an opponents’ OPS of .450.

Then Guerra lost two games on consecutive nights against Atlanta, taking a line drive to the chin in one, before giving up another ninth-inning run in a victory over Washington, and suddenly he was dogmeat.

This should tell you something obvious – and not that Guerra doesn’t have the stuff to pitch in the ninth inning. It never fails that any late-inning failure will be seen by a huge number of fans as an inability to pitch in that particular stage of the game. There probably aren’t five people in the world who can tell you how Dodger batters hit in the ninth inning – so-called “clutch performance” at the plate has never been tied to a single inning, but rather late innings. But when it comes to relievers, there’s this vast perceived gulf between the eighth and the ninth – a gulf that, it seems safe to say, can be blamed on the invention of the save stat and the idea that any time you allow a tying or winning run to score in a save situation is inexcusable. Somehow, it’s lost that runs allowed in the seventh and eighth innings hurt your chances of winning as much as runs allowed in the ninth.

No, what Guerra’s season-to-date should tell you is how much one bad week can wreck a reliever’s resume, especially this early in the season. Again, compare this to hitters, or even starting pitchers. You would never take a bad week and let that be your verdict on a player who wasn’t a relief pitcher, not if you were a sentient human.  But, especially in the first part of a season, that’s exactly what’s being done with Guerra if you’ve lost faith in him.

There has always been some doubt about how good Guerra will be, but 60 games into his major-league career, even with the struggles of recent days, Guerra has a 2.95 ERA, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and an opponents’ OPS of .643. The next Mariano Rivera he isn’t, but he does seem to have some real talent (regardless, if this needs to be said, of what inning he pitches in).

One month isn’t enough to tell you how good a bullpen is. It doesn’t mean the losses don’t hurt – it’s amazing to think that Los Angeles could be 22-4 if Dodger relievers had been able to pitch just a little more scoreless ball. However, the fact that the Dodgers have come back to score their own late-inning rallies should be all you need to know about the imperfections of bullpens ’round the country.

Maybe Coffey or Elbert won’t get it together this season. Maybe someone like Shawn Tolleson (1.47 ERA, 11.9 K/9 in 55 innings at Double-A Chattanooga in 2011-12) could help the team now. And who knows what Ronald Belisario will bring? But you can’t say right now that any of the current Dodger relievers won’t be good over the course of the 2012 season. You also can’t say that one of the good ones won’t suddenly lose it. It’s all a matter of educated guesses at this point.

Guerra came back on Tuesday to save the Dodgers’ 7-6 victory at Colorado, two of the outs coming after a one-out single and A.J. Ellis’ passed ball put the tying run in scoring position. What does that tell you? Basically, nothing.

Dodgers at Cubs, 10:10 a.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
James Loney, 1B
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P
May 04

Dodgers frustrated in Wrigley, 5-4

On an aggravating day for any Dodger not named Jerry Hairston Jr., the Dodgers dropped their third of four games on this week’s road trip.

Newest team member Bobby Abreu had a chance to give the Dodgers a lead in the ninth inning, but his drive to right with a runner on base fell short, and Los Angeles fell to the Cubs, 5-4.

Hairston is OPSing .911 after hitting a home run, triple and single for the Dodgers, accounting for half of their six hits. Matt Kemp (triple) and Andre Ethier (sacrifice fly) each had RBI in the eighth inning that brought the Dodgers from down 5-2 to within a run.

Kemp, whose batting average briefly fell below .400 for the first time since Opening Day, is now hitting .404.

But mostly, this game was a bummer for the Dodgers, starting with a difficult outing for Chad Billingsley, who allowed four runs, eight hits — five of them for extra bases — and three walks in six innings.  The Cubs’ David De Jesus had a single, double and triple before the fourth inning was done.

The Cubs had some trouble making the most of their opportunities, but they never trailed. With the Dodgers losing 3-1 in the top of the sixth, Billingsley hit for himself, and then gave up a pinch-hit home run to Joe Mather with two out in the bottom of the inning. Scott Elbert and Todd Coffey then combined to allow what came to be the critical run in the bottom of the seventh.

The Dodgers had only four baserunners in six innings off Chicago starter Paul Maholm. Abreu’s first at-bat as a Dodger was a strikeout with A.J. Ellis on first base that ended the top of the seventh. Ellis was then hit by a two-out, 2-2 pitch in the ninth to give Abreu the near-miss chance for redemption.

May 04

Revisited: Older is not better for bench players

Dodgers at Cubs, 11:20 a.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

Back in March 2010, shortly after Garret Anderson became a Dodger, I posted the following:

We all know about the great, the wonderful, the tremendous Manny Mota. But generally, do aging reserves have a history of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

To try to answer the question, I decided to look at the batting numbers for Dodgers since 1958 who were at least 35 years old. (I chose players with between 20 and 400 plate appearances, then removed most of the players who were basically starters that got hurt or were part of a midseason acquisition.) At first I was only going to look at pinch-hitting numbers, but then I realized that except for someone like Mota, a key component of a good bench player includes how well they perform in spot starts.

Of the 89 players on this list, 20 of them (22.4 percent) had at least a league-average adjusted OPS of 100. Mota accounts for three of those 20 seasons, as does Rick Monday. (Sidebar: Is Monday, who OPSed .854 primarily as a reserve in 841 plate appearances from 1980-83, the greatest bench player in Los Angeles Dodger history?) Only 30 (33.7 percent) of the 89 even managed an OPS+ of 90.

Some of these older guys who didn’t produce are catchers or defensive specialists who never were expected to hit much in the first place. Nevertheless, the over-35 bench club is strewn with names of guys who had past hitting success (Jim Eisenreich, I’m looking at you) but were in such decline that not even their veteran moxie could save them.

Even Mota had some unimpressive 35-and-up seasons. Because many of these players don’t get a lot of at-bats, their performances can fluctuate quite a bit year to year. It’s not as if older players are doomed to failure, but there’s clearly nothing about being a veteran that guarantees bench success.

And that makes sense, despite the baseball cliches that would suggest otherwise. After all, there’s a reason these guys lose their starting jobs in the first place — and usually, that reason is related to offense more than defense.

There are some names in the below-average portion of this chart that are actually part of Dodger lore: Vic Davalillo in 1977, Jay Johnstone in 1981, Mark Loretta last October — players who by virtue of a single at-bat put a positive stamp on disappointing seasons. That doesn’t change the fact that overall, veteran benchmen have been more forgettable than memorable. …

Read the full post, which includes a lengthy chart, here.

May 04

Abreu latest career hit leader to play for Dodgers

Paul Waner

Bobby Abreu will join the Dodgers with 2,389 career hits, 103rd all-time. Here are batters from the top 100 in all-time hits, with the number of hits as a Dodger in parentheses, according to Baseball-Reference.com:

10) Eddie Murray, 3,255 (483)
13) Paul Waner, 3,152 (115)
19) Rickey Henderson, 3,055 (15)
27) Frank Robinson, 2,943 (86)
31) Zack Wheat, 2,884 (2,804)
48) Al Oliver, 2,743 (20)
55) Bill Buckner, 2,715 (837)
59) Gary Sheffield, 2,689 (583)
69) Steve Garvey, 2,599 (1,968)
70) Luis Gonzalez, 2,591 (129)
75) Manny Ramirez, 2,574 (237)
77) Willie Davis, 2,561 (2,091)
78) Steve Finley, 2,548 (59)
79) Garret Anderson, 2,529 (28)
85) Fred McGriff, 2,490 (74)
87) Joe Medwick, 2,471 (535)
91) Jeff Kent, 2,461 (551)
93) Lloyd Waner, 2,459 (4)
98) Kenny Lofton, 2,428 (141)

Abreu has 284 career home runs, 153rd all-time. Here are the one-time Dodgers on the top 150.

8 ) Jim Thome, 604 (0)
9) Frank Robinson, 586 (19)
14) Manny Ramirez, 555 (44)
24) Gary Sheffield, 509 (129)
25) Eddie Murray, 504 (65)
26) Fred McGriff, 493 (13)
43) Mike Piazza, 427 (177)
45) Andruw Jones, 423 (3)
47) Duke Snider, 407 (389)
48) Paul Konerko, 401 (4)
61) Frank Howard, 382 (123)
66) Jeff Kent, 377 (75)
71) Gil Hodges, 370 (361)
79) Luis Gonzalez, 354 (15)
84) Dick Allen, 351 (23)
92) Boog Powell, 339 (0)
95) Darryl Strawberry, 335 (38)
100) Shawn Green, 328 (162)
105) Gary Carter, 324 (6)
114) Ron Cey, 316 (228)
115) Jeromy Burnitz, 315 (13)
116) Adrian Beltre, 314 (147)
116) Reggie Smith, 314 (97)
131) Steve Finley, 304 (13)
135) Rickey Henderson, 297 (2)
137) Robin Ventura, 294 (10)
142) Jimmy Wynn, 291 (50)
146) Garret Anderson, 287 (2)
146) Bobby Bonilla, 287 (7)

Update: Jim Peltz of the Times says the Dodgers have – surprisingly – optioned Justin Sellers to the minors, which means that some combination of Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston Jr. will back up Dee Gordon at shortstop. Mark Ellis could move over there in a pinch, but he hasn’t played shortstop in a game since 2005. Hairston, of course, has been increasingly relied upon at third base in place of Uribe. Adam Kennedy played his only two career innings at short in 2007.

However, it’s possible that Sellers could come right back up to the Dodgers if they decide Uribe needs to go to the disabled list.

May 03

Dodgers bid farewell to MacDougal, reinstate Belisario

To make room for Ronald Belisario’s return from suspension, the Dodgers have designated reliever Mike MacDougal for assignment.

MacDougal, whose time as a Dodger has appeared to be running out for a week or two, was guaranteed $1 million this year, including a buyout of his 2013 option. If he clears waivers, he could end up pitching in Albuquerque and possibly return later this season, though there’s no promise of that happening.

In 2012, MacDougal, 35, had allowed five runs and 15 baserunners in 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts.

Belisario last pitched for the Dodgers in 2010. Following a 2.04 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 2009, Belisario slid to 5.04 and 6.2 in ’10. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get back on the beam, but I’m not sure how long he’ll have to prove himself.

May 03

Eric Pettis: Play ball?


Eric Pettis played high school ball at El Camino Real and was drafted out of UC Irvine in the 35th round of the 2010 MLB amateur draft by the Phillies.

Despite being picked relatively low, Pettis nearly threw a no-hitter in his third professional start, put up a 1.37 ERA in his first pro season and 2.84 in his second. In his minor-league career, he averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings with a WHIP of 0.972.

What happened next? Well, let Pettis, now 23, tell you himself in this guest post for Dodger Thoughts.

Play ball.

A phrase so universal, so recognizable that the two words seem bound together for eternity. A phrase that baseball romantics have used time and time again as the catalyst for their swooning.

But for me, play ball has changed it’s meaning. It was once a call to action, a signal that my day has begun. Now it’s the opposite: forced to transition from active participant to passive observer in the blink of an eye.

Just last month I was like any other minor league baseball player, happy Spring Training was winding down and excited for a new season. Team assignments were just around the corner and I was anxious to see where I’d be starting the year. Would I get that promotion to Double-A or would I be sent back into the endless heat of the Florida State League? Everything seemed normal.

Then, on the fateful morning of March 28th, all my speculations became irrelevant. As I walked into the complex I was stopped by the reaper waiting at the door: sent to the front office to meet my fate. One moment firmly on the path to realizing my dream, the next derailed. Released. Sent home with no warning, no way to see it coming. They told me I was merely another casualty of the numbers game: nothing I had done, nothing I could have done. There just wasn’t a spot for me. I was in utter shock.

In the aftermath of my sudden change of scenery, I wasn’t quite sure how I should approach baseball anymore. I mean, I had been completely entrenched in the game my entire life. From the time I was 4 years old, I had been strapping on my spikes — plastic back then — and running out between the white lines. Nearly twenty years of commitment, dedication, and passion. I couldn’t just abandon it all together. Despite my anger, despite my frustration with the game that I had grown up loving, I couldn’t just forget it completely. And that’s when the smooth, unchanging voice of one Vincent Edward Scully came calling.

Growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of West Hills, I have been a Dodger fan my entire life — with a year or two hiatus after the Mike Piazza trade. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were taking the short, 30-minute drive to Chavez Ravine. You could find me right along side the other faithfuls screaming “Raaauuuuuull” when Mondesi showed off his laser arm, trying to think of the wittiest pun when Nomo threw his “No-No”, and sharing in the gluttony of the All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion. My blood was as blue as they come.

But over the course of my years in the minors, I felt like I lost touch. I couldn’t follow my beloved Bums like I used to. If I wasn’t playing a game at the same time, I couldn’t muster the energy to stay up to watch from my east coast locale. My dedication to the game had taken me away from one of the reasons why I grew so close to it.

I don’t have that problem anymore. As I sit on the couch, back in the familiar confines of the Los Angeles area, I’m able to rekindle my love for the Dodgers. The games serve as both an escape and a reminder of my reality. A way for me to let go and a way for me to hold on. The inner struggle that goes on as I watch is more than worth it to me. Because even if the view from the camera perched just left of center field reminds me of the view from beneath my cap, it’s a reminder of all the good that baseball has given me. Down the road, after my pain and confusion fades, I know my love for the game will still be there. I know the Dodgers will still be there. And I know I will never stop watching.

Pettis has authored the book, Just A Minor Perspective: Through The Eyes of a Minor League Rookie. His blog can be found here, and he is on Twitter at @eric_pettis.

May 03

Matt Kemp and .400: One in a million

After ESPNLosAngeles asked me to write a piece exploring whether Matt Kemp could hit .400 this year, I was tempted to turn in a one-word column, but I ultimately went with this:

When a ballplayer takes a .400 batting average into May, you’re supposed to know not to ask whether he can take it through the end of the season.

You know that no major leaguer has hit .400 over a season since Ted Williams in 1941. You know it’s a barrier that has withstood Stan Musial, Rod Carew, George Brett, Andres Galarraga, Tony Gwynn, Larry Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton, Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki — all of whom have hit at least .375 since ’41, but never .400.

What does Matt Kemp, now batting .411 on May 2, have that these guys didn’t have? Probably nothing, or a figure approaching nothing.

Last weekend, David Pinto of Baseball Musings ran some numbers. Kemp had just gone 2-for-4 in Friday’s Los Angeles Dodgers victory over Washington, raising his batting average to .452. Pinto found that Kemp’s probability of hitting .400 this year was 0.0000016.

If he played a million baseball seasons, the odds say Kemp wouldn’t hit .400 in two of them. And that was before his batting average fell 43 points in less than a week.

So what are we doing here?

Here are two reasons to keep having the conversation …

Read the entire piece here.

* * *

  • Stan Kasten, the most impressive figure at Wednesday’s Dodger press conference, is profiled by Kevin Baxter of the Times, while colleague Peter Guber is interviewed by the Times’ Roger Vincent.
  • Mark Walter is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Despite the fact that the number of cars parking in Dodger Stadium has no bearing on how much money Frank McCourt will receive going forward, the Times decided to perpetuate the mistaken assumption of others by running an op-ed from David Kipen calling for a boycott of the parking lots — or, if I’m reading correctly, a half-boycott.
  • Dodger batting practice pitcher Pete Bonfils was interviewed by Ron Cervenka for Think Blue L.A.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly close to taking a minimum-salary flyer on Angels castoff Bobby Abreu. Given that Abreu would probably replace one of four third basemen on the roster — Juan Uribe if he goes on the disabled list, Adam Kennedy otherwise — I’ve heard worse ideas.
  • A pairing to treasure, courtesy of Jon SooHoo:

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

May 02

Dodgers dumped in crazy Coors Field finish

You can’t say Dodger games aren’t exciting these days. Not sure I’ve seen this linescore in the final two innings before …

Dodgers 001 000 022 - 5
Rockies 000 011 033 - 8

Jason Giambi’s pinch-hit, three-run home run off Scott Elbert ended the game of leapfrog in the bottom of the ninth, giving Colorado an 8-5 victory over Los Angeles.

The frolic began after the Dodgers, who took a 1-0 lead in the third when Mark Ellis drove home A.J. Ellis with a single, fell behind on solo homers off Clayton Kershaw (who brought a career ERA at Coors Field of 5.88 into the game) by Carlos Gonzalez in the fourth and Wilin Rosario in the fifth. It remained that way after Jerry Hairston Jr. was erroneously called out to end the sixth.

In the top of the eighth, Hairston got another chance after singles by newly crowned NL April Player of the Month Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier — and delivered a two-run double for a 3-2 lead.

Kershaw had only thrown 81 pitches to that point and looked like he might be a good bet for a complete-game victory, but it didn’t happen.  He allowed three runs, capped by Gonzalez’s second homer of the game — the first time in Kershaw’s career he’s allowed a homer hat trick to another team.

But even against Rafael Betancourt, who had allowed one run in 10 innings all season, the Dodgers weren’t done. Adam Kennedy, whose .095 batting average nearly mirrored Betancourt’s 0.90 ERA, singled. Two outs later and with Kennedy stuck on first, the Rockies walked Kemp intentionally rather than give him the chance to tie the game with one swing. (For Kemp, it was the sixth game of at least three walks in his career, something I predicted after noting Juan Rivera batting behind him and a left-hander starting the game.

That brought to the plate Dee Gordon, who was in the cleanup spot thanks to a double switch in the previous inning. On a 2-2 pitch, Gordon doubled and tied the game at 5.

Jamey Wright, who had finished the eighth inning for the Dodgers, came back out in the ninth and immediately dug a hole by walking Eric Young, Jr. and Marco Scutaro.  A sacrifice bunt later, Giambi came up in place of Dexter Fowler, and Scott Elbert — whose career lowpoint came at Coors Field two Mays ago — gave up the game-winning blast on a 1-0 fastball.

May 02

Revisited: Bad calls happen all the time

You might remember there was a call to replay the ninth inning of the Dodgers-Padres game of April 15, thanks to the misleading signals from home umpire Dale Scott. David Cameron put forth the most passionate argument for the replay at Fangraphs.

Cameron’s point was that an umpire seemingly turning a dead play into a live one (emphasis on seemingly) was of a separate ilk than the conventional missed call, and that the game should have been replayed because, among other reasons, “a mistake by Dale Scott could have repercussions on the standings.”

I felt this was pretty silly, for a number of reasons, just one being that whatever the origins of the mistake, its impact was likely to be lost amid the hundreds of bad calls baseball sees each year.

Here’s one of those calls. With a runner on base in the top of the sixth inning for the Dodgers at Colorado, and the Rockies leading 2-1, Jerry Hariston Jr. was called out on this play by first-base umpire Tim Welke.  Photo courtesy of Jay Jaffe:

Think that Scott gave a misleading signal on the triple play against the Padres? I’d say that Welke giving an out signal on this one was pretty misleading.

Like I said, this happens all the time, and the game goes on. But let’s put an end to the idea forever that the triple-play call was some kind of preeminent miscarriage of justice.

May 02

New ownership press conference: 10 a.m.

Dodgers at Rockies, 12:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXII: Kershawut of Africa
Tony Gwynn Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

In addition to television coverage on Prime Ticket and KCAL, the press conference introducing the new Dodger ownership team will be streamed at MLB.com and FoxSportsWest.com. Time permitting, I will live-blog some quotes in this space.

Vin Scully: “By the time the day is over, you will sense the following things … commitment, fan-friendly, definition of winning, complete and honorable way to get there, and above all, longevity.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Mark Walter: “A man who realizes that the owners of this team are really the people of this town.”

Scully, telling the tale of a young prospect. “The manager was asked, ‘Just how good is this kid, what’s his ceiling, how high can he go?’ The manager thought for a moment, and said, ‘His ceiling is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.’ It’s time now to meet the group that will take the Dodgers higher than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”

Walter: “Thank you, Mr. Scully.”

Walter: “This is really not about us. This is about the Dodgers. One of the most honored and storied franchises in history, with limitless pride and potential. And for us, the Dodgers begin with the fans. … We are passionate about making this organization the best it can be in every respect, from winning, to its relationship with the community and to all the philanthropic things it can be a platform with. We know this is going to be hard work, and it’s going to take time … but I promise you this commitment to work will be a labor of love.”

Magic Johnson: “I just talked to the employees. It starts with you, because if you’re the best, it trickles down to the players on the field.”

Johnson: “Yes, we’re in first place, but it’s early in the season, so we want to continue to support the team. We know we have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and the best player in baseball in Matt Kemp.”

Johnson: “We’re going to outwork everybody. I can’t wait until my office is done. … I told my team, I’m a man who gets up early and will be here early.”

Johnson: “Mr. O’Malley, thank you. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to go back to the time where you had it before.”

Johnson: “Chick Hearn used to call my games, the sweertst voice in basketball. And now I get the cahnce, the sweetest voice, I’m almost about to cry, and now I got Vin Scully.”

Johnson: “General parking is going down from $15 to $10.”

Stan Kasten: “The team, the fan experience and our relationship with our community. I assure you I could spend an hour on each of these subjects … and I’m just coming off a six-month gag order, so I’ve got a lot to say.”

Kasten: “A culture of winning – for me, that has always started and ended with a scouting and player development system … both domestically and increasingly important, internationally.”

Kasten: “The other commitment we want to make is our own personal availability and accessibility. … You won’t have to look for me. I’ll be on the concourse.”

Kasten: “Today I want to announce a special e-mail suggestion box: fanbox@ladodgers.com. We want to hear from all of you. Send us your thoughts and your suggestions … this is how we’re going to do it.”

Kasten: “We’re going to liberalize our policy for access to batting practice. We’re going to have more access for autographs.  We’re going to do a lot more with social media. … There will be times you will have players in full uniform greeting fans at the gate. The players understand why this is important. You never get any pushback – you just have to ask them.”

Scully: “Walking across the field with Ned Colletti, it seemed like just yesterday we were just introducing Joe Torre and the McCourts. And my mind began to wonder, and I realized I was there to see Branch Rickey hand off the franchise to Walter O’Malley.”

Rob Manfred, MLB executive: “Dodger fans have stayed loyal through difficult times, and we know this ownership group will reward them for their support.”

Scully: “I will finish with a disappointing note.  … They were going to have a small basketball court put out here, and Magic and I were going to go one on one, skins against the shirts. Unfortunately during the Washington Nationals series, I suffered a split infinitive and will not be able to contest.”

Moving on to the Q&A …

Kasten (slight paraphrase): “No team has had sustained success without a sound scouting and player development system. But we understand where we are, this market, this fan base … these fans deserve a team that can win, can repeat, can contend well. We intend to be aggressive with that as well. We’re not going to pass up any opportunity. We’re not going to wait for 25 kids to grow into their uniform.”

Johnson: “I’m gonna be involved — heavily.”

Walter: “A hundred percent of all the operations of this baseball team … everything that happens in Chavez Ravine and the Dodgers is controlled and managed by us, and all of the money from all that goes to the Dodgers. Former ownership does have an economic interest in the profits from the possible eventual development of any part of the property, but that’s down the road. In terms of current operations, parking, it’s not related to that.”

Johnson: “I don’t want the fans to think just because we wrote a big check that we’re gonna stop now. … We’re out to win, and we’re out to win for the fans. I don’t want that question to go, ‘Now we’re short on money.’ … I didn’t come here to not win and not give the fans a great experience, because they deserve that.”

Kasten: “During the due diligence phase of this purchase, I had a day where we brought in a dozen engineers to really survey the building. That’s why I referred to the back-of-the-house  things that need near-term attention: power, water, information systems. As far as enhancements, we have ideas. … Our plan is to retain those things that make this ballpark so special but try to upgrade the experience so that it’s more in keeping with what fans can expect in the 21st century. We think we can do both.”

Walter: “We don’t have any plans for development, but there’s 300 acres here. I don’t know what the future may or may not hold, but we don’t have any current plans.”

Kasten: “Nothing can be developed if we don’t think it’s good for our fans and (the franchise).”

Johnson: “Frank McCourt is not involved in any, shape, fashion. If you need me to come up, I’m 6-9. The rumors, we’re squashing them right now … his only future profits is from new development, if we do any. There’s nothing on the table.”

Johnson: “This franchise is moving forward with us. If (McCourt) is part of the future development, so what? … That’s how you got to get it sometimes. We own it. We control everything. Fans got to understand, we’re going to make sure we’re going to win and have a great team every day and that they’re going to have a great experience. … Frank’s not here, he’s not part of the Dodgers anymore — we should be clapping just for that.”

Walter: “It is a lot of money. I believe the value is there. If we do things right … I believe people will look back and say the value is there.

Scully: “I am telling each and every one of you right now — this is the last new ownership press conference I will ever attend.”

 

* * *

  • Using data from Baseball Info Solutions, ESPN.com determined that Jerry Hariston, Jr. was April’s top defensive player in the National League.

    … Hairston was able to make the good play and the great play. He finished April tied with Ryan Zimmerman for the major league lead with four Web Gems (including the No. 1 Gem on consecutive nights). He was credited with one Defensive Run Saved at second base, one at third base and two in left field.

    Hairston finished April with a Good Play/Misplay tally of 11 to 1 in only 15 games in his first month with the Dodgers.

    His highlight-reel play came on April 19 against the Milwaukee Brewers while playing third base, when he robbed Alex Gonzalez of the game-tying hit in the eighth inning with a diving stop and throw from his knees on a groundball down the line.

    The next day, he missed on a similar diving attempt against Jose Altuve of the Astros, but then sprinted into foul territory and threw a strike to second base to nail Altuve’s attempt at an extra-base hit.

    Hairston got six of our 10 first-place votes, and even someone who voted him second-best was quite impressed. “No matter where you put him on the field, he posseses the ability to make a dynamic play,” Singleton said. “His value as a utility player is as high as anyone on the defensive side.” …

  • Ted Lilly left Tuesday’s game after six innings and 79 pitches because of a stiff side muscle, while Juan Uribe re-injured his wrist during batting practice, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times. No immediate word on whether the pair might miss more playing time.
  • Albuquerque infielder Luis Cruz has known Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy since childhood, writes Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s ERA at Coors Field: 6.75 in 2011, 5.88 in his career (49 innings).
May 01

It’s all good … it’s all good

On a night that Dee Gordon hit his first major-league home run (off the upper deck, no less) …

On a night that Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis also hit taters …

On a night that Ted Lilly pitched an effective six innings …

On a night that Mark Ellis had four hits and fine defense …

On a night that Javy Guerra struck out the first and last batters of the ninth inning …

I’m not going to spend a moment worrying about what might have gone wrong in between.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 6.