R.A. Dickey and Colorado: Climbing the mountain, falling off a cliff


All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.

You might have thought climbing the big mountain or publishing a book might be Dickey’s biggest accomplishments of the year, but perhaps not.

Dickey, as David Schoenfield of ESPN.com notes, has not only thrown consecutive one-hitters, but in his past six starts, “Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.”

Venerable New Yorker writer Roger Angell offered this:

… Dickey, whose full beard and peaceable appearance suggest a retired up-country hunting dog, is thirty-seven years old, with ten years and three prior big-league teams behind him, and hard work has brought him to this Shangri-La, perhaps only briefly. He’ll hope for another visit on Sunday, against the Yankees. Watching him, if you’ve ever played ball, you may find yourself remembering the exact moment in your early teens when you were first able to see a fraction of movement in a ball you’d flung, and sensed a magical kinship with the ball and what you’d just done together. This is where Dickey is right now, and for him the horrendous din of the game and its perpetual, distracting flow of replay and statistics and expertise and P.R. and money and expectation and fatigue have perhaps dimmed, leaving him still in touch with the elegant and, for now, perfectly recallable and repeatable movements of his body and shoulders and the feel of the thing on his fingertips.

* * *

Pitching is easy to predict – and hard too!

“Colorado’s rotation has undergone the most turnover and is the hardest to peg in the division, though you could say it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” I wrote in March for ESPNLosAngeles.com. “A look at Colorado makes one appreciate the apparent stability of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.”

Basically, while there were several grim preseason forecasts about how the Dodgers would do this season, the one thing I was most sure of was that they wouldn’t finish behind the Rockies, whose pitching seemed to be in disarray.

Vindication of that position has come throughout 2012, with the Rockies’ starting pitchers combining for an ERA of more than 6.00. That has brought one Jim Tracy to the brink of … something: a four-man starting rotation with pitch-count limits of 75 per game.

Here’s Rob Neyer’s take at Baseball Nation:

… Tracy’s just guessing, of course. And there’s another, perhaps larger issue. If Tracy sticks to that 75-pitch limit, he’ll routinely be turning to his bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. Now, if managers are crying for relief help with starting pitchers on 100-pitch limits — as they do, routinely — what’s going to happen with 75-pitch limits?

Theoretically, it could work. Tracy’s starters have been terrible, so he’s been going to his bullpen early in most games, anyway. The hope, I suppose, is that Tracy keeps going to his bullpen early, but with his starting pitchers allowing fewer runs than they have been. It’s a lot better to call the bullpen when you’re ahead 4-3 than when you’re losing 6-4.

So this should be interesting. For a week or two. Which, if history’s any guide, is how long this experiment will last.

Said Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN the Magazine:

… Tracy seemed almost stunned when talking to reporters about the plan. Obviously, this is not what he expected prior to the season when the Rockies were a trendy pick to win the NL West. Instead, just minutes before taking the field for batting practice Tuesday, Tracy gathered his pitching staff and told the players the surprising news.

The asterisk in the plan is that nothing is definite. Tracy conceded that anything could be modified should one of his starters excel during a particular start. The 75-pitch limit could be ignored. Heck, if Guthrie pitches well in relief, it’s not inconceivable to think that he would be placed back in the rotation.

For the past several weeks, Colorado reportedly has been looking to trade Guthrie — who is making $8.2 million this season, the highest salary on the pitching staff, excluding the injured Jorge De La Rosa. A demotion to the bullpen won’t help his trade market. But the only way for Guthrie to reclaim any trade value is to pitch well, and maybe pitching out of the bullpen is the solution.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Tracy said.

Hey, credit Tracy — at least it wasn’t bland and boring.

And finally, this from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

… The defining moment, with the beaker fizzing, will arrive when a starter actually performs well. But Tracy insisted that even if a starter is working a shutout, he will be removed at roughly 75 pitches.

“He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later,” Tracy said. “But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people.”

But as easy as Colorado’s woes might have been to predict, you might not be able to say the same about Atlanta’s – at least, that’s what Michael Barr of Fangraphs argues.

And Tim Lincecum’s struggles are another thing unto themselves, becoming fodder for a discussion of luck and pitching by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Saying that Tim Lincecum has been unlucky is probably not true. He’s struggling with his command, falling behind in counts more often, and throwing pitches that are rightfully getting crushed based on movement and location. If Wells had fouled off that fastball on Saturday, that would have been luck, so maybe you could argue that Lincecum is suffering from a lack of good luck (in that it’s quite possible that hitters aren’t missing his mistakes as often as they used to), but that’s not the same thing as suffering from bad luck.

And that’s why we should probably try to reduce our usage of the word luck to begin with. Yes, there are bloopers that fall in, broken bat squibs that find holes, or times when a defender just falls down and the pitcher gets blamed for his defensive miscue. There are definitely instances of luck in baseball, and they do effect the results that a pitcher is credited with. I’m not arguing against DIPS theory – I’m just saying that perhaps we should try to do a better job of talking about it when a guys results aren’t lining up with his process because he’s throwing bad pitches that hitters aren’t missing.

What Voros McCracken and the others who followed his research really showed us wasn’t that pitchers have no control over batted ball outcomes, but that the things that cause those gaps don’t hold up over time. Lincecum can be doing things that are causing him to give up a lot of runs now but history suggests that he won’t keep doing those things in the future. He’s either going to figure out how to fix his command or he’s going to change his approach to pitching, and he’s not going to keep locating 91 MPH fastballs middle-in at the belt with regularity. Maybe hitters will start missing his mistakes more often. Maybe he’ll start making fewer mistakes. Whatever the cause is, the effect is likely to be that Lincecum is going to get better results in the future than he has in the first two months of the season.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his poor results to date. The word luck absolves him of blame for the outcome, which shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do. Blame Tim Lincecum for throwing terrible pitches – just realize that it doesn’t mean that he’s going to keep throwing terrible pitches in the future.

* * *

Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …

  • http://twitter.com/Vin_Skully Vin Skully

    Vin is the best and I am glad that some other teams get to experience that since he does not do national TV broadcasts or the World Series anymore. My favorite from last night was when he was talking about the A’s Manager, Melvin, and after telling us how good a guy he was, he said “You’d like him.” If you say so Vin… That is good enough for me.
    We who grew up with Vin and Chick and Jim Murray were really spoiled. Here’s to Vinny never leaving us.

    • Anonymous

       Let’s not forget Bob Miller either.

  • Christopher Staaf

    I am definitely with Andrew Grant. Colletti is being lauded for doing things that GMs are expected to do, such as not trade away your ace pitcher and best position player. Expectations have been lowered so much that now people are applauding Colletti for doing things he’s suppose to be doing? That’s like patting me on the back for showing up to work on time. It’s expected of me to be on time. Pitiful.

    Outside of a World Series appearance, I would love to see Kasten drop Colletti so we can make a run at Andrew Friedman in Tampa Bay. I am sure the asking price from TB will be similar to what the Cubs gave the Red Sox for Epstein but it will be worth it. Colletti might not be as bad as some of us think he is, but he doesn’t even come close to the 10 best GMs in baseball. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    “Colletti might not be as bad as some of us think he is, but he doesn’t even come close to the 10 best GMs in baseball. ”
    That’s another way of stating what the BP article concluded. 

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Where were the Rockies a trendy pick to win the NL West? Everything I saw predicted the Diamondbacks, or Giants. A few had the Dodgers at least in contention. Don’t remember anyone looking at the Rockies wobbly rotation, as you rightly concluded, and seeing a definite contender. I guess someone must have, though.  Anyway, Tracy’s understandably desperate but unless all of their pen is pretty solid I doubt this will work.

    Meanwhile, I didn’t like B McCarthy during the game itself last night but otherwise like the guy and his Scully comment is swell. Good guy, that Brandon. 

  • Anonymous

    What’s funny about the Andrew Grant article is that Ned’s decisions that make him superior to Bobo the Chimp were derided by many internet savants at the time as huge mistakes. Needless to say, I am enjoying my Dodgers blogs even more than usual these last few days.

  • foul tip

    Back to Harang’s walksterpiece last night….in not even 4 IP,  8 BBs and 6 Ks?

    Who does he think he is, early Nolan Ryan?

    • Anonymous
    • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

      “walksterpiece” <– nice.

    • Anonymous

      >> Back to Harang’s walksterpiece last night….in not even 4 IP,  8 BBs and 6 Ks?
      >> Who does he think he is, early Nolan Ryan?
      .
      No.  Early Koufax.  :)

  • foul tip
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    Re, Ned…I commented on this a couple of posts ago, so my apologies if I am repeating myself.

    All GM’s make mistakes, and all GM’s have little victories. Because of this, it’s difficult to judge on track record alone. I personally believe that Ned’s track record is mediocre-to-poor, but I can see how a reasonable fan would argue the other way. So…if not track record, then…WHAT…exactly?

    I believe you have to see evidence of a process of decision making, a process backed by strong analytics and an overriding philosophy of how you want your team to play the game. In this manner, you can lessen the chance of making the big mistake (hello there, Juan Uribe, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Octavio Dotel). When I look at Ned, I see zero evidence of any process at work, of any analytics being applied, or of any overriding philosophy. What I see is a guy throwing darts at a board…or bobbing for apples.

    • Anonymous

      He consistently signed flawed second-tier guys to 2-3 year contracts or question mark vets to 2 years. I don’t think Ned’s process is that difficult to discern, and it’s probably dictated in large parts by the financial constraints under which the Dodgers have to compete.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

        I view his fetish for the Adam Kennedy’s of the world as evidence of a lack of process, particularly analytics.

        • Anonymous

          I’m not sure why you would say that, Terry. It’s not like Ned goes into every off-season looking for an Adam Kennedy. Guys like AK get signed to fill out the bench because they are above replacement and they are willing to play on the cheap.

          If you look at Ned’s major signings, you can see the process at work. He goes for proven guys with flaws. Some times they fail spectacularly (Jones, Schmidt, Uribe), sometimes they work (Furcal, so far Harang, Capuano, Ellis). Overall, he’s spent more bad money than good.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

            I find it hard to believe that his process is to go after proven guys with flaws. I think it’s better to say he has no process at all. I agree with your last sentence wholeheartedly.

          • Anonymous

            Proven guys without flaws command 8-figure salaries, something Ned doesn’t have the freedom to dish out.  That leaves you a choice between proven guys with flaws or unproven guys who may or may not have flaws.  Ned has consistently chosen the former, hoping to find Hiroki Kuroda in a haystack of Kei Igawas.  Whether you call that a process or a strategy or just the rules he has had to operate under, it’s a pretty consistent approach.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    By the way…it’s wonderful to see Roger Angell still writing, and still writing beautifully. The anthologies they used to publish of his work in the New Yorker (The Summer Game; Late Innings) were basically masterpieces.

  • Anonymous

    I went to last night’s game, a last minute decision on my part, but it’s easy to get walkup tickets at the Mausoleum. The presence of Dodger fans was palpable and, at times, there were rival but good-natured “Let’s Go Dodgers” and “Let’s Go Oakland” chants that eventually melded into one. Watching Harang was agonizingly tedious, but at least he outpitched Zito, whose outing last night was positively Lincecumesque.

    • Anonymous

      Certain that wasn’t a Gnat fan in the Jones jersey for spite?

      • Anonymous

         Perhaps he became a Gnat fan after the lobotomy.

  • Anonymous

    I’m no Colletti defender, but I think we’re probably too hard on him here.  For every Adam Kennedy, there has been a Jerry Hairston; for every Loretta an Aaron Miles; for every Garret Anderson, a Bobby Abreu.  Letting Russell Martin go in favor of Rod Barajas was the right move.  Uribe has been a disaster, but lIt’s not like the Dodgers have had a lot of better options at third. Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche haven’t exactly been tearing it up.  Trayvon Robinson isn’t making anybody forget Jackie or Frank.  The outcries that accompanied so many of the guys Ned traded away have faded away now that supposedly can’t-miss prospects like Jonathan Meloan failed to materialize.  Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang (last night’s march of dimes walkathon notwithstanding) meanwhile, have all been far better than anybody here expected. 

    I still dislike Ned’s preference for over-the-hill veterans, but enough of them have proven to be useful cogs that I can’t say his theory doesn’t have at least some value.  And he does deserve some credit for not trading away Kershaw, Kemp, Ethier, and even Billingsley.  You can’t say with certainty that some other GM, under pressure from a dumb owner, wouldn’t have sent one of those guys away for immediate cash-free help in 2008 or 2009. 

    • Anonymous

       Well said.

    • Anonymous

      if i would run off to college, come back (what is it, 4 years?) this is something i would have written slash posted, or something i would have LIKED to have written slash posted…

      here-here.

    • Anonymous

      You go much too far when you say he deserves credit for not trading Kershaw. Teams do not trade the 7th pick in the draft without giving that player a chance to work out. Kershaw worked out fast. The worst another GM would have done is have Kershaw spend a little more time in the minors. Including Kershaw in your list is the worst single thing in your post.
      Trading Kemp was suggested by some fans; but, Colletti is not a risk taker and it would have been a tremendous risk to trade Kemp after 2010; and, why would you have traded him before that.
      Trade Ethier? When? Colletti would have had to get offense back, not as risky as trading Kemp but too risky for Colletti.
      All these are in some strange way like praising Colletti for not trading Loney which, obviously in hindsight, he should have done.

      • Anonymous

         Agree on Kershaw, but read back through some old DT posts and you’ll find there was an awful lot of folks calling for Kemp to be moved.

        • Anonymous

          I pointed that out myself but it was in 2010 making such a trade too risky for a belt-and-suspenders man like Colletti.

      • Anonymous

        Also, I do not remember Jon Meloan as being can’t miss. I don’t even remember a negative reaction when he was a throw-in in the trade for Casey Blake. Meloan was having a bad half season at our AAA team in Las Vegas although he had pitched well statistically in his 3 minor league seasons up until then.
        Ted Lilly has, in fact, been worse than I expected so you are incorrect about that since I was here at the time of the trade for him.

      • foul tip

        Agreed that Ned’s thing is redundancy–not risk.  He wants backups to backups to backups. 

        Versatility off the bench is a good thing to have.  But four hamburgers do not a ribeye make. 

        It may have been forced by ownership monetary and other constraints, but Ned has been mostly a tinkerer around the edges.

        One thing we never will know is how involved McTort actually was in player personnel and pay issues.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on Ned continually to spend less, especially after some of the more costly FA disasters.

        After Schmidt, A. Jones, Pierre to a degree (though Pierre pretty much delivered exactly what should have been expected), and Esteban Loaiza (my pick for dumbest move even if not the most costly), he didn’t exactly have much standing to argue if pressured.  I may have left out some other lemons, but these are prime examples.

        Ned did take quite a bit of risk with some of these FA signings, the results of which probably cured him of the habit.

        Question:  given how Loney produced when he first came up and in stretches in recent years, when do you think he should have been traded?  I don’t disagree.  Just wondering about timing.

        • Anonymous

          I obviously agree with your first 2 sentences. 
          All I was saying on Loney was that in hindsight he should have been traded when he had some value.

          • Anonymous

            Loney never had value except his low salary. No one was giving up anything of value for Loney once he was set to make $5+ mil. per year. And even before that, teams don’t give up prospects for a proven bad hitter who will become useless once arbitration sets in, at least not prospects with any upside.

        • Anonymous

          Backups to backups to backups? Other than LF, I can’t think of any position where Ned went out and signed backups to start. Mark Ellis is a starter, Uribe was an MLB starter for a WS team. Neither Jones nor Pierre were backups when we signed them. Who are these backups to backups to backups?

          • foul tip

            Never said Ned signed backups to start.  And reference was to past years, not this. 

            I think there have been stories various places about Ned’s comfort level stockpiling various pieces due to almost certainty of injuries over a season.

            He’d probably argue that it’s adding versatility.  Others might argue that it’s adding deadwood, like possibly a couple infield signings this past offseason, including he who must not be named.

            Based on his actions I wouldn’t be surprised if Ned’s biggest nightmare is for a player to go down and there be no replacement and him to get fired. Injuries have to concern any GM, but a good GM strikes a balance between risk and contingency plans.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with you there completely. Ned is not a good GM who can walk that fine line between a safe bench and a risky bench with some upside.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Casey-Barker/100003908968118 Casey Barker

    Bobo the chimp GM probably refers to Tommy LaSorda during his stint as GM.

  • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

    I am having difficulty ascertaining Ned’s general worth without a full blown Cogs and Dogs from @Jon_Weisman:disqus . Just sayin’.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Yankees have four home runs today – and are losing 6-4 in the sixth inning to the Braves, who also have four home runs.

    • Anonymous

      And now it’s 5 for the Braves.

      • Anonymous

        Takes us almost two weeks to do that.

        • Anonymous

          2 weeks at best.

          • Anonymous

            It took me a few moments to remember our last one, Rivera’s 3 run shot i believe (I may be wrong)

  • Anonymous

    Holy Jay Howell Batman, Joel Peralta was tossed out of the Nats/Rays game last night (without even throwing a pitch) for having pine tar in his glove.  The umpire said it was a lot of pine tar. The fact that Peralta was a Nat a couple of years ago might have factored into the discovery.

    • Anonymous

      Davey Johnson was the manager who called the umps attention to it in ’88 and last night.

      • Anonymous

        If memory serves me correctly, I believe Jay Howell was ejected from game 3. That was the game where Gibby made that fantastic catch falling down on the wet grass at Shea.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe Johnson ever managed Jay Howell though.  This is one where we are going to hear for a while about baseball’s unwritten rules.

    • Anonymous

      Not to mention manliness and clutchiness.  One of them is next to godliness.  Or at least close to it. Or maybe that’s cleanliness.  

      • Anonymous

        Don’t forget truthiness!  :)

  • Anonymous

    Tonight’s starting lineup anyone?  How do you guys get that so early anyway?

    • Anonymous

      Well, I know you can make up the mlb.com Gameday website address for the game pretty easily.  For tonight’s it’s http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2012_06_20_lanmlb_oakmlb_1&mode=gameday  However, the lineup isn’t available there yet.
      .
      I don’t know if there’s anyplace you can get it earlier than that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      Gordon SS
      Herrera RF
      Ethier DH
      Rivera 1B
      Hairston 2B
      Abreu LF
      Uribe 3B
      Gwynn CF
      Ellis C
      (Eovaldi P)

      The Dodgers tweet it out some hours before each game.

      • Anonymous

        The ignominy: AJ Ellis hitting ninth!  He has the highest on-base percentage of any player on the team save for the injured Matt Kemp. Maybe a genius from St. Louis drew up this lineup so that there would be more runners on base for Ethier to strand. 

      • Anonymous

        Mattingly still fascinated with playing Uribe :(

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    In the category of “amusing author tricks which pay homage to his favorite baseball team” I ran across this one yesterday in a book entitled “Off Armageddon Reef,” a 2007 sci-fi novel by David Weber which takes place on a planet a long way from here but colonized by exiles from Earth. The title game of the Kingdom Championship Series is in the 7th inning of Game Seven and the home team Krakens are down by two with the bases loaded, their weak-hitting pitcher up and their shortstop on deck. The pitcher’s name? Zhan Smolth. The shortstop’s name? Rafayl Furkal.

    Smolth hits a triple on an 0-2 count, clearing the bases and putting the Krakens ahead. Furkal then drags a bunt down the first base line as Smolth takes off for home. Smolth makes it and Furkal beats the throw to first. Krakens up by two.

    Unfortunately, at that point the narrative moves on and the reader never finds out whether Smolth or the bullpen hold the lead. Rats.

    • Anonymous

      Please oh please tell me somebody uttered the line “Release the Krakens. . . from their obligation to pay Smolth through next season.”

      • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

         Heck no! He was an All-Star pitcher who just hit the triple which put the team ahead in Game 7! Why would they want to be rid of him?

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that Dbacks-Mariners final score sounds like a football game!

    • Anonymous

      A thrilling 1- nil match where both teams peppered the opponent’s goal?

      • Anonymous

        No, two touchdowns beating a touchdown and a field goal.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT