Jun 11

There are statistics, and then there is knowledge of statistics

From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com last night.

Mattingly wavered on whether League (who saved his three previous chances but has blown four overall this year) would remain the closer.

“Tonight the numbers said to go with Brandon,” he said. “Does that mean keep the guy? I don’t know. It’s hard to make that decision 12 minutes after the game.”

But he defended his decision to use Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning against Bloomquist, Goldschmidt and Cody Ross (Jansen retired all three) and use League for the bottom of the order. He pointed to the statistical matchups and said if the batting orders had come up the other way, he would have used League in the eighth and Jansen in the ninth.

“If you want to play sabermetrics, those were the best matchups,” he said. “The guys Kenley got are the guys he gets out better than Brandon. The matchups should have been exactly the way it was. But if it doesn’t work, it’s a bad decision. We talked before the game, the eighth and ninth [innings] were up in the air depending who comes up.

“I understand people boo when it doesn’t work out. It doesn’t make the game any less painful. Look up the numbers. I know it was a solid decision. The fact a solid decision doesn’t work, it’s a bad decision. Brandon has done the job in the past. If he gets them out, nobody says anything. As soon as he doesn’t get outs, it’s my fault he doesn’t.”

No. 3 hitter Goldschmidt is 3-for-3 with a homer against League and 2-for-7 with a homer against Jansen. No. 6 hitter Martin Prado, who had the first hit in the ninth off League, is now 1-for-2 against him, but was 3-for-3 with two homers against Jansen.

A debate who should pitch the ninth inning for a team that’s in last place is somewhat ridiculous when you think about it. The Dodgers are 27-36 with 99 games to play. They’ve got a lot of issues. Their issues have issues.

One of them may be teaching Don Mattingly (who, in his defense is like just about every other manager) about relevant sample sizes. I miss Jim Tracy talking about arm angles.

Jun 10

And to catch up

Hi, Bob Timmermann, sitting in for Jon for a few days. He’s off in the Middle East making a movie about a courageous Iranian journalist.

Oh, he’s not. But he’s on a vacation that requires a great deal of courage.

Anyway, I was out of town myself. But I’m back. And here’s how we can sum up tonight:

  • Yasiel Puig moved to the cleanup spot. He went 3 for 4, but didn’t drive in a run.
  • Clayton Kershaw held the first place Diamondbacks to one run over seven innings.
  • The Dodgers led 3-1 in the 8th and had the bases loaded with no outs with Jerry Hairston, who was 3 for 3 on the night at bat. Hairston bounced into a 5-2-3 DP, a call which likely no one agreed with.
  • Brandon League could not hold a 3-1 league, giving up three straight hits, then a walk, and then an infield hit by Willie Bloomquist to score two runs. Peter Moylan was called in to stop the bleeding, but he had to face Paul Goldschmidt, who singled in another run to make it 5-3.
  • But, there was hope in the bottom of the ninth. Juan Uribe led off with a home run off of Arizona closer Heath Bell. Tim Federowicz doubled to right as Gerardo Parra, the archnemesis of the Dodgers, couldn’t quite catch the ball.
  • Skip Schumaker, of 15-game hitting streak fame, sacrificed pinch runner Scott Van Slyke to third and reached first himself when Martin Prado couldn’t come up with the ball. Schumaker’s hitting streak lives another day! First and third and nobody out.
  • It was Nick Punto’s turn to be the hero. But he popped out to short left.
  • Then it Mark Ellis’ chances to be a hero. He had already homered. He was 3 for 4 against Bell in his career. As soon as you could say “small sample size warning,” Ellis struck out.
  • But there was still Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers best hitter over the course of the season with runners in scoring position. All Gonzalez could do was bounce back to Bell, who knocked the ball down and threw to first in time to send the Dodgers down to a 5-4 loss, their sixth in seven games against Arizona this season.
  • Yasiel Puig watched from the on deck circle.

And yet, we’ll probably still watch tomorrow.

 

Jun 06

Yasiel Slam Hits a Grand Puig

The Dodgers went from nursing a 1-0 lead with Braves on first and third in the top of the seventh and none out … to the bottom of the eighth and this …

“High fly into deep right field. I don’t believe it! A grand slam home run!” – Vin Scully.

“… nothing better to be absolutely speechless to sum up a situation, and that was the moment. Holy mackerel!”

If Yasiel Puig keeps this up, Vin might stick around another 20 years just to watch …

Jun 06

Dodgers draft pitcher Chris Anderson with top pick

With the 18th overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, the Los Angeleez Dodgers have selected  6-foot-4 righthanded pitcher Chris Anderson from Jacksonvile University.

From Baseball America:

CHRIS ANDERSON, RHP, JACKSONVILLE (@SeeAyy)

PICK ANALYSIS: We were light on Chris Anderson, ranking him at No. 45 in the BA 500, but it’s not a reach here. I’ve been writing for weeks that after the first half of the first round, things really spread out.

SCOUTING REPORT: Big and physical at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Anderson should give Jacksonville its first-ever first-round pick. Like the Dolphins’ third-round product of 2012, outfielder Adam Brett Walker, Anderson is a Minnesota prep product, and he’s evolved from the team’s closer as a freshman to its Friday ace as a junior. His performance has improved significantly through his college career, as he has boosted his strikeouts, cut his walks and become more consistent across the board. Early in the season, under a heavy workload, Anderson showed scouts a front-of-the-rotation fastball, pitching downhill and touching 96 mph. He’s usually in the 90-94 mph range, holds his velocity and throws strikes. He got strikeouts early both with the fastball and slider, which flashed plus. He also throws a much-improved changeup. Anderson generates velocity more from strength than arm speed, and most scouts see him as an innings-eater in the middle of a rotation. His timing helps, as a consensus starter in a year short on college arms.

WHERE HE FITS: With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig graduating, Anderson will rank in the top three in the Dodgers’ system.

From MLB.com:

Scouting Grades* (present/future): Fastball: 6/6 | Curve: 5/6 | Slider: 5/5 | Changeup: 4/5 | Control: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6

There might not have been another college arm who shot up draft boards more than this Jacksonville University ace during the spring. His rise slowed a bit with some struggles, perhaps caused by fatigue, in April. But he still has the size, stuff and command to potentially be a frontline starter at the highest level.

Anderson’s fastball will touch 97 mph and is consistently at least above average with good sink. He throws a nasty slider, and his changeup projects to be a legitimate weapon as well.

Anderson has above-average control and command and the ideal athletic frame scouts love to see in a pitcher. There’s room for gaining strength, which gives him a high ceiling as well.

More via SB Nation:

Keith Law, ESPN: ”Anderson has the size, roughly the fastball velocity and the potential out pitch in that slider to profile as a No. 2 starter.”

John Sickels, Minor League Ball: ”Strongly built at 6-4, 225, Anderson showed sharpened command this spring of a plus fastball/plus slider combination. His change-up has also improved, and he profiles as an inning-chewing mid-rotation starter.”

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: ”Anderson was a hot commodity early, but recent struggles have led to a fade. He could be this year’s Michael Wacha, who was in early 1-1 conversations last year but fell to St. Louis at No. 19.”

 * * *

Braves at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Yasiel Puig, RF
Nick Punto, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Andre Ethier, CF
Tim Federowicz, C
Skip Schumaker, 2B
Luis Cruz, 3B
Zack Greinke, P

Jun 06

The Loge Boat

It was with some trepidation that I accepted one of the invitations the Dodgers offered to bloggers to watch a game last month with my family in the new Loge Party Boxes at Dodger Stadium.

The boxes, which seat anywhere from six to 10 ticketholders, consist of a sectioned-off area with stool seating, and I was worried that the comfort level for the young and old among us would undermine our chances of enjoying the seats. In addition, the room the kids had to run around in the boxes threatened the ability for my wife and I to relax and take in the game.

What, me worry? Yes, me worry.

As it turned out, our fears were unfounded, and we had a nice time and can recommend the seats as an option for families and friends who want something a little special without springing for the extravagance of a Club level luxury suite. Yeah, the kids did climb around a bit, but all in all, they seemed more comfortable than normal.

My understanding is that the Loge party boxes cost roughly $20 per seat more than a regular Loge seat in the same area, though i was told that the pricing system might still be in flux. For that extra $120-$200, depending on the size of your box, you get leg room, concierge service, tables for food and coats, and the ability to mingle with your guests freely, instead of craning or leaning for every conversation. You also have mounted TV sets above you that allow you to see instant replays (and compensate for the slightly blocked 12-o’clock view, as seen up top).

If your top priority is simply to watch the game, you can get more bang for your buck. But if your goal is to hang with family or friends, without disappearing from the game the way a luxury suite often encourages you to do, the Loge party box is a worthy option.

Jun 05

Kershaw CLXII: Kershawrdergarten Cop

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Yasiel Puig, Earth and the stars
Skip Schumaker, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, CF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

* * *

Your Los Angeles Disabled Listers

1a) Scott Elbert, left elbow surgery recovery
2) Ted Lilly, left shoulder surgery recovery
3) Hanley Ramirez, torn ligament in right thumb
4a) Chad Billingsley, right index finger contusion.
5) Zack Greinke, fractured left collarbone
6) Shawn Tolleson, lower back strain
7a) Chris Capuano, left calf strain
8 ) Ted Lilly, right rib cage strain
9) Hanley Ramirez, left hamstring strain
10) Mark Ellis, right quadriceps strain
11) Jerry Hairston, left groin strain
4b) Chad Billingsley, Tommy John surgery
12) Josh Beckett, left groin strain (and right arm nerve issues)
13) Matt Kemp, right hamstring strain
7b) Chris Capuano, left shoulder latissimus strain
14) Carl Crawford, left hamstring strain
15) A.J. Ellis, left oblique strain.
1b) Scott Elbert, left ulnar collateral ligament tear

Jun 04

Hardy HR HR: Puig conquers the heavens

There is approximately a seven-second delay between when tweets from Dodger Stadium appear on my home computer and when the events they are describing appear on the small TV next to it.

When Yasiel Puig came up in the bottom of the sixth inning, his first career double and home run (and error) already to his credit, the Dodgers nursing an unlikely 7-6 lead courtesy of the second RBI hit of the entire season by Luis Cruz, I was just starting to settle in for what might be a thrilling at-bat, a rocket ship to the moon.

And then, before I even got my seat belt on, the rocket launched.

The Dodgers tweeted. Eric Stephen tweeted. My TV showed only ball one. And my heart dropped down a mineshaft into my gut.

Yasiel Puig, phenomenon.

Tonight was going to be the night we would all let the Puig hysteria take a breather. He might get a hit, he would strike out a couple of times, he would make that error, and after Monday’s stunning start, we’d load up for the long haul.

Instead, on a night at Dodger Stadium that probably eclipses even emotion felt following the pinch-hit Manny Ramirez grand slam of 2009, a night that the Dodgers came back and held on for a 9-7 victory over San Diego, you needed to defibrillate all of Los Angeles.

Puig is the first major-league player with at least two homers and five RBI in his second game in 64 years. He is 5 for 8 with 12 total bases in his 27-hour-old Dodger career. But the stats don’t do the phenomenon justice.

If Matt Kemp came on as the Bison, what is Puig? Beast of the Cuban Wild? If I’m Hushpuppy, this is what he looks like to me.

I don’t think I’m alone. Puig’s exploits brought youthful thrills from Vin Scully, who shouted “Que viva Cuba, viva Puig!” as each moment topped the last.

“If you joined us late,” said Scully, “I’m sorry.”  And that was before Puig’s second homer, an opposite-field laser over the right-field wall.

As the Dodgers fell behind 3-0 in the second inning and 5-2 in the fourth, starting pitcher Ted Lilly bringing nothing to tonight’s party, my thought was that Puig won’t mean a whole lot to the Dodgers if the Dodgers can’t get guys out. Monday’s victory, after all, was as much about Dodger pitchers holding San Diego to one run over the first eight innings as it was about Puig and the defense holding them down in the ninth.

But Puig forestalled that reality, with help from Tim Federowicz, who turned hard on a second-inning Clayton Richard pitch and hit a two-run second-inning homer down the left field line, and Cruz, who reached base twice for only the third time this season. Puig’s first homer, with Federowicz and Cruz aboard, bridged a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the fifth, before the second homer gave the Dodgers the eighth and ninth runs they would need in hanging on to victory.

So tonight, once again, we soar to the sky. Viva Puig! Tomorrow, we return to Earth. Right? Right?

With Yasiel Puig in right field, and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, I’m not so sure.

Jun 03

I got this, boys

Looking up with childlike anticipation into the pure nighttime Dodger sky, Yasiel Puig sees the one-out, ninth inning, Kyle Blanks fly ball that he’s going to catch and then rifle back from the warning track to double up Chris Denorfia at first base to end the game.

Yasiel Puig went 2 for 4, and the home runs came from Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke, but his arm will be the legend of his major-league debut, a 2-1 Dodger victory. That throw was a work of art.

Jun 02

Saviors

Life is jagged lines.

In the majors, Yasiel Puig shouldn’t be expected to match the .383 on-base percentage and .599 slugging he has put up with Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, though to be clear, the Southern League isn’t nearly as deceptive a hitting environment as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Scott Van Slyke, for example, has a major-league OPS with the Dodgers this year of .909 following an Albuquerque OPS of 1.236. The gap should be less for Puig, and if it is, he’ll be hitting better than Andre Ethier is now.

As a result, there are few scenarios in which Puig’s arrival in Los Angeles on Monday won’t improve the Dodgers. Puig will play in the outfield and likely be more productive than the guy he’s replacing, Skip Schumaker. While he will still serve as a late-inning defensive replacement, Schumaker can also spend more time in the infield and be more productive than the guy he takes at-bats away from, Luis Cruz.

By my appropriation of the transitive property, that is the low bar that Puig needs to clear to be an asset. That doesn’t speak to what kind of leap Puig will actually make. Puig could be a band-aid for this struggling team, or he could be bionic. At different times, he’ll be both.

Life is jagged lines. Puig, like everyone else, will go up and down and down and up, his graph of success as prickly as a porcupine. He will have good games and bad games and games where you can’t decide what they were.

He will be like the last savior in the outfield, Matt Kemp.

Some Dodger fans have little sense of irony, but you have to admire how the rapid and rabid revolt against Kemp for his shortcomings in 2013 has been accompanied by urgent calls for him to be replaced by the player who most resembles him.

Seven years ago, Kemp was Puig – the raw kid with talent to burn and lessons to learn. Puig, like Kemp did when he hit the majors at age 21 in 2006, has a hugely bright future. But anyone putting their faith in Puig will almost certainly at some point need a level of patience that many fans have denied Kemp whenever he has struggled, no matter how much he has done for his team. 

In 2007 and 2009, Kemp was hugely productive. In 2008 and 2010, people were calling for him to be traded.

Last May, he was the best player on the planet. This May? Read these letters to the Los Angeles Times.

It’s hard to believe that Matt Kemp has made the Dodgers’ $160-million investment disappear quicker than Bernie Madoff ever could have.

Herb Schoenberg
Tarzana

* * *

I have never heard of a team being worse off if a guy that’s hitting .251 with two home runs and 17 RBIs goes on the disabled list. I’m pretty sure that a minor leaguer could equal or exceed those numbers in half the time. How does Matt Kemp injure his hamstring when he hardly, if ever, goes full speed?

Geno Apicella
Placentia

* * * 

Lest we forget, Matt Kemp is a paid performer and he’s not earning his keep. Baseball is a business. At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance. Kemp would do well to invoke the ghost of the late Lyman Bostock who memorably asked the late Buzzie Bavasi, then the GM of the Angels, to withhold his salary because of poor performance.

Skip Nevell
Los Angeles

They’re all good, but Nevell’s is my favorite. “At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance.”

“Long ago.” Just let that roll around in your head for a minute.

It never ceases to amaze me how many baseball fans act as if they’ve never seen a player slump, much less struggle to recover from surgery. They expect straight lines. I don’t know why, because in baseball, they don’t exist. The only straight lines in baseball go from home plate toward the right-field and left-field corners.

Even Mike Trout got the derisive whispers this past April. Imagine.

There’s no mistaking how difficult it has been to watch Kemp play this year. I don’t know exactly what his future holds, but I don’t see any reason to believe that what we’ve seen this season is the best we’ll see from him for the rest of his days. I don’t understand how baseball fans can have such short memories, when it’s a game built on lasting ones.

Kemp made a name – and a nickname – for himself out of the gate in 2006, hitting seven home runs in his first 15 games. A month later, he was back in the minors. I’m excited about Yasiel Puig’s arrival – curiosity, hope and the potential of witnessing the birth of greatness are a good combination to have when tuning into a game, especially when your team is in last place. But I pray I’m not alone in anticipating how uneven the road might be, not only over the coming days, but also weeks, months and years. It doesn’t pay to be too hopeful or too cynical.

Life is jagged lines, and baseball is life.