Mar 28

Praising Burt Hooton

… (Chan Ho) Park made one more appearance before the Dodgers shipped him to Double-A San Antonio. There he met Burt Hooton, a pitching instructor and former Dodgers starter.

“Burt Hooton was my best friend my first two years,” said Park, who spent most of the 1995 season at Triple-A Albuquerque before breaking through with the Dodgers in ’96. “He was like an uncle to me. He cared about me, my emotions, while he was helping me learn techniques.

“One thing I told Ryu was that meeting good people is very important. I told him to try to make his pitching coach his best friend. When I got my first Major League win, I called Burt Hooton before I even called my parents. That’s how important he was to me.” …

— Ken Gurnick, MLB.com

When I ranked the top 50 Dodgers of all time a year ago for ESPNLosAngeles, Burt Hooton was 29th. But generally, you don’t hear much about him when the pantheon of great Dodgers is discussed.  Nice to see his name brought back to life, particularly in this extra, nurturing dimension.

Hooton gave the Dodgers 10 years of a 3.14 ERA and though he’s often thought of as a postseason goat thanks to one outing in Philadelphia, recovered to have a 2.79 ERA in his 10 other Dodger playoff games, including a remarkable 0.82 ERA over five 1981 postseason starts. (He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1981 National League Championship Series, pitching 14 2/3 shutout innings.) That’s some big stuff that no one ever talks about.

He managed to do this despite averaging five strikeouts per nine innings, a rate that would almost assuredly signify failure in this era. Opponents had a .659 OPS against Hooton over his 15-year career. Since 1972, Hooton has the eighth-best opponent OPS+ among all Dodger pitchers (minimum 600 innings).

Footnote: Hooton is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and was named the No. 4 college baseball player of the 20th century by Baseball America. Here is his induction speech …

Mar 27

Dodger pitching: Safety in numbers

‘Twas interesting, in the space of 24 hours, for relief pitcher Mark Lowe to go from Dodger camp to pitching against the Dodgers in the Freeway Series.

That the Dodgers would cut loose the 29-year-old Lowe, who was nothing extraordinary but fits the profile of the Jamey Wright types that annually make the Opening Day roster, was the latest indication of how overflowing the Dodger pitching staff is, five days shy of the 2013 season.

That depth is a key weapon for the team this season, because there is so much uncertainty over how healthy and effective so many of the pitchers will be, whether it’s concerns over Zach Greinke’s elbow, Chad Billingsley’s health and consistency or the legitimacy of Brandon League’s late-2012 revamp.

While roster decisions in general should be made based on talent and capability, I won’t mind if the Dodgers stash such relievers as Paco Rodriguez or Josh Wall in the minors (as they have with Javy Guerra and Shawn Tolleson) in order to test the 2013 mettle of those without minor-league options.

The last thing the Dodgers should do is rush into a low-value trade of one of their excess starting pitchers – Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly – just so they can make room for a Wall or Kevin Gregg in the back of their bullpen. If they can make a good deal, super – Los Angeles certainly has weak spots among the position players to address, namely in the infield and on that shaky bench. But the end of March is not time to give away starting pitchers for nothing, especially when the existing Dodger starting rotation has its own set of interrogative punctuation (or as they are popularly known, question marks).

It might mean you don’t have the most exquisite 25-man roster for Opening Day. You need to think about the long haul, and the 2013 season, like every other, will absolutely be a long haul.

Mar 25

Top target for 2014: Robinson Cano?

Years after those Matt Kemp-for-Robinson Cano rumors were all the rage, could they end up being teammates?

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors today listed the Yankee second baseman as the top free agent possibility of the 2013-14 offseason. Cano, who had a .929 OPS for New York last year, will be 31 1/2 when the 2014 season begins. Assuming all goes well for him this year, he’ll no doubt be the latest ballplayer to set some kind of salary record for position or age or what have you — but as you might have heard, the Dodgers are players in that game these days. On top of that, Los Angeles will have a vacancy at Cano’s position.

Of course, the Yankees figure to be players in that game as well — especially if they falter on the field in 2013, as so many expect, and will find themselves desperate not to lose such a key player.

* * *

Another interesting tidbit from MLB Trade Rumors today: Former Dodger Jamey Carroll explains why a 27-year-old minor-leaguer who has no negotiating power could still use an agent.

“They were into finding out who I was in the [Montreal Expos] organization,” Carroll said, “what the organization felt about me, and where I fit and what my chances were to keep getting opportunities.  I think that’s one of the most important things, where you sit within the organization.  How they view you and what goals they have for you, I think those are tough questions to ask and they were able to do that for me.  I was at a time where I had quite a few years in the minor leagues and wasn’t sure what my future held.  To me that was more important than worrying about contracts and shoe deals and stuff like that.”

Sep 18

A forever toast to the Toaster

Baseball Toaster chief Ken Arneson has returned to regular blogging. He explains his mission here. There’s probably no better blog to check out at this time.

At the same time, it’s hard not to love all the different tastes that Alex Belth has been bringing to Bronx Banter, or be thrilled that Bob Timmermann has been posting at the Portable Griddle, or savor every post by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods.

I feel we did everything we could to keep Baseball Toaster alive. I don’t regret our efforts, just that they didn’t succeed.

Sep 16

September 16 game chat

Stephen Fife is starting for the Dodgers today in place of Clayton Kershaw. If he pitches well, he might keep starting. There is also talk of the Dodgers using a four-man rotation for the stretch run, though that would mean some guys going on three days’ rest.

Anyway, given the possibility that Fife might not stick in the rotation, leaving only Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, I was wondering what the Dodgers’ record is for most consecutive starts by a non-homegrown player. That is your research assignment for the day …

Cardinals at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.

Sep 15

How we feelin’ now?

Two runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth  – on hits by Andre Ethier, Luis Cruz and Juan Rivera – win it for the Dodgers, who are now tied for the second wild-card spot with St. Louis.

Incredibly, however, the Dodgers might be moving forward without their top three starting pitchers, now that Clayton Kershaw is sidelined indefinitely with a hip injury. And Matt Kemp is walking wounded as well, though he made a key assist in the top of the ninth to keep the Dodgers close.

Sep 15

Luis Cruz, hero

Wrap your troubles in a two-run home run from Andre Ethier and a three-run home run from Luis Cruz, and dream your troubles away.

Cardinals at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, LF
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Joe Blanton, P