Aug 07

The anti-’Moneyball’: ‘Trouble With the Curve’

“Trouble with the Curve,” starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, comes to theaters September 21. “Trouble with the Curve” looks like “Revenge on ‘Moneyball,’” though both have father-daughter stuff going on.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P
Aug 04

August 4 game chat

Cubs at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXIX: Kershawtime at the Apollo
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

There’s a real possibility that A.J. Ellis (10 so far) will finish the year with more home runs than Andre Ethier (11 so far). In his past 50 games, Ethier has a .332 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage with two homers.

Aug 03

Tweet Yo Self: Scully beguiled by Ellis’ big night

Even after ESPN the Magazine writer Molly Knight explained Twitter to Vin Scully earlier this year, the beloved Dodger broadcaster still hadn’t quite mastered it as of earlier this week, when he was charmingly saying such things as “The twit read …” Tonight, however, after Scully received a Twitter refresher course, the social media outlet became the spine of his broadcast tonight.

A.J. Ellis was a major part of tonight’s Twitter talk by Scully, and darned if Ellis didn’t have the most productive game of his career, hitting two solo home runs and singling for a third RBI in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Cubs.

“They are trending, twittering, tweeting, you name it, about ‘A.J. Ellis’ all over the United States,” Scully said mid-game, before signing deeply, almost exhaustedly, adding, “Ahhhh – he’s a nice boy.”

The way Scully got Twitter talking about Ellis was reminiscent of the way he would get the transistor radio crowd at Dodger Stadium in the 1960s to follow his lead.

Ellis and Hanley Ramirez, who had two hits and two RBI, weren’t the only Dodgers to give fans something to flap their fingers over.  Chad Billingsley went seven breezy innings, allowing six baserunners on 105 pitches while striking out seven. In three starts since coming off the disabled list, Billingsley has pitched 20 1/3 innings and allowed only 15 hits and three walks while striking out 13. His ERA in that time is 0.89, and he continues to maintain his season-long progress in attacking the strike zone.

Aug 03

Mark Walter: Not an absentee owner

Cubs at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

The Dodgers have put a waiver claim in on Cliff Lee, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, though it’s still unlikely that they’ll end up with the Phillies lefty.

That makes this piece by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com on Dodger ownership leader Mark Walter that much more timely.

… After missing out on Ryan Dempster at the deadline, the Dodgers’ brass was insistent it wasn’t done dealing. In fact, when I caught up with him on the field Tuesday afternoon, new controlling owner Mark Walter was openly hinting at that idea.

“Do you really ever want to say we did enough?” Walter said. “That’s not an attitude I really want a lot of around here. I guess if the entire All-Star team is on your team, you could feel like you had enough. But I don’t want to think that way. That’s now how you want to look at it. …

… Walter actually has been at the stadium quite a bit, and when he’s there, he’s often down on the field or in the clubhouse before games. He’s not shy, either.

When I joked with him about how much money he had spent in the last few weeks, he laughed and said, “Yeah, I guess I have.”

He described the trade deadline as something of a roller-coaster ride, said he was hanging on every phone call from Kasten or GM Ned Colletti and wasn’t doing much to conceal some disappointment he felt at not being able to do even more.

In other words, Walter’s invested — and not just financially. …

Ted Lilly, meanwhile, has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation, tweets Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

Aug 03

Are the Dodgers looking for Lee-way?

The thought of Cliff Lee becoming a Dodger came alive Thursday when Philadelphia placed the lefthander on revocable waivers.

The Dodgers theoretically have the capacity to take on a contract that would pay Lee, who turns 34 this month, at least $94 million through 2016, if no National League team with a poorer record claims him. The Phillies then could work out a deal with the Dodgers (or simply hand Lee over), or Philadelphia could just “Thanks, but just teasing.”

One question I have is why Lee would have value to the Dodgers but not the Phillies, who don’t figure to be rebuilding for long. If we think Lee still has talent, than Philadelphia should keep him. If we think that talent is fading fast, the Dodgers shouldn’t want him.

As for whether they should go for Lee — well, if money is no object for the Dodgers, then money is no object. But if there is a limit, however high, I can understand why they might balk at the price. Not wanting to pay a mid-30s pitcher about $25 million a year isn’t a case of being cheap.

Still, it’s something to think about. Here’s an excerpt from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Based on the contracts currently on the books, the Dodgers have $135 million already allocated to players under team control for 2013, while A.J. Ellis is their only significant arbitration eligible player. So, if their payroll target was $175 million (which, keep in mind, is a number I pulled out of thin air, and may not actually represent their budget), that would leave them about $35 million to spend to fill out the roster, meaning they could take Cliff Lee’s contract and still have enough left to buy a new first baseman. While Lee’s contract would be a budget buster for most organizations, it might not prevent the Dodgers from making further upgrades in other areas as well.

And, to be honest, there’s probably not a better use of that money available in free agency this winter. Before the season started, the assumption was that the Dodgers would make a huge push for either Cole Hamels or Joey Votto — or both — but they have since re-signed with their clubs, eliminating them from possible consideration. That leaves the big name targets this winter as Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and potentially Zack Greinke, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Angels first. There’s certainly some nice players in there, but besides Greinke and Hamilton, no one in that group has the potential impact that Lee would have, and both of those guys come with their own set of risks as well.

And, of course, there’s also the fact that signing a free agent this winter does nothing to help you win in 2012. Yes, if you think you could get Greinke for something close to that same $110 million you’d be committing to Lee, then you might prefer the younger pitcher, but present value has to be a factor as well, and the contending Dodgers are in the sweet spot where every marginal upgrade represents a significant return.

The upgrade would over Stephen Fife — who has racked up a whopping seven strikeouts in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A — would likely add about +1.5 wins to the Dodgers regular season total, and Lee would represent a substantial upgrade to their potential playoff rotation as well. Going from second place finisher to NL West champions could return as much as $30 to $40 million in additional revenues if the Dodgers made a World Series run. Even a first round playoff victory probably nets the team an additional $5 to $10 million in revenue from future ticket sales and the attendance boost that goes with generating excitement in the fan base. …

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Dylan Hernandez of the Times have more, as does Buster Olney of ESPN.com: “Before the deadline, the Phillies made it clear to any team interested in Lee that not only would they not pick up any of the $97 million owed to the left-hander, they also would want top prospects in return. So it’d be a shocker if the Phillies moved Lee in a waiver deal.”

* * *

  • Yasiel Puig has played his first two games as a Dodger minor-leaguer, going 0 for 4 in his first but hitting a single and triple in his second. ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted after the triple that Puig “didn’t even square it up but still sent it about 400 feet to LCF track.” Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness passed along video of Puig’s debut from Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout.
  • Whose spots on the Dodger 40-man roster might be expiring? Petriello takes a look.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is examining the Dodger farm system, position by position. Here’s catcher and first base.
  • James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score writes about “Hanley Ramirez and Disappointing Primes.”
  • A Martinez is going public, with a 9 a.m. weekdays sports radio show on NPR’s KPCC 89.3 FM, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Framework has a photo showing Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour raising money for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team at a telethon.
Aug 02

So, who wins the National League West?

How about an off-day predictions thread? Friday marks the start of the two-month countdown to the end of the regular season, one in which the National League West might not deliver any wild-card representation. So who do you think will win the division title?

Aug 01

Nope – it’s Abreu

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P

Well, I was wrong. The Dodgers have designated Bobby Abreu for assignment to make room on the roster for Shane Victorino.

Abreu OPSed .905 in his first 33 games as a Dodger, through June 11, but since then the outfielder has been 16 for 90 with 11 walks and two extra-base hits in 37 games for a .490 OPS.

I’m genuinely surprised. In this money-is-no-object era for the Dodgers, I still see more potential for Abreu to help in the stretch run than Juan Uribe.

* * *

  • Victorino will wear No. 8 with the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly switching to No. 12. The switch-hitting Victorino is wearing the same number as the switch-hitting Reggie Smith did as a Dodger in the 1970s. Smith took No. 8 because Steve Yeager already had the outfielder’s preferred No. 7.
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked the prospects traded at the deadline this week. Ethan Martin is 11th, Scott McGough 24th, Logan Bawcom 25th and Leon Landry 30th out of 43.
  • Goldstein also produced a new ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, with Zach Lee on the list at 47.
  • In the wake of Martin’s departure, the Dodgers promoted Andres Santiago to Double-A Chattanooga, reports Robert Emrich for MLB.com. The 22-year-old righty had a 1.76 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 41 innings for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in July, while allowing only 21 hits and nine walks.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. had an obscure but memorable throw, captured by Chad Moriyama.
  • Buster Olney names 10 leading August trade candidates in his column for ESPN.com.
  • This past weekend, I discussed Chad Billingsley’s season-long improvement in throwing strikes. At Fangraphs, Michael Barr delves deeper, noting that Billingsley is “going to his four seam fastball far more regularly and he’s almost abandoned his cutter.”
  • A year after it happened, the Trayvon Robinson trade gets a positive review from Scott Andes at Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Dodger Stadium cuisine was recently reviewed by Jeanne Fratello of the Jolly Tomato.
  • Former Dodger general manager Dan Evans had a post-deadline live chat today at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Houston finished July with a 3-24 record, the worst July any team has had in at least 50 years, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
  • With no further introduction, a recent piece from Josh Wilker.
Aug 01

Who will vacate for Victorino?

When Shane Victorino takes the field in Los Angeles, who will depart?

We’ll find out soon enough, but if you’re asking me now, I say Juan Uribe, contract and all.

Uribe has one plate appearance since July 22. He has been rendered mootational by the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Victorino, the latter freeing Jerry Hairston Jr. to focus more on the infield.

Uribe is clearly the 25th man on the roster at this point, with Elian Herrera in the minors as a backup and Dee Gordon and Adam Kennedy both waiting in the wings to come off the disabled list later this month.

I don’t see any chance the Dodgers let Bobby Abreu go, despite his recent slump, because there’s still hope for him as a pinch-hitter. And while Tony Gwynn Jr., who is a Uribe-like 7 for 50 with four walks and one extra-base hit since July 1, doesn’t figure to have much of a role with the team now, I think the Dodgers still like him as a bench player.

The most likely alternative to cutting Uribe is that the Dodgers could follow the Herrera model and send down Luis Cruz to Albuquerque, given that Ramirez is planning to move to shortstop (at least until Gordon is activated). Since they essentially did this once before with Herrera, they could do it again, with Hairston serving as the backup shortstop while sharing third base with Uribe.  But I’m just not quite believing it’s going to happen this time, not with Cruz slugging .474 in his past 14 games and playing steady defense. I think if the Dodgers still had plans for Uribe, he would have seen more than three innings of action in the past 10 days.

The Dodgers could make a move in the bullpen, but I think that will be independent of Victornio’s arrival.  Ronald Belisario is certainly looking like a disabled list candidate – something seems wrong with the righty, who in his past 11 games has pitched 11 innings and allowed 11 runs. Shawn Tolleson could go down to Albuquerque, but he is on a streak of 4 2/3 consecutive hitless innings, which makes for an odd time to bid farewell to him for 10 days.  Even Javy Guerra could conceivably be optioned.  But any such move leaves the Dodgers with a six-man relief corps and Stephen Fife on the mound today, and even with Thursday’s off day, that doesn’t sound like the Dodgers I know. A reliever exit would likely bring a reliever return.

I know that it seems like the day of Uribe’s departure might never come, and maybe it won’t for another year. There are plenty of other options today. But here, almost exactly a year after the Dodgers parted ways with Dioner Navarro, I continue to think we’re drawing very, very close to it.

Jul 31

Ryan Dempster heads to Rangers

The Dodgers did not end up with their long-rumored starting pitching acquisition. Ryan Dempster has been traded by the Cubs to Texas, leaving the Dodgers with Stephen Fife as their No. 5 starter until Ted Lilly returns from the disabled list, unless they choose a different arm from the minors or acquire a player who can clear MLB waivers.

Ned Colletti has a history of making deals in August, including the pickups of Greg Maddux, Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla.

Jul 31

Preparing for a Shane Victorino trade

To paraphrase Sally Field, you might not like Shane Victorino. You might really, really not like him. Perhaps because of the 2008 playoffs. (If you can’t get the clip above to work, click here.) Perhaps for another reason.

But other than providing Victorino no honeymoon if the Dodgers complete a trade for him, none of that is going to matter. If and when he does well for the Dodgers, you’re going to be happy. If and when he doesn’t, you weren’t going to be happy anyway.

As I commented yesterday at Dodger Thoughts, if Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal and Jeff Kent can become Dodgers, it’s hard to say a more insignificant rival like Victorino can’t.

Victorino, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1999 before leaving the organization twice in rule 5 drafts – the second time to the Phillies in 2004 – is having his poorest season in five years, with a .324 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage for Philadelphia. The situation is parallel to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez – even if Victorino continues at that sub-par level, his total package still is a step up from what the Dodgers have been getting out of their current left fielders, unless you’re a big fan of the outfield defense of Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu.

With his speed (24 steals in 28 attempts) and defense, consider Victorino as Tony Gwynn Jr. with a better bat. The upside for a player like Victorino, who OPSed .847 in 2011 and was at times considered a Most Valuable Player candidate, is gravy.

The problem is that Victorino, despite being a switch-hitter, has a huge platoon disadvantage against right-handed pitching, as Jack Moore notes at Fangraphs. His OPS vs. righties this year is .649, and he has never broken .800 while batting left-handed.  Again, the Dodgers have seen worse, but given how much more often there’s a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Victorino likely gives the Dodgers a new offensive weapon in fewer than half their remaining games. He’s more a replacement for Juan Rivera (and Gwynn) than for James Loney.

Victorino is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent this fall.

The reported cost will be Dodger reliever Josh Lindblom and a prospect. Lindblom, though slumping lately, has been one of the Dodgers’ top relievers this year, and he’s someone I like coming out of the bullpen, though that’s an area that’s easier to solve than the outfield. In general, the Dodgers are moving to solve their tremendous organizational imbalance of pitching vs. position players, and so this move would have that going for it.

How much of a difference Victorino might make as a Dodger, I don’t know. I can certainly think of players I’d rather have. But like him or not, if the Dodgers get him, it’ll be time to root for him.

Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the deal is done, with Victorino coming to Los Angeles in exchange for Lindblom and Ethan Martin, the 2008 first-round draft pick who misses bats but has long had control issues. Martin has allowed 89 hits and 61 walks in 118 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this year, but with 112 strikeouts.

Update 2: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the trade a bit for the Dodgers.

Update 3: The Giants have countered. Hunter Pence, who has a .784 OPS for the Phillies this year, is headed to San Francisco.

Update 4: The trade is official, with the Dodgers also sending Philadelphia a player to be named later or cash. (Or Ralston Cash.)

Update 5: More on the trade from Jonah Keri of Grantland, Cliff Corcoran of SI.com and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs.

Update 6: The Dodgers have designated LHP Michael Antonini for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Update 7: The Baseball Prospectus take on the trade.