All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.
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.
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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.
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Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …
- Vin Scully gets praised by Oakland blog Athletics Nation – and Oakland starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.
- Dodger Single-A prospect O’Koyea Dickson was named Most Valuable Player of the Midwest League All-Star Game.
- At Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, guest writer Andrew Grant has a more negative take on the Ned Colletti discusion: “If you compare Ned’s moves to Bobo the General Managing Chimp he looks great, but if you assume a base level of competence from your GM Ned falls massively.”
- Former Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal is on pace to be elected starting All-Star shortstop for the National League for the first time, notes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- This post at Dodgers History, the blog of Dodger team historian Mark Langill, has a nifty picture of a young Peter O’Malley. (Langill is also interviewed at Think Blue L.A.)
- At The Vote, I have feature interviews with “Mad Men” actor Vincent Kartheiser and “Game Change” writer Danny Strong.
Aaron Harang, who struck out nine batters in a row two months ago, had another distinctive outing tonight.
- It’s the most walks by a Dodger since Edwin Jackson in September 2003.
- It’s the most walks by a Dodger pitcher who didn’t complete five innings since Sandy Koufax in July 1955.
- It’s the most walks by a Dodger pitcher who didn’t complete four innings since Les Webber in May 1943.
- It’s the most walks dating back to 1918 by a Dodger starting pitcher who didn’t complete four innings.
Oddly, only one of the eight walkees scored. Harang, who threw 105 pitches to get 11 outs (striking out six), left with the Dodgers down, 3-0 – all three runs coming in the first inning.
Realizing that if I were a good soul, I wouldn’t even enter Dodger Stadium with my iPhone, much less try to use it … the fact is, I do. And yet, I don’t know why I bother, given that my phone almost never works there because of the poor wireless reception (or, as someone on Twitter specified to me, data service).
I’ve been curious to see how widespread this problem was, so today I asked people on Twitter to describe their Dodger Stadium wireless experiences. Here are the initial replies (grouped under the hashtag #DSwireless) …
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering whether Matt Kemp would come charging out of the dugout Sunday the moment Dee Gordon delivered his game-winning hit, nor the only one petrified that he would reinjure his hamstring while wrestling Gordon to the ground. Indeed, Vin Scully seemed to share some of those fears.
Well, Kemp walked away unscathed (which is more than the shaving-creamed Gordon could say). Given that, it seems like a good time to update his injury status. Here’s Alex Angert of MLB.com:
Manager Don Mattingly said Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis will travel with the Dodgers on the road this week, while Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly, Justin Sellers and Javy Guerra will stay back with a trainer.
“They are doing a ton of baseball work,” Mattingly said about Kemp (strained left hamstring) and Ellis (left leg injury). “They are on the field taking batting practice now and they are able to do a lot more stuff on the field.”
He added Kemp seems to keep progressing and Ellis is doing really well. As for the players not traveling to Oakland, he said Sellers’ recovery from a bulging disc in his back is taking some time and Lilly (left shoulder inflammation) has been a process. However, Guerra (right knee inflammation) is doing well and Mattingly reaffirmed that he will travel to San Francisco next week. …
No word of when Kemp might start a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, so July would seem to remain the target.
Kemp, who is already eligible to come off the disabled list, has played 10 innings since May 13. The Dodgers are 23-12 (.657) when he starts and 19-13 (.593) when he doesn’t in 2012.
In their now-familiar manner of exploiting the fallibility of others in the cosmos, the Dodgers came back from down 1-0 with two out in the ninth inning to defeat the White Sox in 10 innings, 2-1.
Dee Gordon, who entered the game with a .226 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching, singled Tony Gwynn Jr. in from third base with two out in in the 10th off lefty Chicago reliever Matt Thornton to complete the Dodgers’ latest snicker at the galaxy of naysayers. Gwynn himself only had a .298 OBP and .264 slugging against lefties, but tripled with one out in the 10th when Jordan Danks failed at a diving catch of his sinking drive.
The game was a tossup all day long – and in the case of Dodger manager Don Mattingly, a tossout.
Mattingly was not only ejected for the fourth time this season, but he had perhaps his most prolonged arugment as Dodger manager, after catcher Matt Treanor was ruled to have leave third base early on what would have been a game-tying sacrifice fly by Elian Herrera in the sixth inning. The only replay made it seem a borderline call at best – and Mattingly’s delayed emergence from the dugout led me to believe he waited until he either saw or heard about that replay to argue. In any case, that took the only run that White Sox starter Jose Quintana allowed off the scoreboard.
Quintana, who gave up five hits, walked none and struck out six in eight innings, and Dodgers starter Chris Capuano each pitched brilliantly. Capuano struck out 12 in eight innings, and the run he allowed was, in my book if not the official scorekeeper’s, unearned. Leading off the top of the sixth, Brent Lillibridge singled and went to second base when Herrera misplayed the ball in left field. He advanced to third on a groundout, then after Adam Dunn struck out for the third time against Capuano, Lillibridge scored on Dayan Viciedo’s RBI singles. Without the error, I’m not sure Lillibridge scores from second on the play.
The score remained 1-0 until the ninth inning, thanks in no small part to perhaps the best defensive day of Andre Ethier’s career, mitigating a three-strikeout day of his own. After making two sliding catches earlier in the game (each of which Danks later would beg to have), Ethier slammed into the right-field wall to rob Lillibridge of an extra-base hit.
Arguably, a decision made by White Sox rookie skipper Robin Ventura lost the game for Chicago. Quintana, a 23-year-old lefty who entered the game with a 1.98 ERA, had sailed through his eight innings on only 77 pitches. Nevertheless, Ventura replaced him to start the ninth with righthander Addison Reed, whose ERA was 4.15 with 27 baserunners allowed in 21 2/3 innings.
So instead of the bottom of the ninth beginning with Quintana vs. Ivan De Jesus Jr., it was Reed vs. pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu, who promptly singled. After Gordon (2 for 5) struck out, Herrera, doing his best to atone for his error, delivered a hit-and-run single for his third hit of the game. Abreu then tagged up and scored on Juan Rivera’s fly ball – no appeal.
In his second inning of work, Ronald Belisario pitched a perfect 10th, lowering his ERA for the year to 1.25. Belisario has allowed 21 baserunners in 21 2/3 innings. Capuano, meanwhile, reasserted his case for the All-Star game by lowering his ERA to 2.71 and raising his K/9 to 8.3.
The Dodgers improved to 5-4 in interleague play, increased their National League West lead over San Francisco to five games and maintained a one-game edge over the surging New York Yankees for the best record in baseball.
From the Dodger press notes: “The Dodgers are looking to move to 18 games over .500 for the first time all season. The club has lost on all four attempts (May 23 at Arizona, May 28 vs. Milwaukee, June 11 vs. the Angels and June 13 vs. the Angels) to reach that plateau this year.”
Having a great first season in the majors while in your mid-20s is a rare thing. Sure, there are late bloomers – Paul Lo Duca and Maury Wills immediately come to mind – but most of those late bloomers need a cup of coffee or four before they make a noteworthy impact.
In fact, in the 55 seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers, only 19 players have notched at least 100 plate appearances in their first season after turning 24. And of those 19 players, so far, Elian Herrera (who added two doubles and three RBI Friday to his magical 2012) has a higher on-base percentage and adjusted OPS than any of them.
It’s not as if he can claim a better first season than Andre Ethier had in 2006, for example, but it’s still pretty amazing. In fact, even if you eliminate the age component, Herrera still has the fifth-best season in adjusted OPS for a Dodger in his first season, and second-best OBP.
Using Wins Above Replacement, a cumulative stat as measured by Baseball-Reference.com, Herrera is already the Dodgers’ 20th-best first-year major-leaguer … with room to climb.
This won’t guarantee future stardom – several of these players are balloons that inflated quickly and then popped. It’s not like Dick Gray carved out a legendary career But it is a measure of just how valuable Herrera has been to this point. I can’t think of a bigger surprise for the Dodgers in 2012.
Observation: Vin Scully is the only person I know of who typically expresses ERA to one decimal place.
It’s been so long since I’ve pointed some bullets …
- Cardboard Gods genius Josh Wilker writes, as only he can, about the Dodgers’ ill-fated No. 1 draft choice of yesteryear, Bill Bene.
- David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot traces the sad evolution of the closer.
- Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles explores a question that the Giants are lucky they don’t have to answer right now — what would you offer Tim Lincecum if his contract were up?
- Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness checks out the potential trade market for James Loney upgrades, and finds it, to no great surprise, sketchy.
- “If you, like me, are sick of athletes who don’t do anything about blasting caps, and touching them, and not telling firefighters when you find them, well finally here you go,” writes Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus.
- Make sure you’re checking out my Variety blog, The Vote.
Molly Knight this week gives us an ESPN the Magazine cover story on Matt Kemp that begins with the moment he re-injured his hamstring: “The harder the game treats him, the more he respects it, cares about it — and the better he plays.”
It’s a terrific story, and the only issue I take with it is a nitpicky one about its micro-analysis of how Kemp reacted to his latest injury. I can only speak for myself, but I’m surprised by the idea that at this moment, people were making judgments about Kemp’s demeanor — whether “placid, seemingly indifferent” in the immediate aftermath or “a guy whose talent is as raw as his composure is unformed” as he digested the severity.
Doubts about Kemp’s attitude were resolved before May 30, and I think the prevailing concern was just whether this player who had reached the pinnacle of his game — mentally as well as in terms of performance — was going to be lost again to injury. By this time, I believe, Kemp had won all but the most reactionary critics over.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Either way, the story offers insight on Kemp that you haven’t seen elsewhere, so give it a read.
The Angels lead the Dodgers, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth of tonight’s game, following a tiebreaking home run by Erick Aybar off Kenley Jansen to start the inning.
A.J. Ellis walks obligatorily, and James Loney singles him to third.
Angels right-hander Ernesto Frieri, with a 0.00 ERA, is on the mound. Juan Uribe is up, with Tony Gwynn Jr. and Dee Gordon on deck.
I wouldn’t wait. I would send Bobby Abreu up to hit for Uribe right then.
My feelings are moot. Uribe grounds to short, with Ellis being retired on a fielder’s choice. Loney advances to third on the play and Uribe to second. Gwynn strikes out, and Abreu, batting for Dee Gordon, hits a grounder up the middle that Frieri flags for the final out of the game.
Playing 20 games in 20 days, 10 at home and 10 on the road, the Dodgers won 10 and lost 10.
Both starting pitchers dodged their share of bullets before ending up with no decision. Most notably, Nathan Eovaldi, who remained winless as he lowered his ERA to 1.82, got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fourth, thanks largely to a Loney-Ellis-Loney double play.
The batter? Aybar, of course – the guy who would later win the game with his first home run since September 18.
And in San Francisco, Matt Cain pitches a whale of a game, matching Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game with 14.
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Kings broadcaster Bob Miller wrote a lovely first-person piece for the Times in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup.