Jun 15

Vin.1

Observation: Vin Scully is the only person I know of who typically expresses ERA to one decimal place.

White Sox at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXX: Kershawtter Pops
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, LF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Clayton Kershaw, P

Jun 15

Working my way back to you

It’s been so long since I’ve pointed some bullets …

Jun 14

Digging into Matt Kemp


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.

Jun 13

Dodgers pinched, 2-1

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.

* * *

Kings broadcaster Bob Miller wrote a lovely first-person piece for the Times in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup.

Jun 13

Miles to sleep before he goes

Angels at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, CF
Juan Rivera, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Nathan Eovaldi, P

Aaron Miles, who re-signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers during their May injury wave, is now going to retire, according to Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. (In addition, minor-league third baseman Jeff Baisley has been released.)

“All the things with him, no spring training, all the things he was trying to get done here, the bottom line with him was that passion, that fire that’s allowed him to continue … it wasn’t there,” Isotopes manager Lorenzo Bundy told Jackson.

Matthew Pouliot has a wrap-up of Miles’ career at Hardball Talk, while you can read my Remembering 2011 piece on him here.

Jun 12

Dodgers escape their Waterloo, 5-2

‘Twas a defeated night indeed for questionable starter Adam Kennedy, who made an error that allowed an unearned run to score for the Angels in the third inning and a decision that contributed to a second unearned run in the sixth.  Add in a 0-for-3 night that included hitting into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners in the fourth inning, and you have what will probably be the lasting memory of Kennedy as a Dodger.

Not that Andre Ethier didn’t do his darndest to make everyone forget. Hours after his contract-extension press conference, Ethier helped the Dodgers get over the Kennedy hump and come away with a 5-2 victory.

Ethier had the middle single in the Dodgers’ three-hit fourth inning, sent Mike Trout to the center-field wall in the sixth inning to haul in a deep fly, and made a diving catch to end the seventh inning with two runners on and the Dodgers trailing, 2-1. Most importantly, with Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis on first base and two out in the eighth inning, Ethier lined a single to right field to drive in the tying run.

Juan Rivera, coming to the plate with a .589 OPS, then blasted a no-doubt three-run homer to left for the go-ahead blow, victimizing Jerome Williams, who had allowed one run on five baserunners in the first seven innings, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who left Williams in past the point of no return. A crestfallen Williams sat in the dugout with his head in his hands after finally coming out of the game.

Aaron Harang allowed six hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out five and lowering his ERA to 3.59. But Harang was all but destined to take a loss when, with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth, Kennedy surprised Gordon by throwing to second base instead of going for an easier out at first base on a grounder hit by Williams. The throw, however ill-chosen, went right to Gordon’s glove as he put his foot on the base, but it clanked off for an error that put the Angels ahead.

But the Dodgers rallied in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen bounced back from his own loss Monday to save the game.

Jun 12

The guy you hadn’t heard of before May isn’t playing, and you’re disappointed

Angels at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

Switch-hitting trade-of-all-jackers Elian Herrera will see a streak of 10 consecutive starts end tonight, a streak in which he had a .366 on-base percentage. That actually constitutes a slump for the unexpected spark plug, who has a .394 on-base percentage through 105 plate appearances in his first taste of the big leagues.

Herrera has odd splits in his short career so far. Against righties, he has a .406 OBP and .302 slugging, while against lefties he goes .351/.457, with five doubles in 35 at-bats. In any case, a lineup that begins with Herrera, A.J. Ellis and Andre Ethier against Angels righty Jerome Williams doesn’t sound half-bad.

Instead, Herrera, who has started at center field, second base and third base, is riding the Dodger bench in favor of Tony Gwynn Jr., Adam Kennedy and Juan Uribe. Gwynn is a left-handed swinger who plays great defense, while Uribe is due for a start, having gone exactly one month since his last one.

Then there’s Kennedy, who will be making his fifth start of June. The difference between Kennedy and Herrera is probably less than people believe, but still, Kennedy’s name on the lineup card seems untimely. However, for the Adam Kennedy Marching & Chowder Society, there’s this: He went 4 for 9 last week.

One stat in which the two are closely matched is pitches per plate appearance. Herrera has seen 4.1 P/PA, Kennedy 4.0.

Jun 12

Andre Ethier set to sign five-year contract extension

At ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot, I react to Andre Ethier’s imminent new contract:

The news came late Monday that Andre Ethier and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to terms on a contract extension that would keep him in Dodger white and blue through at least 2017, at the cost of $85 million over five years – an average of $17 million per year – with a $17.5 million option (against a $2.5 million buyout) for 2018.

Does it seem like a lot of money to you for Ethier, a 30-year-old who ranks 24th in the majors in park-adjusted OPS since 2006, but who has some lingering concerns about his health and ability to hit lefties?

Well, it is, and it isn’t.

Read the entire piece here.

Jun 11

Champions!


Glorious congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings and their fans – Stanley Cup champions. A wonder team, indeed. 

Now, how about just not tearing downtown apart … okay?

Jun 11

Farewell, Yutaka Shimizu

When I began my full-time sportswriting career with the Daily News in 1989, covering high school sports, a major figure was the boys basketball coach at Kennedy High in Granada Hills, Yutaka Shimizu.  In fact, I interviewed Shimuzu for my first piece as a full-timer, on a Kennedy hoops star named Garret Anderson.

Eric Sondheimer (of course) of the Times is the one to pass along the sad news that Shimizu has passed away.

Yutaka Shimizu, a second-generation Japanese American who coached high school basketball in Los Angeles for more than 50 years and spent three years in an internment camp during World War II, died Sunday at a Lakewood hospital. He was 84 and had a lung ailment.

Shimizu was the head coach at Hamilton High from 1959 to 1981, coaching future UCLA All-America Sidney Wicks and leading the team to a City Section runner-up finish in 1965. He was the head coach at Granada Hills Kennedy High from 1982 to 1999.

He later became a trusted assistant coach and advisor to Derrick Taylor at Woodland Hills Taft and Bellflower St. John Bosco, staying in the background while offering words of wisdom.

“He’s the most underrated, great high school coach in our era,” Taylor said. “No one understood how good a coach and how brilliant a basketball mind he is.”

Shimizu was well known in Los Angeles. In 2007, when Taylor was coaching in the McDonald’s All-American game and walked into a room for breakfast with Shimizu, a familiar voice spoke up: “Coach Shimizu.”

It was John Wooden, the former UCLA coach. “That’s when you know you’re the man, when the ultimate coach calls you over,” Taylor said. …

The story that always sticks with me is that when I first came to know him, I knew him only as Coach Shimizu. When I asked for his first name, for publication purposes, he would only say, “Y.”  (Or maybe it was “Why?”) Either way, “Y.” is how it ran.

Farewell, sir.

Jun 09

Where Jerry Park meets Clayton Place: Dodgers roll, 8-3

And to think the Dodgers and their fans thought they had a supersub over the past two years in Jamey Carroll.

Jerry Hairston Jr. continued his world-beating tour of 2012 on Saturday, delivering a home run and two doubles in the Dodgers’ 8-3 victory over Seattle. Thirteen days after knocking a career-high five hits, the 36-year-old Hairston drove in a career-high five runs, including a three-run home run smashed down the line in left in the first inning that put the Dodgers ahead for good.

In 101 plate appearances this season, Hairston has a .435 on-base percentage and .525 slugging percentage, which puts him on pace to become one of the best Dodger reserves in many a moon. Since the franchise’s last World Series title in 1988, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the only true Dodger reserve to have a higher adjusted OPS in a single season than what Hairston has so far in 2012 is Dave Hansen.

Hairston managed to overshadow Clayton Kershaw, who got the win after striking out 12 in seven innings today. There have been “What’s wrong with Kershaw” mutterings this season, which might have revived after he gave up a three-run home run today to Miguel Olivo in the fourth inning. Given his new battle with plantar fasciitis, I might have been ready to join in had something gone wrong today, and I can’t say I’ve stopped worrying that something will.

But let’s now compare Kershaw’s current stats with last year’s through June 9, 2011.

Year	G	IP	ERA	OPS	K/9	WHIP
2011	14	91.67	3.44	.605	10.0	1.15
2012	13	88.33	2.65	.610	8.3	1.00

Kershaw’s 2011 numbers were inflated by consecutive outings to start June in which he allowed six runs apiece.  The flawless Kershaw that won the Cy Young Award didn’t really kick into gear until after this point of the season. So yeah, his 2012 strikeouts show a decline, but overall, Kershaw is actually off to a better start.

That, combined with Ronald Belisario, who pitched another shutout inning, practically filling the role of 2010 Hong-Chih Kuo (his ERA now sits at 1.10), Todd Coffey lowering his ERA to 3.18 since coming off the disabled list with a shutout ninth, and a 14-hit attack on offense, meant the Dodgers could put the memories of Friday’s no-hit loss far behind them.

Jun 08

Oh oh oh: Mariners say yes to no-hitting Dodgers

Like a Farmer John hot dog and Nancy Bea Hefley at the organ, trying to win a game without a hit is a time-honored Dodger tradition.

But tonight in Seattle, the Dodgers got boiled, rocked and rolled. There would be no repeat of the Dodgers’ June 29, 2008 hitless victory over the Angels. A record-tying six Mariners combined to no-hit Los Angeles in a 1-0 victory.

It was the first no-hitter the Dodgers lost since Kent Mercker threw one at Dodger Stadium in 1994. The only twist was how Mercker’s successor in Atlanta, Kevin Milwood, was deprived of the victory.

Milwood pitched the first six innings in 68 pitches without giving up a hit or anything really close to one (save perhaps for a fourth-inning bunt by Dee Gordon that needed a bare-handed play by Kyle Seager for the out), allowing just a fifth-inning walk to Juan Rivera. But after throwing one warmup pitch before the seventh inning, Milwood didn’t throw another. He left the game with what was said to be a mild groin injury.

Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush got the next batter, then threw a ball hit by Elian Herrera away for a two-base error. But Furbush manhandled Andre Ethier with a third strike, and then newly called up Stephen Pryor struck out Rivera.

Nathan Eovaldi, who matched Milwood at least in innings and runs allowed, left the game after 103 pitches, allowing seven baserunners and striking out six while lowering his 2012 ERA to 1.93. Facing five lefty batters in a row, Scott Elbert looked great in striking out the first two and allowing a scratch infield single by Ichriro Suzuki. However, Elbert walked Dustin Ackley, then surrendered a 1-2 single to Seager (older brother of the Dodgers’ top draft choice this week, Corey), to dive in the game’s big-deal run.

The drama increased in the eighth when Prior walked Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston Jr. on nine pitches. The Mariners’ fourth pitcher, lefty Lucas Luetge, came in to face James Loney, who looked uncomfortable squaring to bunt but sacrificed one of the Dodgers’ remaining six outs to move the runners to second and third. That brief appearance was it for Luetge, who gave way to Seattle pitcher No. 5, Brandon League.

A.J. Ellis came up with an opportunity to tie the game even without a hit. He sent a sinking fly to left that Chone Figgins caught in shallow enough territory that pinch-runner Alex Castellanos held at third. League then struck out Tony Gwynn Jr., and the Mariners were one inning away.

After Josh Lindblom pitched a shutout eighth to keep Los Angeles witn a run, Tom Wilhelmsen came in to pitch the ninth inning as the Mariners aimed to match the Houston Astros (June 11, 2003) by using six pitchers for a no-no.

Dee Gordon led off the ninth with a slow grounder to shortstop Brendan Ryan, but unlike Ichiro, he was called out by half a step. Herrera, the hero of Philadelphia, followed by hitting a liner, but right at Ryan for the Dodgers’ 26th out.

Up came Ethier. He fouled off the first pitch, then hit a grounder to second baseman Ackley — and it was celebration time in Seattle. It was something to see. Close, and yes, cigar.