Mar 06

Lilly hammered

Giants 8, Dodgers 4

Highlights:

  • Andre Ethier followed Monday’s double with a home run off a lefthander, the Giants’ Barry Zito.
  • Dee Gordon beat out an infield grounder to the right side for a single.
  • Ronald Belisario put that Dodger uniform on and pitched a shutout inning of relief.
  • Josh Lindblom retired all four batters he faced, if you don’t count an error by Josh Fields against him.
  • Tim Federowicz can throw, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Lowlights:

  • San Francisco’s first four batters of the game went homer, double, groundout, homer against Ted Lilly, who allowed five runs on six hits and a walk with one strikeout while facing 13 batters. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has more.
  • Dodger pitchers allowed 20 baserunners in all.
  • Matt Kemp struck out in both his at-bats, making him 0 for 4 with three strikeouts this spring. Roof caving in!

Sidelights:

Mar 06

Dodgers on Twitter

Giants at Dodgers,
12:05 PM

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Sands, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Treanor, C
Jerry Hairston Jr., DH
(Ted Lilly, P)

Here’s your handy-dandy list of Dodgers (at least those on the 40-man roster) on Twitter:

Dodgers – @Dodgers
Todd Coffey – @ToddCoffey60
A.J. Ellis – @AJEllis17
Dee Gordon – @Skinnyswag9
Javy Guerra – @JavyGuerra54
Blake Hawksworth – @BlakeHawk425
Matt Kemp – @TheRealMattKemp
Josh Lindblom – @JoshLindblom52
James Loney – @JamesLoney_7
Justin Sellers – @SellBlock_12

I haven’t compiled the remaining feeds for others in the organization yet, but will try to do so for another post.

The Dodgers’ official team Twitter feed offers occasional contests with prizes, such as this.

Mar 05

Sons of anarchy: Next-gen Dodgers turn White Sox upside down

Dodgers 6, White Sox 4

Highlights:

  • In the sixth inning, four sons of former major leaguers – Tony Gwynn Jr. (single), Justin Sellers (double), Ivan De Jesus Jr. (triple) and Scott Van Slyke (booming home run) – produced a cycle for the generations.
  • Chad Billingsley retired six of seven batters on 21 total pitches, a feat chronciled by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Winning pitcher Angel Guzman retired all four batters he faced.
  • Andre Ethier had the Dodgers’ first hit of the spring, a double, and first run. Ethier looked physically fit legging out the two-bagger, writes J.P Hoonstra of the Daily News.
  • Josh Fields went 2 for 2.
  • Three of Nathan Eovaldi’s five outs were strikeouts.
  • Adam Kennedy made a great defensive play at third base on behalf of Billingsley.
  • Scott Rice struck out two in his inning of relief.

Lowlights:

  • Eovaldi allowed two hits and two walks.
  • Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon were among seven 0-for-2 Dodgers.
  • Ryan Tucker allowed two runs in the ninth inning.

Sidelights:

  • Attention, Double-A Dodgers and friends: Chattanooga will be the site of some filming of 42, the upcoming Jackie Robinson feature starring Chadwick Boseman (with Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey and Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher), and the filmmakers will casting for local ballplayers to appear, according to Nooga.com.
  • Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen made the Crashburn Alley “Unbeatable” team aimed at winning each of the next 10 World Series. (And Davey Lopes was named first-base coach.) Kemp, I gather, was considered too old?
  • Mark Sweeney has left his front-office job with the Dodgers to become a Padres TV analyst.
  • Daily News sportswriter Jon Gold wrote a moving obituary for his sister, Amy Wishnie. You’ll not read anything more meaningful for some time.
Mar 05

Spring Training Opening Day

“The crack of the bat! The roar of the crowd! That’s right — baseball’s back!” And I see no better way to celebrate than running this Newsradio clip about Opening Day. Bill McNeal forever …

Dodgers vs. White Sox,
12:05 PM

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., DH
(Chad Billingsley, P)

  • The 100th anniversary of the Ebbets Field groundbreaking was Sunday, and Chris Jaffe put it some context at the Hardball Times.
  • Tweet of the day Sunday: Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. tried to pass the blame to autocorrect for the following:

    Catcher’s dream: Matt Treanor gets to call balls an strikes while bathing Clayton Kershaw in the intrasquad game

  • J.P. Hoonstra has joined the springtime beat coverage of the Dodgers, representing the Los Angeles Newspaper Group (Daily News, etc.). Here’s his notebook from Sunday, led by Clayton Kershaw.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven continues to supply us with vintage Dodger clips.
  • More from Reyes: a 1943 photo of Roy Campanella in Mexico.
  • The National League West is previewed by Jay Jaffe and Geoff Young for Baseball Prospectus. It’s not exceedingly pretty.
  • Fangraphs ranks the 2012 Dodger catching the worst in the majors. I still find it hard to believe this possible when your starting catcher has a career .360 on-base percentage in the majors and .406 in the minors.
  • In his spring debut, Arizona pitcher Trevor Bauer exceedingly impressed Keith Law of ESPN.com. More signs that Bauer could have a Kershaw-like effect on the Diamondbacks.
  • Who is the greatest character on The Wire? Alex Pappademas of Grantland sets up a 32-player bracket. The seedings are highly questionable, however.
  • My summary of The Lorax: Good for kids, but disappointing for this here grown-up. No matter where you stand on the Seuss or environmental spectrum, the premise seems stretched beyond what it was meant for. For a new movie that’s truly for all ages, try The Secret World of Arriety.
Mar 03

Thirty-one quick bullet points about MLB’s expanded playoffs

Something close to everything you need to know about the new postseason system that Major League Baseball made official Friday …

The skinny:

  • Three division winners and two wild-card teams in each league make the postseason, scheduled to end on Wednesday, October 3.
  • There will be a 163rd regular season game if needed to break a tie for a division title, even if both teams make the playoffs, on Thursday, October 4.
  • The two wild-card teams will play each other in a one-game playoff on Friday, October 5.
  • Division series for the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in each league will begin Saturday, October 6.
  • Division series for the No. 1 seed and the wild-card champion will begin Sunday, October 7.
  • For the first time, teams from the same division can meet in the division series.
  • For 2012 only, because of scheduling limitations, the lower seed in the division series will host the first two games of the best-of-five division series. Following a travel day, the higher seed would host the next three games, as needed.
  • The World Series begins on Wednesday, October 24.
  • Beginning in 2013, the higher seed in the division series will host the first two games and the fifth if necessary.

The pros:

  • There is more value to winning a division title. You get more rest before the division series starts and have a greater opportunity to set your starting rotation. Runners-up will have more reason to use their best pitcher in the wild-card playoff.
  • If two teams vying for a division title are playing head-to-head at the end of the regular season, they’ll give a full effort.
  • The odds of the best team in each league reaching the World Series have slightly increased.
  • In the absence of any hope that baseball would eliminate the wild-card, this arguably makes a second-choice playoff system better.
  • Hopes for teams that have been buried in baseball’s most challenging divisions don’t seem so dim.
  • The excitement of the occasional winner-take-all 163rd game is guaranteed to occur every year.
  • Everyone likes March Madness, so why not October Obsurdity?

The cons:

  • The regular season is devalued – there is now a greater chance for the fifth-best team in either league to win the World Series.
  • The changes move MLB farther in the wrong direction, away from eliminating the wild-card and increasing value to the regular season. Joe Sheehan makes this argument at length for SI.com.
  • Forcing the changes through in 2012, after the season schedule was already finalized, creates a chance of postseason chaos, if there is bad weather or if there are ties for the No. 5 spot in either league.
  • The system still doesn’t account for the unbalanced regular-season schedule, meaning that teams in the toughest divisions still face a tougher road to the playoffs than teams in weaker divisions.
  • The second-best team in either league might be eliminated before the division series starts.
  • In having to fight off the challenge of the second-best team in the league to win the division, the best team in the league might be in worse shape for the playoffs than the weaker champion of a weaker division.
  • The “just win your division” argument falls flat when an 81-win team in a weak division might have an easier path to the division series than the 100-win team in a stronger division.

You be the judge:

  • The extra wild-card is less likely to let more 81-win teams into the playoffs than it is to let in 89-win teams.
  • Major League Baseball will still have fewer playoff teams than the other four major sports, both in percentage (33 percent) and in total quantity (10).
  • Putting the No. 1 seed on the road for the first two games of the division series might seem unfair, although if the team can’t win a single road game and can’t protect its own home-field advantage, the end result is no different than it has ever been in baseball.
  • For better or worse, the extra wild-card will affect midseason trades and could encourage mediocre teams to go for broke rather than rebuild.
  • Alternatives were left on the table, including this one:

    Alternative #5: MLB will create a committee to weigh the intangibles of each team’s rosters. They’ll measure the story lines of each player to see if they have any players that America is really rooting for. They’ll also measure the stick-to-it-ness of all of these players. They will also measure their run-into-it-ness, in which video of the season will be reviewed to see if anyone on the roster has a propensity to run into things for no reason–be it dug outs, the stands, railing. Teams can gain bonus points throughout the season for making ordinary plays seem as though they require extraordinary effort, if they have a teammate that resembles Derek Jeter, or if they have ever completed a flip play.

Conclusion:

  • In terms of the number of playoff teams, I generally think less is more, though it’s not as if I’m in favor of a single 30-team league with no playoffs.
  • Given that Major League Baseball doesn’t feel that way and will never feel that way again, I do think the 2012 system will be an improvement over the 2011 system.
  • If you’re a Dodger fan desperate to return to World Series glory, above all else, you should probably be a happy camper.
Mar 02

Family Friday

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Without further or farther ado …

  • From the Dodger press notes: “The Spring Training Baseball Show with Kevin Kennedy and David Vassegh on Dodger radio partner AM 570 Fox Sports L.A. rolls on tonight after the duo debuted yesterday. The show will air tonight from 9:00-10:00 p.m. PT, but the hour-long show will normally air six days a week (excluding Sunday) at 7:00 p.m. PT. “
  • A fun video of the Dodgers during 1967 Spring Training includes great shots of coach Jim Gilliam, manager Walter Alston and an earful of 21-year-old Don Sutton. Thanks to Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • The Dodgers signed two players from their tryout camp, Blake Johnson and Brandon Mims, and both have interesting backstories that Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness chronicles.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: My favorites are the smiling Clayton Kershaw with Sandy Koufax (and Rick Honeycutt), A.J. Ellis with Chad Billingsley and broadcaster Jaime Jarrin with his grandson, Dodger minor-leaguer Stefan Jarrin.
  • Ellis, devaluing his own on-base skills (and his minor-league track record), told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that batting eighth helped him draw walks and seemed not to want to feast on the fastballs that would come batting in front of Matt Kemp.

    … “I love hitting eighth. I take it as a challenge and embrace it. There’s a strong mental aspect to it and I feel privileged in that spot. Jamey Carroll hit eighth a lot for us and he taught me a lot.

    “Before my first game at Triple-A, Tim Wallach was manager and he called me in and told me I would hit eighth no matter what, because that’s where I would hit in the big leagues and it’s the most important position. After that, I took pride in it.”

  • Related: Chris St. John of The Platoon Advantage studied how minor-league walk and strikeout rates for batters correlated with major-league performance.
  • Why not? Mark Timmons of LADodgerTalk.com predicts 30 wins for Clayton Kershaw. A safer bet than 50-50 for Matt Kemp?
  • Former top MLB draft pick Brien Taylor, whose story I linked to recently on Dodger Thoughts, has been arrested for cocaine trafficking.
  • Jim McLennan of AZSnakepit looks back at Spring Training 2011 and writes about what the regular season would have been like if it had continued in the same fashion. Among other things, Arizona would have lost 109 games.
  • Kerris Dorsey, who played Billy Beane’s daughter so well in “Moneyball,” was cast in a Showtime pilot, “Ray Donovan,” starring voice of HBO Sports Liev Schreiber.
  • The title says it all: Eastbound and Downton.

Mar 02

Sea of Tranquility Ranch, 2062

Reading the stories of Sandy Koufax’s visit to Camelback Ranch today (written by Dylan Hernandez of the Times, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., Ken Gurnick of MLB.com and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com), I find myself envisioning Clayton Kershaw, weeks shy of his 75th birthday, gathered before a crowd of reverent reporters and ballplayers at the Dodgers’ new Spring Training facility on the moon.

Yes, the moon — because by that time, the Dodgers will be owned by … well, I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.

Oh, and Koufax will be there as well, because he is forever young.

Mar 02

How the NL West starting rotations compare

For ESPNLosAngeles.com, I have a piece comparing the Dodger starting rotation to its rivals in the National League West.

Here’s how it begins …

Clayton Kershaw might have gone 4-0 against Tim Lincecum last year, but behind the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner comes doubt about whether the Dodgers’ starting rotation matches up with the top contenders in the NL West. …

Read the rest here …

Continue reading

Mar 01

Fangraphs fun and frolic

Fangraphs’ Carson Cistulli interviewed me for a podcast that is ostensibly and eventually about the Dodgers, but uses as its foundation my recent existential crisis post centered on my relationship with Phil Dunphy.

The conversation runs more lighthearted than that particular piece of writing did, and I found it very enjoyable, but if you can’t stomach any more first-world problems, you can give it a pass. Otherwise, dig in!

Mar 01

Pigs in a news blanket


Above: How the story of the Three Little Pigs would be covered in today’s world, as presented by the Guardian.

Below:

  • Vin Scully tops the broadcaster rankings of the national readership of Fangraphs.
  • Ramona Shelburne has a nice piece at ESPNLosAngeles.com about Francisco “Chico” Herrera, a Dodger bat boy who went to today’s open tryout.
  • James Loney ranked behind only Oakland’s Daric Barton defensively among first basemen in the statistical rankings provided by David Pinto at Baseball Musings.
  • Chad Moriyama presents his top-25 Dodger prospect rankings at his blog.
  • Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal has an extensive article on a very real issue for many sports fans — the challenges in maintaining an effective wireless system at ballparks and stadiums.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN.com looks at baseball’s scheduling imbalance problems.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports gave a good interview to Jason McIntyre of Big Lead Sports.
Feb 29

When you walk through the garden …

Rarely have I been retweeted more than I was Tuesday when I passed along this link to The Wire wind-up toys.

Now, unwind with these notes …

  • Don Mattingly confirmed to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. that he has no plans to bat A.J. Ellis second, citing his lack of speed in front of Matt Kemp. Unfortunately, the alternative candidates’ lack of on-base percentage in front of Kemp seems not to have entered into Mattingly’s thinking.
  • Mattingly also hinted that Juan Rivera would start 2012 as the Dodgers’ regular left fielder with occasional days off. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com added that Jerry Sands is still in the mix to be a platoon partner for Andre Ethier and James Loney.
  • Dodger relief prospect Shawn Tolleson was interviewed by John Parker of MiLB.com.
  • The Dodgers have the National League’s second-easiest early season schedule, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Nine of their first 34 games are against teams with winning records in 2011.
  • Here’s the full list, 200-deep, of Dodger prospect rankings from Brandon Lennox at True Blue L.A. Henry Heredia, this is your moment.
  • Gold Glove or not, Andre Ethier’s ranking in David Pinto’s PMR list for right fielders at Baseball Musings probably won’t surprise you. Matt Kemp in center field? You tell me what you think.
  • Trayvon Robinson is trying to reestablish himself after his hot start with Seattle turned into a rough finish, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
  • Tuesday in Jon SooHoo: two pics that fostered polar opposite reactions for me, Jerry Sands bunting and Matt Kemp skywalking.
  • Not surprisingly, initial reaction to the new book from Dirk Hayhurst, Out of My League, is positive. Examples: Andrew T. Fisher of Purple Row and Keith Olbermann at Baseball Nerd.
  • The statement from Ryan Braun sample-taker Dino Laurenzi is eloquently written.
  • Coming March 15-17 is a SABR Analytics conference in Arizona. Not coming at the same time is the Notalytics Conference in South Dakota, but I sure wish it were.
  • Emmett Ashford, the majors’ first African-American umpire, was given an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Chapman College, according to Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary.
  • Giancarlo Stanton: the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton.
  • Harvard-Westlake’s Lucas Giolito hit 100 miles per hour while pitching a one-hitter for the Wolverines on Tuesday, writes Eric Sondhiemer of the Times.
  • Perfect for Leap Day: The Dodgers had the 29th-best offseason of all major-league teams, according to The Platoon Advantage.
  • KCRW’s Which Way L.A. now has its own blog.
  • Jonathan Abrams and Grantland published a vivid oral history of the 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight that spread into the stands.
  • Longtime Times columnist Steve Harvey is back writing “Only in L.A.,” host Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed announced. The first new edition is here.
  • Watch former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob break a world-distance record for throwing a paper airplane at ESPN.com.
  • Farewell, Monkees and Brady Bunch star Davy Jones. I was a childhood fan of both. Here, from Variety, is the 1965 ad soliciting auditions for The Monkees
Feb 28

Coming soon: ‘The Hall of Very Good’


I’m proud to be one of the contributors to the upcoming ebook, The Hall of Very Good, edited by Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin.

The Hall of Very Good is an ebook meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement; rather, it’s meant to remember those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, will unfairly be lost to history. It’s for the players we grew up rooting for, the ones whose best years led to flags and memories that will fly together forever. Players like Bret Saberhagen, Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Tim Salmon, Wilbur Wood, Orel Hershiser, and literally hundreds of others.

This is not a numbers-driven project (although our contributors lean analytical in their views). Our plan isn’t to be overbearing with numbers and spreadsheets to convince you that these players are worth remembering. What we want to do, instead, is accomplish that same task through stories. Think of your favorite players growing up: they have their moments, games, seasons, quirks, personalities, and legends worth remembering and sharing. Now, combine the best of everyone’s forgotten favorites, and you’ve got a Hall of Very Good. Ask the people who have those memories and love for these players to write essays about them, and you have a book on the same topic.

It takes a talented writer to give these players their due honors, and we’ve collected thirty of them to do just that (see below). These are All-Star writers, some of our favorite must-reads in today’s expansive baseball coverage landscape. They have diverse voices, diverse backgrounds and diverse interests, but they all love baseball and have a passion for the players they’re writing about. …

The subject of my contribution will be Reggie Smith. (For those who have asked, a Pedro Guerrero opus from me will come another time.) To learn more and to pledge support for this project, please follow this link.

Feb 27

The defensive potential of Mark Ellis

If the Dodgers replaced baseball’s 27th-best second baseman offensively with the ninth-best, a lot of us would be doing cartwheels. At least three cartwheels, maybe seven.

By that token, maybe we should be doing at least two cartwheels – and as many as 11 – over the fact that, according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings, the Dodgers are replacing baseball’s 27th-best second baseman defensively with the ninth best. He’s in the decline phase of his career, but Mark Ellis should still be a considerable improvement over Jamey Carroll (the aforementioned No. 27), and Aaron Miles, who combined to take 75 percent of the Dodgers’ innings at second base last year.

Wrote Ken Arneson, who has watched Ellis play with Oakland, on Twitter: “Good to make note of the numbers, because Ellis’s defense is as invisible as a mistake-free umpire.”

Elsewhere …

  • © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

    Today in Jon SooHoo: Dee Gordon is off to the races.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times chronicles the maturation of Matt Kemp.
  • Former Dodger reliever Danys Baez is retiring, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via MLB Trade Rumors). From 2006, the year the Dodgers acquired him and Lance Carter from Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany, Baez had a 5.16 ERA (85 ERA+) in 265 1/3 innings with 154 strikeouts and 396 baserunners allowed. And one balk. Jackson in that time has pitched 1,003 2/3 innings with a 4.38 ERA (99 ERA+), 753 strikeouts and 1,495 baserunners allowed. And five balks.
  • Here’s an interesting story from my Variety colleague Stuart Levine about how the move of “Downton Abbey” and “Luther” from the Emmy miniseries to the Emmy drama category could presage the Emmys nominating 10 programs for top drama in 2013.
  • Meanwhile, I bid farewell to the Oscars with a Variety On the Air blog post calling for Academy to understand, once and for all, that they’re making a TV show, rather than filming a stage show. And that starts with the selection of their next host.