Sep 07

Nooo! Threee LLLs in a row!

Time to go find some 1964 Phillies anecdotes to pass on…

Maybe the headline should just be “Three Ls in a row” because “Three LLLs in a row” could mean 9 Ls. The mathematics on this is unclear.

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus three weeks wrote about the potential value of Billy Hamilton just as a pinch-runner. It’s quite likely that Saturday’s win by the Reds may be the only one that could be chalked up solely to his speed.

Both Mat Latos and Zack Greinke pitched well, but neither were dominating. J.P. Howell who had the dreaded BL on his record yesterday, picked up the BS. Brian Wilson gave up his first run as a Dodger and took the loss. If Wilson is hurt, it’s not like the Dodgers don’t have plenty of other arms to replace him. And remember that Chris Withrow pitched very well on Friday.

The Dodgers bats need to get going in order to salvage a game in the series.  The last team to sweep the Dodgers in a series? The Angels, in a two-game set in Anaheim on May 29-30, which was right after the Dodgers had beaten the Angels twice at Dodger Stadium on May 27-28. The last three-game sweep was May 17-19 in Atlanta. The Dodgers have also been swept by the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Padres.

Arizona plays at San Francisco tonight at 6:05 pm. Brandon McCarthy facing Matt Cain. Atlanta is at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh plays at St. Louis for the NL Central lead in the 4 o’clock hour.

Sunday’s game will be a 5 pmish start on ESPN. National broadcasts like that serve to make everyone feel like their team is unappreciated by John Kruk and Orel Hershiser. Interestingly, ESPN is not making America watch another Yankees-Red Sox game. Instead, TBS will show that game.

Little known fact: you can go to an art house theater and watch a marathon show of “Berlin Alexanderplatz” and still get home to catch the last three innings of a Yankees-Red Sox game.

Sep 07

Breakfast at the Queen City

Early start today!

Last night, while shopping with my wife at the market, I watched the final two innings of the Giants-DBacks game on my phone, which actually worked quite well. And I almost timed it so I’d still be in the market when the game ended. Then, when I didn’t want to hear it, I heard, “Sir, I’ll open this register for you!” Anyway, I saw Eric Chavez’s hit with two outs in the ninth in the parking lot as I put groceries into the car.

The Reds start today just two games out of first place, but in third, and they can’t change places because the first place Pirates and second place Cardinals play each other. The Pirates have a 1/2 game lead.

The White Sox became the third team to be mathematically eliminated from all playoff hopes. The only other teams that may not last the weekend are the Cubs and Brewers, but they play each other.

The Cubs, Brewers are eliminated from their divisional races, but could still win the wild card. (They won’t, but they could!) The Phillies will be eliminated from the NL East race if they lose to the Braves. The Mets will be out of the the NL East race with a loss to Cleveland and an Atlanta win. The Giants will be eliminated from the NL West race with a loss to Arizona and a Dodgers win.

The Dodgers are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since June 8-10 when they lost two games to Atlanta and one to Arizona. The June 10 game was one where the Dodgers led 3-1 going to the 9th and Brandon League gave up four runs. The Dodgers got a home run from Juan Uribe off of Heath Bell, and then put runners on first and third with no outs. Where they stayed for the next three batters. Kenley Jansen got the save in the Dodgers win the next day.

A note from Frank Vaccaro of SABR that I picked up on the organization’s listserv. The Dodgers were in last place at the start of play on July 2. They since have built up a lead of more than 10 games in the standings. The only team to build up a 10+ game lead in the standings after being in last place at a later date were the 1914 Boston Braves, who were in last place on July 19. However, this year’s Dodgers had played two more games (81 to 79) than the Miracle Braves at those points in the season.

Finally, the biggest duel of the season going on in this series is the one between Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Cosart for the NL lead in sacrifice flies. Both men have nine. Gonzalez has scored Carl Crawford six times on sacrifice flies, but Cosart has brought home nine different players. No Dodger has led the NL in sacrifice flies since 1978 when Reggie Smith had 13.  The MLB record for sacrifice flies in a year (a stat that dates back just to 1954 in its present form) is 19 by Gil Hodges back in 1954.

Dodgers at Reds, 10:05 a.m.

Sep 06

Dodgers start last series out of the West against a team that I grew up thinking was “West”

(Bob here. The software makes it looks like Jon is the author)

For those of us who are old, as in “over 30″, we still think of the Reds as an NL West team, which they were from 1969-1993, winning the NL West eight times (the most of any team in that time span), and having the best overall record in the division in 1981 to boot. So there used to be a lot of intradivisional games that started at weird times for those of us in L.A., but we liked it! Or maybe we didn’t like having to watch Bench, Morgan, Rose and company so much. And so much Ron Oester and Gary Redus too.

If the Dodgers win tonight, their winning percentage will be .6. No need for other digits. If they win they would be 84-56. 84 and 140 are both evenly divisible by 14, (14 X 6) / (14 X 10) = 6/10 = .6 (Do I get a better grade for showing my work?)

Tonight’s series marks the Dodgers last games against a team outside of the NL West. Which is somewhat remarkable with their being five teams in each division and 15 teams in each league. But, the Dodgers managed to get a travel-friendly schedule for the end of the year. After they return home, they travel to the distant lands of Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco.

The interleague series to take you home: Mets at Cleveland this weekend, Pittsburgh at Texas from 9/9-11, Seattle at St. Louis 9/13-15, Cincinnati at Houston 9/16-18 (an NL West reunion!), San Francisco at Yankees 9/20-22, Boston at Colorado 9/24-26, and, finally, Detroit at Miami, 9/27-29.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s back is a little ouchy, so he’s being rested in favor of Chris Capuano.

In happier health news, Reds third base coach Mark Berry found out that his most recent scans showed no return of the throat cancer that sidelined him for parts of the year.

UPDATE: Tony Jackson reports that Matt Kemp’s rehab has been shut down for the time being because of recurring hamstring tightness.

Dodgers at Reds, 4:10 p.m.

Sep 05

It’s time for the Rose Parade

According to a tweet from the Rose Bowl game (not yet on the parade’s feed), Vin Scully has been named grand marshal for the 125th Tournament of Roses to be held as always in Pasadena and, most of the time, on January 1. (It’s on January 2 if the 1st is a Sunday.)

Not counting Jackie Robinson’s posthumous selection as grand marshal in 1999, Vin Scully will be the first baseball-related grand marshal since Hank Aaron in 1975. Or you could argue for Danny Kaye, who once owned part of the Seattle Mariners, having the job in 1984.

Presumably, Vin will fare better than 2011 Grand Marshal Paula Deen.

From the press release from the Tournament of Roses:

PASADENA, Calif. (September 5, 2013) – Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, an icon in American sports history and “the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers” for 64 years, was announced today as the Grand Marshal for the 2014 Tournament of Roses, themed “Dreams Come True.” Scully will ride in the 125th Rose Parade® presented by Honda and toss the coin at the start of the 100th Rose Bowl Game® presented by VIZIO on January 1, 2014, as well as participate in a number of Tournament-related events throughout the month of December 2013.

Tournament of Roses President R. Scott Jenkins made the announcement at a press conference and public event at Tournament House in Pasadena. In his remarks, Jenkins referred to Scully as being in a league of his own and literally the best in his field.

“Vin Scully is incredibly accomplished and yet still so down to earth,” said Jenkins. “His own life is one in which many dreams have come true and even more importantly, he has been at the microphone describing for listeners everywhere the dreams of others coming true. I couldn’t be happier that he accepted my invitation to be the Grand Marshal. I know his fans everywhere are cheering right now.”

“I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to be the Grand Marshal of the 125th Rose Parade,” said Scully. “I look forward to sharing this wonderful moment with my wife, Sandi, and the millions who will be watching.”

 

Other than that, it’s an off day. The Dodgers won’t have another one until September 23.

Sep 04

The day and week ahead

Dodgers at Rockies, 5:40 p.m.

Starting Thursday, I will be largely away from Dodger Thoughts for approximately one week, finding myself at the Toronto International Film Festival for Variety for the second year in a row. Game chat threads are set up for each day of action, and the reliable and effervescent Bob Timmermann will be offering his insight as much as his schedule and inclinations allow.

With the magic number for clinching the National League West at 12, Timmermann’s fair reign potentially will include a celebration post.

I imagine there is some concern that the Dodgers are peaking and/or counting their chickens too early, what with their ferociously strong summertime run and tonight’s start of Edinson Volquez in Coors Field.

To that, I offer these soothing thoughts:

1) For those who think they’re peaking too early, well, the lineups of the past two days offer the antidote. I’m practically ready for Don Mattingly to be given a breather and Manny Mota to manage the team for a day.

2) Even if Volquez gets torched, cutting a break to the guys in the potential postseason starting rotation offers a greater good. And Volquez might not get torched.

3) Though there are famous stories of hot teams in the summer flaming out in the fall, there is no cause-effect relationship there. There are plenty of stories of teams that peaked at the last possible moment and still didn’t win the World Series.

4) These Dodgers are hungry. I don’t know if they’re hungry in the same way as the fans who have waited 25 years or their entire lives for a World Series title, but they did not come this far just to go through the motions in October. Don’t buy into the idea that losses are inherently a character flaw.

5) Ultimately, we have limited control over whether the Dodgers win or lose. So just treasure every moment you can.

Sep 03

The Days of Puig and Ramirez take a day off

Dodgers at Rockies, 5:40 p.m.

On June 12 in Arizona, the Dodgers put out a lineup with Nick Punto at shortstop and an outfield of Jerry Hairston Jr., Andre Ethier and Alex Castellanos (who went 2 for 3, by the way). That was the last time the Dodgers entered a game without starting Hanley Ramirez or Yasiel Puig — until today.

Off the bench, Puig singled and scored the Dodgers’ second run in the bottom of the 12th inning of that June 12 game, but Los Angeles still lost, 8-6.  Since that time, they are 54-18, including an unfathomable .800 stretch of 52-13.

Speaking of days off: J.P. Howell hasn’t pitched in a game since August 24 and has faced two batters, throwing 11 pitches, in the past two weeks.

Sep 01

NL playoff possibilities a jumble-aya

With the Dodgers sporting what I would call a muscular 11 1/2-game lead in the National League West (and a magic number of 16 with 26 games to play) after their second consecutive 2-1 victory over San Diego, I’m finding it nearly impossible not to speculate about potential postseason matchups.

Even if all three teams from the National League Central make the playoffs as a division champion and the two wild cards, there could be an extra playoff game that might delay Los Angeles, if it goes on to win the division, learning who its first postseason opponent is.

Based on MLB rules changes that came in with the creation of the second wild-card spot in each league, if two teams tie for first place in the NL Central, they would have a playoff game to determine the division champ and first wild card. Presumably, that game would take place Monday, September 30, the day after the regular season ends. (If it’s between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the Pirates would host that game, based on having won the season series with the Cardinals.)

The loser of that divisional playoff game – or without such a game, the top wild-card finisher, would host the second wild-card team in the one-game showdown on Tuesday, October 1.

The winner of the wild-card game will then travel to the home of the team with the best record in the league for a best-of-five NL Division Series that would probably begin on Thursday, October 3. Unlike last year, the division series will be in a 2-2-1 format.

The NL Division Series between the division champs that don’t have the best record in the league would probably begin on Wednesday, October 2.

The Dodgers currently hold the No. 2 spot in the NL. Though they have closed within two games of Atlanta, they actually need to make up three games to pass them, because head-to-head records will serve as tiebreakers for playoff seeding. Here’s how the Dodgers have fared against their fellow playoff contenders this year:

Arizona: 5-7 with seven games to play
Atlanta: 2-5
Cincinnati: 3-1 with three games to play
Pittsburgh: 4-2
St. Louis: 4-3
Washington: 5-1

If all three contenders in the NL Central finish the regular season tied, with the division champion and two wild-card slots at their disposal, that’s when it gets really interesting. Head-to-head records would be used to determine placement of the three clubs, and then there would be two playoff games.

The loser of the first game would be a wild-card team. The winner of the first game would play the remaining contender from the division in the second game. The winner of the second game would be the division champion, while the loser of the second game would be the other wild card.

For more insight, you can look at last year’s MLB postseason tiebreaker guide.

 

Sep 01

Puig missed the cutoff man … and saved the Dodgers

An element to the too-great debate over Yasiel Puig is this idea that his flaws – such as missing the cutoff man – will cost the Dodgers a victory.

Putting aside the phony idea that occasional on-field mistakes should negate all the positive Puig brings to Los Angeles, there’s also this:

Hitting or missing the cutoff man is usually presented as a black-and-white tale of good vs. evil, ignoring the fact that sometimes, to throw out a baserunner at home, you are absolutely going to miss the cutoff man.

Saturday, the Dodgers won by one run, a margin arguably carved out by nothing less than Puig missing the cutoff man to nail Rene Rivera trying to score on Andrew Cashner’s two-out, fourth-inning single.

Puig could have easily hit the cutoff man on this play – and the Padres would just as easily taken a two-run lead with their leadoff hitter coming up to bat. Which outcome would you prefer?

Vin Scully sure didn’t seem to mind: “Puig does it again,” he exclaimed. “He just airmails it, a hopper, just to Federowicz, who just plants and makes the tag. Oh, to be 22 and a Dodger – wow!”

The key, obviously, is to know when to go for the play at home and to know when to focus on the trailing baserunner. Guess what: three months into his major-league career, it’s okay that Puig is still learning about how to make this choice with major-league baserunners. It really is.

If his decision-making on throws home is the worst thing you can say about his game between the lines, that is really extraordinary.

On Saturday, Puig went hitless (three times with runners on base) and was caught stealing with a 2-1 count on Adrian Gonzalez, yet made one of the biggest plays of the game. Something to remember the next time he knocks three hits and all anyone wants to talk about is hitting the cutoff man.

* * *

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.

With rosters expanding today, the Dodgers have kicked things off by officially recalling Drew Butera, Stephen Fife, Dee Gordon, Peter Moylan and Scott Van Slyke.

The Dodgers’ 2.07 ERA in August was their lowest in a month since April 1981. The top five:

1.59 September 1965
1.93 April 1981
1.93 September 1976
2.03 September 1966
2.07 August 2013

Los Angeles also had its second-best month by winning percentage.

.850 April 1977
.793 August 2013
.792 July 2013

Aug 31

If the Dodgers make the playoffs …

The more I look at this, the more I realize that the Michael Young acquisition pushes Scott Van Slyke off the Dodgers’ potential postseason 25-man roster.

Obviously, things can change on the fringes, and we’re going to knock on wood all month. But for the time being, here’s how it shapes up.

Starters (4)
Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ricky Nolasco

Relievers (7)
Kenley Jansen
Paco Rodriguez
Brian Wilson
Ronald Belisario
J.P. Howell
Chris Withrow
Brandon League or Carlos Marmol

Starting lineup (8)
A.J. Ellis
Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Ellis
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig

Bench (6)
Matt Kemp (not saying Kemp won’t start – but one of the big four outfielders must go here.)
Tim Federowicz
Michael Young
Nick Punto
Skip Schumaker
Jerry Hairston Jr. or Scott Van Slyke

Aug 31

That’s 50! Dodgers 50-13 since June 22 with 2-1 victory

Scoreless through six innings against hard-throwing righty Andrew Cashner, the Dodgers got RBI singles from Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning and Mark Ellis (off the bench) in the eighth to rally for a 2-1 victory, making them 50-13 since June 22.

Los Angeles set a record for wins in a calendar month with 23.

Presumably pitching for his spot in the rotation, Chris Capuano went seven innings, scattering seven hits besides a solo fourth-inning homer by Ronny Cedeno and walking only one while striking out seven. (It helped that Yasiel Puig threw out a runner at the plate.) Brian Wilson survived a threat in the eighth inning to get his first Dodger win, while Kenley Jansen struck out the side for his 23rd save.

Five spots in the Dodger batting order had two hits: Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Skip Schumacker, Juan Uribe and the pinch-hitting combo of Jerry Hairston Jr. and Mark Ellis. Hairston and Schumaker scored the Dodger runs.

After playing .794 ball since June 22, the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the National League West is 18, and they need to go 20-7 (.741) to reach 100 wins.

Aug 31

Report: Dodgers acquire Michael Young

On the seventh anniversary of Jhonny Nunez-for-Marlon Anderson, the Dodgers have acquired 36-year-old third baseman and Covina native Michael Young from the Phillies, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

What the Dodgers are giving up was not immediately announced.

A free agent after this season, Young has name value, thanks in no small part to 2,356 career hits, but check out this comparison to Juan Uribe this season:

Uribe 2013: .722 OPS., 103 OPS+, 25.8 UZR/150, 2.8 WAR
Young 2013: .722 OPS, 99 OPS+, -16.2 UZR/150, 0.0 WAR

If Young is here to provide a bat off the bench, that’s fine. For example, Jerry Hairston has a .595 OPS this season. But the Dodgers don’t need to be weakening their starting defense now.

Update: Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Dodgers will send a minor-league pitcher to Philadelphia, but no word yet on who it is.

Update 2: It’s official – the Dodgers get Young and cash considerations ($1.7 million to cover his salary, according to Mark Saxon of ESPNLA.com) for 24-year-old minor-leaguer Rob Rasmussen, who has had a 2.55 ERA with 76 strikeouts against 91 baserunners in 81 1/3 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this year. He had a 6.46 ERA with 37 strikeouts against 99 baserunners in 54 1/3 innings for Triple-A Albuquerque.

Aug 30

So near, so far

Tonight, I’m going to my first Dodger game since Memorial Day. That’s right: I have yet to see Yasiel Puig in person, yet to enjoy the Summer of Gorge anywhere but on my TV, radio or cellphone.

This will be my fifth game of the year. When I got the tickets for my wife and me last week — and I’m not likely to go to more than one more regular-season game this year after this one — it occurred to me that this will be the fewest games I’ve attended in a Dodger season since … 1988.

Read into that what you will. I’m reading in a lot of hope.

That ’88 season began with me as a college junior, continuing through my trip to cover Stanford at the College World Series in Omaha, my summer internship at the Half Moon Bay Review & Pescadero Pebble and my late-summer job as a gofer for NBC’s Summer Olympics boxing coverage in Seoul. I saw not an inning of Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak, and returned to the States a couple of days after my senior year began, stopping at LAX without venturing out of it.

I had been at Dodger Stadium for Tim Leary’s pinch-hitting heroics, but otherwise my Dodger attendance that year was forcibly rare. I saw all the playoffs on TV in the vicinity of Palo Alto. I saw Mike Scioscia’s home run from the Stanford Daily newsroom, Kirk Gibson’s diving daytime catch and Jay Howell’s pine tar while ditching classes, Gibson’s homer off Eckersley with friends who were mainly rooting for Oakland, and the final out on my own little TV in my senior suite.

It wasn’t a lifetime ago, but it kind of feels that way. By the same token, my last Dodger game in May — itself a bright spot countering a dreary start, in case you’ve forgotten — feels about half a lifetime ago. The team’s winning percentage when I’ve gone this year (3-1, .750) is still higher than it’s been in my absence (37-27, .578). Still, though my absence didn’t quite coincide with the surge, the Dodgers have gone 57-27 (.679) since I last attended. More than half the season has gone by.

If the Dodgers make the playoffs, this will be the first postseason for which my family doesn’t have tickets since 1981 (though I did attend an NLCS loss that year). So I might be watching those games on TV as well, even sneaking views from the newsroom where I work. If that’s what it takes …

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.