Jun 24

State of L.A. baseball podcast

It’s a state we’d all alter, but in any event, here’s what Tony Jackson, Mark Saxon, Brian Kamenetzky and I had to say in our ESPNLosAngeles.com podcast about the Dodgers and Angels at (approximately) midseason.

* * *

  • Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley have each outhit the batters they have faced this year. David Golebiewski of Fangraphs looks at the phenomenon.
  • Mark Cuban’s potential as a baseball owner is the subject of Jayson Stark’s latest rumination at ESPN.com.
  • Farewell, Peter Falk.
Jun 21

Roll out the barrel

Josh Fisher continues his parsing of the McCourt empire at Dodger Divorce, with the emphasis in today’s piece on whether, by having subdivided the Dodgers’ revenue-generation machine into myriad entities, Frank McCourt has Bud Selig over a barrel even if MLB seizes the team.

Should McCourt win out on these issues, it would dramatically devalue the team itself, if a new owner were buying it without the revenue generators intact. But no new owner would want to buy the Dodgers without the ability to reap the profits.

Please take the following in the spirit of thinking out loud rather than saying anything definitive, but my reaction is that, as fascinating as this is, this all comes down to the fate of the lawsuit we all expect is coming. The entire dispute stands on whether or not MLB can define what’s allowed and what isn’t. My legal opinion isn’t worth spit, but I find it hard to believe that the courts would rule that MLB is in the right, yet not allow MLB to reap the benefit of that ruling because of McCourt’s shenanigans.

Yes, MLB might have approved the shenanigans, but for that matter, it also approved McCourt’s purchase of the team. Both approvals were rendered with the understanding that MLB would have the last word on operations of the Dodger franchise.

Otherwise, the other 29 owners would be permitted to simply stash any and all parts of their teams in newly formed companies, and be able to flaunt the rules as they see fit – even if MLB won the case. (Or, I suppose, MLB could specifically bar this practice going forward, but still, you get the idea.)

My sense is that MLB and Selig would not be entering this fight with McCourt if they were not confident of conquering this particular set of challenges, but all we can do is wait to see how it pans out.

* * *

  • Chad Billingsley’s curveball has been flatter during his slump, says Zack Singer of ESPN Stats & Info.
  • It might be fruitless, but there’s a petition to get Vin Scully on the air during the postseason for Fox (via Big League Stew).
  • Billy DeLury, the second-longest-tenured Dodger employee after Scully, is the subject of a nice interview by Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Mark Cuban appeared on TMZ today and at once displayed more interest in buying the Dodgers and more wariness than I’ve heard him offer before. As Cuban notes, all this speculation is premature — there is no timetable for the team being put on sale yet.
  • Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner writes about the long road for pitcher Randy Keisler.
Jun 20

Kershaw XCIX: Kershawl the President’s Men

Bob Timmermann writes at Native Intelligence about the upcoming Society for American Baseball Research convention in Long Beach.

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores what Matt Kemp might be worth in his next contract.

Jun 18

A low down dirty shame

One thing I noticed about the sixth-inning-gone-wrong in the Dodgers’ 7-3 loss to Houston on Friday was how the hitters who did the most damage to Ted Lilly were diving for pitches.

Carlos Lee went down and away to loop a 200-foot single to drive in the run that broke a 1-1 tie. The first-pitch breaking ball was not in the strike zone. Then, with the bases loaded, Clint Barmes hit a 1-0 slider over the plate but down at his knees, slicing a two-run double just inside the right-field line about 250 feet down.

The topper came on a two out, 3-2 fastball to Jason Bourgeois – first seen here in my 2002 article on Single-A ball in Savannah, right around the time I started Dodger Thoughts – that was over the center of the plate, but all Bourgeois did with that was hit a grounder up the middle that Aaron Miles flagged, only to miss on the throw to second, allowing two runs to score.

In the meantime, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com can tell you about the Dodgers’ lack-of-patience woes at the plate.

Not the Dodgers’ night, or their week, or their month, or their year.

* * *

Kenley Jansen, one of three injured Dodger relievers coming off the disabled list in the short term, returns to the active roster today. The trio of returnees will create some tough cuts in the Dodger bullpen, starting with Josh Lindblom, who is being sent to Double-A for the time being.

Note where Lindblom ranks on the following lists …

Opponents’ OPS in 2011 for recently active Dodger relievers
.624 Josh Lindblom
.629 Matt Guerrier
.637 Blake Hawksworth
.686 Scott Elbert
.749 Mike MacDougal
.777 Javy Guerra
.996 Ramon Troncoso

Opponents’ OPS in past 28 days for recently active Dodger relievers
.588 Blake Hawksworth
.624 Josh Lindblom
.686 Matt Guerrier
.840 Scott Elbert
.851 Mike MacDougal
.863 Ramon Troncoso
.868 Javy Guerra

Jun 15

A few notes about blown leads

In 41 games since May 1, the Dodgers have lost eight games in which they had a lead and five others in which they were tied (not counting 0-0 games).

The Dodgers have won four games after they lost a lead in that span (and, of course, rallied from other deficits).

Of the 13 games that the Dodgers lost after leading or being tied, the bullpen earned part or all of the blame in eight of them.

Only once in the 41 games since May 1 have the Dodgers surrendered a lead of more than one run and lost, on June 9 in Colorado.

Blown leads since May 1
*June 14: one-run lead, by Kershaw in fourth
*June 13: two one-run leads, by Kuroda in second and sixth
June 9: four-run lead, by Kershaw, Elbert and MacDougal in seventh (Dodgers lost)
June 7: one-run lead, by De La Rosa in second (Dodgers won)
June 4: one-run lead, by Kershaw in sixth (Dodgers won)
June 3: one-run lead, by Kuroda in fifth (Dodgers lost)
May 27: two one-run leads, by Garland in sixth and De La Rosa in eighth (Dodgers won)
May 23: one-run lead, by Kershaw in third, and two-run lead, by Jansen in ninth (Dodgers lost)
May 20: two-run lead, by Lilly in second (Dodgers won)
May 9: one-run lead, by Billingsley in third (Dodgers lost)
May 6: three one-run leads, by Kuroda in first, second and sixth innings (Dodgers lost)
*May 3: one-run lead, by Billingsley in seventh

Blown ties since May 1 (not 0-0)
*June 14: by Guerrier and Elbert in eighth (Dodgers lost)
*June 13: by Kuroda in seventh (Dodgers lost)
May 25: by Guerrier in ninth (Dodgers lost)
May 21: by Garland in fourth (Dodgers lost)
May 18: by Cormier in ninth (Dodgers lost)
May 16: by Garland in sixth (Dodgers lost)
May 7: by MacDougal, Kuo and Guerrier in eighth (Dodgers lost)
*May 3: by Broxton and Hawksworth in ninth (Dodgers lost)

*same game

Jun 14

Live and in concert …

I don’t think I ever mentioned this Fangraphs panel that I’m going to be participating in the night of July 7:

… Among the confirmed guests who will be joining us for an evening of baseball discussion are:

  • Rob Neyer, national baseball writer for SB Nation
  • Vince Gennaro, author of Diamond Dollars and professor at Columbia University
  • Rich Lederer, curator of Baseball Analysts and well known Bert Blyleven booster
  • Jon Weisman, author of Dodger Thoughts and writer/editor at Variety
  • Eric Stephen, author at True Blue LA, the Dodgers arm of the SB Nation network
  • Jonah Keri, writer for FanGraphs and author of The Extra 2%
  • Carson Cistulli, editor for FanGraphs, host of FanGraphs Audio, published poet
  • David Appelman, president of FanGraphs
  • Dave Cameron, managing editor of FanGraphs

Over the course of three hours or so, we will talk extensively about the local Los Angeles franchises, the current state and future of statistical analysis, and why Jonah is just so darn likeable. In addition to hosting several moderated panel discussions, we’ll also be taking questions from the audience, aiming for an interactive discussion between guests and attendees. …

Should be fun. And then, a week later, I’ll be one of the moderators at the July 14 Variety Sports Entertainment Summit, which has a pretty massive agenda itself, capped by an exclusive look at the making of “Moneyball.”

Jun 13

Yet another thing about Matt Kemp: He hits righties

Andre Ethier and James Loney are among the left-handed batters who have become notorious for their struggles against same-side pitching. Matt Kemp, though, has rarely been terrible against righties, and right now they’ve stopped being any kind of problem, to say the least.

OPS vs. lefties/OPS vs. righties
2006: .578/.808
2007: 1.002/.835
2008: .989/.725
2009: 1.045/.782
2010: .809/.743
2011: 1.111/1.032 (213 plate appearances against RHP this year)
Career: .943/.792

According to the Society for American Baseball Research (via the Dodger press notes), June 12 is the earliest date a Dodger has ever reached the 20-homer mark.

* * *

In case you missed it earlier, Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine reported that a deferred payment owed to Manny Ramirez of more than $8 million comes due at the end of the month. We’ll see what happens with the McCourt saga between now and then.

Jun 12

Day-after observations: Defense! Defense!


Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesJamey Carroll had four hits at the plate Saturday - here was his fifth. He upended Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth inning to break up a potential double play and cause a throwing error.

1) I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if Tony Gwynn Jr. hadn’t been in left field at the end of Saturday’s 11-7 Dodger victory. For a look at the catch, head to Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.

2) Speaking of defense, now I understand what the scouts were saying about Dee Gordon’s. His ability to make spectacular plays is enough to convince you that he is the real deal at shortstop. And from what I’ve seen, he has been solid on the routine plays in his first week as well. Even more than the speed, Roadrunner’s defense has gotten me believing in him.

3) There’s still the matter of Gordon’s bat. In 23 at-bats, Gordon has seven hits and seven strikeouts, zero walks and zero extra-base hits. His batting line makes Aaron Miles, who got his sixth double and third walk of the season Saturday like Adam Dunn.

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesAaron Miles throws out Eric Young Jr. in the third inning Saturday.

4) Speaking of Miles, I totally get Tony Jackson’s musings at ESPNLosAngeles.com about whether Miles and Jamey Carroll have earned more playing time. My quibble would be grouping Miles and Carroll together. Carroll (.378 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage) has absolutely earned a spot ahead of Juan Uribe – let Uribe try to prove himself as a hero off the bench. Miles (.319 on-base percentage, .350 slugging percentage), owner of the emptiest .300 batting average in Dodger history, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., isn’t an upgrade over Casey Blake when Blake is healthy. Blake sat out Saturday’s game with a stiff neck.

5) Still, if the Dodgers started a lineup of Miles at third, Gordon at short, Carroll at second and platooned Blake and James Loney at first, how much would you object?

6) Scott Elbert and Colorado are not friends. Elbert in Denver the past two seasons: 12 batters faced, nine baserunners (.750 OBP). Elbert everywhere else the past two seasons: 30 plate appearances, seven baserunners (.233 OBP).

7) Carroll moved into eight place in the National League batting race, joining Matt Kemp (third) and Andre Ethier (fourth). The last time the Dodgers finished a year with three of the top 10 in batting average was 1955, with Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider. The last time the Dodgers had three .300 hitters was 2006 with Rafael Furcal, Kenny Lofton and Nomar Garciaparra. (Here’s a full list of Dodger .300 hitters.)

8) Don’t miss this morning’s note about the Dodger Thoughts comments.

* * *

  • Don Newcombe was interviewed by Scott Bair of the North County Times.
  • We started talking about this in the Dodger Thoughts comments Saturday: MLB is mulling a realignment that would send an NL team (say, Houston or Florida) to the AL and possibly eliminate divisions altogether, with five playoff teams per league, reports Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Keith Olbermann takes down the idea at his baseball blog.
  • Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo are doing well on their minor-league rehab assignements, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Hector Gimenez dream has been put in storage. Gimenez, who had been on the disabled list, cleared waivers and has been assigned to Double-A Chattanooga. Juan Castro has accepted his assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness argues that it’s time to give A.J. Ellis a chance. Of course, that was true before the Dodgers signed Dioner Navarro to a $1 million contract in the offseason.
  • Randy Keisler, who won a contract with the Dodgers via their open tryout this spring, pitched seven innings of one-run ball to win his second straight game for Albuquerque on Saturday. Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has the story.
Jun 11

A tale of two signings: Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe

How does this happen? Is the lesson to bet on on-base percentage once players hit their 30s? Or is this just an anomaly?

Jamey Carroll

Signing date: December 18, 2009
Contract terms: Two years, $3.85 million ($1 million signing bonus, $1.05 million in 2010, $1.8 million in 2011), plus incentives for plate appearances
Age when signed: 35 years, eight months
Performance over previous two years: 206 games, 656 plate appearances, .355 on-base percentage, .343 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 89 (100 being average)
Performance as a Dodger: 195 games, 656 plate appearances, .374 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 103

Juan Uribe

Signing date: November 30, 2010
Contract terms: Three years, $21 million ($5 million in 2011, $8 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, plus $1 million in 2014)
Age when signed: 31 years, four months
Performance over previous two years: 270 games, 1,007 plate appearances, .318 on-base percentage, .464 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 106
Performance as a Dodger: 46 games, 177 plate appearances, .282 on-base percentage, .319 slugging percentage, adjusted OPS of 70

Contract information source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Jun 10

Trayvon Robinson awaits chance to rush the Dodger fraternity


Harry How/Getty ImagesTrayvon Robinson

Any notion that the Dodgers were going to hold back on pushing young players to the big leagues this season was left sittin’ on the dock of the bay once Los Angeles promoted Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon ahead of schedule.

So it’s natural to ask if outfielder Trayvon Robinson will also get an early wakeup call. We know the Dodgers originally intended for Robinson to spend the season in the minors, but that was then. What about now?

Playing center field for Albuquerque, Robinson has a .341 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage this season, with 12 homers and seven steals in nine attempts. Outside of the baserunning, those numbers are considerably better than what Gordon had to offer when he took over major-league shortstop duties (for the time being), but they sit pretty far below what recently promoted Trent Oeltjen (.429/.583) was producing.

Few will argue that Oeltjen has a brighter future than Robinson, but in terms of the present, there wouldn’t appear to be an imperative to rush Robinson to the majors. The 23-year-old Robinson also has had some pretty significant plate discipline issues this season, with 17 walks against 64 strikeouts for the Isotopes.

Still, there are questions. We’re told that Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames will now platoon in left field, with Oeltjen mixing in as well, but it’s anything but clear that it’s a long-term arrangement. If none of them show anything with the bat, it’s going to be harder and harder to understand why Jamey Carroll (or even Aaron Miles, for all his weaknesses) should be sitting. That’s why I think you could ultimately see an infielder get some time in the outfield, whether it’s Casey Blake, Carroll or Miles.

And then again, maybe we’ll still see Robinson this summer. The Dodgers could have stuck with Carroll and Miles rather than turning to Gordon, whose abilities are still developing. There may be the sentiment that in the absence of thrilling alternatives, another kid will get his taste, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

Jun 09

Dodgers demote Jerry Sands, bring up Trent Oeltjen


Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

The Dodgers are going to give Jerry Sands a breather from the major leagues, replacing him on the active roster with lefty-hitting outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .429 on-base percentage and .583 slugging percentage at Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

In addition, the Dodgers outrighted minor-leaguer Luis Vasquez from the 40-man roster to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Have no fear about Sands — despite his recent slump, his initial foray into the bigs should be viewed in a positive light, providing some great moments as well as some knowledge of how he has to improve.

As for the major-league roster, I wonder if this move sets the stage for Casey Blake to play some left field, as was discussed months ago.

* * *

It’s Clayton Kershaw Day on the Internet, with several pieces on the Dodger lefty:

  • Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.com is exceedingly complimentary, noting that no 23-year-old major-league pitcher (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) had ever had as many career victories and as low a career ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning before Kershaw.  Kershaw says he benefited from his fast start.

    “The Dodgers did me a huge favor calling me up as early as they did,” Kershaw told Kurkjian. “I took my lumps, but I’m better off for it. What I’ve learned to this point has been huge for me.”

    The biggest adjustment came this year when he added a slider in part because, “I couldn’t control my curveball.” Manager Don Mattingly agreed, but added, “No one [umpires] calls the curveball [for strikes] anymore. No one swings at it. So, you can’t throw it. But his slider and changeup have become very good. When I first saw him, he could throw a fastball for a strike on the inside part of the plate to right-handed hitters. Now he can throw the ball to both sides of the plate, against right-handed and left-handed hitters. His bullpens are now art. He throws five pitches in, five away. He moves the ball around. It’s boom, boom, boom.” …

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs names Kershaw as a finalist for best southpaw in the National League, before going with a Phillie.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN.com also makes the case for Kershaw as a top young lefty in MLB, before giving Tampa Bay’s David Price a slight edge.
  • According to the Dodger press notes, since making his major-league debut in May 2008, no pitcher with at least 400 innings has a lower opponents’ batting average than Kershaw (.221 batting average, 7.3 hits per nine innings).
Jun 08

Dodgers draft Jarrin’s grandson

Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. has a summary of the Dodgers’ top 30 picks from this year’s amateur draft.

In addition, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes, the Dodgers picked East Los Angeles College second baseman Stefan Jarrin, grandson of legendary Dodger broadcaster Jaime Jarrin and son of Jorge, with a 40th-round pick.

And then there’s 31st-round pick Mickey McConnell, who as Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com writes, has been hoopin’ it up at St. Mary’s the past four years.

Update: Here’s a link to all of the 2011 Dodger draft picks.

Jun 07

Rubby, Dee, meet Ruby Dee


APRuby Dee on stage with Sidney Poitier on March 26, 1959 during the Broadway run of “A Raisin in the Sun”

In honor of the simultaneous first major-league starts of Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon, here’s a portion of “A Raisin in the Sun” with Ruby Dee.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a great chart of how pitchers have done making their first major-league starts with the Dodgers in the past 10 years.

* * *

Here are not one but two updates on 2011 No. 1 draft choice Chris Reed from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jun 06

Dee-Day: Whirlwind of roster changes ends with Gordon callup


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesUnderneath that helmet is newest Dodger major-leaguer Dee Gordon.

Jerry Sands getting an early promotion to the bigs didn’t surprise me much. Nor did Rubby De La Rosa.

But Dee Gordon getting the call — now that’s a commitment to youth.

With Rafael Furcal once again relegated to the disabled list for weeks, the Dodgers have called up the 23-year-old Gordon from Albuquerque, where he had a .361 on-base percentage and 22 steals in 25 attempts, but also only 14 walks and nine extra-base hits (.370 slugging) in 50 games. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.)

Gordon has also had many questions about his fielding, particularly his ability to make the ordinary play (as opposed to the extraordinary one). On the bright side, his surge of errors in April has slowed considerably.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that while everyone has always raved about Gordon’s blinding speed, that .880 stolen-base percentage is a new bright spot. No one’s expecting power from Gordon, so if he can just get on base and stay out of his own way defensively, he could be a thrill to watch.

Gordon is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but unlike with someone such as Ivan De Jesus, Jr., you don’t call someone like Gordon up to ride the bench. Cynics might wonder if Gordon is being showcased for a trade, but I’ve never gotten the sense he’s someone the Dodgers want to part with.

To make room for Gordon and Marcus Thames, who was activated from the disabled list, the Dodgers designated Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons for assignment. This is also something of a surprise, given the Dodgers’ proclivity to protect depth — and by 2011 Dodger standards, the .668 OPS for Gibbons and .619 OPS for Castro aren’t the worst you could imagine. Sands could easily have been sent to the minors. But clearly, general manager Ned Colletti buys into the reality that they’re not going to miss much by losing Castro and Gibbons. (There’s also the not-slim possibility that the pair could end up back in Albuquerque if they clear waivers.)

Perhaps the way the young Dodger bullpen replacements have risen to the occasion has influenced Colletti.

Finally, the Dodgers optioned John Ely and De Jesus to make room for the return of Blake Hawksworth and Juan Uribe from the DL.

On the current 25-man active roster, 15 are below the age of 30.

* * *

Three years ago, I transcribed a Vin Scully excerpt on the anniversary of D-Day. This rubbed some people the wrong way, and a long discussion ensued in the comments of that thread. Just want to link to it to say I hadn’t forgotten what Scully said, nor the response that followed. It was a learning experience for me.