Sep 15

Ohlendorfed

It’s only been six years, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. found, since the Dodgers gave up at least four home runs in one season to opposing pitchers, which reduces some of the astonishment over Ross Ohlendorf hitting a three-run blast tonight to catapult the Pirates to a 6-2 victory over Los Angeles that eliminated the Dodgers from the 2011 National League West race.

Some of the astonishment, but not all. Ohlendorf was 7 for 100 in his career with no extra-base hits when he hit his blast off Dana Eveland in the second inning to break a 1-1 tie.

It was a come-back-to-Earth game for Eveland, although he pitched shutout ball in four of his five innings. But even though the Dodgers scored a run off Ohlendorf in the first inning after only two batters (Dee Gordon single and steal, Justin Sellers double), the home team was no match for the pitcher who entered the game with 22 earned runs allowed in 24 2/3 innings this season.

After falling behind by four, the Dodgers did get the tying run to the plate in the ninth after a single by Jerry Sands and walks by Russ Mitchell (who hit his second home run of the year and fourth out of 12 career hits) and Tim Federowicz (who got his first major-league hit earlier in the game and reached base three times). But pinch-hitter Aaron Miles flied out to end it.

The Dodgers are 1-4 since reaching the .500 mark Saturday. Ohlendorf won his first game since July 2010, noted Kenny Shulsen of Lasorda’s Lair. He was 1-13 with a 4.80 ERA over the 2010-11 seasons entering tonight’s game.

* * *

  • Jonathan Broxton’s agent, BB Abbott, to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, “The days of Jonathan Broxton throwing 99 and 100 (mph) might be over. But I think he can reinvent himself. He’s still going to be 93-97. … He’s relied on one thing and that’s power. … He’s going to have to be a chameleon. It might be a power slider or a power cutter. He’s going to have to transition.”
  • An MRI on Hiroki Kuroda’s neck was negative, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, and the righty will start Friday’s game.
  • Congrats to Shawn Tolleson and Scott Van Slyke, who were named the Dodgers’ minor-league pitcher and player of the year.
Sep 14

Kershaw ejected after Parra plunked in elbow


Harry How/Getty ImagesShiny unhappy people

Clayton Kershaw, who was working on a one-hit shutout with none out in the sixth inning, was ejected after hitting Gerardo Parra above the right elbow with a pitch.

Kershaw had put umpires on guard with his angry reaction to Parra’s showmanship after a home run off Hong-Chih Kuo on Tuesday, so there was really no wiggle room for him, regardless of what his intent in the moment was.

In the third inning, Kershaw had Parra down 0-2 when the outfielder hit a line-drive double to left-center just out of the reach of leaping shortstop Dee Gordon. That was the only baserunner off Kershaw until he came up again in the sixth.

The 0-1 pitch to Parra rode in and clipped him above the front elbow, and Kershaw was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Bill Welke.  Kershaw protested vehemently, as did manager Don Mattingly, who was then ejected himself.

Kershaw left the game with five strikeouts, having reduced his ERA to 2.30, which put him back in the league lead ahead of Johnny Cueto by 0.01 and Roy Halladay by 0.06. If the Dodgers can hold their 2-0 lead over the remaining four innings, Kershaw’s record would improve to 19-5.

Sep 12

Dodgers lose game and valued executive

The Arizona Diamondbacks took a big one from the Dodgers tonight, and I’m not talking about their 7-2 victory on the field.

Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch is leaving the Dodgers after this season to become senior VP of communications for the Diamondbacks, whose organization and fans are sure to benefit from his presence.

It may seem strange to praise someone entrusted with helping craft public relations for Dodger fans’ Public Enemy No. 1 (with apologies to Clayton Kershaw’s curveball). But despite working at the behest of Frank McCourt (whose merits would often be touted to my skeptical eyes), Rawitch was a major asset for the franchise. He worked tirelessly not only to put the Dodgers’ best foot forward but to make the fans’ experience the best he possibly could, often going well beyond the call of duty.

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall certainly knows this well – he was a Dodger predecessor of Rawitch as head of communications.

There is no shortage of bias toward Rawitch on my end, but it was well-earned. To this site, Rawitch was an early friend, one of the first in all of professional sports to accept that a place outside the mainstream media might still be worthy of being treated with respect. Professionally and personally, he treated me as well as anyone ever has.

I’m going to miss him, but despite how he might spin it in his final days on the job, I couldn’t be happier for him to get a fresh start – with the 2011 National League West champions, no less.

* * *

  • Matt Kemp (2 for 4) hit his 33rd homer in the first inning tonight and Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the fifth, but things fell apart for the Dodgers in the sixth with Arizona tallying five runs. Lilly failed to complete six innings for the 14th time in 30 starts this season.
  • Unfortunately for Kemp’s pursuit of the NL Triple Crown, Albert Pujols hit his league-leading 35th homer tonight.
  • Jerry Sands went 3 for 4 with an RBI in his best major-league performance since going 4 for 4 on May 22.
  • Nathan Eovaldi, making his first career relief appearance, retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
  • Kirk Gibson used three relievers in the ninth inning to protect Arizona’s five-run lead from the Dodgers, who loaded the bases but didn’t score. Dee Gordon, in a 1-for-18 slump, made the final out.
  • San Francisco beat San Diego, meaning that the Giants are 4 1/2 games ahead of the 72-74 Dodgers.
  • Manny Ramirez “was arrested and charged with battery Monday after a domestic dispute at his South Florida home, police said.”
  • Jonathan Broxton has officially been ruled out from returning this season, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, meaning that he has most likely pitched his last game for the Dodgers.  Nothing but best wishes, Jonathan.
Sep 12

The Dodgers’ VORP corps

Some of the order of how the Dodgers are ranked this season in Value Over Replacement Player by Baseball Prospectus might surprise you …

1) Matt Kemp (70.4)
2) Clayton Kershaw (65.1)
3) Chad Billingsley (25.1)
4) Hiroki Kuroda (24.2)
5) Andre Ethier (22.7)
6) Jamey Carroll (18.6)
7) Ted Lilly (16.0)
8) Rod Barajas (10.9)
9) Tony Gwynn Jr. (8.5)
10) Juan Rivera (7.7)
11) Javy Guerra (7.5)
12) Scott Elbert (5.7)
13) A.J. Ellis (5.1)
14) James Loney (4.9)
15) Matt Guerrier (4.9)
16) Casey Blake (4.8)
17) Aaron Miles (4.7)
18) Trent Oeltjen (4.1)
19) Nathan Eovaldi (3.5)
20) Dana Eveland (2.8)
21) Rubby De La Rosa (2.7)
22) Dee Gordon (2.7)
23) Josh Lindblom (2.4)
24) Justin Sellers (2.0)
25) Jon Garland (2.0)

Sep 12

Dee Gordon’s ‘ball three’ problem

Sometimes it’s really curious what happens after you say something out loud.

Sunday, after Dee Gordon struck out in his first at-bat of the Dodgers’ 8-1 loss to San Francisco, I mentioned the fact that (in addition to having only two career walks), Gordon had only seen ball three a total of 10 times in 156 career plate appearances.

Lo and behold, in his final times at bat Sunday, Gordon walked on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth inning and grounded out on a 3-2 pitch in the seventh.

As bad as Gordon’s walk totals are – and make no mistake, even though they increased 50 percent in his last game, they’re just awful – I’m not ready to pronounce them a career-killer. Gordon’s still only 23, he’s in the big leagues before he was supposed to be and his ungodly speed has definite value that helps compensate. If he can hold down the shortstop position, and if he can continue to develop as a hitter, he might be a Dodger regular for years to come.

It sure would be nice if he showed some walking ability, though – and his lack of power doesn’t excuse him completely. For example, Brett Butler in his first two seasons in the majors (1981-82) had seven extra-base hits and no home runs in 413 plate appearances, but still managed to walk 44 times while striking out 52. Gordon, in 159 plate appearances, is at three walks, 24 strikeouts.

Except for the walks, Butler’s rookie season was not that unlike Gordon’s – 145 plate appearances, .254 batting average, .317 slugging percentage, nine steals in 10 attempts. Butler then had a huge learning curve in his second year, hitting .217 and slugging .225 in 268 plate appearances while stealing 21 bases in 29 attempts, in a year that included a midseason demotion to Triple-A for six weeks. Be prepared …

Butler was considered one of the fastest young players in baseball in his day and went on to steal 558 bases in his career. It shows you the kind of skills that Gordon will have in his bid to overcome his walk issues that he already has twice as many steals as Butler, while also offering the (admittedly error-prone) ability to play a more important defense position.

The Dodgers and their fans might need as much patience with Gordon as the kid himself needs to show at the plate. Hopefully, the sheer excitement he brings to the game will help with that.

* * *

One more remembrance from a forgettable game: If you missed Juan Rivera’s circus play Sunday, here’s your chance to rectify that.

Sep 11

Dodgers done with minor-league promotions in 2011

The Dodgers are not planning any more callups, despite Chattanooga’s elimination from the Double-A playoffs, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “This is it,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly told Jackson. “This is our club.”

  • Andre Ethier’s knee surgery is set for Wednesday, reports Jackson.
  • Javy Guerra has been getting saves despite a cracked fingernail, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Matt Kemp gets a New York Times profile from Tyler Kepner.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times on the Dodger offseason outlook:

    … Colletti acknowledged that McCourt had yet to let him know how much he can spend in the offseason, and good luck with that. He has attorneys to pay, you know.

    Both Manager Don Mattingly and Colletti said it’s the offense that needs upgrading, a statement’s shock value that resonates right up there with “desert needs more water.”

    The only troubling thing to this is that it seems immediately reactive to this year’s team and not part of an overall plan. I suppose some of that is always inherent with the job, but a year ago it was the rotation that was a problem –- as anyone paying attention knew it would be going into the season. …

    The good part to this .500 season is that having a crummy team, and battling constant injuries, enabled to Dodgers to get a good and encouraging look at a lot of young players.

    Still, it’s not like the next wave will be reminiscent of the Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney invasion. Most of the promise comes from young pitchers and a couple of light-hitting infielders. …

    To the team’s great credit, they have continued to play hard, though as Mattingly has recognized, it is always dangerous to place too much credence in the performance of late call-ups, either good or bad.

    There is plenty that needs to be added next season. And there are 10 current Dodgers who have contracts ending within the next three weeks. Plenty of bodies will come and go, yet the team figures to look very familiar.

  • Wally Moon, who has published a memoir, “Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life,” is interviewed by Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
Sep 09

‘A pretty good line’

Vin Scully gave an interview to Daniel Riley of GQ in which he comments and reflects upon his greatest calls. There are audio recordings of the interview excerpts if you click the link; here’s GQ’s roughly transcribed version of how Scully’s comments on Kirk Gibson end:

… So when he hits the home run, the whole building… from the empty dugout to the walk, to him suddenly using the bat as a cane… it was just the most theatrical home run. And the place went crazy. I don’t know where it came from, but out came a line that later on I thought only could’ve come from The Boss. That line, ‘In a year of the improbable, the impossible has happened’ — which, I must admit, is a pretty good line — it just totally came out of nowhere. My heart, that’s where it came from, and God helped me out.”

Sep 08

Game 2 drowned out

The Dodgers’ quest for a .500 record has been thrown for a loop!

Game 2 of the Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader has been officially canceled without a makeup date, the Dodgers announced, meaning that the Dodgers will probably end up with no more than 161 games this season. They’re gonna need a lot more rain sometime this month to finish with the same number of wins and losses now.

With that out of the way, let’s all gather to watch Double-A Chattanooga in its Southern League playoff opener.

Sep 08

Billingsley’s tailspin: approach or injury?

Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley’s ERA rose to 4.30 today.

So, which logic do we follow?

Is it the logic that Chad Billingsley is afraid to trust his stuff? That his mechanics have gone awry?  Or that might be hurt?

Billingsley was chased with one out in the third inning of today’s lidlifter against Washington, after he gave up the Dodgers’ early 4-0 lead. Billingsley surrendered four runs on a single, three doubles and a home run in the third, capping an ugly outing in which he allowed eight of his 15 batters to reach base.

Despite concern rising about his performance on this site two weeks ago, Billingsley actually had a halfway decent August, with a 3.77 ERA while averaging more than six innings per start. But his strikeouts per nine innings fell to 5.5 while his walks were at 4.1.

In September, it’s just gone off a cliff. Billingsley has made two starts and lasted a combined 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 14 hits while walking six and striking out five.

It may well be that this is a problem of execution (and no, I don’t mean the old John McKay joke). But given the history of the Dodgers and their players (punctuated this year by Jonathan Broxton and Andre Ethier) trying to slide by with injuries rather than address them, Billingsley’s health is the first question that comes to my mind.

If he’s healthy, then this is the perfect time of the year to work out his issues. But if he’s hurt, gutting it out only serves to hurt Billingsley and the franchise.

Sep 07

Rain of error: Dodgers, Nationals say ‘Let’s get it on’ – but will they?

“Really?”

Dee Gordon

The Dodgers and Nationals shouldn’t feel bad.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing with my day, either.

At around 1 p.m. today, word came out from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that Major League Baseball was pushing the Dodgers and Nationals to try to get today’s game played, despite their earlier official postponement in the wake of wet weather in Washington.

Subsequently came sundry tweets of confusion that included players wondering what was going on, including this from Gene Wang of the Post: “In #Nats clubhouse. @JLannan31 just asked Detwiler: ‘Can we leave?’ Detwiler said he didn’t know. He’s in street clothes tho.”

This led to the rather priceless tweet at the top of this post from Gordon, who had previously announced that he and Matt Kemp were taking the day off to go to Best Buy.

Two hours before scheduled gametime, the Nationals announced they were opening their gates. About 90 minutes before originally scheduled first pitch, the Dodgers officially announced they had gotten on board. Of course the game itself still remains dependent on what the clouds do with their day.

I still can’t help wondering, as I wrote on Twitter, if the Nationals and Dodgers played today’s game on Strat-o-Matic with Mattingly and Johnson rolling dice, would anyone remotely object?

Update: Before 3 p.m., word came that the game, once again, had been postponed in favor of a doubleheader Thursday.

Sep 07

Does Matt Kemp need a rain dance?

While I ponder what a potential rainout of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader — with the games unlikely to be replayed — might do to Matt Kemp’s MVP chances, here are some links:

  • Juan Uribe’s season-ending surgery for a sports hernia is today, the Dodgers announced.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation offers a history of suicides among baseball players, with some particularly grim anecdotes from the distant and more recent past.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. on the broken dreams of Ivan DeJesus Jr.:

    … In addition to his two walks in 35 at-bats with the Dodgers, DeJesus had just 16 walks in 245 plate appearances over 57 games in Triple A through July 21, just 6.5% of his plate appearances. However, as the season wore on DeJesus showed improvement with 29 walks in his final 43 games, walking in 14.6% of his plate appearances during that span, showing glimpses of his prior days as a viable prospect. DeJesus even hit six of his eight home runs this season in a 16-game span in mid-August.

    Whether it was for attitude, or performance, or both, DeJesus did not get the call. Again. If the Dodgers thought anything of DeJesus, he would be up with the big league team. It appears his days in the Dodger organization are numbered, which is a shame.

    It’s not clear to me why, even if De Jesus doesn’t loom large in the Dodgers’ future plans, he would get buried by Eugenio Velez, who is 0 for his last 40 in the majors — unless the Dodgers’ share the same perverse fascination with how long Velez’s streak can go on that we do.

  • Stephen also points out that Andre Ethier now has at least 30 doubles in five consecutive seasons, a figure exceeded by only four players in Dodger history: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey.
  • Don Mattingly gave an interview to Jim Rosenthal of Los Angeles Magazine (link via L.A. Observed, which also points to a science-flavored Times op-ed piece by Frederick M. Cohan related to Sandy Koufax’s perfect game). An excerpt from the Mattingly interview:

    Managers have people second-guessing them all the time. But even you’ve second-guessed some of your decisions in the press.
    If you don’t second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better. Joe would always tell me that you are going to make decisions. Some of them are not going to work out, and it does not mean that they were the wrong decisions. I have had many occasions this year where I questioned and second-guessed my decision in a game, but it comes down to learning from mistakes and being accountable for what you did right or did wrong.

    Can you think of a decision you second-guessed recently?
    The Mets had Jason Bay waiting on deck with an open base, and I could have walked the lefty hitter and pitched to Bay. Instead the lefty got a hit, and I kicked myself for not challenging Bay and walking the other guy with an open base. We all have the temptation to be backseat drivers when it comes to decisions that don’t work out the way we want. …

  • Is Biz of Baseball founder and Dodger Thoughts friend Maury Brown bringing down the Jim Crane ownership of the Houston Astros (with an assist from Frank and Jamie McCourt) before it even begins? Take a look at this piece and this one by Brown and judge for yourself.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America stacks Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout’s 2011 season against the best ever by age-20 players.
  • Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore looks at the offseason market for catchers (in case the Dodgers decide they need to stick a dagger in A.J. Ellis’ heart one more time.
  • A big topic of conversation in the online sabermetric world Tuesday was this piece appearing on It’s About the Money, which calls into question the value of the Wins Above Replacement stat because of its reliance on fielding metrics that are questionable. This led to a discussion at Sean Foreman’s Baseball-Reference.com blog (including the comments) about how much consistency one should expect in fielding stats for individual players from year to year.
  • Baseball Toaster founder Ken Arneson explores on his new blog why he’s not ready to “commit to a life as a chicken.” I can relate:

    … It’s partly because I don’t have all my ducks in a row in my personal life to make that practical right now. I quit writing regularly two years ago because I was juggling too many balls in my life, and I ended up doing a half-assed job on all of them. I hate feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, I hate feeling like I need to work 24/7 in order to avoid feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, so I resist making commitments that would create any expectations. Hence, for now, this blog, where I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with maximum flexibility and minimum commitment. …

Sep 07

Run, don’t walk: The life of Dee Gordon

All-time single-season leaders in stolen base-walk ratio (minimum 100 plate appearances):

1) Infinity Gus Getz, 1916 Brooklyn Robins: nine steals, zero walks
2) 12.0 Joe Cannon, 1979 Toronto Blue Jays: 12 steals, one walk
3) 8.0 Dee Gordon, 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers: 16 steals, two walks

Dedicated pinch-runner Herb Washington has the most steals in a season without a walk: 29.

Source: Baseball-Reference.com.