“What is happening in New York? Spending all that money is miraculously working out for them!”
Lenny Ignelzi/APEugenio Velez
The setup: A .264 hitter with a .701 OPS in his first three seasons with San Francisco, Velez had fallen to .164 and .555 in 2010. He was actually batting .412 after going 3 for 5 against the Dodgers on April 17 last year, but finished his major-league action with a little-noticed hitless streak of nine at-bats. Signed to a minor-league contract by the Dodgers in December, Velez settled in nicely with Albuquerque, posting a .339 batting average and .371 on-base percentage with the Isotopes in 55 games. To emphasize that last point, Velez had 74 hits in Albuquerque before he was called up by the Dodgers in July and, if you look at the Isotopes’ batting average leaders, is No. 1 among those who played in at least 10 games, above such players as Trent Oeltjen, Dee Gordon, Tim Federowicz, Ivan De Jesus Jr., A.J. Ellis, Justin Sellers, Jay Gibbons, Trayvon Robinson, Russ Mitchell and Jerry Sands.
The closeup: Um, well, Velez did not hit .339 with the Dodgers. Or .239, or .139, or .039, or .0039. Though he was twice walked and once hit by a pitch, he failed to get a hit in 37 at-bats, establishing records for a non-pitcher for most hitless at-bats in a single season as well as longest hitless streak period: 46. Since a third-inning single on April 20, 2010, Velez is an unbelievable 1 for his last 66 in the majors: an .015 average. And if not for extra innings on May 18, 2010, Velez would be riding a hitless streak of 66 at-bats. There were also few instances of Velez just missing a hit in 2011. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he struck out 11 times (including all three at-bats of his seventh and final start of the year) and made 18 infield outs, in comparison to eight outs recorded by outfielders. He was credited with two line-drive outs in the majors this year.
Coming attractions: When he reached 46 consecutive hitless at-bats, Velez broke a record jointly held by two others who spent time with this franchise, Bill Bergen and Craig Counsell. Bergen was 31 when his streak ended in 1909; he collected 70 more hits over the final two seasons of his career. Counsell was 2 1/2 weeks shy of his 41st birthday when his streak ended in August, and he actually finished the season in an 11-for-40 hot streak (.275). So it’s not as if Velez, 29, should never get a hit again. However, Velez does have a burden borne by neither of his predecessors: He has to carry his hitless streak into his offseason job hunt. No one’s going to hand him a major-league job that offers him an early opportunity to exorcise this particular ghost. Velez will be playing in some organization next year, but he’s going to have to work his way up from the minors, and then figure out how to hit it where they ain’t. Expect him to drive in a go-ahead run with a double down the line against the Dodgers sometime before the decade is over.
Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJohn Ely
The setup: Last year’s rookie darling, at least before his pinpoint control abandoned him midway through the 2010 season, Ely was believed to hold enough usefulness that, amid a seeming lack of alternatives, he figured to be the first minor-league pitcher the Dodgers would turn to in 2011 if anything happened to Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly or Jon Garland.
The closeup: As soon as April 10, the ninth game of the season, the Dodgers did turn to Ely, because Garland hadn’t yet recovered from his Spring Training oblique injury. And Ely was one strike away from a quality start, having allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, when he then walked San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick and then gave up a home run to Nick Hundley. If the Dodgers were going to be forgiving, an uneven performance at Albuquerque (5.99 ERA) changed their minds: Despite Garland soon being lost for the season, Ely made no more starts for Los Angeles in 2011, passed over in favor of Rubby De La Rosa, Nathan Eovaldi and Dana Eveland. In fact, Ely made only four other appearances in the majors this year. One of them was June 5, when he had a chance for a four-inning save before faltering in the ninth. The other three came after rosters expanded in September, when Ely pitched four innings of shutout ball, lowering his season ERA to 4.26 with 13 strikeouts against 12 hits and an uncharacteristic seven walks in 12 2/3 innings.
Coming attractions: Ely wouldn’t seem to figure in the Dodgers’ plans for 2012, especially with a new wave of homegrown minor-leaguers making the grade. Pitching in Albuquerque certainly seems to have done him few favors. On the other hand, he’s still only 25, and if not the Dodgers, some team might see if he can rediscover the confidence control that made him such a hit in 2010. In the same fashion that Eveland got another shot this year, perhaps Ely can too.
Kirby Lee/US PresswireJustin Sellers
The setup: With the Dodgers, his third organization as a minor-leaguer, Sellers began working his way onto the radar in 2010, when the shortstop hit 14 home runs in 288 at-bats with Albuquerque. He performed similarly in 2011, knocking 14 homers in 270 at-bats for the Isotopes while increasing his on-base percentage to .400. When Rafael Furcal’s replacement, 23-year-old homegrown prospect Dee Gordon, went on the disabled list on August 11, the 25-year-old Sellers got the proverbial break he was looking for.
The closeup: Sellers made an impression quickly, not just with his everywhere-you-look tattoos but with a home run in his third major-league game, after which he gave a memorable postgame TV interview while holding his 2-year-old daughter in his arms. During Gordon’s three-week absence, Sellers started 16 games at shortstop with a .714 OPS, while looking reliable and occasionally acrobatic in the field. Rather quickly, support began to build for the idea that Sellers could become the Dodgers’ starting second baseman next to Gordon in 2012, or at least a replacement for utility infielder extraordinaire Jamey Carroll.
Unlike several other Dodger rookies, however, Sellers suffered through a miserable September. He went 9 for 60 with a .227 on-base percentage and a .217 slugging percentage, and needed to go 2 for 4 in the season finale just to reach those heights. He finished 2011 with a .283 on-base percentage and .301 slugging percentage in 139 plate appearances.
Coming attractions: The Dodger infield is in flux, with Gordon arguably the only current member of the 40-man roster assured of a starting job. Casey Blake is likely gone, no one’s quite sure of what will happen with James Loney, and Don Mattingly has indicated that even Juan Uribe needs to prove himself. Carroll and Aaron Miles are free agents, but even if both returned, a bench role could be Sellers’ market. But thanks to his final-month performance, he would appear to be more of a fallback option than one at the forefront, and certainly an unlikely choice to be a starter Opening Day.
Might Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement on the Dodgers also come from Japan? From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
… Assistant general manager Logan White was in Japan earlier this week to scout Tsuyoshi Wada, a left-handed starter for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific League, a source close to the team confirmed on Wednesday.
However, the Dodgers’ interest in Wada, who will be eligible for free agency this winter and thus won’t require a posting fee before a major league team can sign him, is only preliminary.
Wada, 30, entered this season with a 41-31 record and a 3.30 ERA in four seasons with the Hawks, during which he made 88 starts and two relief appearances. This year, he is 13-5 and ranks third in the Pacific League with a 1.70 ERA. …
Kuroda hasn’t announced his decision for 2012, but Dylan Hernandez of the Times offered a clue about the righthander’s leanings.
… Hiroki Kuroda received a hug from Clayton Kershaw. He was tapped on the shoulder by Josh Lindblom, who told him, “See you next year.”
Kuroda’s eyes were red.
Kuroda denied that he was fighting back tears because he had already decided this would be his last day with the Dodgers. He will be a free agent this winter. …
… But Kuroda was also a free agent at the end of last season and he wasn’t nearly as emotional then.
Near the end of the Dodgers’ team meeting Monday, Kershaw stood up and announced he had something to say.
He said he wanted Kuroda to return next season.
“He knows how we feel,” Kershaw said. “We love him here. If he decides to go back to Japan, we understand. That’s his home. He will be a tough person and a tough player to replace, if he decides to go home to Japan.” …
000 000 100 5–6
000 000 100 6–7
From Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN Stats and Information:
Ryan Roberts hit a walkoff grand slam with the Diamondbacks down by three runs in the 10th inning. Roberts is just the fourth player in MLB history to hit a walkoff grand slam in extra innings with his team down three runs.
Ryan Roberts ARI 2011
Jason Giambi NYY 2002
Roger Freed STL 1979
Babe Ruth NYY 1925
It was the second walkoff grand slam in team history. The first was May 9, 2000, also against the Dodgers. Damian Miller hit it off Orel Hershiser, with the game tied at 7 in the bottom of the 12th.
The Diamondbacks came back from a five-run deficit to win the game in the bottom of the 10th. The rally started with none on and two outs. This is the first time a team has ever performed such a feat in an extra-inning game.
The last time a team came back from at least five runs down with two outs to win was July 28, 2001 when the Pirates came back from down six and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Astros. Coincidentally, this game ended on a walkoff grand slam as well, by Brian Giles.
Bob Timmermann found this boxscore of a game in which the Pirates scored six in the bottom of the 11th after allowing five in 1991, though that rally didn’t start with two out.
The home run allowed by Javy Guerra was only the second of his career in 46 2/3 innings, and led to his second blown save in 22 opportunities.
* * *
Even now that his season is over, Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched six shutout innings with five strikeouts and no walks, hasn’t admitted to knowing whether he will come back to the Dodgers next year, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He finished the year with a 3.07 ERA, and in four years with the Dodgers has had a 3.48 ERA in 693 innings.
… “No question,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “It would be something where you would have to find a guy, somebody who would be able to do what he does. That would be somebody who takes the ball and keeps you in games. He knows what he is doing, and he has been good for this team. Different guys watch what he does and the way he works. Obviously the language barrier keeps him from being able to relate verbally, but his work ethic and the way he goes about his business is something our other guys see and learn from.”
General manager Ned Colletti has let Kuroda know he wants him back, and he plans to let him know again Wednesday, before the Dodgers play their season finale. Colletti said he won’t assume Kuroda isn’t coming back “until we know that he isn’t.”
There is one scenario that is possible but not necessarily conceivable, that being free agency could take Kuroda to another major league team. There were a handful of them in on him when he initially signed with the Dodgers, but when he re-signed with them last winter, there weren’t. Even if other teams have interest, there won’t be this time, either.
The simple fact is, the only competition the Dodgers (81-79) will have for Kuroda’s services are the Carp. And that competition will be decided by no other factor than Kuroda’s whim, because the small-market Carp aren’t in a position to offer him anything close to what the Dodgers undoubtedly will. Based on two casual conversations I had with two Japanese reporter friends this week, it sounds as if the Carp probably can’t give him more than the equivalent of $2 million to $3 million.
Kuroda did tell an assemblage of Japanese reporters after the game — he speaks with them separately because he uses Nimura for his U.S. media interviews — that in addition to Colletti, several teammates have encouraged him to stay as well. …
* * *
- Jackson reports that the Dodgers will retain their entire coaching staff for 2012. That’s great news, especially in the case of Davey Lopes, who seemed to have such a positive effect on Matt Kemp, among others.
- Don Mattingly kept Kemp in the No. 3 spot of the batting order rather than moving him up in an attempt to boost his stats and award chances, telling Randy Hill of the Press-Enterprise, “It didn’t feel right” to make the switch.
More encouraging news on Bryan Stow: His family says he is getting stronger and more responsive.
… On Friday Bryan said something that perfectly fit the moment, and really describes these past few days. We got the OK to take Bryan outside for the first time in almost 6 months. He was moved to a cardiac chair and we went out to a secluded patio. Bonnie asked Bryan how it felt to be outside. Bryan, sitting in the sun, with his eyes closed said, “It’s magical.”
- Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm made the case for Matt Kemp as National League Most Valuable Player in an impromptu Twitter debate with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sportswriter Dejan Kovacevic.
- Kemp is poised to become the first Dodger to lead the league in homers and RBI since 1941 NL MVP Dolph Camilli, according to the Dodger press notes.
- Tony Jackson has a feature on Don Mattingly’s rookie season as manager at ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- At Stadium Journey, Paul Swaney has a review of Isotopes Park.
- The Dodgers have asked for a postponement of the Oct. 12 hearing on MLB’s motion to force sale of the team. Bill Shaikin of the Times has details.
- Shawn Tolleson, the highly regarded relief prospect and childhood friend of Clayton Kershaw, gets a short profile by Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
The Dodgers have recorded an “It Gets Better” video. I like seeing the organization step out in this territory.
“The Dodgers have been outspoken advocates for equality and against all societal prejudices dating back to the days of Jackie Robinson,” Dodgers senior vice president of public affairs Howard Sunkin said in a statement. “Our club wholeheartedly supports an end to bullying and violence against LGBT youth. There is zero tolerance for violence of any kind for any reason in our community.”
This statistical run-down comes courtesy of Mark Simon with ESPN Stats and Information.
With 3 games left in the season, Matt Kemp has a slim chance to be the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski won it with the 1967 Red Sox. He would be the first Triple Crown winner from a National League team since Joe Medwick of the 1937 Cardinals.
Kemp trails in the batting race by nine points and needs a hot streak to have a chance to win.
To win the Triple Crown, a player must lead his league in batting average, home runs, and RBI. Kemp leads the NL in RBI and is closing in on the lead in batting average and home runs.
Past Triple Crown winners
Carl Yastrzemski; 1967 Red Sox (MVP)
Frank Robinson; 1966 Orioles (MVP)
Mickey Mantle; 1956 Yankees (MVP)
Ted Williams; 1947 Red Sox (Not MVP
Ted Williams; 1942 Red Sox (Not MVP)
Joe Medwick; 1937 Cardinals (MVP)
Lou Gehrig; 1934 Yankees (Not MVP)
Chuck Klein; 1933 Phillies (Not MVP)
Jimmie Foxx; 1933 Athletics (MVP)
Rogers Hornsby; 1925 Cardinals (MVP)
Rogers Hornsby; 1922 Cardinals (No MVP awarded)
>> All members of Baseball Hall of Fame
Current NL Leader Boards
BATTING AVERAGE- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, .333; Jose Reyes, New York, .331; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, .324; Hunter Pence, Philadelphia, .313; Joey Votto, Cincinnati, .312
HOME RUNS-Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, 37; Albert Pujols, St. Louis, 37; Prince Fielder, Milwaukee, 35; Dan Uggla, Atlanta, 35; Mike Stanton, Florida, 34; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, 33; Ryan Howard, Philadelphia, 33
RBI-Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, 119; Ryan Howard, Philadelphia, 115; Prince Fielder, Milwaukee, 114; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, 110; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado, 105
Matt Kemp – Current 2011 NL Ranks
BA .325 3rd (Ryan Braun, .333)
HR 37 T-1st
RBI 119 1st
Three games to go
The Dodgers have 3 games left with the Diamondbacks, all on the road. This could be advantageous to Kemp, because it ensures the Dodgers 9 innings of at-bats per game (instead of 8).
Kemp is hitting .310 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 15 games against the Diamondbacks this season.
Pitching Probables, Next 3 Days:
Monday: Daniel Hudson; Kemp is 2-8 career vs Hudson
Tuesday: Jarrod Parker; 1st round pick in 2007 making MLB debut
Wednesday: Joe Saunders; Kemp has .333 BA, 3 HR, 9-27 career vs Saunders Continue reading
Ted Lilly, trying to stave off joining the 30-30 club, hasn’t allowed a home run in his past three starts, his longest stretch since April. This season, Lilly has allowed 28 home runs and 33 steals (in 35 attempts).
According to Baseball-Reference.com, there have been 18 pitcher 30-30 seasons since 1950, none since Gavin Floyd of the White Sox in 2008 and none in the National League since Randy Johnson of Arizona in 1999.
The Dodgers beat the Pirates tonight, 7-2, to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least another night. But no matter what happens on the field between now and the end of the regular season September 28, there’s a big postseason showdown on tap for the Dodgers in October.
On October 12, Frank McCourt’s attorneys will formally ask the federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the Dodgers to permit negotiations and possibly an auction for the franchise’s local television rights for 2014 and beyond. Should the court grant the request, it will pave the way for McCourt to retain ownership of the Dodgers – at least until Frank-Jamie II takes place in the courts sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.
Interested parties – Major League Baseball in particular – can and probably will file objections to the Dodgers’ request until September 30. The bankruptcy court’s first duty is to the creditors whom the Dodgers owe; what’s up in the air is whether MLB can make the case that there’s a better way to do this than by giving McCourt the chance to save his ownership – while further mortgaging the franchise’s future – through the future rights sale.
From The Associated Press:
… In a 37-page motion filed Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, the Dodgers say “market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time.”
The Dodgers say “there can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last” and they should be allowed to sell rights now “to avoid any risk of deterioration in value.” …
One argument against McCourt is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be able to approve any TV rights deal, and that McCourt shouldn’t be rewarded for steering the Dodgers into bankruptcy by being allowed to circumvent the sport’s chieftain. Whether that argument will hold any sway with Judge Gross, I don’t know.
… The two primary spokespersons (from the firm) charge $750 and $400 per hour, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
“Much of the media reporting on off-field issues has been inaccurate or misleading, and LAD requires a seasoned communications firm such as Kekst to better ensure that media coverage of LAD is more evenhanded and accurate going forward,” according to the filing, using the “LAD” abbreviation for the Dodgers.
The filing does not include any examples of inaccurate or misleading coverage. …
As far as I’m concerned, you can take this as another example of how deluded or desperate McCourt is – and no, the new PR firm won’t change my negative thinking on this. As Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine tweeted:
What makes McCourt’s media blaming so laughable is the best stuff we got was straight from his mouth in public court filings. Amnesia maybe?
You can’t file mountains of court documents crying poverty to get out of paying spousal support and not expect fans to think you are broke.
* * *
In other inspiring news, Jonathan Broxton will have surgery Monday, 4 1/2 months after he last pitched for the Dodgers, to remove a bone spur and some chips, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
… Although Broxton’s bone bruise had improved dramatically, Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.
Broxton underwent what Conte said were “three or four” MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.
“CT scans normally aren’t done on elbows,” Conte said. “But we just wanted to make sure the bone bruise wasn’t turning into microfractures.”
The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, after which Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer’s role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract. …
The surgery will take place nearly 15 months after Broxton began to lose effectiveness.
Jackson adds that Tony Gwynn Jr. will miss at least the remainder of this weekend’s series with the Pirates because of a jammed shoulder, which first happened last week in Washington and was aggravated Wednesday against Arizona.
* * *
Back on the field, the Dodgers came back strong tonight after Hiroki Kuroda allowed an unearned second-inning run, scoring once in the bottom of the second, twice in the third and four times in the sixth, capped by James Loney’s first career pinch-hit home run, a three-run blast that enabled him to reach 10 on the season.
Dee Gordon made his ninth error in his 45th game of the season, but had two hits and stole his 20th and 21st bases. Kuroda gave up a sixth-inning home run to Alex Presley (whom Vin Scully’s wife thinks looks like Tom Cruise, Scully told us), but was otherwise unscored upon. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven.
Scully also passed along a story that warmed my heart: Rod Barajas chose uniform No. 28 with the Dodgers because of how much his mother loved Pedro Guerrero in the 1980s.
Clayton Kershaw is not expected to draw a suspension for hitting Gerardo Parra with a pitch Wednesday, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- Jackson also has a postgame feature on Tim Federowicz, who among other things took the blame for calling the fastball that Pirates pitcher Russ Ohlendorf drove for a three-run home run.
- Nathan Eovaldi’s past, present and future are assessed by John Sickels of Minor League Ball.
- Andrew Martin of Rockies blog Purple Row has mixed feelings about the Colorado club’s future.
- Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods is crafting an ABCs of parenting by starting at the end, with “Chapter 1: Z is for Zisk.”
- The Reds are honoring 100-year-old Len Kahny, a former minor-leaguer of theirs who never got the call to the show (link via Baseball Think Factory).
- If the Braves beat the Mets tonight in less than 155 minutes, the Dodgers will be eliminated from postseason contention before they take the field tonight.
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.