Aug 17

If you want to get more excited about Zach Lee, read this …

In case you missed it, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has much more from Dodger assistant general manager for amateur scouting Logan White about newly signed draft choice Zach Lee:

White said Lee’s contract won’t allow him to play football on the side.

“He is absolutely 100 percent dedicated to baseball,” White said.

However, in the unlikely event Lee changes his mind down the road and goes back to football, White said there are provisions in the contract that will limit the Dodgers’ financial losses, although he wouldn’t go into detail as to what those provisions are.

As a pitcher, White said Lee is a better all-around athlete than either Kershaw or Chad Billingsley, two recent first-round picks (2006 and 2004, respectively) who are now mainstays in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

“He has an absolutely picture-perfect delivery and excellent arm action,” White said. “He is as pure as any pitcher I have ever seen. He has power stuff like Kershaw and Billingsley, but when those guys were younger, they would almost fight through a wall sometimes and try to overpower somebody, but they have grown and learned how to pitch more than just throw and be more effective with their pitch counts.

“I think Lee at the same age has a better feel for how to pitch than Chad or Clayton, and I don’t mean that to disparage them at all.”

White said Lee’s fastball touches 95 mph, but that he normally pitches in the 89-90 range, has a good breaking ball and a great changeup. …

Aug 16

Dodgers get their pony: Zach Lee signs

First the Dodgers Joc the world, and now they shock the world.

Confounding skeptics from coast to baseball coast, the Dodgers made good on their word and successfully delivered an offer to first-round draft choice Zach Lee reportedly at $5.25 million over five years, luring him from Louisiana State, where he had been about to embark on a quarterbacking career. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Back in October, I suggested that the divorce might bring about “a time when you buy the kids a nice pony to take their mind off the ugliness.” It took a while, but Lee is that pony, at least for the hardcore Dodger fan. It’s a remarkable turn of events and expectations.

Aug 16

Well, I mean, come on now … Dodgers collapse in ninth again


John Bazemore/APChad Billingsley’s seven innings of one-run ball went for nought.

Brooks Conrad won the first game of the four-game Dodgers-Braves series with his bat. He nearly lost the fourth game with his glove.

But the reorganized Dodger bullpen got in the way of that symmetry.

Los Angeles blew a ninth-inning lead yet again, allowing three runs to Atlanta in its final at-bat, turning a 3-1 victory into a 4-3 defeat.

On a night that saw the Dodger offense pull another disappearing act, Conrad made two errors in the eighth inning of tonight’s game, allowing the Dodgers to score twice to break a 1-1 tie. Update: The official scorer changed Conrad’s error on Reed Johnson’s at-bat to a hit.

Hong-Chih Kuo entered the game and worked a perfect eighth inning on seven pitches, then came out for the ninth and allowed two singles and a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Troy Glaus fouled out, but Conrad was walked on four pitches. Octavio Dotel then replaced Kuo.

Dotel walked pinch-hitter David Ross, and the Braves cut the lead to 3-2.

And then Melky Cabrera singled on a 3-2 pitch to drive in the tying and winning runs.

* * *

I know it’s a bit beside the point after what just happened, but I am just wondering …

Chad Billingsley pitched seven innings for the Dodgers and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Billingsley struck out the side after issuing his only walk of the game in the fifth inning, then gave up a triple and sacrifice fly in the sixth. Otherwise, he was near impeccable. (Coincidentally, James McDonald also pitched seven innings of one-run ball for Pittsburgh tonight.)

I realize some people won’t get back on board the Billingsley bandwagon until he completes a perfect October, but surely he must have won a few converts back this season. He’s challenging hitters, pitching deeper into games, and his ERA in 20 starts since April 25 is 3.23.

Has anyone who de-friended him re-friended him?

Aug 16

From the top to the middle

Since holding the best record in the National League on June 9 with a 36-24 record, the Dodgers are 24-34 and have lost 11 games in the standings to the Padres (35-23). Losses today and tomorrow would allow the Dodgers to bookend their two 60-game stretches, 36-24 and 24-36.

* * *

  • Ricky Romero (not Ricky Roma) just signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. What does that mean for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers? Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores the topic. (Perhaps a propos to this, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com asks another question: Is Tim Lincecum’s slump permanent?)
  • Life Magazine has posted some previously unpublished photos of Babe Ruth at his final Yankee Stadium appearance in 1948. (Scroll down for the links to the different images.)
  • If you want a preview of the upcoming free-agent market in starting pitchers, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has it.
  • Linda McCoy-Murray and her work on behalf of the Jim Murray Foundation are profiled by Shelley Smith for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Aug 16

Dodgers rock around the clock with Joc

It appears he Dodgers will record at least one deadline signing, even if they don’t get Zach Lee. Eleventh-round draft pick Joc Pederson, son of 1980s cup-of-coffee Dodger Stu, has agreed to terms with the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The report is attributed to multiple sources, albeit anonymous. Pederson, whose salary demands caused his drop from the draft’s highest rounds to the double-digits, reportedly would get a $600,000 signing bonus, higher than any 2010 Dodger draft signee to date.

Here’s a draft-day report on Pederson from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.

Aug 16

The good or bad of it

The good or bad of it, as I see it, is this:

If the Dodgers win their upcoming series against Colorado and Cincinnati as part of a 6-1 week, while Philadelphia and San Francisco (who play each other starting Tuesday) beat each other up as part of .500 weeks, the Dodgers might only be three or four games behind in the National League wild card race with six weeks to go.

That’s not all likely to happen – I’m not remotely suggesting it will happen – but it’s not so unlikely.

If it does happen, that means the Dodgers are firmly in the playoff hunt, even if the odds remain against them.

It doesn’t mean the Dodgers are a good team, let alone a playoff team. But you don’t need to be a good team to have a good week. And, rightly or wrongly, a good week can change your outlook significantly.

Aug 15

Deadline for Dodgers to sign top draftee: 9 p.m. Monday

With little for me to talk about regarding today’s 13-1 defenestration of the Dodgers – Tony Jackson has everything you could possibly want to know, including the tidbit that the Dodgers have gone three straight games without a run-scoring hit – I can finally turn my attention to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline to sign 2010 draft choices, including No. 1 pick Zach Lee.

Bullet points:

  • The Dodgers aren’t the only team going down to the wire on their first-round draftee, as the chart accompanying Ken Gurnick’s MLB.com article indicates.
  • Kevin Baxter of the Times details how little the Dodgers have been spending on amateur talent lately.
  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports bucks the conventional wisdom and suggests that the Dodgers will make Lee a legitimate bid, with lots of explanation why. Henson has a quote from Lee saying, “I know I’m going to have to make a decision if they make an offer.”

No single draft pick is a referendum on the Dodgers’ amateur talent strategy. The cupboard isn’t barren. But let’s just say that a team that spends its past year not signing its first-round pick, not offering salary arbitration to free agents and thereby forfeiting more first-round picks, not investing in international signings and not stopping from trading away handfuls of prospects each year is checking off a lot of boxes on the negative side of the ledger.

Let’s see what the news is at 9 p.m. Monday.

Aug 15

Singular sensations

From the Dodger press notes: “The Dodgers’ last extra-base hit was center fielder Matt Kemp’s two-run homer in the seventh inning on Thursday night and since then they have hit 21 straight singles. In fact, 14 of the club’s 15 hits on Thursday were singles meaning that 30 of their last 31 hits have been for one base.”

* * *

Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone has two weekend posts worth noting. Today’s is a straightforward “be careful what you wish for” about Russell Martin’s absence, because A.J. Ellis and Brad Ausmus aren’t doing the job at all. The other is a deeper post about coaching and challenging players. Really worth a read.

* * *

Another good read is Tim Kurkjian’s piece at ESPN.com on ending his remarkable, two-decade habit of clipping box scores.

Aug 14

Dodgers 2, Braves 1: Newcomers lead the way, but …


John Bazemore/APTed Lilly

In a relief of a win that could have been another vexatious loss, the Dodgers funneled 12 hits into only two runs, but made them stand up for a 2-1 victory over Atlanta on Saturday.

Major credit for the result goes to Ted Lilly, who had his third consecutive sharp start since coming to Los Angeles. Lilly allowed five baserunners over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA with the team to 1.89. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks while striking out 15, and if the rest of the team were jelling, we’d be talking in glorious tones about how he was spearheading the Dodgers’ pennant drive.

As it is, even if he keeps up this pace and makes me look bad for questioning his consistency (though I also said “undoubtedly, Lilly will provide some short-term gain in the rotation”), he does figure to have only about 10 or fewer starts left in a Dodger uniform before leaving as a free agent. So I’m still feeling a little bittersweet about him. But so far, he has absolutely pitched well – a perfect fit for the team.

Octavio Dotel even chipped in 1 1/3 perfect innings tonight; he has retired 14 of 19 batters as a Dodger since coming from Pittsburgh.

Staying with the theme of new players, I’ll even throw a little love Scott Podsednik’s way, reluctantly. Podsednik went 3 for 5 tonight and now has 12 hits and two walks in his past five games. Of course, that’s outstanding.

Now, without this incredible hot streak – which he won’t be able to maintain – Podsednik will revert to being that ordinary player that I still don’t really want much part of. Even as well as he has played for the Dodgers, Podsednik has two extra-base hits in 74 plate appearances with the team. I’m willing to live with a sub-.400 slugging percentage from my catcher (Russell Martin) or my utility infielder (Jamey Carroll) if they’re getting on base a lot. But from my left fielder, I think the offense needs more. And if a hot streak of singles convinces the Dodgers that this is the guy they want starting in left field next year, at age 35, that’s going to make me even more unhappy.

Living in the now, though, Podsednik has provided an admitted boost. I’m going to be even more of a sourpuss with regard to Ryan Theriot, however.

Theriot has been a poor man’s Podsednik, going 2 for 4 tonight to give him a .283 batting average as a Dodger. That has made a lot of observers feel good about the trade, but it’s an empty .283: accompanied by a .328 OBP and .302 slugging percentage. He may be a better fielder than Blake DeWitt, but again, I feel like this has opened the door for the Dodgers to settle for aging mediocrity when they need something better. (By the way, DeWitt’s numbers since leaving the Dodgers and his overall 2010 numbers remain better than those of Theriot.)

Right now, there’s no doubt the Dodgers added talent in the short term last month, at a time when there was legitimate postseason hope. That pretty much fulfills the mission as Ned Colletti saw it, I imagine. He has gotten results.

And yet it all feels so temporary …

Aug 13

Dodgers flicker, then flounder


Gregory Smith/APBraves shortstop Alex Gonzalez caught the Dodgers’ potential tying run, Scott Podsednik, trying to steal in the ninth inning of tonight’s 1-0 Dodger loss.

The Irony Committee approves the fact that fans are giving up on the Dodgers left and right, even as they expect the Dodgers not to give up on themselves.

I’m not telling anyone to act differently. If San Francisco defeats San Diego tonight, the Dodgers will be the furthest they have been out of a playoff spot since 2007.

But there is an interesting contradiction from those who have pulled out the white flag: “Believe in yourselves, even though we don’t believe in you.” I get why it is, but it’s a little funny.

Anyway, I’m not someone who declares the season over before it’s factually over. Each win increases your chances, each loss decreases it. It’s that simple. It’s all by degrees, until you run out of them. A season doesn’t end in one game. The Dodgers suffered a painful defeat Thursday, but that didn’t flip an “on” switch to “off,” it made their fragile candle grow even dimmer.

A win tonight would have allowed them to gain a game on somebody, and keep their wan flame steady for one more day. A win tonight would have put the Thursday agony further behind them. Thanks to Brooks Conrad’s cursed homer to center off an otherwise saintly Hiroki Kuroda, and the Dodgers’ 14th offensive shutout of the year, it didn’t happen.

And the light remains on but grows darker still.

If the Dodgers want to start making moves with 2011 in mind, I don’t mind – though their chances of trading Casey Blake to the Braves to fill the Chipper Jones gap didn’t get any better with Jones’ current understudy winning tonight’s game. If the Dodgers find they can play “Flip This Lilly,” then by all means go for it.

And if the Dodgers want to ride the 2010 wave as far as it will take them, even if it leaves them shy of the promised land, I will ride it with them until the last drop reaches its grainy end. There’s plenty of time to mourn the year – I don’t mind dreaming the improbable dream, even if I believe in it a lot less than 100 percent. What else have I got to do the next day of the baseball season except dream? Beats mopin’.

Aug 13

Kuo, Dotel to share Dodger closing duties for now

Reacting to Jonathan Broxton’s slump, the Dodgers have moved Hong-Chih Kuo into the primary closer role, and Octavio Dotel will close on days that Kuo can’t, Joe Torre told reporters today. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Kuo is not available tonight (neither is Kenley Jansen), so Dotel is the man if the Dodgers have a ninth-inning lead. Broxton is available depending on the game situation.

Torre also said that Manny Ramirez is finally making progress … but then added that a rehab assignment might or might not start in the middle of next week. Rafael Furcal is probably not going to be activated from the disabled list when he becomes eligible Wednesday.

* * *

Hiroki Kuroda has fared much better against the National League East and Central divisions than he has against teams from the NL West, according to Stats LLC (via the Dodger press notes). His lifetime ERA against the NL West is 5.05 (.294 opponents’ batting average); against the rest of the league, it’s 2.57 (.220).

Odd.

* * *

Justin Havens of ESPN’s Stats and Analysis group sent along some stats about Matt Kemp that won’t surprise you: on-base percentage down from .352 last year to .319 this year, for example. Strikeout rate up from 22.9 percent to 27.4 percent. His fielding woes have been well-documented, and his Wins Above Replacement figure has fallen from 5.1 in 2009 to 0.6 so far in 2010.

I was curious about how much batting average on balls in play might account for the OBP dip, and found that his BABIP has dropped from .345 to .314 – or .031, almost exactly the same amount as the .033 OBP drop. And then I looked at Kemp’s walk rate, and this is what surprised me the most.

2009: .078 walks per plate appearance
2010: .078 walks per plate appearance

That’s sort of remarkable, amid all the chaos around Kemp’s 2010 season, that he’s walking at the same rate. The BABIP really accounts for much of Kemp’s falloff at the plate.

Anyway, as far as this regression thing with Kemp goes, do people remember that we’ve been through it before? Kemp’s 2008 season was a disappointment relative to the promise laid out in 2007.

* * *

Hot dogs at Dodger Stadium? There will be on August 21 if the weather heats up on Bark in the Park night.

Sounds fun, but why do I think something is bound to go wrong? Must be the worrywart in me.

Aug 12

‘Leave it to the Dodgers’: Phillies stun Los Angeles with eight-run comeback


Matt Slocum/APRonald Belisario reacts after being pulled in the bottom of the eighth inning, a harbinger.

I don’t have anything I feel compelled to say, but I feel compelled to say something.  That’s usually a recipe for some pretty poor writing, but on a night like tonight, who will really notice?

For Jonathan Broxton, I refer you to this post. He’s not himself, and he hasn’t been himself for weeks now. That the latest catastrophe happened in Philadelphia adds a nasty spice to it all, but in his past trips there, the loss of control and blown saves were aberrations. The Broxton of the past two months has been someone else entirely. He’s been George Sherrill, and not the good kind.

Personally, it’s no fun seeing the perverse “I told you so” comments coming from Broxton’s peanut gallery, some of them coming with the glee of validation, I suspect. I’m not defending what Broxton is doing now, but again, this is well beyond what happened with Broxton before. Since the All-Star break, 21 baserunners allowed in eight innings with five strikeouts. That’s a different pitcher.

Meanwhile, those of us who have established tents in Broxton’s camp saw something familiar: a brutal defensive lapse behind him, this time from Casey Blake. Too much water had blown through the dam for it to be called a gamechanger, but it certainly added to the aura of horror.

Ronald Belisario, making his third comeback from personal and health issues in 13 months, actually picked the right night to be bad – doing so with a 9-2 lead, thanks to strong pitching by Clayton Kershaw and a 20-baserunner offense by the Dodgers. Matt Kemp, back in the starting lineup, went 3 for 5 with a home run and four RBI. Every position in the lineup, except for pitcher, reached base at least twice. There was a cushion and then some – no thin Ikea futon, but a real honest-to-goodness plush living room sofa. And then the Phillies tore the stuffing out of it.

For more reaction, I refer you to this post. Vin Scully wasn’t at tonight’s game, and yet I still think about how he’d react to it. He’d marvel at it. And not be as deflated by it as I am. “Leave it to the Dodgers …”

As far as I can tell, every Dodger made their best effort tonight, and for 7 1/2 innings, they put on quite a show. And then baseball threw its weight around, once again proving that it runs the circus. I’d rather be writing about a Dodger win, but I don’t get to decide.

Aug 12

Pat Burrell signing boosted Giants’ playoff chances


AP PhotoBrooklyn Dodgers outfielder Gene Hermanski, shown in April 1948, has passed away. Hermanski was one of Jackie Robinson’s original supporters and had a .385 on-base percentage in 506 games with the Dodgers.

Before Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons dotted the Dodgers’ major-league shores, the Giants picked up left fielder Pat Burrell from the scrap heap. All Burrell has done is provide a .905 OPS in 179 plate appearances (almost as many as Manny Ramirez has had with the Dodgers in 2010). On July 31, he hit a game-winning eighth-inning homer against the Dodgers, and Wednesday he repeated the feat against the Cubs.

He’s almost been like 2006 Marlon Anderson and 2009 Ronnie Belliard combined. Joe Pawlikowski of Fangraphs has more about Burrell’s turnabout.

Other notes while we wait for the daily Dodger starting lineup storm front to settle in …

  • Farewell, Gene Hermanski. A great name from the Dodgers’ past in Brooklyn, Hermanski passed away at the age of 90 according to New York Baseball History Examiner (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • The Dodgers will honor photography genius Jon SooHoo for 25 years of service in a pregame ceremony September 3, according to Inside the Dodgers, which also notes that SooHoo was Randy Johnson’s photography mentor while the two were at the Daily Trojan.
  • From the Dodger press notes: “After some crack research by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and the Dodgers’ PR staff, it has been determined that (Juan) Castro is the only player in franchise history to serve three separate stints in the organization after departing and playing for another Major League team each time. Several players logged three different stints with the club, but remained in the organization. In the case of pitcher Giovanni Carrera (2001-02, 2004-05, 2006), he never made the big leagues after leaving the club in 2005 or prior to returning midway through 2006.”
  • Also via the press notes:

    Four Dodgers drew mention in Baseball America’s annual Best Tools issue. Major League managers voted Rafael Furcal as having the National League’s best infield arm and as the third-best bunter, Clayton Kershaw as having the Senior Circuit’s No. 3 pickoff move and Jonathan Broxton as the third-best reliever. In the minor league section, Kenley Jansen was also picked as the best reliever in the Southern League after dominating the circuit with a 4-0 record with eight saves and a 1.67 ERA in 22 games with Double-A Chattanooga.

    Several Dodger prospects earned mentions as well, as Ivan DeJesus was voted as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s best defensive second baseman; Dee Gordon drew praise as the best baserunner, fastest baserunner and most exciting player in the Double-A Southern League; Matt Wallach was selected as the best defensive catcher and Pedro Baez was voted as having the best defensive arm in the Single-A California League; and though both have since been promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, Jerry Sands was named the best power-hitting prospect and best defensive first baseman and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa was praised for having the Single-A Midwest League’s best fastball.”