May 15

Rafael Furcal’s return might be imminent, while Hawksworth looks DL-bound

In a rehabilitation appearance with Albuquerque on Saturday, shortstop Rafael Furcal went 2 for 3 with a walk, drove in three runs and – most importantly – batted right-handed for most of the game.

Hitting from the right side had been said to be the final hurdle to Furcal’s return to the Dodgers’ active roster from a broken left thumb.

Furcal has been out since April 11 and has missed 33 of the Dodgers’ 40 games this season. On Saturday, he walked in the first as a left-handed batter, then turned around to bat right and had RBI singles in the second and fourth innings, as well as a sixth-inning RBI groundout. No issues were reported about his performance in the field.

My hunch is that if he makes it through today unscathed, we’ll see Furcal in Los Angeles on Monday.

When he returns, Jamey Carroll will likely move over to second base, pushing Aaron Miles to the bench and Russ Mitchell to the minors. One question that will have to be answered when Casey Blake returns is whether the Dodgers will reduce the playing time of Juan Uribe or James Loney to preserve playing time for Carroll, who has the highest on-base percentage in the National League among shortstops. Certainly, Blake will get his share of rest. And might an occasional start in left field become part of the equation for Carroll?

In other roster talk, Dodger reliever Blake Hawksworth may go on the disabled list today after failing to show progress Saturday, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Los Angeles is expected to promote Javy Guerra, who has a 1.06 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17 innings (against 13 baserunners) with Double-A Chattanooga. Guerra had pitched 11 straight shutout innings over his last nine outings until giving up a home run Monday. He’s been idle since then.

Guerra did a tiny bit of blogging in 2009. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., in his Saturday posting “Dodgers Lose Battle, Win Guerra,” noted that the pitcher said on his Facebook page that he had gotten the call.

* * *

Some more notes on Chad Billingsley’s Saturday performance, from ESPN Stats and Information:

- The Diamondbacks missed on 11 swings against Billingsley’s fastball, the most against the Dodgers’ right-hander in exactly two years (May 14, 2009).

- Billingsley’s fastball was particularly effective on the first pitch. He threw 21 fastballs on the first pitch of a plate appearance. Seventeen of those fastballs went for strikes, tied for his most in a start in the last three seasons. More remarkable is that the Diamondbacks put none of Billingsley’s first-pitch fastballs in play. They swung at eight, missing three and fouling off five.

- By throwing first-pitch strikes that didn’t end up in play, Billingsley started 18 of 27 hitters with an 0-1 count, his second-most 0-1 counts in a start since 2009. All eight of Billingsley’s strikeouts were in at-bats he started with a first-pitch strike. It also enabled him to rack up his strikeouts efficiently, as six of his eight were in at-bats lasting three or four pitches, tied for his most in the last three seasons.

May 14

Carroll takes blame as Billingsley’s stellar effort goes for naught


Harry How/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley retired 24 of 27 batters.

It hasn’t even been half a season since the game last September when the Dodgers won despite getting one hit, so it’s not like the concept should be entirely foreign to us.

But that doesn’t make it much less melancholy for Dodger fans to ponder the fact that Chad Billingsley went eight innings, allowed two walks, one hit and no earned runs while striking out eight and still took a 1-0 loss to Arizona.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, those are the only two games won by a road team with one hit since 1993. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Brooklyn-Los Angeles franchise lost when allowing one or fewer hits occurred on July 17, 1914 in Chicago.

The run came across in the second inning on a Melvin Mora sacrifice fly after a Stephen Drew double and a throwing error charged to Billingsley on a pickoff attempt – that Jamey Carroll gamely took responsibility for.

“Miscommunication. It was my fault,” Carroll told The Associated Press. “Obviously, I was supposed to cover. He threw it and nobody was there.”

Billingsley, who doubled (for the second time this season) to match the hit he allowed, lowered his season ERA to 3.36 even as his won-lost record fell to 2-3. Over his past six starts, Billingsley has a 1.91 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings against 42 baserunners.

Dodger starting pitchers have now thrown 22 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (not counting the two rained-out frames by Jon Garland on Thursday) and have a 0.64 ERA over the past four starts.

The Dodger offense consisted of a walk and four hits – two by James Loney, including his first extra-base hit in 34 games since April 6, a leadoff eighth-inning double. What happened next – a sacrifice by Rod Barajas and a pinch-hitting appearance by Dioner Navarro in place of Jerry Sands (Navarro struck out) – I’ll just say I would have done things differently than Don Mattingly did. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Tony Jackson said it “might have been Mattingly’s worst-managed inning since he took over.”

But let’s face it – it’s not like the Dodgers didn’t have plenty of other opportunities to get something going against Josh Collmenter, who was making his first major-league start and allowed two hits and no walks over six innings and 71 pitches. At one point, Billingsley and Collmenter combined to retire 21 batters in a row, and there were no hits by either team in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

In the ninth, Carroll singled and with one out, Andre Ethier walked (giving him 37 straight games reaching base), but Matt Kemp hit into a game-ending double play. “Arizona’s relievers have been charged with just one earned run over 33 innings during the team’s first 11 games this month,” said AP, a contrast from last season’s giveaway bullpen.

The Dodgers’ three-game winning streak ended with them missing their chance to reach 20-20 this season.

Apr 12

Giants take the low road to 5-4 victory

Eric Risberg/APTim Lincecum averaged more than 20 pitches per inning tonight.

It was hard to watch the Dodgers build a 3-0 lead against Tim Lincecum and then fail to hold it in a 5-4 loss, but I’m not going to throw Chad Billingsley under the bus for this one.

Billingsley was superb through the first three innings and kept making good pitches in the fourth, but the Giants hurt him anyway. Buster Posey’s RBI single was on a pitch no higher than his knees, and Pablo Sandoval’s RBI double came on one even lower.

Aaron Rowand’s game-tying RBI single in the fifth was little different – a fastball down in the zone, a good challenge pitch that Rowand drove to left.

Obviously, Billingsley wasn’t perfect. Posey’s second RBI hit, giving the Giants a 4-3 lead, was a fastball up, leading to the last of the nine baserunners Billingsley allowed in five innings.  But the Dodger righty looked better on the field then he does in the boxscore – in fact, he looked better than Lincecum, who lasted only 5 1/3 innings himself while throwing 115 pitches.

The Dodgers came back to tie the game on Marcus Thames’ pinch-hit homer in the seventh, but reliever Blake Hawksworth gave the lead back almost immediately on a Rowand triple and a wild pitch.

Giants closer Brian Wilson struck out Xavier Paul, Tony Gwynn Jr. (0 for 5) and Jamey Carroll in the ninth inning, thereby avoiding Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Ethier was 2 for 4 and robbed of a third hit when Lincecum dove at a ball that was hit off of him and threw Ethier out. Kemp was 2 for 2 with two walks (one intentional), raising his season on-base percentage to an astonishing .578. In at-bats, he is 17 for 36, one hit shy of batting .500.

Kemp was caught stealing for the first time this season.

* * *

Jerry Sands homered for the fourth straight game and doubled in Albuquerque’s 18-3 victory over Iowa tonight. Dee Gordon had four hits, four runs and a steal.

Apr 12

Dodgers recall De Jesus

As the clip above shows, Bill Buckner will appear on the next season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Rafael Furcal has officially been placed on the disabled list, and Ivan De Jesus Jr. was recalled to take his roster spot and presumably play at least semi-regularly at second base, though Aaron Miles is getting the start tonight.

Chad Billingsley and Tim Lincecum face each other for the first time as starting pitchers in tonight’s game. They did meet up in that bizarre, rain-affected game April 2, 2008 when both entered as relievers, after Hong-Chih Kuo and Merkin Valdez started. Billingsley faced four batters in the fifth inning and got a blown save for his effort.

Click this link to see how Lincecum has done in 11 previous outings against the Dodgers.

Mar 29

Andre being Andre: Ethier elaborates on exit comments


Adam Davis/Icon SMIAndre Ethier is the first Dodger to have three consecutive seasons with an adjusted OPS of at least 130 since Gary Sheffield and only the fifth in Los Angeles Dodger history to do so.

Andre Ethier was asked today about his perplexing postgame comments from Monday, and here’s the explanation – as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, he’s apparently afraid of being non-tendered after this season.

The Dodgers went that route with former All-Star catcher Russell Martin over the winter, and Ethier hinted that a similar fate could be in store for him.

“My salary is increasing each year,” Ethier said. “I would say the likeliness of me being here beyond this year, it’s not just my decision. … I have been kind of lucky to be in one spot in baseball for as long as I have been, for six years now. That is a long time to be in one city playing for one team. There is no inclination now other than to go out and play this year and see what we’ve got.

“If I don’t play well, we have seen them non-tender guys here. If you do play well, sometimes they don’t offer those guys arbitration because their salaries are too high.”

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he wasn’t aware of Ethier’s remarks, either from Monday night or Tuesday afternoon, and he initially seemed taken aback by them. …

But on the day the Dodgers finalized a three-year, $35 million contract extension for pitcher Chad Billingsley, Colletti did reveal that he had preliminary discussions during spring training with Nez Balelo, Ethier’s Los Angeles-based agent, on a possible extension for Ethier, but that those discussions died fairly quickly.Ethier insisted he was unaware that those talks had even begun between Colletti and Balelo, so he couldn’t have been aware that they had been quickly abandoned.

“I guess they didn’t get far enough for it to get to me,” Ethier said. “I guess that shows you how serious they were.” …

Ethier now says he would like to remain with the Dodgers for a long time to come, but he also qualified that statement.“Yeah, as long as the organization is going in the right direction and is still committed to winning rather than things not going good for a year or two and then rebuilding or maybe going through a transition year,” he said. “You hear it all the time, coaches and players saying they don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get to be in the playoffs or on a winning team. I want to be somewhere [that provides] my best shot to win and win on an everyday basis. It feels like we have that here and we’re moving that way, but that’s kind of a wait-and-see basis.”

Yes, he does appear to have a fair bit of disenchantment with the front office. What’s poetic is that Billingsley could have felt exactly the same insecurity a year ago, when Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton got two-year contracts but he didn’t.

There’s no doubt that a) the Dodgers aren’t going to pay $10 million or more to players they think can’t earn it, and b) Ethier is prone to melancholia and doomsday thinking. I think it’s one thing to motivate himself to have the best possible year, on and off the field, that he possibly can. It’s another thing for Ethier to think that the Dodgers aren’t interested in keeping him around – especially if he performs the way he is capable of.

Dodgers with three consecutive seasons, OPS+ of at least 130
2008-2010 Andre Ethier
1999-2001 Gary Sheffield
1993-1997 Mike Piazza
1981-1985 Pedro Guerrero
1980-1982 Dusty Baker
1952-1957 Duke Snider
1951-1954 Gil Hodges
1949-1953 Jackie Robinson
1949-1951 Roy Campanella
1943-1945 Augie Galan
1938-1942 Dolph Camilli
1928-1931 Babe Herman
1923-1925 Jack Fournier
1916-1918 Zack Wheat
1904-1907 Harry Lumley

* * *

Jackson with details on Billingsley’s deal: “He will receive $9 million in 2012, $11 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. The club option for 2015 carries a $14 million salary if it’s exercised and a $3 million buyout if it isn’t.”

“It was a little bit of a compromise, but I’m happy with it and I believe they’re happy with it also,” said Billingsley, who is represented by agent Dave Stewart, a former All-Star pitcher himself. “They came to us at the beginning of camp. We kept talking back and forth over the course of spring training and we were able to work something out. Ultimately, it was my decision and what I felt was best for me and my family.” …

“Being a pitcher, it’s nice to have the security to fall back on in case something happens — because you only have so many throws in this arm,” Billingsley said. “But I’ve been fortunate not to have too many health issues, except for hamstring problems.

“It’s a blessing for this opportunity to come my way, and I’m going to continue to focus on what I need to do. I want to continue to get better. I haven’t figured this game out. I’m still learning every day I step out on the mound.”

* * *

Dodgers at Angels, 7:05 p.m.

Mar 28

Billingsley deal makes sense for both sides

About 14 months ago, I wrote this post on Dodger Thoughts: “What Justin Verlander’s new contract could mean for Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers.”

Justin Verlander signed a contract extension with the Tigers on Wednesday that amounts to $80 million over five years.

Verlander is 17 months older than Chad Billingsley and made his major-league debut 49 weeks before the Dodger righty (though Verlander pitched only 11 1/3 innings that year). A comparison of the two since they became full-fledged major-leaguers:

Verlander Billingsley
Year IP K/9 ERA+ IP K/9 ERA+
2006 186 6.0 126 90 5.9 118
2007 201 2/3 8.2 125 147 8.6 134
2008 201 7.3 93 200 2/3 9 133
2009 240 10.1 133 196 1/3 8.2 98

Verlander had an off year in 2008, but came back with his best season ever. His off year was arguably worse or at least little better than Billingsley’s off year in 2009. Billingsley outperformed Verlander two years running in adjusted ERA, though he didn’t pitch as many innings. The best season either pitcher had before last year was Billingsley’s 2008. And again, Billingsley is more than a year younger.

Before the 2009 season, it’s hard to see how anyone would have valued Verlander much more than Billingsley. It’s not as if Verlander had any postseason success to make up for his 2008 problems.

Billingsley obviously needs to show this year that he can bounce back from his disappointing second half (interestingly, both he and Verlander had first-half ERAs of 3.38 last season, though Verlander’s 3.38 was worth a little more because of league and park adjustments). But it’s hardly far-fetched that Billingsley will. And if he does, he will set himself up for a mighty nice deal – if not before he becomes a free agent in November 2012, then certainly after. …


Billinglsey didn’t have a 2010 to match Verlander’s 2009, but he did pitch well enough to earn a multiyear contract extension that means he will earns $40-odd million over the next four years. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks the Dodgers got a bargain, and maybe that’s so – the career adjusted ERAs of the two pitchers are nearly identical now – but the dollars take into account that both Billingsley’s 2009-10 seasons didn’t live up to 2008. Billingsley gets a whole mess of security, and the Dodgers get a pitcher that should be good, maybe even great.  Both sides have reason to be happy.

Mar 28

Chad Billingsley close to three-year contract extension

The rumblings first came from Joe McDonnell of Fox Sports, aided by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Now, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com is reporting, based on multiple anonymous sources, that the Dodgers are close to extending Chad Billingsley’s contract through 2014, with a possible 2015 option.

Billingsley, who is earning $6.275 million in 2011, would be the first Dodger of the current young core to be signed passed his free-agent years. Billingsley could otherwise become a free agent in November 2012.

We’re still waiting on precisely how much Billingsley will get, but it’s a tremendous sign of faith that the Dodgers have in Billingsley, who was dropped from the starting rotation for the 2009 playoffs.

* * *

There’s an argument that Jamey Carroll should get the Opening Day start at second base after all, instead of Ivan De Jesus Jr. Though I’m hoping De Jesus seizes the day (or month, or year) at second base, I’m fine if Carroll starts — it’s important for De Jesus to get off to a good start, and having his first game be on Opening Day against Tim Lincecum on ESPN stacks the deck against him pretty strongly. Maybe Carroll can work a walk …

* * *

* * *

Angels at Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.

Jan 17

Report: Dodgers agree to terms with Marcus Thames

Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireMarcus Thames

Adding to their collection of poor-defending but slugging outfielders, the Dodgers are poised to sign the guy who might be Jay Gibbons’ brother from another mother: Marcus Thames. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Thames, 34 in March and four days younger than Gibbons,  had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties last season, making him a potential platoon partner with Gibbons or Xavier Paul (only if the latter has a knockout Spring Training, it appears). Overall, Thames has an OPS of .802 in a career spent entirely in the American League. But Thames carries with him the baggage of being yet another left fielder that Dodger pitchers might be afraid of.

The Thames signing reduces the chances of the Dodgers resorting to games with Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll in the outfield. Whether the Tony Gwynn, Jr. plan B to realign the outfield is dead remains to be seen. Jamie Hoffmann has no chance of making the Opening Day roster now unless someone gets hurt.

Thames and Gibbons represent appealing bats off the bench — whether we want to see them each play 500 innings in the field this year is another story. But this definitely beats re-signing Scott Podsednik.

* * *

The Dodgers are taking negotiations with Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney down to the wire, Jackson writes in a separate story.

With major league teams and arbitration-eligible players set to officially file salary figures on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers still haven’t reached agreement with any of their affected players — pitcher Chad Billingsley, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and first baseman James Loney — but based on recent history, it appears highly unlikely that the club will end up going to a hearing with any of those players in early February.

In the decade that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling all the team’s arbitration cases, only two players have taken the Dodgers to a hearing. The club won both of those cases against pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007, the victory over Gagne coming the winter after he won the National League Cy Young Award.

For now, Ng isn’t making any predictions.

“We will have a much better idea in the next 24 hours [after numbers are filed on Tuesday],” Ng said. “It’s moving. We’re progressing, but nothing is final yet.”

Ng did confirm that the club isn’t discussing a multiyear contract with either Billingsley, Kuo or Loney. All three are “four-plus” players, meaning they have between four and five years of major league service time, are arbitration-eligible for the second time and — barring a multiyear deal — will be arbitration-eligible again next winter. …

* * *

Trayvon Robinson is the subject of a really nice feature by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

As far back as any of his baseball coaches can remember, people noticed Trayvon Robinson. He had the skills, but not the polish; the raw tools, but not the savvy.

Anyone with a little vision could see what kind of player he could become. The question was whether that potential would develop and bloom one day.

Andre Green had coached baseball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles long enough to recognize a talent such as Robinson’s early on. He’d also been around long enough to know all the things that could keep Robinson from developing into what he’s since become: one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top prospects.

Like many of Crenshaw’s top athletes in recent years, Robinson also played football before high school.

“He wanted to play football, and I just told him ‘No,’” Green said. “I said, ‘You’re a baseball man and you’re going to put Crenshaw on the map.’” …

Dec 23

The 33 theses revisited

A year ago, I posted these 33 theses on the doors of Dodger Thoughts.  Let’s see how they have held up …

Thesis Result Comment
1) Frank McCourt will prevail in the courts against Jamie McCourt and retain ownership of the Dodgers. No Failed to anticipate the Great Adverb Dispute.
2) Rather then sell the team, McCourt will take on a minority partner to improve his cash flow. TBD It might not be quite that simple.
3) The incentive for the minority partner will be the Dodgers’ ability to make a profit, with potential for greater revenue from development of the Dodger Stadium property. TBD This plus the TV contract.
4) The project to turn the area behind center field into a gathering place of restaurants, shops and a Dodger museum will begin by 2015. TBD I sure was looking ahead, wasn’t I?
5) The Dodgers will earn enough money over the coming decade to remain competitive, though they will never spend like the Yankees or Red Sox. TBD Fans are probably pessimistic about this one, but we’ll see.
6) The Dodgers will sign a veteran with an unexciting name to take the No. 4 spot in the 2010 starting rotation, completing their offseason in much the same manner they would have even if the McCourts weren’t divorcing. Yes Hello, Vicente Padilla.
7) Observers will decry the state of Dodger starting pitching entering the season, even though it will probably match up well with every team in the National League West except San Francisco. (Arizona’s No. 4 starter: Ian Kennedy?) No San Diego ruined this prediction for me.
8) The focus will be on what the Dodgers didn’t do, ignoring how thin the pitching market was and how little their division rivals have improved themselves. Yes This was a safe one.
9) Spring training will come as a relief, as the conversation returns to baseball and, despite all that has happened, the sight of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw roaming the field becomes too intoxicating to resist. Yes Spring Training was relatively enjoyable this year.
10) Exhibition performances will excessively color people’s views of the coming season, even though Val Pascucci’s .429 batting average in March 2009 failed to carry over into the regular season. Yes This at least applied to the Dodgers themselves, vis a vis Les Ortizables.
11) Sportswriters will blast the Dodgers for not acquiring a big name, then criticize every move Manny Ramirez makes while knocking the Dodgers for all the money spilling out to Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt. Kind of Not all sportswriters, but certainly some I can think of.
12) People will be intrigued with how Russell Martin explains that this will be the season everything will be OK for him. No “Intrigued” seems strong in retrospect, plus Martin got hurt in March.
13) Chad Billingsley will gamely turn the other cheek as reporters and fans insultingly question his manhood. Then he’ll go out and throw bullets. Yes He wasn’t red-hot to start the season, but ultimately this came true.
14) The Dodgers will not get off to as hot a start in 2010 as they did in 2009, when they were 10-3 and 21-8. Yes To say the least …
15) The Dodger community will be on edge, as it becomes clear to all that 2010, like most years, will be a season-long challenge. Yes To say the least …
16) Jokes about portable concession stands will grow old fast, yet continue to be told. No This died down more quickly than I expected.
17) Lines at Dodger Stadium food stands will remain long anyway. Yes No change here.
18) Nevertheless, the Dodgers will remain in the thick of the National League West race into May, when the McCourt case launches in the courts. Yes/no Dodgers had the best record in the NL at one point, but the trial was delayed.
19) The free-for-all between the McCourts’ lawyers will be annoying beyond belief. Yes All those fun revelations and accusations …
20) Kershaw, Kemp or Andre Ethier will suffer a setback, while Martin, James Loney or Rafael Furcal will experience a rebirth. Yes Setback for Kemp, rebirth for Furcal (until he got hurt, but I’m counting it).
21) Ramirez will have his ups and downs but will regain some of the fans he lost in the final months of 2009. No I could probably prove this true on a technicality, but I won’t try to push this one through.
22) There won’t be as much Dodger walk-off magic in 2010 as there was in 2009. Yes There was some moments early on, but they didn’t carry on.
23) Forced to rely on the farm system for pitching depth, the Dodgers will benefit from some precocious performances. Yes John Ely, Carlos Monasterios and Kenley Jansen, among others, did some good for the team.
24) “Don’t Stop Believin’” will be gone, but “God Bless America” will return. No/yes Oh well.
25) With the dust from the courtroom settled, the Dodgers will make a trading deadline deal. No/yes Deals came while dust was still swirling.
26) The biggest moment of the year will be when Vin Scully announces his plans for 2011. Yes You can argue with me, but I’m counting this one.
27) With almost nowhere to go but down after two National League Championship Series appearances, 2010 will almost surely end as a disappointment for the Dodgers. Yes This had a chance to be wrong in summertime, but in the end it was right.
28) The Phillies will not win the NL title, because it looks too much like they should. Yes That’s the way it goes …
29) The Dodgers will have more reason to be nervous after the 2010 season, when the team has to replace Ramirez and Hiroki Kuroda while giving even bigger pay raises to the homegrown talent — even those who had subpar years. Yes Even though Kuroda and others are back, if we’re talking about how most people felt at the end of the 2010 season, there was more nervousness and pessimism than 2009.
30) Minor league pitchers Aaron Miller, Chris Withrow and John Ely will come to the rescue, sooner or later, either by becoming major-league ready or major-league trading chips. No Given the way Ely ended the season, it’s hard to tally this one in the Yes column.
31) The Dodgers will have enough talent to stay competitive, but not enough to make them prohibitive favorites. Yes I’ll probably get some heckles on this one, but if the 2010 Giants could win, I’m not ruling out the 2011 Dodgers.
32) The Dodgers will continue to be good enough to keep all but the most reactionary fans hooked, yet weak enough to keep all but the most tolerant fans unsatisfied. Yes Accurate, no?
33) Fans will start to pay attention to the ticking clock that is the end of the 2012 season, when Martin, Loney, Kemp, Ethier and Billingsley are scheduled to become eligible for free agency. No I’m not sure enough people are worried about this.
Total 19-7-7 What does this mean? I have no idea.
Dec 21

Morning brioche …

It’s the first anniversary of ESPNLosAngeles.com … hope you all have enjoyed the content …

Here’s what some of the other folk are up to …

Dec 02

Russell Martin is on the open market


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRussell Martin

He was something special. And then he wasn’t.

It happens to the best of ‘em, but I can’t believe it happened this fast.

It is most certainly a non-tender night. The Dodgers have parted ways with 27-year-old Russell Martin, at least for now, by not offering him a 2011 contract. Again, the reason: They would have had to guarantee the slumping and injured catcher at least 80% of his 2010 salary, and risk paying him even more – easily over $6 million – if they lost an arbitration hearing.

If it were simply a case of Martin’s offensive struggles, I think Dodger general manager Ned Colletti would have guaranteed his contract, as they have done today with James Loney. But the uncertainty over his recovery from his hip injury made Los Angeles that much more guarded about spending all those millions. Wrote Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… the Dodgers’ first choice was to bring Martin back if an agreement could be reached on a contract that would have paid him a lower base salary than what he received in 2010. Colletti said that in the final minutes before the 9 p.m. PST deadline, Colleran lowered Martin’s asking price to a simple $5 million guarantee, but the Dodgers weren’t willing to go that high.

“We were willing to get to the same point with performance bonuses, but not with a guaranteed $5 million,” Colletti said.

This isn’t necessarily the end of Martin’s Dodger career – he is free to negotiate with the Dodgers, as with all 29 other teams, for any contract, and Colletti told reporters that they would still talk. (Among other things, Jackson wrote that the Dodgers were interested in Martin in a utility role.)

But given that the parties couldn’t come to terms by this point, it seems unlikely to me that they would at any other. And that was made even more the case when, as Jackson reported, the Dodgers moved closer to signing Rod Barajas to a one-year contract.

“I think we are on the cusp of getting something done in a different direction,” Colletti said. “I wasn’t going to go to sleep tonight without a big league catcher here besides [backup] A.J. [Ellis]. We’re pretty far down the road with something, and it should come to fruition in a short period of time. This is somebody who, if the season were to start today, would take the lion’s share of [playing time], with A.J. in a backup role.”

The rest of the Dodgers’ decisions today went according to form. George Sherrill, like Martin, was non-tendered (as was September call-up Trent Oeltjen), while Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley all were guaranteed 2011 contracts.

Nov 28

In starting rotation, sometimes questions beat answers


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesFor 4 1/2 seasons, the Dodgers never knew what they were going to get in Odalis Perez.

In the wake of the Jon Garland signing, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looked at the most commonly used starting pitchers by the Dodgers since 2000, and in the process found that the Dodgers “have had five pitchers each start 30 games in a season just twice in their 127-year franchise history (1977 and 1993), and they have only had four pitchers start 30 games eight other times.”

Good stuff, but I was interested in something else, too. Given my surprise to find our starting rotation settled on paper before the end of November, I was curious how often in recent years the Dodgers had appeared to enter the season in better shape in their starting five than they’re in right now – and how they fared in those seasons.

Looking back at the 2000s (playoff teams in bold):

  • 2010: Charlie Haeger won a beleaguered fifth starter competition. The current 2011 rotation, with Garland as the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, looks better.
  • 2009: Rookies Kershaw and James McDonald looked promising on paper, but most people would probably take the 2011 quintet, with Kershaw two years older.
  • 2008: Brad Penny was coming off a 3.03 ERA in 2007, Chad Billingsley was rising and Derek Lowe in the final year of his contract, while Kuroda was untested in the U.S. and Kershaw hadn’t arrived. In fact, it was the rotating arms in the No. 5 spot (a shaky Esteban Loaiza, a green Hong-Chih Kuo) that helped hasten Kershaw’s debut.  The Dodger rotation heading into 2008 was probably better than the 2011 group – until Friday.
  • 2007: This was the year newcomers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf (the first time around) were supposed to anchor the Dodger staff, joining Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. This was an exciting group – until Schmidt and Wolf combined for 24 starts and a 5.05 ERA.
  • 2006: Lowe, Penny … Odalis Perez (coming off a poor 2005) … Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  A little bit of wishful thinking, here.
  • 2005: New free agent Lowe, Perez (coming off a strong 2004) and Jeff Weaver for the front three. The Dodgers knew they’d be dealing with filler at the No. 5 spot, and with Penny coming back late from his 2004 injury, they were duct-taping No. 4 as well, ultimately starting April with the likes of Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson.
  • 2004: The Dodgers’ first playoff trip of the century began with Hideo Nomo, Perez, Weaver and Kaz Ishii – not a bad front four if you thought the 25-year-old Perez would regain his 2002 form. The other three had ERAs below 4.00 the year before. The fifth starter left in TBD status until the job was seized by Jose Lima, who had a memorable year through and into the playoffs (after having thrown 503 2/3 innings with a 6.18 ERA since 2000), while Ishii ended up struggling and Nomo fell apart.
  • 2003: Kevin Brown was coming off an injury-plagued 2002, but there was still hope for him (rightfully so) to lead a staff that also included a resurgent Nomo, Ishii and Perez (3.00 ERA in 2002). Darren Dreifort, attempting a comeback after going more than 20 months between games, got the first chance at the No. 5 start, but the Dodgers also had Andy Ashby (3.91 ERA in ’02) as a No. 6 starter. So there was depth, but also an understanding that the depth could be needed immediately.
  • 2002: Lots of new blood to join Brown and Ashby: Nomo (returning as a free agent from Boston), Perez (acquired with Brian Jordan in January’s Gary Sheffield trade) and Ishii (signing his first U.S. contract on February 28) – not to mention Omar Daal, another returning former Dodger who came in an offseason trade from Philadelphia but began the year in the bullpen. By the time Spring Training started, the staff was deep – one of the reasons second-year manager Jim Tracy experimented with converting a guy who had made 24 starts in 2001 into a reliever: Eric Gagne.
  • 2001: In his last year before becoming a free agent, Chan Ho Park was the Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, followed by Gagne, Dreifort, Ashby and – in place of Brown, who was limited by injuries – Luke Prokopec. Either Gagne or Prokopec were to be the No. 5 starters on paper, after making some waves in 2000. You might laugh now, but there was reason to think this could be a pretty decent starting rotation.
  • 2000: You had Brown, Park and Dreifort, all coming off solid 2000 seasons. Then you had Carlos Perez, who had a 7.43 ERA in 1999. And rounding out the fivesome, you had the last gasp of Orel Hershiser, who had a 4.58 ERA with the Mets at age 40 the year before. It did not go well for this rotation.

In terms of Dodger starting rotations that had proven talent in all five slots since 2000, you’d have to look at 2007 and 2002 as the leading lights, with honorable mention to 2003. Neither of these teams, of course, reached the playoffs (though the ’02 team won 92 games), while the Dodgers’ past four playoff teams all had question marks in at least one spot in the starting rotation entering the season.

Oct 02

Dodgers trying to go out in style, 3-2


Adam Davis/Icon SMIChad Billingsley struck out five of the first nine batters he faced.

Alex Gallardo/AP
Andre Ethier, who went 4 for 4, greets Matt Kemp at home plate following Kemp’s two-run home run.

With Chad Billingsley pitching brilliantly, Matt Kemp slugging a homer here and making a diving catch there, and Andre Ethier going 4 for 4 … you’d almost think you had a ballclub.

The reality was you had but one victory, the Dodgers’ 79th in 161 games, 3-2 over Arizona. But, they’ll take it.

Billingsley pitched brilliantly, taking a perfect game into the fifth, a no-hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the eighth. He had whittled his ERA for the season down to 3.47 and struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings before finally getting touched for two runs in the eighth. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth and, though he allowed the tying run to reach second base, struck out the side for the save.

Kemp homered for the fourth consecutive game, getting a green light on a 3-0 pitch from guest manager Jamey Carroll and drilling it out to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. Prime Ticket had great audio of Carroll celebrating his decision in the dugout: “That’s why we do it!” (They also caught Carroll showing his excitement over the potential three-way tie between San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta for the final two playoff spots in the National League, as well as becoming the second manager in as many nights to as Clayton Kershaw to get him a sandwich.)

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The watch list

3) Ethier will need a heck of a memorable Sunday to catch Kemp, whom he trails in home runs, 27-23.

4) Kemp’s 86th and 87th RBI pulled him within one of James Loney for the team lead.

6) Rafael Furcal did not play again, with Joe Torre telling reporters before the game that the team is consciously trying to keep Furcal’s average over .300. Furcal is not expected to bat more than once in Sunday’s finale.

10) Pittsburgh lost, clinching the worst record in the National League since the All-Star break.

Sep 26

Uncomfortably numb: Bullpen wastes Billingsley’s 13 Ks

Chad Billingsley tied a career high with 13 strikeouts today while allowing five baserunners and one run in seven innings. His only problem: It’s 2010, the Year Without a Reliable Bullpen.

It wasn’t long ago that Jonathan Broxton giving up a late-inning home run would have caused me great angst, but now I just chalk it up to a lost season. Broxton and George Sherrill each gave up two-run home runs in the bottom of the eighth inning today, surrendering Billingsley’s 4-1 lead and sending the Dodgers to a 5-4 defeat.

The one thing I wasn’t clear on: Why did Ronald Belisario leave the game after retiring one batter with the bases empty and a three-run lead? Or, if Joe Torre was worried about the left-handed bats in the eighth inning for Arizona, why not start the inning with Sherrill?  I don’t care that much at this point, but I just was curious.

The loss was the Dodgers’ 81st of the year, ensuring they won’t have a winning season.

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Earlier today, the Dodgers traded future manager Don Mattingly’s son, Preston, to Cleveland for Ramon Pena in a deal of floundering minor leaguers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.