Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw to start Opening Day

As it should be

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will get the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season opener on March 31 against the San Francisco Giants, manager Don Mattingly announced on Wednesday morning.

Mattingly said he made the decision as far back as last fall.

“Probably the day after I found out I was going to manage,” Mattingly said. “This kid loves the challenge, and I would line him up against anybody.”

In this case, Mattingly likely will be lining up Kershaw against right-hander Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ ace right-hander and two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Mattingly cited Kershaw’s two victories last season over Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the N.L. starter in the All-Star Game, as evidence of his ability to rise to the occasion. …

Feb 14

The pleasure and peril of multiyear contracts for the kids

To extend, or not to extend – that is the question.

One part of my recent interview with Ned Colletti that I couldn’t work into the main story was his thoughts about offering multiyear contracts to younger players before they become free agents. Here’s what he had to say:

Ric Tapia/Icon SMIAndre Ethier was arguably the only arbitration-eligible Dodger who didn’t decline in 2010 after receiving a multiyear contract.

“You have to have some predictability to performance,” Colletti said. “Usually, clubs gain a benefit from going multiyear, and it’s got to be seen as that from the club’s perspective, because you’re not guaranteeing performance. All you’re guaranteeing is the financial end of the equation.

“If the right situation presents itself, where the guy’s in the right place in his career, his life and his priorities, and there’s a savings a club can realize, then it’s worth doing. But if only the first part’s there, that we’re gonna pay on the guy maximizing (his performance), there’s really no reason to do it – let him go out and do it every year. Some guys who are flawed in an area or who don’t possess everything they need, the agent will ask you to pay as if that is occurring, in the event that it does.”

In short, Colletti needs confidence that the player is going to stay on track performance-wise, and he needs there to be some savings for making the guaranteed payment. The Dodgers need to get some rebate in exchange for the security that they’re offering.

That being said, Colletti said that Clayton Kershaw is the kind of player for whom a multiyear deal might make sense, but that the process wouldn’t begin until next winter, when he first becomes eligible for arbitration.

“It’d be something we may think about as this year unfolds and we get into the offseason,” Colletti said. “Not this spring. He’s got four more years here.”

That might appropriate to some, too casual to others. Let’s take a closer look.

Colletti signed three key arbitration-eligible players to multiyear deals before the 2010 season – Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton – and based on 2010 performance, Colletti might well regret two of those contracts. He’s also probably quite pleased that he didn’t go multiyear with Russell Martin, and not really worried that he hasn’t done so with James Loney, who signed his latest one-year deal Friday. Perhaps he should have bought low on Chad Billingsley last winter. (I would have, but I would have also wanted to do so on a lot of the other guys.) In general, recent experience has probably made Colletti even more wary in discussing them with other players.

Here’s a snapshot of the salaries for the players we’re talking about over a four-year period (multiyear deals in bold, Martin’s Yankees salary in parentheses):


Player/Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Billingsley $415,000 $475,000 $3,850,000 $6,275,000
Broxton $454,000 $1,825,000 $4,000,000 $7,000,000
Ethier $424,500 $3,100,000 $6,000,000 $9,250,000
Kemp $406,000 $467,000 $4,000,000 $7,050,000
Kershaw $404,000 $440,000 $500,000
Loney $411,000 $465,000 $3,100,000 $4,875,000
Martin $500,000 $3,900,000 $5,050,000 ($4,000,000)

Note that Billingsley got a 63 percent raise for 2011 following a well-regarded season, and Loney got a 57 percent raise for a season considered a disappointment. That gives you some guideposts for the following speculation:

  • Not signing Billingsley to a multiyear deal in 2010 might have cost the Dodgers a few hundred thousand bucks this year. But not signing a multiyear deal in 2009 might have saved the team money in 2010.
  • The two-year deal in 2010 for Broxton probably cost the Dodgers more than $600,000 for 2011. With a three-year deal in 2009, perhaps they would have broke even, though that involved more risk.
  • Ethier’s two-year deal has probably saved the Dodgers a little bit of money; a three-year deal in 2009 might have saved them a bit more.
  • With Kemp, I’m honestly not sure that going year-to-year would have made much of a difference. His 2011 salary appears higher than it otherwise would have been, but that might have been a case of backloading the contract, because the 2010 salary looks a little low. Kemp’s 2009 performance was stronger than Billingsley’s, and that’s not reflected in the $150,000 difference between their 2010 paychecks.
  • Going year-to-year with Loney probably saved the Dodgers money, but less than $1 million.
  • Martin, of course, is where the big savings comes – if he had signed a multiyear deal in 2009, he might have been paid an extra, say, $2 million last year. And if it had been a three-year deal, the Dodgers might be paying Martin $8 million this season. Only if Martin has a whopping comeback will the Dodgers regret this.

Given that Colletti didn’t have a crystal ball, it’s hard to complain much about how he’s handled things. The decision to show restraint on Martin has arguably saved the Dodgers $6 million, which more than covers any fringe costs with Broxton, Billingsley, Ethier or Kemp. The only way this would be reversed is if one of those four or Loney has an MVP or Cy Young season, and you’re then fretting that the Dodgers haven’t bought out some of their free-agent years, the way Colorado has with Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonazlez. We should be so unfortunate.

Brad Mangin/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw, nearly four years younger than Tim Lincecum, had a lower ERA than the Giants ace in 2010.

That brings us back to Kershaw, who becomes eligible for salary arbitration after this season and eligible for free agency after 2014. (Gosh, that seems so nice and far away right now.) How urgent is it for Colletti to lock Kershaw up for multiple years? It would sure feel nice, but you can’t say there isn’t risk.

Let’s turn to the contract status of arguably the reigning young aces of each league (at least until Kershaw decides to do something about it).

One year ago Saturday, Tim Lincecum signed a two-year, $23 million contract (plus incentives in the thousands). The deal came after Lincecum and the Giants were $5 million apart – $8 million vs. $13 million – in their 2010 arbitration filing. It didn’t come close to addressing his free-agent years; it just was a hedge against what Lincecum might have earned going year-to-year.  Hypothetically, if Lincecum had settled for a 10.5 million salary in 2010, he might have been looking at something like $17 million this year, making for a total in the neighborhood of $28 million. (Though Lincecum slipped a bit in the 2010 regular season, his postseason performance would have helped rectify matters.)

Put one way, the Giants a year ago risked committing $13 million in 2011 salary in order to save about $5 million. That’s some high-stakes Mahjong.

Over in the American League, Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners played things differently. After earning $3.8 million in 2009 and facing a $4.3 million gap in salary arbitration filings ($7.2 million vs. $11.5 million), Hernandez signed a five-year, $78 million pact that locked away his first three years of free agency (2012-14). The contract averages $15.6 million per year for five years, $19.3 million for the three free-agent years. Again, there’s no mistaking the double-edged sword: You can assume that $58 million for three years wouldn’t have cut it for Hernandez after this season, but the risk is catastrophic if something goes wrong.

I think it’s pretty clear where my sentiments lie with Kershaw – I’d sign him to a multiyear contract tonight – but you can understand why Colletti might hesitate or procrastinate. For another example, look how quickly opinions turned on Eric Gagne before his multiyear deal vs. after he got hurt. It’s harder to stomach paying big bucks for an injured player than it is to pay bigger bucks for a healthy superstar.

On the other hand, better Clayton Kershaw than Jason Schmidt.

In my head, I can understand the patience, as much as I believe it should be done.

Jan 16

Stopping by the Internet on a Snowy Evening

And miles to link before I sleep …

  • The state of Don Mattingly is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance continues to knock ‘em out of the park – here’s a great story about the Dodgers and Mister Marty.
  • The frustrating thing with Russell Martin is that he keeps telling us in April that he’s training like he’s never trained before, and then the following winter he inevitably tells us, “No, not really.” Anyway, Martin tells the Canadian Press that he had some personal “distractions” and “frustrations” during his last two years with the Dodgers, but this year, he’ll be back.
  • Dodger pitching prospects Javy Guerra and Chris Withrow were continuing their rehab from injuries at the team’s recent minicamp in Los Angeles, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Delino DeShields Jr., the 18-year-old reigning first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was charged with a DUI, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Danny’s Farm, the Altadena animal farm tailored for special-needs children that was founded by former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife Cathy, has been closed because of zoning restrictions, reports Corina Knoll of the Times.
  • Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye gets praise from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times has a praiseworthy recap of Dennis Gilbert’s annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner Saturday.

Update:

Jan 03

Dodgers sign Tim Redding to minor-league deal

Looks like the world is getting back to work …

  • The Dodgers signed Tim Redding to a minor-league contract. Redding, who will be 33 in February, had a 2.89 ERA in 109 Triple-A innings last year, following a 2009 major-league campaign in which his ERA was 5.10 with 76 strikeouts in 120 innings.
  • Albert Lyu of Fangraphs has a precision look at Matt Kemp’s struggles against fastballs in 2010 compared with the year before. “Kemp’s whiffs against lower-90s fastballs dramatically increased in the past year, nearly doubling that of the average hitter,” Lyu writes.
  • Ronald Belisario won a Venezeulan winter league closer of the year award, notes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also passes along word of the arrival of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw in Africa.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness wonders if there is still room to add a second lefty reliever to the 2011 Dodger bullpen, especially because Hong-Chih Kuo can’t be wasted as someone who only faces lefty batters.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter shares a sweaty, tongue-tied New York moment, co-starring Tina Fey.
  • Farewell, Anne Francis and Pete Postlewaite.
Dec 28

Vince Lombardi on what winning really is

From the excellent HBO sports documentary “Lombardi”, here’s Vince Lombardi’s most famous quote in his own words — and his misgivings about it:

“Winning isn’t everything, but it’s the only thing. There is no second place. Either you’re first, or you’re last.”

[Interview: Jerry Izenberg, Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger]

He told me one day, “I wish to hell I’d never said that.” I said, “Well, don’t you believe it?” He said, “What I believe is, if you go out on a football field Sunday, or any other endeavor in life, and you leave every fiber of what you have on that field, when the game finally ends, then you’ve won, and to me that tells a lot more than the final score. And I never made that clear.”

* * *

  • At the end of the 2010 season, after all midseason spending was factored in, the Dodgers had the No. 9 payroll in the majors, according to Maury Brown at Fangraphs. The Dodgers spent $109.8 million. That was good for fourth in the National League, though the Dodgers finished with a better record than two of the three teams that spent more money: Philadelphia ($145.5 million), Chicago ($142.4 million) and New York ($127.6 million). San Francisco was 11th in the majors and fifth in the NL at $101.4 million. Texas reached the World Series with a $74.3 million payroll. The Dodgers’ end-of-year payroll in 2010 was 17 percent below their end-of-2009 payroll, according to Brown.
  • Takashi Saito signed a one-year contract with Milwaukee. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports the value at $2 million plus incentives.
  • A chart of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect lists from 1990 to 2010 has been posted at Beyond the Box Score by Jeff Zimmerman.
  • The Dodgers will once again have their developmental minicamp for prospects at Dodger Stadium shortly after the New Year. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has details.
  • Gurnick also has an article on newlyweds Clayton and Ellen Kershaw taking a goodwill trip to Africa in January. Ellen has been to Africa four previous times.  As far as offseason workouts, Gurnick writes that Kershaw has been throwing for a month.
  • Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse has had a quite successful post-baseball career in business, writes Benjamin Pomerance in a long feature at Baseball Savvy.
  • Here’s more information about bunting in 2010 than you could ever dream of — featuring mentions of Clayton Kershaw and the possibility that Juan Pierre might be the majors’ most harmful bunter — from Lucas Apostoleris at Beyond the Box Score.
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 13

Eugenio Velez wins a trip to Camelback

Thinking of a Dodger bench trio that could be made up of Juan Velez Mitchell (almost no one will get that joke, and those who do won’t laugh) …

  • Add Eugenio Velez to the Dodgers’ list of non-roster invitees to Spring Training 2011. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has drawn up Clayton Kershaw’s five-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers, leaving both parties the small detail of signing it.
  • How bad were the free agent signings of 2006-07? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs shows you.
  • If MLB worked like the BCS, here’s what the bowl matchups would have been, according to Dayn Perry of Notgraphs.
  • You’ve probably seen it, but the video of the snow pouring through the collapsed Metrodome roof in Minnesota is pretty amazing.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey passes along a link to Peter Keating’s ESPN.com post discussing Sandy Koufax’s perfect game as the most perfect of perfect games.
  • Fun list at Baseball-Reference.com of the players who hit the most home runs while playing in under 1,000 career games.  No. 5: Henry Rodriguez.
  • MLB Network’s first-time-in-50-years broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series is Wednesday. Set your DVRs.
Dec 08

Ten bullet points

Fire when ready, Gridley …

  • The Dodgers re-signed Trent Oeltjen to a minor-league contract, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com (among other notes).
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy, now with Colorado, is recovering from a mild arrhythmia that caused him to collapse shortly after midnight Tuesday. The Associated Press has details.
  • Clayton Kershaw is married! Check out the pictures at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • More great news: Longtime friend of Dodger Thoughts Jay Jaffe has been voted into the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • This book, A Brief History of American Sports, was co-authored by Elliott J. Gorn, whom I took “Sport in American Life” from at Stanford when he was a visiting professor 21 years ago.
  • I like these Dodgers-Fritos collectibles featuring Larry Sherry and Charley Neal, showcased by Blue Heaven.
  • Who are the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame? Baseball Past & Present offers a list, based on the vote of 63 people including Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods.
  • King Kaufman argues for the value of being average.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter has the best piece I’ve seen on Derek Jeter this offseason.
  • Longtime Dodger Thoughts readers might recall how big a fan of Spalding Gray I’ve been. Stephen Soderbergh has a new documentary about the monologist/actor, writes David Ng at Culture Monster. LACMA will screen it Monday.
Nov 29

Farewell, Gil McDougald

Farewell, Gil McDougald, one of the earliest historical names I can recall learning as a baseball fan, something that came about when reading about his line drive off Herb Score in an issue of Baseball Digest. McDougald was also the player doubled off first base following Sandy Amoros’ amazing grab-and-throw in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series.

McDougald, who himself had been struck by a line drive in the ear, spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees, retiring at age 32. He coached at Vin Scully’s alma mater, Fordham, from 1970-77.

* * *

A potential settlement in the McCourt divorce case could get some funding from law firm Bingham McCutchen as a way to fend off a legal malpractice suit, Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall of the Times reported last week.

… That (mediator and Superior Court Judge Peter) Lichtman approached Bingham does not necessarily mean that (Judge Scott) Gordon is likely to throw out the agreement, said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney.

However, she said Lichtman could have identified Bingham funds as a source to narrow the nine-figure gap between what Frank has offered to settle the case and what Jamie has requested, with the probability that Bingham could stand to lose far more money in a malpractice suit.

J. Michael Kelly, a Santa Monica family law attorney, said Bingham could face liability from whichever of the McCourts loses.

“There is no way out,” Kelly said.

* * *

Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant has come up with a week-long “Steve Garvey Menu” in support of the Dodger first baseman’s Hall of Fame candidacy (via the Expansion Era committee).

Mon, Nov. 29: Steve Garvey’s Dodger Dog – to recognize his place in baseball’s most enduring infield with the LA Dodgers

Tues, Nov. 30: Steve Garvey’s MVP-izza – in honor of his 1974 National League MVP Award

Weds, Dec. 1: Steve Garvey’s All Star Platter – in honor of his ten All Star Games, including being the first write-in selection

Thurs, Dec. 2: Steve Garvey’s (San Diego) Chicken Parmigiana – in honor of his 1984 NLCS MVP with the SD Padres

Fri, Dec. 3: Steve’s Shepherd’s Pie – in honor of his 1981 World Series championship with the Dodgers

Sat, Dec. 4: Steve Garvey Burger with Golden French Fries – in honor of his four Gold Gloves at 1B

Sun, Dec. 5: Steve Garvey’s $6 Mimosas – Champagne and California orange juice to celebrate #6 (and his possible induction into Cooperstown)

Results of this Hall vote will be announced Dec. 6.

Meanwhile, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk highlights some names that didn’t make the conventional Hall of Fame ballot in their first year of eligibility. Wilson Alvarez, Cal Eldred, Jeffrey Hammonds, Greg Myers, Jose Offerman, Paul Quantrill, Rey Sanchez, Ugueth Urbina — you are remembered.

* * *

And before I go …

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.

Sep 29

Unscratch that: Kershaw to start Friday as Kuroda calls it a year

Is the opposite of being “shut down” being “shut up?” If so, the Dodgers shut up Clayton Kershaw.

Shut up …

Los Angeles shifted rotation gears again, deciding today that it would be Hiroki Kuroda taking the rest of the year off. Kershaw will now make a final start Friday, on six days’ rest, followed by Chad Billingsley on Saturday and Ted Lilly in the season finale Sunday.

I’m going to Friday’s game, so I’ll be happy to see Kershaw pitch in that sense. But I think the Dodgers were right with their initial instincts, and that they might as well throw John Ely out there Friday rather than make Kershaw get back on the horse.

  • Dee Gordon is so skinny — how skinny is he? — Dee Gordon is so skinny that Bryan Smith of Fangraphs has serious questions about how good the Dodger prospect can become, especially if he doesn’t walk as much as a Brett Butler, steal like Tim Raines or play defense like Ozzie Smith.
  • “Wilson Valdez grounds into double plays the way Weezer puts out new albums nowadays,” writes Michael Baumann of Phillies Nation, “often, indiscriminately, and sometimes with disastrous results.” Valdez is only the second player in the past 40 years or so to reach 20 GIDP in under 375 plate appearances. With a runner on first base and under two outs, Valdez has 20 GIDP and 18 hits.
  • John Lindsey’s callup made Jerry Crasnick’s ESPN.com list of top inspirational moments this season.
Sep 29

Dodgers call it a season for Clayton Kershaw

The Watch List

1) After Tuesday’s 9-7 victory over Colorado, the Dodgers announced that Clayton Kershaw had done enough this year and would not be pitching today or in the remaining four games of the 2010 season. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details following his report of the game, which saw Hiroki Kuroda enter the seventh inning with a 6-2 lead but get no decision.)

Kershaw has thrown 20 more innings than he did in 2009′s combined regular season and postseason. He finishes his age-22 year with a 2.91 ERA (133 ERA+), 212 strikeouts in 204 1/3 innings, a career low 3.6 walks per nine innings, an opponents’ OPS of .615 …

2) … and 18 sacrifice bunts.

3) Matt Kemp’s 24th homer in the third inning moved him one ahead of Andre Ethier.

4) James Loney got his 85th RBI on his 10th homer (putting him in the 10-homer, 10-steal club), keeping him five RBI ahead of Ethier, who got his 80th, and Kemp, who drove in 78 and 79.

5) The Dodgers’ rare offensive onslaught – seven extra-base hits, capped by Casey Blake’s second homer of the game in the ninth – helped them survive a bumpy pitching night and fend off Joe Torre’s 1,997th loss. Two victories in his final four games will keep him out of the 2,000 club. (Torre plans to hand the managerial to two players, quite possibly Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus, in two of those games, but will still take the wins or losses on his own ledger.)

6) Rafael Furcal had two triples in five at-bats, each time driving in a run and then scoring, to raise his batting average to .301. Jamey Carroll went 1 for 1 to bump up to .293 and needs four consecutive hits to go over .300. A.J. Ellis (batting .483 this month) went 2 for 3 to reach .287. Ellis can finish at or above .300 by going 2 for 2, 3 for 5 or 4 for 9.

8) Jamey Carroll did not homer.

9) The Dodgers are 9-16 in September, and need to win just one more game in their final four to avoid their worst final month ever.

10) Tuesday was Everybody Gets a Trophy Day, with the bottom six post-All-Star-break teams all winning. The Dodgers are now playing .400 ball in the second half.

The Bottom Standings after tonight’s games:

26-43, .377 Kansas City (won)
26-43, .377 Pittsburgh (won)
26-43, .377 Seattle (won)
28-42, .400 Los Angeles (won)
29-40, .420 Washington (won)
29-39, .426 New York Mets (won)

* * *

Sep 24

Our rock in a hard place: Clayton Kershaw


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw crossed the 200-inning mark and lowered his 2010 ERA to 2.91.

I’ve always been more than a little pumped when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound. But lately, it has gotten to the point where I’m afraid to miss him, because I’m afraid I’ll miss him throw a perfect game.

For the second time in his past three starts, Kershaw had no-hit stuff. Twelve days ago, Kershaw retired the first 10 Giants he faced, on his way to a five-hit shutout. Tonight in Arizona, Kershaw set down the first 11 Diamondbacks, striking out nine and allowing but four hits (and no walks) over eight innings in pitching the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory.

A solid single to right by Kelly Johnson ended Kershaw’s bid for a perfect game tonight. Johnson also singled in the seventh, and aside from John Hester reaching on a Russ Mitchell error, those were the only baserunners the Diamondbacks had until Chris Young’s leadoff single and Tony Abreu’s RBI double in the ninth. Kenley Jansen then replaced Kershaw. who threw 102 pitches. After one out, Jansen walked Stephen Drew to put the tying run on base, but he struck out Adam LaRoche and Ryan Church for a 22-pitch save.

On top of all his other talents, Kershaw has spent much of this season mastering his control. Last year, he walked 4.8 batters per nine innings. This year, he’s at 3.7, and since June 1, 2.8. In the first four innings tonight, nine Kershaw pitches landed out of the strike zone. His pitch count by inning before the ninth: 12, 10, 8, 12, 15, 13, 16, 7.

It was sad to see Kershaw’s bid for a two-hit shutout fray in the final inning, but still, he was mesmerizing. If Dodger fans have one thing to look forward to next season, if they have only one player writing poetry, it’s Clayton Kershaw. What a treasure.

* * *

Two players got their first triples of the season for the Dodgers tonight, and you can decide which is more surprising: Trent Oeltjen or Andre Ethier. Oeltjen drove in A.J. Ellis (1 for 2 with two walks) with his, Ethier scored following his. Reed Johnson added his second homer of the year in the ninth inning, and that was your Dodger onslaught tonight. (Russ Mitchell did get the first inside-the-park hit of his career, a seventh-inning single.)

Kershaw had his 18th sacrifice bunt of the season, putting him one away from Orel Hershiser’s team record for pitchers of 19, set in 1988.

* * *

Mediation on the McCourt case ended with no news of an impending settlement, reports The Associated Press. Comments Josh Fisher at Dodger Divorce: “… a settlement doesn’t have to come now. It probably won’t come now. After this trial comes to a conclusion, Judge Gordon will have 90 days to issue a ruling. You can bet he’ll keep the parties well-informed to his progress, and that they will have ample time to reach a settlement. It’s a hugely important case, one that could potentially create new California law, but the parties are unlikely to let it get that far. There’s just too much to lose.”