Feb 27

The defensive potential of Mark Ellis

If the Dodgers replaced baseball’s 27th-best second baseman offensively with the ninth-best, a lot of us would be doing cartwheels. At least three cartwheels, maybe seven.

By that token, maybe we should be doing at least two cartwheels – and as many as 11 – over the fact that, according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings, the Dodgers are replacing baseball’s 27th-best second baseman defensively with the ninth best. He’s in the decline phase of his career, but Mark Ellis should still be a considerable improvement over Jamey Carroll (the aforementioned No. 27), and Aaron Miles, who combined to take 75 percent of the Dodgers’ innings at second base last year.

Wrote Ken Arneson, who has watched Ellis play with Oakland, on Twitter: “Good to make note of the numbers, because Ellis’s defense is as invisible as a mistake-free umpire.”

Elsewhere …

  • © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

    Today in Jon SooHoo: Dee Gordon is off to the races.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times chronicles the maturation of Matt Kemp.
  • Former Dodger reliever Danys Baez is retiring, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via MLB Trade Rumors). From 2006, the year the Dodgers acquired him and Lance Carter from Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany, Baez had a 5.16 ERA (85 ERA+) in 265 1/3 innings with 154 strikeouts and 396 baserunners allowed. And one balk. Jackson in that time has pitched 1,003 2/3 innings with a 4.38 ERA (99 ERA+), 753 strikeouts and 1,495 baserunners allowed. And five balks.
  • Here’s an interesting story from my Variety colleague Stuart Levine about how the move of “Downton Abbey” and “Luther” from the Emmy miniseries to the Emmy drama category could presage the Emmys nominating 10 programs for top drama in 2013.
  • Meanwhile, I bid farewell to the Oscars with a Variety On the Air blog post calling for Academy to understand, once and for all, that they’re making a TV show, rather than filming a stage show. And that starts with the selection of their next host.
Feb 07

Infielder roulette

Monday was a day of past Dodger infielders making news, and present Dodger infielders become past ones.

  • Russell Mitchell was designated for assignment to make room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for Todd Coffey. He could return to the organization if he clears waivers. (Remembering 2011: Russell Mitchell)
  • Blake DeWitt, once upon a time known as “The Solution,” was designated for assignment by the Cubs, who acquired him in the Ted Lilly trade a couple years back. DeWitt, 26, had a 95 OPS+ (.305 on-base percentage, .413 slugging) with Chicago in 2011, compared with Adam Kennedy’s 79 OPS+ for Seattle – but don’t expect the Dodgers to give someone up to acquire DeWitt, who more likely would end up back in the minors for the Cubs.
  • Alex Cora is still at it, signing a minor-league deal with St. Louis.
  • Edwin Jackson reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal with Pittsburgh to sign with Washington for one year and $11 million, banking on doing better in next season’s free-agent market (or just determined to set a record for organizations in a career).
  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White talked about some of his prize picks – Zach Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Reed – with David Laurila for Fangraphs.
  • Up-and-coming reliever Shawn Tolleson was profiled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The late Jose Lima is the subject of a recent SABR biography by Rory Costello.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. is taking a day-by-day look at the Dodgers’ divisional rivals, starting with Arizona on Monday and continuing with San Francisco today.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Blake Griffin and Matt Kemp.
  • Mark Prior is trying one more time to salvage his pitching career, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk). Prior last pitched in the majors in 2006 and won only two games after his 25th birthday.
  • Also aspiring to come back: Brandon Webb, out since Opening Day 2009.
  • Tim Lincecum talks about Clayton Kershaw, among other topics, in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Here’s a simple dice baseball game designed for kids ages 3-6, via Baseball Think Factory.
  • One last baseball-oriented remark about “Smash” that I tweeted: “Hilty is the proven veteran talent. McPhee is green but higher-ceiling. It’s Juan Rivera vs. Jerry Sands. Harang vs. Eovaldi.”  Except this wasn’t quite right. It’s more like A.J. Ellis vs. Tim Federowicz.
  • Ten years ago, while on detail for MLB.com in Venezuela, former Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch wrote about an up-and-coming Rivera.
  • In this terrific podcast interview, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Kamenetzky brothers talk to Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman about, among many other things in a 45-minute chat, his great admiration and love for baseball.
  • This seemed to fascinate some folks on Twitter late Monday: Take a look at these NPR contributor bios, and see if their pictures match with your images of them.
Jan 31

Derrick and the ownership dominoes

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall, the former Dodger executive recovering from prostate cancer, is the subject of a fantastic piece at Yahoo! Sports by Steve Henson. Parenthetically, as Steve Dilbeck of the Times notes, “several groups in the running to purchase the team from Frank McCourt have already approached Hall about becoming the Dodgers’ lead executive should they prove to have the winning bid.”

In another blog post, Dilbeck passes along this Ray McNulty interview for TCPalm.com with Peter O’Malley, who reiterated that his direct involvement in Dodger operations, should he return as owner, probably would be a year or less. “Things need to be stabilized, and I’d have a role in that,” O’Malley said. “But beyond that, the key is to bring in good management people to run the day-to-day operation.”

O’Malley has investment support from South Korean conglomerate E-Land, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman writes at CBSSports.com about the possibility of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong pushing the Magic Johnson-fronted ownership group to the head of the pack.

  • Late bloomer Scott Van Slyke is the subject of a feature by Ken Gurnick at MLB.com that gives you some development background on the first baseman-outfielder you might have missed.
  • Howard Megdal has an interesting comparison of Edwin Jackson and Jason Schmidt at MLB Trade Rumors.

    … The year was 2001. The Diamondbacks had just beaten the Yankees in the World Series. George Harrison died. Anthrax was in the air.

    But none of that stopped Jason Schmidt. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, had put up an ERA+ of 107 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stood at 99, with career walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.9 per nine innings. He was rewarded with a five-year, $41MM contract from San Francisco.

    Fast forward ten years, and look at Edwin Jackson. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, has just put up an ERA+ of 106 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stands at 97, with a walk rate of 3.7 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.7 per nine innings. And he can’t find a job.

    If Schmidt is any indication, today’s teams are missing an opportunity for a bargain. Over his next five seasons, Schmidt pitched just over 1,000 innings at an ERA+ of 127. He made three All Star teams, finished in the top four of Cy Young voting twice, won an ERA title in 2003, and reduced his walks to 3.2 per nine while elevating his strikeouts to 9.0 per nine. He was well worth that $41MM investment. …

    Jackson might settle for a one-year deal for 2012.

  • Jayson Stark’s All-Unemployed team, at the bottom of his latest column for ESPN.com, includes Jackson and Aaron Miles, among others.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Joel Guzman, Jonathan Broxton, Willy Aybar, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier together in 2006.
  • American-Japanese minor-league pitcher Robert Boothe was released by the Dodgers, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Bill Petti at Beyond the Boxscore looks at which teams had the most players producing  negative Wins Above Replacement since 2002. The Dodgers were in the better half.
  • Justin Timberlake will play a young baseball scout opposite Clint Eastwood as an older scout in upcoming feature film “Trouble With the Curve,” Jeff Sneider and Justin Kroll of Variety report. Amy Adams will play Eastwood’s daughter.
  • As for my day at the office, it included a blog post looking at the present and future of the post-Steve Carell “The Office.” I’m thinking mine is a minority view, but see if I convince any of you.
  • Congrats to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News, who won a special appreciation award at the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Some guys named Kershaw, Monday and Scully also got mentioned for some honor or other.
Dec 17

Saturday, out of the park

Catching up today on some news new and old. Many of these items were tweeted by me over the past several days – don’t hesitate to follow.

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times explains why Frank McCourt won’t renege on selling the Dodgers.
  • Here’s a great piece by Chad Moriyama on the lazy comparisons baseball folk have been making between potential big-leaguer Yu Darvish and other pitchers from Asia.
  • Roughly 40 percent of the 2012 Dodger roster will be at least 33 years old next year, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Vance Lovelace and Rick Ragazzo will have greater influence in the Dodger front office, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

    … Lovelace, previously a special assistant to the GM and director of player scouting, is now director of professional personnel. Ragazzo, previously a special assistant to the GM, is now director of pro scouting. …

    … Logan White remains assistant GM in charge for amateur (Draft) and international scouting and DeJon Watson remains assistant GM for player development (Minor Leagues). Tony Howell and Ken Bracey remain as special assistants to Colletti. …

  • More than five years ago, I wrote about the legal action over payment of former Dodger Paul Shuey’s 2004 salary. Amazingly, as Shaikin notes at the Times, the battle is still going on.
  • Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Mike Scioscia, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Fernando Valenzuela will all be featured in one way or another among the Dodgers’ 2012 bobbleheads.
  • Rubby De La Rosa’s injury was costly to the Dodgers in more ways than one, notes Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Edwin Jackson is a better sign than C.J. Wilson, writes Joe Sheehan at SI.com.
  • Dodger hitting guru Dave Hansen is holding a baseball camp for kids ages 7-15 beginning December 19, according to Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • From Steve Dilbeck at the Times’ Dodgers Blog: “INK BLUE.”
  • Change in the National League West: San Diego traded Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger, while Colorado signed Michael Cuddyer for three years and $30 million. John Sickels has more on the Padres’ pickups at Minor League Ball, and there’s more reaction compiled at MLB Trade Rumors.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to recoup millions through a buyback of stadium construction bonds, reports Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.
  • Kirk Gibson: The NL’s most untraditional manager? Maybe so, says Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Boxscore.
  • USC grad Jason Lane, 35 this month, is returning to his pitching roots to try to keep his baseball career alive.
  • Dwight Evans was one of my favorite non-Dodgers of my younger years. Here’s a nice piece on him by David Laurila at Fangraphs.
  • Harrison Ford has been cast as Branch Rickey and newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film “42,” reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • “Moneyball” received four Golden Globe nominations from the decidedly unsporty Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the latest sign of appreciation for the film from a non-baseball audience.
  • A post at Variety’s On the Air blog by me extolls the virtues of “Bosom Buddies.”
Jun 02

Dodgers outlast Diamondbacks again, 1-0 in 14 innings


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Carlos Monasterios looks towards the sky in the second inning, as if he knew how long this day would be for the Dodgers.

It was — or should have been — Edwin Jackson’s game.

Instead, it was … Garret Anderson’s?

The maligned Dodger reserve, with 12 hits in 82 at-bats this year, singled home Matt Kemp in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Dodgers their second-straight 1-0, extra-inning victory over Arizona — capping a series in which the Diamondbacks were held scoreless for their final 31 innings.

The Dodgers, whose scoreless pitching streak is their longest since a 37-inning skein July 24-28, 1991, according to the Dodger press notes, entered this series with a 4.21 team ERA, and left it at 3.99. It was the first time two MLB teams had gone scoreless into extra innings in consecutive games since 2001, and the first time for the Dodger franchise since 1919. The Dodgers also have three consecutive walkoff wins for the first time since August 5-7, 1982.

We’ll talk about the Dodger offense another time, but for now we’ll tip our hat once more to Arizona’s starting pitcher. More than six years after Jackson’s memorable Dodger debut against the Diamondbacks, nearly five years after his last appearance at Dodger Stadium, Jackson returned and put on a show. It was against a lineup that missed Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, and Rafael Furcal (and for half the game, Casey Blake), but it was a show nonetheless. Jackson pitched shutout ball for nine innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out six.

But Jackson didn’t get the win — and neither did Arizona, which was held scoreless by six Dodger pitchers, the last Travis Schlichting, who pitched four shutout innings in his 2010 Dodger debut despite not having thrown that many in a game all year in the minors.

The tone was set early by Jackson and Carlos Monasterios, who, like John Ely, has had to fight a lot of natural-born skepticism to get into the starting rotation. But with five shutout innings today, Monasterios lowered his 2010 ERA to 1.87 and threatened to give birth to Monahysteria. He allowed two singles, walked none and struck out three. He was also, like Ely, reasonably efficient with his pitch count — except for a rather bizarre stretch in the fifth inning when Adam LaRoche and Rusty Ryal combined to foul off 11 of 13 pitches. Monasterios also had to battle several three-ball counts in the second inning, but still got his five innings completed in 81 pitches.

After Ramon Troncoso, now being rationed by Joe Torre, was used for one shutout inning, it fell to recent callup Justin Miller to keep Arizona at bay. Miller immediately tattooed Arizona by hitting Stephen Drew and LaRoche with pitches, but in between came a strikeout and throwout by A.J. Ellis of Drew attempting to steal, to interrupt the scoring bid. Ryal then flied deep to Kemp in center field to end the inning.

Jackson then became the second Arizona starting pitcher in as many games to bat for himself in the eighth inning of a scoreless game — and worked Miller with an 11-pitch single. But on his 41st pitch of the game, Miller got Kelly Johnson to fly to Kemp.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Arizona’s offense denied Edwin Jackson his second career shutout.

In the bottom of the eighth, Jackson once again faced Manny Ramirez with a runner on first and the game on the line, as he did May 12 in Arizona. But instead of hitting a home run, Ramirez was called out on strikes — the third consecutive game Ramirez failed to bring home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

After Jonathan Broxton pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, the valiant Jackson went back to the mound. He was one strike from completing his ninth shutout inning when he gave up a line single to Jamey Carroll, who had the only three hits Jackson allowed, along with a walk. Kemp then walked on a 3-2 slider, leaving it up to Andre Ethier. In a situation seemingly scripted in the Dodgers’ favor, Hollywood rejected it, with Ethier lining out to LaRoche at first base on Jackson’s 123rd pitch.

Ronald Belisario’s scoreless 10th inning fed into James Loney’s double to start off the bottom of the 10th, the only extra-base hit in the 101 combined plate appearances by the two teams today. Ronnie Belliard walked after Anderson struck out, but pinch-hitters Furcal and Martin couldn’t bring the run home.

From that point on, you could say the Dodgers’ otherwise significant bullpen advantage was starting to bleed out, especially with Hong-Chih Kuo unavailable because he threw 1 1/3 innings Tuesday and Torre also wanting to give a day off to Jeff Weaver, who threw 21 pitches Tuesday night.

That left Schlichting, with two career major-league games, the last nearly a year ago, and a history of injury issues. Schlichting pitched a perfect 11th inning, survived two singles in the 12th and then completed a 1-2-3 13th. All the while, the Dodger offense remained silent.

But that wasn’t all. Schlichting, whose longest minor-league outing of the year was 3 2/3 innings, batted for himself in the bottom of the 13th and stayed in to pitch the 14th. He gave up a hit and a walk with one out, but escaped on two fly balls to cap his 60-pitch effort.

Finally, in the bottom of the 14th, Kemp ended an 0-for-14 drought by the Dodger outfielders with a single. Ethier lined out for the third time in his hard-luck 0-for-6 day, but Kemp advanced to second base on a wild pitch, went to third on a Loney grounder and then, unbelievably or mercifully, scored on Anderson’s hit.

With three walkoff victories, this was a series the Dodgers won’t soon forget — but Arizona will sure try its best.

May 12

Diamondbacks walk but can’t hide: Ramirez blast lifts Dodgers, 6-3


Ross D. Franklin/AP
Manny Ramirez follows through, literally and figuratively.

A year ago, Andre Ethier was being told he couldn’t hit at all unless Manny Ramirez was batting behind him.

Tonight, the Arizona Diamondbacks told Ethier that they were so scared of how well he can hit, they’d rather face Ramirez.

It was an awe-wow moment that punctuated the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over Arizona Wednesday, yet not at all shocking considering Ethier’s unbelievable season – and it was hardly a slight against Ramirez, who brought a 1.064 OPS for 2010 into the at-bat. But with runners on second and third with two out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Dodgers leading 3-2, Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson simply didn’t feel he could mess around with Ethier, who boosted his Triple Crown numbers earlier in the game with a two-run homer.

The logic was simple: Walking the left-handed Ethier eliminated the platoon advantage for the Dodgers and created a force at every base for Ramirez, who turns 38 at the end of the month. But still, here it was, the bases being loaded on purpose for one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters (still) – only because the Dodgers have come up with a player 10 years younger and even more dangerous.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Edwin Jackson wipes his forehead after loading the bases ahead of Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning.

Jackson shouldn’t have even been in the situation. He had pitched well overall, allowing three runs on nine baserunners in 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight before the intentional walk. He had already thrown 114 pitches when Ethier came up.  But the Arizona bullpen has been such dogmeat that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided he didn’t have a better hope against Ramirez with the bases loaded than the gassed Jackson.

Ramirez fouled off two pitches to fall behind 0-2 in the count, but on the next pitch, he cannoned a ball high off the center-field wall, 407 feet away, easily a grand slam in Dodger Stadium but a mere three-run double tonight. The smash blasted  Jackson’s valiant effort into ruins, and gave the Dodgers a most exuberant and comfortable four-run lead.

The moment stole the spotlight from what I think we can call a vintage Hiroki Kuroda performance. Kuroda’s first four pitches of the game were low and outside, but he didn’t walk a man after that in 7 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine. The third run – the run that would have tied the game were it not for Ethier and Ramirez – came across on a sacrifice fly off Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, after walks by Ronald Belsiario and Kuo loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But nothing more came across.

Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t been needed in the series up to now, fell short of a 1-2-3 inning for the sixth time in his past seven chances but got the save, interspersing a single and walk with three strikeouts, giving him 22 in 12 2/3 innings this year.

The Dodgers won their ninth in their past 12 games, reached the .500 mark (17-17) for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21 and moved within two games of second-place San Francisco. And another threshold in Andre Ethier’s mammoth season was crossed.

May 12

Arizona’s acquisition of Edwin Jackson hasn’t paid off as hoped


Roy Dabner/AP
Has it really been almost seven years since Edwin Jackson’s thrilling debut against Arizona?

While the Dodgers were getting worked over by the press for not adding a premium starting pitcher during the 2009-10 offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks were boldly going out to get 2009 American League All-Star Edwin Jackson (who starts tonight against the Los Angeles) for their rotation — trading, among others, one-time prized prospect Max Scherzer. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

My early reaction to the news that the Arizona Diamondbacks had traded away Max Scherzer was, “The Dodgers have the McCourts. What’s Arizona’s excuse?”

From what I could tell, almost all the thoughts about Tuesday’s trade, a three-way endeavor that included Arizona sending Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit in exchange for the Tigers’ Edwin Jackson and the Yankees’ Ian Kennedy, matched mine. Why was Arizona giving up a lower-paid pitcher with a higher ceiling?

I know I’m not alone among Dodger fans in retaining a soft spot for former boy in blue Jackson, who had his best season last year and is still only 26. But I’ve been hearing for quite some time splendiferous things about Scherzer, who is 25, struck out more than a batter an inning in 2009 with an adjusted ERA of 111 (4.12 ERA) and will make millions less than Jackson in 2010.

If the Dodgers had made this kind of trade — a prized young pitcher sent away for short-term gain — anger would have blasted through the roof and finger-pointing would have zoomed through the hole in the roof that anger had created. It would have been an ugly day, at least on this website. Even though the Dodgers would be taking on more salary for 2010, the trade would have been seen as a short-sighted mortgaging of the future, another sign of a crumbling empire. (A similar scenario: Imagine the Edwin Jackson for Lance Carter-Danys Baez trade happening now.)

Yes, some would have defended the trade, just as some are pointing out that Scherzer might not have the build or mechanics to truly blossom as a starter, or that Kennedy still has rotation potential, or that Jackson should do even better in migrating back to the National League. But considering how negative the overall reaction is toward Arizona making this move, you can only imagine, in the context of the Dodgers’ current dysfunction, how harsh things would have been if Los Angeles had done it. …

So how has it all worked out?  As you might expect, not as expected.

Scherzer has a 6.81 ERA in seven starts for Detroit — and that’s lower than Jackson’s 7.32 mark for Arizona. However, Kennedy, the lesser of the starting pitchers to come in the trade, has a 3.48 ERA despite allowing a National League-high eight home runs. (Among others involved in the trade, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson have also done well for Detroit, while Schlereth is in the minors.  Curtis Granderson is mired in a lousy year, making the Yankees the big loser in the deal to date.)

In September 2003, Jackson made his major-league debut on his 20th birthday against Randy Johnson and won, on a night dimensionally more thrilling than John Ely’s besting of Dan Haren Tuesday. Tonight on the same field, he’ll be trying again to recapture those good vibes, while the Dodgers, who were held to two runs over six innings the only other time they have faced him (while he had a 7.85 ERA with Tampa Bay at the time), will try again to avoid looking bad for ever letting Jackson go in the first place.

* * *

Two notes from Stat of the Day: 2009 Dodger Will Ohman, who spent most of the year on the disabled list, has a 0.00 ERA after 11 innings with Baltimore (allowing four of 13 inherited runners to score), and No. 8 hitters for the Giants have an Andre Ethier-like 1.194 OPS this season, led by Nate Schierholtz.

* * *

Joined by my colleague Stuart Levine, I’m doing another live chat about all things TV today for Variety at 2:30 p.m. As of this moment, you can click the link and start sending your questions …