Jul 06

Tommy Lasorda’s game for the ages

Tommy Lasorda recalls the time he struck out 25 while allowing 23 baserunners in a 15-inning game — with documentation! Lasorda also drove in the game-winning run (link from May via Baseball Think Factory).

The headline for the post is, “If you believe in pitch counts, read this.” I wonder, though, if Lasorda might have had a better major-league career if he hadn’t pitched a game like this.

Or not. In the minors, Lasorda walked 1,158 and struck out 864.

  • You think you had it rough? Hiroki Kuroda had it rough. This profile by David Waldstein of the New York Times is something.
  • Addressing increasing trade rumors about top Dodger pitching prospect Zach Lee, Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness brings the rationality.
  • Luke Scott of Baltimore is channeling Eugenio Velez with an 0-for-39 slump, notes David Brown of Big League Stew.
  • For an overseas perspective on the MLB All-Star Game, read Nat Coombs’ piece for ESPN America.
  • This piece by David Goldman for CNNMoney sums up all the reasons why wireless service is lacking at sporting events.
  • I wish teams would stop releasing Jamie Moyer.
Jun 30

June 30 game chat

Mets at Dodgers, 4:15 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Juan Rivera, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Nathan Eovaldi, P

Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy says he has a rare infection that might be connected to his lungs. Keep hoping he’ll get some good news.

  • Hiroki Kuroda tied his career high of 11 strikeouts in seven shutout innings for the Yankees today. He has a 1.65 ERA in his past seven starts.
  • Karen Crouse of the New York Times writes a wonderful story an interview, at age 13, with Olympic swimmer Mike Bruner that changed both their lives.
  • If the Dodgers don’t hit a home run tonight, it will be their first full month ever in Los Angeles with only one home run at home, according to research by Bob Timmermann.
Apr 13

Kuroda goes eight shutout innings in Yankee Stadium opener

I’ve probably never been happier over a Yankee win. Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight shutout innings, allowing five hits, two walks and striking out six before 49,386 at the Bronx Bombers’ home opener today, a 5-0 victory over the Angels.

Kuroda didn’t allow a hit after Peter Bourjos’ fifth-inning single until an infield single by Bobby Abreu in the ninth on the former Dodger’s 109th pitch, after which Kuroda left the game to a standing ovation. A highlight was a called strike three against Angel slugger Albert Pujols in the sixth.

I’ll always be a fan, Hiroki. Good for you.

Feb 23

Braun news threatens to overshadow Sands’ Carlos Perez story

Ryan Braun won the appeal of his drug suspension. I’ll let the reaction of Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra stand in for mine.

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point. …

There’s more in Calcaterra’s post, one I urge you to read in its entirety. Between this chain-of-custody failure and the missing staple that was key to the McCourt divorce case, baseball appears to be ripping off Law and Order plot devices.

I’d like to think this will end the talk that there should be a re-vote of the National League Most Valuable Player award, but perhaps that’s still too optimistic.

* * *

Jerry Sands provided a lot of good copy for Dodger beat writers today, as these stories from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com show.

The bulk of it consisted of fun anecdotes about Sands working as a substitute teacher over the winter, but my favorite part was this, from Stephen:

… Sands got married on November 19, then spent a month in the Dominican Republic, hitting .250/.325/.375 in 20 games with the Tigres de Licey in winter league ball, where he was teammates with 40-year old former Dodgers pitcher and water cooler destroyer Carlos Perez.

Sands said Perez was in something like his 20th year in the Dominican Winter League, and joked that management said of the pitcher, “We keep telling him not to come back, but every year he keeps showing up in the clubhouse.” …

* * *

The Dodgers had a few roster moves today.

They claimed 26-year-old outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from Baltimore. Angle had a .599 OPS in 95 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2011 and a .692 OPS in Triple-A, his skills mainly being incredible basestealing ability (38 for 42 at the two levels combined) and defense. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on Angle, who is on the 40-man roster but will begin the season in the minors.

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Angle.

Also, righty reliever Jose Ascanio failed his physical and won’t participate in Spring Training for the Dodgers. has left Dodger camp after failing his physical on Tuesday. From the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer:

The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 12 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh last year and has a career 5.28 ERA in 46 MLB innings. However, he did strike out 50 in 44 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in his first significant action since recovering from late-2009 shoulder surgery. So he sounds qualified for an Albuquerque stint.

* * *

  • Arizona offered Hiroki Kuroda $13 million for 2012, $3 million more than the contract he signed with the Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted a bevy of vintage Dodger photos available at Legendary Auctions.
  • EAS Sports Nutrition has a contest that will provide the winner and a friend airfare to Phoenix, hotel, rental car and tickets for two Spring Training games over the March 16-18 weekend.
Feb 14

St. Bobby

On this Valentine’s Day, Josh Wilker makes Bobby Valentine the subject of his Cardboard Gods offering, linking to a 1971 Spokane Daily Chronicle story in which Valentine declares, “I intend to be the Dodger shortstop for many years.” But Valentine, the 1970 Pacific Coast League MVP, had already suffered the injury that derailed his playing career.

But wait, there’s more …

  • In the second part of Bronx Banter’s series on Hiroki Kuroda, William Juliano runs a statistical analysis on the former Dodger righty.
  • Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now celebrates, for good reason, getting a phone call at home from Vin Scully.
  • Dodger Stadium will once again host a college baseball doubleheader, this time on March 13. UC Irvine will play Pepperdine at 2 p.m., followed by UCLA-USC at 6:30. Advanced tickets are $7 ($5 for students). Gates open at 1 p.m., parking is free and concessions are discounted. Details here.
  • Tony Gwynn (Sr.) is having more cancer surgery, reports The Associated Press.
  • From Chad Moriyama: “The article I didn’t want to write: Jeremy Lin and racism.”
  • Hey, it’s not as if I’m immune to the charms of Kate Upton, but thanks to Big League Stew for finding the link from Upton’s MLB 2K12 ad to George Plimpton’s Mattel Intellivision spot.
  • Update: Adding this last bit from Mike Newman at Fangraphs

    … Before scouting Dodgers Rubby De La Rosa in person, a running joke with scouting contacts was that my radar gun must be broken because it had never registered a velocity above 96 MPH in a season and a half of lugging it around. I headed to Chattanooga knowing De La Rosa threw hard enough to surpass 96 MPH, but was not prepared for just how much harder he threw. Seeing a “seven” on the gun was impressive, but when he popped the mitt at “eight” and “nine” in succession, it became obvious De La Rosa’s fastball was in a different league than any I’d seen previously. (For those who are wondering, when a pitcher throws in the 90+ MPH range, scouts will drop the nine and refer to the pitch by its second digit.) And while I generally ignore stadium guns at all cost, seeing 101 MPH flash on the scoreboard was a first, and left onlookers buzzing in the stands.

    And while De La Rosa lacked command in the upper registers, the one 98 MPH fastball he located belt high on the inner half is seared into my scouting mind as it bored down and in on a right handed hitter to devastating effect. It was the single most dominant pitch I’ve seen live …

Jan 28

Expanded playoffs could lower bar for Dodgers in 2012

Can the seventh-best team in the National League in 2011 become the fifth-best team in 2012?

  • Nothing’s official yet, but Bud Selig thinks the expansion of MLB’s playoffs to 10 teams could come this year, reports The Associated Press. “Under the new format, whenever it begins, the non-division winners in each league with the two best records will be the wild cards, meaning a third-place team could for the first time win the World Series.”
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A contemplative Vin Scully inside the Green Monster at Fenway, 2004. (And from a couple days ago, here’s Scully interviewing Tommy Lasorda at Busch Stadium in the 1980s.)
  • Hiroki Kuroda talked to Dylan Hernandez of the Times at some length about leaving the Dodgers for the Yankees.
  • Paul DePodesta talked to MLB Clubhouse Confidential’s Brian Kenny about “Moneyball,” the Dodgers and his current team, the Mets.
  • The Mets could have the largest single-season payroll cut in MLB history – more than $50 million, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Speaking of money: Here’s a yearly progression of the highest-paid player in baseball dating back to Nap Lajoie’s $6,200 salary in 1902, provided by William Juliano at Bronx Banter.
  • Juan Pierre, 34, has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies, joining Scott Podsednik in the competition for a spot on their roster.  Something tells me that a .279 hitter in 639 at-bats with 27 steals would have gotten a better contract if evaluation methods in baseball hadn’t changed to de-emphasize batting average. His OPS+ was .657 and he was caught stealing 17 times.
  • Another former Dodger, Brad Penny, might be headed for Japan, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Penny, 34 in May, had a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts and 181 2/3 innings for Detroit in 2011.
  • Noted by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports: If Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension is upheld, his first 2012 game would be May 31 at Dodger Stadium. It’s a weekday afternoon game.
  • This year, Stanford may well have first pair of classmates picked first in both the NFL and MLB drafts: quarterback Andrew Luck and pitcher Mark Appel, writes Jack Blanchat of the Stanford Daily.
  • Some of you might find this interesting: According to this MediaPost story by Mark Walsh, ESPN now feels that “instead of determining how to shoehorn its programming from traditional media to mobile platforms, the process is now reversed, with mobile becoming the starting point.”
  • Maybe the craziest collection of trick shots you’ll ever see is in this video, which is kicked off by Don Mattingly and his son Preston.
  • Even crazier … this IHOP commercial from 1969 (via Emma Span).
  • Farewell, Robert Hegyes. Hegyes wrote about his “Welcome Back, Kotter” experience at his website. Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball were fans.

* * *

The deadline is fast approaching, but there are still spots open to play in TheLFP.com Softball Tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina, where readers of Dodger blogs will play with and against each other. Sign up and be part of the fun.

Jan 15

Shots at Kuroda undeserved

Some online have criticized Hiroki Kuroda for joining an East Coast team this winter after refusing to approve a trade to an East Coast team last summer. Those criticisms are way off the mark.

There’s a big difference between making your own decision to go east after months of deliberations, as opposed to being forced to do so at a moment’s notice, against your will.

In November 2010, Kuroda signed a contract in good faith to pitch in Los Angeles in 2011 and made clear his intention of how important it was to him to be in Los Angeles by negotiating a no-trade clause. Now, some would fault him for not volunteering to leave the team he signed with – not to mention his family – behind.

This is a pretty bizarre loyalty test, where you’re required to make a sacrifice for a team that, the minute you make the sacrifice, is no longer your team. I don’t know where the idea that he owed the Dodgers something comes from.

Trading Kuroda for prospects would have helped the Dodgers. So would Kuroda and all his teammates playing for free. It doesn’t mean they’re lesser people for choosing not to do so. It doesn’t mean that Kuroda didn’t have valid reasons for staying.

Those of you who are employed – would you accept a sudden and immediate transfer to a completely different company, across the country, even when you didn’t want to go, only because it would help the company you were previously working for?

Dec 02

Dodgers reportedly to sign Capuano


Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesChris Capuano

The Hiroki Kuroda era has all but ended in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers agreeing to terms with 33-year-old lefthander Chris Capuano on a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million, according to Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Capuano should be replacing the Jon Garland spot in the Dodger rotation, which in turn became the Rubby De La Rosa and Nathan Eovaldi slot. But all recent signs from Ned Colletti have indicated that the Dodgers don’t have the budget to sign two free-agent pitchers, which would mean that Capuano would replace Kuroda, with Eovaldi competing with your Dana Eveland types for the No. 5 spot.

The only reason I’m not sure about this is the possibility of Capuano and Kuroda salaries being weighted to future years to fit them both into the 2012 payroll.

Capuano is more than three years younger than Kuroda, and though he is bouncing back after missing 2008 and 2009 because of Tommy John surgery, he is not of Kuroda’s caliber, even given the likelihood of Kuroda declining in 2012 at age 37. Capuano’s career-best adjusted ERA of 113, achieved five years ago, ranks below Kuroda’s average for his major-league career.

The bright side for Capuano is that he struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings in 2011 with the Mets, but that went with 256 baserunners and 27 homers allowed in 198 innings. His ERA was 4.55; his fielding-independent ERA was 4.04. In 31 starts last season, he had 14 quality starts.

Oct 19

Remembering 2011: Hiroki Kuroda


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda (24)

The setup: Amid much speculation that he might sign elsewhere, namely Japan, Kuroda returned to the Dodgers on a one-year contract he signed in November for $12 million, one-third of which was deferred. He was coming off his best of three seasons as a Dodgers: a 3.39 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

The closeup: Despite turning 36 in February, Kuroda topped himself yet again, turning in his best ERA as a Dodger (3.07, ninth in the National League) in a career-high 32 starts and 202 innings with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At the start of July, it was Kuroda, not Clayton Kershaw, who was leading the Dodgers in ERA.

Kuroda was also one of many symbols of the Dodgers’ woebegone first four months: At the end of July, even as he was cruising with a 3.11 ERA, Kuroda had a 6-13 won-lost record and was threatening to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history. But after choosing to stay with the Dodgers rather than be traded to a contender, he finished the year winning seven of his final 10 decisions (with a 3.00 ERA).

Kuroda’s 16 losses were still the most by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1987, but only Kevin Brown has ever had a better adjusted ERA for a season in Los Angeles at the age of at least 36. In exactly 25 percent of his starts, Kuroda pitched shutout ball for at least six innings, and his 22 quality starts were tied for 11th in the NL. And he was just a lot of fun to have on the team.

Coming attractions: No one’s expecting Kuroda to sign anywhere on this continent except Los Angeles for 2012, but no one’s saying which continent he’ll choose. Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Dodgers might not have an answer until after free agency begins. If Kuroda returns, it might be asking too much to hope he would duplicate his 2010 or 2011 performances, but expecting that he would be a useful (not to mention joyful to watch) member of the starting rotation doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Sep 29

Japanese pitcher could be in Dodgers’ future, with or without Kuroda

Might Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement on the Dodgers also come from Japan? From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Assistant general manager Logan White was in Japan earlier this week to scout Tsuyoshi Wada, a left-handed starter for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific League, a source close to the team confirmed on Wednesday.

However, the Dodgers’ interest in Wada, who will be eligible for free agency this winter and thus won’t require a posting fee before a major league team can sign him, is only preliminary.

Wada, 30, entered this season with a 41-31 record and a 3.30 ERA in four seasons with the Hawks, during which he made 88 starts and two relief appearances. This year, he is 13-5 and ranks third in the Pacific League with a 1.70 ERA. …

Kuroda hasn’t announced his decision for 2012, but Dylan Hernandez of the Times offered a clue about the righthander’s leanings.

… Hiroki Kuroda received a hug from Clayton Kershaw. He was tapped on the shoulder by Josh Lindblom, who told him, “See you next year.”

Kuroda’s eyes were red.

Kuroda denied that he was fighting back tears because he had already decided this would be his last day with the Dodgers. He will be a free agent this winter. …

… But Kuroda was also a free agent at the end of last season and he wasn’t nearly as emotional then.

Near the end of the Dodgers’ team meeting Monday, Kershaw stood up and announced he had something to say.

He said he wanted Kuroda to return next season.

“He knows how we feel,” Kershaw said. “We love him here. If he decides to go back to Japan, we understand. That’s his home. He will be a tough person and a tough player to replace, if he decides to go home to Japan.” …

Sep 27

Did Hiroki Kuroda decide the AL wild card?

When Hiroki Kuroda chose not to waive his no-trade clause at the end of July, it left one of his leading suitors, the Boston Red Sox, scrambling.

The Red Sox ended up picking up Erik Bedard from Seattle in the three-team, seven-player deal that sent Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife to Los Angeles and Trayvon Robinson to Seattle. And then … well, let Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tell the story.

Tonight’s forecast: Gloom.

And that’s just the weather (scattered thundershowers, 60 percent chance of rain).

It isn’t much better for the Red Sox, who are left with no choice Tuesday but to rely on Erik Bedard, a sore-legged pitcher whose appetite for the big stage has been openly questioned by a former employer, to keep them alive for a playoff spot that should never have been in jeopardy. …

Bedard came back from a 16-day absence because of a strained lat and sore knee last week against the Orioles and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, needing a staggering 51 pitches to record those two outs in the third. The Red Sox will need much more from him Tuesday night.

Boston has surrendered a 10-game lead in the American League wild card race, thanks in large part to a 7.26 ERA for their starting pitchers in September, Edes notes.

Kuroda has a 3.29 ERA since the trade deadline, though it’s 4.18 in a September that has seen him have neck problems. Perhaps going to Boston wouldn’t have helped, but I’m guessing the Red Sox would be happy to have him pitching on the East Coast tonight instead of for the Dodgers in Arizona.

* * *

  • I’m a little concerned with the talk that Don Mattingly might have Matt Kemp bat leadoff to increase his chances (rather slightly, I’d say) of reaching 40 homers and 40 steals. It could spread the impression for potential Most Valuable Player voters that Kemp’s numbers were more of a gimmick in games that weren’t serious. Probably doesn’t matter much either way, but I’d leave Kemp at No. 3 and take his chances there.
  • Meanwhile, when they talk about a player’s body in “Moneyball,” I don’t think they mean this.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot asks if Kemp is having the greatest season ever by a Los Angeles Dodger position player.

    … According to Baseball-Reference WAR, his season ranks only behind Adrian Beltre’s 48-homer season in 2004, and just ahead of Mike Piazza’s 1997. In fact, forget limiting it to just Los Angeles. The only Brooklyn Dodger seasons that rate higher are two from Jackie Robinson, in 1949 and 1951.

  • Today is the 75th anniversary of longtime Dodger manager Walter Alston’s one and only at-bat in the majors, writes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times.

    … on Sept. 27, 1936, he was just a young 24-year-old hoping to get his shot. He was a bit old for a prospect because he’d gone to college and only went pro after graduating.

    In the minors Alston showed promise, hitting over .300 with power in the St. Louis farm system, but there was a big problem. He played first base for a team that already had Johnny Mize. Four times Alston would lead his league in homers, but there was no place for him in the majors. And the more the years went by, the less the aging Alston seemed like a prospect. …

  • Russ Mitchell is having season-ending wrist surgery today, the Dodgers said. He is expected to play winter ball.
  • A tight hamstring is expected to keep Rafael Furcal on the sidelines for the final two games of the Cardinals’ playoff push.
Sep 05

Bing bang boom: Nationals drum out Kuroda, Dodgers

Hiroki Kuroda, who had never allowed more than two home runs in a game in his major-league career, somehow served up three in the first inning today in Washington and four total in the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss to the Nationals.

Leadoff hitter Ian Desmond homered on Kuroda’s fourth pitch, and after Rick Ankiel singled, Ryan Zimmerman flied deep to left, setting the stage for back-to-back jacks by Michael Morse and Jayson Werth.

Morse later hit another home run in the sixth inning off Kuroda, who struck out nine and walked none (Dodger starting pitchers have 21 strikeouts since their last walk) but ended up allowing six extra-base hits.

Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp hit consecutive doubles in the first inning for the Dodgers for a 1-0 lead, but that was it for the Los Angeles scoring until the ninth. Today’s spotlight player, A.J. Ellis, had a single and a double, coming around to score after the latter with two out in the ninth on Justin Sellers’ double.

More from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.:

… Per the Prime Ticket broadcast, the last time the Dodgers allowed three home runs in the first inning was June 25, 1988 in Cincinnati against the Reds. Fernando Valenzuela was pulled with two outs in the opening frame after allowing four runs on those three taters, hit by Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and Paul O’Neill. The Dodgers did come back to win that game, 6-4.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers could not repeat that comeback performance on Monday.

According to MLB Gameday, Kuroda threw six sliders in the first inning. Two were hit out of the park, two more were hit for singles, and two were out of the strike zone. Kuroda was able to settle down after that shaky first, retiring 13 of 14 batters at one point. Between the second and fifth innings he threw only five sliders, and all were out of the strike zone.

Kuroda tried another slider in the sixth inning, and Morse took him deep for his second home run of the game. In his six innings of work, Kuroda threw 13 total sliders. Eight were called balls, three were deposited in the seats, and two more were hit for singles. It’s safe to say Kuroda didn’t have command of that pitch on Labor Day.

The last Dodgers pitcher to allow four home runs in a game was D.J. Houlton on August 29, 2005. In fact, in the last 34 years only 14 Dodgers have allowed four circuit clouts in one contest, including Kuroda today. …

Aug 14

People who need people

A quick reminder of what’s at stake for Hiroki Kuroda in his bid to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com):

Losses in a season
Record:
18, by Claude Osteen (1968) and Don Sutton (1969)
Kuroda: 14

Lowest winning percentage in a season
Minimum 14 decisions:
Rick Honeycutt, .143 (2-12) in 1987
Minimum 15 decisions:
Hideo Nomo, .257 (4-11) in 2004
Minimum 22 decisions: Bill Singer, .273 (6-16) in 1972
Kuroda: .333 (7-14)

Lowest winning percentage with ERA below 3.00
Record:
Mike Morgan, .421 (8-11, 2.53 ERA)
Kuroda: .333 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)

Top ERA+ (adjusted ERA) with winning percentage of .333 or lower
Record:
Tom Candiotti, 109 (7-14, 3.50 ERA)
Kuroda: 122 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)