Jan 11

In left field for the Dodgers, Ted Williams …

Funny one-line intro …

  • Here’s video of John Candelaria no-hitting the Dodgers in 1976. Check out how excited color commentator Bob Gibson is alongside play-by-play man Al Michaels for the final out.
  • Manny Ramirez talked at length with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez about events of the past year and his desire to play again. It’s self-serving but take it for what you will.
  • Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner looks at how different this year’s Triple-A Isotopes will be. An excerpt:

    A total of 19 additional players who spent time in Albuquerque in 2011 became free agents after the season.

    Left-handed starter Alberto Bastardo (4-3, 5.38 ERA) has signed with the Marlins organization, which puts him in contention for a rotation spot with New Orleans.

    Closer Jon Link (2-2, 4.24, 11 saves) inked a deal with the Orioles, enabling him to potentially pitch closer to his Virginia home with Norfolk, another Triple-A team run by Isotopes owner Ken Young.

    Right-handed reliever Travis Schlichting (5-3, 7.10, four saves) will join the wide-open competition for a roster spot in cash-strapped Oakland.

    Corner infielder Corey Smith (.239, 7 HR) joined the White Sox, while utility player Eugenio Velez (.339, 31 RBI) will take his 0-for-37 skid in the Majors to the Cardinals organization.

    The free agents still looking for work include pitchers Roman Colon, Roy Corcoran and Randy Keisler, plus catcher Damaso Espino, first baseman John Lindsey and outfielders Brad Coon and Jay Gibbons.

  • For Variety, I took a look at the state of NFL, MLB and NBA sports broadcasts on mobile and digital platforms.
  • World Series MVP David Freese will risk killing all his postseason good vibes with a guest appearance on maligned ABC sitcom “Work It” on January 24, if the show isn’t canceled first.
  • Vin Scully talked to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News about his upcoming bobblehead night. “Since I won’t be here for the 100th anniversary (of Dodger Stadium), I agreed to do the 50th,” Scully said. “Otherwise, I would be open to questions as to why I didn’t do it. It’s far easier this way.”
  • Ted Williams, 1940: “If I were a free agent and each major league club offered me identical contracts, I’d sign with the Dodgers. … I know I’d be a hero in Brooklyn.” (Link via Larry Granillo and Baseball Prospectus.)
Nov 06

Who’s up for softball?

Attention, attention: There is going to be a softball tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina for Dodger bloggers and their readers, organized by The Left Field Pavilion. Details can be found here. I am not sure yet I’ll be able to go, because we haven’t figured out what my kids’ weekends in February will be like yet, but I do hope to make it. In any case, Dodger Thoughters are encouraged to sign up – it should be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere …

  • While interviewing with new executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, potential Chicago Cubs managers are being asked to manage simulated games – you know, like you and me playing a game of Strat-o-Matic – to get a sense of their abilities, reports Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Baseball Musings). I would love to watch.
  • Chad Moriyama took an interesting and revealing look at which Dodger pitchers and hitters were the most and least valuable relative to their salaries at True Blue L.A.
  • John Lindsey, Corey Smith, Jon Link and Randy Keisler are among the many Dodger minor leaguers who have become free agents, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
Aug 28

A warm welcome back for Jaime Jarrin

Jaime Jarrin joined Vin Scully in signing up for 2012 today:

… “It was very kind of them to ask me to return,” Jarrin said. “My desire was to stay with the team and do what I love to do and be around you guys (the media). I am especially grateful to have the chance to be the link between the Dodgers and the Hispanic community. It is great to have the chance to do something I love and to do it with the community in mind.” …

… For now, though, Jarrin said he wants to continue to call every game, although he did take an in-season vacation for the first time this year and said he likely will do so again next year.

Jarrin said that after more than a half-century of calling Dodgers games on Spanish-language radio, he still has a passion for the job.

“I love it,” he said. “Even if the team isn’t doing well, I try to see things that compensate (for that). In baseball, everything is so different from one game to the next. Really, it is fun to do it. I still love it. Otherwise, I would quit right now, because financially, I am well set.” …

* * *

This time last year, John Lindsey was the Dodgers’ feel-good story.  Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner catches up with him.

* * *

Tony Jackson’s latest view of the Andre Ethier situation is up at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… As it stands, Ethier won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2012. But is he trying to force his way out of town a year early? That’s my theory. I don’t have enough insight to know for a fact that it’s true, or that it isn’t. That’s why they call it a theory. But I have to say, when you take the statements Ethier made in March, and to Simers this weekend, and put them together, it sure smells that way.

Could it be that Ethier is trying to become such a distraction that the Dodgers, rather than going through the expensive process of arbitration this winter — he already is making $9.25 million this season and would get a significant raise — will simply non-tender him, making him a free agent a year early?

One thing is clear: if it’s a distraction Ethier is trying to become, he is at least succeeding there. Mattingly made that fairly obvious before Sunday’s game, when he said he was “blindsided” by Ethier’s remarks. He made it clear again during the game when, with the bases loaded, nobody out, the pitcher’s spot due up and the Dodgers trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, he sent Eugenio Velez — that would be the 0-for-28 Eugenio Velez — to pinch hit and kept Ethier on the bench.

Although Ethier was on deck to hit for Rod Barajas when the game ended, Mattingly made it clear again immediately after the game, when asked by a reporter whether Ethier will be back in the lineup Monday night against the San Diego Padres.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a box, really,” Mattingly said. “If he says his knee hurts and we put him out there and he blows a hammy or hurts something else, now we’re kind of in a box as far as having trouble using him. So we’re going to talk and go from there.”

It was a cryptic comment from an exasperated manager, but it hinted that Ethier’s playing time could be sporadic the rest of the way, especially with the Dodgers (62-70), who are in fourth place in the National League West and 12 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, far out of contention.

If Ethier is trying to outsmart the system, well, the one he is outsmarting might be himself. Let’s say he does force the Dodgers’ hand, and they do cut him loose, and he does become a free agent. In that case, how much of a market will there be for a guy who is coming off a down year? A guy who probably is going to be coming off arthroscopic knee surgery? A guy who so often lets his emotions get the better of his game? A guy who certainly isn’t helping his reputation with all these public outbursts, especially at a time when, according to various sources, scouts from other teams are starting to pick up on his moodiness and the fact he can be high maintenance?

Better yet, what if the Dodgers simply trade him? In that case, there is just as much chance he ends up in Kansas City or Pittsburgh as the promised land of New York or Boston, which his close friend and former Arizona State University teammate Dustin Pedroia reportedly has told him is a great place to play big league baseball. …

Jun 19

Mattingly deserves mulligan for Dodger collapse


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDon Mattingly

I’ve noticed on different parts of the World Wide Internet that frustration about the Dodgers has started being directed toward manager Don Mattingly, something that I suppose is predictable and unexpected all at once.

It’s predictable because frustration about losing always falls at some point in the manager’s lap, as we can see by the end today of Edwin Rodriguez’s 163-game tenure skippering the Florida Marlins. But at the same time, I’m taken aback by the idea of Mattingly as whipping boy, because I don’t know how people can expect Mattingly to do much more about the situation than he already has. And I say this as someone who was repeatedly skeptical about his being hired in the first place.

If anything, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes, Mattingly has every right to share in the current frustration, rather than be a target of it.

Starting pitching: Not much to say here. The relative strength of the team, it has faltered in recent days, but as we’ve seen by his recent comments about Chad Billingsley, Mattingly is if nothing else trying to do something about it.

Bullpen: Working without Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario for long stretches this season – in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s pretty much an entire bullpen right there – Mattingly has actually managed better in this area than I would expect from a protege of Joe Torre. He hasn’t overworked any pitchers, and he has not let a player’s lack of experience get in the way of using him if he’s the best option. Mattingly’s a bit more infatuated with inherited runner-squanderer Mike MacDougal than I would like, but again, when a non-roster invitee is the only member of your expected Opening Day bullpen not to end up on the disabled or restricted list, you’re not always going to have the ideal man out there.

There are always going to be moments where a manager makes a pitching change that you disagree with, but I don’t know how you can say that Mattingly has been below-average here.

Starting lineup: Mattingly hasn’t been afraid to start sitting the slumping James Loney or even acknowledge Andre Ethier’s struggles against lefties. I think he’d be even less afraid if he had alternatives. Except on occasional days, he has recognized that Jamey Carroll, on pace for 603 plate appearances this year, is about the best option he has in the infield.  Kids such as Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon have gotten trials – in Sands’ case, 144 plate appearances in under two months. The Dodgers don’t have an answer for the left-field question, but is that Mattingly’s fault? Juan Uribe has been terrible, but is that Mattingly’s fault? Casey Blake is aging and fragile, Rafael Furcal has disappeared … you get the idea. As with the bullpen, there’s stuff to quibble about, but I don’t know of any manager who could make this offense work.

One of the next tests for Mattingly will be how much he plays A.J. Ellis while Rod Barajas is out. But regardless of how well he does, does anyone think Ellis will be a difference-maker?

Motivation: Jackson reports that Mattingly held a team meeting after Saturday’s loss, the Dodgers’ fifth straight, all at home. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. writes that with that defeat, the 2011 Dodgers have matched the 1992 team for the worst 72-game start in Los Angeles Dodger history. All I can say is that one of the main arguments in Mattingly’s favor as manager was his ability to relate to players. What’s happening on the field isn’t pretty, but I’m not sure why we’d pick this moment, 2 1/2 months into his career, to decide that Mattingly is hopeless to motivate his players.

I’m sure there are some of you who will still be wondering where this piece is coming from, that see the Dodgers’ problems originating, as I do, from the people wearing the suits and sport coats, not the uniforms and caps. But all I can say is that there are those who have already lost patience with Mattingly. Perhaps someday we’ll find, as I considered a year ago, that he isn’t the best man for the job, but there’s no way you can base that decision on what’s happened in 2011.

* * *

Crazy one in Albuquerque on Saturday: Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner writes that the Isotopes had 13 consecutive batters reach base in the 11-run second inning of their 13-10 victory over Iowa, a game in which all 23 runs had scored by the middle of the fourth inning.

John Lindsey survived being hit by pitches twice in the single inning, only to leave the game after reaggravating a calf injury in the third.

Trayvon Robinson went 3 for 3 with two walks and has now reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances. Robinson has a .500 on-base percentage and .705 slugging percentage in June. Though he’s still averaging more than one strikeout per game, perhaps Robinson will be the next kid for Mattingly to play with.

Mar 14

Lindsey, Hoffmann among today’s cuts

The Dodgers sent John Lindsey, Jamie Hoffmann, Trayvon Robinson and Javy Guerra to minor league camp, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Shelburne talked to Lindsey about the news.

… “It’s my fault,” Lindsey said. “I got hurt and I just couldn’t get on the field. It’s harder to swallow this way though. It would’ve been easier if I’d had a great spring and they told me at the end of it that they just didn’t have room for me. …


Update:
Dee Gordon and Damaso Espino were also reassigned.

Dec 10

Should Jamey Carroll start for the ’11 Dodgers?


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIn 2010, Jamey Carroll had an OBP of .375 against lefties and .380 against righties.

Last season, the Dodgers had seven players with an on-base percentage of at least .330 and a minimum of 100 plate appearances. Three of those players (Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt) are gone, a fourth is the oft-injured Rafael Furcal, and a fifth (A.J. Ellis) will be at best a part-timer trying to prove that he wasn’t a one-month wonder.

That leaves Andre Ethier and Jamey Carroll. This short post is about Carroll.

Carroll, arguably the Dodgers’ third-string second-baseman when 2010 began, ended up becoming an almost shockingly pivotal player for the team, posting a career-high .379 OBP at age 36. Career highs at age 36 scream fluke, but the late-blooming Carroll does have a career OBP of .355 and has reached that level four of the past five years.

That .355 is still better than almost anyone else on the roster can offer. There’s Ethier and, depending how much they play, Furcal and Ellis. James Loney’s career OBP is in the ballpark at .348. Casey Blake was at .363 in 2009, before falling to .320 last year. Matt Kemp hasn’t been at that level since 2007, and Juan Uribe has never come close.

Blake and Uribe, who play Carroll’s two primary positions, offer power that Carroll can’t touch, but in terms of overall offensive value, Carroll actually had the better 2010, whether you look at Baseball Prospectus’ total average (Carroll .283, Blake .267, Uribe .266) or Fangraph’s wOBA (Carroll .329, Uribe .322, Blake .317). And then there’s this idle thought: He’s probably not a worse outfielder than Jay Gibbons would be, though I tend to doubt a playoff team starts a Carroll in left.

What this means for 2011, I don’t know. Carroll turns 37 in February. Assuming no other major acquisitions for the Dodger infield, Carroll will probably start the season on the bench, serving as a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement and spot starter until someone gets hurt. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Carroll actually was deserving of a starting spot somewhere in that 2011 Dodger lineup, depending at least in part on whether Blake is in a faster decline. In particular, Carroll might be a good No. 2 hitter behind Furcal, helping him set up Ethier, Kemp, Loney, Uribe and the rest.

We’ll see how things look in March …

* * *

  • Savvy post over at True Blue L.A. this morning, in which that site’s denizens decipher clues about the Dodger roster from a picture of Juan Uribe with a whiteboard listing the Dodger roster in the background. Included in the sleuthing: 1) George Sherrill (headed for Atlanta on a $1.2 million contract) was long gone from the Dodgers minds before Russell Martin and Trent Oeltjen, 2) J.D. Closser and Jon Huber look like they’re getting non-roster invitations to Spring Training, 3) as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness noticed, John Lindsey, sadly, might be the next player to come off the team.
  • Madison Square Garden is going to buy the Fabulous Great Western L.A. Forum, according to Billboard.biz (via L.A. Observed).
  • Bill Plaschke of the Times uses Carl Crawford signing with Boston to argue that no one wants to play baseball in Los Angeles anymore, ignoring the mountain of evidence to the contrary. At first, it appears Plaschke is talking only about $100 million players, but then he brings up names like Todd Zeile and you have to ask, did Plaschke not see (for example) Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda basically skip free agency to sign at less competitive rates with the Dodgers just in the past six weeks?
  • Charley Steiner is getting an honorary doctorate from his alma mater at Bradley, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Not to overload on Clayton Kershaw’s wedding, but Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has wedding dance video. The kid’s got some moves!
Sep 25

John Lindsey’s season comes to sudden end

A bone in John Lindsey’s left hand was broken by a Daniel Hudson pitch in the seventh inning of tonight’s 5-2 Dodger loss to Arizona, ending his year. (MLB.com has video). Goodness, what a ride for Lindsey. My sense is that we won’t see him in a Dodger uniform next season, except maybe in Spring Training, but he will remain one of the best memories of the 2010 season. It was a pleasure, John.

Sep 09

A certain kind of torture

That John Lindsey entered his first major-league game Wednesday but was removed for pinch-hitter Andre Ethier before he actually got to see his first major-league pitch generated the kind of national uproar on Twitter that I’m not sure has happened with the Dodgers since the Jonathan Broxton Yankee game.  (Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has examples.) ESPN’s broadcast of the game contributed to that, but still, it indicates how galvanized people have become by his story.

Lindsey handled his close-but-only-a-cigar moment – he ended up with the suitable-for-framing first lineup card bearing his name, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – with a big smile, as if to say that the moment was anything but ironic. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more:

“It was exciting,” said Lindsey, who finally made a regular-season box score by being announced as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday night’s 4-0 Dodgers loss to the Padres, only to be immediately lifted when the Padres made a pitching change. “I was waiting for this all my life and I was a lot cooler and calmer than I thought.”

Lindsey, called up Monday after 16 years in the Minor Leagues, was sent up to bat for Scott Podsednik and face left-hander Joe Thatcher with one out in the top of the eighth inning and runners on first and second. But as soon as Lindsey was announced, Padres manager Bud Black replaced Thatcher with right-hander Luke Gregerson.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre countered by sending up Andre Ethier to bat for Lindsey, and Ethier bounced Gregerson’s first pitch into an inning-ending double play.

“It was something I had to do,” Torre said. “It didn’t work.” …

As Bob Timmermann noted right as it happened, Lindsey became the first player to be announced as a pinch-hitter without actually batting in his major-league debut since Cody McKay of St. Louis in 2002. Billy Ashley was the last Dodger to have it happen, in 1992.

Whether it was really something Torre had to do in a contest that would determine whether the Dodgers would be nine or 11 games back in the National League West (answer: 11), in a game that Russ Mitchell started and Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit, was debatable. It certainly was a perfect moment to bring up Ethier (the Dodgers’ fifth consecutive pinch-hitter of the inning)  from a strategy standpoint, if you put aside Ethier’s inconsistent bat of late. And maybe it was even perversely poetic. Perversely.

* * *

Dodger starting pitcher Chad Billingsley looked extremely sharp at the outset Thursday, but his defense didn’t. Billingsley cruised through an 11-pitch first-inning despite a Rafael Furcal error and didn’t allow a hit until Luis Durango’s infield single in the third inning. Durango immediately stole second base – one of 30 consecutive stolen bases the Dodgers have allowed (not counting Clayton Kershaw pickoffs) since Russell Martin’s season-ending injury – and scored the game’s first run following an Adrian Gonzalez intentional walk on a Miguel Tejada single.

In the sixth inning, San Diego loaded the bases on two more infield singles and a sacrifice bunt/failed fielder’s choice. A single to left, an error and a sacrifice fly later, the Dodgers were down by the 4-0 margin that would become the game’s final score. Los Angeles finished the game with two singles, two walks and a double. Billingsley ended up with five walks.

* * *

  • The family of our good friend and Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer gets a nice feature story from Bob Keisser of the Press-Telegram. Rich’s father, George, who covered the Dodgers for years, is being inducted into the Long Beach Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame.
  • Josh Fisher writes a semi-personal piece about being at the McCourt trial for Dodger Divorce.
  • At Baseball Prospectus, Ken Funck writes about Ted Lilly and his future.
Sep 07

Dodgers designate Ronnie Belliard for assignment

In 83 regular-season plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2009, Ronnie Belliard had five homers and a 1.034 OPS. In 183 plate appearances in 2010, Belliard had two homers and a .622 OPS, sinking to levels below what got him cast off by the Washington Nationals last summer.

Belliard’s chapter in Dodger history ended today with the team designated for assignment in order to purchase the contract of 27-year-old Australian outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .979 OPS for Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has details.

Belliard and Marlon Anderson — how their Dodger stories paralleled.

* * *

Dodger prospect Jerry Sands finished tied for third among all minor-leaguers in home runs this year with 35. As John Manuel of Baseball America notes, behind Sands was a familiar name: Joel Guzman.

The one-time Dodger phenom, now 25, hit 33 homers for the Orioles’ Double-A farm team in Bowie. That’s right — Double-A, the same level Guzman was at as a 20-year-old when he was considered arguably the Dodgers’ top position prospect.

Guzman had a career-high in walks with 45 this season, against 121 strikeouts — still not enough to assuage questions about his eye at the plate.

John Lindsey (.353) won the minor-league batting title in absentia, to go with the slugging percentage title.

Sep 07

The cup of coffee, if not the entire meal

If the happiest baseball player on the planet right now is John Lindsey, the happiest reporter might be Ramona Shelburne.

The ESPNLosAngeles columnist has been on the Lindsey beat for only a few weeks, but in a Dodger season that has become so dreary – a 4-2 loss Monday to San Diego finally dropping the team back at .500 at 69-69 – Lindsey represents one of the few things worth writing about right now – and even more so nearly the only happy thing.

Shelburne has yet another story about Lindsey’s callup – on the surface, this might start to seem like overkill, because the Dodgers went through something similar with Mitch Jones a year ago – but then you start reading and realize that this is one story we can hardly get enough of. It’s the anti-2010-dote. (In contrast, my condolences to Tony Jackson, who gets to cover everything else.)

It might be imprecise to call Lindsey’s story an entirely happy one, as uplifting as this chapter is. In the dimly lit hours early this morning, I thought about the years I spent trying to break into primetime television. I got an early cup of coffee, getting some lines in someone else’s script while I was a writers’ assistant for this show that none of you will remember, then spent years in TV’s minor leagues, drawing interest and coming agonizingly close to success but never quite making it. The fact is that if I had gotten that one script – but only one – it’s not like there wouldn’t be some disappointment. As hard as Lindsey has worked, there’s no way he’ll be entirely satisfied by a cup of coffee or two. Life is like Lay’s potato chips.

But in the moment, the next opportunity is all you can ask for. And Lindsey, who has been asking for such a long time, will finally get his. Right now, there aren’t many reasons to watch the Dodgers more compelling than seeing that opportunity come, and hopefully the Dodgers won’t draw out the wait much longer. I eagerly await the story on Lindsey’s first major-league at-bat.

Sep 06

Since they aren’t needed elsewhere, three cheers for John Lindsey!

Let’s start with Sunday’s best story: John Lindsey is finally a major leaguer. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Lindsey, 33, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A first baseman who has played more seasons in the minors without earning a call-up to the majors than any current player, was among five players the Dodgers promoted Sunday afternoon.

Lindsey will be joined by third baseman Russ Mitchell, who is also making his major league debut, infielder Chin Lung Hu, and pitchers Jon Link and John Ely.

For Lindsey, set to join the team Monday, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. He’s spent nearly half his adult life in the minor leagues, since the Colorado Rockies took him in the 13th round of the 1995 draft.

He’s had a career season in 2010, batting .354 with 25 home runs for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.

“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”

Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.

“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.

“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.

“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.” …

Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you get to play the game.

Says Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: Lindsey, who is 33 years, 219 days old today, will be the oldest non-Japanese Dodger to make his MLB debut since Pete Wojey (34 years, 213 days) on July 2, 1954.

* * *

As for Sunday’s results – yes, the team looking to make a miracle comeback in the standings suffered a blow. Arizona fell to Houston, 3-2, missing a chance to close within 12 games of the fourth-place Dodgers, who lost to San Francisco, 3-0.

The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch non-last place is 12. Los Angeles has clinched the tiebreaker against Arizona by winning the season series, so even though six of the Dodgers’ final nine games are against the Diamondbacks, the odds remain in the Dodgers’ favor.

Oh, as for the other races? Can’t say the Dodgers are doing much there.

The Padres are the first team to stay in first place despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates, and looking to be the first team to make the playoffs despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1982 Atlanta Braves, according to Stat of the Day. That was the year that the Dodgers took advantage of the Braves’ slump to regain the National League West lead, only to run into a most bitter ending. This year is looking bitter in a different way.

Greg Zakwin wraps up Sunday’s Ack-loss at Memories of Kevin Malone: “(Andre) Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and Matt Kemp struck out a combined eight times. Five baserunners. Thirteen strikeouts in total against just a single, solitary walk drawn. Just a single extra-base hit. No Dodger reached base more than once. Pitiful is a word that seems to perfectly describe the offensive side of things since the All-Star Break.”

Hiroki Kuroda made his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, with a 2.47 ERA and .179 opponents batting average in that time, according to the Dodger press notes. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes that it was the sixth time this year that Kuroda has been on the wrong end of a shutout. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, opportunities to watch Kuroda in a Dodger uniform might be dwindling to a precious few.

* * *

  • Al Wolf of the Times (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror) predicted in 1960 what the team’s 1962 Dodger Stadium opener would be like. His conclusion: “As broadcaster Vince Scully said in his dulcet tones: ‘Wotta show! Wotta show! Come on out tomorrow night, those of you who missed it. But if you can’t be with us, plunk down a dollar in your pay TV set and watch it that way. Or better yet, put in two bucks and see it all in living color.’”
  • Fred Claire, who acquired Tim Wallach for the Dodgers on Christmas Eve 1992, puts his support at MLB.com for the Wallach for Manager campaign, though not with the Dodgers specifically. Claire, of course, was the Dodger general manager throughout Mike Scioscia’s post-playing Dodger career. His departure preceded Scioscia’s by about a year.
  • Four of the Dodgers in Sunday’s game – Carroll, Ryan Theriot, Ethier and Reed Johnson – finished with a .289 batting average.
Jul 06

Furcal named player of the week … and other notes

Rafael Furcal was named National League Player of the Week. According to the Dodger press notes, Furcal has scored in 11 straight games, tying Davey Lopes (1979) and Shawn Green (2002) for the Los Angeles Dodger record. The franchise record of 12 was set by Gil Hodges in 1953.

* * *

Minor-league news: John Lindsey activated from the disabled list after missing a month of games, James Adkins sent to AA Chattanooga, Timo Perez released.

* * *

James McDonald is pitching now in the first game of a doubleheader for the Isotopes, who play another twin-bill Friday. McDonald started his night with two perfect innings. Three pitchers currently with Albuquerque – Carlos Monasterios (well, technically he’s not on the roster), Ramon Troncoso and McDonald — all might be with the Dodgers inside of a couple of weeks, given the ongoing roster shuffling.

Update: McDonald took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He pitched six innings of two-hit, no-walk shutout ball, striking out five batters in a six-batter stretch at one point, and was two outs away from a shutout in the scheduled seven-inning game before getting charged with four runs in the seventh inning. (Three of those came in when Kiko Calero allowed a two-out, bases-loaded double.) Until that final frame, McDonald was working on a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings.

Jun 23

Ten questions with Albuquerque play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy


Richard Drew/AP
Tim Wallach, shown here as a Dodger coach, has handled all kinds of challenges as Albuquerque’s manager.

With the Albuquerque-Los Angeles shuttle in overdrive, I thought this might be a good time to check in with Robert Portnoy, friend of Dodger Thoughts and the play-by-play broadcaster for the Isotopes. And with that largely ado-free introduction, here’s the interview:

1) First, can you update us on when we might see James McDonald and Scott Elbert back in action? What can you tell us about Elbert’s situation?
I don’t have anything to tell about Elbert’s situation. He is not with the team and we haven’t received word when he might return. McDonald’s recovery from his hamstring strain is coming along well in Arizona. He has thrown a simulated game and is scheduled to make his first start in an Arizona League game. [Note: McDonald pitched two hitless innings Tuesday, after this interview was completed.] His return date is not set, but it’s not too far off.

2) How is McDonald handling things in a year he probably thought he’d be in the majors? Especially when things just seemed to be coming together for him before he got hurt.
He was very disappointed when the injury occurred, that was evident. There’s no doubt he was pitching better than he had all season at the time he went down. He was handling being in Triple-A quite well. He realized he had things to work on, and he made great strides. At the start of the year, A.J. Ellis told me J-Mac’s changeup has always been his best secondary pitch, the one that’s always there for him, his most reliable. J-Mac said his changeup was terrible at the start of the year. He was throwing it much better before the injury. His rehab has been exclusively in Arizona, so I can’t comment on how he’s handled that process.

3) The roster comings and goings have been endless. How crazy has it been, particularly in the Isotopes starting rotation? How does Tim Wallach handle it?
Wallach is as even-tempered as they come, unflappable. The kind of manager who watches a terrible base running mistake, pulls the player aside for a brief moment, asks if that player’s aware what he should have done, then tells him to put it behind him so he can help win a ballgame. He realizes that the primary goal is get players ready to help the Dodgers, and if that leaves his rotation depleted, he’ll adjust. The injuries to key guys don’t help, obviously. Yesterday, big league veteran Tim Corcoran, a reliable starter since joining the rotation, had to leave his start early. We hope he won’t miss a turn.

4) What do you think of Wallach as a managerial prospect?
Fantastic. He’s a players manager who keeps proper distance and maintains full authority. One step ahead, it seems, all the time. When he pitches out, they’re running. His instincts are great. Always gets the matchups he wants. One game I distinctly recall talking about multiple scenarios on the air, then asking him about them after the game. He discussed those and gave three or four others he had considered. He can play the chess game with the best of them.

5) Is it a relief to see Josh Lindblom moved to relief?
Josh has a tremendous head on his shoulders, and he’s a real student of the game. Talks about Clemens, Halladay, Carpenter as starters he tries to emulate, even gave me a Goose Gossage reference when talking about his favorite closers (mentioned Goose getting six outs or more for many of his saves). I had a great conversation with him on our recent road trip in Iowa. Here’s the thinking: He has been a reliever, has never even thrown 100 innings in a season. His arm isn’t accustomed to logging that much work yet. So, the past two seasons he’s gotten run down, lost his arm strength. I think he has the stuff, the fastball command, and the makeup to be a big league starter, a real innings-eater, IF his body can adapt. If not, he’ll make an above-average middle innings or setup guy who can get you up to three innings because he has four quality pitches. He’s a big leaguer for sure.

6) Are you able to see what weaknesses John Lindsey has to keep him from the majors? (And when will he return to the field?)
John might rejoin the team when we get back to Albuquerque this weekend, but he could still have a bit more rehab to do before getting back on the field. He has been recovering from his calf strain in Arizona. John’s a professional hitter, he could help the Dodgers with his bat right now. He’s not James Loney at first base, but he can hold his own. Defense might be the only thing that’s holding him back.

7) Jay Gibbons is a potential lefty bat off the Dodger bench with major-league experience. What do you see as his strengths and weaknesses at this point in his career?
Gibbons’ only weakness, if you can call it that, is how hard he plays. At 33, he still leaves it all out there every day. But as a lefty bat off the bench, there’s no wear and tear. He would be ideal, because he could stay in the game and play either corner OF position or 1B adequately, and he’d be great for multiple ABs because he’s actually BETTER against lefties than righties, the numbers don’t lie. His bat is level through the hitting zone longer than anybody I’ve ever seen, period. And he threw two guys out on the bases from RF in one inning in Iowa last weekend.

8) Does Xavier Paul have anything left to prove in the minors? What is he working on?
No. He’s an everyday big leaguer waiting for his chance. He’s working on his defense constantly, looking to continue to improve in that area any way he can. His arm is unquestioned. Just in the last week, naive hitters have tried to stretch singles into doubles when he’s playing left and paid the price twice. Strong and accurate thrower. RF arm in LF when he plays there. When he keeps his focus in the field, he’s an above-average defensive OF. He has shown how he can hit when he’s been with the Dodgers this year. He is tearing up PCL pitching, and now he’s hitting for power, which adds the final piece.

9) How is Ivan DeJesus’ comeback going?
Talked with Ivan in Iowa as well. He’s still working to get strength back in the surgically repaired left leg. It’s a process. He told me that his rehab was rushed a bit last year, when he first tried to run his leg wasn’t ready. They had to shut him down and reset the timetable. He hasn’t had any problems, though. Going very smoothly. He looks great, and his swing is terrific, uses right-center a lot, and can drive the ball that way. Best of all, he’s already had multiple plays this year at home plate, where he’s beaten throws with a variety of slides, and he says he doesn’t think about the collision that caused the injury anymore.

10) Anyone under the radar on the Isotopes roster that you like?
There are several, but if I had to pick one, I’ll go with Russ Mitchell. Has been solid at the plate all year, consistent approach, hits for average and power. Really impressive at 3B, good first step and strong arm, equally good going left, right, and coming in. And he can play 1B and 2B capably as well. He’s even played OF in his career, though we haven’t seen him there yet. But he’s not a utility guy, I like him at 3B every day. He’s the one keeping everybody loose, always talking, laughing. Clearly loves coming to the ballpark, loves what he’s doing.

* * *

  • Claudio Vargas pitched 3 2/3 innings for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing two unearned runs on five baserunners with five strikeouts and throwing 77 pitches.
  • A step forward for Brent Leach? Converted into starting, Leach threw five shutout innings for Chattanooga, allowing four baserunners and striking out six.
  • Dodger farmhand Nathan Eovaldi allowed two runs in an inning of relief in the California League’s 15th annual All-Star game against the Carolina League on Tuesday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Dee Gordon and Pedro Baez will play in Sunday’s Futures minor-league All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium. Baez was given a spot even though he’s been on the disabled list in recent weeks.
  • A film about a Warren Cromartie-managed Japanese team on a 90-game road trip in California’s independent Golden League, “Season of the Samurai,” will premiere on the MLB Network at 4 p.m. Friday, reports Ben Bolch of the Times.
  • Jerry Manuel pulled a Joe Torre/Hiroki Kuroda with Jon Niese on Tuesday, and is getting grief for it.

* * *

For Dodger fans feeling down about the team’s losing streak, this should cheer you up.

Apr 13

One take, baby – one take

So after today’s game, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and I got together at the Dodger Stadium Downtown Overlook to talk shop.  Welcome to Low Expectations Video Theater, where it’s all unscripted, there are no reshoots and anything can happen. Is there an explosion? Well, there isn’t not not an explosion.

Job 1: Work on my squinting.

  • A statue of Chick Hearn is headed for the front of Staples Center, writes Steve Springer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. This is sure to get people talking about a Vin Scully statue at Dodger Stadium.
  • Quote of the Day comes from Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw, via Jackson: “I would rather we win because of me than in spite of me.” Arash Markazi of the site has more.
  • Jackson reports that George Sherrill’s next appearance might be moved earlier in the game as he works through his troubles.
  • Andre Ethier talks about his ankle to Dylan Hernandez of the Times the way Jack Walsh talked about his popularity with the Chicago police department.
  • Brad Ausmus is very worried that his latest back problems might end his career six months early, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Dodgers’ four home runs today were a Los Angeles home opener record.
  • The starting outfield of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Ethier homered in the same game for the second time since they’ve been a unit.
  • One other scoreboard oddity I forgot to mention today: A new feature (as new as a ripoff of ’80s David Letterman can be) in which Tommy Lasorda throws things off a Dodger Stadium ledge and the audience votes on whether those things will break. Believe it or not, if you throw a TV from a great height, it won’t bounce.
  • Carlos Monasterios should have pitched today, argue Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which has added an “Ortiz DFA-O-Meter” to its upper-right corner.
  • James McDonald tonight: six innings, 11 baserunners, three runs, eight strikeouts.
  • John Lindsey Watch: 2 for 2 off the bench to raise his on-base percentage to .654 and slugging to .864.
  • Nick Staskin of Phillies Nation isn’t happy that fans there have begun to boo Cole Hamels. I can relate.
Apr 11

Don’t fall prey to the RISP bogeyman

Doug Benc/Getty Images
Matt Kemp is feeling bad tonight after making an error on this play and striking out with the tying run on third in the ninth inning, but he still had a good first week.

No Dodger fan likes the team flunking with runners in scoring position. But just because it’s frustrating doesn’t mean the Dodgers should succeed all the time. It’s not as if your odds for winning the lottery increase the more you want to win.

Okay, not the greatest analogy, but it gets us headed in the right direction. Whenever a team wastes scoring opportunities, you start to see people toss around tidbits like batting average with runners in scoring position. This is a stat that gives stats a bad name.  Batting average is a stat of very limited value, and tacking it on to runners in scoring position doesn’t make it any more useful.

Batting average with RISP doesn’t take into account sacrifice flies, run-producing groundouts or walks. It doesn’t take into account the fact that often, an RISP at-bat comes against a pitcher brought in for a particular matchup to defuse that situation. It doesn’t reward you for getting a runner home from first base (or from home plate). Most of all, it give you any indication of how often a team has those situations.  Exaggerating to make a point, if the Dodgers had 30 at-bats in nine innings with RISP, succeeding in only six of them wouldn’t mean the offense was unproductive.

The idea of a clutch hitter is a dubious measurement to begin with, because clutch hitting tends to fluctuate from season to season. Looking for clutch hitting in a team is an even less useful activity. Batting average with RISP doesn’t come with enough context to have hardly any meaning.

In their first six games of the season, the Dodgers are batting .260 with RISP. That’s not going to light anyone’s pants afire, though it’s respectable. But then you see that the Dodgers have had 95 RISP plate appearances, an average of 15.8 per game – that’s more than one per inning. In those 95 plate appearances, the team has reached base 29 times while also delivering five sacrifice flies and four sacrifices – achieving the goal of an RISP at-bat at a .400 rate, even before you starting talking about productive outs.

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Even after today’s strikeout, Kemp has a .308 batting average plus a sacrifice fly with RISP and has seven RBI in six games.

Through Saturday’s games, the Dodgers were second in the National League in RISP plate appearances and second in RISP runs and RBI (before adding three more RISP runs today). Matt Kemp struck out with the tying run on third and one out in the ninth inning today in what was a bad-looking at-bat, but how much should we get on his case when, for the season, he is batting .308 with a sacrifice fly in RISP situations? How much better is he supposed to be? The Dodgers are  tied for third in the NL in runs scored – averaging 6.0 runs per game with at least five runs in every game but Wednesday’s – how much better are they supposed to be?

When you lose three one-run games on a six-game road trip, it’s natural to look at the what-might-have beens – and the Dodgers’ outs with RISP provide many. But to be fair, there is only one loss this season for which the offense can reasonably be blamed. The Dodgers might have some issues to upset their catnaps on their flight home from Florida, but RISP is just not one of them.

There are some people who decry the excess of esoteric stats that populate the game today, but my guess is that a lot of them think batting average with RISP as a good one. However, this is honestly a case where simplicity is for the best. You want to know how your offense is doing, you really are better off trashing batting average with RISP, and just looking at runs scored.

* * *

  • More on the rarity of a knuckleballer striking out 12 batters in a game from ESPN’s TMI blog. This isn’t confirmed, but it appears Charlie Haeger came within one strikeout of tying Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough for the most by a knuckleballer in a game in at least the past 40 years.
  • The ever-awesome Vin Scully Is My Homeboy posted a great Sport Magazine cover shot of a young Maury Wills.
  • Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News (via Baseball Think Factory) writes about Dodger prospect Brian Cavazos-Galvez’s lost relationship with his father, former Dodger minor leaguer Balvino Galvez. Cavazos-Galvez hasn’t let it derail him, and when he’s not playing baseball, he volunteers for Special Olympics and Challenger Little League. “My uncle (Timmy Cavazos) has Down’s Syndrome, so I have experience being around those kids,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “Other guys are kind of scared to be around those kids or don’t know how to act. I love it.”
  • Former Dodger pitcher Edwin Jackson hit his first career home run in Arizona’s team-record 13-run fourth inning. Jackson allowed four runs over seven innings and 98 pitches to get credit for a 15-6 victory.
  • Marvin Bernard admits to steroid use? Marvin Bernard? Something tells me this one won’t be analyzed to death by the pundits.
  • Top MLB prospects Steven Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman each impressed in their U.S. professional debuts, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
  • John Lindsey went 3 for 4 today, with his first homer of the year, to raise his 2010 Albuquerque on-base percentage to .632 and slugging percentage to .941.