Jul 03

After first week back, Kemp’s timing problems linger

In his ill-remembered farewell season with the Mets, a 42-year-old Willie Mays had a .303 on-base percentage, .344 slugging percentage and adjusted OPS of 81 in 239 plate appearances with the New York Mets.

Recovering from one injury after another over the past year, 28-year-old Matt Kemp has been worse. This season with the Dodgers, Kemp has a .302 OBP, .327 slugging and 78 OPS+ in 214 plate appearances.

After returning from the disabled list last week, Kemp had a single, a double and no strikeouts in his first five trips to the plate — four of them June 25, plus one on June 27. Since then, he has gone 3 for 18 with two walks and nine strikeouts.

Dylan Hernandez wrote in the Times on June 27 about Kemp working with former hitting coach Jeff Pentland over an eight-day span. That period, according to the article, ended June 29.

“The biggest thing I noticed he was dropping his hands,” Pentland told Hernandez. “He was to a point where he was pushing and scooping the ball. Off of that comes everything else. Sometimes one thing can create five or six problems and I think that’s where he was at.”

Pentland spoke in the past tense, but with or without him, Kemp remains a work in progress.

Kemp ended a 1-for-10, six-strikeout slump with two singles June 30. Then, after Monday’s off day, he struck out in three of his first four at-bats in Coors Field on Tuesday before hitting a 400-foot out in his final appearance.

The strikeouts show how Kemp is still searching for a rhythm. He has started six games since coming off the DL, and he’s been good in two, average in two and awful in two. But the timing and mechanics issues still seem solvable.

“Kemp’s swing does currently does have significant flaws, but I highly doubt it’s anything permanent,” wrote Dodger analyst Chad Moriyama at the end of a lengthy examination in May. “This rings especially true since he made a similar adjustment a couple years ago, and I expect him and the Dodgers to eventually work through this as well.”

After that, we can get back to wondering whether Kemp’s power will return. Let Hanley Ramirez be your inspiration, and your reminder of patience.

Dodgers at Rockies, 5:10 p.m.

Jun 02

Saviors

Life is jagged lines.

In the majors, Yasiel Puig shouldn’t be expected to match the .383 on-base percentage and .599 slugging he has put up with Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, though to be clear, the Southern League isn’t nearly as deceptive a hitting environment as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Scott Van Slyke, for example, has a major-league OPS with the Dodgers this year of .909 following an Albuquerque OPS of 1.236. The gap should be less for Puig, and if it is, he’ll be hitting better than Andre Ethier is now.

As a result, there are few scenarios in which Puig’s arrival in Los Angeles on Monday won’t improve the Dodgers. Puig will play in the outfield and likely be more productive than the guy he’s replacing, Skip Schumaker. While he will still serve as a late-inning defensive replacement, Schumaker can also spend more time in the infield and be more productive than the guy he takes at-bats away from, Luis Cruz.

By my appropriation of the transitive property, that is the low bar that Puig needs to clear to be an asset. That doesn’t speak to what kind of leap Puig will actually make. Puig could be a band-aid for this struggling team, or he could be bionic. At different times, he’ll be both.

Life is jagged lines. Puig, like everyone else, will go up and down and down and up, his graph of success as prickly as a porcupine. He will have good games and bad games and games where you can’t decide what they were.

He will be like the last savior in the outfield, Matt Kemp.

Some Dodger fans have little sense of irony, but you have to admire how the rapid and rabid revolt against Kemp for his shortcomings in 2013 has been accompanied by urgent calls for him to be replaced by the player who most resembles him.

Seven years ago, Kemp was Puig – the raw kid with talent to burn and lessons to learn. Puig, like Kemp did when he hit the majors at age 21 in 2006, has a hugely bright future. But anyone putting their faith in Puig will almost certainly at some point need a level of patience that many fans have denied Kemp whenever he has struggled, no matter how much he has done for his team. 

In 2007 and 2009, Kemp was hugely productive. In 2008 and 2010, people were calling for him to be traded.

Last May, he was the best player on the planet. This May? Read these letters to the Los Angeles Times.

It’s hard to believe that Matt Kemp has made the Dodgers’ $160-million investment disappear quicker than Bernie Madoff ever could have.

Herb Schoenberg
Tarzana

* * *

I have never heard of a team being worse off if a guy that’s hitting .251 with two home runs and 17 RBIs goes on the disabled list. I’m pretty sure that a minor leaguer could equal or exceed those numbers in half the time. How does Matt Kemp injure his hamstring when he hardly, if ever, goes full speed?

Geno Apicella
Placentia

* * * 

Lest we forget, Matt Kemp is a paid performer and he’s not earning his keep. Baseball is a business. At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance. Kemp would do well to invoke the ghost of the late Lyman Bostock who memorably asked the late Buzzie Bavasi, then the GM of the Angels, to withhold his salary because of poor performance.

Skip Nevell
Los Angeles

They’re all good, but Nevell’s is my favorite. “At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance.”

“Long ago.” Just let that roll around in your head for a minute.

It never ceases to amaze me how many baseball fans act as if they’ve never seen a player slump, much less struggle to recover from surgery. They expect straight lines. I don’t know why, because in baseball, they don’t exist. The only straight lines in baseball go from home plate toward the right-field and left-field corners.

Even Mike Trout got the derisive whispers this past April. Imagine.

There’s no mistaking how difficult it has been to watch Kemp play this year. I don’t know exactly what his future holds, but I don’t see any reason to believe that what we’ve seen this season is the best we’ll see from him for the rest of his days. I don’t understand how baseball fans can have such short memories, when it’s a game built on lasting ones.

Kemp made a name – and a nickname – for himself out of the gate in 2006, hitting seven home runs in his first 15 games. A month later, he was back in the minors. I’m excited about Yasiel Puig’s arrival – curiosity, hope and the potential of witnessing the birth of greatness are a good combination to have when tuning into a game, especially when your team is in last place. But I pray I’m not alone in anticipating how uneven the road might be, not only over the coming days, but also weeks, months and years. It doesn’t pay to be too hopeful or too cynical.

Life is jagged lines, and baseball is life.

May 20

Dodgers 3, Brewers 1: Kershaw throws a Kershaw

How close was Clayton Kershaw to a perfect game tonight?

Kershaw retired the first six Milwaukee Brewers tonight on 16 pitches, then walked Rickie Weeks, who had a .554 OPS entering the game, on five.

His next pitch was a ball to Yuniesky Betancourt, who followed with a single. Two infield outs later, Weeks scored.

Ryan Braun singled in the fourth and sixth innings, and Norichika Aoki reached base on a Dee Gordon throwing error in the eighth.

That was it: 107 pitches, 32 batters, 22 first-pitch strikes, three hits, one walk, five strikeouts. On five days’ rest after throwing a career-high 132 pitches, Kershaw dusted the Brewers, 3-1.

It wasn’t a perfect game. It wasn’t a shutout. But there should be a noun for the ease and control that Kershaw (who also singled in three at-bats) dominated Milwaukee.

Kershaw walked Weeks for the same reason Vin Scully sometimes says the wrong name, for that one time that Mother Theresa asked for seconds, for that spot on the Sistine Chapel floor where MIchelangelo let a drop of paint drip.

Kershaw threw a Kershaw.

* * *

Nice to see you again, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.

Ethier tripled and homered. Kemp walked and homered. For Kemp, it was home run No. 2 on the season and really the first one he blasted, because home run No. 1 was an inside-out job that barely cleared the right-field fence in New York’s Citi Field.

 

May 19

Dodgers in a race to the upside down

Sure, OK, we can start with the bullpen. It’s hardly the only thing going on with the Dodgers, but it’s something. Oh yes, it’s something.

You need good relief to win, but you can’t plan for good relief. 

This comes up every year, so it’s tedious to point out, but it doesn’t seem to go without saying.

I’m going to ask take my years-old research into this on faith; whether you choose to do so is up to you. But what you find is that there is virtually no consistency year-to-year among relief pitchers. The best might give you two or three consecutive good years. The very best.

The reasons for this should be clear. You don’t become a reliever unless you are flawed in some way that prevents you from being a starter. That obviously doesn’t mean you can’t be a fantastic reliever in a given year, but for the most part, relievers are pitchers who aren’t designed to be great over the long haul. They typically have a limited number of pitches, which leaves them vulnerable to being figured out over time. The good ones end up getting overworked, or maybe they were never that good in the first place, instead merely a triumph of small sample size. We could go on, but let’s sum it up this way: Mariano Rivera is not reality.

The 2003 Dodger bullpen was incredible. It was also, in many significant ways, an accident.

Staffing a bullpen has always, fascinatingly, been Ned Colletti’s simultaneous strength and weakness. Colletti has had a knack for finding capable non-roster talent (Takashi Saito, Ronald Belisario) over the same years that he has invested multiyear deals in such inconsistent arms as Matt Guerrier and Brandon League. There is no correlation in the Colletti tenure between salary and performance, yet the expensive signings continue.

The point is that you can never feel good about your bullpen entering a season – never. I really believe that. You can’t feel anything at all. The best thing you can do is assemble a number of arms before Spring Training, a combination of youth and experience and promise and reclamation, and then hope for the best.

The peril of having someone with a long-term contract is that you feel obligated to keep him past the point of effectiveness. That’s the boat the Dodgers are in with League and Guerrier, even with a new ownership that doesn’t much worry about player salaries these days.

The Dodger bullpen is leaky through and through. Almost nothing is working right now. Just as you were gaining supreme confidence in Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, they found growing pains that left them struggling like the more experienced J.P Howell, League, Guerrier and, if you will, Belisario and Javy Guerra.

Fans tend to have unreasonable expectations of bullpens – you see outrage anytime any relief pitcher gives up a run, let alone a lead. I’m not sure where fans get the idea that every reliever on their team should have a 0.00 ERA, but there it is. Every Dodger relief pitcher since the heyday of Eric Gagne and Saito has been attacked for his failings, however momentary, however good that pitcher has been overall.  So when a bullpen is collectively struggling as much as the Dodger bullpen is, it’s frogs and locusts time.

Don Mattingly’s instinct has been correct in general to try to play matchups with his relievers. You can debate the specifics of all his choices – I don’t agree with them all – but the bottom line is, there’s little he can do when no one is reliable.

Mattingly’s bullpen Sunday faced 18 batters and got nine outs. When Jansen entered Saturday’s game in relief of Chris Capuano, he had thrown only 21 pitches in his previous 72 hours. Capuano had pitched well that night, but he was past the 90-pitch mark and going on a balky calf.

But when things are bad, things are bad.

Tim Federowicz is not a martyr.

This morning brought the news that Tim Federowicz, and not Luis Cruz or Ramon Hernandez, had been displaced from the active roster to make room for the return of Mark Ellis from the disabled list. Federowicz is more valuable than Cruz or Hernandez, but the hysteria this caused was rather remarkable.

When I called out this freakout on Twitter, several people lectured me, as if I didn’t know, that it wasn’t just about Federowicz, but that it was symptomatic of the Colletti Dodgers’ larger mismanagement in general or obsession with experience over youth in particular. As if I needed to be told that Colletti values experience, sometimes to the franchise’s detriment.

I’ve spent a lot of time on how to phrase this next section, because I don’t want to give the impression that you shouldn’t try to maximize every advantage you can. Federowicz can’t help the Dodgers that much right now, but sure, I’d rather see him get five at-bats a week over Hernandez, because an on-base percentage over .500 in Albuquerque and above-average defense suggest a better skill set than Hernandez currently offers. Scott Van Slyke’s callup was overdue, not because he was guaranteed to hit two homers in a game, but because he was on a hot streak in the minors that made it clear there was no better time to try him out.

But just as there is with the bullpen, there’s a level of knee-jerk fan reaction with the bench that is out of proportion. When a player is a single game away from having better stats than his competition, as Hernandez is compared with Federowicz (3 for 17 with one walk and no extra-base hits as a major-leaguer in 2013), and neither is projected to be a starter, and the alternatives to Hernandez as backup if A.J. Ellis gets hurt are Jesus Flores, Matt Wallach and Gorman Erickson, the uproar should not be Defcon Anything.

Yeah, Cruz stinks right now, and no one in their right mind would keep him over Juan Uribe – just like no one in their right mind would have argued to keep Uribe over Cruz last summer.

See what I’m getting at?

If you’re not frustrated with the Dodgers right now, you’re either not a Dodger fan or very zen. You’re not wrong if you’re unhappy with Federowicz’s demotion. But if you’re angry over Federowicz being sent down, you’re overreacting. It’s not symptomatic of the Dodgers’ larger problems. You’re not going to plug in Federowicz, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Alex Castellanos into the Dodger bench and as a result see things turn around.

And May 19 is too soon to give up, if only because of one person.

Matt Kemp.

Until Kemp starts hitting, nothing is going to happen with this team. Nothing. The Dodgers cannot win without his bat. And again, it’s not something anger will solve. The effort is there – if anything, he’s trying too hard to get things going. But it is up to Kemp.

It would help if Andre Ethier hit more, but the difference between what Ethier is doing compared to what is expected of him is not what it is with Kemp.

I’m sure Kemp has had all the advice in the world, from Mattingly, Mark McGwire and any number of coaches or people he meets on the street. But no one else can synthesize the good from the bad and put it into action.

You can start firing managers or coaches or trainers. Kemp still needs to hit.

The bullpen can start putting out fires. Kemp still needs to hit.

The defense can stop making two errors a game. Kemp still needs to hit.

But what if he does?

Let me tell you one more thing.  I would love to give up on the 2013 Dodgers. It will be a relief if and when I can. I spent part of my Sunday writing this 1,500-word piece that probably isn’t worth a damn, especially for a team barely winning 40 percent of its games.

And the season might be over, except for this. For all their problems, Los Angeles is still somehow only seven games out of first place. The Giants, in case you haven’t noticed, have their own cauldron of concerns. And Arizona and Colorado … I just don’t know. I can’t see them not hitting their own skid. I can’t see it.

The National League West looks like an 85-win division. That’s still within the Dodgers’ abilities.

The team gets healthier. The bullpen stops being a disaster. Matt Kemp starts to hit. And then …

Honestly, that’s as far as I can go. The team does look awful right now. It looks nothing like a winning team. It’s creaky and crumbly. Race to the bottom or race to the top – I truly can’t decide.

May 07

Misery loves misery

Anger and depression are their own kind of comfort food, aren’t they?

The best thing about the Dodgers’ performance Monday is that you could turn it off.

There’s no shortage of people to criticize. That doesn’t mean every target deserves every tomato being thrown, but the impulse is understandable.

I tend to spend a lot of time throwing tomatoes at myself, so the Dodgers’ example of great potential struggling is one I tend to sympathize with more than rage at.

But I’ll sure be happy when things get better for them.

Here are two videos to cheer you up. The first comes via Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.

The second is just an all-around cure-all.

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

May 06

Adrian Gonzalez’s admission has meaning for Matt Kemp

The strange thing about the reaction to Adrian Gonzalez’s acknowledgment (to Bill Shaikin of the Times) that he won’t have the same power as he did before undergoing labrum surgery in the 2010-11 offseason is that no one has followed that with the obvious connection to Matt Kemp.

“I can still hit home runs. That is not going to be an issue. The full power is not the same,” said Gonzalez, who had surgery to repair his labrum before the 2011 season, in acknowledging he would be more of an average and doubles hitter going forward.

In October, Dylan Hernandez of the Times did link Gonzalez with Kemp — who had labrum surgery last winter — but nevertheless, people seem to remain surprised that Kemp is having power issues at the start of this season. In 2011, Gonzalez hit one home run in April — the same as Kemp this year.

Gonzalez finished 2011 with 27 home runs, before hitting 18 in 2012. He has three this season, though he is slugging .500 thanks to seven doubles.

The potential effect of labrum injuries on sluggers is nothing new. Ten years ago, I noted on Dodger Thoughts the effect that Shawn Green’s surgery would likely have on his career in this piece, “The Shawn Green of Old Will Not Return.” Green actually fared better than the title predicted, hitting 28 home runs in 2004, though 18 of those came after the All-Star Break. He hit 47 more home runs the rest of his career.

What the long-term effects of Kemp’s injury will be, I don’t know. Perhaps he’ll kick the home-run power into gear starting tonight. But we can’t be surprised if his four-bagger forays take time to resurrect.

Apr 17

An all-or-something season

In the throes of watching people on Twitter react to Tuesday’s 9-2 pounding by the Padres — the Dodgers’ third loss in a row and worst since August 27 — I mused on what it would be like if those in favor of swift roster moves actually got to run the franchise for a year.

You have to admit, it would be interesting.  Matt Kemp struggles in his first 14 games— and gets demoted to Triple-A. The fascinating, hot-hitting Yasiel Puig is called up, apprenticeship be damned — and becomes the starting third baseman, despite the fact that he’d make Pedro Guerrero look like Graig Nettles. And so on … one reactionary move after another. I really would be curious to see it.

During my full-time days with Dodger Thoughts, this would naturally be the time for me to point out that it’s too soon to despair. Despite all that has gone wrong — and I think it’s fair to say that much more has gone wrong than gone right, since the “gone right” is pretty much limited to Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw — the Dodgers remain at .500. San Francisco, in case you haven’t noticed, has its own share of problems, with a starting rotation that is not only thin in depth but struggling to a 4.78 ERA. Arizona and Colorado have their own issues.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles will have Hanley Ramirez’s bat in the lineup sooner than later, a midseason injection of Zack Greinke to look forward to and, yes, the possible promotions of players like Puig and Dee Gordon after they’ve had some more valuable seasoning.

At the same time, there’s no doubt that we knew this was a problematic Dodger team before the season began, that the left side of the infield would be a problem, that Kemp might not be the hitter he was after labrum surgery and so on. If you didn’t know it, you were simply uninformed or deluded, but frankly, I’m almost sure that most were aware. My argument has been that, despite the “World Series or bust” proclamations of Magic Johnson, the new ownership is on a long-term project to make the Dodgers contenders, in which domestic and international scouting and player development becomes every bit as important as the nine-figure contracts being handed out. So though I’m impatient for a title, I wasn’t that preoccupied about what happened in the short term.

You can be forgiven for thinking this should be the Dodgers’ year, with all the spending, not to mention it being the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s last World Series glory. But in reality, the best you could count on is that the Dodgers should be competitive. The fact that Los Angeles could not find players over the winter to displace Cruz from the starting lineup or Juan Uribe from the bench — and I’m not here to bury Uribe, who remains tied for team lead in homers, but to thank him (for the time being) — tells you everything you need to know about any guarantees.

Kemp himself has almost become the embodiment of Dodger hopes and fears. The 14-game milestone in 2013 is particularly interesting for the star outfielder:

– It was after 14 games in 2010 that he had five home runs, a .385 on-base percentage and .740 slugging percentage. Of course, the rest of the year didn’t exactly play out in the same fashion.

– And then the following year, he got off to a sizzling start in his first 14 games (two homers, .534 OBP, .673 slugging — and kept it going to essentially become the National League MVP.

– And then the following year, he was even hotter after 14 games — eight home runs, .525 OBP, 1.000 slugging.  But then it went downhill again, thanks in no small part to his health.

From his way-up and way-down rookie season (six homers, .408 OBP, .795 slugging after 14 games; one homer, .239 OBP, .309 slugging the remainder of the year), Kemp has never been a flatline hitter. He always keeps us guessing.

At the same time, I’m as concerned as anyone that surgery has robbed him of his exceptional greatness. Not once since I heard the words “torn labrum” next to Kemp have I not thought of Shawn Green’s decline after a similar experience (though to be clear, not identical).

The most frightening, melodramatic and almost downright irresponsible comparison you can make is this: Kemp’s OPS after 14 games this season is .483. For Andruw Jones after 14 games in 2009, it was .493. Of course, Jones was about to turn 32 and noticeably out of shape. Kemp is 28 1/2 and still John Henry in a baseball uniform.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything’s going to be fine for the Dodgers in 2013, not with players ailing and holes remaining. I still nurse the long-ago expressed notion that the Dodgers could become the Cubs of the 21st century — a hundred years without a title. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you everything’s going to be a disaster.

What I will say, as tired and frustrated as Dodger fans are, is that 2013 is not a “World Series or bust” year. It could be 2013. It could be 2014. It could be soon after or much, much later. But it’s not now or never. It’s whenever it’s going to be.

Mar 30

Marching toward April

Feeling Opening Day excitement and the writing bug late on a Saturday …

• I’m reasonably excited about this year’s Dodger team, but part of that is a perverse excitement about just how bad on offense that left side of the infield might be, at least while Hanley Ramirez is out. That makes the decision to go with Justin Sellers fun for kicks, however dubious. Still, I have always liked the idea of emphasizing defense where offense isn’t an option.

• It only just now occurred to me that I was in the stands last year at the game in which Sellers was hurt and the one in which Dee Gordon was hurt.

• Do you realize this will no doubt be the fourth consecutive year that Kenley Jansen isn’t the Opening Day closer but eventually moves into that role?

• One thing I don’t miss about baseball season is the whining whenever a save gets blown, as if it should never happen. Heaven knows, though, it will happen.

• Carl Crawford has me excited. Truly didn’t think he’d be ready this fast, but this is the one case where I’m allowing myself to be swept away by past success and heady Spring Training numbers.

• I think lingering effects of his labrum injury will keep Matt Kemp below 25 home runs this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive.

• At first, I thought that with no true right-handed outfielder in reserve, the Dodgers would need to keep Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier spaced out in their lineup, or lefty relievers will just crush the team. But Gonzalez has had success against left-handers, so that helps. It’s still not necessarily a bad idea to insert a right-hander between them, though – as long as it’s a decent one.

• My initial plan for any free writing time that emerged this spring was that I would spend it offline on a long-term project. I did begin work on that project early this month, but with baseball season starting, I’m wavering. What might happen is a mix, where I post on Dodger Thoughts not infrequently, but not comprehensively. The risk is feeling like I’m doing both things halfway.

• Another intervening factor in my life is that Youngest Master Weisman, now 5, is six days away from his first T-ball season, and he is raring to go. (His team: the Tigers.) After playing with a pretend ball inside the house several times, we made it out to the park for the first time, and he was knocking balls through the infield and reaching the grass. Also in the past day, I’ve begun trying to teach him how to scoop balls on defense. It’s crazy.

• Older brother Young Master Weisman, now 8 1/2, took a few swings, but piano is his game. He’s composing his own material for his May recital performance. Young Miss Weisman, a whopping 10 1/2, is also wonderful on the keys.

Sep 08

Series of Great Import Part II Game Chat

Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 pm
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
Juan Rivera, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is in honor of Lenny Harris.

Enjoy the stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver on this Saturday afternoon on Fox. Get ready to hear Ken Rosenthal say the word “jell” a lot. I’m missing this game because of work, but I think it will be a pain in the aspic.

Matt Kemp, 3 for 29 since he came up second in a battle with the fence at Coors Field, is out for the remaining two games of this series. And potentially more as an MRI on his shoulder is planned, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times via Twitter. Time to reacquaint yourself with the excitement that is Juan Rivera, although don’t be surprised to see Bobby Abreu or Alex Castellanos wandering around left field if the situation with Kemp persists.

The other outfielders on the 40-man roster who could still be recalled include Scott Van Slyke and Matt Angle. Officially, Jerry Sands and Yasiel Puig are on the 40-man roster, but they are both likely off-limits. Elian Herrera, who can play many positions, although maybe not any of them particularly well, could also be recalled.

 

Aug 17

While on Matt Kemp Suspension Watch …

However justified his anger might have been, Matt Kemp sowed the seeds of his own suspension by making physical contact with umpires, writes Chad Moriyama at his blog. So as we wait for that unpleasant news to wend its way, here are some other happenings around town:

  • Don Newcombe, who is being honored at the annual Civil Rights Game on Saturday (between the Dodgers and Braves), is the subject of a nice piece by Spencer Fordin of MLB.com.
  • Good gravy — Brett Tomko is still out there plying his trade. Arizona signed the 39-year-old to a minor-league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Will Rubby De La Rosa be in the same innings quandry next year as Stephen Strasburg is this year? Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is curious.
  • Former Dodger prospect Ethan Martin was interviewed at length by Jay Floyd of Phillies Nation.
  • “Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season,” reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Sandy Koufax biographer Jane Leavy has a piece at Grantland on neuropathologist Ann McKee, who is doing extensive research on head trauma that could have an impact on the NFL.
  • Some fun history of Los Angeles roadways prior to the Arroyo Seco Parkway comes via Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed.
Aug 15

Aftermath of the Cabrera calamity

Three thoughts about the Melky Cabrera suspension:

1) It’s good news for the Dodgers. However, it hardly ensures that they will make the playoffs – or that, as some have written, they should.  One player doesn’t decide a season – and that’s without even knowing what will happen to other players in the remaining 44 games.

2) I’ve seen it written where you could tell from Cabrera’s dramatic improvement compared with 2010 that something nefarious was up.  Yes, that looks as neat and tidy as a bow … until you consider him alongside Matt Kemp, who is six weeks younger than Cabrera. Look at these OPS stats:

Player 2006-10 2011-12 Change
Cabrera	.709	.849	19.7%
Kemp	.808	1.009	20.0%

My point, I hope it’s clear, is not to accuse Kemp of anything untoward (nor is it to imply at all that OPS is a definitive stat), but merely to illustrate that the revelation about Cabrera doesn’t justify making assumptions about every ballplayer who shows dramatic improvement.

3) Some people can’t understand how people can be dumb enough to violate the MLB drug policy when they know they’re going to be tested. The explanation is that laws are broken every day, sometimes by stupid people, sometimes by smart people, sometimes rationally, sometimes not.

Jul 13

It’s official: Kemp, Ethier return

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXV: Kershawma Lama Ding Dong
Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will reappear tonight before a salivating Dodger fan base, with Scott Van Slyke and Elian Herrera going to Albuquerque.

On Sunday, we discussed the possibility of Herrera being optioned.

… He’s been 100 times more fun to watch than Uribe and his versatility is an asset, but once Kemp and Ethier are back in their starting roles, Mark Ellis is re-entrenched at second base and Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Juan Rivera are holding down left field, there’s going to be less call for Herrera to roam around the diamond. That’s not to say that he’s without a purpose, but with his own slump to a .326 on-base percentage and .335 slugging, the difference between him, Uribe and Kennedy (.315 OBP, .309 slugging) isn’t overwhelming.

By optioning Herrera, the Dodgers can put off making a final decision on Uribe or Kennedy, neither of whom can be sent down. …

Jul 11

Adrian’s head


What’s the deal with Adrian Beltre and people trying to touch his head? Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation investigates in the clip above.

Elsewhere …

  • Chasing October, a book by David Plaut that focuses on the 1962 pennant race between the Dodgers and Giants, is getting a three-part review by Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers his midseason report card on the Dodger position players.
  • James McDonald’s rise to prominence could be the result of increased use of his slider, writes Ben Duorino of Fangraphs. (Wasn’t the slider the key to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season?)
  • ESPN Sweet Spot bloggers preview the second half of the season for National League teams. Oh, and here’s the American League.
  • Matt Kemp is having a post-ESPYs bash tonight to benefit “Kemp’s Kids,” which provides support to underprivileged youth, writes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Meanwhile, Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes about Kemp’s visit to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at starting pitchers potentially on the trade market.
  • Farewell, Kenny Heitz.
Jun 26

The cruel shoes

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXII: Kershawn the Waterfront
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Bobby Abreu. LF
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

My latest piece for Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog looks at how the past week for the Dodgers has played mind games with us, not unlike a certain pair of shoes made famous by Steve Martin.

Though it might seem as if the Dodgers have been struggling for quite some time, the team was 10-7 (.588) in June and held the best record in Major League Baseball until just a week ago. As it is, despite losing six of its past seven games, Los Angeles still has the top mark in the National League, a two game lead in the NL West and a four-game cushion for a playoff spot.

Nevertheless, the month has taken an ugly turn. The Dodgers’ on-base percentage (.301) and slugging percentage (.302) in June form a nearly matching pair of cruel shoes. The highest OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) belongs to Bobby Abreu at .740; no other Dodger is breaking the .700 club. …

Read the rest at CityThink.