Jun 23

Dodger Defcon ratings

Starting today, I’m making periodic contributions to the CityThink blog at Los Angeles Magazine. My first piece looks at the state of the Dodgers from a War Games perspective. Check it out …

Good teams have bad weeks, and one bad week like the Dodgers are having (with four losses in a row, including Friday’s 8-5 come-from-ahead defeat against the Angels) doesn’t ruin a season. At the same time, people have feared all along that the Dodgers are a team living on the brink of destruction in a dangerous baseball world.

In the spirit of War Games, here’s a snapshot of which Dodger problems are tic-tac-toe and which are global thermonuclear war …

Read the rest at CityThink …

Jun 18

Matt Kemp tackles recovery, walkoff heroes

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering whether Matt Kemp would come charging out of the dugout Sunday the moment Dee Gordon delivered his game-winning hit, nor the only one petrified that he would reinjure his hamstring while wrestling Gordon to the ground. Indeed, Vin Scully seemed to share some of those fears.

Well, Kemp walked away unscathed (which is more than the shaving-creamed Gordon could say).  Given that, it seems like a good time to update his injury status. Here’s Alex Angert of MLB.com:

Manager Don Mattingly said Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis will travel with the Dodgers on the road this week, while Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly, Justin Sellers and Javy Guerra will stay back with a trainer.

“They are doing a ton of baseball work,” Mattingly said about Kemp (strained left hamstring) and Ellis (left leg injury). “They are on the field taking batting practice now and they are able to do a lot more stuff on the field.”

He added Kemp seems to keep progressing and Ellis is doing really well. As for the players not traveling to Oakland, he said Sellers’ recovery from a bulging disc in his back is taking some time and Lilly (left shoulder inflammation) has been a process. However, Guerra (right knee inflammation) is doing well and Mattingly reaffirmed that he will travel to San Francisco next week. …

No word of when Kemp might start a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, so July would seem to remain the target.

Kemp, who is already eligible to come off the disabled list, has played 10 innings since May 13. The Dodgers are 23-12 (.657) when he starts and 19-13 (.593) when he doesn’t in 2012.

Jun 14

Digging into Matt Kemp


Molly Knight this week gives us an ESPN the Magazine cover story on Matt Kemp that begins with the moment he re-injured his hamstring: “The harder the game treats him, the more he respects it, cares about it — and the better he plays.”

It’s a terrific story, and the only issue I take with it is a nitpicky one about its micro-analysis of how Kemp reacted to his latest injury. I can only speak for myself, but I’m surprised by the idea that at this moment, people were making judgments about Kemp’s demeanor — whether “placid, seemingly indifferent” in the immediate aftermath or “a guy whose talent is as raw as his composure is unformed” as he digested the severity.

Doubts about Kemp’s attitude were resolved before May 30, and I think the prevailing concern was just whether this player who had reached the pinnacle of his game — mentally as well as in terms of performance — was going to be lost again to injury. By this time, I believe, Kemp had won all but the most reactionary critics over.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Either way, the story offers insight on Kemp that you haven’t seen elsewhere, so give it a read.

May 14

Dodgers undefeated without Kemp

It’s happened: Matt Kemp is on the disabled list. Moments after his 399-game consecutive playing streak ended with the final out of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Arizona tonight, Kemp was officially sidelined for two more weeks. Jerry Sands will replace him on the active roster, giving the Dodgers an outfield of Andre Ethier, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bobby Abreu, Scott Van Slyke and Sands.

Three Opening Day starters (Kemp, Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe) and top reserve Jerry Hairston Jr. are on the Dodger disabled list now. Obviously, the big one is Kemp. The Dodgers are a major-league best 24-11 right now, with a bigger lead over the second-place Giants than the National League Central and East leaders have over the last-place teams in their divisions, but I think most Dodger fans would be thrilled if Los Angeles can play even .500 ball for the next 14 games, or however long Kemp is out.

If they can do that, or better, it will probably be through large doses of defense, pitching and Andre Ethier.

* * *

In December 2010, shortly after Gwynn signed with the Dodgers, I suggested that they might be better off moving Kemp to a corner outfield slot and starting Gwynn in center field to maximize his principal defining skill – his defense. That didn’t happen, but with Kemp hobbled, we’ve really seen what Gwynn can offer. A day after making a flung-out catch in center, Gwynn made a tremendous throw – against his body – to nail A.J. Pollock at home in the third inning.

The Dodgers are putting on defensive shows almost on a game-by-game basis. Just in the final three innings tonight, there were four outstanding plays. James Loney backhanded a sharp grounder by Pollock in the seventh. Mark Ellis ranged to the shortstop side of second base to flag a Willie Bloomquist grounder in the eighth.

And in the ninth, on consecutive batters, Loney leaned over the railing to backhand a pop fly by Paul Goldschmidt (who almost popped out for the cycle tonight), and then Justin Sellers tumbled into the stands after making a full-bore catch of a foul by Miguel Montero. (Watch the great reactions by Gwynn and Ethier to Sellers’ catch on the replay.) Kenley Jansen then drew a third pop fly from Ryan Roberts to close out the game.

It so happens that Loney has been on a bit of a hitting upswing, with a 1.092 OPS in his past six games, but even when he isn’t hitting, his defense is so strong that I find it easier to rationalize his place in the lineup.

* * *

Ridiculous statement of the night: Clayton Kershaw was not at his sharpest as he threw seven innings of shutout ball. I should be struck by lightning for saying anything of the sort, but it’s really an example of how good Kershaw could be that I notice, for example, when he’s 78 pitches in to the game and he’s thrown only 44 strikes.

Putting aside his retaliatory brushback pitch against Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy, Kershaw didn’t seem to have complete command for much of the game, but aside from the Gwynn play, he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until two out in the seventh. Kershaw then struck out Cody Ransom, the man who sent Kershaw to his shocking final loss of 2011, and left with a 3-0 lead, having allowed four singles and three walks in 108 pitches while striking out six.

His ERA is 2.22. Man, just wait until Kershaw gets his act together …

* * *

So, is this Andre Ethier’s team now? With Kemp out, Ethier is the lone remaining established threat in the Dodger lineup.

One year ago today, against Arizona, Ethier reached base for the 37th consecutive game. His streak ended the following day. Could it be that on this anniversary, he is poised for an even more significant achievement – keeping the Dodgers above water while Kemp is out?

Tonight, Ethier was up to the challenge. He came just short of a three-run home run in the third inning, then gave the Dodgers some breathing room, doubling their one-run lead, with a no-doubter solo blast that nearly one-hopped its way out of the bleachers in the sixth.

In the shadow of Kemp, Ethier has quietly put together a .368 on-base percentage, .592 slugging percentage and .960 OPS in 2012. Long gone are the days when it was believed Ethier needed Manny Ramirez behind him to succeed.

* * *

The game was sparsely attended, but it was a lovely night at the ballpark.

May 13

Kemp, Ethier watch Dodgers finish win from clubhouse

A nightmare scenario produced a dreamy finish – today, anyway.

Despite losing Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier midway through today’s game, the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-2, scoring six in the bottom of the fifth on their way to a 11-5 Mother’s Day victory that improved their MLB-best record to 23-11.

Before I get into the other details, I want to say this about A.J. Ellis, who singled, walked and hit a three-run home run today (capping the fifth-inning onslaught) and now is OPSing .974 this season. I have absolutely believed for a long time that he was capable of delivering high on-base percentage and occasional power. Plate discipline is huge in this game, and Ellis has it by the bushel. What he’s doing in 2012 matches my highest expectations, but it doesn’t exceed them, certainly not for a stretch of this length. I am thrilled, I am elated, but I am not shocked. Not in any way.

As for the rest of the action …

1) No, we’re not getting out of today’s game unscathed. Kemp left today’s game after running out a ground ball in the bottom of the third, engineering new concern over his left hamstring. What this means long-term isn’t clear, though in the short-term, at least, the Dodgers didn’t suffer. Bobby Abreu hit a three-run double in his first at-bat to give the Dodgers their first lead of the day.

2) Ethier left today’s game in the fifth inning on the behest of home-plate umpire Mark Carlson’s right thumb. Ethier argued a borderline called third strike at length, then began to walk away but cursed unmistakably in the process. Carlson had showed patience during the initial argument, but didn’t extend it any further. I sent my daughter to her room for a few minutes in response to her own shouting at around the same time, so I understand the feeling. (Don Mattingly also was sent on his less-than-merry way a minute later.)

3) Scott Van Slyke replaced Ethier in right field and looked great. In his first plate appearance, he drew a walk and stole a base, then scored the Dodgers’ ninth run on a perfectly executed squeeze by Adam Kennedy on a high and outside pitch. In the eighth inning, Van Slyke doubled in two more runs, continuing his perfect start to his career.

4) Tony Gwynn Jr., moments after moving to center field after Kemp left, made a spectacular horizontal catch.

5) James Loney doubled and walked twice.

 

May 12

Dodgers sign Aaron Miles to minor-league deal

Rockies at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve made a few references to Aaron Miles this year, wondering why, with all the issues the Dodgers have had at third base, the Dodgers didn’t take him for another spin. Not that Miles was a problem-solver – but compared with Adam Kennedy or Justin Sellers, it just seemed odd that he wasn’t invited to the party. He came to the plate a whopping 490 times for the Dodgers last year.

Well, here it is. Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Miles has signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and has begun working out at the team’s Arizona facility. Miles “misplayed the free-agent market,” Hernandez wrote, implying that his contract demands were too high after a .314 on-base percentage and .360 slugging percentage in 2011. Miles hit .231 after July 1.

In Friday’s game, the Dodgers never trailed and won, 7-3. Chris Capuano turned in another striking performance, extending his scoreless inning streak to what would have been the 25-inning mark before allowing a seventh-inning home run to Michael Cuddyer.

Mark Ellis was the Dodgers’ early hitting star with a home run and two-run double, and Andre Ethier came a triple shy of the cycle. Juan Uribe joined Ellis in hitting 2012 home run No. 1, while James Loney reached base three times and Matt Treanor had two singles.

Ellis has a .472 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage in 37 plate appearances this month. For the year, he is 10th in the National League in OBP (not counting A.J. Ellis, whose day off Friday left him two plate appearances short of the minimum), and he has yet to make an error.

Pitching with a 7-1 lead in the ninth, seldom-used Todd Coffey faced five batters and allowed three hits and a hard-hit sacrifice fly that Ethier caught with perhaps the best defensive play of his career, sliding into the wall in the corner of right field. Coffey has now allowed 13 baserunners in 3 1/3 innings this season.

There was some fear that Ethier might be hurt, but he professed to be fine.

“I just banged up my toe a little bit,” he told Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.. “I was trying to avoid hitting my knee. I tried to kick the wall to avoid sliding into it.”

MIke MacDougal, by the way, is not coming back to the Dodgers. MacDougal “has cleared waivers and rejected an outright assignment to the minors,” according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “The Dodgers thusly have requested unconditional release waivers on him, meaning MacDougal’s time with the club is over.”

Matt Kemp, who was recovering from hamstring issues earlier this week, has gone hitless in consecutive starts for the first time this season. (Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has more on Kemp.) In May, Kemp is 7 for 28 with a double, triple and seven walks (.746 OPS) – and is no longer the hottest player in baseball. That would be Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who in his past five games is 11 for 21 with four walks, a double and eight home runs. Shawn Green of the Dodgers was the last to hit more homers in such a short span.

May 08

Hell yes, ‘M-V-P!’

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Of all the inane criticisms of Dodger fans I’ve heard, this might be the most inane in the membrane.

Apparently, Dodger fans have committed a Code 2 violation of the Fan Behavior Contract by chanting “M-V-P!” for Matt Kemp.

In multiple spots of the Internet (not including Hank Schulman of the Chronicle, whose different criticisms I’d need to address elsewhere), I’ve seen people deride the “M-V-P!” cheer for a player who justifiably deserved the award last season and has only improved his performance this season – in other words, the player who is currently the most valuable one in the league.

See, it’s only May, and the National League MVP award isn’t given out until … wait, let me ask someone who follows the sport of baseball … oh, they say it’s after the season ends! Whoa – who knew?

I guess just too dum 2 realize calender.

Good lord. Yes, there is a group of stupid people in this discussion – and it’s the group that thinks it’s wrong to express enthusiasm for a player of Matt Kemp’s caliber outside of … I don’t know, the official nomination period for MVP balloting that doesn’t actually exist. Dodger fans believe he’s the best player in baseball, an opinion that happens to be shared by many nationwide.  But since “He’s the best player in baseball! He’s the best player in baseball!” doesn’t make for a great chant, they’ve shortened it to “M-V-P!” It’s not rocket science. It’s also completely valid.

And it’s – heaven forbid – fun.  Remember that?  Fun?  Some people enjoy it. You know, I might even just chant “M-V-P!” for A.J. Ellis. In March. If I see him at a basketball game. For fun. You’re really going to have a problem with that?

Get. Over. Yourselves.

May 06

The return of the Cool-a-Coo?

Dodgers at Cubs, 11:20 a.m.
Matt Kemp is resting a tight left hamstring but is available to pinch-hit, according to pregame reports. Kemp has started 123 consecutive games, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., and played in 392 in a row.

However, the start of today’s game is delayed by rain. 

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

Apparently, a Cool-a-Coo resurrection is possible after all.

All my research had shown that Cool-a-Coos, the greatest dessert treat in sports history, had disappeared when the company had gone out of business, but according to Bill Shaikin of the Times, they’re being manufactured by a small company under the name of “Mr. Cool.”

If it’s the real deal, then the Dodgers absolutely need to bring them back as soon as possible. And please, don’t try to sell me on the Its-It. It’s not the same thing.

Elsewhere …

  • Looking ahead: After today’s game, the Dodgers have four consecutive series against their four National League West rivals. Three of those series are at home.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Information), Chris Capuano had an 0-1 count on 20 of 26 batters he faced Saturday.
  • Teams are starting to shift against Matt Kemp, writes Christina Kahrl for ESPNLosAngeles.com – taking into account his tendency not to pull the ball.
  • John C. McGinley will play Red Barber in the upcoming Jackie Robinson movie 42, writes Dave McNary of Variety.
  • Tommy John surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and Luis Tiant have been elected to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals. They finished in the top three by receiving at least 33 percent of votes. Just missing election this year were Lefty O’Doul (32%), Dizzy Dean (30%), Manny Mota (29%), Don Zimmer (29%), Steve Bilko (27%), Charlie Finley (25%), and Glenn Burke (24%). Induction day is July 15.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times becomes the latest to wonder why Jerry Hairston Jr. wouldn’t be the Dodgers’ regular third baseman even when Juan Uribe is healthy. The argument is that Hairston would wear down – the response would be whether Uribe isn’t already worn down.
  • Alex Castellanos and Scott Van Slyke were named Triple-A all-stars for the month of April by Baseball America.
  • Wrightly or wrongly, third baseman David Wright, an obvious trade target for the Dodgers, is likely to remain a Met, writes Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
  • The Cubs have designated Blake DeWitt (.305 OPS) for assignment.
  • A shoutout to Scott of venerable Rancho Park Pharmacy, thanks to Scott mentioning these words last week when I picked up my prescription: “R.J. Reynolds.”

 

May 03

Matt Kemp and .400: One in a million

After ESPNLosAngeles asked me to write a piece exploring whether Matt Kemp could hit .400 this year, I was tempted to turn in a one-word column, but I ultimately went with this:

When a ballplayer takes a .400 batting average into May, you’re supposed to know not to ask whether he can take it through the end of the season.

You know that no major leaguer has hit .400 over a season since Ted Williams in 1941. You know it’s a barrier that has withstood Stan Musial, Rod Carew, George Brett, Andres Galarraga, Tony Gwynn, Larry Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton, Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki — all of whom have hit at least .375 since ’41, but never .400.

What does Matt Kemp, now batting .411 on May 2, have that these guys didn’t have? Probably nothing, or a figure approaching nothing.

Last weekend, David Pinto of Baseball Musings ran some numbers. Kemp had just gone 2-for-4 in Friday’s Los Angeles Dodgers victory over Washington, raising his batting average to .452. Pinto found that Kemp’s probability of hitting .400 this year was 0.0000016.

If he played a million baseball seasons, the odds say Kemp wouldn’t hit .400 in two of them. And that was before his batting average fell 43 points in less than a week.

So what are we doing here?

Here are two reasons to keep having the conversation …

Read the entire piece here.

* * *

  • Stan Kasten, the most impressive figure at Wednesday’s Dodger press conference, is profiled by Kevin Baxter of the Times, while colleague Peter Guber is interviewed by the Times’ Roger Vincent.
  • Mark Walter is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Despite the fact that the number of cars parking in Dodger Stadium has no bearing on how much money Frank McCourt will receive going forward, the Times decided to perpetuate the mistaken assumption of others by running an op-ed from David Kipen calling for a boycott of the parking lots — or, if I’m reading correctly, a half-boycott.
  • Dodger batting practice pitcher Pete Bonfils was interviewed by Ron Cervenka for Think Blue L.A.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly close to taking a minimum-salary flyer on Angels castoff Bobby Abreu. Given that Abreu would probably replace one of four third basemen on the roster — Juan Uribe if he goes on the disabled list, Adam Kennedy otherwise — I’ve heard worse ideas.
  • A pairing to treasure, courtesy of Jon SooHoo:

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Apr 22

Looks like close but no cigar for Kemp’s next Player of the Week award

Matt Kemp follows through Saturday on his ninth home run of the season. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Dodgers at Astros, 11:05 a.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Treanor, C
Chad Billingsley, P

Major League Baseball will look everywhere for someone who can be the next National League Player of the Week instead of Matt Kemp, who has won the award the last three times it has been given out. But he hasn’t made it easy.

Kemp has a 1.524 OPS for the week going into the final eligible day today. That’s second among NL regulars, trailing only Freddie Freeman of Atlanta (1.621). And there’s no other batsman that’s really in the running unless someone goes nuts at the plate today.

Among pitchers, Cliff Lee stands an excellent shot at the award with his 10 innings of shutout work Wednesday (followed by a trip to the disabled list with an oblique injury), while Cory Luebke has gone 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA: seven innings of one-run ball in Colorado followed by eight shutout innings Saturday against the Phillies.

My guess is that Luebke gets the nod, but you just can’t say enough about what Kemp has done.

* * *

Congrats to James Loney for hitting his first home run of the season. “Loney began this season 0-for-16 and 1-for-20 but in his last eight games has hit .320/.433/.600, including four doubles and a home run in his last seven starts,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

And congrats as well to Dee Gordon, who went 3 for 4 Saturday and celebrates his 24th birthday today.

* * *

  • New Dodger owner Mark Walter is profiled by Kim Christensen of the Times.
  • Under new management, the Dodgers can learn from the Phillies, writes Bill Baer at ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot.
  • High school coaches still ignore pitch counts at the risk of their young players, writes Chad Moriyama.
  • Roxanna Green, Christina-Taylor Green’s mother, will sign copies of her book at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • “You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Seen Dee & Andre’s Pre-Game Boogie” – who can argue with the Sons of Steve Garvey?
Apr 20

Matt Kemp bends but breaks through

My latest piece for ESPNLosAngeles.com is a reflection on Matt Kemp’s journey from 18-year-old draftee to 27-year-old baseball superhero, noting that overcoming setbacks has been part of his profile from the beginning.

The story of Matt Kemp ‘s evolution from the Los Angeles Dodgers doghouse in 2010 to his place in baseball’s penthouse today has been so well-chronicled, you might be excused for thinking that this was his only bend in the otherwise steady road to the top.

But looking back from what is now Kemp’s 10th professional season and seventh in the majors to the beginning, we can see that his struggle in 2010 was the latest zigzag in a career full of them. …

Read the entire piece here. Also, check out ESPN.com’s Stats & Info blog for some remarkable stats on Kemp’s incredible work on outside pitches this year.

Apr 11

Kershaw’s winless dominance

F-18s fly over Dodger Stadium prior to the home opener. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Some Tuesday postgame data, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Pirates despite not picking up a win:
- Sixty-five of Kershaw’s 88 pitches (73.9 percent) went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.
- Kershaw went to a three-ball count to the first hitter of the game, the only one he went to all game. The one three-ball count matches his career low in a start.
- Pirates hitters were 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with Kershaw’s slider.
- With two strikes, Pirates hitters were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts.

Kershaw held the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, continuing his dominance of hitters when getting into a jam.

Lowest BA Allowed With RISP, Starting Pitchers, Since Start of 2011 Season

Ian Kennedy .142
Jeremy Hellickson .161
Ricky Romero .173
Jhoulys Chacin .173
Clayton Kershaw .185 (0-6 on Tuesday vs Pirates)

* * *

Matt Kemp went 0-4 on Tuesday, but drove in a run for the ninth straight game. The nine straight games with a RBI ties a Dodgers’ record.

Most Consecutive Games with RBI, Dodgers History
Matt Kemp 9 (2011-12)
Roy Campanella 9 (1955)
Augie Galan 9 (1944)

* * *
Andre Ethier, on his 30th birthday, hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates. The last player to celebrate his 30th birthday by hitting a game-winning homer in the eighth inning or later was Jerry Mumphrey for the Yankees against Milwaukee on September 9, 1982. Mumphrey hit a 10th inning homer in that game. (Elias Sports Bureau)

* * *

  • In a story for Variety, I explore how much TV networks can justify bidding billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast baseball games. Nice to see Dee Gordon flying across the top of the paper …
  • In five games, Gordon has four steals in five tries, and replays showed he was safe on the time he was called out.
  • MIke Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness conveniently tackles a subject I was mulling myself: how Chad Billingsley does in his next start following a great outing. It might also be worth looking at how Billingsley does after a high pitch count in his most recent appearance.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A photo gallery from the home opener.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey has its own nice photo recap of Tuesday.
  • His Dodger shortstop predecessor, Rafael Furcal, is 10 for 23 with three doubles, two walks and two steals to start 2012: 1.045 OPS.
  • Here’s an Associated Press story on security at Dodger Stadium for the first home opener since Bryan Stow was attacked.
  • Joe Torre conceded to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that at times, Matt Kemp was a difficult player for him to manage.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs discuss the need and desire to kill the save statistic and replace it with something more useful.
  • Don Mattingly and Peter O'Malley. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

    Another gem by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods, inspired by the hyphen.
  • A baseball card featuring Reggie Smith and Ryne Sandberg is the subject of a piece by Bruce Markusen for the Hardball Times.
  • Dixie Walker will be played by Ryan Merriman of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • Eleven contract extensions have been signed by pre-arbitration-eligible players since the end of last season; Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the trend.
  • Carlos Santana became one of those players, signing a five-year, $21 million extension. Mike Axisa of Fangraphs examines the deal.
  • At the bottom of this Fangraphs post, you are asked to rate Dodger radio announcers Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.
Feb 29

When you walk through the garden …

Rarely have I been retweeted more than I was Tuesday when I passed along this link to The Wire wind-up toys.

Now, unwind with these notes …

  • Don Mattingly confirmed to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. that he has no plans to bat A.J. Ellis second, citing his lack of speed in front of Matt Kemp. Unfortunately, the alternative candidates’ lack of on-base percentage in front of Kemp seems not to have entered into Mattingly’s thinking.
  • Mattingly also hinted that Juan Rivera would start 2012 as the Dodgers’ regular left fielder with occasional days off. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com added that Jerry Sands is still in the mix to be a platoon partner for Andre Ethier and James Loney.
  • Dodger relief prospect Shawn Tolleson was interviewed by John Parker of MiLB.com.
  • The Dodgers have the National League’s second-easiest early season schedule, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Nine of their first 34 games are against teams with winning records in 2011.
  • Here’s the full list, 200-deep, of Dodger prospect rankings from Brandon Lennox at True Blue L.A. Henry Heredia, this is your moment.
  • Gold Glove or not, Andre Ethier’s ranking in David Pinto’s PMR list for right fielders at Baseball Musings probably won’t surprise you. Matt Kemp in center field? You tell me what you think.
  • Trayvon Robinson is trying to reestablish himself after his hot start with Seattle turned into a rough finish, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
  • Tuesday in Jon SooHoo: two pics that fostered polar opposite reactions for me, Jerry Sands bunting and Matt Kemp skywalking.
  • Not surprisingly, initial reaction to the new book from Dirk Hayhurst, Out of My League, is positive. Examples: Andrew T. Fisher of Purple Row and Keith Olbermann at Baseball Nerd.
  • The statement from Ryan Braun sample-taker Dino Laurenzi is eloquently written.
  • Coming March 15-17 is a SABR Analytics conference in Arizona. Not coming at the same time is the Notalytics Conference in South Dakota, but I sure wish it were.
  • Emmett Ashford, the majors’ first African-American umpire, was given an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Chapman College, according to Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary.
  • Giancarlo Stanton: the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton.
  • Harvard-Westlake’s Lucas Giolito hit 100 miles per hour while pitching a one-hitter for the Wolverines on Tuesday, writes Eric Sondhiemer of the Times.
  • Perfect for Leap Day: The Dodgers had the 29th-best offseason of all major-league teams, according to The Platoon Advantage.
  • KCRW’s Which Way L.A. now has its own blog.
  • Jonathan Abrams and Grantland published a vivid oral history of the 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight that spread into the stands.
  • Longtime Times columnist Steve Harvey is back writing “Only in L.A.,” host Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed announced. The first new edition is here.
  • Watch former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob break a world-distance record for throwing a paper airplane at ESPN.com.
  • Farewell, Monkees and Brady Bunch star Davy Jones. I was a childhood fan of both. Here, from Variety, is the 1965 ad soliciting auditions for The Monkees