Feb 22

Davey Lopes gets me excited about 2011

Kirby Lee/US PresswireYou’ve come to the right place.

Tony Jackson’s Spring Training update today for ESPNLosAngeles.com focuses on Davey Lopes’ tutoring the Dodgers. Some good stuff therein:

… The 45-minute session dealt mostly with the basics. But Lopes delivered his message in a charismatic, entertaining way, with a lot of the no-nonsense language one might expect from a 65-year-old baseball lifer who believes in doing things the right way, mixed with a little bit of humor.

The audience appeared to include every non-pitcher the Dodgers have in camp, and that audience burst into laughter on a few occasions, usually when Lopes would get especially animated while demonstrating the wrong way to do something.

For those who were paying attention, though, there were a lot of lessons.

For one, Lopes isn’t a fan of the headfirst slide. He also isn’t a fan of the slide into first base.

“There are two reasons why you slide,” Lopes told the assembly. “First, to slow your body down. … Second, to avoid a tag.”

And thus, Lopes said, the only time a slide into first base is justified is to avoid a tag if the player covering has to come off the bag to take an off-line throw. …

Elsewhere …

Feb 07

The Dodgers according to Ned Colletti


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesNed Colletti is beginning his sixth season as Dodgers general manager. The team has averaged 86 regular-season victories during his tenure.

Ten days.

The Dodgers rose from the basement of the National League West in May to the best record in the league in June, then sat only two games out of first place in the division at the All-Star Break.

Yet as far as Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was concerned, it was almost a mirage. During an interview at his Dodger Stadium office last week, Colletti fully acknowledged that the Dodgers’ second-half fade, as much as he and everyone else tried to reverse it, came as disturbingly little surprise to him.

Ten days. In Colletti’s view, that’s how long the Dodgers played championship-quality baseball in 2010.

“I think the second half, in a lot of ways, was the result of the first half and the spring,” Colletti said. “I can’t say I had more than a 10-day period where I thought we were truly playing as well as we could play. In ’09, we had a pretty good defense, and we executed, played well in clutch situations, found a way to win games. We really hadn’t done that very much in the first half of the season. And I think it caught up with us in the second half.

“And what I did last year wasn’t acceptable. How I prepared for last year didn’t meet the results that I have for myself.”

The Dodgers will arrive to spring training later this month, in many ways, a different team than a year ago, starting with a greater emphasis on starting pitching that represents Colletti’s most visceral response to his roster concerns from 2010. At the same time, Colletti said the experience the returning core gained from last year’s disappointment has the potential to play a significant, positive role in 2011.

“They’re professional, and this is their livelihood,” he said. “And you believe there’s enough pride and adjustment and education from this past year. A lot of guys haven’t gone through what they’ve gone through in the past year. That will put them in the right place coming in to know it’s got to be better and it’s got to be more focused.

“Because they’ve (succeeded) before, I’m confident. But then, last year was what it was. I’m cautious by nature. I take nothing for granted, at any point in my life at any stage. So I don’t take it for granted that it’s just gonna happen. I think it has to be prepared in order to happen.

Translated, Colletti believes the talent is there but the effort, focus and confidence need to return. He said the offseason preparation “is done to some point, and when you get to camp now it’s going to be up to Don [Mattingly] and his staff to have certain procedures in place and certain accountability set forth. And I obviously have to support that, and they have to buy into it.”

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Matt Kemp had homered once in 31 games prior to hitting one out in each of his final five games of 2010.

Comeback kids?
Despite leading Dodgers regulars on offense, Andre Ethier never fully seemed to recover from the pinky injury he suffered in May and fed doubts about his long-term ability to hit left-handed pitchers (.625 OPS against them in 2010, .681 for his career). James Loney went from decent before the All-Star Break (.803) to disastrous after (.616). Jonathan Broxton’s second-half collapse is as well-documented as anyone’s, and Matt Kemp … well, let’s just say his season could have been the inspiration for what made Linda Blair’s head spin in “The Exorcist.”

The question, Colletti agreed, is which of the players will hit a hurdle in their development in 2010, and which have hit a wall. And it’s a question that’s due for an answer. Mulligans that were handed out last year won’t be found so easily or at all in 2011.

“In the past, I’ve been more patient than open-minded,” Colletti said. “I think that one of the toughest characteristics you have to have in these jobs is patience because everybody expects everything to turn overnight. … It doesn’t work that way. Everybody’s human; these guys are all human. They take maturation, physical maturation, all kinds of processes.

“I won’t be able to be just completely patient with it [this year]. We’re not an old team, but we’re not a team overwhelmed with rookies, either. We have experience, and a lot of our players have been to the postseason at least twice and sometimes three times in the last five years. So it’s there, it’s really kind of going back to that point and being focused about it and passionate about it and tough-minded about it.”

It might surprise people to learn that Colletti seems particularly bullish about Kemp, the target of a radio critique by Colletti in April.

“I think probably from middle of August on, things became a little bit more focused for him,” Colletti said. “He and I had a conversation, probably in August, that was really a man-to-man, heart-to-heart, one-on-one conversation. And I was trying to take some of the weight off. I think he understands it; I think he understands what transpired last year. I think from my conversations this winter, from the last month of the season and this winter, I think he understands more than he did a year ago about himself and about the game, about preparation. So I think he’s got a chance to really have a great year.”

It’s possible Colletti might have said the same thing about Russell Martin, except Martin is no longer around. The circumstances of the Dodgers’ decision to let Martin go rather than offer him salary arbitration weren’t discussed, but Martin’s recent offseason comments about “distractions” that affected him led to a broader comment from Colletti about the difficulty of playing in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, it’s commitment, prioritization and commitment,” Colletti said. “I read what Russell said, but I don’t know what the true context was or what his underlying thoughts were as to why he said it. … There are a lot of distractions in this city. There’s a lot of different things to be doing, a lot of places your mind can wander off to, but if you’re a professional baseball player, if you’re a Dodger, you’ve got to figure out life. … And it’s not easy to do it.”

Without going into many specifics, Colletti indicated that the ability to play in Los Angeles is a factor in some trades of young players he has made. He called Carlos Santana the prospect he regrets parting with “probably more than anybody” before he added that there were a couple of other guys he would have to wait and see on.

“Again, Los Angeles isn’t for everybody,” Colletti said. “Sometimes we make a move on a player because we know in this environment here, they’re not going to be very good in it.”

Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Jonathan Broxton issued 25 of his 28 walks last season after June 23.

Pitching paradoxes
As for Broxton, count Colletti among those who see his second-half crumble as an issue of confidence, rather than health problems that might have been caused by his 48-pitch tar-and-feathering against the Yankees last June.

“He never complained,” Colletti said. “And at the end, he wasn’t thrilled with it, but I said, ‘Jonathan, I need you to take a complete physical — your arm, your shoulder, your elbow.’ A week to go in the season. And he said, ‘I feel great. I don’t need to do it.’ And I said, ‘I need you to do it.’ So he said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and everything came back clean.”

Colletti is aware of the volatility of relief pitchers, comparing them to great goaltenders who can go through “a month or two where they can’t stop anything.” But this awareness cuts both ways. It leads Colletti to give relievers who have performed in the past long leashes, and it compels him to have as many alternatives on hand as he can, as seen through the acquisitions of set-up men Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth and oblique references to No. 6 starter Vicente Padilla’s potential to close games.

Again, however, Colletti believes that at rock bottom you can often find a trampoline. Look no further than Chad Billingsley, banished from the Dodgers’ starting rotation by the end of 2009 before rising anew last season.

“Most of our young players did not experience a lot of failure as young players, minor leagues [or] early in the big leagues,” Colletti said. “They really didn’t struggle. And when it finally hits you, and you do struggle for whatever reason and you’re doing it in front of 45,000 people in Los Angeles all the time, on television every day, that’s a tough time to struggle for the first time, for the really first time, and be able to come out of it.”

Interestingly, Colletti’s faith in failure recovery played a partial role in what many believe is the Dodgers’ greatest weakness heading into this season: the lack of a bona fide left fielder.

Angst in the outfield
This winter, the Dodgers didn’t bid on the two marquee outfield free agents, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and you can safely conclude that was a reflection of their overall contract demands and the Dodgers’ budget. But when it came to alternatives, Colletti was wary of blocking two Dodgers outfield prospects who could each be major league ready a year from now, Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands, especially after the experience Robinson had in Jacksonville last summer.

“Robinson last year started off slow in Double-A, and we stayed with him and he figured it out,” Colletti said. “That to me was huge. Because he’s gonna have to figure that out. Because everybody struggles up here.”

There is the caveat that it’s not as if the current Dodgers never struggled in the majors or minors before 2010 – one could easily make the case that they did, but that their subsequent triumphs blotted out the memory. In any event, if he had found a signable veteran outfielder worthy of a multiyear deal, Colletti no doubt would have pulled the trigger. But he does feel optimistic over the long term about what he has.

“If I would have signed a left fielder for three years, who was again not one of those robust guys — I’m not sure there was a guy out there — then I’m really kind of blocking one of those two kids, and I’ve got faith in both of them,” he said. “Hopefully, not this year. Hopefully, it’s a year from now, but I have faith in both that they’ll be able to play and contribute. And actually I told them both that, too, in the fall — I told Trayvon way back in the summertime, ‘It’s important for me to know who you are and how you play. Because you know what, Manny’s not gonna be back next year. And I’ve got to make a decision whether I’m gonna go and tie up his spot for three or four years, or be patient and mix and match for a year and wait for you.’”

Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCasey Blake had an .895 OPS against lefties last year, .663 against righties.

In the interim, Colletti is under no illusion that he has gold in the third outfield slot, so the Dodgers will essentially play it by ear in the outfield, with Mattingly looking at matchup opportunities for Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Xavier Paul (if he makes the squad), and on an infrequent basis, Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll.

“Right now Matty’s the center fielder,” Colletti said. “Andre’s the right fielder. I want to see what Tony can do offensively. He’ll play as much as the offense allows him, I think … using the whole field, bunting more, figuring out ways to get on base, because his on-base percentage isn’t high even when he hits .270. See if he can become more disciplined at the plate, use his speed more to get on. I don’t expect power out of him. I don’t expect gap power out of him, but I would like to see him get on base a lot more, because if he does it perhaps changes the dynamics in the outfield.

“And in the meantime, I’ve got two guys that can hit, one from the left side and one from the right side — actually two from the left side with X. Paul and Gibbons, and then Thames. … And perhaps they’re five- or six-inning guys, and then you go defense later. But you’ve got two guys that might be able to hit 20 homers between them.”

Third base offers a secondary question for the Dodgers because, while Blake is sure to start against lefties and some righties, no one seems to be beating the drum for him to play 146 games like he did last season. With the Dodgers’ minor leagues fairly thin at second and third base, this time Colletti took the plunge on a multiyear stopgap in Juan Uribe.

“Our system’s produced a lot of guys,” Colletti said. “But except for really [Ivan] DeJesus, we don’t really have a second baseman that’s on the verge of being here. We have a shortstop coming probably in Dee Gordon and after him [Jake] Lemmerman, and right now third base is a bit of an open spot too — we had [Pedro] Baez in the Cal League last year. So Uribe, while the on-base percentage isn’t Moneyball-ish or whatever, the run production is still pretty good, in that he can play second, short or third, and we don’t have anybody that’s going to press him at third for a while, and really De Jesus is trying to transition to play second. I needed somebody I can run out there who’s a big league guy.”

Because of what he sees as a potential benefit to have Uribe play some at the hot corner, Colletti emphasized that De Jesus has a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup infielder. Obviously, someone like Carroll could also make several starts to allow Blake to rest.

In any case, Colletti is aware of how much a juggling act the Dodgers’ everyday lineup has become. Though he has in one sense traded last year’s lack of a fifth starter for this year’s lack of an everyday left fielder or third baseman, Colletti sees the two situations as apples and oranges.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt Guerrier, 31, has allowed 11.5 baserunners per nine innings in his career.

Never enough
“You really didn’t have in my mind many choices that were going to be able to play every day,” Colletti said. “We had to fix the pitching first, and we had to upgrade the bullpen if we could.

“You can’t finesse pitching. Maybe a day here or there, but you need to have it. And the list [of available pitchers], we were kind of picking near the top of the list, even though it isn’t sexy to say you signed Ted [Lilly] or Hiroki [Kuroda], it’s not necessarily ‘wow,’ but it’s solid. It gave us a little bit of depth. So we had to start there. The kid from Minnesota, Guerrier, is gonna be a good add for us. He’s pitched in a lot of big games; he’s always had positive results.

“It’s the most volatile group, but once [Joaquin] Benoit got three years and [$16.5 million], that’s what people expect to get … and if you really need a guy, sometimes you have to go the extra distance to go and get him.”

Add together the total commitments the Dodgers made to their free-agent signees of this past offseason, and you barely pass the total value of Adrian Beltre’s deal by itself, while falling short of the Crawford or Werth contracts. And like it or not, Colletti was not going to enter another season shy on pitching or dependent on unproven rookies such as James McDonald or Scott Elbert.

“I was apprehensive all winter long last year” Colletti said of the starting pitching. “I knew we were short going in; I knew we weren’t going to be able to rally it. In the spring, J-Mac and Scotty both struggled. We may have sent them both out early, in fact, because they couldn’t throw strikes; they were all over the board. So right from the beginning, I knew we were going to be short. I didn’t know how we were gonna mix and match, and we couldn’t afford an injury certainly.”

If there’s an ongoing concern on everyone’s minds, it’s how the Frank McCourt ownership crisis is affecting spending on the team on the field. You can argue that different owners might have allowed Colletti to sign one big-ticket free agent in addition to shoring up the pitching, but Colletti doesn’t contend that the divorce itself is having an impact on personnel.

He also makes the case, as McCourt did a year ago, that the Dodgers are aiming to spend more money to deepen their prospect population.

Farm aid
“We’ve had basically the same [major-league] payroll,” Colletti said. “Though we dipped a little bit last year, we’re coming back this year. It’s not really how much you have, it’s where you spend it. We do have to get better at international signings; we have to reinvest there. I think we’ve let Venezuela slip for a few years, and we’ve made some changes in the staffing.

“We’ve done a decent job in the D.R. [Dominican Republic] — not what we did 25 years ago, but with all due respect, 25 years ago there wasn’t 30 teams down there, either. So, it’s not like we could just cherry-pick the players we want like we probably did at the outset of the country opening up to having players signed. But we do have to get better at that to support our player development system. It’s been fruitful. Obviously, a lot of players are in the big leagues now that we drafted, but we have to keep flowing, and they have to keep getting better. I know we’ve hit a touchable lull right now and I think we’re probably a year or two away from having another group come forward.”

[+] EnlargeZach Lee

Chris Carlson/APLogan White escorts newly signed Zach Lee in his Dodger Stadium visit in August.

Colletti didn’t rule out the Dodgers’ top draft choice of 2010, Zach Lee — whose signing shocked most baseball observers — being part of the Dodgers’ graduating class of 2012. Amid the height of McCourt tensions, Lee received a $5.25 million signing bonus, a record for a Dodgers’ draft pick. The previous record-holder, Clayton Kershaw, reached the majors less than two calendar years after he was picked, and Lee could do the same.

“We really liked this kid,” Colletti said. “We really liked his makeup, his demeanor, his abilities, athleticism, his toughness. … Not only are the physical skills different than most kids you see, but the way his mind works is different … probably from playing at the highest levels at a couple of sports, including going to LSU for a summer and having that experience, which as long as he didn’t get hurt it didn’t bother me.”

Colletti’s hope is that the Dodgers’ minor league pitchers drafted in previous years allow Lee as much time as he needs to develop. There was an epidemic of setbacks among the farm system’s arms in 2010 — so many that if Colletti wants to see who can overcome hurdles, wish granted.

“It’s concerning to me,” he said. “Probably a lot of the guys that we could both probably name should be a year farther along than they are. They’ve all struggled with command. … Some are converted players, some weren’t pitchers necessarily in high school or college. So they’re still learning that.

Curing the epidemic
And to circle back to the beginning of our piece, in some ways, older players never stop learning and developing. Witness Colletti’s additional assessment of the contagion that struck the Dodgers’ offense in 2010:

“I think hitters sometimes without results start to get impatient, so they start to chase out of the zone,” he said. “They’re trying to build more offensive numbers in a quicker period of time and so they’re not as diligent to work the count, and all that stuff starts to compound through the course of it. … When people are starting to slump, sometimes it produces more guys that go in that direction than less. And that’s what started to happen. It started to spiral where one guy struggled and then two. And then the third guy saw the other two and then he struggled, and it continued to mount.”

Alex Gallardo/APDavey Lopes will switch to a Dodgers’ uniform for the first time since Game 6 of the 1981 World Series.

When you take Colletti’s view of what went wrong with the Dodgers last year and what’s needed to make it right, it makes sense that he sees one of the most promising offseason moves as one that even some jaded Dodgers fans embraced: the hiring of Davey Lopes as a coach.

“I’ve known him a long time and I’ve admired him,” Colletti said. “You know, I was with him in Chicago when he was still a player and I’ve certainly watched him from the other side of the field when he managed and when he was coaching. And I think what he brings here is — you’re talking about first — someone who was an iconic Dodger who understands Los Angeles and understands the Dodgers and was here during one of the greatest periods in our franchise’s history. That’s important.

“What he did in Philly with baserunning and defense and fine-tuning that position, the first-base coaching position, to make it a far more valuable position to the organization, is something we noticed. And I think he’s going to have a great impact on our club. I think there are some players that could turn their game up a notch with his instruction, with his thought process. I think, while it’s a coaching position, I think it’s a huge addition for this franchise.”

Will a new manager, new coaches, new players and new spirits be enough to right the Dodgers’ ship? It’s too soon to say, but if the Dodgers are to play more than 10 days of great baseball in 2011, Colletti will expect to see strong signs of it before Opening Day arrives.

Dec 03

Dodgers, Martin appear to have split over $800,000

For me and, I would venture to say, most of my readers, $800,000 is a whole lot of green. But for the people of Major League Baseball, it’s not exactly a lot of money — for example, it’s roughly one month of Jose Uribe’s salary over the next three seasons.

But $800,000 appears to be the amount that sent the Dodgers and Russell Martin their separate ways.

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti told reporters Thursday that as the deadline approached, Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, lowered his pitch to $5 million in base salary  (plus incentives). According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the Dodgers were offering a base of $4.2 million.

We can debate all day what salary Martin actually deserved, but given that the two sides were this close, I’m a bit surprised the deal didn’t get done. If you think Martin has the potential of helping at all in 2011, I don’t know why you’d let less than a million bucks stand in your way.  And if you are that skeptical, I’m not sure why you’d be offering even $4.2 million.

But what do I know? Not much. Each side had its magic number, and sometimes, you can’t fool with magic.

* * *

  • Here’s a fun take on the main Hall of Fame ballot from Wezen-Ball.
  • From The Onion: “Baseball Players Hold Annual Meeting To Discuss Benefit Of Wearing Index Finger On Outside Of Mitt.”
  • Here’s an attempt to project Ted Lilly’s 2011 performance from Jeffrey Gross at the Hardball Times.
  • Brian, I hope George Costanza brought you some nice sandwiches.
  • Finally, Dodger Thoughts favorite Buddy Carlyle has signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, after a stint in Japan. Welcome back, Buddy!
Nov 28

In starting rotation, sometimes questions beat answers


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesFor 4 1/2 seasons, the Dodgers never knew what they were going to get in Odalis Perez.

In the wake of the Jon Garland signing, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looked at the most commonly used starting pitchers by the Dodgers since 2000, and in the process found that the Dodgers “have had five pitchers each start 30 games in a season just twice in their 127-year franchise history (1977 and 1993), and they have only had four pitchers start 30 games eight other times.”

Good stuff, but I was interested in something else, too. Given my surprise to find our starting rotation settled on paper before the end of November, I was curious how often in recent years the Dodgers had appeared to enter the season in better shape in their starting five than they’re in right now – and how they fared in those seasons.

Looking back at the 2000s (playoff teams in bold):

  • 2010: Charlie Haeger won a beleaguered fifth starter competition. The current 2011 rotation, with Garland as the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, looks better.
  • 2009: Rookies Kershaw and James McDonald looked promising on paper, but most people would probably take the 2011 quintet, with Kershaw two years older.
  • 2008: Brad Penny was coming off a 3.03 ERA in 2007, Chad Billingsley was rising and Derek Lowe in the final year of his contract, while Kuroda was untested in the U.S. and Kershaw hadn’t arrived. In fact, it was the rotating arms in the No. 5 spot (a shaky Esteban Loaiza, a green Hong-Chih Kuo) that helped hasten Kershaw’s debut.  The Dodger rotation heading into 2008 was probably better than the 2011 group – until Friday.
  • 2007: This was the year newcomers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf (the first time around) were supposed to anchor the Dodger staff, joining Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. This was an exciting group – until Schmidt and Wolf combined for 24 starts and a 5.05 ERA.
  • 2006: Lowe, Penny … Odalis Perez (coming off a poor 2005) … Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  A little bit of wishful thinking, here.
  • 2005: New free agent Lowe, Perez (coming off a strong 2004) and Jeff Weaver for the front three. The Dodgers knew they’d be dealing with filler at the No. 5 spot, and with Penny coming back late from his 2004 injury, they were duct-taping No. 4 as well, ultimately starting April with the likes of Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson.
  • 2004: The Dodgers’ first playoff trip of the century began with Hideo Nomo, Perez, Weaver and Kaz Ishii – not a bad front four if you thought the 25-year-old Perez would regain his 2002 form. The other three had ERAs below 4.00 the year before. The fifth starter left in TBD status until the job was seized by Jose Lima, who had a memorable year through and into the playoffs (after having thrown 503 2/3 innings with a 6.18 ERA since 2000), while Ishii ended up struggling and Nomo fell apart.
  • 2003: Kevin Brown was coming off an injury-plagued 2002, but there was still hope for him (rightfully so) to lead a staff that also included a resurgent Nomo, Ishii and Perez (3.00 ERA in 2002). Darren Dreifort, attempting a comeback after going more than 20 months between games, got the first chance at the No. 5 start, but the Dodgers also had Andy Ashby (3.91 ERA in ’02) as a No. 6 starter. So there was depth, but also an understanding that the depth could be needed immediately.
  • 2002: Lots of new blood to join Brown and Ashby: Nomo (returning as a free agent from Boston), Perez (acquired with Brian Jordan in January’s Gary Sheffield trade) and Ishii (signing his first U.S. contract on February 28) – not to mention Omar Daal, another returning former Dodger who came in an offseason trade from Philadelphia but began the year in the bullpen. By the time Spring Training started, the staff was deep – one of the reasons second-year manager Jim Tracy experimented with converting a guy who had made 24 starts in 2001 into a reliever: Eric Gagne.
  • 2001: In his last year before becoming a free agent, Chan Ho Park was the Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, followed by Gagne, Dreifort, Ashby and – in place of Brown, who was limited by injuries – Luke Prokopec. Either Gagne or Prokopec were to be the No. 5 starters on paper, after making some waves in 2000. You might laugh now, but there was reason to think this could be a pretty decent starting rotation.
  • 2000: You had Brown, Park and Dreifort, all coming off solid 2000 seasons. Then you had Carlos Perez, who had a 7.43 ERA in 1999. And rounding out the fivesome, you had the last gasp of Orel Hershiser, who had a 4.58 ERA with the Mets at age 40 the year before. It did not go well for this rotation.

In terms of Dodger starting rotations that had proven talent in all five slots since 2000, you’d have to look at 2007 and 2002 as the leading lights, with honorable mention to 2003. Neither of these teams, of course, reached the playoffs (though the ’02 team won 92 games), while the Dodgers’ past four playoff teams all had question marks in at least one spot in the starting rotation entering the season.

Oct 21

The Ted Lilly payment plan: Think different

Ted Lilly’s contract is backloaded, reports Beth Harris of The Associated Press. Factoring in the distribution of his signing bonus, Lilly will earn $7.5 million in 2011, $12 million in 2012 and $13.5 million in 2013. For your own sanity, I think it’s important for you to mentally reverse those figures and make Lilly a $13.5 million pitcher next season (similar to what Hiroki Kuroda made) and a $7.5 million pitcher in 2013.  Trust me, you’ll sleep better.

Lilly also has a no-trade clause through the end of the 2012 season, Harris says.

Oct 19

Colletti: Dodger player payroll to increase in 2011

The Dodgers held a mini-press opportunity tonight related to the Ted Lilly signing, and general manager Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and other reporters that the Dodger player payroll budget would rise for 2011, though he didn’t say by how much. So the news value here is: It’s not going down.

Elsewhere …

  • Some nice and arguably thrilling pictures of the Kirk Gibson auction items were posted by Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Gibson is raising money for his foundation, which supports “Michigan State athletics and to help fund partial scholarships at the two Michigan high schools where his parents taught,” according to The Associated Press. Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News explores the question of why this stuff hasn’t gone to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Ivan DeJesus, Jr., who had a single, double and homer today in Arizona Fall League action, is profiled by Danny Wild of MLB.com.
  • Former Dodger Takashi Saito is officially a free agent. Per a clause in his contract, Atlanta could not offer Saito arbitration.

And now, this …

<a href="http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&#038;from=sharepermalink^facebook&#038;vid=97794e63-2bca-4774-9686-5fc412275d54&#038;from=en-us&#038;fg=dest" target="_new" title="Homeless Man Lipdubs Under Pressure">Video: Homeless Man Lipdubs Under Pressure</a>

Oct 19

Dollars for Lilly: $33 million for three years

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details of Ted Lilly’s signing becoming official, to the tune of $33 million over three years. The figure isn’t surprising, given that Lilly was averaging $10 million per year in his last deal — and in fact, the average of $11 million per year is lower than the $12 million Lilly made in 2010, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Sep 22

Dodgers might have to pay Ted Lilly more than he’s worth in offseason


Dave Stephenson/Icon SMITed Lilly has allowed 11 homers and 10 walks since being acquired by the Dodgers.

On Trade Deadline Day, I got some grief for calling Ted Lilly “an inconsistent, 34-year-old pitcher in decline” – not so much about the “34-year-old pitcher part” as the other parts. I did say he would improve the rotation, but I saw some warning signs (which made me skeptical that the benefit would be worth the cost of the trade, which included swapping Blake DeWitt and two prospects and getting back Ryan Theriot).

In the immediate aftermath, Lilly pitched exceptionally, something I acknowledged most directly about a month ago following his two-hit shutout of the Rockies. But looking at Lilly today, the question marks about him haven’t gone anywhere.

Lilly, who had a 1.29 ERA in his first four Dodger starts, has had a 7.09 ERA since. Those numbers are skewed by two extremely poor starts – he has had quality starts in seven of his nine games as a Dodger. In any case, right now, Lilly has a worse ERA in 2010 than he had in 2009, and a worse ERA as a Dodger than he had as a Cub. So for all the plaudits he has received as a Dodger, his trajectory isn’t a straight upward line. And, he’s still 34 – he’ll be 35 in January.

None of this is to denigrate what Lilly has proven capable of – seriously, he’s done good – but simply to be on guard for what Lilly is going to be worth going forward.

According to several reports, both Lilly and the Dodgers seem to want come up with a deal that would bring the free agent back to Los Angeles in 2011. And heaven knows, the Dodgers need pitching for next year. But there’s a real risk of overpaying for Lilly.

Last winter, many Dodger fans felt the team couldn’t live without Randy Wolf. Milwaukee committed $29.25 million to Wolf for 2010-2012, and in the first year of that contract, he has been a below-average pitcher. And now he’s 34.

The winter before, many Dodger fans felt the team couldn’t live without Derek Lowe. Atlanta committed $60 million to Lowe for 2009-2012, and in the first two years of that contract, he has been a below-average pitcher. And now he’s 37.

Perhaps the best analogy to made with Lilly, however, is to use Casey Blake, a midseason acquisition who performed well at age 34 (35 that August) for the Dodgers in 2008, thus encouraging the team to sign him for three more years. They got in return a solid third baseman in 2009, a borderline one in 2010 and who knows what for 2011. The most likely path for Lilly would be similar.

One of the criticisms I got of my original assessment of the Lilly trade was that I failed to take his pre-2009 seasons into account, several of which (including a few in his prime) were poorer than his 2010 season. So how could I say he was in decline? Well, he was clearly in decline since 2009. If you want to look back farther than that, then you have a pitcher who was medicore at times, improved, and then most recently started to slip again.

Everything depends on cost, but based on what Lilly figures to command on the free agent market, if the Dodgers sign him, it could turn out to be a deal that looks good at first and not good at all in the end. The thing is, given the pitching vacancies the Dodgers are facing for 2011, that kind of fate with Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or whomever might be unavoidable.

Aug 19

Wherein I bow to King Ted: Dodgers 2, Rockies 0


Chris Carlson/APThe Manny Ramirez of Dodger deadline-day pitching acquisitions

I’m trying to think of the last time someone made me look as bad as Ted Lilly and his 1.29 ERA as a Dodger have. Not sure anyone has done it quite like this since I’ve been doing Dodger Thoughts. Maybe someone during my woebegone dating adventures of the 20th century? Or maybe I have to go all the way back to the time in grade school I challenged Brad Saunders to a tennis match and he waxed me, 6-0, 6-1 (and that 1 might have been charity).

Anyway, it wasn’t like I thought Lilly would be bad, but I certainly never dreamed he would be this good. I tip my embarrassed hat to him.

Dodgers 2, Rockies 0. Nine innings, two hits, two walks, 11 strikeouts and no runs for Lilly, his third career shutout (first since 2004) on 110 pitches.

Reed Johnson’s two-run homer, his first of the season, gave Lilly the chance at the win.

Aug 14

Dodgers 2, Braves 1: Newcomers lead the way, but …


John Bazemore/APTed Lilly

In a relief of a win that could have been another vexatious loss, the Dodgers funneled 12 hits into only two runs, but made them stand up for a 2-1 victory over Atlanta on Saturday.

Major credit for the result goes to Ted Lilly, who had his third consecutive sharp start since coming to Los Angeles. Lilly allowed five baserunners over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA with the team to 1.89. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks while striking out 15, and if the rest of the team were jelling, we’d be talking in glorious tones about how he was spearheading the Dodgers’ pennant drive.

As it is, even if he keeps up this pace and makes me look bad for questioning his consistency (though I also said “undoubtedly, Lilly will provide some short-term gain in the rotation”), he does figure to have only about 10 or fewer starts left in a Dodger uniform before leaving as a free agent. So I’m still feeling a little bittersweet about him. But so far, he has absolutely pitched well – a perfect fit for the team.

Octavio Dotel even chipped in 1 1/3 perfect innings tonight; he has retired 14 of 19 batters as a Dodger since coming from Pittsburgh.

Staying with the theme of new players, I’ll even throw a little love Scott Podsednik’s way, reluctantly. Podsednik went 3 for 5 tonight and now has 12 hits and two walks in his past five games. Of course, that’s outstanding.

Now, without this incredible hot streak – which he won’t be able to maintain – Podsednik will revert to being that ordinary player that I still don’t really want much part of. Even as well as he has played for the Dodgers, Podsednik has two extra-base hits in 74 plate appearances with the team. I’m willing to live with a sub-.400 slugging percentage from my catcher (Russell Martin) or my utility infielder (Jamey Carroll) if they’re getting on base a lot. But from my left fielder, I think the offense needs more. And if a hot streak of singles convinces the Dodgers that this is the guy they want starting in left field next year, at age 35, that’s going to make me even more unhappy.

Living in the now, though, Podsednik has provided an admitted boost. I’m going to be even more of a sourpuss with regard to Ryan Theriot, however.

Theriot has been a poor man’s Podsednik, going 2 for 4 tonight to give him a .283 batting average as a Dodger. That has made a lot of observers feel good about the trade, but it’s an empty .283: accompanied by a .328 OBP and .302 slugging percentage. He may be a better fielder than Blake DeWitt, but again, I feel like this has opened the door for the Dodgers to settle for aging mediocrity when they need something better. (By the way, DeWitt’s numbers since leaving the Dodgers and his overall 2010 numbers remain better than those of Theriot.)

Right now, there’s no doubt the Dodgers added talent in the short term last month, at a time when there was legitimate postseason hope. That pretty much fulfills the mission as Ned Colletti saw it, I imagine. He has gotten results.

And yet it all feels so temporary …

Aug 03

Lilly really lifts chilly Dodgers, 2-1


Danny Moloshok/APTed Lilly gave up a solo homer to Miguel Tejada in the first inning, a single to Adrian Gonzalez, and nothing else.

New Dodger starting pitcher Ted Lilly retired the final 20 of the 23 batters he faced in his debut with Los Angeles tonight, and Russell Martin’s two-run, second-inning double made the outstanding performance count for a 2-1 victory over San Diego, ending the team’s third six-game losing streak in six weeks.

The only mystery with Lilly’s performance was why he was removed from the game after throwing 87 pitches over seven innings, 65 for strikes. But Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton closed things out, Broxton inducing a game-ending double-play grounder from new Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick after first giving up a soft single to Jerry Hairston Jr. and, one out later, an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez.

Lilly’s two-hit performance in his first Dodgers start came on the sixth anniversary of Brad Penny’s two-hit performance in his first Dodger start (a game that ended with Eric Gagne nearly blowing a three-run lead in the ninth). Let’s hope things go considerably better for Lilly than they did for Penny the next time out.

Jul 13

Another Yankee titan passes

Farewell, George Steinbrenner. Friday at Yankee Stadium, they’ll be mourning both Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. That’s going to be quite a night.

The great Alex Belth has a remembrance of George Steinbrenner at SI.com.

* * *

  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the fun story of Hong-Chih Kuo interviewing All-Star Dodgers about Hong-Chih Kuo.
  • Manny Ramirez went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in three rehab games with Inland Empire, but hey …
  • Joe Torre on Matt Kemp, to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus: “Everyone thought I was punishing Matt, but it was just clear to me that he was pressing and needed to take a few days to clear his head and get his confidence back. There are no statistics to tell you how a guy is feeling on the inside, but I don’t think there was any question that Matt wasn’t in the right frame of mind. We all want to be perfect, and sometimes Matt has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that nobody is perfect. He holds everything inside and always tells you everything is all right, but it can’t always be all right and it wasn’t all right with him. However, I see him being back to the old Matt Kemp now. He’s playing with confidence again and that’s only going to make us an even better team for the second half of the season.”
  • The trade market for starting pitching gets a thorough analysis from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. The options probably won’t bowl you over. Meanwhile, I contributed a very short, on-the-fly comment about Ted Lilly to View From the Bleachers, saying that I wouldn’t want the Dodgers to give up much for him.
  • Baseball-Reference.com looks at the Hall of Fame case for Kevin Brown. The ultimate conclusion seems to be “no,” but the “yes” case might surprise you.

Update: Meant to mention this above: Alex Rodriguez has an acting role in the upcoming Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake film, “Friends With Benefits,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety. My understanding is that he’s not playing himself.