Jun 29

Manny Ramirez gets Matt Kemp back on the field … by getting hurt


Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJoe Torre leaves the field with Manny Ramirez after the outfielder’s injury.

Manny Ramirez injured his right hamstring on a freak slide (some would say that’s an appropriate term) back into second base in the first inning tonight – forcing Matt Kemp into the lineup after all of today’s commmotion. From The Associated Press:

Ramirez was initially listed as day to day, but there was no immediate word as to the nature or severity of the injury.

Ramirez, who had singled up the middle with two outs, went to second on a subsequent single by James Loney that scored Andre Ethier from third. But Ramirez then inexplicably rounded second base and wandered three or four feet toward third even as the throw from Giants right fielder Aubrey Huff came to shortstop Edgar Renteria, who was standing on the second base bag.

Ramirez then made a feeble attempt to get back as Renteria applied the tag, but the ball popped out of Renteria’s glove as second base umpire Ron Kulpa was calling Ramirez out, causing Kulpa to change his call.

Ramirez was on the disabled list earlier this season with a calf strain in the same leg. Xavier Paul, who had a .328 on-base percentage and .404 slugging percentage when called up earlier this season, has continued his banner season with Albuquerque (.402/.633).

Jun 23

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

May 18

Fractured fairy tales: Andre Ethier to the disabled list


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Xavier Paul

After three days of hoping and mulling, the Dodgers have placed Andre Ethier on the disabled list with his fractured right pinky-tip (news via an e-mail from the Dodger PR staff), and called up outfielder Xavier Paul from Albuquerque.

Paul has an .808 OPS in 47 career major-league plate appearances. For the Isotopes, he came back from a one-day absence Sunday to go 3 for 5 Monday, raising his minor-league OPS this season to 1.030.

Ethier leads the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, adjusted OPS, total bases, home runs (tied) and RBI.

Elsewhere …

  • More questions about the McCourts are raised by Jon Weinbach of AOL Fanhouse and Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce. If you like the words “slush fund,” this one’s for you.
  • On this day in 1960, the Dodgers released Boy of Summer hero Carl Furillo, and it did not go smoothly. “I’d like to play,” said Ol’ Skoonj. “But right now my only plans are to go fishing … and see my lawyer.” Details from Keith Thursby at the Daily Mirror.
  • Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts argues that baseball analysts (hey, there’s that phrase again) should not lump infield flies with other batted balls for BABIP (batting average on balls in play) purposes. Lederer also finds that Clayton Kershaw has been No. 2 in baseball in 2009 and 2010 on strikeouts-plus-popouts per batter faced.
  • Trivia time: Former Dodger Takashi Saito has baseball’s fourth-longest streak of consecutive games (251) to start his career without allowing four runs, according to Stat of the Day. Now in his fifth season, Saito has never let it happen. Tom Niedenfuer (380) is fourth on the all-time list, and George Sherrill is 16th.
  • Former major-leaguer Morgan Ensberg uses a Houston Chronicle sports story to explain why athletes are reluctant to speak frankly to reporters.
  • Want to chat about tonight’s “Lost”? Here’s where to go – down below.

Update: From the Dodger press notes – “Last night, the Dodgers allowed three or fewer runs for the eighth straight game, the first time they have done so while winning all eight contests since June 10-18, 2003. The run also ties the longest such streak for any team managed by Joe Torre in his 29 seasons as a big-league manager. Torre’s 1998 Yankees pulled off this feat from June 2-10 of that year in the midst of a nine-game winning streak and on their way to 114 wins. The Dodgers had a 10-game winning streak while allowing three runs or less from April 20-30, 1980. … Los Angeles hurlers have held the opposition without an extra base in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 5-6, 2008.”

Apr 13

Kershaw LIII: Kershawme Opener


John Cordes/Icon SMI
Andre Ethier blasted two homers and drove in four runs in the Dodgers’ home opener a year ago today.

They were overshadowed by Orlando Hudson producing the first Dodger cycle in 39 years, but there were plenty of heroes that made last year’s Dodger opener a laugher in the best kind of way for the fans. Every Dodger starter had at least one hit, Andre Ethier homered twice, Chad Billingsley scattered four singles and a double over seven innings while striking out 11 – heck, even Will Ohman pitched a shutout inning. All against the Giants. The good times rolled on through April’s record streak of consecutive home victories to start a season.

Things are a bit cloudier a year later, with the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West before the home crowd has even seen a regular-season pitch. But Monday’s gray skies have cleared up, just as Albert Peterson predicted. Let’s go have some fun!

* * *

  • Joe Torre-managed teams have won 12 consecutive home openers, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen has more Dodger home opener details here.
  • In the comments of that thread, BHSportsGuy lists the 15 Dodger pitchers credited with a win since Clayton Kershaw’s last on July 18.
  • Via Twitter, Stephen points to a nice feature by Tom Krasovic on Dick Enberg, reborn as a Padres play-by-play announcer. Related: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com heard Enberg say that he tried to write a screenplay about legendary spy/catcher Moe Berg.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone took a close look at the Dodger defense.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young went on the disabled list, where he’ll find Arizona catcher Miguel Montero and might soon be joined by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Juan Castro is the Phillies’ current replacement for Rollins.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods gets some nice Huffington Post exposure in writing about the anniversary of Mark Fidrych’s death and the connection with his childhood.
  • Blue Heaven passes along a March 6, 1948 letter from Branch Rickey to Walter O’Malley (written from Spring Training at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic) calling for a trade of Eddie Stanky “even if we were getting nothing for him at all,” to create  an opening in the Brooklyn infield. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Stanky was traded within 24 hours with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. (A month later, the Dodgers completed the trade by selling Sanders back to Boston for $60,000.)
  • Four-hit nights for Dodger minor leaguers on Monday: Xavier Paul had three singles and a homer for Albuquerque, Dee Gordon had three doubles, a single and an error for Chattanooga and Jerry Sands had two doubles and two singles for Great Lakes. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that after an 0-for-6 start in AA, Gordon has six hits (including four doubles) in his past seven at-bats.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach is having a Sherrill of a time in his first two games of the year.
  • Matt Hiserman, son of Times assistant sports editor Mike Hiserman and a college pitcher for the University of San Francisco, has come back inside of two months from a liner to the head that landed him in intensive care for four days, writes Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • The crackdown on Dodger Stadium pregame tailgating was scheduled to begin at dawn in Elysian Park, according to Zach Behrens of LAist (via L.A. Observed, which also points to a David Kipen piece talking about the origins of the Dodgers’ “LA” logo.).
  • How much of a difference does payroll make in baseball? Tom Tango writes at TMI: “If you spend at the league average (Payroll Index = 100 percent), your chance of making the playoffs is 27 percent. If you spend at double the league average (Payroll Index = 200 percent), your chances are 77 percent. And if you spend at half the league average, your chances dwindle to almost 0.”
  • Bob Timmermann wrote movingly about his grandmother, Ella Kimberling, for L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Quick entertainment notes from my day job: 1) Definitive details on Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS, 2) DirecTV will broadcast all five seasons of “The Wire” commercial-free, 3) Three major new hits (“The Good Wife,” “Modern Family” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered within 25 hours of each other.
  • Leaving you with this: Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters is thinking of hanging up his blog if he has to hang up his spikes. While I certainly hope he signs with another team, reading his latest post will serve as a reminder that no matter what, he should keep writing.
Mar 04

Older is not better for bench players

We all know about the great, the wonderful, the tremendous Manny Mota. But generally, do aging reserves have a history of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

To try to answer the question, I decided to look at the batting numbers for Dodgers since 1958 who were at least 35 years old. (I chose players with between 20 and 400 plate appearances, then removed most of the players who were basically starters that got hurt or were part of a midseason acquisition.) At first I was only going to look at pinch-hitting numbers, but then I realized that except for someone like Mota, a key component of a good bench player includes how well they perform in spot starts.

Of the 89 players on this list, 20 of them (22.4 percent) had at least a league-average adjusted OPS of 100. Mota accounts for three of those 20 seasons, as does Rick Monday. (Sidebar: Is Monday, who OPSed .854 primarily as a reserve in 841 plate appearances from 1980-83, the greatest bench player in Los Angeles Dodger history?) Only 30 (33.7 percent) of the 89 even managed an OPS+ of 90.

Some of these older guys who didn’t produce are catchers or defensive specialists who never were expected to hit much in the first place. Nevertheless, the over-35 bench club is strewn with names of guys who had past hitting success (Jim Eisenreich, I’m looking at you) but were in such decline that not even their veteran moxie could save them.

Even Mota had some unimpressive 35-and-up seasons. Because many of these players don’t get a lot of at-bats, their performances can fluctuate quite a bit year to year. It’s not as if older players are doomed to failure, but there’s clearly nothing about being a veteran that guarantees bench success.

And that makes sense, despite the baseball cliches that would suggest otherwise. After all, there’s a reason these guys lose their starting jobs in the first place — and usually, that reason is related to offense more than defense.

There are some names in the below-average portion of this chart that are actually part of Dodger lore: Vic Davalillo in 1977, Jay Johnstone in 1981, Mark Loretta last October — players who by virtue of a single at-bat put a positive stamp on disappointing seasons. That doesn’t change the fact that overall, veteran benchmen have been more forgettable than memorable.

You can still argue for keeping a Garret Anderson over a Xavier Paul. Maybe the Dodgers will get more long-term value out of Paul if he plays every day in Albuquerque until he’s needed. Maybe there’s a matchup in a key September or October game that Anderson will use his experience to take advantage of. Maybe Anderson’s numbers will improve if his at-bats are rationed.

On the other hand, Paul is 25 years old, entering his prime, superior on defense and already performing at a level on offense that projects better in 2010 than Anderson does. It’s not clear at all that it benefits the Dodgers to hand Anderson a job that he would be earning solely through his resume.


Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Rick Monday 194 156 1981 35 11 .423 .608 1.031
Manny Mota 176 50 1977 39 1 .521 .500 1.021
Duke Snider 149 196 1962 35 5 .418 .481 .899
Rick Monday 140 254 1982 36 11 .372 .481 .852
Olmedo Saenz 132 204 2006 35 11 .363 .564 .927
Jose Morales 131 34 1982 37 1 .382 .433 .816
Rick Dempsey 129 198 1988 38 7 .338 .455 .793
Ken Boyer 123 243 1968 37 6 .317 .403 .720
Jose Morales 121 54 1983 38 3 .296 .509 .806
Chad Kreuter 116 271 2000 35 6 .416 .410 .827
Doug Mientkiewicz 115 20 2009 35 0 .400 .389 .789
Mitch Webster 114 93 1994 35 4 .344 .464 .808
Manny Mota 110 47 1979 41 0 .400 .357 .757
Rick Monday 109 208 1983 37 6 .351 .399 .750
Manny Mota 106 60 1976 38 0 .367 .346 .713
Jeff Reboulet 105 253 2001 37 3 .367 .397 .764
Kevin Elster 104 259 2000 35 14 .341 .455 .796
Trent Hubbard 102 120 1999 35 1 .387 .390 .777
Vic Davalillo 102 81 1978 41 1 .333 .390 .723
Robin Ventura 100 127 2003 35 5 .331 .422 .753
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Gary Carter 98 280 1991 37 6 .323 .375 .698
Willie Randolph 98 113 1990 35 1 .364 .344 .707
Chad Kreuter 97 234 2001 36 6 .355 .377 .732
Enos Cabell 96 208 1985 35 0 .340 .349 .689
Jerry Grote 96 83 1978 35 0 .354 .343 .697
Manny Mota 96 37 1978 40 0 .361 .333 .694
Brett Butler 95 178 1995 38 0 .368 .336 .703
Bill Mueller 94 126 2006 35 3 .357 .402 .759
Chad Kreuter 94 108 2002 37 2 .333 .379 .712
Brad Ausmus 93 107 2009 40 1 .343 .368 .712
Pee Wee Reese 87 181 1958 39 4 .337 .381 .718
Robin Ventura 86 175 2004 36 5 .337 .362 .699
Bill Russell 85 298 1984 35 0 .329 .321 .649
Manny Mota 85 72 1974 36 0 .328 .316 .644
Sandy Alomar 84 62 2006 40 0 .323 .403 .726
Manny Mota 84 59 1975 37 0 .357 .286 .643
Bill Russell 83 192 1985 36 0 .333 .308 .641
Reggie Smith 83 44 1981 36 1 .318 .314 .632
Boog Powell 83 53 1977 35 0 .415 .244 .659
Otis Nixon 82 191 1997 38 1 .323 .349 .671
Rick Dempsey 81 183 1989 39 4 .319 .305 .623
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Devon White 79 168 2000 37 4 .310 .386 .696
Vic Davalillo 79 48 1977 40 0 .313 .354 .667
Ron Coomer 78 137 2003 36 4 .299 .368 .667
Jay Johnstone 77 90 1981 35 3 .267 .349 .616
Juan Castro 76 121 2009 37 1 .311 .339 .650
Gil Hodges 76 245 1961 37 8 .313 .372 .685
Gil Hodges 76 231 1960 36 8 .291 .371 .661
Geronimo Berroa 74 35 2000 35 0 .343 .323 .665
Al Oliver 74 85 1985 38 0 .294 .316 .611
Carl Furillo 74 103 1959 37 0 .333 .333 .667
Bill Russell 73 242 1986 37 0 .302 .301 .603
Rick Monday 73 57 1984 38 1 .309 .298 .607
Steve Yeager 72 221 1984 35 4 .295 .310 .605
Jim Gilliam 71 273 1966 37 1 .315 .268 .583
Rickey Henderson 70 84 2003 44 2 .321 .306 .627
Wally Moon 69 104 1965 35 1 .304 .270 .574
Gary Bennett 68 23 2008 36 1 .261 .381 .642
Tim Wallach 68 175 1996 38 4 .286 .333 .619
Rick Dempsey 68 151 1990 40 2 .318 .281 .599
Vic Davalillo 68 29 1979 42 0 .310 .296 .607
Elmer Valo 68 115 1958 37 1 .322 .317 .639
Brett Butler 66 145 1996 39 0 .313 .290 .603
Davey Lopes 66 243 1981 36 5 .289 .285 .574
Olmedo Saenz 65 132 2007 36 4 .295 .345 .641
Cesar Cedeno 65 87 1986 35 0 .294 .282 .576
Mark Belanger 63 57 1982 38 0 .309 .260 .569
Bill Madlock 62 69 1987 36 3 .265 .344 .609
Mark Loretta 60 204 2009 37 0 .309 .276 .585
Jose Valentin 60 184 2005 35 2 .326 .265 .591
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Mark Sweeney 55 34 2007 37 0 .294 .303 .597
Jeff Reboulet 55 58 2002 38 0 .291 .271 .562
Chris Donnels 54 101 2001 35 3 .277 .295 .573
Phil Garner 54 151 1987 38 2 .299 .270 .569
Ken Boyer 49 36 1969 38 0 .250 .265 .515
Shawn Gilbert 47 23 2000 35 1 .227 .350 .577
Jim Leyritz 47 68 2000 36 1 .294 .267 .561
Mitch Webster 46 63 1995 36 1 .246 .286 .532
Irv Noren 46 26 1960 35 1 .231 .320 .551
Steve Yeager 43 131 1985 36 0 .246 .256 .502
Mike Lieberthal 41 82 2007 35 0 .280 .260 .540
Jim Eisenreich 39 140 1998 39 0 .266 .244 .510
Mickey Hatcher 39 141 1990 35 0 .248 .250 .498
Chris Cannizzaro 35 25 1973 35 0 .280 .190 .470
Brent Mayne 29 113 2004 36 0 .286 .188 .473
Mark Sweeney 13 108 2008 38 0 .250 .163 .413
Jose Morales 3 20 1984 39 0 .200 .158 .358
Maury Wills 3 152 1972 39 0 .190 .167 .357
Milt Thompson -3 57 1996 37 0 .211 .137 .348

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