Oct 06

The tarp is on the field – in Los Angeles

Boy, it’s perfect weather in Los Angeles today to relax at home in front of the opening day of the 2010 MLB playoffs. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’ll be doing, but you’re welcome to camp out here — especially if you’re a Dodger Stadium groundskeeper with nothing to do but watch raindrops quaintly splash on an empty field.

Rangers at Rays, 10:37 a.m.

Reds at Phillies, 2:07 p.m.

Yankees at Twins, 5:37 p.m.

Oct 04

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: That’s a Wrap edition

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireClayton Kershaw: 22 years old, 2.91 ERA, 212 strikeouts

When I started doing Cogs and Dogs this spring, I had no idea … about anything. No idea where it would lead or if I would keep it going. In the end, I made it through the season with only a couple of missed off days, and I feel it was worth it in all its strange triviality.

The main thing I didn’t anticipate was how weak the list would look in the top 10. In the first five spots, you’ll find players who had unquestionably solid seasons. But then, starting at the No. 6 position, you have one of the year’s biggest disappointments, an injury-riddled shortstop, an aging third baseman prone to deep slumps, a homerless bench player and a first baseman who barely OPSed .700. And that, really, says as much as anything why the Dodgers aren’t playing any more this month

It seems appropriate to me that the top three spots go to the season-long stalwarts of the Dodger starting rotation, and that the top spot itself go to the team’s one truly exceptional player from start to finish in 2010, Clayton Kershaw. He was not only steady, almost never seeming to disappoint, but he was also the one guy who, as the year went by, most gave you that “What will he do next?” feeling. He’s a special player. Hopefully, a few more Dodgers can follow in his footsteps next year.

Here’s the final list, in all its dope and glory …

Final 9/13 8/23 8/9 7/26 7/12 High Low Player Comment
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 20 Clayton Kershaw In a year that taught us the dangers of too much hope, he was the exception that disproved the rule.
2 2 2 3 3 5 1 5 Hiroki Kuroda Simply one of my favorite Dodgers of the past several years.
3 4 4 6 10 10 4 12 Chad Billingsley One of the year’s best stories. What a thrill to see him come back so strong.
4 3 3 4 4 3 1 11 Andre Ethier Mr. Intensity, Mr. Walkoff, ended with solid numbers but became kind of an afterthought. Was it injuries?
5 6 6 5 7 8 6 18 Hong-Chih Kuo It was a privilege this year, Hong-Chih.
6 7 7 10 8 9 1 11 Matt Kemp He finished strong. Hurdles happen, but next season will be a proving ground.
7 5 5 2 2 2 2 14 Rafael Furcal Such talent handicapped by that sore body. Not sure what can be done about it.
8 10 13 12 11 11 6 16 Casey Blake A really likeable player, straining for excellence, but gravity gets all of us in the end.
9 8 8 15 16 14 8 21 Jamey Carroll The Engergizer bunny. He was the glue that held together this … well, fourth-place team, but still, good glue.
10 9 9 7 5 6 5 24 James Loney If 2011 were 1977, Tommy Lasorda would just tell Loney to hit more home runs – and he would – and we’d all rejoice.
11 13 17 25 NR NR 13 25 Ted Lilly Fun to watch when he’s on a roll.
12 12 12 11 6 4 3 12 Manny Ramirez As time passes, it’s going to be weird how brief the chaotic Ramirez era will seem. But no regrets. Not a one.
13 11 11 9 9 7 4 13 Jonathan Broxton Brad Lidge (ERAs by year: 6.23, 3.60, 1.90, 2.29, 5.28, 3.36, 1.95, 7.21, 2.96) welcomes Broxton to the world of ups and downs.
14 14 14 13 14 15 2 15 Russell Martin Just wondering if there’s a way back home for him.
15 16 15 14 15 13 12 16 Blake DeWitt Worst comes to worst, maybe he morphs into Dave Hansen?
16 19 24 26 26 NR 24 26 Kenley Jansen An exciting debut – just hope he doesn’t go Yhency on us. (Khenley?)
17 15 10 8 12 17 8 25 Vicente Padilla Thought he’d just be medicore, instead of horrible/absent/great/absent. Be safe this winter, Vicente.
18 20 16 16 17 21 7 21 Carlos Monasterios This guy pitched way above his station, including a 2.06 ERA in relief. He earned his roster spot all year.
19 22 NR NR NR NR 22 22 Rod Barajas Good home run power, but might be next year’s Ronnie Belliard.
20 17 18 17 13 12 5 26 John Ely Prokapec of pickled peppers. Ely, don’t leave me this way.
21 26 23 23 24 24 9 26 Ramon Troncoso 2009: Made you forget Cory Wade. 2010: Made you remember Cory Wade.
22 35 32 29 27 26 19 35 A.J. Ellis Not quite a John Lindsey story, but still a happy turn of events in September for this 29-year-old rookie.
23 21 27 33 NR NR 21 33 Jay Gibbons Fielded himself out of a chance to start for the Dodgers next year, but looks like a good part-timer to have.
24 23 21 28 NR NR 21 28 Ryan Theriot Still not convinced his defense is exceptional enough for that bat and that salary.
25 18 19 20 20 19 8 20 Reed Johnson Basically solid against lefties, despite walking only five times all year.
26 24 22 21 21 22 21 24 Travis Schlichting There’s going to come a time when I forget about his four-inning shutout heroics against Arizona, but man, at the time, it seemed huge.
27 27 25 18 19 18 17 27 Ronald Belisario Belisario 2: Erratic Boogaloo
28 28 26 32 NR NR 26 32 Octavio Dotel We have to stop trading like this.
29 25 20 19 18 16 15 25 Jeff Weaver Tough second half knocks him back to non-roster status for next Spring Training.
30 29 28 34 NR NR 28 34 Scott Podsednik Honestly, he really, really didn’t play well for the Dodgers. This trade was a bust.
31 31 30 27 25 25 23 31 Justin Miller Vintage case of the up-and-down AAAA reliever. Helped more than he hurt, I feel.
32 30 29 24 23 20 7 30 Ronnie Belliard Like George Costanza, sometimes you need to know when to leave the room.
33 32 31 22 22 23 15 32 Xavier Paul Didn’t expect miracles from Paul, but was hoping for more than we got.
35 33 33 30 28 27 25 33 Jon Link Amid all the bullpen trouble, it’s a little surprising he didn’t get a bit longer of a look.
34 34 34 31 29 28 23 34 Brad Ausmus A million bucks for 22 times on base, but it was hard to feel bad about it Sunday.
36 36 36 36 35 36 26 36 George Sherrill From glory to the gallows. My disbelief over how bad it got for him hasn’t gone away.
37 39 NR NR NR NR 39 39 Trent Oeltjen The Australian Chad Hermansen?
38 37 37 37 31 30 17 37 Ramon Ortiz Thinking about him now makes me feel like I aged years this season.
39 40 NR NR NR NR 40 40 John Lindsey Smile of the year award. We’re holding a permanent spot for you in Dodger folklore.
40 38 NR NR NR NR 38 38 Juan Castro Strikeout, lineout, walk, strikeout, see ya …
41 41 38 38 32 31 27 41 Nick Green It’s fascinating how worried the Dodgers were at one point about keeping him in the organization.
42 46 NR NR NR NR 46 46 Russ Mitchell 42 at-bats, 36 outs, two homers and no walks is one of the oddest debuts I can remember.
43 43 39 39 33 33 3 43 Charlie Haeger Had a thrilling first start, but it didn’t get much more painful in 2010 than watching him go outless against Colorado.
44 42 35 35 30 29 29 42 Chin-Lung Hu Still waiting to see if he can reach Juan Castro heights for his career.
45 44 40 40 37 NR 37 44 James McDonald He may end up having a nothing career, but his departure still leaves a bad taste.
46 45 42 42 36 35 22 45 Russ Ortiz They got rid of him early. But next year, they’ll just be another one.
47 47 41 41 34 34 16 47 Garret Anderson It was disconcerting to spend the year looking at someone younger than me seem so old. Now, he’s back to being younger than me forever.
48 48 43 43 38 32 32 48 Scott Elbert Just four years ago, the future of Elbert and Greg Miller looked unlimited.
49 49 44 44 39 NR 39 49 Jack Taschner In the end, I have tremendous respect for anyone who makes it this far.
Oct 03

Ex-Dodgers in the 2010 playoffs

These former Dodgers spent time on the eight teams in the 2010 major league baseball playoffs. Not all, of course, will be on the postseason rosters or are even still with the organization.  Still, you know darn well the eight finalists couldn’t have done it without:

Atlanta Braves
David Ross (.871 OPS in 145 plate appearances)
Derek Lowe (4.00 ERA in 193 2/3 innings pitched)
Scott Proctor (6.35 ERA in 5 2/3 IP)
Takashi Saito (2.83 ERA in 54 IP)

Cincinnati Reds

Philadelphia Phillies
Wilson Valdez (.667 OPS in 363 PA)
Jayson Werth (.921 OPS in 652 PA)
Danys Baez (5.48 ERA in 47 2/3 IP)

San Francisco Giants
Cody Ross (.819 OPS in 82 PA)
Guillermo Mota (4.33 ERA in 54 IP)

Minnesota Twins
Orlando Hudson (.710 OPS in 559 PA)
Jason Repko (.671 OPS in 146 PA)
Jim Thome (1.039 OPS in 340 PA)

New York Yankees
Chad Moeller (.695 OPS in 15 PA)
Chan Ho Park (5.60 ERA in 35 1/3 IP)

Tampa Bay Rays
Willy Aybar (.654 OPS in 309 PA)
Dioner Navarro (.528 OPS in 142 PA)

Texas Rangers

Alex Cora (.571 OPS in seven PA)

Oct 03

Looking back on 2010: The Dodger Thoughts reader predictions thread revisited

No one totally nailed it, but here are five March predictions for the 2010 Dodgers that came close in some ways, if not all:

plaza23 (3/29/2010 at 9:49 PM)
The Dodgers went 82-80 because their older vets were ineffective (Manny, Blake, Furcal, Kuroda, Ortiz, Padilla). Kemp, Ethier, Kershaw kept the team treading water at .500.

johnrjames25 (3/29/2010 at 2:17 PM)
I see the Dodgers going 85-77, a little worse than last year b/c of a slower start. The McCourts divorce overshadows the season and prevents a July acquisition for a final playoff push. They miss the playoffs.

Marty_Leadman (3/29/2010 at 1:56 PM)
The Dodgers go 77-85, but still finish second in 2010 as just about everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. The only player that significantly improves is Chad Billingsley who posts a 2.99 ERA despite only 9 wins.

MrCourt5782 (3/29/2010 at 9:42 AM)
The Dodgers went 85-77 in 2010 because of a lack of production anywhere in the lineup other than the 2-4 spots. Furcal did nothing from the lead-off spot, Loney wasn’t productive enough to drive in the Big 3, Russ continued to struggle, and Casey Blake was nothing without his beard. Kershaw and Billingsley performed brilliantly, and DeWitt was also a bright spot, but the bullpen did not hold up as imagined, and Kuroda and Padilla under-performed. The season was a disappointment compared to the last 2, but we all knew from the beginning that no Dodger team has ever made the playoffs 3 years in a row, and the McCourt saga negatively affected the possibility of trade deadline acquisitions. The core of Ethier, Kemp, Loney, Kershaw, Billingsley, and Broxton will press on though, and 2011 will be an entirely different story with new ownership and a renewed spirit.
Disclaimer: I am not the pessimist I may seem to be. I am a die hard fan that lives and breathes the Dodgers. Unfortunately, I just have a feeling about this season, and as you can tell, it’s not a good one.

foxcpa (3/29/2010 at 8:51 AM)
82-80, the bullpen failed to repeat its performance of 2009…yet we are not eliminated from the division race until the final weekend

Oct 03

Farewell, 2010

Courtesy Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles DodgersBrad Ausmus

Farewells and me do not agree. They bring a lingering pain. I begin taking a long look back before I’ve even left.

I’ve been looking to the end of these grueling final weeks of the Dodger season as something of a relief, but this weekend reminded me of all the things I love about the game (minus the postseason triumph, of course). Today, when the Dodgers had the opportunity to send me off with a “Good riddance” affair, they pulled me back in, just as we were saying goodbye.

There was yet another fine pitching performance, this time from Ted Lilly. There was yet another blast from Matt Kemp, off a Rodrigo Lopez meatball, giving Kemp home runs in his final five games of the year and birthing the possibility of his redemption. There was a Dodger victory the way we hoped more of them would come. There was beautiful weather, a beautiful ballpark and beautiful family all around me.

There was Joe Torre’s farewell from uniform, perhaps forever, after the heartiest of careers. There was John Lindsey’s farewell from uniform, perhaps forever, after the briefest of careers.

Most of all the events on the field, what reached me was Brad Ausmus. I had been the sourpuss who disapproved of signing Ausmus each of the past two seasons, figuring that what he would be able to contribute wasn’t worth what he would pay. But today, watching his final moments on the field steeped the emotions already brewing within me. I felt privileged to be able to cheer him on, right up to his 1,579th career hit in his final at-bat.

And so when Hong-Chih Kuo got the season’s final out, and it was all over, I felt I had to just short of literally tear myself away from my favorite seat in all of the world.

These emotions will be hard for many to understand, coming at the end of a misbegotten season. They even surprised me some.  But there they were. We’ll all move forward, myself included, but I left something behind this year. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Though the commenting declined at Dodger Thoughts this season (and the main reasons for that aren’t lost on me), I still do appreciate any and all of you stopping by to say hi and share your thoughts. Of course, there will be plenty going on here in the offseason, but in any case, here’s to all the best for all of you going forward.

* * *

The Watch List

3) Kemp finished the year with a career-high 28 home runs to lead the team by five.

4) Kemp passed Loney at the finish, lapping up his 88th and 89th RBI to Loney’s 88.

6) Rafael Furcal used up his one free at-bat, finishing the year with a batting average at .3002.

7) There was one drive off Ted Lilly that looked like it might have some distance, but in the end he gave up no home runs while walking two, and finishes his Dodger season with 13 walks and 12 homers allowed.

8) Jamey Carroll got four plate appearances, but he kept his 2010 homer ledger clean.

Two more notes: Kuo finished with the lowest ERA in Dodger history for a pitcher with at least 50 innings in a season. His 1.200 mark just barely bested Eric Gagne’s 1.202 from 2003. Also, Kenley Jansen’s 0.67 ERA is the fourth-lowest in major-league history for a rookie with at least 25 innings.

Oct 03

Season finale game chat

And so we come to the end, for me a mix of disappointment in our fate and relief that it will finally be put to bed. I’ll be headed with my family to today’s season finale, which holds an additional significance that I can’t really describe here. It’s going to be a melancholy day for me.

Elsewhere, there’s the excitement of the National League playoff races still undecided:

Phillies at Braves, 10:35 a.m.

Padres at Giants, 1:05 p.m.

* * *

Ken Levine has this tribute to Joe Torre. I wish him, Brad Ausmus and all the others who might be spending their final day with the Dodgers the best.

Oct 02

Dodgers trying to go out in style, 3-2

Adam Davis/Icon SMIChad Billingsley struck out five of the first nine batters he faced.

Alex Gallardo/AP
Andre Ethier, who went 4 for 4, greets Matt Kemp at home plate following Kemp’s two-run home run.

With Chad Billingsley pitching brilliantly, Matt Kemp slugging a homer here and making a diving catch there, and Andre Ethier going 4 for 4 … you’d almost think you had a ballclub.

The reality was you had but one victory, the Dodgers’ 79th in 161 games, 3-2 over Arizona. But, they’ll take it.

Billingsley pitched brilliantly, taking a perfect game into the fifth, a no-hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the eighth. He had whittled his ERA for the season down to 3.47 and struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings before finally getting touched for two runs in the eighth. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth and, though he allowed the tying run to reach second base, struck out the side for the save.

Kemp homered for the fourth consecutive game, getting a green light on a 3-0 pitch from guest manager Jamey Carroll and drilling it out to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. Prime Ticket had great audio of Carroll celebrating his decision in the dugout: “That’s why we do it!” (They also caught Carroll showing his excitement over the potential three-way tie between San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta for the final two playoff spots in the National League, as well as becoming the second manager in as many nights to as Clayton Kershaw to get him a sandwich.)

* * *

The watch list

3) Ethier will need a heck of a memorable Sunday to catch Kemp, whom he trails in home runs, 27-23.

4) Kemp’s 86th and 87th RBI pulled him within one of James Loney for the team lead.

6) Rafael Furcal did not play again, with Joe Torre telling reporters before the game that the team is consciously trying to keep Furcal’s average over .300. Furcal is not expected to bat more than once in Sunday’s finale.

10) Pittsburgh lost, clinching the worst record in the National League since the All-Star break.

Oct 02

Nice night for a game

It was a vintage Losers Dividend game Friday. By my estimation, fewer than 10,000 people were in the seats when John Ely threw the first pitch of the Dodgers’ eventual 7-5 loss to Arizona, a defeat that guaranteed the team’s first losing record since 2005. Between Friday traffic and disenchantment with the team (“Ennui are the champions”), it looked like we had a minor-league crowd on our hands.

Soon enough, many of the empty seats did start to fill, and the final fireworks night of the season, along with a Dodger rally, kept them sufficiently occupied. It ended up being a good night, except for Ely and the final score.

I’m quite certain about one thing: I’ve never been to three consecutive games in which the Dodgers fell behind by six runs. September 19, they fell behind 6-0 but rallied to beat Colorado. Two nights later, they dropped a 6-0 decision to San Diego. So this, as my brother pointed out, would be the tiebreaker, and it kind of went down to the wire.

Down 7-1 after Ely allowed three singles, three doubles, three walks and a home run in 4 2/3 innings, the Dodgers took advantage of a bullpen weaker than theirs to come back. Los Angeles had only four hits, yet reached base 12 times. After two runs came across in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Rod Barajas hit a rocket as the tying run, but the missile fell short of being a grand slam, touching down as a sacrifice fly in speedy Chris Young’s glove. The Dodgers added their fifth run of the game in the bottom of the seventh, but that was all.

I got swept up enough in the hopes of the rally that I briefly rooted for Rafael Furcal to pinch-hit for Chin-Lung Hu in the eighth, before telling myself no, Hu should get the at-bats. Casey Blake did get one last chance to tie the game after Ryan Theriot walked with two out in the bottom of the ninth but struck out on a checked swing.

It was a lovely night at the game, not without its melancholy or any understanding that the baseball world didn’t care about it, but not a night in which it felt I had nothing to root for.

* * *

The Watch List

3) Kemp homered for the third straight game, giving him a team-high 26 compared to Andre Ethier’s 23. It’s the third time this season Kemp has homered in at least three consecutive games.

4) Kemp has eight RBI in his past three games, giving him 85. James Loney keeps holding him off, though. Loney had his seventh RBI of the past week Friday after going 10 consecutive starts without one, giving him 88. Ethier also drove in a run but is seven back of Loney at 81.

6) Furcal did not play and remains at .301. A.J. Ellis needs to go 4 for 4 to get there, and he might not get another start this year.

10) Seattle’s 9-0 loss to Oakland on Friday eliminated the Dodgers from the worst record since the All-Star break competition, though the Dodgers can still tie Pittsburgh for worst since the All-Star Break in the NL:

26-46, .361 Seattle
27-45, .375 Pittsburgh
28-44, .389 Kansas City
29-43, .403 Los Angeles

By the way, the Dodgers are 19 1/2 games behind Philadelphia since Jonathan Broxton’s save gave the Phillies a chance at home-field advantage in the World Series.

* * *

Ned Colletti has no plans to trade Kemp, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com.

… Colletti made it clear on Friday that he’s not looking to trade Kemp, and feels very good about Kemp’s future with the team.

Colletti, like all general managers, will listen if somebody wants to call and make him a proposal on any of his players. “But there’s not going to be any shopping on our part,” said Colletti.

“I view all of our core younger guys as people who are going to be here for awhile.” …

… Kemp is perceived to have a good relationship with new manager Don Mattingly, and there is feeling in some corners of the organization that his ascension to manager will help patch the relationship between Kemp and the field staff.Colletti met with Kemp a couple of months ago and he walked away from that meeting feeling better than ever, he said, about Kemp’s commitment to becoming a great player. “We had probably the best conversation we’ve ever had,” said Colletti.

The GM believes that once Kemp gets to the offseason, he’ll have a chance to regroup and refocus — maybe in the same way that Cole Hamels did at the end of last season, when he learned from his mistakes and altered his preparation, to set up for a strong rebound season this year.

“I think Matty will be driven to be as good as he can possibly be,” said Colletti. …

* * *

  • Brad Ausmus looked comfortable as acting manager, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – and ready for retirement.
  • Kirk Gibson still treasures the memory of his 1988 World Series home run, writes Jim Alexander of the Press-Enterprise.
  • Chan Ho Park passed Hideo Nomo to become the winningest Asian-born pitcher in MLB history, notes The Associated Press. “It’s very special, 124 is nothing great for the major leagues, but it’s very special,” Park said. “It makes me think about 17 years ago when I first came, the people who brought me here, who helped me and still help me.”
Oct 01

Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Yo, Rubby Rubby

Jerry Sands got a decent amount of coverage while hitting 35 homers in the minor leagues this year, so his being named Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year comes as little surprise. But the Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year flew a little further under the radar: Rubby De La Rosa.

De La Rosa

A 21-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic, De La Rosa started the season at Single-A Great Lakes and had a 3.19 ERA with 55 strikeouts against 66 hits and walks in 59 1/3 innings (relieving in the first half of the season before being shifted into the rotation for five starts). Following a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga, De La Rosa started eight games, averaging 6.5 innings per start, and had 39 strikeouts in 51 innings against 59 hits and walks. In August, he made six starts that each lasted exactly seven innings, in which he allowed a grand total of seven earned runs.

Meanwhile, more established prospects like Chris Withrow and Ethan Martin had their struggles, while another contender, Elisaul Pimentel, was traded. Allen Webster, a 20-year-old who spent the year with Great Lakes, finished with a 2.88 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings, but in the end, De La Rosa rubbed the Dodgers the right way.