Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Month: April 2014 (Page 2 of 6)

Dodgers let it go: The Cole never bothered me anyway

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Here he stands, in the light of day (well, night).

By Jon Weisman

Cole Hamels could have been trouble for a Dodger team feeling a bit frozen at the plate. But Zack Greinke brought the heat against the Phillies.

Greinke struck out 11 batters in seven innings, giving him 40 in 29 2/3 innings this season and a whopping 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings, in the Dodgers’ 5-2 victory over Philadelphia.

Last year’s Silver Slugger winner also contributed a walk and a double, the latter leading to the third run the Dodgers needed to end their two-game losing streak.

But Greinke didn’t have to go it alone. Dodger outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp also got in on the act. Puig drove home the Dodgers’ second and third runs with a two-out single in the fifth and a two-out triple in the eighth. Kemp had two doubles to raise his slugging percentage to .473.

Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez shushed the skeptics about his health with a sixth-inning double and an eighth-inning home run, and Drew Butera added his second two-hit game of 2014. Twelve hits in all for the boys in white and blue.

April 23 pregame: Kershaw set for Friday rehab start

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Yasiel Puig, RF
Andre Ethier, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Scott Van Slyke, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Justin Turner, 2B
Drew Butera, C
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

While the Dodgers are hosting the Colorado Rockies on Friday, a sold-out crowd for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes will see Clayton Kershaw in his first rehab start since going on the disabled list nearly a month ago.
This Brian Wilson bobblebeard has a beard that bobbles. Photo: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
The sellout at Rancho Cucamonga stems in part from the fact that it was already Brian Wilson Bobblebeard Night there. My colleague Cary Osborne had the picture sent over — and yes, the beard bobbles.

Ken Gurnick has more on Kershaw at MLB.com. The lefty is expected to make about 55 pitches, and then will have at least another rehab start after that.

* * *

Adrian Gonzalez will miss his first inning of 2014 when he starts tonight’s game on the bench. Don Mattingly saw the opportunity to give Gonzalez a rest against Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.

Greed is good for Gordon

Philadelphia Phillies v Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

When are we allowed to start believing in Dee Gordon? When do we get to tell midnight to shove off and that we’re keeping the royal carriage?

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Living and dying in the dream state

field

By Jon Weisman

More times than I can count since the Dodgers hired me nearly six months ago, I’ve been told I have a dream job, and I’m in no position to dispute that.

But landing employment in your own personal Neverland doesn’t diminish the stakes of your work. If anything, it heightens them, because if you can’t do the job at the place you love, there must be something wrong with you, right? You live from one “What have you done for me lately?” to the next.

Everyone on the Dodger roster has a job they dreamed of as children, a job they have spent their lives working toward. When I walk into the Dodger clubhouse, I never fail to be struck by the sense of accomplishment of everyone in it. On Monday, Jose Dominguez walked in, the latest to serve as the last man on the squad, but no less someone who is where he aimed to be. And you have to pay homage to that.

Then the “games” start. Games … dream job … play ball … but what have you done for me lately?

The grounded people find a base camp in the effort they make, in their inner John Wooden. (“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”) That can comfort you through an 0-for-4, or run-scoring single you didn’t want to allow or the error you can’t believe happened.

But let’s be real here. You don’t make all that effort to come up short. You make it to win. You are constantly aiming to conquer expectations, driven from within or without.

When you dream — more to the point, when you fantasize — do you dream of effort? Or do you dream of results?

On a night like tonight, when the Dodgers lose on an unearned run in the 10th inning, you’re reminded again that dreams still bring their share of heartbreak.

April 22 pregame: Short bench, long bullpen

Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers

This is not a new backup infielder for the Dodgers. Hyun-Jin Ryu Bobblehead Night is May 27.

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Dee Gordon, 2B
Tim Federowicz, C
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

By Jon Weisman

Since Chone Figgins was sent to Albuquerque, I’ve spent a little time thinking about this four-man bench the Dodgers are using. Normally, a 13-man pitching staff strikes me as excessive, but it’s hard to deny that right now, the 25th spot on the roster is better spent on an arm than … well, an arm and all the other body parts that position players use.

The five existing outfielders have the grass portion of Dodger Stadium covered. Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez aren’t coming out for a pinch-hitter anytime soon, and Dee Gordon and Justin Turner have locked up second base. If anyone needs a rest or is knocked out by injury mid-game, Scott Van Slyke can play first, and Turner the rest.

The Dodgers are thin in the pinch-hitting department, but it’s also not something they’ve done much of. In 20 games, the Dodgers have used 29 pinch-hitters — less than two per game. That’s not to say that with a deeper bench there wouldn’t have been more, but it wouldn’t have been much more. Last year, the Dodgers gave 209 plate appearances to pinch-hitters.

Figgins, believe it or not, is the only Dodger pinch-hitter to reach base more than twice this season, and 20 games into 2014, the Dodgers still don’t have a pinch-homer, pinch-triple or pinch-double. (They do have a pinch-sacrifice fly, from Justin Turner.)

By comparison, the 2014 Dodgers have gone to the bullpen 79 times, practically four times a game, for a total of 74 1/3 innings. And even the guys who have struggled some this year have an impact by taking away innings that would otherwise stress out the others. In most cases, a pinch-hitter is there for a minute and then gone.

Where the Dodgers could benefit is where every MLB team could benefit. It would be nice if their backup catcher weren’t held hostage and chained to the bench by the potential of an emergency. For most games, the backup catcher doesn’t exist as an option, meaning that realistically, the Dodgers’ four-man bench is actually three. But until the pitching changes decrease, less is probably more when it comes to the bench.

* * *

This is from a couple weeks back, but still worth a look. “Dr. James Andrews explains why Tommy John surgery is on the rise,” via Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk.

His answer: it’s not an anomaly, it’s a trend. And an alarming one, he says, in that so many more of the surgeries he’s performing are for high school pitchers as opposed to professionals with a few years under their belt. Kids are bigger and stronger these days, and their ability to throw harder is outpacing the development of their ulnar collateral ligaments.

But the biggest risk factor he and his researchers are seeing: year-round baseball. The fact that not only do pitchers throw year-round, but that they are pitching in competition year-round, and don’t have time to recover. Also: young players are playing in more than one league, where pitch count and innings rules aren’t coordinated. Another factor: the radar gun. Young pitchers who throw over 85 or so are at risk, and all of them who are on a major league track are throwing that fast or faster, and are going up in effort when scouts with guns are around.

Clayton Kershaw pitching to Don Mattingly

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From today’s bullpen session.

— Jon Weisman

Dodgers announce Adult Baseball Camp for November in Vero Beach

timeline-top-60s-longHistoric DodgertownBy Jon Weisman

Start getting yourself in shape for November.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp will return November 9-15 to Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.

“The Dodgers are delighted our fans will have the opportunity to interact with Dodger legends and experience the wonders of Historic Dodgertown at the adult baseball camp,” Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten said. “Historic Dodgertown plays an integral role in the lore of Dodger baseball and the camp will surely provide lasting memories for all participants.”

Campers will stay, play and dine on the Dodgertown campus, featuring 10 fields and 60 years of Dodger Spring Training history. It’s a short walk in a park-like setting from their housing villa to the baseball fields, the major league clubhouse, the inviting dining room, relaxing lounge and fitness center.

“Historic Dodgertown has been the site of more than 50 adult baseball camps, and we are committed to making the November 9-15 camp the most memorable ever,” said Peter O’Malley, chairman of Historic Dodgertown.

pom-dodgertown-director-sm

Photos courtesy of historicdodgertown.com

In the near future, the Dodgers will announce the past players and coaches who will serve as camp instructors. Instructors at previous camps have included Tommy Lasorda, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, Don Zimmer, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Rick Monday, Reggie Smith, Steve Yeager, Burt Hooton, Mike Scioscia, Jerry Reuss and camp coordinator Guy Wellman.

Included in the camp price are three meals a day, double occupancy lodging in one of Historic Dodgertown’s newly-designed villas, two authentic personalized Dodger jerseys (both home and road), a video of camp activities and team photo, an autographed baseball by the instructors and other Dodger personnel in attendance, participation in a game between instructors and campers at Holman Stadium, a poolside cocktail party on the first day after check-in, and use of the fitness center and recreational facilities (including basketball and tennis courts and the competition-size swimming pool).

For reservations or more information, call (844) 670-2735 or visit historicdodgertown.com.

Notes on a quiet night

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V PHILADELPHIA PHILLIESBy Jon Weisman

You don’t set out to lose a game, but it’s hard for me not to take a game like Monday’s 7-0 loss to Cliff Lee and the Phillies as a write-off. When Lee is so dominant that he can retire 20 guys in a row, my first thought is … hopefully, the Dodgers will have their answer soon in Clayton Kershaw.

  • How effective was Lee? There were five balls hit to the outfield all night: a single to center, a single to left and three flies into Tony Gwynn Jr.’s glove. No putouts were recorded in left field or right field, and in fact, neither John Mayberry Jr. nor Marlon Byrd so much as touched a live ball in right field all night.
  • Two Dodger batters reached the outfield after the second inning: Justin Turner sixth-inning fly to center and Tim Federowicz’s eighth-inning single.
  • Still playing .600 ball this season, the Dodgers were able to reset most of their bullpen, with Kenley Jansen, J.P Howell, Brian Wilson, Chris Withrow and Chris Perez all getting a day off, thanks to Brandon League and Jose Dominguez eating up two innings.
  • League has retired 12 of the past 15 batters he has faced.
  • It’s just not that easy to play this game, no matter how much you might think it is. If it were easy, Paul Maholm wouldn’t walk the power-challenged Gwynn leading off the game, or lob a short throw way over Adrian Gonzalez’s head for a run-scoring error in the fifth.
  • Carlos Ruiz will always be Carlos Ruiz, huh? With two doubles, a homer and a walk, the 35-year-old Phillies catcher raised his career OPS against Los Angeles to .880 (.423 OBP, .458 slugging). That doesn’t include a .989 postseason OPS against the Dodgers (.472 OBP, .517 slugging).
  • Monday’s late innings brought us the 2014 debuts of Justin Turner at third base and Scott Van Slyke in center field. Adrian Gonzalez is the last Dodger to play every inning at his position this year.
  • The loss was the first for the Dodgers by more than two runs since April 5, ending a streak of 12 games in a row in which they were winning or could have won with one swing of the bat in the ninth inning.

April 21 pregame: Dodgers option Figgins, call up Dominguez

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Yasiel Puig, RF
Justin Turner, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Paul Maholm, P

By Jon Weisman

To address the rather constant use of the bullpen during this stretch of 13 games in a row (not to mention 29 in 30 days), the Dodgers have recalled pitcher Jose Dominguez and optioned Chone Figgins to Albuquerque.

Don Mattingly called the use of the short bench “a temporary thing,” but said it has been something the Dodgers have been contemplating because as great as the starting pitching has been, the starters haven’t been pitching past the sixth inning very often. Extra-inning games in recent days haven’t helped.

“Every day, it seems like we’re walking a tightrope,” Mattingly said.

In case you’re wondering, Paco Rodriguez wasn’t eligible to be recalled because 10 days haven’t passed since he was optioned, and he’s not replacing a player on the disabled list. Figgins will use the opportunity to get some playing time in after registering only nine plate appearances and one putout since the 2014 season began 31 days ago.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s going to be horrible for Figgy to go down and get 25-30 at-bats,” Mattingly said.

Meanwhile …

  • Clayton Kershaw is scheduled for a bullpen session Tuesday.
  • A.J. Ellis is, if anything, ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • This is fun: Sharon Henry of the Register sketches out Vin Scully’s tools of the trade.
  • Over the years, Zack Greinke has tinkered with his pitches to stay ahead of hitters, writes Dave Cameron for Fox Sports.
  • Dodger Moments with Ross Porter, noted in our pre-Opening Day feature on the former Dodger announcer, has a website.
  • Why is the MLB strikeout rate continuing to rise? Chris Moran looks into the issue at Beyond the Box Score.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes the significance of Kenley Jansen striking out Paul Goldschmidt on a slider Saturday.
  • SI.com has a lengthy excerpt of John Rosengren’s “The Fight of their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption”
  • Author W.P. Kinsella describes how “Shoeless Joe” became “Field of Dreams” at ESPN.com. Remember, the Dodgers are showing “Field of Dreams” at Dodger Stadium immediately after the game against the Rockies on Saturday.
  • A different one of the names from my baseball book-reading youth, Zander Hollander, passed away at age 91.

The crazy rise in strikeouts for the Dodgers

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSPhoto: 2013 strikeout leader Clayton Kershaw throws his simulated game Sunday.

By Jon Weisman

Dodger hitters have never struck out more than 1,190 times in a season, a record set in 1996. This year, they’re on pace for 1,501.

Dodger pitchers have never struck out more than 1,292 batters in a season, a record set in 2013. This year, they’re on pace for 1,543. And Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched in a game since March.

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This time, again

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 5.29.14 PMBy Jon Weisman

When I posted my picks for the top 10 Dodger home runs of 2013, it was noted to me that Arizona’s Josh Collmenter gave up three of the 10 – which was surprising simply from a “What are the odds?” standpoint, as well as the fact that Collmenter allowed only eight in 92 innings last season.

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April 20 pregame: Playing the elements

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Andre Ethier, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Josh Beckett, P

By Jon Weisman

In 18 games so far this season, Dodger starting pitching has held opponents to one run or less 14 times (while going at least five innings). Which is pretty cool.

Los Angeles is 10-4 in those games. The four losses were:

  • March 30, when an ailing Brian Wilson allowed three eighth-inning runs after Hyun-Jin Ryu had pitched seven shutout innings in San Diego.
  • April 15, when Josh Beckett through five shutout innings and the Dodgers led, 2-1, in the ninth inning before San Francisco tied the game off Kenley Jansen and then outlasted the Dodgers in 12.
  • April 16, when Paul Maholm allowed one run in six innings but San Francisco scratched a game-winning run off J.P. Howell in the seventh.
  • April 18, when Zack Greinke allowed one run in six innings and the Dodgers twice rallied from one-run deficits, only to lose in 12 innings.

Each of these games is a what-might-have been-a-win, but note that the bullpen never a lead of more than one run to protect – and twice had no lead at all. Those are slim margins, indeed. Some, if not all, of those bullpen losses are really losses you could pin on the offense – not that the offense wasn’t challenged by playing at San Francisco.

Baseball today in a sense boils down to four elements: starting pitching, relief pitching, offense and fielding. (You could say two elements if you combined everything but offense into defense, but work with me.) If you have at least three of those elements working for you in a game, your chances of winning will be excellent. The Dodgers are a pretty good bet almost every day out.

Ryu to sign autographs to raise money for South Korean ferry victims

By Jon Weisman

Dodger pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will sign autographs for fans Sunday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Viva Los Dodgers in Lot 6 for monetary donations that will benefit the survivors and families of those who lost their lives aboard the South Korean ferry Sewol, which capsized on April 16.

Ryu will also select a fan at Viva Los Dodgers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday’s game.

Ryu will sign autographs for donations in the Dodgers’ autograph tent located to the right of the stage. On Friday, Ryu pledged a $100,000 donation via his HJ 99 foundation to a charity to help those affected by the Sewol ferry disaster.

Viva Los Dodgers, which begins at 10:30 a.m., is free with a ticket to Sunday’s game against Arizona.

April 19 pregame: Extra innings, extra impact

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Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers haven’t exactly been giving up runs by the bushel — only 10 in the past four days — thanks to two 12-inning games, the bullpen has been fairly taxed.

Even after Hyun-Jin Ryu threw seven innings on Thursday, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen combined to throw 58 pitches, a total that effectively kept the pair out of Friday’s 4-2, 12-inning loss to Arizona.

Thankfully for the Dodgers, Wednesday’s game was relatively light.

Here are the day-by-day totals:

Tuesday: 6 2/3 innings, 121 pitches
Wednesday: two innings, 31 pitches
Thursday: two innings, 58 pitches
Friday: six innings, 84 pitches

Wilson, Jansen and J.P. Howell would probably be the prime relievers as needed in support of Dan Haren tonight, when Los Angeles tries to bounce back from Friday’s disappointment, a game in which they rallied twice to tie (on home runs by Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe) only to lose.

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Yasiel Puig goes Yasiel Puig

By Jon Weisman

At this point, you could argue that Yasiel Puig is single-handedly funding the Internet, with all the clicks he is generating.

With two consecutive plays in the third inning of today’s Dodger game at San Francisco, Puig once again left the baseball world agog.

First, there was this not-by-design, 9-3 forceout.

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Then, this whirling dervish of a catch in windy deep right.

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