Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Defense (Page 1 of 4)

The Game 7 saviors: Sandy Amoros and Chris Taylor

You won’t see two better and bigger Dodger postseason catches than these …

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Versatile Dodgers move from Iron Men to Graphene Gang

Bill Russell with Walter Alston

If you have any sense of Los Angeles Dodger history (and if you don’t, click here!), you know about the iron man.

Steve Garvey played in every game the Dodgers had from 1976 through 1982 — 1,083 in all, and except for eight pinch-hitting appearances, all at his favored position of first base. At his durability peak in 1976, Garvey played in 1,464 2/3 innings, or all but six innings the Dodgers played that year.

Surprisingly, that 1976 season didn’t make Garvey the Dodgers’ all-time single-season innings leader. In a largely forgotten but rather astonishing 1973 season, Bill Russell was on the field at shortstop for every single out the Dodgers made except for four of them.

Playing at fair territory’s most challenging defensive position, Russell logged 1,489 2/3 innings and 160 complete games, both franchise records. He left only two games early:

  • On April 7, in the Dodgers’ second game of the season, Russell gave way in the top of the ninth inning to pinch-hitter Von Joshua, who hit a game-tying RBI single. Davey Lopes, who scored the tying run as a pinch-runner, went to shortstop for the first time in his MLB career in the bottom of the ninth, which lasted only two batters before Jerry Morales hit a walkoff homer against Dodger reliever Jim Brewer.
  • On July 21, Russell took a breather in the bottom of the eighth inning of an 8-1 loss at St. Louis, missing the Cardinals’ final three outs in what I expect was a steamy summer’s evening on the Busch Stadium astroturf.

That was it. Russell, who racked up 163 hits but only had a .301 on-base percentage in 1973, played in 99.9 percent of the Dodgers’ innings at short that year.

If those are the iron men, let me introduce you to (pause to Google most flexible metals in the world) the graphene men.

This year, the Dodgers are heading for a couple of unprecedented fielding events that underscores the team’s unusual versatility. For the first time in a 162-game season, there might not be a single Dodger to play even 1,000 innings at a single position — remarkable considering that the team will play close to 1,500. And, their leader in innings at one position — also for the first time since at least 1962 — might be a catcher.

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Clayton Kershaw a convert to shifting — but not pitch clocks

Screenshot: Gammons Daily

Clayton Kershaw, I think it’s safe to say, was a shifting cynic when aggressive defensive maneuvering took center stage a couple years back. Speaking with David Vassegh in this interview that ran Friday on AM 570, Kershaw conceded that he had come around to embrace defensive shifts (which always made sense) …

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Corey Seager’s durability stands out in 2016

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Howie Kendrick, 3B
Corey Seager, SS
Adrián González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Andrew Toles, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Jose De León, P

By Jon Weisman

Corey Seager, who in the starting lineup tonight for the 146th time in 158 games this season, has played 1,316 defensive innings in 2016.

That’s the third most by a Dodger shortstop in the 2000s, behind Cesar Izturis (1,386 in 2004) and Rafael Furcal (1,371 in 2006).

With all those innings, Seager has been the eighth most valuable defensive player in baseball this year, according to Fangraphs’ defensive rankings, which account for the value of each position.

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Yasiel Puig tops himself with unreal throw

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By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig is his own tough act to follow, but in the fifth inning tonight, he done outdone himself with a jaw-dropping missle from right field.

With the Dodgers leading 5-4 over the Rockies in Coors Field and one out, rookie phenom Trevor Story sent a fly ball high off the right-field screen, that Puig leaped for but couldn’t reach.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Puig, who earlier in the game matched his 2015 total with his third stolen base of 2016, raced from the wall to pick up the carom with his bare hand just in front of the warning track, as Story was passing second base and heading for third.

Somehow, Puig ripped a throw well over 300 feet, traveling 93.5 mph, that soared on the fly right to the third-base bag, where Justin Turner laid the tag for the Story-booked ending.

Puig.

Howie Kendrick an unusual choice for left field, but not the most unusual

Arizona Diamondbacks vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Howie Kendrick, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Alex Wood, P

By Jon Weisman

Howie Kendrick, who shifted from second base to left field late in Tuesday’s game, is making his first start in left since August 13, 2011 and 21st overall.

“In a perfect world, we would’ve gotten him more repetitions (in left field) this spring,” Dave Roberts said, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News. “The way Chase (Utley) is playing, I want to keep him in the lineup.”

Hoornstra added that Roberts believes that left field might be easier than second base physically for Kendrick, who fought off groin and calf issues to make his 2016 debut Tuesday.

Kendrick isn’t by any means the most unusual Dodger left fielder in recent years. Consider these …

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Yasiel Puig’s 96 mph fastball — from right field

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Just how strong is Yasiel Puig’s arm?

This week at MLB.com, MLB Statcast analyst Mike Petriello wrote about the top outfield arms in baseball. His methodology in brief appears at the end of this post. I followed up by asking Statcast for some numbers specific to the Dodgers, and here’s what I got:

  • 96.0 mph — Yasiel Puig
  • 90.8 mph — Joc Pederson
  • 90.5 mph — Scott Van Slyke
  • 88.5 mph — Alex Guerrero
  • 88.2 mph — Kiké Hernandez
  • 87.7 mph — Andre Ethier
  • 79.7 mph — Carl Crawford

Puig was 2.6 mph behind Houston’s Jake Marsinick, the top outfield arm in the Majors. Here’s a 99.4 mph throw that Puig made at Houston in August:

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Zack Greinke repeats as NL Gold Glove pitcher

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Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Photo: Jon SooHoo

By Jon Weisman

Zack Greinke has won his second consecutive National League Gold Glove Award. Known for his athleticism, Greinke was credited with nine defensive runs saved by Fangraphs, 50 percent more than anyone else in the league.

Greinke is the third two-time Gold Glove-winning pitcher, following Andy Messersmith and Greg Maddux. Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser and Clayton Kershaw are the Dodgers’ other Gold Glove-winning hurlers.

Adrian Gonzalez, a finalist for the Gold Glove at first base and a four-time winner including 2014, was beaten out by Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt.

2015 Dodgers Top 50: The best plays of the first half

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Texas Rangers

By Jon Weisman

We’re through the first 81 games of the 2015 season, and the Dodgers’ first half was nothing if not action-packed. To be completely honest with you, I tried to trim this collection of top Dodger plays down to 50 — removing some really fine moments — but if you count, you’ll find a few extra.

So I say, revel in it. Sit back, click and enjoy …

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Gallerama: Hot shots at Kershaw

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By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw stayed in the game after being struck by a Justin Upton liner in the first inning tonight — the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of shots up the middle against the Dodger ace.

Here’s a sample from the past two seasons …

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In case you missed it: Andre Ethier keeps on truckin’

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Diego Padres

For more images from Friday, visit LA Photog Blog — here and here.

Dodgers at Padres, 5:40 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
Brandon McCarthy, P

By Jon Weisman

So-called reserve outfielder Andre Ethier hasn’t exactly been a wallflower this season.

With Yasiel Puig’s left hamstring again ailing, Ethier is making his eighth start this season. He is also appearing in his 16th game out of the Dodgers’ first 17, more than every other Dodger except Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins and Joc Pederson.

So far in 2015, Ethier is 9 for 30 with four walks, two hit-by-pitches and an extra-base hit of each kind, giving the 33-year-old a .405 on-base percentage and .900 slugging percentage. All but five of his plate appearances have come against right-handed pitchers, which is what he’s facing tonight in San Diego’s Ian Kennedy.

Here are some other pregame notes:

  • Both Puig and reliever Joel Peralta are candidates to go on the disabled list, Don Mattingly toward reporters today, but no decision has been made. Peralta told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he has no pain but also no strength in his right arm.
  • Right-handed pitcher Scott Baker has arrived in San Diego with the intent of making the start Sunday for the Dodgers. Baker, who came within one strike of a seven-inning perfect game for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, allowed two runs on 10 hits with one walk while striking out 16 in his three minor-league starts. The 33-year-old had a 5.47 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings for Texas last season.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu is going to throw a bullpen session, possibly as soon as Sunday, Mattingly said.
  • Defensive positioning paid off in two big ways for the Dodgers in Friday’s 3-0 victory over San Diego. In the second inning, Howie Kendrick was standing almost directly behind second base when he caught Wil Myers’ line drive, completing Zack Greinke’s escape from a bases-loaded, none-out jam. And shortstop Jimmy Rollins ended up on the other side of second base when he threw out Yonder Alonso with two on and two out in the bottom of the eight.
  • Rollins went 0 for 4 to lower his on-base percentage to .282, but he really saved the Dodgers in that eighth inning, throwing out Wil Myers from the grass in left field for the first out, then later knocking down a Justin Upton shot to keep Matt Kemp from scoring from second base.
  • With his seven shutout innings, Zack Greinke lowered his ERA to 1.35, fourth in the National League.
  • Yimi Garcia’s perfect ninth inning, leading to his first Major League save, means that he has faced 36 batters this season and allowed only three singles and three walks while striking out 16.
  • Carl Crawford, who hit his first homer of 2015 Friday, did not hit between .200 and .300 in any given month last season. His batting averages the last three months of 2014: .163, .313, .448. Crawford is currently batting .244 with a .262 on-base percentage and .390 slugging percentage.
  • When Yasmani Grandal had to settle for a double after nearly hitting a home run in the second inning Friday, it set the stage for Juan Uribe’s first RBI of the 2015 season. Uribe hasn’t had more steals than homers since 2002, but for now, he’s one up in the stolen-base department.
  • First-base coach Davey Lopes, who turns 70 May 3, “is the oldest person in uniform with a big league team this season,” according to Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com.

Defensive shifts are old news

Shift1

Patrick Gee/Los Angeles Dodgers (April 2014)

By Jon Weisman

One of the strangest things to me about any controversy regarding defensive shifts in baseball is that every team I’ve ever played on since I was 8 (mostly softball, admittedly) has shifted based on familiarity with the hitters on the other team.

Of course, that doesn’t mean mistakes don’t happen, but if you knew a batter tended to hit a ball in a certain spot, you always shaded that way and dared him to beat you in another spot. If he did, tip the cap. But at least they had the burden.

If you knew where a batter tended to hit and you didn’t move to cover that spot, that would be bizarre. It would be like knowing that a batter liked fastballs in … and continuing to throw fastballs in.

Shifts in baseball in 2015, such as the Dodgers have been using, might be more common, more extreme, more committed, more intense on the risk-reward proposition, but they’re an outgrowth of the way baseball has been played as long as I’ve known it — and longer than that I’m sure.

Previously on Dodger Insider: Defensive shifts and the Dodgers (May 2014)

Dodger defense will see better days after 7-3 defeat

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By Jon Weisman

Three sighs, and the Dodgers were out.

Adrian Gonzalez is hitting like a man possessed in his first two games of 2015 and Zack Greinke was practically untouchable in his season debut, but the Dodgers are 1-1, thanks to a three-error performance by their defense tonight that figures to be uncharacteristic.

After a 30-minute rain delay, San Diego topped Los Angeles, 7-3, scoring its first four runs thanks to shortcomings by the Dodger defense.

  • Racing in on a wet outfield, Carl Crawford’s diving attempt failed to corral Justin Upton’s sinking liner in the first inning, allowing it to scoot past for an RBI triple. Padres 1, Dodgers 0.
  • Jimmy Rollins lost his balance while backpedaling for a seventh-inning Yangervis Solarte pop-up, dropping the ball to allow Yonder Alonso to score. Combined with a second-inning miscue on a grounder, it was Rollins’ first two-error game since August 10, 2010. Padres 2, Dodgers 2.
  • With two on and one out and in the top of the eighth, Will Middlebrooks flied to Yasiel Puig, who caught the ball flat-footed. Derek Norris tagged up and went to third base, then scored on an Alonso single. Padres 3, Dodgers 2.
  • In the ninth, after Clint Barmes singled, Cory Spangenberg reached base when Yasmani Grandal bobbled his bunt and then made a desperate throw into Spangenberg’s back. Barmes advanced to third, then scored on a single by Wil Myers. Padres 4, Dodgers 3.

The Padres would tack on three more runs to effectively put the game out of reach. San Diego won by four, scoring three unearned runs, plus the first inning tally that was questionably if officially earned.

“Errors are gonna happen,” Don Mattingly said. “The field – there was a little rain – but I think guys for the most part would say the field didn’t have a lot to do with it. Plays we have chances to make, we don’t make.”

Puig, as he so often does, recovered from his setback in impressive ways, making a difficult catch of a foul by Upton for the second out of the ninth. And the Dodgers were twice resilient, rallying from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits before the dam burst in the ninth.

Leading the way was Gonzalez, who became the first Major League player since Ray Jablonski in 1956 and second ever to have a single, double and home run in each of his first two games of the season. Gonzalez is 6 for 9 with a hard liner to third in his first at-bat of 2015. His sixth-inning double and eighth-inning homer each tied the game.

The Dodgers’ eight doubles in their first two games also ties a Los Angeles record set in 1995.

On the mound, Zack Greinke was fairly mesmerizing. After allowing a two-out hit to Matt Kemp in the first before Upton’s triple, Grienke held the next 18 Padres hitless with one walk. The bullpen didn’t fare nearly as well, with six relievers combining to allow nine hits over the final three innings.

Dodger defense off to quick start in 2015

Young shortstop Corey Seager turns one of two double plays in Saturday's 5-5 tie with the Indians, as Erisbel Arruebarrena stands by at second base.

Young shortstop Corey Seager turns one of two double plays in Saturday’s 5-5 tie with the Indians, as Erisbel Arruebarrena stands by at second base.

By Jon Weisman

Some strong up-and-down hitting and exciting pitching performances have grabbed the early spotlight for the Dodgers in Cactus League play, but there’s another pleasing small-sample development to note.

In 45 innings so far, the Dodgers have made only one error.

Errors aren’t everything — you also want to make more of the plays that don’t count as errors — but in general, the first five games give you a hint of what it means for the Dodgers to have increasingly valued in defense in 2015. Fewer errors misplays mean fewer runs and fewer pitches.

If you’re looking for a more advanced small-sample barometer, there’s this: According to MLB.com, the Dodgers currently are No. 1 in baseball in Defensive Efficency Ratio.

Defensive Efficiency Ratio is the rating of team defensive outs recorded in defensive opportunities. To determine Defensive Efficiency Ratio for a team, divide the total number of hits in play allowed (subtracting home runs and times reached on error) by the total number of defensive opportunities (all balls hit into play, not including home runs), and subtract from one: 1-(((H+ROE)-HR)/(PA-(SO+HBP+HR)))

So who made the error? It was former Gold Glover Darwin Barney, playing shortstop on Thursday rather than his usual second base.

The Dodgers’ first true catcher-second baseman could be Austin Barnes

Dodgers who have played catcher and second or third base 
C-2b-3B 2
2014 Miami Marlins Photo Day

By Jon Weisman

Twelve players in Dodger history have played both catcher and second base. Ten have played catcher, second and third.

No one in Dodger history has played more than 10 games at catcher, second base and third base. Only Derrel Thomas has played even five games at all three positions, and Thomas was truly an emergency catcher.

Austin Barnes, who came to the Dodgers from Miami in December, has the chance to carve out a unique place with the franchise.

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