Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Defense (Page 2 of 4)

Gonzalez, Uribe win Wilson Defensive Player of the Year honors

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By Jon Weisman

You thought Tuesday’s Gold Glove announcement meant that we were done with fielding awards? You thought wrong.

Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe have been named winners at their positions of the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards, the defensive award officially recognized by Major League Baseball.

Winners were determined using a formula that combines traditional defensive stats with advanced metrics, as well as data via scouting service Inside Edge.

Unlike Gonzalez, Uribe did not win a Gold Glove, but we talked about his fielding bonafides two weeks ago.

Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke win Gold Gloves

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Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Greinke have each won their first Gold Gloves as Dodgers.

Gonzalez, who earned two Gold Gloves with San Diego and one with Boston, had 12 defensive runs saved, tops in the NL and 50 percent more than runners-up Justin Morneau and Matt Adams. Gonzalez also tied for first among NL first basemen in assists with 118 and led in putouts with 1,318.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Greinke, known for years as one of the most athletic pitchers in baseball, followed up his Silver Slugger-winning 2013 season by beating out teammate Clayton Kershaw for the Gold Glove. Greinke led all NL pitchers in putouts with 28 and was a narrow second behind Miami’s Henderson Alvarez in range factor. He was also tied for third in defensive runs saved with five (Kershaw led with seven).

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Update: Gonzalez praised Greinke on a conference call with reporters after the awards were announced.

“We have a bunch of pitchers that can really field their position,” Gonzalez said. “Zack is one of them – he’s shown since he’s been here that his athletic ability is incredible. He can do anything – he’s a guy you can put at any position on the field and he’s going to do a good job with it. He’s a guy who has an incredible feel for the game. When he’s pitching he positions us – tells us exactly where he wants us.”

I asked Gonzalez if fielding skills were easier to maintain than hitting skills as his career marched on.

“The best way to describe it is nobody’s hitting the ball any harder (when you’re on defense),” he said. “Pitchers are pitching the ball a lot harder compared to when I first came up.”

“Defensively, I think, experience plays a bigger role. Learning how to position yourself, knowing where to be, not relying as much on pure athleticism and pure range. Wally (bench coach Tim Wallach) does a great job of positioning me.”

Dodgers Top 50: The best plays of the second half

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

At the halfway point of the 2014 season, we gave you the Dodgers’ top 40 plays of the first 81 games. Without further ado, as part of our drumbeat of excitement heading into the postseason, here are the Dodgers’ top plays of the second half — with a bonus 10 to deliver a nice 50.

Yeah, you’re gonna want to be here a while …

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June 29 vs. St. Louis: Adrian Gonzalez teaches the Cardinals a lesson about the shift.

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Breaking down the breakdown: What happened with Puig and Kemp on that fly ball?

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By Jon Weisman

The costly (though thankfully not injurious) mishap between Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in the third inning Monday belied the smooth communication the Dodgers have had in the outfield since Puig became their center fielder.

Though casual observers might naturally assume, based on the stereotypical fears about Puig’s style of play, that Kemp and Carl Crawford have been playing DodgePuig for the past two months, Monday’s misplay was as unusual as it was harmful to the final score.

Kemp-PuigIn the immediate aftermath, there was considerable debate over who was at fault. Watching the play live and then numerous times on replay, I see two players both approaching the ball at fairly similar speeds — it was in the air long enough to be caught by either. (It’s not as if Kemp is at a standstill and Puig arrives like a freight train.)

Fundamentally, this is the center fielder’s ball if he wants it. So the only question in my mind is whether Puig called for it or not. If he did, then it’s his — if he doesn’t, then he needs to get out of Kemp’s way.  Puig didn’t give a demonstrative hand signal the way Kemp did, but whether Puig called for it verbally, I don’t know. The play might have been as simple as Puig calling for the ball and Kemp not hearing him, though Puig isn’t exactly volume-challenged.

Whatever went wrong, hopefully it will be addressed and corrected. It was an unfortunate play, and hopefully it’ll remain as unusual as it was.

Dodgers get some runs in their stalking of Nationals

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By Jon Weisman

Throwing out Matt Kemp at home in the bottom of the fourth inning emboldened the Washington Nationals, who then threw on wings of wax too close to the sun.

The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth with some beyond-daring baserunning, then added a two-run Juan Uribe homer in the sixth to give Clayton Kershaw more than enough support for a 4-1 victory Wednesday.

After Kershaw singled to start the inning, he dared to go from first to third on Dee Gordon’s single to center fielder Bryce Harper. Harper’s throw was offline, which led third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to try to nail Gordon at second base, a fool’s errand if there ever was one.

One out later, with runners then on second and third, Adrian Gonzalez grounded to the hole at short. Ian Desmond bobbled it as Kershaw crossed the plate, then nearly pierced the sky with a wild throw home that freed Gordon to score.

It was weird, wild stuff, man.

Kershaw, who became the only Dodger besides Sandy Koufax to reach the 200-strikeout mark for five consecutive seasons (Koufax did it for six, from 1961-66), once again managed the near-impossible, lowering his already ant-high ERA, from 1.73 to 1.70. He gave up a second-inning single and walks in the first and third innings, before retiring 12 in a row until Bryce Harper hit a two-out homer just before the seventh inning stretch.

The Dodger Insider cover boy allowed one more hit before leaving after eight innings with eight strikeouts, throwing 108 pitches.

Defense, defense

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Though it was ultimately in vain, the Dodger defense put on a show Saturday. Take a look.

— Jon Weisman

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At Carne Asada Sunday, Andre Ethier discusses playing first base

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By Jon Weisman

It was an unusual day for Andre Ethier, but one that ended pleasantly enough with him greeting approximately 150 fans at his Carne Asada Sunday, presented by Chef Merito.

Ethier, who has had to adapt to a reserve role in the second half of this season, played first base for the final innings of the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss to Milwaukee, the team’s third straight to the Brewers.

“It wasn’t a very happy day to start off,” Ethier told his interviewer, Dodger team historian Mark Langill. “Not too good of a series by us.”

It was the second action at first base of Ethier’s career. Previously, he played the ninth inning of an August 5, 2010 game after a double-switch removed James Loney.

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Dodgers Top 40: The best plays of the first half

By Jon Weisman

How exciting a 2014 has it been for the Dodgers? I started out planning to pick out the top 10 plays of the first half of the season, then (after realizing that Dee Gordon could practically fill that quota by himself) saw that list balloon to 40.

So here, in all their glory (and in an unplanned tribute to Casey Kasem), are the biggest thrills of the first 81 games. Thanks to MLB.com for the videos, as well as pieces of text here and there.

Now, prepare to lose yourself …

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March 30 at San Diego: Hyun-Jin Ryu fields a sharp comebacker and throws to home to start a double play and escape a bases-loaded jam in the first.
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Don Mattingly on Matt Kemp: ‘We know it’s gonna get better’

Clayton Kershaw MLB&MTV2 Shoot
Clayton Kershaw appears on MTV’s “Off the Bat” tonight at 11 p.m.

Reds at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, CF
Drew Butera, C
Chone Figgins, 3B
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

For a Dodger team whose defense has been maligned much of 2014, Monday brought a welcome reversal.

Not only did Los Angeles benefit from two key errors by the Reds, leading to three unearned runs, but the Dodger defense was airtight in support of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s perfect game bid.

In particular, Juan Uribe’s understudy, Justin Turner, was sparkling at third, and Erisbel Arruebarrena was smooth at shortstop.

Speaking today, Don Mattingly said he didn’t feel that Monday’s game was unique, but that the defense has been coming together for the past few games. That continues to be a priority, even as the defense-first Arruebarrena returns to the bench to make way for Hanley Ramirez, back into the starting lineup following a four-game absence.

But the biggest discussion point on the team this week remains in the outfield. Matt Kemp took fly balls in left field in early workouts today, but still is on the bench. Mattingly, who said Kemp looked “really good” in that workout,  was grilled about Kemp’s fifth straight game on the sidelines.

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Arrueready for Arruebarrena?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS NEW YORK METS
Jon SooHoo was all over the Yasiel Puig catch Friday. Check out his photos at LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Phillies, 4:05 p.m.
Kershaw CLXXXVII: Kershawue Detective
Dee Gordon, 2B
Chone Figgins, 3B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Erisbel Arruebarrena gets his first Major League start tonight, as Hanley Ramirez takes a day off.

Andre Ethier is starting in center field, and there are hints that we might see more of him out there, as concern over Matt Kemp’s defensive performance has become more explicit. From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“We continue to look at it and give Matt the opportunity to keep working and get better,” Mattingly said. “He doesn’t look the same. The burst, the outrun-the-ball thing. We’ve talked to Matt and don’t hear anything medically that he’s not feeling good. We just want to see the same burst. We don’t know if it’s a matter of him being out a few years. He’s trying, been working and we’ll continue to go from there.”

Four extra-base hits cleared Kemp’s head, contributing to all four Mets runs, one of them scoring because Kemp dropped a ball he picked up off the warning track.

“I just need to play better defense,” said Kemp. “Burst or anything, I’m not getting as good a jump as I need to. I cost us one run bobbling the ball, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. No excuses. I’ve made a couple bad plays in the outfield. It happens.”

Either’s on-base percentage fell to .247 on April 24. Since then, in 62 plate appearances, he has a .419 on-base percentage and .455 slugging, with no home runs but six doubles and six walks. He has started 12 of the Dodgers’ 23 games in that stretch.

Video: Yasiel Puig’s magnificent catch

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By Jon Weisman

In the bottom of the second inning, Yasiel Puig made a catch he had no business making. And he comes oh-so-close to a double play in the process.

Puig’s not even in the picture at first.

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And as the ball is coming down, it still doesn’t seem possible he’ll get there …

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Off-day reading: Defensive shifts and the Dodgers

Defensive shifts from May 2014 magazine

On this travel day for the Dodgers, here’s some topical reading from the May 2014 issue of Dodger Insider magazine. Chris Gigley contributed this piece on the nuances of the Dodgers’ approach toward defensive shifts. Don Mattingly, Tim Wallach, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett were interviewed for the story. (Click the image to enlarge.)

— Jon Weisman

Looking back at Dodger triple plays

Triple playsBy Jon Weisman

In Monday’s 4-0 loss to Washington, the Dodgers came within a hair of turning a triple play — a straight-arrow, around-the-horn, 5-4-3 triplet-killing.

It would have been the Dodgers fourth triple play since moving to Los Angeles. The franchise had 19 triple plays in Brooklyn, including two within eight days of each other, May 21 and 29, in its inaugural NL season of 1890 (wins No. 11 and 17 of 10,003 so far). However, the Dodgers then went without a triple play from 1949 until 1996.

In the first inning at Atlanta on June 15, 1996, Chipper Jones hit a pop fly deep behind shortstop. Juan Castro caught it, threw to Delino DeShields at second base to double up Marquis Grissom, and Grissom threw to Eric Karros at first base to triple up Mark Lemke.

Then on June 13, 1998, Los Angeles turned its second triple play, when Darren Dreifort fielded a fifth-inning bunt by Kurt Abbott that landed in front of the mound, starting a chain reaction that retired the two runners on base. One of those retired on the play was Colorado’s 23-year-old starting pitcher, Jamey Wright. The throws went from Dreifort to shortstop Jose Vizcaino to force Perez, then to Eric Young at first base to retire Abbott, and finally across the diamond to Bobby Bonilla at third base to tag out Wright.

Colorado wasn’t too happy about a triple play that wouldn’t have happened if the infield fly rule could have been applied, but the most recent Dodger triple play, on April 15, 2012, was far more controversial.

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At the time, I wrote about the debate over this triple play at Dodger Thoughts.

Video: Yasiel Puig’s 10 greatest catches

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By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig is day to day after hitting the wall in an all-out attempt to reel in Jeff Baker’s game-winning drive Sunday for Miami. Though he didn’t make the catch, it was a spectacular effort, and hardly the first time the spiritual descendant of Pete Reiser has gone mano-a-fenco or thrown his body into a spectacular catch.

Below, I’ve compiled what I believe to be the 10 greatest catches of Puig’s 11-month Major League career. It’s a pretty nice highlight reel in a short amount of time — especially because I’ve saved the throws for another day.

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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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