Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Dodgers (Page 1 of 59)

Meanwhile, what’s happening with the Dodger offense?

Cold and hot: Manny Machado and Justin Turner (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Justin Turner has been on fire. Since returning from his second trip of the year to the disabled list in early August, Turner has a .488 on-base percentage and .714 slugging percentage. More than that, he’s all but been his usual self since June 1, with an .885 OPS.

Yasiel Puig has been on fire. Since his own DL trip ended in early May, the right fielder has a .365 OBP while slugging .578, for a .943 OPS.

Cody Bellinger has been on fire. Since August 1, Bellinger has matched Turner’s .488 OBP while slugging a nearly compatible .605.

Brian Dozier has been on fire. Starting his Dodger clock on August 1, Dozier is OBPing .429 and slugging .590. Despite an apparent EKG scare Monday, the second baseman is in tonight’s starting lineup for the Dodgers.

Nevertheless, several Dodgers have very much not been on fire, leading to four straight losses and a 5-10 plunge over their past 15 games).

While the Dodger bullpen has pitched under a laser-firing microscope for the past several days, the underplayed story is how the offense has let the team down, scoring a total of nine runs in the final three games at Colorado and then two more Monday against the Giants.

Since July 29, the Dodgers have scored 59 runs in those 15 games, but 21 runs came August 2 against Milwaukee. In the remaining 14, the Dodgers are averaging 2.7 runs per game.

There’s no particular shame in being held to two by the likes of Madison Bumgarner, even if one of them is on a collision-inducing bloop double by Clayton Kershaw, but there’s still an important mini-trend to process.

In making their July deals, the Dodgers bet big on bats, acquiring Dozier and Manny Machado. Their additions to the bullpen, Dylan Floro and the now fibula-challenged John Axford, look altogether small by comparison — but keep in mind baseball is a run-differential game. If you increase your offense, your bullpen gets more cushion. The Dodgers looked to ease the strain of their pen with a workaround, and certainly, the plan to eventually move two strong starting pitchers like Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling into relief played into that intent.

Obviously, over the past week, the strategy could not have looked worse, with the bullpen giving up go-ahead runs in six straight games. Kenley Jansen’s heart issue unexpectedly put more pressure on the relief crew than it was ready to handle. But also, the Dodger offense came to the rescue only once, in Thursday’s crazy 8-5 win. So when you look at the culprits of an ugly week, they include not only the relievers, but the recent performance of Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson and perhaps most frustratingly, Machado.

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‘But at least I have a husband’: Airplane quotes that apply to the Dodgers’ past four days

Randy, are you all right?

Oh, Dr. Rumack, I’m scared. I’ve never been so scared. And besides, I’m 26 and I’m not married.

We’re going to make it, you’ve got to believe that.

[a woman passenger comes in]

Dr. Rumack, do you have any idea when we’ll be landing?

Pretty soon, how are you bearing up?

Well, to be honest, I’ve never been so scared. But at least I have a husband.

* * *

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Which starting pitchers should move into the bullpen for the Dodgers?

Kenley Jansen’s absence puts more pressure on the rest of the Dodger pitching staff to step up.
(Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

All summer long, the big question for the Dodger pitching staff has been which relievers would serve as the bridge to Kenley Jansen.

But with the distressing news that Jansen will be sidelined at least into September with an irregular heartbeat, we now have to ponder not only the bridge, but the destination.

You can read all the options the Dodgers have available in my recent review of the Dodger pitching staff, and Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest has a post up today looking specifically at who might close in Jansen’s absence.

My focus today is on the fact that it’s obvious that the Dodgers, who will soon have seven starting pitchers available with the impending returns of Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list, will need to move at least one starting pitcher to the bullpen — two if they don’t go with a six-man rotation.

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Playing .600 ball for 90 days, Dodgers surging if not streaking

Christine Kroeckel/MLB.com

Are you impatient that the Dodgers are barely hugging first place in the National League West, let alone struggling to put more distance between themselves and the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants?

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The worst play in baseball: The walkoff balk

In the online baseball world this week, a fun conversation materialized out of a nicely written column by Meg Rowley of Fangraphs: “What is your favorite sort of baseball play?”

With so many great options, there could hardly be a wrong answer to the question (FYI, I’m not making a dare here). I went with the Rodney McCray, epitomizing a fantasy I’ve had of basically making the most memorable, full-sprint, throw-your-body-into-oblivion catch of all time.

Happy as I was to enjoy everyone’s favorites, which together formed a scrapbook of what makes baseball such a treat, the conversation delivered me (with a little help from Tuesday’s Keone Kela trade) to what might be my least favorite baseball play, or certainly one of the dumbest: the walkoff balk.

I’m not big on bans — and certainly, this would be among the most trivial you might find — but this play should be banned.

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It’s time to stop pining for Brandon Morrow

MLB.com

Brandon Morrow is the Joe DiMaggio of a lonely-eyed Dodger Nation.

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A post-deadline review of the Dodger pitching staff

Clayton Kershaw has a 2.28 ERA since returning from the disabled list, but the Dodgers know he needs bullpen support. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Call it Summer Training for the Dodger pitching staff, with a cautious eye toward the Fall Classic.

As the month of August dawns, there are 29 pitchers currently in the Dodger organization who have been part of the team’s 40-man roster this year. Yep, 29. But with their July mound acquisitions limited to Dylan Floro, Zach Neal and John Axford, is 29 enough?

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Dodgers land Brian Dozier, making lineup more playful

Brian Dozier (MLB.com)

Brian Dozier has come to the Dodgers in a trade for the struggling Logan Forsythe and two mid-level minor-leaguers (outfielder Luke Raley and pitcher Devin Smeltzer), a deal that strengthens them in 2018 even as it turns their lineup into a deluxe jigsaw puzzle.

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Ten games in, Manny Machado already boosting Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Manny Machado’s first 50 plate appearances as a Dodger are now in the books: .400 on-base percentage, .442 slugging percentage. During that time, the Dodgers went 6-4 on a road trip against three playoff contenders, a trip that you could have called a complete success had they won the 16-inning game at Philadelphia and taken all three series.

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After wielding attire iron at Dodgers, it’s Joe Simpson who should be embarrassed

I’m not nearly the first tonight to weigh in on the bizarre, absolutely out-of-nowhere manufactured controversy in which Braves announcer and one-time Dodger outfielder Joe Simpson ripped his original team for their non-uniform batting practice attire tonight, but I want to make a few particular points about it.

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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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Baseball has its day in the son

This marks my 16th summer of being a dad and my 11th with three kids in the posse. Despite my love of the game, the complete lack of interest from any of my descendants in watching baseball has been a defining aspect of my parenthood, leading me to firmly give up on the prospect of it ever happening.

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What it means for the Dodgers if they land Manny Machado

Manny Machado’s career statistics (click to enlarge)

Vin Scully and Manny Machado, 2016
(New York Times)

The flame of Manny Machado is lighting the Dodger rumor mill on fire, as noted last week, and today has only fueled the speculation — though as always, you should note that nearly every rumor blows in with its own agenda.

But all the heavy petting still has me wondering about the domino effect of a Machado acquisition on a Dodger lineup that has so many moving parts.

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Eying trades, the 2018 Dodgers are at once NL favorites and World Series underdogs

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (click to enlarge)

Nothing that happens at this year’s trade deadline will change the fact that the Dodgers are underdogs to win the World Series.

The Red Sox and Yankees are in a ferocious battle to win the American League East. Boston (66-30) has a chance to become the first major-league team to start a season 70-30 since the 2001 Mariners, and only needs to go 34-32 to win 100 games. Short of the Red Sox collapsing, New York (61-32) will probably need to finish with at least 105 wins to catch them. Both teams are really good.

Over in the AL West, the Astros (63-34) are on pace to win 105 games themselves. Seattle (58-37) has been keeping that division race interesting, and yet by losing six of their past nine games, the Mariners have opened the door for Oakland (53-42) to creep into the wild-card race. But you’d have to imagine a nearly impossible scenario where all three teams collapsed for the AL West champions not to finish comfortably above 95 wins.

And if the AL West champion then derailed the Red Sox and/or Yankees to reach the Fall Classic, you can bet that team would stand as Goliath to whoever comes out of the National League.

NL records for past two months, May 14-July 13

It might seem to contradict the premise of this piece, but it’s completely valid to suggest that today the Dodgers (52-42) are the best bet to be that NL opponent. Overall in 2018, they are one of six teams within three games of the best record in the NL. Their current 50-game run of 34-16 is the best the league has seen this year. For their past 54 games — one-third of the season — they are 3 1/2 games better than any other rival.

It’s easy to complain about what the Dodgers aren’t — injury-free for one, uncertain at second base and in the bullpen for another — but is worthwhile to remember what they are. Their nine position players with the most plate appearances each have above-average offensive stats, and the one who has been weighing them down the most, Logan Forsythe, has been benched.

On the mound, people are concerned to various degrees with Clayton Kershaw’s back, Rich Hill’s struggles, Ross Stripling turning into a pumpkin and a bullpen that isn’t as much “lights out” as it is “lights on dimmer.” I could go on. But I don’t think many people realize that despite these and other issues, the Dodgers have the NL’s No. 2 pitching staff in wins above replacement and No. 1 in ERA and fielding-independent pitching. I saw one person Friday on Twitter call Dodger pitching “shaky,” and all I can say is — even conceding that’s true — that only means that every other team’s pitching as shakier.

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Toles, Verdugo offer ready remedies for Puig injury

Josh Barber/Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s not as if the Dodgers must call up an outfielder if, as expected, Yasiel Puig goes on the disabled list with an oblique strain suffered Sunday. In addition to Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson, they have three infielders who play outfield in Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez and Cody Bellinger, and relocating Bellinger to center (with Kemp in right) would open up time for Max Muncy to play first base and give him a break from learning second base on the job.

But moving an infielder to the outfield would also force more playing time at second base for the likes of struggling Logan Forsythe (1 for 27 with two walks and 11 strikeouts since June 22) and Chase Utley, whereas you could hardly ask for better outfield candidates for the Dodgers to import from Oklahoma City than Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo.

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