Sep 27

MLB’s NIT: A look ahead

Though we’re all excited about the Dodgers in the playoffs, don’t forget that Major League Baseball has another thrilling postseason tournament coming fast toward us (in my imagination).

Barring any changes over the final three days of the regular season, the top seeds for the MLB National Invitational Tournament will be the Texas Rangers in the American League and the Washington Nationals in the National League. But before those best-of-11, neutral-site series begin, we have two cross-country play-in showdowns shaping up between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL and the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets in the NL.(The play-ins, of course, are one inning each, taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil no more than 18 hours after the regular season ends and televised by the FXXXXX network.)

So print your brackets and make your picks!

Coming soon: the MLB Invitational, where the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins eye their one shining moment.


Sep 26

Victim was son of Dodger security guard

An official statement from the Dodgers:

“The Dodgers are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Jonathan Denver, who is the son of one of our security guards.

“There is no rational explanation for this senseless act which resulted in Jonathan’s death.  The pain that this has caused his family and friends is unimaginable.  Words are not enough to describe our sadness.  Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this extremely difficult time.”

More details from the Times, whose Lee Romney calls it “more complicated than the 2011 brutal beating outside Dodger Stadium that left Giants fan Bryan Stow with severe brain damage.”

Sep 26

‘Jonathan Denver was not even much of a baseball fan’

From the San Francisco Chronicle website:

Jonathan Denver was not even much of a baseball fan.

On Monday, the 24-year-old plumber’s apprentice who was known as JD, asked for two days off from work in the North Coast town of Fort Bragg to come to San Francisco to meet up with his father – who was the big Dodgers fan – and attend Wednesday night’s game against the Giants at AT&T Park.

“He just wanted to spend the day with his father,” said his boss, Cas Smith, owner of North Coast Plumbing, Heating and Sheet Metal Inc. “I should have said ‘no.’ “

Denver was wearing Dodgers gear, police say, when he was stabbed at Third and Harrison streets after the game. Police have arrested two men, ages 21 and 18, but have not released their names. …

… Smith said the only serious brush with the law that he knew of involving Denver was a drunken driving arrest in July. He said Denver had some problems in that area but had been getting on with his life.


Sep 25

The Bison’s back in town

Matt Kemp’s game-winning homer (and just let that phrase marinate for a moment) Tuesday was the latest sign that he will be a key factor in the Dodger postseason.

Kemp has a .385 on-base percentage. .542 slugging percentage and .927 OPS in 26 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list September 16, .384 OBP, .576 slugging and .959 OPS in 73 plate appearances since May 28. Concerns remain about his durability this year, but he’s quickly knocking down the arguments that he’s not capable of helping this Dodger team.

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.

Sep 24

A 10-man playoff pitching staff?

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.

Feels like the Dodgers have been on the road for a long time.

Here’s a somewhat radical idea for the Dodgers’ National League Division Series roster: With off days after Games 2 and 4, would it make more sense for the Dodgers to go with 10 pitchers and 15 position players.

That way you could keep a bench of Tim Federowicz, Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Scott Van Slyke and Dee Gordon, while still having a relief corps of Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, Brian Wilson, Chris Withrow, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario. That’s six pitchers in the bullpen, none of them having to pitch more than two days in a row.

It figures that the Dodgers will have more trouble scoring runs than preventing them, so it might make much more sense to allocate more manpower to the offense than to an 11th pitcher like Carlos Marmol, Brandon League or Edinson Volquez who might only pitch in a lost cause.

Sep 19

The Dodgers’ postseason roster – another look

My last look at the Dodgers’ likely postseason 25-man roster came August 31. Most of it remains the same, but there are some tweaks.

Starters (4)
Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ricky Nolasco

Relievers (7)
Kenley Jansen
Paco Rodriguez
Brian Wilson
Ronald Belisario
J.P. Howell
Chris Withrow
Brandon League or Carlos Marmol

I’ve heard calls for Chris Capuano, but the guy has faced six batters all month – none since September 6 – and isn’t exactly reliable even when he’s pitched. You already have two lefties.  And no, you don’t plan for mop-up work in the playoffs, not with off days built in. (Worst-case scenario – you use the No. 4 starter in long relief and bring back a frontline starter on short rest.) League and Marmol aren’t that reliable, either, but at least game action isn’t going to be foreign to them. If Capuano were actually pitching, then it would easier to see the arguments for him.

The other question is whether Belisario’s recent slump could jeopardize his roster spot, but I’m guessing not. Would you really push him off in favor of having both League and Marmol, or adding Edinson Volquez?

Basically, the Dodgers will be hoping their starters can get the job done.

Starting lineup (8)
A.J. Ellis
Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Ellis
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Carl Crawford
Matt Kemp
Yasiel Puig

Andre Ethier will obviously get his share of starts if healthy. In fact, if all four primary outfielders are ready to go, Crawford might be the No. 4.

Bench (6)
Andre Ethier
Tim Federowicz
Michael Young
Nick Punto
Skip Schumaker
Dee Gordon or Scott Van Slyke

Jerry Hairston Jr. has a .563 OPS this season. Since the All-Star break, it’s dropped below .430. Though Hairston started today (and went 0 for 4), Michael Young has rendered him almost completely irrelevant, especially when you have plenty of outfield options. It’s unusual for a player who has spent the entire season on the active roster not to make the postseason, but there’s no case for him – whereas Gordon or Van Slyke provide specific (if singular) skills, speed or power.

Look, I won’t put it past the Dodgers to put Hairston on the squad, and given the Dodgers’ fragile health state, Hairston could easily end up on the roster anyway, even if that wasn’t the original intention. But with a full compliment of healthy players, I just can’t see it. They’ve got proven veterans to spare, and Gordon or Van Slyke have a better chance to make a difference at a key moment.


Sep 18

Strange brew strands the blue

Well, it would have been a heck of a way to clinch a division.

A tragicomic game that seemed someone’s idea of a practical joke on both teams ended with the Arizona Diamondbacks staving off the Dodgers’ first match point in the National League West, hanging on for a 9-4 victory.

The Dodgers’ magic number for wrapping up the NL West remains two, heading into Thursday’s 12:40 p.m. series finale.

The game began with some horrendous pitching by Stephen Fife, who was making the start to give Clayton Kershaw a slight bit of rest ahead of October. Fife faced 18 batters and 11 reached base, on six hits, three walks and two hit-by-pitches, not to mention two wild pitches. He was lucky to only be charged with four runs, the last when reliever Carlos Marmol issued a bases-loaded walk to his first batter, with one out in the bottom of the third.

But somehow, four runs is all Arizona scored in the first six innings, the Diamondbacks stranding 12 runners on base in the process. Almost as bizarre was the Dodgers’ inability to take the lead, given what transpired in innings four through seven.

Yasiel Puig, having one of those games that makes him famous (a double in the first, followed by a pickoff, for example), hit one into orbit to lead off the top of the fourth and put the first run next to Los Angeles on the scoreboard. Consecutive singles by Carl Crawford, Michael Young and Adrian Gonzalez cut the Diamondbacks’ lead to 4-2, but with none out and two on, the next three Dodgers made outs.

The sixth inning then brought this round-the-horn extravaganza: The Dodgers got a bad call on their third baseman at home and ejection of their first baseman at second base on the same play.

With Young on first and one out, Gonzalez doubled deep in the left-field gap. Young was waved home and appeared to score ahead of the tag by Miguel Montero, but was called out at the plate – by first base umpire Jim Joyce, no less. In disbelief, Gonzalez (apparently) did something at second base to bring about his ejection. Despite yet another hit in the inning, by Matt Kemp, the Dodgers came up empty.

Los Angeles did only slightly better in the seventh. Nick Punto singled and Tim Federowicz doubled him home (no controversy this time), making the score 4-3. But frustratingly, Skip Schumaker was asked to bunt Federowicz to third base, and even though he succeeded with two strikes, it gave the Dodgers their first out. Puig hit an infield single (that could have been ruled an error), but Scott Van Slyke, coming up as a right-handed power bat against a left-handed pitcher in place of Carl Crawford, hit into a double play.

This became all but moot in the bottom of the eighth, when Arizona rapped Ronald Belisario for five insurance runs, three of them after the bases were cleared against Peter Moylan. Arizona ended up with 25 baserunners against the Dodgers. After going more than four seasons without allowing that many in a game, this was the fifth time it has happened in 2013.

Tim Federowicz’s two-out, ninth-inning homer would have been pretty nifty if Arizona still had only a one-run lead, but instead, as Vin Scully would say, it was but a murmur of protest before the game’s end.