Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Other teams (Page 2 of 5)

Stretch run scrutiny: Breaking down the remaining Dodger and Giant schedules

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Well, that was lovely. Now what?

In late July, we talked about how difficult the San Francisco Giants’ schedule would be from August 6-September 2, when they faced 26 consecutive games against winning teams. Aside from a four-game sweep of the Nationals, it didn’t go great.

  • August 6-9: at Chicago (0-4)
  • August 11-12: vs. Houston (1-1)
  • August 13-16: vs. Washington (4-0)
  • August 17-19: at St. Louis (1-2)
  • August 20-23: at Pittsburgh (1-3)
  • August 25-27: vs. Chicago (2-1)
  • August 28-30: vs. St. Louis (1-2)
  • August 31-September 2: at Los Angeles (0-3)

A three-game sweep of the Dodgers would made the defending World Series champion Giants triumphant — muddied but unbowed tug-o’-war survivors at the state fair. It would have meant a 13-13 run through the gauntlet, cutting the Dodgers’ National League West lead to 1/2 game.

Instead, San Francisco was dragged to a 10-16 crumble through the 26 games, sliding 6 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.

But today’s a new day, September practically a new month, and the Giants do have much easier possibilities for feats of strength in their remaining 29 games — 25 of which are against sub-.500 teams.

Let’s look at the final 32 days of the regular season.

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Clayton Kershaw, All-Star jokester

Clayton and Cali Ann Kershaw (John Grieshop/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Clayton and Cali Ann Kershaw (John Grieshop/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Here’s an anecdote that’s an antidote to any Tuesday morning Dodger blues. It’s from Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford — yes, that’s right — at the Brandon and Brandon blog (via MLB.com/blogs):

… Besides being an honor, the All-Star Game was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. When you play against guys, you form an impression of what they’re like. Then you get to spend a little time together and you sometimes see another side. For instance, Adrian Gonzalez. I could never get a read on him because he never really talks to you at first base, unlike some other first basemen. But I talked to him a bit in Cincinnati and he seemed like a really good guy. He was loose and having a great time in the dugout.

So was Kershaw. When the first-base umpire called a foul ball against us, Kershaw yelled in a high-pitched voice, “C’mon, Jerry! That was fair!’’ Then he turned to Dee Gordon next to him and in his own voice said — real loud — “Yeah, Dee! You tell him!’’  He was really funny, which is not what I think of him when I’m standing in the batter’s box. …

— Jon Weisman

NL West stuck in neutral

Dodgers at Marlins, 10:10 a.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

Here are the National League West standings since June 1, entering play today (with run differential in parentheses):

13-14 .481 Los Angeles (+12)
12-13 .480 Arizona (-25)
12-13 .480 San Diego (-22)
11-13 .458 San Francisco (+9)
11-15 .423 Colorado (-9)

The best and worst teams are separated by 1 1/2 games. And the Dodgers are even with the Diamondbacks and Padres even though they’ve essentially outscored those two teams by 37 and 34 runs. Los Angeles is 4-6 in one-run games this month.

The June division title will be at stake Monday through Wednesday, when the Dodgers finish their 10-game road trip and stretch of 34 games in 34 days at Arizona.

* * *

Zack Greinke enters today’s game with 13 consecutive scoreless innings, a 0.98 ERA in his past four starts and a 1.79 ERA with a .596 opponents’ OPS in the nine starts (60 1/3 innings) he has made since his last victory. The Dodgers are 4-5 in that period.

Greinke has pitched 59 full innings since his last win, and has shut out the opponent in 49 of them.

Manufacturing a World Series champion

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

I’m going to discuss the Dodger offense from a different direction than I typically do.

The 2015 Dodgers lead the National League in walks, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, adjusted OPS and weighted runs created.

Despite this — and understandably, I’ll concede, given how inconsistent it has been for the past month — many have criticized the Dodger offense as incapable of generating runs in the pressure cooker of October.

Among other things, Los Angeles is the worst basestealing team around, and it gets less value from its baserunning than any NL team, according to Fangraphs. A hit-and-run dynamo, the Dodgers are not.

In contrast, you don’t get very far chatting about the World Champion San Francisco Giants without hearing praise for how their ability to manufacture runs carried them to the top.

So what I wanted to look at was how the rival Giants won the 2014 World Series, against a Kansas City Royals team that was also lauded for making things happen through smart, aggressive play on its way to the American League pennant. I’ve broken down every single run of last year’s Fall Classic — seven games, 57 runs — to see how important manufacturing runs was.

The Giants won’t get extra credit for drawing a walk or bashing extra-base hits. Rather, my question today is this: Where did bunting, stolen bases, productive outs and taking the extra base on a hit play a role? (The Royals’ performance in these areas will also be noted — after all, they were within 90 feet of sending Game 7 into extra innings.)

What I found was rather diverse — games where manufacturing runs was key, games where it was irrelevant and games in between. And then there was the small matter of Madison Bumgarner having the postseason of the century.

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Dave Roberts the latest Padres manager with Dodger connection

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dave Roberts had a .342 OPS in 1,189 plate appearances with the Dodgers from 2002-04 and ranks 20th in franchise history with 118 stolen bases. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Dave Roberts, named interim manager of the San Diego Padres today after Bud Black was fired, is the latest in a line of Padre managers with Dodger ties.

  • 1969-72: Preston Gomez (Dodger coach and minor-league manager)
  • 1972-73: Don Zimmer (Dodger player)
  • 1978-79: Roger Craig (Dodger player)
  • 1981: Frank Howard (Dodger player)
  • 1982-85: Dick Williams (Dodger player)
  • 1986: Steve Boros (Dodger scout)
  • 1987-88: Larry Bowa (Dodger coach)
  • 1992-94: Jim Riggleman (Dodger coach and minor-league player)

Black, who replaced Bruce Bochy, had managed the Padres since 2007.

Dodgers head back to St. Louis, but this ain’t October

Yasiel Puig will be one of several key 2014 Dodgers who won't play in St. Louis this weekend.

Yasiel Puig is one of several key 2014 Dodgers who won’t play in St. Louis this weekend.

By Jon Weisman

Seven months ago, the Dodgers suffered their most frustrating playoff defeat of the decade, losing three games to the Cardinals in the National League Division Series that Los Angeles either led or was tied in going into the seventh inning.

As I write this, the Dodgers are in the air on their way to St. Louis, returning to the scene of the crime, you might say. Beginning Friday, Los Angeles will play seven of its next 10 games against the team that vanquished them.

The memory of October is not a closed wound. At the same time, win or lose, this weekend’s series against the Cardinals feels like something of another limb.

Don’t get me wrong: These games are not exhibitions. For one thing, the NL West-leading Dodgers are trying to the team by the bay at bay. San Francisco, which in April was as much as six games out (which really isn’t that much), is now within a game of the Dodgers, pending what happens tonight against Atlanta and former Cardinal pitcher Shelby Miller.

For another, it would be hard to say there isn’t any emotion when St. Louis is involved. Not only have the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers in the past two postseasons, but at 31-16, they are the only team in the league with a better record than the 28-18 Dodgers. Since 2011, the Cardinals are 306-227 and the Dodgers are 300-232.

The Cardinals are the barometer, and they bring the barometric pressure.

Having said all that …

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‘Back to the Future: Building a Ballpark, Not a Stadium’

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Though this is a Dodger-centric site, the Dodgers of course are a piece of the greater baseball quilt.

In May, Dodger senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith gave the keynote address in Cooperstown, New York at the 26th annual Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, a three-day event featuring more than 60 presentations selected from academic paper submissions from across the country.

Smith’s tour of ballpark history, including but hardly limited to the main ballparks in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, is the best kind of time-traveling sightseeing, and we are privileged to share the full text with you here.

– Jon Weisman

* * *

By Janet Marie Smith

Thank you for inviting me to this glorious setting. This is like coming to Mecca for me, and I value the opportunity to be at your conference. I am a bit intimated by the setting as well as you, my audience and your studied credentials. My knowledge is based almost solely on experience, so I begin with a disclaimer that my presentation is not a scholarly effort, but an acknowledged subjective view.

F Barton Harvey pitcher rooftop downtown Baltimore 1905Since I was asked to share a “personal view” of ballparks and their history, I am going start with a family photo. This is my husband’s grandfather pitching a baseball game on a downtown Baltimore rooftop at Calvert School in 1905. It is evidence that, for all the pastoral splendor of the green grass of the field, this is an urban sport.

Four years after this photo, in 1909, Shibe Park opened in Philadelphia. In 1910, Forbes Field debuted in Pittsburgh and Comiskey Park in Chicago, and by 1912, Fenway Park was on the scene in Boston and Tiger Stadium was born in Detroit. 1913 produced Ebbets Field and 1914 Wrigley Field. What did these parks have in common? They were in urban neighborhoods, built on tight city blocks where the streets shaped the playing field and stands alike. The architecture was civic-minded, and the facades could have easily belonged to a library or city hall. Their steel trusses gave character. Their seats surrounded the playing field. The parks had unique features, such as the scoreboard down Ebbets’ short 297-foot right-field line to compensate for the lack of real estate.

Ebbets Field right field wall and scoreboardUrban centers as the heart of industry and commerce began to change, and cities gave way to the suburbs once the car gave us the ability to escape the confines of urban America. Baseball and baseball owners were no different than any other business in their race for America’s new frontier.

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Dodgers to face Jake Peavy in Sunday series finale with Giants

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
For more Jon SooHoo highlights from Friday, visit the LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Kershaw CXCVIII: The Kershawcial Network
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Matt Kemp, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

With first place in the National League West at stake, Ryan Vogelsong is taking tonight’s start for the Giants against the Dodgers  and Clayton Kershaw as planned, but a big change looms for Sunday.

San Francisco has picked up Jake Peavy from Boston for two prospects, and the right-hander is expected to arrive in time to take the mound in 24-ish hours against Los Angeles and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The 33-year-old Peavy, the starting pitcher in the 4+1 game for the Padres against the Dodgers nearly eight years ago, has an ERA of 3.90 in 14 games at AT&T Park and is a dominant 14-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 25 starts against the Dodgers. As recently as August 25 last season, Peavy pitched a complete-game three-hitter at Dodger Stadium, allowing one run on four baserunners while striking out five.

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Yankees thrive while Dodgers dive

Yankees thrive while Dodgers diveThe New York Times has a fancy live graphic showing how much money the Dodgers are bleeding on the disabled list, through which you’ll find that only one team has more players on the DL: the New York Yankees.

So why are the Yankees (24-14) in first place in their division while the Dodgers (15-22) are in last?

You can find stats that differentiate the two teams, though you might be surprised how similar they are in some respects.

The Dodger offense has an adjusted OPS of 99, according to Baseball-Reference.com, while the Yankees’ is 98.

Los Angeles ranks 29th in OPS with runners in scoring position, but New York only ranks 27th. The Dodgers actually have a higher batting average in those situations.

The Dodgers have 20 quality starts in 37 games; the Yankees 22 in 38.

Opponents have a .711 OPS against Dodger starting pitching, better than the .724 allowed by the Yankees.

All that being said, you can also find spots where the Yankees have outshone the Dodgers, such as relief pitching. In general, the Yankees are sixth in the majors in ERA, while the Dodgers are 20th.

But I’m not sure you can actually explain why there is such a gap between the two teams, or be sure that it would continue.

• 2013 Dodger runs scored vs. runs allowed: -0.92
• 2013 Yankee runs scored vs. runs allowed: +0.66

You glance at the Dodgers, and they just awful. Awful. Since sweeping Pittsburgh in the first week of the season, Los Angeles is 3-13 against teams that currently have winning records.

Could it possibly be Joe Girardi, pushing all the right levers in such a way that the Yankees win despite their uneven statistical profile underneath the runs? Could it be that the Yankees have just been luckier? Is the best theory that of Michael Schur, passed along by Joe Posnanski: that the Yankees are “a magical species, not unlike house elves?”

Is the entire season going to resemble the first quarter? The answer to that, I believe, is no.

* * *

Nationals at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLVIII: Kershawo, Pioneers

The standings

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-2

San Diego Padres vs. every other team: 1-12

The Padres scored 22 runs in their most recent three-game series against the Dodgers. They have scored three runs in four games since.

Of the 64 runs San Diego has scored this season, 36 (56.3 percent) have come in their six games against the Dodgers. The Padres are averaging 6.0 runs per game against Los Angeles and 2.1 runs per game against the rest of baseball.

Pitching? The Padres allowed 17 runs in six games with the Dodgers (2.8 per game). Against everyone else: 75 runs in 13 games (5.7 per game).

And yet, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 0-3 against the Dodgers and 10-6 against everyone else.

Unfortunately, the showdown for the ages – Padres vs. Pirates – won’t come until August 19.

April 11 game chat: Giants riding high, but …

More magic from the Giants today, who for the second time in under 48 hours rallied from a deficit of at least four runs. The defending champions are now 7-3.

I do have some doubts about San Francisco long-term, however, and they center on a somewhat surprising place — their starting rotation. Tim Lincecum hasn’t convinced anyone he’s going rally to be an effective starter this year, putting more pressure on Barry Zito’s renaissance to prove real.

Should Lincecum falter, it could be up to someone like Chris Heston, who turned 25 Wednesday, to step up and save the Giants’ staff. Heston had a 2.24 ERA with a 1.103 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Richmond last year, but he is not one of the team’s top-10 prospects, according to Baseball America. San Francisco’s best starting pitching prospects are in the lower minors.

Look, the Giants will probably find a way to solve any rotation issues, but it just feels a little more precarious than usual.

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Luis Cruz, 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
Zack Greinke, P

The Giants’ 2012 title: Dealmaking trumps chemistry

San Francisco had the highest Opening Day payroll in the National League West in 2012, then won the World Series with a starting eight that was 50 percent new guys. Two of the players had to integrate themselves into the team with the season two-third complete, after the Giants showed the willingness to take on additional salary.

• Gregor Blanco, acquired November 2011
• Angel Pagan, acquired December 2011
• Hunter Pence, acquired July 2012
• Marco Scutaro, acquired July 2012

It’s true that much of San Francisco’s pitching staff, particularly its starting rotation, had been in place for more than a year. Still, isn’t it a little strange that the Giants are considered a triumph of chemistry over payroll?  Wouldn’t the more sensible storyline be about a team being bold enough to make the right moves?

Pop fry

Hi everyone. I wrote a piece on the Infield Fly chaos at the Cardinals-Braves National League wild-card game for Sports on Earth.

O’Malley era in San Diego a step from reality

The group that includes former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley can become official owners of the San Diego Padres as soon as August 16, when Major League Baseball owners meet in Denver, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

O’Malley’s sons, Kevin and Brian, and his nephews, Peter and Tom Seidler, “are expected to become ‘hands-on’ owners while assuming many of the club’s business, operational and community leadership roles,” Center confirms. San Diego businessman Ron Fowler and golfer Phil Mickelson provides the local accent for the ownership group, notes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.

The new owners are paying $800 million for the Padres and a 21 percent stake in Fox Sports San Diego, Bloom says.

R.A. Dickey and Colorado: Climbing the mountain, falling off a cliff


All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.

You might have thought climbing the big mountain or publishing a book might be Dickey’s biggest accomplishments of the year, but perhaps not.

Dickey, as David Schoenfield of ESPN.com notes, has not only thrown consecutive one-hitters, but in his past six starts, “Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.”

Venerable New Yorker writer Roger Angell offered this:

… Dickey, whose full beard and peaceable appearance suggest a retired up-country hunting dog, is thirty-seven years old, with ten years and three prior big-league teams behind him, and hard work has brought him to this Shangri-La, perhaps only briefly. He’ll hope for another visit on Sunday, against the Yankees. Watching him, if you’ve ever played ball, you may find yourself remembering the exact moment in your early teens when you were first able to see a fraction of movement in a ball you’d flung, and sensed a magical kinship with the ball and what you’d just done together. This is where Dickey is right now, and for him the horrendous din of the game and its perpetual, distracting flow of replay and statistics and expertise and P.R. and money and expectation and fatigue have perhaps dimmed, leaving him still in touch with the elegant and, for now, perfectly recallable and repeatable movements of his body and shoulders and the feel of the thing on his fingertips.

* * *

Pitching is easy to predict – and hard too!

“Colorado’s rotation has undergone the most turnover and is the hardest to peg in the division, though you could say it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” I wrote in March for ESPNLosAngeles.com. “A look at Colorado makes one appreciate the apparent stability of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.”

Basically, while there were several grim preseason forecasts about how the Dodgers would do this season, the one thing I was most sure of was that they wouldn’t finish behind the Rockies, whose pitching seemed to be in disarray.

Vindication of that position has come throughout 2012, with the Rockies’ starting pitchers combining for an ERA of more than 6.00. That has brought one Jim Tracy to the brink of … something: a four-man starting rotation with pitch-count limits of 75 per game.

Here’s Rob Neyer’s take at Baseball Nation:

… Tracy’s just guessing, of course. And there’s another, perhaps larger issue. If Tracy sticks to that 75-pitch limit, he’ll routinely be turning to his bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. Now, if managers are crying for relief help with starting pitchers on 100-pitch limits — as they do, routinely — what’s going to happen with 75-pitch limits?

Theoretically, it could work. Tracy’s starters have been terrible, so he’s been going to his bullpen early in most games, anyway. The hope, I suppose, is that Tracy keeps going to his bullpen early, but with his starting pitchers allowing fewer runs than they have been. It’s a lot better to call the bullpen when you’re ahead 4-3 than when you’re losing 6-4.

So this should be interesting. For a week or two. Which, if history’s any guide, is how long this experiment will last.

Said Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN the Magazine:

… Tracy seemed almost stunned when talking to reporters about the plan. Obviously, this is not what he expected prior to the season when the Rockies were a trendy pick to win the NL West. Instead, just minutes before taking the field for batting practice Tuesday, Tracy gathered his pitching staff and told the players the surprising news.

The asterisk in the plan is that nothing is definite. Tracy conceded that anything could be modified should one of his starters excel during a particular start. The 75-pitch limit could be ignored. Heck, if Guthrie pitches well in relief, it’s not inconceivable to think that he would be placed back in the rotation.

For the past several weeks, Colorado reportedly has been looking to trade Guthrie — who is making $8.2 million this season, the highest salary on the pitching staff, excluding the injured Jorge De La Rosa. A demotion to the bullpen won’t help his trade market. But the only way for Guthrie to reclaim any trade value is to pitch well, and maybe pitching out of the bullpen is the solution.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Tracy said.

Hey, credit Tracy — at least it wasn’t bland and boring.

And finally, this from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

… The defining moment, with the beaker fizzing, will arrive when a starter actually performs well. But Tracy insisted that even if a starter is working a shutout, he will be removed at roughly 75 pitches.

“He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later,” Tracy said. “But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people.”

But as easy as Colorado’s woes might have been to predict, you might not be able to say the same about Atlanta’s – at least, that’s what Michael Barr of Fangraphs argues.

And Tim Lincecum’s struggles are another thing unto themselves, becoming fodder for a discussion of luck and pitching by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Saying that Tim Lincecum has been unlucky is probably not true. He’s struggling with his command, falling behind in counts more often, and throwing pitches that are rightfully getting crushed based on movement and location. If Wells had fouled off that fastball on Saturday, that would have been luck, so maybe you could argue that Lincecum is suffering from a lack of good luck (in that it’s quite possible that hitters aren’t missing his mistakes as often as they used to), but that’s not the same thing as suffering from bad luck.

And that’s why we should probably try to reduce our usage of the word luck to begin with. Yes, there are bloopers that fall in, broken bat squibs that find holes, or times when a defender just falls down and the pitcher gets blamed for his defensive miscue. There are definitely instances of luck in baseball, and they do effect the results that a pitcher is credited with. I’m not arguing against DIPS theory – I’m just saying that perhaps we should try to do a better job of talking about it when a guys results aren’t lining up with his process because he’s throwing bad pitches that hitters aren’t missing.

What Voros McCracken and the others who followed his research really showed us wasn’t that pitchers have no control over batted ball outcomes, but that the things that cause those gaps don’t hold up over time. Lincecum can be doing things that are causing him to give up a lot of runs now but history suggests that he won’t keep doing those things in the future. He’s either going to figure out how to fix his command or he’s going to change his approach to pitching, and he’s not going to keep locating 91 MPH fastballs middle-in at the belt with regularity. Maybe hitters will start missing his mistakes more often. Maybe he’ll start making fewer mistakes. Whatever the cause is, the effect is likely to be that Lincecum is going to get better results in the future than he has in the first two months of the season.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his poor results to date. The word luck absolves him of blame for the outcome, which shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do. Blame Tim Lincecum for throwing terrible pitches – just realize that it doesn’t mean that he’s going to keep throwing terrible pitches in the future.

* * *

Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …

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