Nov 12

Remembering 2011: A.J. Ellis

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireA.J. Ellis (36)

The setup: In fits and starts through 2010, his final season before turning 30, Ellis got his first extended time on the Dodger roster, backing up Russell Martin after Brad Ausmus was hurt and then sharing catching duties with Ausmus and  Rod Barajas after the season-ending injury to Martin in July. He struggled at first before going 3 for 3 on August 22 against Cincinnati, a game that kicked off a season-ending stretch in which he went 18 for 39 with three doubles and eight walks for a 1.101 OPS. Nonetheless, the offseason signings of Barajas and then, most painfully, Dioner Navarro set the stage for Ellis to return to Triple-A for the fourth year in a row.

The closeup: Because of an early injury to Navarro, Ellis began 2011 on the Opening Day roster after all, but played in only six games (with a .421 on-base percentage in 19 plate appearances) before reaching his intended destination of Albuquerque. In Triple-A, he proved nearly half-impossible to get out – for 2011 with the Isotopes, he had a .467 on-base percentage in 248 plate appearances. When Barajas went down with a midseason injury, Ellis came back, started hot, but went 2 for 17 with two walks in six July starts over eight days, and headed back to Triple-A.

On August 23, the Dodgers decided they had had enough of Navarro, and recalled Ellis for the remainder of the year. In his first game back, Ellis hit his first major-league home run along with an RBI single in a Dodger victory that seemingly buried the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason hopes. (Things change.) Ellis hit his second homer 10 days later and once again finished the year strong, with a .976 OPS over his final five weeks.

Overall in 2011 with the Dodgers, Ellis had a .392 on-base percentage and .376 slugging percentage in 103 plate appearances, while throwing out four of 15 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: For the first time, Ellis has a position on the Dodger Opening Day roster dedicated to him, as well he should – a catcher with a career .360 OBP in 244 plate appearances should be no worse than a backup. As things stand now, Ellis would share time with rookie Tim Federowicz, but it’s impossible to believe the Dodgers won’t acquire another catcher that would allow them to put Federowicz in the minors to start the 2012 season if they desired. The question, then, is how much time that catcher-to-be-named-later would take away from Ellis – a little or a lot.

Nov 11

Farewell and thanks, Jamey Carroll

Jamey Carroll is apparently going to bid farewell to the Dodgers for a two-year deal with Minnesota that will make him the Twins’ starting shortstop, completing his journey from “we signed who for what?” to what became one of the nicest free-agent pickups in recent Dodger history.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that Carroll is leaving the Dodgers now.  Though he exceeded expectations in the past two years, at times remarkably so, Carroll will be 38 in February. He will be paid according to how he produced in 2010-11 when he had arguably the two best seasons of his career, as opposed to how he produced before that. In other words, a return engagement with the Dodgers might easily have turned out to be disappointing.

What is clear is that a guy like the 2010-11 version of Jamey Carroll is someone the 2012 Dodgers could very much use.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts:

Remembering 2011: Jamey Carroll
Here’s a word for Jamey Carroll: talented

Nov 11

This one goes to 11-11-11

Getty ImagesManny Mota Mota Mota …

There has still been no contact from the kidnappers of Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, more than a day since he was abducted. But Venezuelan authorities have said they are confident they will find him.

I can’t tell that this story is getting the coverage it deserves, although it is mostly just a painful waiting game. I’m thinking my best thoughts.

* * *

Catching up on some Dodger ownership news and notes:

  • Orel Hershiser tells the skeptics his group will have the dough, reports Ramona Shelburne of
  • Shelburne writes that the new owners, whoever they are, need to look toward the future to be successful, not the past.
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought Magic Johnson’s minority stake in the Lakers last year and reportedly the richest man in Los Angeles, has been approached by at least one Dodger ownership group, reports Arash Markazi of
  • One ownership candidate who has the money is former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano, write Craig Karmin and Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal. However, the Journal says “he has never attended a game at Dodger Stadium and is a lifelong New York Yankees fan.” That’ll go over well.
  • Jill Painter of the Daily News has a solid interview with Peter O’Malley. “First, I’m blessed with good health,” O’Malley said. “Second, the challenge. Thirdly, I do believe I can do it better than anybody else. Maybe that doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know how else to say it.
  • Dodger sale news combined with a reduction in prices has boosted Dodger season-ticket sales 30% compared to this time last year, writes Bill Shaikin of the Times. Season-ticket sales dropped from 27,000 four years ago to 17,000 this past season.

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness writes about the early signs that 2012 free-agent contracts will be insane.
  • Related … Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes that the Phillies’ four-year, $44 million offer to reliever Ryan Madson might be so high that it has Major League Baseball concerned and might be slowing locking down the next collective bargaining agreement.
  • Might Rod Barajas’ ability to frame pitches be a reason he deserved a $4 million deal from the Pirates? Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk thinks it’s possible.
  • Former Dodger executive Derrick Hall of the Diamondbacks had successful surgery to remove his prostate in response to cancer.
  • Former Dodger outfielder Mike Marshall has been named manager of the independent San Rafael Pacifics, notes Dave Allen of the Marin Independent Journal, and his wife Mary will be assistant general manager. The Marshalls had the same roles with Chico.
  • Jim Breen of Fangraphs says that hard salary slotting for MLB draft picks would be bad for the game, and uses the Dodgers’ Zach Lee as a reason why.
  • Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus and Gabe Kapler have joined forces to try to guide Israel into qualification for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. “While it remains unclear if the recently retired players will take the field themselves, their involvement provides an immediate boost to Israeli baseball, which remains a niche sport in a country where soccer and basketball reign supreme,” writes The Associated Press.
  • Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay tied for the SB Nation National League Cy Young vote. Kershaw got 14 first-place votes to Halladay’s 13, but Kershaw also received a fifth-place vote from Padres blog Gaslamp Ball, which provides an unimpressive explanation to say the least.
  • No Dodger connection here, just wanted to pass this along – Norwegian film “King Curling” is “a hilarious take on the mock-heroic sporting-underdog genre,” writes Leslie Felperin of Variety.
Nov 10

O’Malley, Nomo, Park, Seidler to help run old Dodgertown in Florida

Doug Benc/Getty ImagesA view from the final Dodger Spring Training game at Holman Stadium, March 17, 2008.

Former Dodger owners Peter O’Malley and sister Terry Seidler and former pitchers Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo have joined forces with Minor League Baseball to operate the old Dodgertown complex now known as the Vero Beach Sports Village.

O’Malley, a candidate to buy the Dodgers themselves from Frank McCourt, will be chairman and CEO of the new enterprise, and MiLB president Pat O’Conner will be president and COO, while Craig Callan will remain in control of operations of the facility, where he has worked for 33 years.

O’Conner said the goal of the group is to use the facility “for local, domestic and international sports programs” that will attract a variety of visitors.

“This combined effort of Minor League Baseball, the O’Malley and Seidler families and members of our extended baseball family will undoubtedly have a positive impact on Vero Beach Sports Village,” O’Conner said in a statement. “Peter O’Malley and his family have a long and storied history in Vero Beach and baseball in general, both domestically and internationally.

“Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo provide insight from a player’s perspective, as well as enormous credibility in Asia and the Pacific Rim.”

Nomo has been bringing Japanese youth players to the U.S. for the past couple of years for competition and cultural exchange.

“Being a part of the group that will operate a facility that provides youths with resources they can use both on and off the field is extremely rewarding,” Nomo said. “Those who come to the facility can improve not only as athletes through tournaments and training, but can also develop skills to help them mature into young men and women.”

Added Park: “I have many fond memories of Dodgertown from my nine seasons playing for the Dodgers. I love it there and look forward to seeing many teams and individuals enjoy all of the unique features of the complex and take full advantage of the amenities it has to offer, as I did when I trained and played there.”

For O’Malley, it’s a return to his roots — he was director of Dodgertown from 1962-65. Seidler worked there in the 1950s as the secretary for the Dodgertown Summer Camp for Boys.

“I embrace this wonderful opportunity to use this iconic facility that my family has cherished for decades to promote baseball,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Vero Beach Sports Village should always be an asset and a jewel to the citizens of Vero Beach and Indian River County, and I look forward to adding further luster to its rich history.

Though MiLB began operating the old Dodgertown facility in 2009 and events have continued to take place there, it has been in jeopardy ever since Dodger Spring Training left for Camelback Ranch in Arizona, with lots of speculation that it could eventually be sold off and converted for non-sports use.

“We know the Dodgers have a long-term spring training commitment with the community of Glendale, Arizona, and our endeavor in Vero Beach in no way impacts that relationship,” O’Malley said.

In other words, even if O’Malley ends up back with the Dodgers, don’t expect Spring Training to return to Vero Beach. Still, for fans of Dodgertown, this is welcome news.

Nov 10

Rod Barajas signs with Pittsburgh

This will come as a surprise to many people, but Rod Barajas won’t be a Dodger next year. The veteran catcher has signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leaving the Dodger backstopping (until Ned Colletti wakes up in a veteran-less sweat) to A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz.

Previously … Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas

Update: Via Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness comes two tidbits: Barajas is getting $4 million in 2012 according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the latest indication that this is going to be a players’ free-agent market, and the Dodgers will receive a compensation draft pick, as noted by the True Blue L.A. crew.

For the curious, here’s a list of free-agent catchers, via’s MLB free-agent tracker.

Nov 09

Talks for long-term Kemp deal progressing

With no further ado, here’s Tony Jackson of

The agent for Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder and National League Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Kemp said Wednesday that talks on a long-term contract extension for his client are moving in a positive direction and that he is optimistic an agreement will be reached.

Dave Stewart, Kemp’s San Diego-based agent and himself a former Dodgers pitcher, said his discussions with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti have been positive and productive.

“I don’t think that it’s going to be difficult, I really don’t,” Stewart said. “I think we should be able to come to something. I have talked with Ned on a few occasions. We have covered some ground, and hopefully, we will be able to put this thing to bed soon.”

Colletti also characterized the negotiations as moving forward.

“We have had some constructive conversations,” Colletti said. “Those conversations have been a little more substantive of late.”

Colletti cautioned against reading too much into that, saying no agreement was imminent. Clearly, though, signing Kemp to a long-term deal sometime this winter — and before Kemp becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season — is a high priority for the Dodgers.

“This is obviously going to be cordial,” Stewart said of the negotiations. “I have known Ned for 30 years, and that is the easy part of it. The tough part is trying to figure out exactly where Matt sits and how I get them to see what I see.” …

Nov 09

Remembering 2011: Blake Hawksworth

Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBlake Hawksworth (35)

The setup: After signing Juan Uribe a year ago, the Dodgers were looking to unload aribtration-eligible infielder Ryan Theriot, their midseason acquisition from Chicago who had OPSed .606 for them but stood to earn more than $3 million in 2011. Theriot was traded on November 30 for Hawksworth, who in 2009 had a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings (all in relief) despite striking out only 4.5 per nine innings, then faltered as a swingman in 2010 with a 4.98 ERA (5.83 in eight starts).

The closeup: As a reliever in 2010, Hawksworth had a 4.25 ERA with a .822 opponents’ OPS while allowing 45 percent of inherited runners to score. As a reliever in 2011, Hawksworth had a 4.08 ERA and allowed 50 percent of inherited runners to score – but with a .651 opponents’ OPS and a career-best 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Go figure.

Hawksworth had hot and cold runs like that ERA would suggest. Coming back from nearly a month on the sidelines with a groin strain, Hawksworth had a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings in June with eight strikeouts against seven baserunners and six of eight inherited runners stranded, twice striking out the side in an inning. But from July 27 through September 4, he was only good for an 8.40 ERA in 15 innings with 12 strikeouts against 25 baserunners.

Coming attractions: Hawksworth, 29 in March, won’t be eligible for arbitration for one more year, so he should be back in the Dodger bullpen at a modest salary (no more than $500,000).

Nov 06

Who’s up for softball?

Attention, attention: There is going to be a softball tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina for Dodger bloggers and their readers, organized by The Left Field Pavilion. Details can be found here. I am not sure yet I’ll be able to go, because we haven’t figured out what my kids’ weekends in February will be like yet, but I do hope to make it. In any case, Dodger Thoughters are encouraged to sign up – it should be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere …

  • While interviewing with new executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, potential Chicago Cubs managers are being asked to manage simulated games – you know, like you and me playing a game of Strat-o-Matic – to get a sense of their abilities, reports Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Baseball Musings). I would love to watch.
  • Chad Moriyama took an interesting and revealing look at which Dodger pitchers and hitters were the most and least valuable relative to their salaries at True Blue L.A.
  • John Lindsey, Corey Smith, Jon Link and Randy Keisler are among the many Dodger minor leaguers who have become free agents, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
Nov 04

Friday tidings

As we enjoy more recovery progress from Bryan Stow

  • Juan Rivera’s new Dodger contract is official, and it guarantees him at least $4.5 million including a $500,000 buyout if the Dodgers don’t pick up a $4 million 2013 option. (That’s right — same base salary both years, because apparently the Dodgers were worried they might not be able to overpay Rivera two years in a row.) There are also $500,000 in potential incentives each year. The contract is getting pilloried on the Internet, with Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk bringing a particularly hard pillory.
  • There’s $131 million changing hands in the binding divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt, according to The Associated Press, but the more interesting detail might be that Jamie ended up with three Southern California homes and Frank none. He might not just be getting out of the Dodgers — he might be getting out of Dodge.
  • I did a radio interview with A Martinez of ESPN AM 710 on Thursday that made the same point as Ken Rosenthal makes in this column for Fox Sports: I get intellectually why it might be too complicated during this transition period to sign a player like Prince Fielder, but it’s still not clear to me how it would lower the value of the Dodgers when you think of the appeal he would have for so many. If it’s a good contract after ownership changes hands, it’s a good contract before.
  • My brother’s childhood glove was a Matty Alou glove, so we exchanged sad e-mails over his passing Thursday.
  • Another passing to lament: Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch.
Nov 03

Book it: New owners will long-term Clayton Kershaw

Nothing’s guaranteed, so knock on wood, but this is as close as you’ll get with something this important.

Thanks to the timing of the Dodgers’ ownership transition, count on Clayton Kershaw remaining a Dodger for years and years and years — until at least the end of the decade or close to it.

Matt Kemp might get away (though hopefully not) because the next Dodger owner might not be in place in time to lock him up before Opening Day, and might not outbid other teams if Kemp becomes a free agent.

But there’s no way new ownership, who will be properly vetted by the industry, backed by the next Dodger local TV deal and fully conscious of the import of retaining the closest the Dodgers have come in 45 years to reinventing Sandy Koufax, will not sign Kershaw to a long-term deal before November 2014, when Kershaw can become a free agent. He’ll get a long-term deal, whatever it takes.

Kershaw is yours.

Update: Kershaw won the MLB Players Choice Award for outstanding National League pitcher, while Matt Kemp was voted NL outstanding player.

Nov 03

Latest Hall of Fame chance emerges for Gil Hodges, Buzzie Bavasi


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Ron Santo and Luis Tiant are among 10 candidates for the baseball Hall of Fame who will be on the Veterans Committee ballot next month.

Former players Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds as well as former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and former Athletics owner Charlie Finley also will be on the Golden Era ballot, which will be voted on by the 16-member committee on Dec. 5 at the winter meetings in Dallas.

This year’s committee will consider candidates from the so-called “Golden Era,” from 1947-72.

An eight-time All-Star, Hodges helped the Dodgers win seven pennants and two World Series, then managed the New York Mets to their first World Series title in 1969. His 63.4 percent vote on his final BBWAA ballot in 1983 is the highest percentage for a player who didn’t enter the Hall in a later year.

Those voting on their Hall of Fame chances include Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tom Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton and Billy Williams, executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen (retired) and veteran reporters Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.

Candidates must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballot to be elected. Those elected will be inducted on July 22 along with any players voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 9.

The pre-integration era (1871-46) will be considered at the 2012 winter meetings and the expansion era (1973-present) in 2013, when retired managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are likely to be on the ballot.

Nov 02

Dodgers add Silverio, Van Slyke to 40-man

In the soothing quiet of a slow news cycle, the Dodgers have made two more roster moves. From The Associated Press:

The Los Angeles Dodgers added outfielder Alfredo Silverio and first baseman-outfielder Scott Van Slyke to their 40-man roster.

Silverio batted .306 with 16 home runs and 85 RBIs lastseason with Double-A Chattanooga, and earned selection to the All-Star Futures Game in July.

Van Slyke won the Southern League batting title with a .348 average and had 20 homers and 92 RBIs for Chattanooga. He was named the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year. He is a son of former All-Star outfielder Andy Van Slyke.

I wrote in August about Van Slyke as an emerging 2012 roster option. The 25-year-old had a .427 on-base percentage and .595 slugging percentage in 2011 for Chattanooga, adding up to a 1.022 OPS that was second-best in the Southern League behind Paul Goldschmidt (who then had a 117 OPS+ for Arizona down the stretch) .

Silverio, 24, finished his year with a .340 OBP and .542 slugging, as well as this bizarre combination: 18 triples, 11 stolen bases, 12 caught stealing.

Nov 01

Remembering 2011: Tony Gwynn Jr.

Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesTony Gwynn Jr. (34)

The setup: Gwynn’s defense and speed have never been in question, but his bat always has been, especially after a .591 OPS with San Diego in 2010 at age 27. The Dodgers risked only $675,000 on the possibility that he could help the team nonetheless. Reasons for optimism included his recovery from a broken hand and his dad’s recovery from cancer.

The closeup: It was a season of ups and downs for Gwynn, who could have two extra-inning hits in one game, then go for a month without a hit to the outfield. He entered June with a .230 on-base percentage, .277 slugging percentage and the threat of an early release, but he went .377/.389 with 10 steals over the next two months, including a 7-for-11 batting spree over two days in late June, followed by a July 1 game in which he reached base in all six plate appearances.

He finished 2011 with a .308 on-base percentage, a career-high .353 slugging percentage and 22 steals in 28 attempts. The guy whose biggest worry was his bat ended up sixth on the Dodgers in plate appearances. Though he was forced to play out of position, he provided in left field the best defense of any Dodger player, subjectively if not statistically.

Coming attractions: Gwynn’s future as a Dodger has been little-discussed. Though he was signed on the open market, that came after San Diego non-tendered him in December 2010, and he is eligible for salary arbitration with the Dodgers and won’t be a free agent unless they choose to let him go. Working off such a relatively low 2011 base salary, Gwynn’s 2012 figure doesn’t project to be much more than $1 million. With the Dodgers’ 2012 bench wide-open at this point, it seems logical that he could return in the same role.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Matt Guerrier

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMatt Guerrier (33)

The setup: We set the stage pretty clearly when Guerrier signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dodgers in December …

… Guerrier, who came up with the Minnesota Twins in 2004, has had a pretty fine career as a reliever, with a career ERA of 3.38. He has averaged 75.5 appearances the past four years. But the 32-year-old righty’s strikeout rate has dropped below six per nine innings over the past two seasons, and as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out, his fielding independent ERA was over 4.00 last season, indicating he’s benefited from some luck. Add to that a batting average on balls in play over the past two seasons of .224, which is exceedingly lucky — and a warning sign considering that, as David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes, he’ll have a poorer defense behind him in Los Angeles.

So you know, there’s some stuff that’s good with Guerrier, and there’s some stuff that’s less good. With the exception of 2008, when his ERA soared above 5.00, the results have been there. The main concern might be asking him to continue being this productive from ages 32-35.

Since the Dodgers’ last won a World Series, according to, the following pitchers have had an ERA below 4.00 with a K/9 rate below 7.00 for three consecutive seasons after turning 32, pitching a minimum of 50 innings: David Weathers, Steve Reed, Paul Quantrill, Terry Leach, Chris Hammond, Ryan Franklin and Jeff Reardon. I realize that ERA isn’t a very good way to measure the quality of relief pitching, but I’m just exploring the possibility of someone being good, not making any definitive statement.

So you have that. He might be good, maybe for a long time.

Against that, though, I would still offer that relievers are simply, unavoidably, notoriously inconsistent. We’ve detailed this frequently in the past, but to sum up, it’s exceedingly rare that relievers don’t go through bad spells, and when you try to jump on the bandwagon of one that’s been successful for a while, the odds grow against you.

There have been 66 pitchers for the Dodgers in the Ned Colletti era, from Jonathan Broxton to Mark Loretta. The highlights in the bullpen have been the low-risk investments, coming up through the farm system or coming in as cheap free agents, who have paid dividends. Perhaps, based on the failures of the 2010 bullpen, Colletti has decided he can’t play that game anymore, though you’d think George Sherrill might dissuade him from placing such a big bet on Guerrier. …

The closeup: At the start of the year, with the rest of the Dodger bullpen largely crumbling around him, Guerrier was mostly superlative. He had a terrible outing April 23 in Chicago, the game in which the Dodgers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to take an 8-5 lead, only for Guerrier to allow five runs in his second inning of work to take a 10-8 loss. They were the first runs Guerrier had allowed after 11 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. One week later, Guerrier allowed three runs (two earned) in the bottom of the eighth inning against San Diego, turning a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 defeat. Nonetheless, through June 4 Guerrier had recovered to the point that he had a 3.04 ERA and had stranded 10 of 13 inherited runners. He allowed no runs or inherited runs in 22 of 29 appearances, and if it weren’t for those Chicago and San Diego games, Guerrier’s ERA through June 4 would have been 1.00 in 27 innings.

From that point on, however, Guerrier became less reliable, not only with a 4.91 ERA for the remainder of the season but by allowing 57 percent (16 of 28) of inherited runners to score – far too high a figure for any major-league reliever. Guerrier finished 2011 with a 4.07 ERA and 46 percent (19 of 41) inherited runners scoring. The average National League reliever allowed a 4.16 ERA and 30 percent of inherited runners to score.

If a rookie like Javy Guerra or Josh Lindblom had pitched the way Guerrier did, you would shrug and say “that’s about what you expect” or “you get what you pay for.” But for a multiyear contract man, it was disappointing – and yet, not completely surprising. I admit that I had lost track of how Guerrier was more effective in the first two months of the season – at a time when much of the team was injured or underperforming – but the total year was unfortunately inconsistent.

Coming attractions: Guerrier has two more years left on his unevenly structured contract: He was paid $1.5 million in 2011 but is owed $4.75 million in each of 2012 and 2013, with $1 million deferred until 2014. He will likely be the Dodgers’ highest-paid reliever in 2012. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers more on Guerrier and his contract.