Dodger Thoughts

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

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Street cleaning seems bogus, right?

Is weekly street cleaning just a shallow disguise for generating parking ticket revenue?

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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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The better angels of our Twitter

I don’t write about politics on this site — one can argue whether I should or not, but that’s a different conversation.

This is a post about social media. It’s actually a post on a smaller aspect of larger issues surrounding social media that I’ve been pondering, but whatever … call it a snapshot.

Despite keeping politics away from Dodger Thoughts, I do tweet about politics, and also retweet people and stories I find relevant. At different times, I wonder if I do it too much or not enough.

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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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What’s up, Dodger fans? Feats of strength and other notes …

Seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium, Independence Day (click to enlarge)

When you’re out of the blogging groove but the ideas keep coming, the easy thing to do is just dish them off on Twitter. But tweets are like shooting stars, and sometimes you want a constellation. So here I am back at Dodger Thoughts to try to collect some thoughts.

Also, I’m convinced that tons of people bypass the intro to a column and to get straight at the meat, so let’s get right to it.

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The Most Roman Numerous Sequel Series in History: Kershaw CCC

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, and this one will be quick. But I can’t let Kershaw CCC Day — celebrating the 300th career start by Clayton Kershaw — pass by without any fanfare at all.

Here’s what I wrote for Kershaw CCL:

It’s probably the least popular and least productive thing I’ve ever done with my life, though I wish it were the most humiliating.

But ever since Clayton Kershaw made his Major League debut, on May 25, 2008, I’ve pictured every subsequent start as if it were a sequel in a blockbuster movie series.

You just had that feeling about Kershaw, from the very beginning, that he was going to be epic.

The first sequel was Kershaw II: The Kershawing. And it went on from there. Mostly downhill.

Tonight, Kershaw reaches career start No. 250. To commemorate the event — and with deepest apologies — here’s the list of all the titles I’ve created.

So many of them are just awful, truly awful. Some, I really don’t know what I was thinking — even by my lowly standards. Some were repeats, with me having forgotten I had used a title already — sometimes within the same month.

But, what’s done is done, and what’s here is here. At least I haven’t cursed him. And I am happy with the quote I used to introduce him before his first big-league game.

Diane

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