Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Cody Bellinger (Page 1 of 2)

Best of the 2010s:
The All-Decade Dodgers

Raymond Gorospe/MLB.com

We have nearly reached the end of the ’10s, and though selections of the Dodgers’ all-decade team should probably wait until after the 2019 World Series, these few days of relative calm before the storm of the postseason seemed like a good time to reveal them. Nothing is likely to affect these choices between now and then (although I’m fascinated by the idea that something could). 

Most challenging was having to deal with five legitimate candidates for the four openings at outfield/first base. Catcher was nearly a toss-up, and second base yielded its own surprise. 

Here we go … 

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Cody Bellinger has not been lucky

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon Weisman/Dodger Thoughts

Cody Bellinger’s absolutely incredible 2019 start has been covered from many different angles, and I don’t intend to repeat any of it here. I just want to add one thread to the tapestry.

It’s been years since I’ve cared about batting average, except when someone is batting .400. That number will always have magic for me. I’m more impressed, just as one example, by Bellinger’s .500 on-base percentage, which takes us beyond magic into Narnia territory.

Nevertheless, it’s Bellinger’s .420 batting average through the Dodgers’ first 30 games that I’m addressing today.

Normally, when someone is batting .400 or better, you assume he’s been lucky. That’s something you would suspect intuitively even before the analytical revolution began earlier this century. When Rod Carew, George Brett or Tony Gwynn chased .400 in my younger days, it reflected their greatness, of course, but also the understanding that they were catching a certain amount of breaks at the right time.

Right now, Cody Bellinger is earning every bit of his .420 batting average. According to Statcast, his expected batting average (xBA), which measures the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit, is .428. His .420 is arguably underselling his performance this season.

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Machado, Bellinger and Puig: The bunt and the bops

Manny Machado’s shock-the-world, Ahmad Abdul Rahim-style, two-strike bunt to start the second inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series was like manna from heaven for the small-ball starved crowd, and as a guy who’s not part of that crowd, I couldn’t have been happier.

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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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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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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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Willie Calhoun MVP of AFL Fall Stars Game

By Jon Weisman

Dodger second-base prospect Willie Calhoun went 3 for 3 with a home run to win Most Valuable Player honors and lead the West team to a 12-4 victory over the East at the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game tonight.

Calhoun, who turned 22 Friday, singled and scored in a four-run second inning, hit an RBI single in a four-run third inning and knocked a two-run homer in the fifth. In 2016 with Double-A Tulsa, Calhoun hit 27 homers and 25 doubles in 503 at-bats and slugged .469.

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Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect, added a two-run homer in the sixth. The left-handed swinger hit his off 6-foot-7 southpaw Jared Miller, an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand.

Six Dodgers in Baseball America Top 100 update

Cody Bellinger (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Despite this year’s promotions of Corey Seager and Julio Urias and the debut of American rookie Kenta Maeda, Baseball America included six Dodgers in its Midseason Top 100 Prospects update.

Cody Bellinger (24), Jose De Leon (25), Alex Verdugo (44), Grant Holmes (60), Frankie Montas (82) and Willie Calhoun (98) were the Dodgers listed.

By comparison, the season-opening 2016 Baseball America 100 had Seager (1), Urías (4), De Leon (23), Maeda (50), Bellinger (54), Holmes (72) and Verdugo (100).

The new list does not include anyone taken in the 2016 draft or signed internationally this month.

 

Farm Fresh: June 23 Dodger minors highlights

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By Miranda Perez

Highlights from the Dodger farm system for June 23, including Hyun-Jin Ryu’s latest rehab outing and two walkoff wins  …

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Farm Fresh: Top pick Gavin Lux makes debut

By Jon Weisman

Newly signed Dodger first-round pick Gavin Lux has reported to Camelback Ranch, where he will play in the Arizona Fall League, as several members of the 2016 draft class got into their first action as pros Monday.

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Farm Fresh: Bellinger rings true

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Cody Bellinger hit a 10th-inning walkoff grand slam Saturday for Double-A Tulsa, which makes Cary Osborne’s current Dodger Insider magazine feature on the 20-year-old all the more timely (a bit more so than Mike Petriello’s Gamevolution piece on Yimi Garcia, who went on the disabled list shortly after our magazine went to print).

Read the entire story by clicking here.

* * *

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at dodgers.com/magazine

No, not everyone got hurt: 2016 Spring Training stars

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Diego Padres

By Jon Weisman

One week from Opening Day, it’s safe to say that injuries have dampened Spring Training for the Dodgers this year, like picking the wrong line at Philippe’s 30 minutes before game time. If there’s an upside, it’s that aside from the injuries, there’s been a feast for the baseball senses. Nearly everyone on the field is meeting or exceeding expectations. Here are some of the brightest (and, knock on wood) healthiest lights at Camelback Ranch this month:

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In case you missed it: Ex-Dodger moves forward from tragedy

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Reds at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Trayce Thompson, CF
Chase Utley, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Rob Segedin, 1B
Austin Barnes, 2B
Charlie Culberson, SS
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

I hope you don’t have to read a tougher story than this today: Former Dodger reliever Javy Guerra spoke to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News about the twin horrors of losing his brother and sister in the past two years.

Here’s what’s happening around the Dodgers …

  • Zach Lee held serve in his challenge with Carlos Frias to start in the first week of the 2016 season. In the Dodgers’ 5-4 victory Saturday over the White Sox, Lee (pitching 4 2/3 innings) got two more outs than Frias, but allowed two more runs. Oddly, Lee had no walks or strikeouts.
  • Wrote Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: “Some will speculate that because Frias faced the Giants recently, Lee will get that first start, rather than have Frias face the same hitters again. San Francisco’s lineup Friday night included Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford.”
  • Under the radar, Kiké Hernandez (hit by a pitch near his oblique Sunday), Alex Guerrero (knee) and Yimi Garcia (knee) have gone days without playing as they try to let various sore spots heal.
  • However, Gurnick indicates that Corey Seager is nearing a return to Major League action after playing defense in a minor-league game Saturday.
  • Scott Kazmir’s abdominal issues weren’t abominable – it turns out, they were cramps.
  • Prospect watchers got a thrill when 20-year-old Cody Bellinger and 21-year-old Willie Calhoun hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning off MLB veteran Dan Jennings. Each player reached base twice in the game.
  • Justin Turner walked, doubled and singled in his three plate appearances, and now has a Cactus League on-base percentage in the .700 club.
  • Play-by-play announcer Joe Davis is not only spending his first season with the Dodgers in 2016, he and his wife Libby are having their first baby this summer. Congrats!
  • It was Dodger Pride night Saturday at Staples Center with the Kings.

In case you missed it: Maeda rolls after getting a bit rocked

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

It’s hard not to like what Kenta Maeda has brought to the U.S. so far.

Same with Justin Turner, even if the journey isn’t quite so far.

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In case you missed it: Lighting up the scoreboard

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By Jon Weisman

Today, when Dave Roberts had to make his first mid-inning visit to the mound as Dodger manager, to relieve starter Scott Kazmir with two out in the second inning against the Angels, maybe it seemed like a big deal.

It wasn’t.

Kazmir’s five runs allowed were matched by Jeff Weaver of the Angels, only the start of what became a 13-13 tie in Tempe — recapped at MLB.com.

“I honestly think I’m on the right path,” Kazmir said. “If you look at the game and not the box score, it tells a different story.”

But really, this was a day for the offense.

Joc Pederson, Austin Barnes (who had three hits) and Scott Van Slyke homered for the 4-1-2 Dodgers, who have increased their Spring Training OPS to a rather ridiculous .916.

The player who made the biggest impression today was 20-year-old first baseman Cody Bellinger, the theoretical heir to Adrian Gonzalez — if he can wait that long. Bellinger, who is also capable of playing outfield, went 3 for 3 and is impressing Roberts.

“The game doesn’t speed up on him,” Roberts told Ken Gurnick in this feature for MLB.com. “He looks comfortable out there. The more you see, the more you like.”

What else?

  • Encouraging news on the injury front from Gurnick: Howie Kendrick and Alex Guerrero participated in fielding and hitting drills, Hyun-Jin Ryu threw for the third consecutive day, Justin Turner again played in a minor-league game and Julio Urias had a light bullpen session ahead of his anticipated Cactus League debut Friday.
  • Brett Anderson spoke at length to Gurnick about beginning his latest rehab from surgery to repair a bulging disc.
  • Bill Plunkett of the Register looks at the different ways Roberts tries to connect with his players.
  • Kenta Maeda, who pitches Thursday for the Dodgers, talked to Doug Padilla of ESPN.com about what it would mean if he were able to face off against the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka when the Dodgers go to the Bronx in September.
  • Skip Schumaker, who had twin .332 on-base and slugging percentages for the Dodgers in 2014, has retired at age 36, ending an 11-year MLB career.

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