Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Mike Trout

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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In All-Star start, Greinke allows Trout homer but fans ‘tastic four

ZG 4 K

By Jon Weisman

Like Eric Gagne with his streak of consecutive saves heading into the 2003 All-Star Game, Zack Greinke brought a streak of scoreless innings into the 2015 All-Star Game. And like Gagne, Greinke’s streak will continue despite an exhibition interruption.

Leadoff batter Mike Trout lined Greinke’s 1-2 fastball the opposite way into the right-field seats tonight, scoring the first run off Greinke in any setting since June 13.

Greinke walked the next batter, Josh Donaldson, on a full-count fastball. But he retired the next six batters he faced, striking out four (Albert Pujols, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Salvador Perez), with Lorenzo Cain popping out to end the first inning and Jose Altuve grounding out to end the second.

According to Fox Sports, he is the first All-Star pitcher to strike out four since Pedro Martinez in 1999, and the first NL pitcher to do it since Lee Smith in 1987. The Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela, of course, famously struck out five in a row in 1986.

Getty Images

Zack Greinke, moments before the All-Star Game (Getty Images)

The right-hander finished with 39 pitches, 25 for strikes. He will likely take four days off before returning Sunday, if the Dodgers follow through on their plan to separate Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the starting rotation. (Pending what happens tonight, Kershaw — who hasn’t made a start since his July 8 shutout — is likely to pitch Friday in the opening of the second half at Washington.)

In two previous All-Star appearances, Greinke retired all six batters he faced, so for his All-Star career, he has now retired 12 of 14 batters, striking out eight.

Funnily enough, Greinke allowed a run in his first inning of the 2015 regular season, April 7 against San Diego. He allowed no other runs in that game, and only 18 earned runs in his next 17 starts.

Trout entered the game with a single, double and triple in seven career at-bats, so the home run gave the young outfielder a theoretical career cycle against Greinke, as well as an All-Star career cycle.

In case you missed it: Guerrero goes deep twice, gets one homer

IMG_0372

For more photos from Saturday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Justin Turner, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andre Ethier, LF
Alex Guerrero, 3B
Kiké Hernandez, SS
Darwin Barney, 2B
Carlos Frias, P

By Jon Weisman

Alex Guerrero homered to left in his second at-bat of Saturday’s 5-4 Dodger victory over the Angels, but it was the out he made in the first inning that might be the Dodgers’ most memorable blast of the spring.

Guerrero, who finished 2 for 4, launched one to the 420-foot mark in center field, only for Angels center fielder Mike Trout to rise above the wall to grab it.

[mlbvideo id=”56194983″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

Rangers at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chris Heisey, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Buck Britton, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Brandon McCarthy, P

What else have we got?

  • One of the big points of discussion emerging after Saturday’s game was whether the pitching of J.P. Howell, David Huff, Paco Rodriguez and Adam Liberatore could encourage the Dodgers to carry more lefty relievers than you’d ever have expected. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Bill Plunkett of the Register and Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles lay things out.
  • J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News has more specifically on Huff.
  • Joe Posnanski tells a baseball integration and acceptance story through the life of former Dodger Bobby Bragan.

In case you missed it: Soaking in Spring Training

By Jon Weisman

Man, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. Here’s what’s percolating:

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Campaign celebrates MVPs Trout and Kershaw

14x48_TroutKershaw

Dual MVP listBy Jon Weisman

Over at the corner of Highland and Wilshire, there’s a new billboard promoting the unprecedented Freeway Series matchup between local Most Valuable Players — the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

Last year marked the 11th time in the 83-year history of the Baseball Writers Association of America MVP awards, and first time in 12 years, that players from the same market captured their league MVP honors. It has never before happened in Southern California.

Mike Trout hit an infield single, doubled and struck out looking against Clayton Kershaw on August 5 at Dodger Stadium. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Mike Trout hit an infield single, doubled and struck out looking against Clayton Kershaw on August 5 at Dodger Stadium. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

The last time the Dodgers were involved in such a duet was in 1956, with Don Newcombe and Mickey Mantle. Twice, in 1951 and 1955, Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra won MVP awards in the same year. The first time it happened with a Dodger was in 1941, when Dolph Camilli became an MVP alongside Joe DiMaggio.

In the six weeks leading up to the Freeway Series, the Angels and Dodgers will be in a little bit of a contest on social media in determining the area’s MVMVP (Most Valuable MVP). Dodger fans can show their support by tweeting “#MVPKersh.”

While the two teams played four games against each other in last year’s regular season, in 2015 they’ll square off for six. The Dodgers will host the Angels July 31-August 2 and will play at Anaheim September 7-9.

In honor of the Trout-Kershaw Confluence, I’ve created my own signage. Here it is …

Burma-Shave CKMT3

Video: Everything baseball in one play

[mlbvideo id=”31450411″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
By Jon Weisman

Second batter of the game, and our baseball world went wild.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think much more time, if any, was taken by the replay process than would have been taken by a garden variety argument anyway.

Reasons to watch

The times of the year in spring and fall when first-run TV and Major League Baseball intersect the most are tough for me. (I do love my shows.) I almost never watch nighttime exhibition baseball as a result, particularly when my DVR is bubbling.

But I checked on the Dodger game after dinner tonight, almost for no other reason other than to acknowledge the team was back in Southern California, and not only was it scoreless in the fifth, which was kind of interesting, but the Dodgers hadn’t allowed a baserunner, which was very interesting.

It whetted my appetite for baseball. My curiosity.

In the seventh inning, I paused to pay attention to a Juan Uribe at-bat, which is like pausing to pay attention to a fallen leaf. Uribe has had … not the worst spring, and I entertained myself with the thought that I would spot something different about him.  I didn’t, but I did get to see him get his second hit in three at-bats tonight, a broken-bat single off Mark Lowe, that pitcher the Dodgers released earlier this week.

Later in the inning, there was a mini-version of one of those just-when-you-think-you’ve-seen-everything moments, something Vin Scully might remark upon if the stakes were higher. Uribe was on second base with two out, and Tim Federowicz hit a soft single into left field. In a 0-0 exhibition game, I figured Uribe would be waved home to try to score and hardly minded, but given that he was rounding third as the left fielder was reaching the ball, I also figured he would be thrown out easily – and that’s without factoring in that the left fielder was superman Mike Trout.

But Uribe was safe. Easily. He was running in mud, but he was safe.  Maybe he was saving himself for the regular season, but Trout just put nothing on his throw. Welcome back, unpredictability.

And then in the next inning, Matt Kemp hit an opposite-field RBI triple. Giddy.

I like having reasons to watch. I like being reminded that I have reasons to watch. I admit, there are moments that I think this game has nothing left to offer me, at least relative to what the rest of the world can. But baseball keeps putting up a fight. It’s relentless.

When Mike Trout surpassed Matt Kemp

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Matt Treanor, C
Chad Billingsley, P

At the start of the season, there’s no one in baseball I would have traded Matt Kemp for. But that’s not the case anymore, as you’ll see in my latest post at Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

 

Does Matt Kemp need a rain dance?

While I ponder what a potential rainout of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader — with the games unlikely to be replayed — might do to Matt Kemp’s MVP chances, here are some links:

  • Juan Uribe’s season-ending surgery for a sports hernia is today, the Dodgers announced.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation offers a history of suicides among baseball players, with some particularly grim anecdotes from the distant and more recent past.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. on the broken dreams of Ivan DeJesus Jr.:

    … In addition to his two walks in 35 at-bats with the Dodgers, DeJesus had just 16 walks in 245 plate appearances over 57 games in Triple A through July 21, just 6.5% of his plate appearances. However, as the season wore on DeJesus showed improvement with 29 walks in his final 43 games, walking in 14.6% of his plate appearances during that span, showing glimpses of his prior days as a viable prospect. DeJesus even hit six of his eight home runs this season in a 16-game span in mid-August.

    Whether it was for attitude, or performance, or both, DeJesus did not get the call. Again. If the Dodgers thought anything of DeJesus, he would be up with the big league team. It appears his days in the Dodger organization are numbered, which is a shame.

    It’s not clear to me why, even if De Jesus doesn’t loom large in the Dodgers’ future plans, he would get buried by Eugenio Velez, who is 0 for his last 40 in the majors — unless the Dodgers’ share the same perverse fascination with how long Velez’s streak can go on that we do.

  • Stephen also points out that Andre Ethier now has at least 30 doubles in five consecutive seasons, a figure exceeded by only four players in Dodger history: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey.
  • Don Mattingly gave an interview to Jim Rosenthal of Los Angeles Magazine (link via L.A. Observed, which also points to a science-flavored Times op-ed piece by Frederick M. Cohan related to Sandy Koufax’s perfect game). An excerpt from the Mattingly interview:

    Managers have people second-guessing them all the time. But even you’ve second-guessed some of your decisions in the press.
    If you don’t second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better. Joe would always tell me that you are going to make decisions. Some of them are not going to work out, and it does not mean that they were the wrong decisions. I have had many occasions this year where I questioned and second-guessed my decision in a game, but it comes down to learning from mistakes and being accountable for what you did right or did wrong.

    Can you think of a decision you second-guessed recently?
    The Mets had Jason Bay waiting on deck with an open base, and I could have walked the lefty hitter and pitched to Bay. Instead the lefty got a hit, and I kicked myself for not challenging Bay and walking the other guy with an open base. We all have the temptation to be backseat drivers when it comes to decisions that don’t work out the way we want. …

  • Is Biz of Baseball founder and Dodger Thoughts friend Maury Brown bringing down the Jim Crane ownership of the Houston Astros (with an assist from Frank and Jamie McCourt) before it even begins? Take a look at this piece and this one by Brown and judge for yourself.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America stacks Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout’s 2011 season against the best ever by age-20 players.
  • Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore looks at the offseason market for catchers (in case the Dodgers decide they need to stick a dagger in A.J. Ellis’ heart one more time.
  • A big topic of conversation in the online sabermetric world Tuesday was this piece appearing on It’s About the Money, which calls into question the value of the Wins Above Replacement stat because of its reliance on fielding metrics that are questionable. This led to a discussion at Sean Foreman’s Baseball-Reference.com blog (including the comments) about how much consistency one should expect in fielding stats for individual players from year to year.
  • Baseball Toaster founder Ken Arneson explores on his new blog why he’s not ready to “commit to a life as a chicken.” I can relate:

    … It’s partly because I don’t have all my ducks in a row in my personal life to make that practical right now. I quit writing regularly two years ago because I was juggling too many balls in my life, and I ended up doing a half-assed job on all of them. I hate feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, I hate feeling like I need to work 24/7 in order to avoid feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, so I resist making commitments that would create any expectations. Hence, for now, this blog, where I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with maximum flexibility and minimum commitment. …

And a good night was had by all …

Jamey Carroll called a players’ only meeting before Thursday’s dominant 6-0 victory by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Meetings like this can’t save a season, but it sounds like it was a positive event.

ESPNLosAngeles.com also has a piece that you might call “The State of Vin Scully,” featuring an interview with the man himself.

The biggest local baseball news is the Angels’ promotion of 19-year-old super-prospect Mike Trout to replace an injured Peter Bourjos. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.  The timing is funny because this was happening right around the time that Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts, at Thursday’s fun Fangraphs panel (thanks to everyone there for hosting), was extolling the virtues of Trout, saying that he would sign the player to a 10-year-contract right now.

Mid-day dabblings


The clip above is brought to you by Celebuzz via Franklin Avenue.

  • The Dodgers rank 22nd among organizations in minor-league propsects, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com.
  • Tom Hawthorn of the Toronto Globe & Mail writes about Allan Simpson and the story of how Baseball America was founded.
  • True Blue L.A. offers a guide to visiting Camelback Ranch.
  • Teenage Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the top minor-league prospect in baseball by MLB.com.
  • John Sickels looks back at the top 50 hitting prospects of 2006 at Minor League Ball. Shed a tear for Joel Guzman.
  • Pitcher and used-car salesman Brandon Webb will take that old clunker off your hands, he tells the Dallas Morning News (link via Baseball Musings).
  • Webb’s former Arizona teammate, Micah Owings, has returned to the Diamondbacks, who might use him as a true two-way player, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com questions whether, after decades, he is still a Royals fan.

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