15 December 2007

A Chilling Comparison

Newly Signed Dodger Hiroki Kuroda

2007 Central League ERA ranking: 9
ERA: 3.56
Innings: 179.7
Strikeouts: 123
Walks: 42
Homeruns: 20

Mystery Japanese Pitcher

2007 Central League ERA ranking: 12
ERA: 4.19
Innings: 166.7
Strikeouts: 163
Walks: 49
Homeruns: 21

When I first heard Kuroda’s ERA, I thought it sounded a little high for a Japanese League. Then I looked at the stats and saw that he was ninth in his league in ERA last year, which sounds pretty good. But then I realized that ninth isn’t all that good when there are only 6 teams in the league.

People are claiming that his home stadium in Hiroshima is a hitter’s park, so that might be an encouraging sign. I haven’t found any numbers to back up this claim yet, though. The short dimensions down the lines are often cited, but there’s more to park factors than short outfield porches. Still, maybe ninth is really pretty good given his home park. He was the best Hiroshima Carp pitcher by ERA last year, for what that might be worth.

So it was while pondering how good Kuroda might really be that I saw something a little further down the ERA leader list that chilled my blood!

The mystery man in 12th place on the ERA list strikes out a lot more batters than Kuroda, though he did have a worse ERA ( obviously ). He also had worse HR and walk rates. Maybe we could say that Kuroda is better than the mystery pitcher, but he’s not heaps better.

If that mystery pitcher was also coming to the major leagues, would we expect Kuroda to be much better than him? Especially given the mystery pitcher’s higher strikeout rate, we might expect them to be pretty close in performance.

Unfortunately, the mystery pitcher has pitched in the major leagues before. His name is Kaz Ishii. You know, the frustrating and by the end mediocre Dodger starter who ended up being traded for famed slow-poke catcher and occasional-first-base-man Jason Phillips? What the Pierre were the Dodgers thinking in signing to a three year deal averaging at least 12 million a year a pitcher perhaps only marginally better than Kaz Ishii?

Okay, time for a self-sedation. Ishii is older by Kuroda --- by two years. Ish --- sedative not working! Okay, how about this --- if Kuroda replicated Ishii’s ERA’s from his three years with the Dodgers, we’d get an ERA of 4.27 in 2008, 3.86 in 2009, and 4.71 in 2010. That’s worth 12 million or more a year, right? Right? Ugh, sedative still not working.

In truth no one knows how Kuroda will do. It's really hard to say how a pitcher coming over from Japan will do. I guess one could argue for paying 12 million for a 4 ERA pitcher, if it keeps a 5 ERA pitcher from making starts. We’ll see if Kuroda can even manage an ERA of 4, though. Ishii’s big weakness were all the walks he gave up, but they didn’t really sink him until year three. Kuroda’s weakness is going to be his low strikeout rate, most likely. We’ll see how long it takes for that to sink him.

I have to say, though, I don't hate this signing. That's because I'm an irrationally optimistic Dodger fan. When they happen I always think the free agent signings will work out, somehow. Except for Juan Pierre's signing, of course. I hated that one from the beginning. Even optimists have their limits.

06 December 2007

Pierre Loses His Cover

Something happened! The Dodgers did something! Ken Rosenthal and the others ( such as Buster Olney ) who criticized the Dodgers for having a bad offseason by doing nothing get their wish! Another ex-Brave is signed to a lucrative short term contract!

Andruw Jones, the boy from Curacao ( as Vinny likes to call him ) has signed with the Dodgers for 36 million dollars spread out over two years. Sheesh, I feel so out of the loop. I've only just now heard about this signing, even though the news of it apparently broke last night. My source in the Dodger front office didn't come through!

Jones is the center fielder. That's not in question. And Pierre is the presumptive left fielder. But I don't buy it. Pierre is not going to be the regular Dodger left fielder for long. This is next year, and everything has changed.

If the Dodgers keep Ethier and Kemp, then it's a sure thing that Pierre will fall into the fourth outfielder spot. Pierre is no longer the fresh signing who's got to be played. He is no longer the only center fielder available --- in fact he'll likely never play center field for the Dodgers again, outside of a Jones injury or Jones day off. As a newly signed center fielder Pierre had an almost mystical claim on being in the lineup: the Dodgers brought him in to be their speedy center fielder, and come groundout or pop up or pathetic bunt that's where he was going to play. But now, he's a known bust who's competing for a corner outfield spot. His power and on-base deficiencies will suddenly seem more obvious. His outfield speed ( such as it is ) will seem less relevant. Oh sure, he does start the season in a starting role. I don't deny that. But this year Pierre will have to compete for his playing time, and in a legitimate competition he has no chance. Being the center fielder was Pierre's trump card in keeping his starting job, and now he's lost it.

His competitors for a corner outfield spot, Ethier and Kemp, aren't rookies anymore. They have power numbers and batting averages and OPS's to point to at the big league level. They're better, and I think Torre and Colletti know this. I also don't deny that Pierre may get a boost in this competition from being the older player, the proven veteran winner, but that's not going to be enough. The Dodgers may be a little backward when it comes to giving their young players a chance, but when a veteran starter isn't getting it done eventually that starter will be pulled, even if it isn't as fast or as complete as most of us would like. Nomar and Gonzo did lose playing time as the season went on last year.

Now, Colletti may trade either Kemp or Ethier for starting pitching. ( I refuse to believe he'd part with either one for Rolen or some other inferior-to-LaRoche third baseman. ) Then it becomes harder --- Pierre becomes more able to hold on to his corner outfield spot, because where is the competition? But I know that one thing
GM Ned likes is his depth. If he trades one of Kemp or Ethier, he'll go out and get a Terrmel Sledge type guy to be a fourth outfielder. And Delwyn Young should also be lurking in the outfield mix. Though it will take longer, Pierre would also lose playing time to whoever the Dodgers had as their fourth and fifth outfielders at the start of the year. It really doesn't matter who else the Dodgers have. Pierre's days of playing every day are done, for the simple reason that he is now the worst corner outfielder in all of baseball, by such a margin that even Pierre apologists will have to see it. There's nowhere for him to hide now that Jones has taken over center field.

04 December 2007

Tigers Trade 6.2 Million Dollars for Cabrera

So the big news of the day is that the Tigers have traded top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin along with 4 lesser prospects for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. How fortunate for the Tigers that they had Miller and Maybin around to make the trade, huh?

The Tigers bought their fortune, more or less. Andrew Miller was drafted 6th overall in the 2006 draft. He got a signing bonus of 3.85 million to go with another 3 million plus in guaranteed money. The players drafted directly ahead and behind him got signing bonuses of 2 million ( Brandon Morrow ) and 2.3 million ( Clayton Kershaw ). By paying an extra 1.5 million or so the Tigers were able to lock up a premier talent. Cameron Maybin was drafted 10th overall in 2005, and after a lengthy holdout he signed for slightly above "slot money" with a signing bonus of 2.65 million dollars. In comparison, Wade Townsend, drafted eighth in 2005, got a signing bonus of 1.5 million. ( The ninth pick that year, Pelfry, was also signed above slot value. ) By paying an extra 1 million the Tigers locked up Maybin. By a very simple analysis, this extra 2.5 million spent in 2005 and 2006 has paid off with Miguel Cabrera in 2008.

Now, the Tigers are losing 4 pitching prospects in this deal. That hurts their overall pitching depth, no question. But they still have Rick Porcello, drafted 27th overall last year and given a signing bonus of 3.85 million to sign, well over slot money that far down in the first round. By paying over slot for him, they put themselves in a position to trade away four pitching prospects and still have some depth.

The Tigers may well have been better off if they had drafted Kershaw instead of Miller in 2006, of course. He would have been cheaper and may have even have been more slightly more valued by the Marlins thatn Miller. But you'll come out ahead over the long haul by drafting premium talent that drops because of signability concerns and then paying over slot to get that talent on board. If the Tigers had just taken players at each spot in the draft that they knew they could sign at the MLB approved amount for that slot, they might not have had enough young talent to get Cabrera.

I don't know which team wins this trade. I'm bad at figuring out that sort of thing. But viewed one way the Tigers basically got Cabrera for an outlay of 6.2 million dollars back in 2005 and 2006. It's not as if losing either Maybin or Miller creates any true holes in the 2008 Tigers. ( Maybe losing them creates holes in the 2010 Tigers, though. ) Anyway, about 6 million for Cabrera is a steal for the Tigers, isn't it?

I wish the Dodgers were willing to consistently go over slot in the way the Tigers are. Nothing beats smart drafting, of course. You need to give the bonuses to the right players. But I wonder, who might Kyle Blair have been traded for down the road? What might an investment of 1 million in 2007 have garnered the Dodgers in future years?

27 November 2007

Nothing Is Happening

Nothing is happening with the Dodgers, unless you count ridiculous rumors, photo opportunities and vaguely reassuring interviews by top officials. The rumors have beaten me down, even though I try not to pay them any attention. I know they're garbage, and yet still the thought that there are people out there who think trading Kershaw, Kemp, LaRoche and Loney for Miguel Cabrera is something the Dodgers would do is very unsettling. These rumors are the product of having lots of good young players and prospects and having an iffy GM who seems to value veteran players too much. It's good and bad, together, creating hysteria.

So, I haven't had anything relevent to say about the team. This is because nothing is happening. And that's good, because nothing should happen with this team. I don't want any substantive issues to write about in this blog. I don't want there to be any trades or signings to talk about, because almost anything the Dodgers could do would be bad, a step backwards.

They broke the ground on the new spring training site in Arizona. I guess that was something happening. They had a picture of Vin Scully with a shovel. That was pretty goofy. I don't care about Spring Training, though. Should Spring Training be capitalized, perhaps as a way of making it seem more important than it really is? I don't care where the Dodgers play their springtime pretend games, though I am mildly unsettled at the thought of them sharing a field with another team. The best part of spring training is that it means the real games are coming up really soon.

The real games are so far off now, though. Maybe Dodgerama should have an offseason, just like the team it kind of covers. It has been several weeks since I posted anything. But blogs aren't supposed to have offseasons.

07 November 2007

The Face of the Dodgers

Joe Torre is the new face of the Dodgers. That's the biggest change his hiring brings. From the perspective of all the national writers he's now the most important part of the team, even as some of them may say that he can't do it all himself, that the Dodgers are far from a sure thing next year. The Dodger season of 2008 will be about Joe Torre's quest for redemption, even if he denies it. Even though it's the players who matter, not the manager. I think most of the baseball writers out there know this, but they can't help themselves. The Joe Torre redemption quest makes a great story, and it involves the Yankees. It's always going to be one of the angles whenever anyone non-local talks about the Dodgers. The truth is Joe Torre is now the most famous current Dodger. Number two is Nomar. I guess Vinny is number three.

The only way Torre doesn't remain the most famous current Dodger is if the team signs A-HRod or if one of the young players becomes a mega-star next year. Or maybe if they traded for someone like Johan Santana. I think fame is a good quality to look for in your manager. It's not as if there's much else separating all of them. Having a famous manager is fun for the fans. I don't know if it's worth 5 million a year, but it's worth something. It gives an irrational sense of hope. In the backs of our minds we all know that famous people always win. Things go their way. Even though we know baseball doesn't work this way, it's still a shock to think Joe Torre's ballclub could lose. He's Joe Torre! It would be like OJ going to jail.

29 October 2007

What Happened? What the Hell Happened?

by Joshua Worley

There they were, the Rockies and their fans, winners of 21 out of 22, miracle contestants in the World Series --- and then it was gone, swept away by the Red Sox.

There we were, Dodger fans, in May of 1998, with the greatest hitting catcher ever, a sure-fire future Dodger Hall-of-famer --- and then it was gone, traded away to the Marlins.

There we were, in 2005, 12-2 to start the year, winners of games by blowout and comeback, by fortune and talent, riding high with a great young GM at the helm --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury, arrogance, and panic.

There we were, this year, 13-5 to begin April, looking like the best team in the National League --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury and stupidity.

There they were, the Yankees and their fans, finally in love with the greatest player in the game, and then it was gone, terminated by email.

Baseball fans know all too well the horrible feeling that comes when the bottom falls out. Everything is going fine, and suddenly nothing is fine. The season is in shambles. Future seasons are in shambles, perhaps. You're helpless, bewildered, angry. What the hell happened?

The Mets, and the Brewers. The Padres. I think some of their fans are still wondering what happened. And now the Rockies. Everything was going so well. Unimaginably well, historically well. They were the new team clutch. And then they weren't. Why did the Rockies magic melt? What happened to that team of destiny?

There is no answer. There are grasping explanations, there are urgent reasons why the disaster occured, but there is no honest answer. The 8-day layoff hurt them. The Red Sox were a far superior team. But inferior teams have won before, and teams with long layoffs have won before. There is no true answer, unless one is content to just make up new rules for why teams win every year.

There is a necessary humility in knowing you don't have the answer. It's a humility many sportswriters lack. This is why our team lost, and this is what has to be done to fix it. Usually fixing it involves firing someone. Sometimes it's making a trade or signing a player.

I think the Dodgers should make a run at Alex Rodriguez. He's such a polarizing figure --- already Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Jemele Hill have all ripped him at espn.com. But if he hits, and he will, I don't care. I don't care about the whole question of clutch. He's worth going after. But he's not the answer. No one player is ever the answer. The trap door can open on any team.

There are, sometimes, lessons to be learned from failure. Weaknesses shown, a path to improvement indicated. But there are no definitive answers. During many of the recent offseasons the Yankees thought they had found their answer. They were always just one big signing away. There is no foolproof way to win as much as you'd like, when you'd like. There is always the possibility for the "what the hell happened" moment to come again. A player leaves unexpectedly, or the team just goes into the tank out of nowhere. There are just no guarantees. So much in baseball just doesn't make sense. Even when there are reasons they may not quite add up to what happened. There are good reasons why the Red Sox won the World Series --- but these reasons shouldn't have added up to a sweep, not over a team that had been playing as well as the Rockies.

I hope 2007 Rockies are remembered well. But in the short term I fear it's a huge mark against them that they didn't win the World Series. Becoming worthy of remembrance seems more and more like an all or nothing sort of thing in modern times. Maybe the perspective of time is needed. Does anyone even care anymore that the 1951 Giants didn't win the World Series? It's irrelevant to the legend of that team. Heck, the '51 Giants are far more famous than the '51 Yankees, who won the World Series. Maybe the same will happen with the Rockies. I have too much respect for what they did down the stretch, including those awful 7 losses they handed the Dodgers, to think of them as failures.

I wonder if Grady Little is wondering what the hell happened right now. The year got really bumpy toward the end, but he seemed comfortably on track to manage the team next year. There were no reactionary sportswriters calling for his head, and management said he would be back. He had a contract.

And now? Who knows? Someone out there knows, I guess. I'm not sure who, though. All these rumors out there, about Girardi, and now Torre --- it's hard to ignore. No one with the Dodgers will come out and say Grady will be back next year. These are bad omens. I'm guessing he feels like a trap door below his feet has opened up, at the least. I don't think it's right. I've had problems with some of Grady's decisions, but this whole round of drawn-out speculation, fueled by the Dodgers' unwillingness to just end it with a definitive statement ( one way or the other ) isn't fair to Grady. Whether he's back next year or not, this past week has been a shame. Part of that falls to Buster Olney and his rumor-mongering, and part of it falls to the Dodgers.

I just hope the Dodgers aren't falling into the Yankee trap of thinking after each failure that they have the answer. Not only does arrogance not breed winning, but it makes it unpleasant to root for a team. I sure hope Colletti and McCourt are proceeding with all due humility. But this thing with Little and Torre bothers me. 2005 was DePodesta's fault. That ended up being the answer for that year. Will 2007 go down as Grady's fault, perhaps for playing those spoiled kids too much?

I don't know. I just wish the Dodgers were still a classy organization. I'm looking at what's happened with the team the last ten years, and sometimes I just wonder what the hell happened.

25 October 2007

Maximizing Beckett

When JD Drew came up in the first inning of World Series Game 1, I thought he would hit a home run. Really. That would have made the score 5-0, and put the game firmly in Boston's control, especially with Beckett pitching. But Beckett is just gravy, you know? The Red Sox would have been firmly in control even with Matsuzaka or Schilling or Lester starting as well. Near locks to win the game, being up 5-0. Beckett would have been made superfluous. Frakly with the game well in hand up 5-0, his excellence would have been wasted.

So my Drew flight of fancy inspired another flight of fancy. If Drew hit that home run to make it 5-0 in the first inning, why not pull Beckett from the game? Save him for game 2, or even game 3 if he can't start a day after throwing an inning. Look, he's scheduled to start only two games anyway. It's not as if the Red Sox would be losing any of his starts by pulling him from a lopsided game and holding him back to start a possibly closer game when his great pitching would be more useful.

There are so many objections to this idea, I know. I can just imagine the consternation and outrage this would cause McCarver and Buck! It would be worth it just to hear them spit bile and indignation at the decision. "You can't run a real baseball team like a strat-o-matic team! You have to win the game you're playing first!" McCarver would be even more outraged than he was when Manny loafed to first on his home run single in the ALCS!

This idea wouldn't work if Schilling or Matsuzaka wasn't ready to come in and "start" game 1 after Beckett was pulled with the 5-0 lead. It could also possibly screw up Beckett, though this objection I find unpersuasive. It would be unorthodox, and leave the manager open to all kinds of criticism if the unlikely happened and the Red Sox gave up their 5-0 first inning lead.

Of course, JD Drew did not hit a home run in the first inning to make it 5-0. He hit a double down the right field line, that unclutch bum, to make it just 3-0. And Beckett stayed in the game, of course. And the Sox went on the win 13-1. So his great effort was kind of wasted anyway. It could have been Schilling in there giving up 4 runs in 6 innings and the Sox would have won just as comfortably. Not that there was an obvious moment to pull off my crazy plan. By the time the Red Sox were up by 5 runs Becket had already pitched 4 innings. I wonder if it would have been possible to pull Beckett at this point and have him be fresh enough to start game 3. I think so, but I'm not the manager.

This is an extreme case of creative pitcher usage, I guess. But even the mild cases of creative pitcher usage are rare now, outside of a do-or-die playoff game. I wish we'd see creative, leverage maximizing pitcher usage out of managers more often. The most obvious flaw in pitcher usage these days is in the deployment of closers, of saving the best reliever for only a ninth inning lead, and not using him often when the game is truly on the line. This has been covered by countless other bloggers; I won't belabor the point. In the Dodgers' case it wasn't so bad most of the year, because they had two elite closer-type relievers in Broxton and Saito. But even with these two there were times when Beimel would pitch in the seventh with the game on the line, because Broxton was the eighth inning guy. The only defined role a pitcher should need is that he gets outs!

The Red Sox won game one, and that's great for them. But they merely held serve, with a home game with their ace going. Let's assume Beckett wins his game 5 start as well. The Sox still have to then win 2 of 5 non-Beckett games to become champions. That doesn't sound too hard, but they are counting on their rather thin second-line pitching to hold down the deep Rockies offense in all of those games. This thing isn't over yet.

18 October 2007

The Lost Offseason

Yesterday I had the happy realization that the new season of Lost was just a few months away. For just a moment, I was giddy with excitement. And then, because my thoughts often come tumbling in strange patterns, I hoped I would have the same kind of anticipatory excitement for the Dodgers around, say, February of next year.

Stay with me, even if you aren't a fan of Lost. Why would it be that I have such excitement for the new season of Lost, even more than two months out? It's because the season finale was so great. More specifically, it's because what the writers of Lost have given us to look forward to is so great. They've had their vision all along, and they've stuck with it. And that's what the baseball offseason is really all about. Give us something to look forward to. Commit to your own excellence! Don't be scared. Don't retreat to the hackneyed old storylines, the reliable comfort of known mediocrity, the tried tricks that everyone has seen before. Resist the Gonzalezes, the Garciaparras, the Pierres. They are the laugh tracks of the baseball world. The sound of laughter without real laughter. The sound of wins without real wins.

Lost came under a lot of criticism over the past few years. People doubted the direction of the show. They wanted more answers. I never understood this. I never saw the slippage in the show. The writers never did lose their way, and I think the strong season finale showed that.

The Dodgers seem to be on the edge of losing their way. Their strong vision for the future has already faltered --- look at how many roadblocks they put in front of Loney and Kemp --- will they completely abandon what is left of their vision? I fear, sometimes, that the new season may end up having all the excitement of a season of Leave it to Beaver. Safe, predictable, mediocre. 0.500. Jason Bay instead of Matt Kemp. Nomar Garciaparra instead of Andy LaRoche. The offseason for the Dodgers is not about getting Alex Rodriguez. That's not going to happen, most likely. What it is about is realizing that Alex Rodriquez is just about only potentially available veteran out there worth getting. But I don't know if the Dodgers know that. A few weeks ago, dodgers.com reporter Ken Gurnick reported that Frank McCourt had vowed to stay the course. In the next few months we'll find out what that really means. What course are they on? It's possible to follow a course faithfully and still end up lost.

10 October 2007

The Boring Snakes

by Joshua Worley

Will anyone east of the Mississippi River be watching the National League Championchip Series? The Cubs, I guess, were the only good national draw in the National League playoffs this year. This is a shame, since the Rockies are the best story, by far, in all of baseball. But I think the habit of ignoring them is just too ingrained for them to really capture a wide range of interest. If the Cubs are loveable losers, then the Phillies are the surly losers. There's just an unpleasant edge around the Phillies and their fans, and I'm not sorry at all to see them out of the playoffs. The Phillies unexpected ascent into the playoffs never felt as pure and joyous as the Rockies ascent did, probably because of the palpable anger there would have been in Philadelphia if they had come up short yet again.

Then there are the Snakes. I don't think the Diamondbacks are a very good story, nor a fun team to watch, particularly. Except for one exception nothing about this team excites me, unlike the other three teams still alive in 2007. They win games, somehow, and that's about it. That fine for their fans, and boring for everyone else. How many fans are we talking about, though? They have trouble even selling out their home ballpark for the NLCS. What a waste of a playoff spot, in a way. But they did earn it. I'm glad Bud Selig and TBS can't rig things to get their way, which would certainly have not included the Snakes making the NLCS.

The Snakes do the bare minimum required to move along. I wish the Dodgers could have done even that much! I congratulate the Snakes on getting way more out of their middling team than any analysis says they should have. As a Dodger fan I'm very jealous.

The Snakes don't hit well, on balance. Worse, they have no exciting hitter, no one I will make sure I watch when he comes up, no one whose looming presence in the batting order I'm aware of. I want to see Ortiz and Manny hit for Boston. And Holliday and Tulowitzki in Denver. And Sizemore and Hafner and Martinez in Cleveland. You don't want to miss it when these guys hit, especially Ortiz and Holliday. But on the Snakes? I don't know, maybe Byrnes, a little bit. But he's more of a second tier guy, whom the other three teams have plenty of as well, such as Helton or Youklis or Hawpe.

One could argue that it's exciting to watch Upton for his raw potential. Not Chris Young, though. That would be like asking a non-Dodger fan to get excited for watching Ethier bat. Maybe in a few years, but not now. Other than the occasional home run Young just doesn't do much. Young couldn't even get his on base percentage above 0.300. And not Drew either. I'd rather watch JD than Stephen at this point. Yeah, Stephen has hit some home run in the playoffs. So did Mickey Hatcher. Didn't make Hatcher a must watch batter.

Other than Webb the Snakes don't have any pitcher to get excited for. But yeah, Webb is big stage worthy. Webb v Francis is an underrated matchup, as good in its way as Beckett v Sabathia in the AL. But Webb is it. The Snakes have good relievers, but none of them are electric. No Gagne in his prime, or Saito, or Papelbon, or Rivera. The team is just a neverending expanse of blah. Lots of blah and lots of wins. Curse those wins!

I'm really looking forward to watching the Rockies play. The Snakes? Well, someone had to be the opponent. Maybe it's just as well it's not the Cubs, so that the great story of the Rockies isn't obscured by all the nonsense about loveable losers and billy goat curses. Let the Snakes be more fodder for the Rockies amazing win streak. I sure don't want to see them in the World Series.

03 October 2007

Papi Being Manny

I didn't always enjoy the baseball post-season for its own sake. There was a time when I couldn't watch the games if the Dodgers weren't involved. I was so heartbroken, so angry at the fates, so angry at the teams, those cruel, unjust usurpers who had buried the Dodgers under their excellence and ruined my fall. Eventually, I would come back, and grudgingly watch the World Series, muttering that it was where the Dodgers should be. I might pick a rooting interest, out of spite, against a league or team I didn't like, or whim, just to pretend, for a moment, that my favorite had indeed made it to the ultimate series.

Now I enjoy the post-season on its own merits, for what it is. I follow the games, judge the evolving chances of each team, pick favorites, criticize managers, and immerse myself in the drama. I pray for late-inning drama, the chance of the sudden turnaround. Hmm --- perhaps I don't pray --- that is too desperate, too lofty a description for what I do. I grope for that drama. This at-bat is important, a turning point, an event accompanied by a virtual soundtrack, because if he gets on it may start a rally. A 2-0 count is already a baserunner if I need runners for the game to be close again. Surely that batter will get on in some way from such a fortunate count: it would be uncivilized not to. I'm already racing ahead to the home run hit by the wispy center fielder!

Uncivilized? What could that mean, really? Civilization is the institutionalization of the expected. The stone-tool hunters of millenia ago didn't have predictable, regulated lives. They couldn't depend on a trip to the supermarket. They couldn't depend on the 2-0 count becoming a baserunner; the 2 run late-inning lead becoming a win. But then again, neither can we. Between the lines, the hunt is on. Baseball is uncivilization brought to the spectator. These brutes come into our homes, our minds, and take our emotions hostage. They make us leap out of our skin. I wish the Dodgers were in it -- there's nothing like it when your team is in it. It's so immediate, visceral. It's an enchantment that transports our civilized bodies into the Veldt, the hunt, the heart-beat of not knowing, truly not knowing what will happen next, and caring with all your muscles what does happen.

I wish, even more, on rare occasions, to know what it was like to be between those lines, to know what it was like to be one of the players in that uncivilized arena. David Ortiz seemed gloriously unhinged at the press conference after today's game in Boston, the win in which he clobbered a ball over the less famous Fenway fence. I just saw a few seconds of his question-and-answer session, in which he seemed to leave his body and return briefly to this existence as a pirate-girl scout who referred to himself in the third person. For a moment he inhabited the state of mind that appears to belong to Manny Ramirez 24 hours a day. Post-season baseball will do that to a person.

Yankees vs Indians Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

This is the last of the four series to begin, and the last to be previewed, using the same method as the previous four. One thing that will surprise no one is that the worst AL team is better than the best NL team. The Red Sox appear to to be the best team overall, though if momentum and quality of play in August and September are important then the Yankees might be the best team. This is an intruiguing series because both teams would benifit greatly from a 3-man rotation, but since the Red Sox plucked away the choice first round series both the Indians and Yankees are right now going with a 4-man rotation.

Yankees Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Rodriguez
1.0 -- Cano
1.0 -- Posada
1.0 -- Jeter
1.0 -- Abreu
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Damon
0.8 -- Mientkiewicz
0.6 -- Matsui
0.4 -- Duncan
0.2 -- Giambi

It appears that after a strong September Mientkiewicz will get most of the starts at first over Giambi. Matsui is hurting and may be limited to DH duty, with Shelley Duncan going if he can't.

Yankees Pitcher Weights

12 -- Wang
6 -- Pettitte
6 -- Clemens
6 -- Mussina
3 -- Chamberlain
3 -- Rivera
3 -- Farnsworth
3 -- Hughes
3 -- Villone

I don't know. It's really hard to figure out the Yankees 'pen. The bullpen numbers are probably where my weights are off by the most for every team, and that's especially true of the Yankees. Beyond Joba and Mariano who knows? As for the starters, I really have a tough time seeing them going with Mussina if they go into game 4 down 2-1 in thew series. Mussina did bounce back with a good September, but could they really go with him if the season is on the line? Isn't Wang on 3-days rest better than Mussina anytime? I think that if Torre goes with Mussina in a do-or-die game 4 it's the last major decision he'll ever make as Yankees manager.

Yankees Weighted Stats

Yankees --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.371 -- 0.480
Defense -- 0.318 -- 0.383
Difference -- (+53) -- (+97)

The Yankees would have a winning percentage of about 0.681 with this post-season constructed team. I should point out that this would be against standard regular season major league competition. Obviously all of these playoff teams ( with the exception of the Cubs ) are going up against a very good team that's also getting to leave off the back end of the bench and pitching staff, so on average no one will hit as well or pitch as well as their numbers. The win percentage of the Yanks if they go with Wang on short rest instead of Mussina is 0.690. It's funny, these seem like such abstract, unattainable win percentages, and yet the Yanks pretty much had to go 0.700 the second half of the year to make the playoffs.

Indians Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Hafner
1.0 -- Sizemore
1.0 -- Martinez
1.0 -- Garko
1.0 -- Blake
1.0 -- Peralta
1.0 -- Gutierrez
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Lofton

Another good offense.

Indians Pitcher Weights

12 -- Sabathia
6 -- Carmona
6 -- Westbrook
6 -- Byrd
3 -- Borowski
3 -- Betancourt
3 -- Perez
3 -- Fultz
3 -- Lewis

The 'pen is pretty good with the exception of the closer Borowski, who is pretty awful. With the starters, same situation as the Yanks: if they go into game 4 down 2-1 in the series, will they really go with Byrd instead of Sabathia on short rest?

Indians Weighted Stats

Indians --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.356 -- 0.448
Defense -- 0.300 -- 0.377
Difference -- (+56) -- (+71)

Their pitching is better than New York's, but their offense is far enough behind to give the overall edge to the Yankees. Their win percentage based on these numbers would be 0.665. If they went with Sabathia on 3 days of rest and took Byrd out of the rotation, that would go up to 0.688. Even more than the Yankees the Indians had to be annoyed when Boston chose to play in the longest first round series. The gap between the top two starters and the rest is just so big.


Yankees in five games. This is going to be a tough series, with the Yankees just a little bit better.

I like Boston and Colorado to advance to the World Series. These are the two best team in each league by my method and I'm sticking with them. However I think Colorado is the team of destiny so I pick them in an upset over the Red Sox to win it all.

Angels vs Red Sox Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

Same method as the last two posts, with weights given to the stats based on how much each player is likely to play. This series is unique because it allows the teams to go with a 3-man rotation without any short rest. The Red Sox are taking advantage of this, while at the moment it appears the Angels are not.

Red Sox Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Ortiz
1.0 -- Varitek
1.0 -- Ramirez
1.0 -- Pedroia
1.0 -- Youklis
1.0 -- Lowell
1.0 -- Lugo
1.0 -- Drew
0.6 -- Crisp
0.4 -- Ellsbury

Drew was sitting more in the middle of the year, but since he started hitting better he's played just about every game, so I'm putting him down as a 1. Ellsbury was also playing just about every day in September, but Crisp is the veteran starter and Martinez is back, so he only gets a 0.4. The Sox would be best off benching Crisp, probably.

Red Sox Pither Weights

12 -- Becket
12 -- Matsuzaka
6 -- Schilling
3 -- Papelbon
3 -- Okajima
3 -- Delcarmen
3 -- Lopez
3 -- Timlin

Gagne is on the roster, but why would they use him unless they really had no one else? Lester is the long man and Wakefield is off the roster.

Red Sox Weighted Stats

Red Sox ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.375 -- 0.460
Defense -- 0.293 -- 0.373
Difference -- (+82) -- (+87)

Wow. What a team. The winning percentage these basic numbers spit out is 0.713! That's what will happen when you pair a stacked offense with a pitching staff where four fifths of the starter innings come from Beckett and Matsuzaka.

Angels Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Guerrero
1.0 -- Willits
1.0 -- Anderson
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Kendrick
1.0 -- Kotchman
1.0 -- Figgins
1.0 -- Izturis
0.5 -- Napoli
0.5 -- Mathis

Gary Matthews Jr. is not on the roster because of injury. So what would have been a complicated outfield situation ends up being very simple. This is a good offense, but not in the same class as the Red Sox.

Angels Pitcher Weights

12 -- Lackey
12 -- Escobar
6 -- Weaver
3 -- Rodriguez
3 -- Speier
3 -- Oliver
3 -- Shields
3 -- Moseley

I wonder if the probables listed on the Angels official site are wrong. It just doesn't make sense to go with Saunders in game 4, not when you could have Lackey and Escobar go again in 4 and 5 on regular rest. I can't believe that if faced with a 1-2 series deficit and Becket in game 4 that Scioscia would give the ball to Saunders instead of Lackey. So I'm going to give the Angels a 3-man rotation because I truly think that's what they'll go with.

Angels Weighted Stats

Angels ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.361 -- 0.437
Defense -- 0.306 -- 0.368
Difference -- (+55) -- (+69)

Using the simple runs created formula of OBP times SLG and the pythagorean projection, the Angels would have a winning percentage of 0.661 with this team. That's with Escobar and Lackey starting 4 out of 5 games. If Saunders steals a start from Escobar, this goes down to 0.640, with the OBP going up by 6 points, and the SLG going up by 11 points. Really, Scioscia, you have to take advantage of the format here.


Red Sox in 4. I just don't believe the Angels offense will score enough runs, and that Sox bullpen is better than the Angels bullpen. Unless Gagne pitches. I think the Angels win game three at home against Schilling and then get closed out by Becket in game 4.

02 October 2007

Phillies vs Rockies Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

These are the two best teams in the National League. Or, more specifically, these are the two best playoff versions of teams in the NL. The method used to derive team stats was explained in the previous post: essentially each player's stats are weighted based on how much it appears he will play, so back-end pitchers and bench players are left out of the calculation.

Phillies Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Utley
1.0 -- Howard
1.0 -- Rollins
1.0 -- Burrell
1.0 -- Rowand
1.0 -- Dobbs
1.00.5 -- Ruiz
0.5 -- Coste Ruiz is carrying an injury that may limit his playing time, so either Coste or Barajas may see more time. They all have reasonable similar offensive stats, so it doesn't matter that much who gets the weight here.

0.6 -- Victorino
0.6 -- Werth
0.5 -- Phillies Pitchers
0.3 -- Helms

Victorino started 3 of the last 4 games, after Werth had started almost every game previously for more than a month due to Victorino's calf injury. I'm guessing they share time in this series, though Werth has the better numbers. I was always a big fan of Werth when he was a Dodger. This is a scary lineup, made better since Dobbs replaced Nunez at third base.

Phillies Pitching Weights

12 -- Hamels
6 -- Kendrick
6 -- Moyer
6 -- Lohse
3 -- Romero
3 -- Myers
3 -- Geary oops, Geary has been left off the roster because of injury, so I guess Alfonseca gets his innings. It's either that or Mesa!
3 -- Alfonseca
3 -- Gordon
3 -- Condrey

Romero and Hamels are awesome. That's a third of the Phillies pitching weight right there, which will make an iffy pitching staff suddenly look a lot better. The post-season is definitely not about team depth!

Phillies Weighted Stats

Updated with new player weights --- they didn't change much, fortunately. Why go to the trouble of updating them -- who cares, right? Well I care! ;-)

Phillies --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.357 -- 0.477
Defense -- 0.321 -- 0.418
Difference -- (+36) -- (+59)

Using a basic formula for runs created and a pythagorean projection, the playoff version of the Phillies are set up to have a winning percentage of 0.616. That seems high, right? Well, it's obtained by ignoring all the bad players on a team. The only way the Phillies could sustain this kind of winning percentage for an entire season would be if they could pitch Cole Hamels 2 out of every 5 games!

Rockies Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Holliday
1.0 -- Helton
1.0 -- Hawpe
1.0 -- Atkins
1.0 -- Tulowitzki
1.0 -- Torrealba
1.0 -- Matsui
0.7 -- Spilborghs
0.4 -- Sullivan
0.2 -- Carroll
0.2 -- Baker

When Taveras went down to injury the Rockies added more power in center field, without losing anything except a few stolen bases. This is a great offense, but not as great as the Phillies. They hit much better at home than on the road.

Rockies Pitching Weights

12 -- Francis
6 -- Jimenez
6 -- Morales
6 -- Fogg
3 -- Corpas
3 -- Fuentes
3 -- Herges
3 -- Hawkins
3 -- Affeldt

Before Monday's crazy finale I had no idea Herges was having such a good season. I'm having to guess a bit on the Rockies rotation, since they haven't announced anything yet. Redman has been the fifth man in the rotation the last few weeks, and he's done well, but I'm guessing it's these four at the moment. The Rockies pitching is much better than most people think. The rotation is decent, while the bullpen is fantastic, especially for pitching so many games in Coors.

Rockies Weighted Stats

Rockies --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.359 -- 0.455
Defense -- 0.317 -- 0.395
Difference -- (+42) -- (+60)

The winning percentage obtained from these numbers is 0.630! Just as with the Phillies, getting to start the ace in 2 out of 5 games makes the team look so much better. The Rockies are the best playoff constructed team in the National League.


Lots of runs, especially in the middle games when Francis and Hamels are out of the way. I like the Rockies in 4, splitting the first two in Philadelphia and then taking two in Denver. I just feel like they're unbeatable at home right now.

Snakes vs Cubs Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

We all know it that the quality of a team's fifth starter is irrelevant once the post-season begins, because of all the off-days. The same is true of the back end of the bullpen and much of the bench.

It's clear then that the way to assess team strength entering a series is to count the statistics of only the players who will see the bulk of playing time. For each team in the post-season I've calculated a weighted average of on-base percentage and slugging percentage achieved by the hitters and allowed by the pitchers. Players likely to start everyday are given a weight of 1, while players who appear likely to share time get a weighting between 0 and 1. The cumulative hitting stats of a team's pitchers is weighted 0.5. The hitting weights given to players will add to 9. On the pitching side a starter gets 6 innings for every start he'll make if the series goes five games, while the teams top five relievers each get a weighting of 3 innings. So the pitching weights will add to 45.

A lot of these weightings are guesses, of course. Most of the guesses are based on player usage in the past month before teams clinched a playoff spot. But I think even if they're a little off the averages obtained will give a truer reflection of actual team strength in each series than if we just looked at aggregate season stats, which include injured players and mediocre players who won't see much playing time.

I'm going to break down every post-season series in this way. First up are the Cubs and the Diamondbacks.

Snakes Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Byrnes
1.0 -- Reynolds
1.0 -- Young
1.0 -- Drew
0.8 -- Ojeda
0.8 -- Synder
0.7 -- Upton
0.6 -- Jackson
0.5 -- Clark
0.5 -- Salazar
0.5 -- Team Pitchers
0.4 -- Callaspo
0.2 -- Montero

The Snakes have put together an offense as good as any they've had all year in the last month, even with Tracy and Hudson out. This is in part because Snyder and Reynolds have surged to good overall numbers on the year, while Salazar and Ojeda have stabilized things as well. This is still a weak offensive team, though, who strike out way too much.

Snakes Pitching Weights

12 -- Webb
6 -- Davis
6 -- Owings
6 -- Hernandez
3 -- Valverde
3 -- Lyon
3 -- Cruz
3 -- Pena
3 -- Slaten

The Snakes appear committed to a four man rotation. The front five in their bullpen is very good. This is the one area where they seem to have a clear advangate over the Cubs. The Snakes would gain nothing by going with a three man rotation and pitching Webb on short rest in game 4, because there is so little difference between Owings, Hernandez, and Davis. They're all mediocre.

Snakes Weighted Stats

Snakes ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.318 -- 0.413
Defense -- 0.319 -- 0.392
Difference -- (-1) -- (+21)

Using the very simple Runs Created formula of OBP x SLG and the pythagorean estimate of winning percentage from runs scored and allowed, these numbers would give the Snakes a winning percentage of 0.523.

Cubs Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Soriano
1.0 -- Ramirez
1.0 -- Lee
1.0 -- DeRosa
1.0 -- Jones
1.0 -- Kendall
1.0 -- Theriot
0.5 -- Murton
0.5 -- Floyd
0.5 -- Cubs Pitchers
0.3 -- Fontenot
0.2 -- Ward

Most teams aren't as complicated to give weights to as the Snakes. The Cubs, for instance, have a pretty stable starting lineup. I don't know if hot hitting catcher Geovany Soto is eligible to be added to the postseason roster. If so, he might steal some of Kendall's playing time and help the Cubs offensive numbers a little bit. It wouldn't be that fair to include him, however, as he's got a +1.000 OPS in 60 plate appearances. He's not that good!

Cubs Pitching Weights

12 -- Zambrano
6 -- Lilly
6 -- Hill
6 -- Marquis
3 -- Dempster
3 -- Marmol
3 -- Howry
3 -- Wuertz
3 -- Eyre

The Cubs also appear to be going with a 4 man rotation. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to go with a three man rotation and forget about Jason Marquis. I think Zambrano is the type who would relish going on three days of rest; and then Lilly could pitch game 5 on a regular 5 days of rest.

Cubs Weighted Stats

Cubs ------ OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.340 -- 0.434
Defense -- 0.316 -- 0.382
Difference -- (+24) -- (+52)

Now this is a playoff team, unlike those lucky Snakes. Or clutch Snakes, if you prefer. It's all the same to me. Using the same simple runs created formula and a pythagorean projection the Cubs would have a winning percentage of 0.599 using these players. This is a much better team than the Snakes. If they dropped Marquis from the rotation and went with Lilly twice instead, that goes up to a 0.609 winning percentage. That assumes that Zambrano won't suffer on three days rest, though.


Cubs in four. They're obviously the better team, unless one rejects this method because I didn't introduce a "clutch" factor. Of course anything could happen in 5 games, but I can't pick the underdog in a matchup of a 0.599 team versus a 0.523 team. I would have predicted a sweep except that the Snakes should have the edge in the first game with Webb starting.

01 October 2007

I Love Baseball!

by Joshua Worley

I ask a lot from baseball umpires. I hope Major League Baseball does as well. At the very least I expect them to be able to make any call that I can make while watching the game unfold in live speed. I saw the ball Atkins hit in the seventh inning clear the yellow line as it happened. I know my perspective isn't the same as the umpire's perspective. Mine is worse; seen on a 17 inch screen at classic resolution. He's there, in the park. It's his job. I've had it with umpires not doing their jobs. Make the correct call and don't curse out the players.

I shouted at the TV screen when I saw it happen: It's a home run. Then I kept shouting the same thing for a about a minute, at the sink, the wall, the ceiling, any household surface that would listen. I thought surely one of those 6 fool umpires saw the ball clear the yellow. I was sure they'd make the right call when they all congregated and talked it over. But no. Sigh. How can they screw up a call in the biggest regular season game of the year? Didn't they all go to umpire school? I think the US government should start making umpires pass a rigorous qualifying exam to get an ump license. And they have to renew if every year!

So I guess if the Padres had hung on to win that would have gone down in history as the wheel-chair phantom double, since it appeared to hit an empty wheelchair just beyond the wall and then bounce right back into the field. It would have been one of those awful moments in Rocky history, if their 15 years in the league can be called a history. It would have been a moment right at home in Cubs or Giants history, or Red Sox history before 2004. Instead it goes down as a funny sideshow in the game, all because Trevor Hoffman and the phantom slide in the thirteenth.

I'm kicking myself for not putting the prediction down somewhere before Hoffman worked his dark magic in the 13th to give the Rockies the win. I was so sure from the beginning that Hoffman would end up the loser. An irrational, certain feeling that he would give up a walk-off home run to lose the game for the Padres. Okay, so the home run part didn't happen. But the rest of it did. Look, Hoffman has been shaky at times all year, most recently two days ago. This wasn't a crazy as having a feeling Eric Gagne would blow a save in 2003, for instance. Hoffman's reputation has been larger than his game for awhile now, and with this delicious ending it has come crashing back to reality. I just wish Bud Black hadn't made us wait until the thirteenth inning to put in his bad luck charm. Thirteen innings did end up a bit much.

I guess Holliday lost the MVP when he horribly misplayed the ball hit to him in the eighth and won it back with his triple in the thirteens. I really think the MVP should come down to one play this year in the NL. There's no Alex Rodriguez out there who is the obvious winner, after all. Let's have some fun with it and let the last game of the year decide it. And Holliday is clearly a better pick than the other popular pick of the moment, Jimmy Rollins. And let's not even mention anyone on the cursed Mets.

I also think Peavy should lose his Cy Young with this loss. I know this is a stupid thing to say, but this game was such a heady rush to watch that I'm going with it. And let's face it, the bullpens showed that one can pitch in Coors without giving up a home run every other inning. Peavy nearly gave up 4; he should have given up 3 but for those fool umpires, and he did give up 2. He was wild all night, probably because in part he was rightfully scared of throwing a strike. How can the Cy Young winner not even be able to beat Josh Fogg in a one-game playoff? I say Peavy is disqualified, and the award goes to no one this year. Let's make the Cy Young like a golfing skins game. The winner next year gets two trophies. Hear that, Chad?

Now I've clearly lost my mind. But what a night. What a game. I've said it before, and I'll say it again --- I love baseball.


by Joshua Worley

Since he became a dominant pitcher in 2004, Jake Peavy has pitched 20 inning at Coors Field, giving up 10 runs, 8 earned, for an ERA of 3.60. He's struck out 17, walked 7, and given up 3 home runs. Yeah, it's a small sample size. Not much to conclude from it, except that he hasn't been chewed up by the mile high city. He can pitch in Denver.

Peavy last pitched on Wednesday, meaning this start comes with his usual 4 days of rest. I think the Padres made the right move to hold him out of Sunday's game, since that would have been on short rest. As a general rule, it's probably best not to do things you wouldn't normally do if you have a lead, whether it's a lead in the standings or in a game. Now if the Padres had needed to win Sunday just to stay alive, then I think they should have seriously considered going with Peavy on short rest, instead of the unreliable Tomko. Such is my distrust and dislike of Tomko that I would have recommended short rest for Peavy even though his worst start by far this year came when he pitched on short rest a month ago against the Snakes.

Would the Padres consider going with Peavy on 3 days rest in the playoffs? Well, if so, it couldn't come until the league championship series. He couldn't pitch in games 1 or 2 in Philadephia, as these are Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Game 3 would be on his natural rest of 4 days, and then he couldn't pitch in game 4 or 5, unless perhaps a bit in relief. But the Padres have a great bullpen without needing to resort to Peavy. If the Padres do make it to the LCS, Peavy would then fall right in line to pitch in game 1 of the series, and then it would have to be very tempting to go with him on 3 days rest in game 4, because then he would be able to pitch in game 7 as well.

I'm rooting for the Rockies today, though, so I hope we never get to find out if Bud Black would use Peavy on 3-days rest again. I think the Rockies will win. They are a much better team at home than on the road, and even if the Padres have a slight advantage in pitching, the Rockies have a bigger advantage in hitting. Or wait ... if you check the away stats only, to cancel the effect of Coors and Petco on each club's hitting and pitching, it turns out that the Rockies have the better road ERA and the Padres have the better road OPS. Hmmmm. I think one needs to adjust the home numbers, not just throw them out to really answer the question of which team does better in offense and defense. I'm sure there are sites out there that do this. But it is clear the Rockies are a much better team at home, with home OPS of 0.850 and home OPS allowed by the pitchers of 0.766, versus a road OPS of 0.730 and 0.739 allowed.

Is there any point in writing about how much fun this playoff game could be to watch? So much is at stake in this game. The loser will end up just like the Dodgers --- with nothing to take from 2007 except a winning record. No trip to the postseason, only the bitter disappointment of falling short in the NL West. The winner? They and their fans get the thrill of winning a do-or-die game, with the promise of more to come.

26 September 2007

The Kemp Rumor

Foxsports.com is currently "reporting" a rumor that the Dodgers are considering a trade offer of Johan Santana for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

I don't know if getting back Johan Santana could make losing Matt Kemp any easier. I just don't know. Santana is the best out there. Yes, this season he's been mortal, not quite his usual dominating self. It appears to me this is mostly because he's allowing about 50% more home runs than usual. If this year's home run rate is merely some bad luck, then he's still the best. His strikeout rate is still above a batter per inning.

Santana is the best. Santana is the best. That's what I have to keep telling myself if the Dodgers trade Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw away for him. At least this rumour isn't one of those insulting rumours, such as Betemit for Proctor. Yeah, I know that one happened. It was still a horribly insulting rumour to read. At least this time the Dodgers are getting something good in return. Something really good. They're getting the best player in the rumored deal, really.

But then I'm stopped short. The best player, right now. Who knows what the future holds? Baseball is an uncertain sport, especially for prospect pitchers. If Kershaw gets injured he'll go down the Kerry Wood and Mark Prior path, or worse. But if not, there's a very good chance he's headed down the Johan Santana path. Except he's younger, and cheaper, and as an added bonus, more electric and exciting for the fans, because he's new. Wouldn't Kershaw starting a Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers be so much more special and meaningful than Santana finishing his career with the Dodgers?

But do I assume too much? For Santana to do anything like finish his career with the Dodgers he'd have to agree to a contract extension. Will he do that? Would Colletti make the deal even if Santana refused to sign an extension? I'm already ambivalent about this trade if Santana is with the Dodgers long-term --- if he's only with the Dodgers for one year, it's a horrible, awful trade.

Then I realize that emotionally, this would be a horrible trade no matter what happens with Santana's contract or Kershaw's career. I don't want to lose Kemp. He's so talented, so fun to watch. Already so productive. How good might he be next year? Two years from now? What about when he's 27? I don't understand why he's held to a higher standard than a 39-year-old player. No one seems to care if the 39-year-old player makes lots of baserunning blunders, or is bad defensively. But when Kemp dares to do it, he's a bum. Shouldn't the older player be held to a higher standard, both in terms of his play and his attitude? But that's not the way it works, and now Kemp is apparently being shopped around, and I'm seriously thinking of chucking the whole Dodger fan thing.

But maybe he's not really being shopped around. Maybe there's nothing to the rumors. Maybe Colletti and McCourt aren't swayed in the least bit by Plaschke's absurd and mean-spirited attack piece on Matt Kemp. Maybe, maybe. A few days ago I was confident that Dodger management truly understood how valuable cheap young players were. I'm much less confident now. I fear Kemp is a goner, and I feel about this the way I felt during those awful few days when Piazza was rumored to be on his way out.


There might be a cure for this sick feeling, though. Johan Santana. Johan Alexander Santana. Supernatural. He's the best.

Don't the Dodgers dare settle for anything less if they trade the away Matt Kemp.

24 September 2007

The Kent Vent

I guess the only way I really care about Jeff Kent's youth vent is if it somehow changes the Dodger strategy for the future. And it won't. In a LA Times column Bill Plaschke came out and said that the youth movement failed this year, and one theory of Dodger management is this is the sort of press opinion that might influence future decisions by McCourt or Colletti. The best example of this type of possible press influence is the firing of Paul DePodesta, but even there we don't really know how much influence all the press criticism of DePodesta really had on Frank McCourt. And in this case, Plaschke didn't even say that the Dodgers should abandon the youth movement: he said it failed this year, and he even laid part of the blame on the veterans. Finally, even if what Plaschke wrote and what Kent said do have some influence on how Colletti and McCourt think about the Dodger future, I believe money and obvious talent will end up as far more important influences on Dodger management decisions. The young players are as a group visibly better, and certainly cheaper. If Colletti was the sort to not value the talent of the youngsters properly, he would have traded more of them so far.

Will Jeff Kent be back with the Dodgers? I certainly hope so. I think he has a good season left in him, and of all the young players we've seen at the big league level for the Dodgers so far the heir apparent at second base Tony Abreu has impressed me the least. This is not to say I want Abreu traded for a bag of beans, or that I don't want to see him get a chance when the time comes. But I think Kent will be better than Abreu next year, at least offensively.

People say that Kent won't walk away from 9 million dollars. Well, maybe he's tired of playing. Surely he's financially well off already? Or maybe he's tired of the Dodgers, after the way this season turned out. I think Kent could get a one year deal from some other team for close to 9 million dollars. This strikes me as exactly the kind of deal Colletti would give to Jeff Kent if he was out there on the free market. And I think Colletti is more typical of baseball GMs than atypical.

I think Kent will end up staying with the Dodgers. I don't see a situation developing somewhere else that's better for him. He may be frustrated now, but overall he's seemed to like being a Dodger, he likes the location, the Dodgers will content next year, and he's being paid well. I just hope he's not complaining at the end of next season too.

18 September 2007

Make Me Happy

Every single home run those Rockies hit in the night game I felt coming. I won't claim it was anything more than pessimistic dread at the end of realistic hope, or that I don't have plenty of "feelings" that are dead wrong. But when a feeling of doom becomes the truth, does it make it easier to take? I think maybe it does.

The games now aren't as special as they were in April. Winning makes September special; otherwise it's rather like a habit, routine without passion. It's going to take a whole lot of wins in a row now to bring back the spirit into this season. There have been too many losses, and April 2008 is looking a whole lot closer than October 2007 right now. I remember one season opener watching Raul Mondesi play in the outfield, make some great diving catch, and being so happy that baseball was back. Even though this September isn't quite dead yet, I'm already half into next April, wondering who will make me happy that baseball is back again. My money's on Matt Kemp.

The Soul of the Team

by Joshua Worley

In my fifth grade reading class they taught that conflict was at the heart of every story. A struggle between one thing and another. Man against nature; Man against man; Man against himself. The last is a favorite of educators and critics, because it goes straight into the soul of a character. Conflict creates plot: the duration of conflict is tension; the end of conflict is resolution. But sometimes the tension never leaves, especially when the conflict is internal. There is no resolution in the character's mind and soul, only a continuing struggle.

Consider the Los Angeles Dodgers of 2007. They are many stories, many conflicts. Team against team. It has been a summer full of little conflicts. Dodgers versus Padres; Dodgers versus Snakes; Dodgers versus Rockies. Each game has tension, and then resolution, even if it's rain.

Consider them again. The Dodgers of 2007 are also a single story. They are one conflict without resolution. Team against itself. It has been a summer for seeing what the team is. It has been a summer for seeing the character of the team, the soul of the team. What is the team? --- The team are those who play. What is the character of a team? --- The character of a team is in the quality of its play. What is the soul of the team? ---

This question is a diversion, but it is also at the heart of why any of us are here. Here, reading or writing about the Dodgers. It is a question that cannot be answered in the way the others can. This is because the question of soul cannot be answered by one person for another. Soul is passion; soul is in what we remember. Consider the Los Angeles Dodgers of 2007. What is memorable? What kindles a fan's passion? In the beginning, the passion is formless, a spark in the void, just a faith. It is blue letters and numbers on clean white uniforms. The voice of Vin Scully. The names of players we remember from stories before, some old friends, some old enemies. Some names we've never heard before. Then the games begin. The games give form to the passion. Many games are played; some few become memories. What is the soul of this team, these Dodgers? ---

My own answer will have to wait, because first it matters what the team is. The tension of the greater story is in this is. Is the team Gonzalez or Kemp? Is it Garciaparra or Loney? Is is young or old? Is is past performance, or present performance?

Consider the team against itself, in all the non-pitcher positions, save for catcher, where Russell Martin transcends all, belongs to all, is both young and veteran.

The Young Team

1B -- Loney
2B -- Abreu
SS -- Hu
3B -- LaRoche
OF -- Ethier
OF -- Kemp
OF -- Young

The Veteran Team

1B -- Garcia
2B -- Kent
SS -- Furcal
3B -- Parra
OF -- Pierre
OF -- Gonzalez
OF -- Pierre on his rest days

The tension is neverending because the conflict is not evenly decided. The standards the youth team members have to meet to play are so much higher than the standards the veteran team members have to meet. Absent overwhelming production it is unlikely any youth team member will last long.

If one evaluates the two teams on their merits only there is no true contest between the two. The youth team wins easily. The veteran team can't even field a full complement of the seven men required here. And yet they are allowed a curious flexibility: when Nomar was finally shoved off of first base he shuffled over to become a roadblock at third base instead. In any case the youth team is superior offensively at 5 of 7 positions, at all but the middle infield positions, and superior defensively everywhere but center field, with perhaps a push at shortstop.

And yet even with obvious superiority nearly everywhere it has been such a struggle for the youth team to get on the field! None of them started the year as true regulars; only Ethier has been with the team all year. Of course there was no reason for Hu, LaRoche, Abreu, or Young to be up at the start of the year, but Kemp and Loney were ready from day one, and between them they had less than a quarter of a chance before both were toiling in AAA, blocked by lesser veterans. By the midpoint of the year, it was clear that LaRoche deserved a fair chance with the big league team, with consideration also due for upstarts Young and Hu, the latter only because of Furcal's lingering injury.

Progress has been made, but how slow, how grudging, how incomplate, how exasperating to see how much the youngers have to claw and scrape just to get to this point! Even now only Loney is a true regular, and one suspects that he still might be sitting twice a week for the likes of Saenz and Sweeney and Hillenbrand if not for his Everest high production this month. Kemp and Ethier have made advances against Gonzalez, but His Veteranship is still entitled to a third of each of those youngster's starts. LaRoche appears to be getting his chance at third, as long as his back cooperates and he takes care of himself. Kent certainly belongs in the linuep, and Furcal even with his persistent injury probably does as well, though mightn't an occasional Hu start be a benefit for everyone? And then there is Pierre, the Pierre of every day, including his proper rightful rest days. Is it too much to ask that some few of his starts be yielded to give Kemp, Ethier, even Young a few more chances? Yes, it is too much to ask.

I am weary of it. I am sick of the tension. I am not weary of the conflict itself --- I am weary of how the conflict is decided, of how it is allowed to drag out long past the point when it should have been resolved, usually in the young player's favor. I have found the playing time given to Nomar and Gonzo and Pierre often more demoralizing than a tough loss. And Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand, I mutter. He sits on the throne of mediocrity. Attitude without aptitude. The motto for unworthy starters. They know how to win; they've been there before. That's great, and also useless. You win by being better, not by having special knowledge. You don't get extra runs or added talent for having been there before. Let the coaches tell them what they need to know!

The soul of the season is far removed from the tension. My rant over, I am ready to answer now. My answer, my memories, my passion. The story of the season is not a neverending conflict, but a series of revelations. A sense of wonder in the moment. Small conflicts, soon decided, small battles anticipated, more tomorrow, a rhythm for summer. Anticipation of Martin at the bat, Loney at the plate, Kemp in the box. The voice of my childhood, my adulthood, lifting up the poetry of the game for all to see. Kemp and the footprints of a triple. The line drive of Loney, sweet off the bat, a coherent blur. The impossible movement on Billingsley's pitches, the stuff of Cy Young dreams. Martin, so wise at the plate, like watching a patient craftsman, discarding poor specimens until he finds the one he likes, and then creation, a thing of beauty, a double to the gap. The arm of Ethier, the arm of Kemp, the fear of the runner rounding third, the upheld arms of the old man coaching at third. They throw as hard as they hit!

And I imagine next year, and the year after that, and know that it all began here, in this season. What wonders there are. And today, they play two.

14 September 2007

Tommy Lasorda

by Joshua Worley

Last night my wife asked me what it was like to root for the Dodgers when Lasorda was their manager.

I found it hard to answer the question at first, because since he left the job of manager I've come to dislike the man and his legacy with the team. Pedro, Konerko, high pitch counts, his unholy influence in front office decisions --- I could go on, but I won't. I want to peel all this negative stuff back to a simpler time.

When I was a young baseball fan I loved having Tommy Lasorda as Dodger manager. I thought he was the best. I was so proud that the Dodgers had only employed two managers in their time in LA. I was proud that the team lead the league in complete games by pitchers year after year. I loved Tommy's passion, the way he would go out and argue for his players. I loved how he would get out there and coach third base if the team was slumping. I was thought it was great when he would argue with all four umpires in one game. I loved how he always took out the pitcher himself ( though this changed in later years. ) Most of all I loved his enthusiasm. He bled Dodger blue; I bled Dodger blue.

I find myself wishing sometimes that Grady Little had some of Lasorda's enthusiasm. But probably what looked like enthusiasm to a young eager baseball fan was just theatrics. Do theatrics have anything to do with winning games? Probably not.

I miss the innocent days when I thought Tommy Lasorda was great. But no, I don't want them back.

The Battle for Survival: Attack of the Snakes

At this moment it appears that the Dodgers can lose 5 more games the rest of the year and still have a good shot at making the playoffs. After they've lost 5 games, every game becomes a must-win. ( Scroll down to the What If section of this link. ) That's just 5 slip-ups allowed in 5 series remaining: one way of looking at it is that the Dodgers are allowed just one loss per series from now on. First up is three with the Snakes.

Eric James Byrnes -- LF, Vinny's favorite

age: 31
bats: right

0.296 -- 0.365 -- 0.485

Even the Snakes' best healthy hitter reflects their team weakness: low on base percentage. Not that 0.365 is bad, but when it leads the team --- that's bad. Orlando Hudson is at 0.376, but he's out for this series. The Snakes have the lowest team OBP in the major leagues, at 0.317. It just isn't right that they're in first place in the NL west. But so it goes. You have to win the games, and they've done so.

Byrnes has stolen 45 bases in 51 attempts. He leads the team in runs scored with 95. Keep him off the bases!

Stephen Oris Drew -- SS

age: 24
bats: left

0.229 -- 0.303 -- 0.362

His BABIP is 0.265; his line drive rate is 15.4%. The approximate rule is that a player's BABIP should be 12 points higher than his line drive rate. His is 11 points higher. So while his batting average might be a little better with average luck, it's mostly his own doing that it's so low. Lots of strikeouts and softly hit balls.

How soon can we declare Drew a bust? It is too soon now, I think. But if he's sporting this kind of line next year at this time, then yes I would call him a bust. I think he'll be better next year, though. But perhaps never as good as people thought he might be.

Chris Brandon Young -- CF

age: 24
bats: right

0.237 -- 0.294 -- 0.472

He did it! He reached 30 home runs, as I thought he would at the beginning of August. He only had 11 through the end of June, so it was never a sure thing. But he had 8 in July, 9 in August, and 2 so far this month. So, the power is there. But so are the strikeouts.

As with Drew, his low batting average can't be attributed to bad luck. His line drive rate is 14.2%; his BABIP is 0.258. Matt Kemp, another young, ultra-talented, strikeout prone hitter, has a line drive rate of 15.1%, with a BABIP of 0.403! Hmmmm ...

Even though Young has a sub-Pierre on-base percentage, his home runs make him dangerous. He's likely to be a very good player in a few years. I will be annoyed if he gets more votes than Loney in the rookie of the year voting, though. Young can't touch Loney's rate stats. I'm sure those 30 home runs will speak louder than Loney's +0.900 OPS, though.

Justin Irvin Upton -- RF

age: 20
bats: right

0.239 -- 0.297 -- 0.413

His numbers look very similar to Drew's. You know, bad. You can't really say Upton has provided much of a boost to the Snakes since his call-up.

But while Drew's numbers should make one wonder about his future, that's not the case at all with Upton. First of all, these are just a month of games, and second of all, he's only 20. He's going to plague the Dodgers for years to come, most likely.

Upton already has 3 triples.

Mark Andrew Reynolds -- 3B

age: 24
bats: right

0.268 -- 0.330 -- 0.473

I still don't believe that he's for real.

He broke in with a spectacular May, a 1.299 OPS kind of May, with home runs, RBIs, a few walks to keep the pitchers honest, and buckets of base hits. He struck out less than a fifth of the time that magnificent month. And then June comes and the bottom falls out of those buckets. In June he's striking out about a third of the time, and his OPS is a dreadful 0.519. July is better, but not by much. OPS is 0.631, though by then he was striking out even more, three-eighths of the time!

Now, if things had continued this way into August the Snakes would likely have started looking for another option at third base, and his line wouldn't look as decent as it does now. But he turned things around in August, with a 0.944 OPS. So, everything is great, right? Well, maybe not. Just as in July, he struck out three-eighths of the time in August. So Reynolds hasn't solved his strikeout problems yet. He obviously can be a dangerous hitter, but he's going to have trouble sustaining a good performance if he strikes out so much.

Second Base

Octavio Augie Ojeda -- switch -- 0.250 -- 0.313 -- 0.329
Emilio Jose Bonifacio -- switch -- 2 for 10

The Dodgers don't have to face Webb in this series. Instead of Orlando Hudson at second base it's these guys. There's really no excuse not to win at least two out of three this weekend.

First Base

Conor S. Jackson -- right -- 0.281 -- 0.364 -- 0.456
Anthony Christopher Clark -- switch -- 0.242 -- 0.289 -- 0.495

Jackson and Clark share time at first base. If only one of them could play at shortstop instead!


Christopher Ryan Snyder -- right -- 0.247 -- 0.333 -- 0.428
Miguel Angel Montero -- left -- 0.229 -- 0.291 -- 0.408

It's easy to forget with Martin playing everyday that for most teams it's normal to have two light hitting catchers who split the playing time.

Douglas P. Davis v Brad Penny

So Doug Davis has never allowed a run to the Dodgers, or at least none in the last three years. So what? He's never had to face James Loney. Last night my wife observed that Loney often looks like he's about to cry. Yeah, he is. Weeping for all those pitchers he's abusing. Loney's line drive rate and BABIP, by the way? 22.4% and 0.357. He's the real deal.

Doug Davis is a lefty, which is part of why Loney has never faced him, I guess. I hope Grady doesn't start Hillenbrand at first or something, or I will have to write a mean limerick about him. Does "him" refer to Grady or Hillenbrand? Both.

It's time to break through against Davis. With Penny pitching it's imperative that the Dodgers win this game. Davis walks a lot of batters and is no stranger to the home run; he's not unhittable.

Eisler Livan Hernandez v Derek Lowe

How is Lowe's hip? His groin? His hand? Have Broxton and Repko been sedated and tied up in a basement to prevent further injury to Lowe? Is the Cascada cued up and ready to go for Saturday's start? If he doesn't hear those lyrics as he's warming up on the mound before the first inning his sinker just isn't right. 'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling. And every time we kiss I swear I could fly ...

Lowe may give up some runs, but the Dodgers have to score more. Livan sucks. ERA is almost 5. His strikeout rate is worse than Maddux's, but unlike Maddux he walks a lot of batters. He's even given up 31 home runs! If the Dodgers don't win Saturday they don't deserve to go to the playoffs.

Edgar Gerardo Gonzalez v Esteban Loaiza

This is why I've been so adamant that the Dodgers have to win the first two games. Loaiza. Managed by Little. A deadly combination.

That said, I'm not sure Loaiza is any worse than Gonzalez. Gonzalez is another homer prone pitcher. You know, the Dodgers need to make sure all their big boppers start Sunday. Loney at first, Kemp and Ethier in the outfield, Betemit at third ... d'oh!

Well, at least they got a lights out reliever for Betemit ... d'oh!

Okay, at least they got someone whom Vinny can call "the doctor" for no good reason other than a rhyme ... whew. Finally a silver lining.

Anyway, I see no reason why the Dodgers can't sweep the Snakes, other than the fact that the Snakes are pure evil who want to devour all happiness from this world.

Oops, I'm ranting and incoherent. Better cue up the Cascada to calm myself down ...

Your arms are my castle, your heart is my sky.
They wipe away tears that I cry.

As long as all the snakes in that castle are killed, I won't have any tears.

13 September 2007

Game Notes

1. Vinny admitted his man-crush on Eric Byrnes in the fifth inning. :-)

2. Kent made two base-running blunders in the same inning. Dodger Thoughts covers this in much more depth, but I wanted to mention it too. Kemp isn't the only one who screws up on the bases.

3. The Dodgers did hit a fair number of balls hard, but it's clear that they got lucky more often than not on the placement of both the hard and soft hit balls. But that's the price Maddux is going to pay sometimes for being a low strikeout pitcher.

4. With the count 3-1 on Pierre in the third inning, Maddux did what he should do: pour a pitch right down the middle. No sense in walking the powerless Pierre; make him earn his way on. And Pierre did what he should do with that pitch: crank it for a single.

5. I believe that if Giles had cut off Wells's hit near the warning track in the right-center gap then Wells would have been held to a very long single.

6. Matt Kemp could probably circle the bases twice in the time Wells could get around once.

Questions That Need Answering

Is this a big game?

Yes, it's the difference between being 1.5 and 3.5 out, and no more games with the Padres remain. It's the biggest game of the year, in any case. But as long as the Dodgers are reasonably alive for a playoff spot then maybe each new game becomes the new biggest game of the year, so far.

What does it mean when David Wells is your pitcher in the biggest game of the year?

I don't know, but if the Dodgers win today and keep reasonable hope for a playoff spot alive, then we may yet be asking this question about Loaiza a week from now. I think the answer then will be a lot more depressing than the answer to this question today. But at some point you can't worry about who the pitcher is anymore. The pitching rotation is a wheel of fortune. Where it stops, nobody knows. Maybe Broxton should start whipping throws toward Loaiza? Paging Jason Repko, a pop fly is about to land near where Loaiza is warming up! ;-)

How do the Dodgers win against Greg Maddux?

Swing at the first pitch. Really. Opponents this year are hitting 0.398 off the first pitch against Maddux, much better than off of any other count. If the first pitch is not hit batters are hitting just 0.247 off of Maddux. Maddux has only walked 21 this year, so it's not as if anyone should come up thinking he'll draw a walk off him.

How do the Dodgers lose to Maddux?

Swing at the first pitch. Ugh. If the Dodgers make a lot of first pitch outs, then they're extending Maddux's effectiveness. He's markedly worse once he hits 75 pitches thrown. He almost never even makes more than 90 pitches. In 30 starts he's gone above 90 pitches only 6 times. So only swing at the first pitch if you'll get a hit off of it. Sound advice, no? This is my favorite kind of advice --- impossible to argue against, impossible to follow. Classic baseball advice, really. I, too, could be a baseball coach.

Is Grady Little slowly losing his mind?

Probably not. But some of his decisions make me wonder.

Is Grady Little making me slowly lose my mind?


How many Dodger blogs questioned Little's decision not to hit for Loaiza with the bases loaded down 4-0 on Tuesday?

Four, by my quick count. Dodger Blues, Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, Cranky Curmudgeon Tony Jackson, and several commenters on Dodger Thoughts. And I was thinking that Little should hit for Loaiza at the time, well before I saw any of these other posts. In other words, this was an easy insight to come by. Almost anyone who gave a moment's thought to the situation realized that hitting for the completely ineffective Loaiza with a rare scoring chance against Peavy on the line and a deep, rested bullpen available was the correct choice.

What was the best headline related to the Loaiza incident?

Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness with "Is He Really Our Manager, or Just a Tourist Who Keeps Sneaking In?"

Well, which is it?

Hmmm ... tourist, I think. That would explain why he rarely wears the uniform top, but instead seems to favor that blue jacket. My wife hates that jacket --- she calls it his "old man jacket". She thinks it inspires the team when he wears the proper uniform.

Will James Loney hit a home run tonight?

Is the Space-Pope reptilian?

11 September 2007

This Is Not a Big Game

by Joshua Worley

Corey Brock of padres.com reports that Brady Clark may see some time in left field with Milton Bradley out. I haven't seen anything to suggest Milton has been completely ruled out for the series against the Dodgers, but an oblique strain seems like a nasty injury and even if he did try to play his swing might not yet be right.

The lead item in the above linked Padre roundup concerns Brett Tomko. The Padres are looking at starting Tomko on Saturday against the Giants. I know Wells has worked out well so far for the Dodgers, so there is precedent for a horrible pitcher changing teams and then doing surprisingly well. But still, I laugh. Why choose Tomko over Cassell? Tomko blames the Dodgers for wanting him to sacrifice velocity in favor of added movement on his pitches, and says his mechanics are getting back to where they should be. I have to agree with the Dodgers on this one, though. A Tomko with even less movement on his pitches is a scary thing. It's not as if he can throw 100 MPH, either. I don't care if he's throwing harder; big league hitters can hit his fastball. Especially if it's straight. Just watch, Padres. If you start him Saturday he'll be knocked around the park unless he can hit the corners all night long. Which he won't.

Peavy against Loaiza tonight. This is not a big game. Tomorrow and Thursday might be big games, but tonight is not. Why?

Nearly all BIG GAMES before the last week of the season are artifical. Losing a big game is devastating, and severly alters a teams chances moving forward. Game 5 of a World Series is a big game. The third from last regular season game is a big game if you're tied for the wild card at the time. A game three weeks from the end of the season is not a big game by nature, even if you are 2.5 games out. Of course being 3.5 out is worse, but there is still time to come back. There really aren't dire consequences for losing tonight's game unless we pretend there are.

Why pretend a game is a big game if it's likely to be a loss? The Dodgers are facing Jake "the Pulverizor" Peavy. The Dodgers aren't going to lose, but they are going in likely to lose. I don't want to wake up tomorrow feeling like the season is over because I overvalued one game. Important, yes. But not all-important.

If the Dodgers fall out of the race this week, it won't be because they lost a big game, anyway. It will be because they lost a lot of little games. Falling out of a pennant-scrap race is a slow death. Hope fades bit by bit, day by day. There are different points of surrender for everyone. It can be a miserable thing. I'm not going to compound my misery by making individual losses worse than they already are!

Of course, it's not a loss yet. The game isn't lost; the season isn't lost. The goal of winning the World Series is still in reach. Remote, but in reach. Just like tonight's game.

09 September 2007

Why bring in Broxton with runners on? Or why not?

By Griffster

I felt bad when Broxton was brought in to pitch, because I carry this perception that Broxton falls to pieces when he pitches with runners on. But is that just a perception, or does it have some basis in facts, cold hard stats?

Over his career, Broxton's inherited 50 runners, of which he's let 15 score. That's only 30% of inherited runners he's let score. This year ( given that recent results are freshest in one's memory ) he has inherited 21 runners, and he's let seven score. Well, that's 33%, which is around the same percentage.

Now the question is, how is he doing compared to others? Grabbing stats from a few of our other relievers:

Hendrickson has 22 career inherited runners, of which he's let 11 score. ( Of course, he's mostly been a starter! ) So, how about this year with LA, in relief? Well, he's had 10 inherited runners. He let three score. That is 30 percent again, in a small sample size. His stat is skewed by his rookie year, in which he let 6 of nine inherited runners score. So that 30 percent sounds about right for him where he's at currently.

Seanez has 247 careeer inherited runners. He let 98 score. That's about a 40% career rate. Ouch! What about this year with the Dodgers? 'cause remember, we're trying to pin down the perception of whether Broxton lets too many score. Seanez inherited 35 and let 16 score. That's 45%. So he's worse than career! To be expected at the end of a career.

What about Proctor? 149 career, 41 allowed to score. 27% career! With the Dodgers? 6 inherited, one scored. Small sample size. On the year he has had 37 inherited, 10 scored. 27% again. So, he's OK, slightly better than Broxton.

Hernandez' career: 401 inherited, 135 scored. 37%. This year: 6 of 19, 31%.

Beimel career: 196 inherited, 58 scored. 30%. This year: 10 of 47, 21%.

Saito MLB career: 38 inherited, 13 scored. 34%. This year: 4 of 11, 36%.

Looks like Broxton's 30% is around normal. Even somebody like Hernandez or Hendrickson who makes everybody cry "Game over!" has been pulling around 30% or slightly above for this year. Seanez is nasty bad.

Proctor and Beimel's been good - Beimel especially has been good about keeping those inherited runners away from home plate. So perhaps he would have been a good choice today. Who knows?

So, what's the bottom line? Broxton is not better than most other Dodger relievers at keeping runners from scoring, and he's certainly not the worst, either. He's about average. Why then the perception that he's letting them score? I guess because of high expectations. Broxton is a closer of the future, supposed to be a cut above the rest. Yet, he's just about average. Might as well bring Hernandez or Hendrickson in and leave Broxton to pitch when he's at his most dangerous - with the bases empty.

And maybe that's where my frustration with today's game lies.

It goes deeper than inherited runners, of course. There's also the question of pitching with runners on or none on, and with runners in scoring position or not. Here's the batting averages against for our selection:

Player None on Runners on Runners in scoring postion

Broxton .239 .209 .258
Hendrickson .273 .316 .336
Seanez .228 .279 .271
Hernandez .276 .337 .310
Proctor .279 .197 .173
Beimel .248 .270 .295
Saito .159 .175 .152

Well well. Broxton is one of the better guys in the pen if you look at those globbed together stats. Proctor ( runners on ) and Saito is better overall, Seanez is also better at not letting runners on to start with, and only twelve points worse with them in scoring position.

The bottom line, then, is that it is probably mostly a matter of perspective. We want Saito or Gagne or somebody lights out when Broxton comes up. He's the closer of the future!

But instead, he's just a good reliever. We'd better enjoy the Saito years. It may be that in future we won't have the smooth ride through the ninth we have with Saito and had before with Gagne ( remember Baez, anyone? ).

08 September 2007

Juan Pierre Hits a Home Run

by Joshua Worley

Last night I had a vivid, memorable dream in which Juan Pierre blasted a home run into right-center field in the seventh inning of a close game. He slid into home plate at the completion of his trip around the bases and his teammates mobbed him at the plate even though the game wasn't over.

I remember being so stunned and happy to have witnessed the miracle.

I guess this dream was my mind's way of trying to make up for the agony of last night's defeat. I don't focus on just the one error --- too many people screwed up in the same inning and the Dodgers paid the price. Some mistakes worse than others, of course, with Furcal leading the list. But behind him, in no particular order, Billingsly, Little, Kent, Proctor and Beimel all made mistakes that in isolation might be no big deal, but together created a disaster.

If the Dodgers win 14 of their next 21 games, they have a good shot of making the playoffs. Only 7 more disasters allowed.

07 September 2007

In which I shortly and sweetly loose patience with Little

By Griffster

So. Today's bonehead seventh inning mistake, letting the pitcher bat for himself and then yanking him pronto. ( As I write here Loney has already tied the game so this is not just a knee-jerk reaction ).

YESTERDAY'S bonehead mistake of letting the pitcher bat for himself and then getting into a knot.

I want a new manager.

I haven't been a Grady Little apologist. I have at most been a Grady Little tolerating person.

But right now, I'm just freakin' fed up sick and tired of Grady Little.

I want a manager with some life, I want a manager with some brains. Girardi or somebody who can manage young players, who can show that he cares a little about games, who can inspire players. No more of this tepid Grady Little nonsense.

Oh, there the Giants win. My rant about Little stands. Well done, Broxton.

The Dreams of the Departed

by Joshua Worley

This is a special time to be a Dodger fan. The team is in contention in September, in the thick and thin of an exciting pennant scrap race. ( The way I see it, each of the four NL playoff teams gets a pennant scrap, and the NL winner gets to sew the scraps together into a pennant. ) It would be nicer, of course, if the Dodgers were 2.5 games in front of a playoff spot, rather than 2.5 games out, but it's still exciting, and hope is very real.

But being in the pennant scrap race isn't the primary reason this is a special time. In watching the Dodgers we are getting to see a group of promising young players at the very beginning of their careers. It's like being 20 again, and seeing all of one's adult life ahead, with possibilities that feel limitless. We can imagine greatness ahead for these players. MVP awards, hall of fame careers. None of it might ever happen, but it could happen.

The truly great thing about this time is that it's not just in dreams of the future that these players are stars --- they are the stars of the Dodgers right now! Yesterday, in perhaps their most joyous win of the season, Ethier, Kemp, and Loney were the stars. Martin has been a star all season. I could go on, but I don't think I need to.

Instead, I say this: cherish this time to watch these young players, because though the future is full of promise, it is not guaranteed. They could be traded, or falter from their sure paths to stardom.

Below is a look at some of the departed:

Irvin Joel Guzman

There was a time when for a lot of Dodger fans and outside experts he was the Dodger position prospect, the young player to be most excited about. And why not? He was a power hitting shortstop, a bit raw, but apparently with all the tools to become a star. In 2005 he was ranked the fifth best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America.

But it probably will never happen for him. I'm looking back at his numbers, wondering with the clarity of hindsight if his fall from the top of the prospect lists could have been better anticipated. They are good numbers, but not great numbers. He had an OPS of 0.899 one year in A+, but he was mostly around 0.800 or lower in other years. Of course, he was always very young for his league, and also a shortstop. So maybe they were great numbers, in those contexts. But he never walked very much, and struck out a lot. Some young players can learn and move past an early trend of striking out too much, while others can't. It appears, sadly, that Guzman will be the latter.

The numbers for Guzman have gone down since he was traded away, and the context of his numbers has changed for the worse. He's no longer extremely young for his league ( 22 in AAA ), and he's now an outfielder, not a shortstop. More importantly his OPS this year was below 0.700, mostly due to striking out a quarter of the time and almost never walking. He's getting a look with Tampa Bay this September, but it's hard to see him having much of a major league career based on what he's done this year. It would be rash to say he'll never make it, though.

Ned Colletti traded Guzman after his star had fallen quite a bit. Since the trade it's fallen even more. But his fall troubles me the least among any of the three on this list, because I never really knew him as a Dodger. His brief time with the big club was uninspiring and unmemorable.

Edwin Jackson Jr.

Chronologically I feel he doesn't quite belong with the rest of the prospects I'm mentioning, though it was as recently as 2004 that he was ranked the fourth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, just a year prior to Guzman's chart peak.

I don't think anyone who saw Jackson pitch for the Dodgers in 2003 will ever forget him. Beating the Big Unit on his 20th birthday, being so good, so young --- we had a star, a pitching prodigy! In September of 2003, Jackson turned 20 and pitched 22 innings for the Dodgers with an ERA of 2.46. The possibilities for him seemed limitless.

I've always felt, emotionally, irrationally, that Jackson's fall came because the Dodgers wouldn't put him in the starting rotation at the beginning of 2004 after a shaky spring. This will always bother me. Lots of pitchers scuffle through spring training. Hadn't he earned his April 2004 shot in the rotation with his 2003 September? There's no evidence that things would have turned out better for him if the Dodgers had put him in the rotation in April. Probably he would have been as bad as he was in reality in July and September of 2004. But maybe his confidence was bruised. I don't know.

Jackson is still only 23, but his fall from potential Dodger stardom seems ages ago to me. He's been pitching with the Tampa Bay major league club for 1 and a half years now, ever since he was traded to them by Ned Colletti. His monthly ERAs as a starter go like this: 7.2, 7.6, 6.1, 8.1, 6.5, 5.7, 2.5.

That 2.5 ERA is this past August, compiled in 5 starts over 33 innings, including a complete game shutout of the Texas Rangers. ( The same Rangers who once scored 30 runs! ) So maybe there's hope for him. But in those 33 innings he had 19 strikeouts and 16 walks. I don't know, that's not too encouraging. Walks have been Jackson's downfall since 2003. Same as Guzman really. It's not fair that the most boring play in baseball can shatter dreams, is it?

Dioner Fabian Navarro

There was a time, in late 2005, when I thought Navarro was the Dodger catcher of the future. I was a big fan of his. I still remember his walk-off home run late that season fondly. With Navarro I thought the Dodger tradition of great catchers was going to continue.

But then I met someone new. At first I was a bit skeptical, but within a month I was won over completely. I'm sorry, Dioner. It's not you, it's me. Well, sadly, it kind of is you. That line of 0.222 -- 0.280 -- 0.343 you're putting up this year makes me wonder what I ever saw in you. But I wish you the best --- maybe you can turn it around next year, eh?

As it turned out, Russell Martin was everything I thought Dioner could be, and more. He better not be departing anytime soon!