31 July 2007

Proctor for a Utility Infielder? Update -- Yes

by Joshua Worley

The Proctor for Betemit rumors are back with a vengeance. This trade idea that I found so ludicrous from the Dodger perspective seems on the verge of happening, if all the different websites talking about it are to be believed. I really thought the Dodgers would be smarter than this. We'll see. It happened, sooner than I thought. Jon Heyman of cnnsi.com is reporting the deal is done pending medical reviews.

Here's a round-up of the Betemit for Proctor rumors:

Jon Heyman, cnnsi.com

The Yankees and Dodgers are engaged in talks that may send reliever Scott Proctor back to the Dodgers for utility infielder Wilson Betemit.

Wilson Betemit may be used as if he was a utility infielder, but that doesn't make him one. Ramon Martinez is a utility infielder. Wilson Betemit is a starter who is blocked.

Ben Maller, foxsports.com

The deal the Yankees want is to send Scott Proctor to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the utilityman Wilson Betemit, a deal they discussed last July with Betemit's former team, the Braves. The thinking is that Proctor's arm may be vulnerable, considering how often he has pitched the last two seasons. A National League scout, who did not want to comment publicly on a potential deal not involving his club, said Betemit, a .263 career hitter, was nothing special. But the scout said the deal still made sense for the Yankees because Proctor seemed exhausted despite throwing hard. -- NY Times

Would the scout feel more comfortable commenting publically on a potential deal that involved his club? Wouldn't that actually be worse? The red flag on Proctor is raised here: that he's thrown in a lot of games over the past two years and has nothing left, which is why the Yankees consider him expendable. Again Betemit is called a utility infielder, and even worse he's "nothing special". While he may never quite put it all together as a hitter, his power certainly is special. His plate discipline, this year, has been special.

Jayson Stark, espn.com

The Dodgers need bullpen help like Lindsay Lohan needs a personal prison mug-shot artist. And Proctor looks like their best bet at this point. The Dodgers' second-half bullpen ERA has swelled to 5.61. What kind of sample size are we talking about here? Yeah, the bullpen is struggling lately, but this is over a period of a few weeks. And if you subtract closer Takashi Saito, setup man Jonathan Broxton and a cameo relief appearance by Derek Lowe, that figure explodes to 7.17. So after coming up short on Dotel, the Dodgers -- as first reported by our cohort, Buster Olney -- have turned their attention to the Yankees. Proctor has definitely shown signs of wear and tear from pitching more innings (156 2/3) than any relief pitcher in baseball since opening day 2006. But the Dodgers clearly think that with less abuse, he can get back to being the guy who was Joe Torre's most trusted setup man down the stretch last season. The Yankees, meanwhile, are set to call up one of their most highly regarded young dominators, Joba Chamberlain, to replace Proctor in the bullpen. And they'll get the multi-talented Wilson Betemit from the Dodgers to serve as first-base protection now and a potential third-base replacement for Alex Rodriguez next year.

I hate it when columnists make these cutesy pop-culture references. None of you are Bill Simmons. You don't know how to do it, and when you try it you look like idiots. But this is a big improvement from the other pieces, because Betemit has gone from being a utility infielder to being multi-talented. The red flag on Proctor being over-used by Torre is mentioned again, though not in so many words. ( Torre is never blamed. ) Most interesting to me is how the Yankees plan to replace Proctor, by calling up a hard throwing prospect. So why can't the Dodgers do the same thing and forget about Proctor? Bring up Jon Meloan, as a replacement for the Proctor plans.

Scott Christopher Proctor

year -- games -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR -- ERA
2006 -- 83 -- 102.1 -- 89 -- 33 -- 12 -- 3.52
2007 -- 52 -- 54.1 -- 37 -- 29 -- 8 -- 3.81

The strikeouts per 9 innings is down from 7.83 to 6.13 this year. The walks are way up; the home runs have gone up as well. His fielding independent ERA, based on just his strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed this year is 5.49. This is not a pitcher the Dodger need to trade for, especially if they give up a talent such as Betemit.

This is so maddening. The Yankees use up one of their pitchers and then seek to trade him at a point when his value is likely to be highest ( before his stats completely collapse because of over-use. ) At the same time the Dodgers drive down the value of one of their players by using him as if he was a utility infielder, even though he has power and plate discipline to spare. Buy high, sell low. Again. Or perhaps not. The deadline is four hours away. No news is good news.


Yes, again. Okay, now to spin this as positively as possible. The truth is the Dodgers didn't have a spot for Betemit. For worse or worse Nomar is the Dodger third baseman for the rest of this year. Betemit wasn't going to be more than a utility infielder with the Dodgers, even if his talent demanded he be far more. And the third baseman of the future is Andrew LaRoche, so there likely wouldn't have been room for Betemit in the future either. I think choosing LaRoche over Betemit is the right call. That said, Betemit could have been a backup plan for both second and third in case either Abreu or LaRoche didn't work out. I certainly wish the Dodgers could have gotten more for Betemit than a tired-armed reliever.

However, maybe Proctor's arm will be fine. Maybe he'll be great in the final two months with the Dodgers. He could be a fine addition to the Dodger bullpen for years to come, even. I'm not counting on it, though.

To me this is not as bad as trading LaRoche or Abreu for Dotel. In that sense Colletti picked the lesser of evils. I just wish Meloan had been given a shot first. Even though he was only being used as a utility infielder, I think the Dodgers will miss Betemit. I'll miss him.

30 July 2007

Injury skepticism or, if you lie to me, why should I trust you?

By Griffster

The Dodgers' season is going to pivot on Lowe and Penny being healthy, not on any trade deadline move. ( Could the trade deadline please just GO already? I fear a dumb move. I have Lugo-itis when it comes to thinking about Colletti and the trade deadline. Not even the Maddux-for-Izturis flip can cure Lugo-itis. )

If Lowe and Penny is OK, the Dodgers should be OK too.

But, I'm rather worried that they are not OK. The Dodgers have a history of hushing up injuries and trying to force players to play through injuries. We have a hobbled Furcal thanks to Repko and his kamikaze approach to fielding. When Repko climbed the outfield wall and bummed up his ankle he got the year off. But Furcal does not get the time he needs to heal himself. Maybe we could have ridden Valdez' hot streak a little longer and have Furcal healed a little better. Maybe not. I do not know a whole lot about ankle sprains, except that I needed time off my feet to heal the sprains I've had.

Did Conte's arrival change any of this painful approach to injuries? We will have to wait and see. There isn't enough information yet. The Dodgers have, to this point, only lost injury-prone pitchers. Schmidt, Kuo and Wolf is probably not Conte's fault. They landed in his lap with their injury futures already scripted by past damage to their bodies. Ditto Tsao.

On the other hand Penny's "cramp" already turned into a "strain". A position player with a mild strain will be OK and can try to sneak through it. He doesn't take more than a dozen or so swings a game. If he is Nomar, he probably only takes as many swings as he sees first strikes! But a starting pitcher? He torques his body 100 times a game not counting warm-up pitches. A pitcher really does need to be OK.

I hope Lowe is right about it when he says he'll be fine. Let's see him throw off a mound. And then let's hope he doesn't say it is fine when it feels like there's fire shooting through his groin. I will only believe Lowe is fine when I see him pitch six or seven innings in a game. I've learned not to believe players or managers when they say a player will be fine. The guys are much too fond of trying to play through injuries to make their words credible.

Let's have a quick look at Lowe's starts:

APR 02 4.0 8 6

APR 07 7.0 4 1

APR 13 8.0 7 1

APR 18 4.2 8 4

APR 24 7.0 9 3

APR 29 6.1 8 4

MAY 05 7.0 3 0
MAY 10 8.1 5 2

MAY 15 5.1 8 4

MAY 20 8.0 9 3

MAY 25 6.0 4 1

MAY 30 7.0 3 0

JUN 04 7.2 3 4

JUN 09 9.0 4 1

JUN 15 7.0 4 1

JUN 22 6.2 5 3

JUN 27 6.2 5 1

JUL 02 5.0 8 1

JUL 07 6.1 10 4

JUL 14 6.0 8 1

JUL 19 3.0 10 8

JUL 22 1.0 0 0

JUL 25 4.0 4 1

Lowe tends to go deep into games. We all know that. In April he was brought up short twice - on Opening Day, which is somewhat of a trend in itself for him, and also on the 18th. That was at Coors Field, though, and Lowe is on record as saying that Coors Field and him does not mix well.

In May Lowe had one token bad game against the Cardinals. That his bad game ( in terms of innings pitched ) is a pretty good game for Penny, Wolf or Bills when he makes an even-numbered start says something in itself.

In June Lowe started off strong, then suddenly dropped down to where he couldn't get through the sixth inning anymore - and he haven't since. Looking at past years, he was still hitting innings 7, 8 or 9 in the months following June.

Now, I'm not saying that Lowe picked up a niggle in June and has been forcing it ever since. It is a long season, and he may simply be tiring a little. Still, think about that when you read the meant-to-be-reassuring reports from the front office about how all manner of things is well.

Serpentine Knot

by Joshua Worley

The National League West is wide open. Three teams are nearly tied at the top, with a fourth team just 3.5 games off the pace. Which team is most likely to take the prize? Which teams are likely to fall off the pace?

Here are the current NL west standings, with the Giants and their losing record banished.


Div% are the odds of each team winning the NL West, according to the original report on Baseball Prospectus. According to them, the Dodgers have a shockingly better chance than the Snakes to take the division, even though the teams are nearly tied at the top. The reason, of course, is that the Snakes are a bad team. Really, they are, 8-game winning streaks notwithstanding. Bad teams have 8-game winning streaks occasionally. The 1986 Dodgers won 8 in a row in the middle of the season to bring their record up to 53-52, and went on to finish at 73-89.

I'm not saying the Snakes will finish with a losing record, though I think that's more likely than them winning the division. I'm also not saying that the Snakes can't win the division. Since they are tied for first with 55 games left, it certainly can't be discounted. Bad teams have won divisions before!

On the year, here are the on base and slugging percentages of the Snakes and their opponents:

0.317 -- 0.404 -- Snakes
0.335 -- 0.413 -- Opposition
(-0.018) -- (-0.009) -- Differential

That's a fundamentally bad team right there. Their opponents get on base more than them, and their opponents hit for more total bases than them. I don't see how anyone could reasonably conclude that the Snakes are a good team.

Well, maybe they were a bad team, but they've recently turned it around. How do they look in July? Here are the numbers:

0.305 -- 0.405 -- Snakes
0.335 -- 0.430 -- Opposition
(-0.030) -- (-0.025) -- Differential

Even with that eight game win streak, the Snakes are even worse in July. Worse! I really didn't expect that. What this means, is that as yet, there is no sign of a sustainable turn-around for the Snakes.

What about all the young players the Snakes have who might all get hot at the same time, might all start playing up to their supposed potential at the same time? Of course, anything is possible. But I suggest that maybe the expectations for Young, Drew, Jackson, and Snyder were too high to begin with, not to mention the demoted Quentin. Maybe in a year, or two years, they'll be really good. But they've established a level of performance at the big league level this year through four months, and it's not a very good one. I trust the first four months of this season to tell me how they will hit over the last two more than I trust minor league stats. I'm not suggesting their great minor league track records be ignored: some improvement will probably come. It just can't possibly be enough to turn the Snakes into a good team, especially when they have to make up for the loss of Randy Johnson at the same time.

Chris B Young has been improving his power all season, with a very good slugging percentage in July, but he still makes a lot of outs. Jackson has been solid but without much power for most of the season. Drew shows no sign of breaking through yet. Snyder has had a great July in fewer than 50 plate apperances. It's a mixed bag. Again, I agree they will improve a little, but not enough to matter.

Here are the percentages for the Padres and their opponents:

0.312 -- 0.391 -- Padres
0.308 -- 0.367 -- Opposition
(+0.004) -- (+0.024) -- Differential

And in July:

0.306 -- 0.377 -- Padres
0.338 -- 0.432 -- Opposition
(-0.032) -- (-0.055) -- Differential

The Padres are showing signs of a free-fall, based on what has happened so far in July. Even with Bradley added the offense is worse, and the pitching has just collapsed, with Young's injury, Peavy's mild struggles, and the return to earth of Germano and the two oldsters. I think the offense will come back around, but that the pitching may have found its new level.

The Rockies:

0.345 -- 0.418 -- Rockies
0.333 -- 0.431 -- Opposition
(+0.012) -- (-0.013) -- Differential

Rockies in July:

0.348 -- 0.442 -- Rockies
0.312 -- 0.415 -- Opposition
(+0.034) -- (+0.027) -- Differential

Maybe the Rockies are the team for the Dodgers to fear most, just based on their stellar play in July. I'm certainly more afraid of the Rockies than I am of the Snakes.

Finally, the Dodgers:

0.343 -- 0.405 -- Dodgers
0.318 -- 0.387 -- Opposition
(+0.025) -- (+0.018) -- Differential

In July:

0.368 -- 0.453 -- Dodgers
0.339 -- 0.438 -- Opposition
(+0.029) -- (+0.015) -- Differential

The Dodgers have the best underlying numbers in the NL West this year so far. Even in July, which has seemed a very uneven month for the Dodgers, they have played well. The pitching has been much worse, in large part because of injuries, while the offense has been much better, in large part because of young players. I expect that the July levels of pitching and offense more truly reflect how the Dodgers will do going forward, and if so there is reason for optimism. A lot, of course, will depend on how healthy Penny and Lowe really are.

But pending a disaster with Penny and Lowe, the Dodgers are the favorites in the NL West, even without a blockbuster deadline trade.

29 July 2007

It's that sinking ... feeling ...

By Griffster

Well, of all the kinds of bad luck to strike, we've lost almost an entire starting rotation's worth of pitchers to injury: Schmidt ( for which I have no hope, whatsoever, that he'll ever be worth anything to us. The Giants let him go for a good reason ), Wolf ( who I do not believe will be back in any effective form, this year. He is struggling in rehab right now ), Kuo, who is out for the year with bone chip surgery, and who will probably always remain a frustratingly fragile talent, and then Lowe hurting with a hip problem - we won't know how bad until he throws off a mound, but it just seems ominous. Plus, Penny is still hurting from his abdominal problem, last I read.

When something like this happens, there's nothing to be done. While a part of me really wants to see a miracle trade for a Maddux-type or some other serviceable pitcher, the bulk of me knows that this season is perilously close to being done. It is frustrating because the healthy roster was so much better than any other team in the NL West. But with the Dodgers pitching limping and the hitting a mix of slap-hitting vets and slightly raw youngsters, it really doesn't seem that realistic to expect this team to step into the post season anymore. I can only hope that there will be no rash of rent-a-player trades, and that I can survive the rest of the season without blowing my stack and then see what next year brings.

Of course, all my doom and gloom predictions may turn out to be totally untrue, too, and wouldn't I like that?

26 July 2007

Saito Smile!

Holliday scares me to death, but Broxton and Saito are scarier. Twice the elite Dodger relievers struck out the elite Rockies hitter.

It was really good to see Saito close out a game again.

Time to hunker down and ride it out

A Ramble, by Griffster

So, there goes Lowe. I just hope he stays off the mound long enough to heal completely. I'd rather take one extra Tomko loss to give Lowe five extra days to get healthy. Think of September if you must. One outing too soon and an aggravated injury would not be good.

Wolf might be on his way back - but his 4.0 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 2 HR, 6.75 ERA effort at High A wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring. I'd rather have him take extra time to get up to speed, too. Although it has been pointed out to me that such a thought process is silly and that Wolf might as well finish gearing up at Major League level, I'd rather not have him overreach to try and prevent something like an 8-run, 5-inning tuneup and get injured again.

Kuo is reported done for the year after bone-chip removing surgery on his elbow. Rudy Seanez thinks he's found a flaw in his delivery that's caused him to surrender five homers in his last 4.2 innings. ( from 6-4-2 ). Well, one would hope Seanez can correct a flaw that provides home runs for the opposition. Can he next correct the flaw in Nomar's swing that causes him to not provide home runs for us?

But anyway. Right now, we run out Penny, Hendrickson, Tomko, Billingsley and Stults/Houlton/dearly acquired Nr 6 starter of the moment out on the mound. Not exactly a rotation to be inspired by, but we will have to make do.

All the team can do is pitch up to play every game, every day. I'll support them through series like this just-concluded Astros series, which was maddening for the hitters' inability to get it done when it mattered ( don't strand a triple! ) - because I've come to realize that baseball is up and down, and that you can't win every game, and you can't win every series against a bad team. You'll burn yourself out, go crazy or drive those around you crazy. I've peeked at a couple Padres blogs. The guys on there carry on as if the Padres just heard the clock strike midnight and turned themselves into a 25-man roster made up entirely of Oscar Robles and Roberto Hernandez clones. I like to think there's more class in L.A land, though we'd have to wait and see.

Martin's been having a mini-slump, and he's also mentioned in the press that he feels a little tired. Could we maybe, I dunno, rest the guy a little more so he still has something left in September? The announcers tell me that he's caught the most innings in the Majors. Seems to me that that's a category you may not want your catcher to lead the league in.

Kent's been perking up a little bit of late, and Nomar's perked up a bit too. Although his long line drive single last night made me feel a little sad. Initially I thought he really put it into that ball, but the line drive itself seemed surprisingly limp and tired. And he only reached first base on it. *coughcoughdecliningveterancoughcough*

We next play the Rockies, the Giants, and the Diamondbacks. I sincerely hope we win each and every of those series, although I don't know how confident of the team achieving this goal I should be feeling. I just know that it will make me feel a whole lot better if we do win those three series. I can do with feeling better right now.

Rockies Preview: Series of Contention

by Joshua Worley

I have to argue against the notion that the Rockies are true contenders. They are 51-50, in fourth place. It's possible for them to go on and win the NL west. Possible could mean a 1% chance, even. But it's not likely. They need to win some more games to really become a contender.

Now, the Rockies are only 4.5 games back of the Dogers. That's not a huge deficit. But for comparison, the Snakes, another team I don't believe has what it takes in the NL west, are suddenly a mere 1.5 games back. I only have room for one bad contender in my brain. The Padres and Dodgers are the good contenders. The Snakes are the bad contender, and the Rockies are the young, cheap team that can't quite put it together. I will say, though, that I expect the Rockies to finish ahead of the Snakes at year's end. This isn't an extreme prediction, as the Rockies are already better than the Snakes just based on run differential. Speaking of run differential, you know how the Padres have had a huge advantage over the Dodgers in run differential all year, which caused a lot of people to think if was just a matter of time before the Padres ran away with the division? Well, the Padres run differential advantage has now dwindled to a very small margin. The Dodger pythagorean record is 55-47; the Padre pythagorean is 56-44. If the Dodger pitching staff wasn't in the process of falling apart as if it was an aging slugger on steroids, I would predict the Dodgers would overtake the Padres in run differential by the end of August.

Back to the Rockies. Remember when Helton was threatening to hit 0.400 on the year? Well, he's in danger of falling below 0.300 now. In the past month he's been hitting as he did last year: plenty of walks and not much else. There are worse players to have, but he's not earning the money. Helton is not the guy for the Dodgers to worry about. Atkins, surprisingly, is someone to worry about. He's hit 8 home runs in June. Hawpe and Holliday have also continued their excellent play. With these big four, the Rockies have a very solid and often dangerous heart of the lineup. In the past, it's been the rest of the lineup that has let them down. What about now?

Well, I can list the Rockies lineup on a typical day for them, which I will do below with position and home OPS.

Taveras -- CF -- 0.788
Matsui -- 2B -- 0.860
Holliday -- LF -- 1.133
Helton -- 1B -- 0.952
Atkins -- 3B -- 0.868
Hawpe -- RF -- 1.069
Tulowitzki -- SS -- 0.841
Torrealba -- C -- 0.774

Even with the humidor, an 0.800 OPS at home isn't quite as impressive as it might be, but still ... the lesser four on the Rockies are all right around a decent level at home. They aren't black holes in the lineup, as has been so often the case. What will this lineup do to Tomko and Hendrickson? I'm terrified of the answer.

Torrealba has been red hot in July, leaving dazed and confused rookie catcher Chris Iannetta on the bench most games. Tulowitzki had a famous string of clutch ninth inning home runs, and he's been a steady producer since that binge. He has missed the last two games with food poisoning, but I'm guessing he'll be back by at the latest Friday. Matsui has been a revelation after he laid an egg with the Mets. And Taveraz is better than Juan Pierre, unless the park factors are more extreme than I think.

The Rockie bullpen is -- not awful? I thought it was awful, especially with Fuentes famous string of meltdowns right before the All-star game that spoiled a lot of Tulowitzki's home runs. But I'm looking down this list of relievers and seeing several men having good years. Corpas, Buchholtz and Affeldt all have sub-3 ERAs. And they don't give up home runs! Corpas has allowed 3, the other two none. Jorge Julio and Hawkins have also been pretty good, with sub-4 ERAs. Fuentes is on the DL, so the Dodgers can't count on getting to him.

I'm thinking now that the Dodgers may be lucky to come away with a split of the four game series. Normally one would hope for at least 3 of 4, but with the pitching the way it is ...

The first game matches Brad Penny against Rodrigo Lopez. This is a trap game for over-confident Dodger fans. Lopez has a shiny 3.55 ERA at home; his one home weakness is home runs, with 7 allowed in 38 innings. I can easily see the Dodgers being held to 4 or fewer runs in this game, and then if Penny struggles --- crap. Here's the thing, though: the Dodger lineup is good. Even with the past two awful games in Houston, it is. I think they will get to Lopez, and give Penny the breathing room he needs to pitch well in Coors. There I go, being over-confident, falling into the trap I tried to warn others about.

The second game is Tomko against Josh Fogg. Now, Fogg is going to be hit at Coors. The Dodgers will score at least 4 runs against him, maybe more. He just doesn't strike out enough batters, and that's death at Coors with all the room for balls to fall in. Even though he's only allowed 3 Coors home runs in 37.1 innings, he still has an ERA of 5.54. So, there will be a chance for the Dodgers to win this game, just because they figure to score runs unless they run into a freak performance from a bad pitcher. The problem is Tomko. First of all, he's due to be awful. Not because his last two starts were good, but because in general he's awful. He's talking about this cut fastball he's revived to turn things around, but I'm guessing the scouts are all over this by now and the hitters will be able to adjust, even if the pitch is able to cut properly in Coors. I'm figuring the Dodgers lose a high scoring game in this one.

The third game is Billingsley against Francis. Francis has a 4.73 ERA at home. I wonder what kind of home ERA Billingsley would have if he was a Rockies pitcher? I think it would be better. His nasty stuff might not be quite as nasty in Coors, but it would be nastier than the nasty of most other pitchers. Yeah, that was a nasty sentence. But the point is that for Billingsley, I think it's going to be mental. Will he be intimidated by Coors, or will he have the confidence in his stuff that will be good even a mile high? After his nine inning gem on Monday, I think he'll be good, and lead the Dodgers to victory over the capable but unspectacular Francis.

The last game is Hendrickson against Ubaldo Jimenez. Who? Well, he's a recent call-up from Colorado Springs. He did great in AA Tulsa at age 22, though even there one might see a red flag in the number of walks he allowed. Walks have been a huge problem for him once he was promoted to AAA Colorado Springs, where he's had an ERA of 5 for half of last year and half of this year. Most likely he nibbles a lot because it's so easy for hitters to hit home runs, so he may still be very good. Even if he's good, he's now pitching against a good lineup in Coors field, so he figures to be a 5 ERA pitcher or worse. But the Dodgers are sending Hendrickson against him, so I'm calling it a toss-up.

So, there it is. 2 wins, 1 loss, and a toss-up is the prediction. Dodgers take the series 2.5 to 1.5. ;-)

25 July 2007

Dodger Power Rankings

by the Power Ranker

1. Jeffrey Franklin Kent

Power rankers are a capricious, cruel lot, with the memory of a hardened relief pitcher. We don't think; we react. Analysis is for the timid! If you've been hitting a lot of home runs lately, we love you. Welcome to the top spot, Jeff Kent. Your 1.153 OPS in July is a thing of beauty. Let us create a bobble-head in your image to befit your lofty status. May it bobble until you bobble and slump, at which time the power ranker will smash in the bobblehead with a hammer.

2. Chad Ryan Billingsley

What's the reward for a complete game gem when the relief staff is groaning under the weight of injuries and faltering starters? Never mind that Billingsley didn't face a terribly fearsome lineup, or that he got somewhat lucky on balls in play in the early innings ... he did what needed to be done, by hook or luck, and the reward is the second spot. It's not as if we're talking about a formerly bad pitcher, either. Chad's season ERA is fourth on the Dodger staff, behind just Penny, Broxton, and Saito.

3. Andre Everett Ethier

The Dodgers have two right fielders who are red hot, both with an OPS above 1.000 in July. Matt Kemp is the more exciting of the two, the more talented, the more promising. He's faster and more powerful, and he has a cooler nickname. But Ethier's outfield defense is very good, while Kemp's poor outfield play recently cost the Dodgers a game. So Ethier gets the nod ... but both should be starting.

4. Wilson Betemit

Betemit can make a legitimate claim on the top spot, so good has his play been lately. In July his OPS is 1.421. The problem is one of quantity. Though it's not his fault, the power ranker can't put a position player in the top spot if he plays at most twice a week.

5. Jonathan Roy Broxton

This is a protest ranking. It is a protest against those who think Broxton can't close. It is a protest against those who would contemplate trading for Dotel so that he could be the setup man instead. It is a protest against the idea that Meloan is too raw to be given a chance this season, when Broxton was that raw prospect reliever not too long ago. It's a protest against those who would blame Broxton more than the defense for two of the games where he lost the save. Kemp is below Broxton on this list for that reason. But this is also an honest ranking. Broxton has been superb all year. He's been superb lately. Coming in at number 5, the rock of the 'pen, big bad Jon.

6. Matthew Ryan Kemp

How can the most powerful man on the Dodgers not take the top spot in the power ranking? Even now the power ranker wavers ... but defense matters. The Bison is still terrific, still one of the best Dodgers lately. He's going to be a top 5 Dodger for years to come, if all goes well. But right now, he falls a bit short.

7. Rafael Antoni Furcal

A surprise at number seven! The Dodger MVP of last season, often the forgotten man this season, as he scuffled along with his injured ankle. But Furcal has been putting together a nice July, with an OPS of 0.812. Furcal has piled up 13 multi-hit games this month, while anchoring the infield defense between "rosebush" Kent and "glass" Nomar. Furcal has been an important part of the July revival of the Dodger offense.

8. James Anthony Loney

There are whispers of doubt, suddenly, in the power ranker's ear concering the amazing James Loney. Only 4 doubles and 1 home run in July for the wonderkid ... maybe the doubts about his power are correct. Down the list he goes! There is no room for perspective or patience in the power ranker's world. Is even the eight spot too high? No, he does get on base every day he plays. The power ranker's true wrath is reserved for others.

9. Anthony Nomar Garciaparra

You say Anthony, the power ranker say Antoni, Anthony, Antoni, Anthony, Antoni, let's pretend the power ranker never ranked Nomar so high. What can the power ranker say? His July OPS is actually higher than Loney's. He's hitting well lately, even showing some power. The power ranker loves power. He looks okay at third base. The power ranker doesn't cringe when the ball is hit his way, which sadly is the standard when an old brittle player suddenly starts playing there. Welcome to the top ten, Nomar. Have a seat. But keep your shoes on. The power ranker doesn't expect you to stay.

10. Michael Scott Lieberthal

Finally, we get to the Dodger catcher. Even if he's been slumping, he surely deserves to make the top te ... hey, wait a minute, this isn't Martin! Well, Lieberthal is batting over 0.500 in July. Yes, he never plays. That's why he's temporarily ranked above Martin. It's the power ranker's way of saying that Martin needs more days off. The only way the power ranker can say things is through his rankings. It's sad, really. What if the power ranker wanted to say something unrelated to the Dodgers, such as, "Save the whales?" That would be a hard one ... maybe something involving Broxton and Saenz ... um, nevermind.

11. Russell Nathan Coltrane Martin

The power ranker feels such remorse. How can a man with such a cool name not be in the top ten? The power ranker almost wishes we could convert to the duodecimal system of numbers, in which twelve would be ten, if you know what the power ranker means. Probably you don't. Martin was blazing hot to begin July, and has been ice cold the last week. He hasn't had a multi-hit game since San Francisco. He hasn't drawn a walk in the last week. He hasn't hit for the cycle in the past month. No four home run games either. Bum.

12. Bradley Wayne Penny

He's fallen on hard times recently, just like all those smug sabremetric people said he would. Don't take this characterization personally, sabre-people. Power rankers are the most judgemental, smug people there are and we always project our own faults onto other people. This power ranker was actually impressed that Penny was able to "man up" and pitch well in his last game after struggling early. That was almost as inspirational as Lincoln doing Civil War stuff. ( You know, because Lincoln is on the penny, and power rankers have no perspective and think sports are just like war. )

13. Takashi Saito

If you're taking up a roster spot but not pitching, your ranking will suffer. It's not fair, but that's how the power ranker rolls. Originally down at 18, he was bumped up to the halfway point at 13 as a sign of respect for his willingness to be careful with an injury, and also because it wasn't right to have him below Tomko and Pierre.

14. Juan D'Vaughn Pierre

Before you rip the power ranker a new one for having Pierre so high, just know that the competition for this spot was Tomko and Beimel. Yeah. So get off your high horse. Pierre gets the call here because in general it's been the Dodger offense leading the way so far, and Pierre has really done fairly well lately.

15. Brett Daniel Tomko

Remember, power rankers have short memories. Tomko has given the Dodgers two good starts in a row. All those awful relief appearances might as well have not happened. He'll be back in the bottom spot soon enough!

16. Joseph Ronald Beimel

Someday there's going to be a major leaguer named after Ronald Reagan. But not Beimel: he was born in 1977. ( Though come to think of it that doesn't mean he wasn't middle-named for Ronald the actor or governor ... ) The power ranker struggles to explain why Beimel ranks so low, since he's been pretty good lately. It's just hard to trust Beimel. The power ranker grades not only on results, but by how much you make us worry. Beimel is the king of making fans worry before wiggling out of a jam with an inexplicable comebacker or lucky lineout.

17. Eric Eugene Hull

Well, where should a man with just two innings pitched be ranked? Anyway, even though his ERA is 0, his strikeout to walk ratio is 1:1, which will never get it done in the long run. Yes, the power ranker has no qualms about making absurd projections from tiny sample sizes.

18. Dennis Sean Houlton Jr.

An innings-eater who remembers to flush, if you know what the power ranker means. In other words, he pitches the innings the Dodgers need him to pitch without leaving too foul a smell behind.

19. Derek Christopher Lowe

Hard times for Lowe. Too many walks lately, with some home runs mixed in. He hasn't sniffed the seventh inning lately, after regularly going deep into games earlier in the year. He'll turn it around.

20. Luis Emilio Gonzalez

This is the Gonzo we all feared the Dodgers were getting. In July his OPS is under 0.700. He has one home run and two doubles this month. Right now, the best outfielder to bench would be Gonzalez, not Pierre. There's no reason to play him over Kemp or Ethier regularly.

21. Ramon E. Martinez

It's nothing personal, Ramon. But you're a utility infielder who hits like one. The bottom five is your home. Deal with it.

22. Mark Allan Hendrickson

He'd be last if this was a ranking based on each player's swing.

23. Rudy Caballero Seanez

The home runs are back. Bad Seanez is back. 5 home runs in his last 5 innings. It's time to acknowledge that Rudy is no longer a viable option in a close game. There's only one reliever the power ranker trusts less right now.

24. Olmedo Saenz

This one hurts. But Saenz looks done.

25. ------ ---------

The power ranker refuses to write out his name, or acknowledge that he was ever a Dodger.

23 July 2007


by Joshua Worley

I didn't see yesterday's game. I heard the last innings on the radio, from the last inning of Stults's performance to the end of the game when I barely heard Nomar strike out through a staticky haze. The worst part of that last inning for me was Kemp's strike out. There's nothing surprising or significant about being struck out by Billy Wagner. I was just crushed by it, though. I hope for too much from Kemp, I think.

Kemp isn't a good outfielder. The physical gifts are there: his speed and throwing are are excellent. He doesn't get good jumps on the ball, though. He doesn't take good routes to the ball. He often struggles to catch the ball even when he puts himself under it.

I know all this, that Kemp struggles in the outfield. But I want to overlook it, make excuses for it. If Juan Pierre screws up a catch, I'm mad at him, even to the point of unfairness. But when Kemp screwed up the catch that cost the Dodgers the lead yesterday in the ninth, I was disillusioned and angry, though not at Kemp. I guess I was angry at my own expectations.

I felt the same way hearing Martin let pitches go by in the late innings. I don't want to believe he can get tired enough to do this. Rick Monday said he wasn't moving his feet properly. I'm not a big fan of Monday, but I have no reason to doubt him. So, my two favorite players basically lost the game for the Dodgers Sunday. Their weaknesses reached out through the radio and darkened the sky. But it's my fault. I let it effect me too much.

I wish Broxton could have struck out one of the first three batters he faced. This would have made all the difference. Still, I don't blame him for the blown game. He didn't pitch poorly. I get really defensive about Broxton, because so many poeple get down on him for no good reason. My wife doesn't trust him. Why? I ask her, and she just doesn't think he does well with pressure. He cracks a bit with runners on, she says. You know, she is right about him not doing as well when runners get on. His OPS allowed goes from 0.502 with none on to 0.604 with runners on any base to 0.793 with runners in scoring position. It's a small weakness for a really good reliever.

The Astros are up next. This team is loaded with weaknesses. The play a lot of bad offensive players, old guys like Ausmus and Biggio. Ensberg is bad this year. Hunter Pence the rookie is really good, but he may be limited by a wrist injury he suffered Sunday. Oswalt can't make his start on Wednesday. None of the Astros pitchers should scare the Dodger hitters. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dodgers win a few high scoring games in this series, by scores such as 8-5. The Dodger hitting is better and their pitching, even in its depleted state, is also better.

21 July 2007

The Equation of Doom

by Joshua Worley

Today the equation of doom nailed Jorge Sosa, pitcher for the Mets, but after the Mets went up 4-0 on the Dodgers I was too mired in despair to really believe it would happen, even though I could see it coming. I went to the game as part of Dodger Thoughts day, and was present for the question and answer session before the game with Frank McCourt, owner of the LA Dodgers. I hope to write more about this in a few days, but for now I'll just say that it seemed like the sort of thing he does frequently with fans, I'm guessing usually season ticket holders. He opened with corporate speak, a haze of buzz-word words and complicated, awkward sentences that boiled down to saying he wanted everyone in the organization to be on the same page. After that he did better, and emphasized all that the Dodger organization is doing to listen to what the fans and give the fans a better experience. He seems to mean well, and to me it says something that he would even bother to take the time to talk to fans like this. But in the end his judgement will come based on what tangible results are produced, rather than what he says. It's clear that the Dodgers plan on staying in Dodger Stadium for a long time, which is good foundation to start with.

Back to the equation of doom. At first it was the Dodgers who seemed doomed, when they couldn't buy a hit early on and the Mets twice put up two in an inning on Penny. It was demoralizing when Penny gave up an RBI single to under-achieving prospect Lastings Milledge with the pitcher up next in the second, and it was devastating when the next inning he gave up a home run to David Wright. At this point Dodger defeat felt certain, even though I should have known better.

The thing is, all six Dodger outs in the first two innings were fly ball outs. Jorge Sosa was yielding a ton of fly balls the entire time he pitched. All the early ones went for outs, yes, and it may have seemed he was on his game, but if he kept on giving up fly balls to a good lineup his doom was assured. He did keep giving up fly balls, and his doom came.

The equation of doom:

many fly balls + good lineup = offensive explosion

A fly ball pitcher can be effective if he strikes out a fair number of hitters and doesn't walk anyone. Sosa didn't strike out enough batters, he walked too many, and most importantly nearly every batted ball he gave up was in the air. When you're facing a lineup with Kemp, Ethier, Martin, Loney, and Betemit you are doomed if you allow too many fly balls. By the way, it was great to see all those hitters in the same starting lineup. Why can't this happen at least 5 games a week?

The first fly ball to hurt Sosa came from Penny, of all people. For a moment I was so sure it was a home run, but it came up just short and Penny was lucky to get a double. Pierre's clutch single with two outs to drive Penny home felt huge psychologically, at least to this fan. I just couldn't bear to see the Dodgers' first fly ball dividend be wasted.

The two other really memorable Dodger fly balls were Betemit's deep single and Kemp's home run. I was so sure Betemit's fly ball bounced over the wall and struck the stairs behind before coming back onto the field, both seeing it live and seeing the replay on the diamond vision, but it wasn't ruled an automatic double and known slow-poke Betemit could only get a single on it. I wonder who would win a foot-race between him and Penny.

Kemp's home run had us out of our seats the moment it was hit, so majestic was the flight of the ball off the bat. It just seemed like a home run the whole way. When the ball reached its peak I worried for a moment, because it was so high, higher than most home runs, but Kemp had indeed got all of it and it went for a towering, 3-run blast to put the Dodgers ahead for good. To state the obvious, that was great. When the dust had settled in the fourth inning, the Dodgers had provided the answer to the equation of doom for Jorge Sosa on July 21: 5 runs.

Heed the warning of the equation of doom, pitchers. Fly balls kill. Especially when there's a Bison loose.

20 July 2007

The Other Way

Last night's home run by Matt Kemp was the first of his I remember going the other way. I don't know, though ... did he have an opposite field home run last year? It seems to me that in general opposite field home runs have declined in the last few years after becoming rather common in the late 1990's. Even knowing Kemp's power I was surprised when his shot went over the wall, just because I don't expect to see home runs go the other way from the Dodgers.

In any case, that display of power was the highlight of an otherwise dreary evening fo the Dodgers. I feel that Kemp really gets it this time around. Last year he was called up and his pure talent carried him until the pitchers adjusted. This time it seems like he's the one who has adjusted to the pitchers. He'll continue to strike out some, and he should, because he needs to be agressive when he swings. He'll inevitably slump at some point. But I don't think he'll ever look in over his head again. I wish the Dodgers would play him every day.


What kind of expectations should one have when Brett Tomko faces a good offensive team such as the Mets?

I don't know about expectations, but my hope is that he gets lucky. The Mets are going to hit some hard grounders, and some deep, flat fly balls, even if Tomko is going relatively well. These 'tweener balls that aren't hit quite as hard as the smoked liner and not quite as soft as the lazy fly or easy hopper need to go directly at fielders. If Derek Lowe had been lucky in the first inning last night, he might have allowed no runs. The first four Mets all hit the ball medium-hard, but none were sure-fire line drive base hits. Two were hard grounders and two were deep opposite field fly balls, if I've remembered correctly. These are the kind of batted balls that will go for hits about half the time in my experience. This time 3 out of 4 of them were hits, which is maybe a little unlucky and Lowe followed it up by allowing walks and even harder hit balls. First his luck went a little sour, then his pitching went very sour. It's the sort of thing I can easily see happening to Tomko as well.


The newest Dotel rumor is that the Royals want Tony Abreu for him now. This is saner than asking for Kemp or Loney, but still a clear no-go from the Dodgers' perspective. I have a hard time seeing how Dotel substantially helps the Dodgers, since he's a reliever. How many innings would he pitch with the Dodgers, and how better would he be than the man he replaced? I can't imagine him saving more than 5 runs over his replacement. If he was a starter who could be relied upon for a 4.0 ERA, I might consider trading Abreu to get him. But a player who has a good shot at being the Dodger second baseman of the future shouldn't be traded for a reliever.

As a general rule, I'd say any player worthy of being called a "prospect" is untouchable when it comes to trading for a reliever.

19 July 2007

Rumor Retaliation

by Joshua Worley

There are a lot of dumb trade rumors involving the Dodgers floating around on various websites. It's time to grab a few and make some counter-proposals.

The Rumor: Troy Glaus to the Dodgers

The Counter: How about Nomar Garciaparra to the Blue Jays. Or, how about Nomar is traded to Las Vegas for Andrew LaRoche. Now there's a trade that makes sense. ( I know Nomar can't really be sent down. ) This rumor is silly enough without finding out what the Dodgers are supposed to give up for the glossy Glaus. The worst part of this is that the intended target also buys into the myth behind this half trade proposal. Said Glaus: "I think it's just a bunch of guys putting one and one together -- L.A. needs a third baseman, so why not me?" Does Andy LaRoche ever think the same thing, I wonder?

The Rumor: Dontrelle Willis to the Dodgers

The Counter: The Dodgers already have enough pitchers with a +5 ERA, thanks. So, the counter proposal is that the Dodgers get Willis for one very low-grade prospect, instead of the Loney or Kemp the rumor-mongers probably had in mind. How come all the stupid trades involving the Dodgers always feature them being ripped off or getting the crappy player? Where are the rumors involving Miguel Cabrera or Hanley Ramirez going to the Dodgers? And hey, just because the Dodgers have Nomar doesn't mean they want every name player who has fallen on hard times.

The Rumor: Octavio Dotel for James Loney or Matt Kemp

The Counter: Why not ask for both Loney and Kemp, and then try to bargain the Dodgers down to just one of them? Forget about Dotel to be the eighth inning set-up man. I hear there's a dynamite set-up man out there who strikes out more than a batter per inning and has a 2.57 ERA, and to top it off he has 23 holds with only two blown saves. He's everything you'd ever want in a set-up guy. I'm sure the Dodgers can get him for almost nothing because no one seems to realize how good he is ... he has a weird name ... Oxton or something. The Dodgers should trade for him.

The Rumor: Scott Proctor for Wilson Betemit

The Counter: Instead of trading a young power hitter with plate discipline for a reliever with dog-meat peripherals and a lucky ERA, how about the starter of this rumor be forced to make an unnecessary visit to the proctologist's office for every outlet that printed this one. Does Dodgerama count as an "outlet"? Um ... no. ( To be fair, I think this one was a fantasy of someone in the Yankees front office, not a writer's fantasy. Still, I'm insisting on the proctologist visits for whoever came up with it. )

The Rumor: Mark Teixeira for James Loney and Clayton Kershaw

The Counter: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News for Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. I have to sleep on this one, though.

18 July 2007

Barry Bonds

by Joshua Worley

He still scares me. Even now, hobbled, ancient, years removed from his terrifying peak, he scares me whenever he comes up to the plate against the Dodgers.

When he came up to the plate in last Saturday's game in the eleventh inning against Mark Hendrickson, I feared the worst. Deep down I knew the worst was coming. Hendrickson would fall behind, maybe get to 2-1, then serve up a soft offering that got too much of the plate, and Barry would turn on it and destroy it. Over the wall and into the bay. And then the fans, the fans ... they would be ecstatic. That would have to be like winning the World Series for Giants fans, right? Almost, anyway. What bliss for them to see Barry hit a home run to beat the Dodgers, to cap an incredible comeback win, and after the Dodgers had blown multiple chances of their own to take the lead. And then, in the post home run cheering that was already deafening, the chant would rise, this time triumphant instead of hopeful ... Beat LA ... Beat LA ... BEAT LA!

Overall Hendrickson is not a good pitcher, as anyone who watches the Dodgers regularly knows. As anyone who watched last night's dog meat performance knows. He had not looked particularly good in the tenth inning of Saturday's game, when the Giants got a man to second with one out but failed to get him home. But suddenly, in the eleventh inning, he was good. He was great even, from my vantage high up in the oxygen mask seats. And maybe, also, Barry was not great. Barry was not just mortal ... he was less that mortal. Slumping. Hurt, or confused, perhaps? Confused because his body could no longer cooperate with his steel conviction and discipline as a hitter? And certainly, viewed from safely after the fact, not worth being feared. But how could I know that? How could I unlearn all those years of terror?

Hendrickson got Barry to ground out to second, or maybe it would be better to say Barry allowed Hendrickson to receive the ground ball out. Then Hendrickson struck out the next two batters, and they looked silly on those strikeouts. Off-balance, lunging. Maybe the perspective was fooling me, but it sure seemed to me that Hendrickson had found his confident stuff, and for that brief inning he was a good pitcher. I was so thankful to be spared the defeat then. No long bus ride back to the hotel in my Dodgers gear, in the jersey and hat of the team that had blown a 7-2 lead.

Barry had no hits in the series. I personally saw him ground into three double plays. By Saturday's game, Giants fans were beginning to fear the worst when Barry came up, just as I feared the worst as a Dodger fan. The occasion of Barry coming up to bat with runners on in Friday's game when the Giants trailed 3-0 in the eighth inning had sparked a reverberating chant of "Beat LA". When he came up in a similar situation in Saturday's game, there were nervous shouts imploring him not to ground into a double play.

Barry is still a good hitter. He still walks a lot, gets on base a lot. But I have to point out that it's not even a sure thing anymore that he'll even get to 756 career home runs this year. The overwhelming likelihood is that he will, of course. But his body seems to be breaking down. If he can play even half the Giants remaining games, he should get the 5 home runs he needs, and then some. But what if he can't play? He's already missed two games since the Dodger series. He doesn't have a hit since the All-Star break. I think there is an outside chance that Barry's body will betray him and prevent him from getting the record this year, and then what? Will he be back with the Giants next year? Surely not, but who knows?

I have to admit to a thrill when watching Barry hit. It's more than a thrill of dread ... it's a thrill beyond being a Dodger fan, beyond steroid suspicions ... it's the thrill of seeing a pure, disclined power hitter. Have any been better than Barry at his peak? I don't want to see Barry hit a home run against the Dodgers ever, especially not a record breaking one. And yet, when I'm at the August 2 game against the Giants, I won't miss any of Barry's at bats for anything, especially if he's sitting on 755 home runs.

16 July 2007


by Joshua Worley

Our seats for Saturday's game in AT&T Park were high up in section 332, at the corner in the stands beyond the left field foul pole. Our seats came just before the angle in the stands, before the point where the seats begin to follow the line of the outfield wall instead of the foul line, so we had to contantly turn our heads to see the action at the plate. Home plate was so far away that it was sometimes hard to follow the ball off the bat. On several swings-and-misses I wasn't immediately sure if the batter had missed the pitch or just fouled it off. Because we had to turn about 45 degrees to see the action at the plate and in the infield, and because the game went 12 innings, both Griffster and I had rather sore backs by the end of the game. Most of the left field wall and warning track were hidden by the upper level stands that angled off to the left of us. The center fielder was often positioned so that he was hidden by the left field foul pole.

In other words, these weren't good seats. High up and far away.

Our seats for Friday's game were better, but not by much. They were just as high, actually a few rows higher, but behind third base instead of behind the left field foul pole. We arrived at Friday's game very early, in time to see all of the Dodgers' batting practice. Juan Pierre looked as weak in batting practice as he does during the games. Furcal didn't look much better. Ethier didn't impress either, but he was clearly working on things, as he hit a lot of balls the other way and up the middle. Gonzalez, being a veteran player, didn't have to work on anything, and he pulled everything, including a nice home run into the water on the fly. But by far the most impressive batting practice performances were put in by Matt Kemp and Wilson Betemit.

Kemp and Betemit hit them high and far. Even from the right side Betemit hit one halfway up the left field bleachers, a shot very similar to the one Kent hit during Saturday's game to put the Dodgers up 6-1. After watching them rule batting practice before the game on Friday, I was pre-emptively disappointed that they wouldn't get much playing time during the weekend series. How can players which such raw ability be held out of the lineup on a regular basis?

Kemp got into Friday night's game as a defensive replacement and batted in the eighth inning. He grounded out to third, but he flew to first. I don't think it's fair to say he almost beat the throw, but he sure made an impression on anyone watching him run out the grounder. You have to see his speed in person to really appreciate it.

Betemit started Saturday's game, but Kemp did not. Betemit has often looked completely lost at the plate in his starts, which is probably why he gets so few of them. But he has his spectacular games as well, which shouldn't be forgotten. Betemit's opposite field home run in the fifth inning disappeared from my view just before it cleared the wall. I couldn't tell what had happened at first. There was a roar from the crowd, but there were so many Dodger fans in the stands that this could mean anything. It was only when I looked down to see Betemit calmly rounding the bases that I knew it had gone over. I hope Little and Colletti had better views of Betemit's home run than I did. Based on how little playing time he gets, one might think they don't see his home runs.

Betemit almost hit a second home run in extra innings, but it went for a double off the top of the wall instead. This time I could see the entire flight of the ball, including the encounter with the outfield wall. A player with such opposite field power needs to play more. Such talent ... he is frustrating to watch at times, yes, but he does deliver enough great results to justify much more playing time than he gets.

I would say the same for Kemp, except that he has even more talent than Betemit, and he doesn't frustrate nearly as much.

All of Kemp's amazing talent was on display in his extra-inning at bat on Saturday. Power and speed. Alone, either one is impressive. Together, they are miraculous. Kemp hit a laser to the left-center corner and then raced around safely to third. A triple to left-center field ... how often do you see that? The ball was crushed; it would have been a monster home run if he put an upper-cut swing on it, got just a little bit under it. I think that ball was the fastest I can remember seeing a ball go from the plate to the outfield wall. And Kemp's sprint to third is the fastest I remember seeing a player go from home to third. After the inning was over, after Kemp was stranded at third, his incredible power and speed wasted, as it seems it so often is, I remember looking down at the infield dirt so far below and seeing footprints. A line of footprints from home, rounding first, rounding second, coming in to third. Looking down at the footprints of Kemp's triple was like looking out at the bay beyond the right field wall. Remote and peaceful. At times during the game I would look out at the horizon, where the water met the sky, and feel transported away from the buzzing crowd, from the machinations of the game, away from any care for who might win the game. The footprints were the same, but the opposite. Instead of taking me away from the game, they took me right into the center of the game, to where runs and winning don't matter, to where only the play matters. To where power and speed are appreciated for their own sake, and not just for what they may bring.

Which memory will I cherish more 10 years from now? That I was there the first two games of a Dodgers sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, or that I saw from up high the footprints of a Matt Kemp triple?

I know which memory I cherish more now.

11 July 2007

Road Trip

San Francisco would be a great city if it wasn't full of Giants fans.

So says my wife, Griffster. Two years ago we saw a Dodger game in San Francisco. It was in September, with the Dodgers pretending to contend, 5 or so games back of the 0.500 Padres. I believe the Giants were near the Dodgers in the standings, both teams a Padre collapse away from winning the 2005 NL west crown at 10 games below 0.500. What a gruesome year.

Fortunately, I guess, the Padres didn't collapse, and they limped into the playoffs that year at 82-80 or something like that. So the particular Giants-Dodgers tilt we saw never really meant anything in the bigger picture, though I suppose there was the illusion that it did at the time. I remember Oscar Robles hitting a home run to give the Dodgers an early lead. That may be the most surprising thing I've ever seen at a baseball game. Perhaps the least surprising things I've ever seen was Barry Bonds dunking a ball into the cove to extend the Giant lead to 5-3. That was the score at which the game ended.

That home run was bloody impressive. It happened so fast. He just turned on it and lined it over the wall into the water, the way a normal hitter might line out to first base or something. This was 2005, the year Barry missed most of the first four months or so, so I guess he wasn't quite at the height of his powers as he had been from 2000-2004, but man he was for that at bat. I don't like Barry, but I'm not sorry to have seen that home run. ( Not that I wanted to see it at the time! ) I think it's quite a privilege to say that you once saw Barry hit one into the water.

I just checked the Giants' website, and indeed they credit Barry with a Splash Hit on September 18, 2005. That was his only splash hit of 2005. I had no memory of the pitcher who gave it up, by the way. His name? Hong-Chih Kuo.

Griffster and I are driving up to San Francisco tomorrow, and we'll be seeing the Friday and Saturday games at the ballpark by the bay. I can't even figure out who the Dodger starters will be, as Billingsley is listed for both Friday and Saturday. I had heard that Lincecum might pitch Friday, but now Cain is listed. I think a matchup of Billingsley and Cain would be awesome to see. I would also love to see the young phenom Lincecum pitch in one of the two games. I'm reasonably sure the Dodger starters will be some pair from Lowe, Penny, and Billingsley, so I'm not worried about seeing a dud Dodgers pitcher.

It wasn't easy to come by our tickets at face value price. Getting tickets to a high-demand Giants game is no easy thing. I was online trying to get these tickets the very first minute online sales were open to Visa card holders. I could never get through at first, though. I kept getting put in this virtual queue, and when I would break out of the wait screen and impatiently try to reload I would just get right back in this queue. Once I got to step two of the process only to be put in another virtual queue! Buying Dodger tickets is much easier. But I kept at it, even after the Yankee games and A's games on the Giant schedule had sold out, and finally got the tickets I wanted. I figure I got some of the last seats, just ahead of some poor Giants fan who wanted them!

I'm excited about seeing Loney play in person, though I'd like to note that while he's still hitting well, and now even drawing lots of walks, he's gone 12 games without an extra-base hit. I hope reverses this trend and hits one into the water!

Loney has some incredible bat control. In the Saturday game of the Marlins series, he had an incredible at bat against Sergio Mitre with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Mitre had this nasty sinking pitch going, and he was working it beautifully to Loney. First one Loney swung and missed, completely flummoxed. Second one, Loney gets a little piece of, but still he just has no chance with this pitch. "Take it for a ball!" I mutter to his image on the screen. Then I wonder what sort of pitch Mitre will come back with, and decide that he really ought to come back with the exact same thing, since Loney obviously will swing right over it if he swings, with the worst case for Mitre being if Loney takes it for a ball.

Well, Mitre does come right back with the wicked sinking pitch, but Loney reaches down for it and makes solid square contact, flinging a rope hit into center field. I couldn't believe it. What a great adjustment that was, and what discipline to not be too eager on the swing and get ahead of the ball and foul it off again. I was seriously impressed with this hit.

Yeah, it's going to be fun. Loney, Bonds, maybe some great young pitchers, Kemp!, the cove, hostile Giants fans ... Yep, road trip.

10 July 2007

First Half Hitting Game Grades

by Joshua Worley

Which Dodger hitters are most likely to have a good game at the plate? Which are most likely to have a bad game? This isn't the same as asking which players have the best stats and worst stats, though we'd expect players with good stats to end up having more good games. We know Russell Martin is better than Juan Pierre, and yet Pierre has played some excellent games and Martin has played some bad games.

I took each Dodger with a significant number of multi-at-bat games and put their game logs into a spreadsheet where each game could be graded on an A-F scale. The grading scale was simple, based on times on base, with a bonus given for extra bases earned, such as from doubles, stolen bases, and home runs. Caught-stealings are taken out of times on base.

Here is the basic grading scale based on percentage of times reaching base by hit, walk, or hit by pitch:

F -- 0%
D -- 1%-25%
C -- 26%-50%
B -- 51%-75%
A -- 76%-100%

One grade boost for 1-2 extra bases
Two grade boost for 3+ extra bases

The only way to get an F is to never get on base, or perhaps to get on base once and then get caught stealing. Juan Pierre had a game where he never got on base by his own effort but had a stolen base to boost that game grade to a D. A game where a player gets only a walk or a single with no steals will be a D game. If a player reaches first base twice or has a double then it will likely be a C game. B games are something like 2-4 with a walk, or 2-5 with a double, or 1-4 with a home run.

If a player hits a home run in a game, he's guaranteed at least a B, because of the two grade boost for the 3 extra bases the home run provides, and the D grade guaranteed by getting on base once. If a player hits a home run and gets on base at least one other time he'll get an A. A player without power or speed will have a hard time picking up many A's, as he'll have to be nearly perfect in getting on base to get one.

It's a tough grading scale, which is appropriate, given that baseball is a tough game in which even the best players may have an O-fer. Here are the 12 Dodgers who have played the most and their grade distributions. Only games with at least two plate appearances are graded.


As expected, every hitter ( with a few sample-size exceptions ) will play a significant number of games at every grade level. A slightly better than average hitter, such as Jeff Kent, will have a nearly symmetric grade distribution. It appears to take a very good hitter indeed to earn more of the good grades than the bad grades, at least the way I've set up the grading scales.

How do the Dodgers hitters rank in percentage of games in which an A was earned?


Loney 26%
Martin 23%
Kemp 22%
Gonzalez 20%
Kent 16%
Ethier 15%
LaRoche 14%
Betemit 14%
Furcal 13%
Pierre 13%
Garciaparra 9%
Abreu 7%

Martin delivers a special game almost a quarter of the time. Loney and Kemp, though in far fewer games, are right there with him. At the other end, excellent games from Nomar and Abreu are rare and very unexpected. Even Pierre does significantly better than these two. Nomar seems to have no power or speed left, which accounts for his poor showing here.

How do the Dodger hitters rank in percentage of combined A or B level games?


Kemp 48%
Martin 44%
Kent 41%
Loney 37%
LaRoche 36%
Gonzalez 35%
Ethier 32%
Furcal 31%
Betemit 30%
Garciaparra 26%
Abreu 25%
Pierre 20%

Even the best hitters are going to have C, D or F games more than half the time. This just shows how truly awesome Kemp has been in limited playing time, with nearly half his games being excellent or very good. Loney and LaRoche also stand out here for me. Juan Pierre is down to last place.

How do the Dodger hitters rank in avoiding D or F level games? Part of being a good hitter is having those terrific games, but just as important is avoiding the awful games the drag down a team's offensive effort. A low percentage of D or F games and high ranking on this list are good.


Kemp 30%
Martin 34%
LaRoche 36%
Abreu 39%
Gonzalez 40%
Kent 42%
Loney 42%
Furcal 42%
Ethier 44%
Pierre 48%
Betemit 49%
Garciaparra 55%

Kemp is a juggernaut! After a third on the first list, he's had two first place finishes among Dodger hitters. Martin only has a bad game a third of the time. He really is the best. ( In a subjective, non-specific way. ) On the other hand, Nomar has a bad game more than half the time.

How do the Dodger hitters rank in avoiding F level games? This is essentially the same as asking how often they can avoid making an out every time up at the plate.


Loney 0%
Gonzalez 13%
LaRoche 14%
Pierre 15%
Kent 18%
Furcal 18%
Martin 20%
Abreu 21%
Garciaparra 22%
Ethier 26%
Kemp 26%
Betemit 32%

Loney has reached base at least once in every game in which he has at least two plate appearances. That sort of thing won't last, but it shows how good he's been so far. In this category Martin finally shows some weakness: he fails to reach base in 1 of 5 games. The reason Betemit has lost his third base job is his 1 in 3 games failing to reach base. Betemit is penalized severely by this grading method, though, since games with only one plate appearances don't count for anything. Kemp also finally shows some weakness, with almost a quarter of his limited games earning him an F.

These game grade distributions aren't a predictive tool at all. To answer the question of how a player is likely to do, you'll still want to start with the various batting percentages and also look at things like line drive rate and strikeout rate. These distributions are just another way, I hope a fun way, of seeing who has contributed offensively, and who hasn't.

Kent and Gonzalez are the only Dodgers to place in the top half of every list. These are the steady, mostly producing veterans. Martin, Kemp and Loney also all do very well, especially on the A and AB lists, showing again the promise and ability of these exciting young players. LaRoche finishes ahead of Abreu on all four lists, once again pointing out the absurdity of LaRoche being in AAA while Abreu plays on the big club. Do I even need to mention the showing of Pierre and Garciaparra? Nah. I'd rather look at Martin's numbers again.

09 July 2007

Hope for the Dodgers ... Even Tomko

by Joshua Worley

It's a good first half, isn't it? The Dodgers are 49-40, one game out of first place, in the wild card lead by 2 games. There's no reason to complain about that. Giants fans and Rockies fans can complain. Snakes fans can complain, because of their 2-9 collapse. But Dodger fans? No reason to complain about the team's overall performance.

Brett Tomko, Juan Pierre. I see those names, and I want to complain about them being on the team. I guess this is okay, because they are individual players, and not the team as a whole. They surely deserve to be complained about. But I'm weary of it. How many times has someone said that Tomko and Pierre were bad signings by Ned Colletti? It's always the truth. But I don't want to hear it anymore. I know it. I surely don't want to say it anymore either. Everyone else knows it too, unless they refuse to see it.

The Dodger pitching staff has gone through a tough week. Wolf went down, and nearly everyone else struggled. Every man on that staff has a challenge to do better in the second half. They were the strength of the team for most of the first half, so we know that they can do better than this past week.

Even Brett Tomko. I don't think he's going anywhere. He is a member of the staff, and he will be used. That's the reality and as promised I won't complain about it. But I will write some harsh words about Tomko, while hoping and believing he can do better. I don't like what I imagine to be his attitude on the mound. I hope I'm wrong about what I think his attitude is. I hope he's not stubbornly clinging to the notion that his pitches are good, and that luck or something else is letting him down. His pitches have not been good. When he comes into the game lately you can with near certainty add a few runs to the opponent's run column. But it wasn't always that way this year. He doesn't have to pitch this poorly the rest of the season, unless something is physically wrong with him, and he's hiding it from the training staff.

I wonder if we should be encouraged by his last outing. Tomko walked two, but maybe this is an improvement from giving in to the hitter, to throwing an easily hittable pitch over the heart of the plate just to avoid the walk. I was so disgusted by his previous outing where his very first pitch was a nothing offering up and over the plate that was hit to the wall. To me that's not trying, that's just giving up and hoping to get lucky this time. Tomko can't ever pitch over the middle of the plate. Not that walking hitters is acceptable either, but maybe next time he can get his pitches closer to the corners. I think Grady is right: it is about confidence. Tomko needs to think, "I'm going to hit this corner and strike this batter out" instead of "I'm going to make sure I throw a strike here and avoid the walk and hope that it isn't crushed". He'll never put his pitches where they need to be unless he has confidence that he can.

There is hope for Brett Tomko. I really believe that. And if there's hope for him, then there must be abundant hope for the rest of the Dodger team, for the rest of the season, right? I think so. We Dodger fans are among the fortunate few. Not many teams' fans are following a team in such a good position. There are better teams than the Dodgers, of course. The Dodgers have flaws, and it's possible that they could collapse. Still, things are very good right now.

06 July 2007


Shattered, shattered
Lowe and Brad and Billingsley
Are still surviving on the team
Look at them, they're in tatters!
They're a shattered

Brett is so alarming
His curve's never charming
He's just a cocktail party for their team
Big homer
Pitch crushed into the stands
Directing traffic
Counterclockwise fashion

Tomko, Tsao, and Hendrickson and Stults and Stults and Stults and Stults
Look at them, they're in tatters
They're a shattered

All this hitter-batter, hitter-batter, hitter-batter clout
Shotta, shotta, shotta -- A home run in the 7th inning
That ball has gone to tatters (shattered, shattered)
Work and work a loss for Stults
Ain't they hungry for success, success, success, success
Does it matter? (shattered) does it matter?
They're a shattered.

Ahhh, look at them, They're a shattered
They're a shattered
Look at them- They're a shattered, yeah

Brett and Tsao and Mark and Stults
That's what makes our team seem cursed
Slow and wild and ungripped seams and still surviving in the league
And look at them, they're in tatters, yeah
They've been battered, what does it matter
Does it matter, uh-huh
Does it matter, uh-huh, they're a shattered

Don't you know the homer rate is going up, up, up, up, up
To pitch in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got Barry on the west bay
Big Vlad uptown
What a mess this team's in tatters they're been shattered
Their fastballs are battered, splattered all over Chavez

Uh-huh, this team's full of money grabbers
Go ahead, spin the curve ball, don't mind the flatness, huh
Shadoobie, that pitch is battered
His curve that hangs above gets
Fatter, fatter, fatter, fatter, fatter, fatter, fatter
Serve it up, leave it high for the batter

04 July 2007

Fenris Fallout

by Joshua Worley

I'm not a fan of high scoring games. I enjoy a scarcity of runs. All the elements of baseball that lead to runs, both gross, such as home runs, and subtle, such as stolen bases, matter more when runs are scarce. Home runs are best when they really matter, when they are true explosions within the landscape of a game. The threat of a home run with a slugger at the bat can create spectacular tension, expectation or dread, but only if that home run would truly alter the game. Stolen bases aren't just an afterthought, a poor risk, in a low scoring game. One of the finest pleasures of baseball is the duel between a pitcher and a canny speedster. Low scoring games are more likely to be close; high scoring games have a way of turning into blowouts.

Last night's game began as a high scoring game, and ended as a fine pitching duel. Twelve runs were scored in the first three innings; one run was scored in the last 5 and a half. But it takes awhile to realize that the high scoring part is over, and the pitching duel has begun. While Houlton and Villarreal were pitching it still seemed that the final score might be 11-8, so a home run hit then, while nice, wouldn't have seemed game changing. It's a psychological thing, completely illogical. After it was so easy to score runs for three innings, I'm supposed to suddenly believe that a single run might prove the difference in the game? But of course that is what happened.

I had planned to write a few sentences of fret and worry about Wolf's outing last night, and some of his poor outings of late, but subsequent events have made this moot. Wolf has an inflamed shoulder and will likely go on the DL. He will certainly miss his start this Sunday. I guess it's not a stretch to think that Wolf's injury will add momentum to Ned's drive to trade for a starting pitcher.

I don't believe that Colletti will trade Matt Kemp at this point. I think Ned is more than willing to trade prospects when they are out of sight and out of favor. Kemp is neither. He's immediately useful and still on track to become a star.

Andrew LaRoche is out of sight, and for all I know out of favor, at least relative to guys like Kemp and Loney. Wilson Betemit is still a strike out machine who is batting 0.200, so he may still be slightly out of favor. That he's also a patient and devastating power hitter who is getting unlucky on his batting average on balls in play may not matter. Betemit's also a little bit out of sight in the sense that the third base job is still Nomar's. Betemit's playing time at the major league level isn't much better than LaRoche's playing time at the major league level, sadly.

Long-term the Dodgers don't have room for both of LaRoche and Betemit. Right now they don't really have room for either of them, sadly. If the Dodgers got something worthwhile back, I wouldn't be horrified at a trade of Betemit or LaRoche. A Hendrickson-level pitcher is not worthwhile, though. And there is no urgency to trade either one of the third-basemen. The trouble I have with Ned's trades of prospects so far isn't his choice of which ones to trade away, but that he gets so little in return. It's almost as if getting rid of the player is as important as getting something good back. I have this suspicion that Ned was looking for any move to just get rid of Navarro, Guzman, and Jackson, as if the presences of these fallen prospects in the Dodger system was somehow shameful. This explanation is a reach, I know, but how else to explain the trades with Tampa Bay that were so clearly reaches themselves? It's as if Ned let his own pessimism about those players define their market value.

I just hope Ned isn't too desperate for a starter after Wolf's injury, and that he realizes the true value of Wilson Betemit and Andrew LaRoche.

update: Something I didn't realize until I read the latest Dodger Thoughts post was that Wolf has had this shoulder pain for a month. This is not surprising at all when you look at Wolf's stats. In May he pitched 30.1 innings and gave up just 5 runs with 35 strikeouts. In June he pitched 33.2 innings with 23 runs given up and only 22 strikeouts.

03 July 2007

The View From Wood'ys

by Joshua Worley

We watched innings 3 through 6 of last night's game while eating at a local restaurant named Wood'ys. Yes, the apostrophe is in the correct place, or it's in the wrong place but that's where they put it.

The game was tight the entire time we were at Wood'ys. For the first half of our meal it felt like the game would end up one of those frustrating losses where the Dodgers get runners on but can never score them, one of those games that makes one feel as if the team just isn't going anywhere, even though they truly have done well this season. Even with this negative energy hovering around the outcome of the game it was still great to be at a restaurant and watch the Dodgers. The game was more like a garnish than the main event, and that was fine. There was no sound, and the TV screen was up high. Even if the Dodgers didn't play well, there was good food to be had.

Lowe seemed to be laboring all night, from the very first out caught near the outfield wall. I really liked this performance from Lowe, to limit the damage when he clearly didn't have his best stuff, when the easy ground balls just weren't coming and it took him about 20 pitches to get out of any given inning. I think Lowe has found a wonderful mental maturity this year that keeps him in the game even when his best stuff just isn't there.

The feeling of the game turned when Martin doubled in Furcal. I loved the way the fielder glided over and then immediately had to give up on catching the ball in the air. That's a great moment, when you can see the fielder give up on an out and prepare to play it off the wall. It's even better when the ball then goes over the wall, but one can't have everything. I really think Martin should get a day off during this series, but I'm not going to dwell on it. He did go 4 for 5 yesterday, after all. I'm torn, really. I'm always disappointed when he doesn't start a game, because he's such fun to watch and so vital to the Dodgers, but I do recognize that he does need some rest.

I agreed with Grady's decision to pull Lowe after two hits to lead off the sixth inning. And yet I was shocked by it. I've become so accustomed to Lowe pitching deep into games, especially those times when the Dodgers struggle to score runs for him. I wasn't even considering the possibility that Lowe might come out of the game, until I looked up and saw Grady Little walking to the mound with purpose.

I wasn't so happy with what came next, though. I want to have confidence in Beimel, but well ... I just don't. And yet he mostly gets by. Mostly. He did last night. So it all worked out. But I have to say that I had a problem with the way the whole Beimel experience worked last night.

I can see the argument that Beimel is one of the 12 best pitchers the Dodgers have, that he fills a needed role in the 'pen. So I'm not saying he shouldn't be on the team. Once I acknowledge that he has a case to be on the team, I can't then say he should never be used, even in a tie game. This wasn't the eighth or ninth inning, after all. It was the sixth, and the Dodgers might need to use many pitchers. Very well, then use Beimel in a tie game, but only in a very narrow set of circumstances. Use him against lefties, or maybe weak hitting righties. Never against a tough right handed batter.

I couldn't believe it when Beimel was left in the game to pitch to Saltalamacchia. Let me first say that his strikeout of Kelly Johnson just before with the bases loaded was great. I didn't know he had it in him. That was some seriously clutch pitching. But after that ... there's no reason for the Dodgers to push their luck. Bring in someone else to get the last out, to pitch to the tough right handed batter. Now it did end up working out, but I think I was right. Salty ripped the first pitch he saw, to the hole between second and first, but "range of a rosebush" Kent made a lovely dive and made the throw for the last out. I wasn't happy with Beimel pitching to Chipper Jones in the seventh, either. At the time Jones was the go ahead run at the plate. It just seemed that the Dodgers were introducing an unnecessary degree of difficulty into winning the game. Sure, Beimel can get Chipper out, and he did, but there are much better candidates for the job going unused in the bullpen.

The last thing we saw at Wood'ys was Matt Kemp's at bat in the sixth inning. We had paid the bill, our leftover food was all boxed up, and we were ready to go. But there was no thought of leaving. Not yet, not while Matt Kemp was up. I got all excited about Kemp about a week ago when he took a walk in the ninth inning from an 0-2 count. Since then he's sometimes looked lost at certain times, swung at pitches down and away, and I wondered if I was wrong. Maybe I had only seen what I wanted to see, and Kemp really hadn't made any strides in learning to control an at bat, to focus his incredible talent with discipline and timely restraint. But in the at bat last night he was the master. When Kemp swung at the 3-1 pitch I couldn't even follow the ball off the bat. Maybe it was the high TV, but for a moment I thought he had missed the pitch. Only for a moment, because Kemp didn't look like someone who had just swung and missed. He looked like someone who had just seen a lot of hard work and discipline pay off. Because I hadn't seen the ball leave the bat, I wasn't prepared for how far the ball went. I couldn't believe it when it landed in the back of the bullpen. My reaction was less, "Woot, the Dodgers lead" and more "I can't believe how far he hit that ball".

We left Wood'ys right after the Kemp home run. It just seemed fitting that it would be the last thing we saw there: it was the perfect dessert.

02 July 2007

Braves Preview: Wild Card Rivals

by Joshua Worley

Let's say that the Padres really are the best team in the NL West, and that they will go on to win the division. Even in this depressing hypothetical, things aren't so grim, though. There is still the wild card race, in which the Dodgers have to be the favorites. But which teams would be the competition in a wild-card race? I will also assume that the Mets and Brewers go on to win their divisions, removing them as wild-card competition.

The Snakes are only a half game back of the Dodgers right now, so they have to be considered a wild-card rival. I'm sure any Snake fan reading this would take issue with me calling the Dodgers the obvious favorites when the Snakes are just a half game back, but I just don't believe that Snakes can sustain their record for much longer. Besides the Snakes, who else? The next closest team in the Braves. Here are the wild card standings right now:

Dodgers -- 0
Snakes -- 0.5
Braves -- 3
Phillies -- 4
Cubs -- 5

I think we can do better than just look at the standings, though. How well have these teams really played so far, and how likely are they to play well enough to win the wild card in the second half?

The Baseball Prospectus postseason odds are illuminating. In particular, I'm interested in each team's average wins in the simulations of the million season that they run. As of 2 June 2007, they are:

Dodgers -- 91.1
Cubs -- 87.1
Braves -- 84.9
Snakes -- 82.5
Phillies -- 82.2

The Braves are still the Dodgers' second biggest rival for the wild card, but now the Cubs have made a huge leap to become the Dodgers biggest rival, while the Snakes have fallen away. As I said earlier, I think this is right. I think the Snakes will eventually fade, unless all their young players suddenly start hitting.

The Dodgers host the Braves for four beginning tonight. These are not only games the Dodgers need to win to keep pace with the Padres, but they are games with their second biggest wild card rivals. Let the Braves win 3 out of 4, and not only do the Dodgers lose ground to the Padres, but they would suddenly only be 1 game up on the Braves in the wild card race.

The Braves are 43-39, with 371 runs scored and 369 allowed. Early in the season it appeared they might challenge the Mets for the division, but they've fallen away from the Mets and don't seem likely to catch them again. But the Braves are probably better than this record and run differential. They faced a brutal interleague schedule. They lost 4 out of 6 to the Red Sox and were swept by the Tigers and the Twins. They took 2 of 3 from another tough opponent, the Indians. Since coming off a tough 3-9 interleague stretch, the Braves are 5-1 against weak NL East teams Washington and Florida.

Larry Wayne Jones Jr. -- 3B

age - bats
35 - switch

0.327 -- 0.416 -- 0.595

Chipper has missed about a month of games so far this season. He's been hitting 0.411 since he came off the DL on June 13. He's been like James Loney since coming back, almost. Loney was called up June 10, just three days before Chipper came off the DL. But Loney has more home runs than Chipper since June 13. Chipper only has 1; Loney has 3.

Kelly Andrew Johnson -- 2B

25 -- left

0.281 -- 0.385 -- 0.459

His batting average has been sinking since his hot start. How low will it go? He does walk a lot, so his OBP is still excellent. After 5 home runs in April, he has only 3 since then. Though his season line is better than Kent's right now, I think Kent may be ahead of him by year end. I just don't think he's as dangerous as this line makes him out to be. The Braves appear not to think so either, because recent call-up Yunel Escobar has been getting a lot of starts at second base in the last week.

Yunel Escobar -- 2B

24 -- right

0.310 -- 0.348 -- 0.425

He was called up June 3 to play third base and be a utility infielder while Chipper was out. Recently he's been starting at second base, including 3 of 4 games in place of Johnson. He figures to start at least against lefties Hendrickson and Wolf in the Dodger series. I expect him to go 2-2 against Hendrickson.

A platoon at second may be the way to go for the Braves, but I don't see much in Yunel's minor league or current major league stats to get too excited about.

Edgar Enrique Renteria -- SS

31 -- right

0.324 -- 0.386 -- 0.493

These are the numbers that we might be seeing from Rafael Furcal if not for Repko treating Furcal like an outfield wall and heedlessly slamming into him. Given Repko's track record of obliviousness in the outfield, I don't think it's a stretch to hold him partly responsible for what happened. Yes, outfield collisions happen, and he surely wasn't trying to hurt someone. But he has a track record of just being oblivious to anything else but the ball in the outfield, and that just isn't acceptable. He's done it before. At best you'll hurt only yourself, as he did last year when he leapt into the outfield wall, and at worst you'll turn the star shortstop into a near Juan Pierre clone. I don't know, maybe I'm overreacting to it, but whenever I see Furcal limping around and not hitting home runs or stealing bases I think of Repko and his maddeningly misplaced hustle. Anyway, the Braves don't seem to have any Repkos on their team to run into Renteria, so he's doing great this year.

Scott Robert Thorman -- 1B

25 -- left

0.225 -- 0.261 -- 0.410

He's like Chris Young of the Snakes, but without even the middling batting average or the tough defensive position. The Braves seriously have to get more from first base, and they have started to by playing Saltalamacchia there, especially against lefty pitchers.

Jarrod Scott Saltalamacchia -- C/1B

22 -- switch

0.330 -- 0.385 -- 0.511

He's rockin' in 32 games this season. The Braves are all excited about the rookie duo of Salty and Yunel, though I think only Salty really deserves the excitement. He's playing about twice a week at McCann's backup at catcher and maybe twice a week at first base in recent weeks. The Dodgers will see him at least against Wolf and Hendrickson, and I hope that's it.

Brian Michael McCann -- C

23 -- left

0.261 -- 0.314 -- 0.427

I guess I'm old fashioned, but I have a hard time buying the typical conventional wisdom that McCann will end up being a little better than Martin. It's all because I can't see past this year's stats, I guess. If you look at numbers previous to this year, McCann comes out ahead. But Martin isn't that far behind, and based on this year I give him the slight edge moving forward. McCann and Martin are both going to the All-star game, and they should battle for the starting spot for years to come.

Andruw Rudolf Jones -- CF

30 -- right

0.199 -- 0.297 -- 0.384

Andruw has suffered from a high strikeout rate and middling line drive rate for years now, which when combined are sure to create a low batting average. In years past he was able to keep his batting average up around 0.260 simply by hitting a ton of home runs. Not so this year. Way too many of his fly outs are staying in the park, being caught, and he's striking out more than ever, which is saying something. He's on pace for about 160 whiffs this year. He's still a good defender, and draws a lot of walks, but I wouldn't even think of signing him this off season. If his power doesn't come back, he's a bad hitter. Not that the Dodgers need to think about signing him: they're set in center for the next four years. Whoopee.

Jeffrey Braden Francoeur -- RF

23 -- right

0.286 -- 0.328 -- 0.419

In the battle between right fielders who briefly flashed onto the NL scene in each of the past two year with impressive and unsustainable success, Andre Ethier holds the slight lead right now. Ethier has actually done well in June with a 0.848 OPS, and he now has a better line than Francoeur. Francoeur is on a quest for more patience at the plate this year, with the encouragement of hitting coach Terry Pendleton. But after 9 walks in April he had just 5 in each of the next two months. It's still not really enough, and Francoeur has played every day so far this season, so he's getting ample opportunity. Even as he works on improving his walk total, his home runs have come way down from last year. After 5 in April of this year and 29 last year, he has just 3 in the last two months combined. I will be really annoyed if Francoeur does anything but make outs and hit an occasional single in this series.

Matthew Edward Diaz -- LF

29 -- right

0.347 -- 0.364 -- 0.468

Willie Charles Harris -- LF

29 -- left

0.373 -- 0.444 -- 0.485

The Braves have a nice left field platoon going at the moment. Combined these guys have an Ichiro-like batting line.


Andruw Jones is excellent as always, while Chipper Jones is pretty bad. Thorman, Renteria and Johnson are all good enough to pull the infield defense up to about average on the whole. Hit your ground balls to the extreme left, Dodger hitters. But hit your fly balls to the right, where Francoeur has been a bit sub-par. The left field platoon is about average. McCann is only throwing out 20% of base-stealers this year, right near the bottom of NL catchers. Saltalamacchia is at 23%. The Dodgers should look to run in this series, though perhaps not quite as aggresively as in the Padre series.


I think the best descriptor for the Braves 'pen is average-good, because among good 'pens, it's about average. The 'pen corps do have a 14-6 record, so they haven't blown too many starter leads or ties, or when they have the offense has bailed them out.

Chad Michael Paronto -- 4.55 -- 1.65 -- right

Hey you! Yeah, you, the one whose last name sounds like the father of a Canadian city. Grab a mop. You're on cleanup duty in this 10-2 stinker of a baseball game.

Yep, he's a mop-up guy. He looks like a bouncer in his photo. His neck is as thick of one of Broxton's legs.

Peter Michael Moylan -- 2.41 -- 1.07 -- right

He's not a regular set-up man, in spite of his good stats. This is the kind of guy I can see going into a game with his shiny ERA and coming out of the game with it a run higher. He's due for a beat-down.

Wilfredo Jose Ledezma -- 4.95 -- 1.73 -- left

The Braves obtained him from Detroit in a trade, for some reason. "Some reason" would seem to be that he's a lefty in a 'pen otherwise lacking them. He has 26 walks in 40 innings pitched. I think it is Joe Beimel's destiny to reach Ledezma's pitching ineptitude.

Oscar Eduardo Villareal -- 4.01 -- 1.31 -- right

He's having the kind of season that Tsao of the Dodgers may end up having. Good strikeout numbers.

Tyler Kali Yates -- 3.06 -- 1.08 -- right

The Braves are like a lot of teams with kind of good bullpens: the back end of the 'pen is mostly bad, their are two great pitchers sharing the set-up duties, and the closer is a name guy but overrated. Yates is one of the ace set-up guys. He's pitching a lot like Broxton, though with not quite as many strikeouts.

Rafael Soriano -- 3.12 -- 0.87 -- right

Soriano is the second ace set-up guy on the Braves. He's given up a home run in three of his last 8 appearances, and he lost the game for the Braves in his last appearance against the Fish.

Robert Joe Wickman -- 4.33 -- 1.56 -- right

Another guy who looks like a bouncer! I think Paronto would win in a fight, though. The only rationale I see for making him the closer instead of Yates or Soriano is that he was a pretty good closer the last two years. He's just 14 of 18 in save chances this year.


The Braves aren't really a running team. Part time player Willie Harris is their most dangerous threat, with 13 stolen and 4 times caught. Renteria is very efficient, with 7 of 8 stolen. Kelly Johnson would be better off staying at first, as he's 6 for 10. The rest of the team hasn't done much running and will likely stay at first against Martin unless there is a busted hit-and-run play.


The pitching match-ups are Smoltz v Lowe, Davies v Wolf, James v Hendrickson, and Hudson v Penny. Except for Wolf clearly being better than Davies, these are all pretty even match-ups. I'll look at each on individually on game day if I get to them.