31 August 2007

Battle for the 405, Game 1: Cassel v Wells

by Joshua Worley

The north part of the "San Diego Freeway" is the I-405, while the south part is the I-5 south of the junction with the I-405. So this series is like a Civil War battle: each side has their own name for it. San Diegans will call it the battle for the 5.

Chris Young laid an egg last night in his return from the "concerned list", an unofficial list of players who aren't injured enough to go on the DL, but injured enough to miss a little time and make all the fans worry. The official line after the game was that Young was rusty, but more or less healthy. Perhaps --- he did walk 6 batters in his 4.1 innings. If I was a Padres fan I wouldn't be convinced that Young was healthy until he actually had a good outing. The control just wasn't there last night.

Because Young was knocked out early, the Padres had to dip deeper into their 'pen than they likely wanted to. In particular Ledezma was used for two innings, ending any possibility that he might have started tonight's game. Actually, according to the official Padre website they had decided by Wednesday night to go with AAA pitcher Jack Cassell for tonight's start anyway.

Though we've all seen young, unknown pitchers throw unexpected gems, there is a good chance the Padres will need to dip into their 'pen early again. Who will be available?

Below are the pitches each Padre reliever made in the four games against the Snakes, most recent game first.

Hoffman..... -- -- 12 17
Bell............ -- 17 11 12
Cameron..... 15 17 -- --
Brocail......... 6 -- 17 --
Ledezma..... 42 -- -- --
Meredith..... 16 -- -- --
Hampson..... -- -- -- --
Thatcher..... 10 -- -- --

Thatcher is italicized because he's likely to be the one sent down to make room for Cassel, though there is no official word on that yet. Ledezma might be available for an inning if the Padres were really desperate, but he'll probably get the night off after 42 pitches. But Hoffman, Bell, Brocail, and Meredith should all be fine to go. I'm guessing Hampson would be the designated long reliever should Cassell be knocked out before he goes 5. Cameron is one of the Padres best relievers, and he has made 15+ pitches two days in a row, so if he was called upon tonight he'd likely be off-limits Saturday. But unless there are extra innings, the Padres shouldn't run out of pitchers.

What about tonight's Padre starter?

Joseph "Jack" Buren Cassel -- P

age: 27
throws: right

AAA Portland Stats:
ERA -- IP -- SO/9 -- BB/9 -- HR/9
3.91 -- 156.2 -- 6.7 -- 2.4 -- 0.75

Not too bad. Buren "the burner" is 27, which makes him much less of a prospect, but perhaps more likely to pitch effectively in his first major league start. I wonder if that's true, though. Does age have any correlation to how well a pitcher does in his first major league start?

The walk and home run numbers appear good, especially in the PCL. The strikeouts per 9 seems low to me, since you'd figure AAA hitters are easier to whiff than their major league counterparts. I checked the park factor on the AAA Portland ballpark, and it appears that it's mostly neutral toward runs, hits, walks, and strikeouts --- but very favorable to hitting home runs. Baseball Think Factory has a 1.22 factor for home runs from 2004 to 2006 in Portland. If this park factor is accurate for 2007, then this means Cassel's decent home run rate is even better looking. With the game tonight in Petco, the Dodgers shouldn't count on hitting a lot of home runs to win the game. ( Not that they ever do. ) If they get to him it will likely be by singling and doubling him to death. Cassel allowed 11.7 hits per 9 innings in AAA this year, so piling up the hits appears doable.

The Dodgers counter Cassel with Wells. I'm not sure which pitcher we should expect to last longer in the game, Cassel or Wells. The two runs in five innings performance that Wells gave the Dodgers last Sunday is realistically the most they can hope from him. So the Dodger bullpen is also likely to be very important in this game as well.

Fortunately they all had the day off yesterday after the 12 inning game on Wednesday. Saito had pitched in 4 consecutive games, so it would be nice if he could get another day off tonight, though if the Dodgers need him I think he'll be ready. Proctor made 47 pitches Wednesday and 24 Monday --- he really shouldn't be called upon tonight. Hendrickson made 22 pitches Wednesday, none Tuesday and just 8 Monday, so he should be fine for long relief tonight, though I'd much prefer the well rested and probably more competent Eric Stults. Though by the time of tonight's game, he may not even be on the roster to make room for Loaiza.

David Lee "Boomer" Wells -- P

age: 44
throws: left

ERA -- IP -- SO/9 -- BB/9 -- HR/9
5.46 -- 123.2 -- 4.7 -- 2.6 -- 1.2

I'm sorry I looked. Not much to like there. Why is he better than Tomko again?

Perhaps he's not as much of a head case as Tomko seemed to be. And he's an amusing cheerleader on the bench. I don't think he can paint, though.

Wells Petco ERA was 3.91, which seems okay until you remember that it's one of the best pitcher's parks around. I'm not sure 3.91 is very impressive in that cavern. Wells' strikeouts to walks at Petco were 39 to 15, while away from Petco they're 26 to 21. Tonight's start by Wells is likely to be the best start he ever has as a Dodger. Let's hope it's a good one.

I'm thinking the score will be something like 4-3 or 3-3 after five innings from each starter. After that it will be a battle of the bullpens and the late inning offenses. The Padres weren't shy with their late inning offense against the Snakes, but the Dodger relievers are better. And the San Diego relievers aren't strangers to the late-inning loss. I think the Dodgers win a close one late in a battle of the bullpens. They'd better win, because Peavy the Pulverizer is going tomorrow.

The Dodgers don't have to sweep, but they really do need to win the series, and that has to start with a win tonight.

30 August 2007

Padres Preview

by Joshua Worley

The Dodgers start a critical 3 game series against the Padres in Petco Park in San Diego tomorrow. Depending on the result of tonight's Padres-Diamondback game, the Dodgers will either be 3 or 4 games back of the Padres going into the series. Winning the series with the Padres will be essential; sweeping would be divine.

Here is the lineup the Padres have used the past three days, along with Petco OPS:

B Giles -- 0.735
Cameron -- 0.738
Bradley -- 1.023
Gonzalez -- 0.727
Greene -- 0.648
Kouzmanoff -- 0.646
Bard -- 0.568
Blum -- 0.822

Petco is just a really tough place to hit. The Padres have a team OPS of 0.770 on the road, 0.677 at home. This is not a bad offensive team, but at home they look like one.

Milton Obelle Bradley -- LF

age: 29
bats: switch

0.342 -- 0.443 -- 0.640

The above stats are only from his games in San Diego. When healthy, he's been spectacular for the Padres. Unfortunately for them, he's having his usual trouble staying in the lineup. He's played in just 32 of 54 games since the Padres acquired him. He started his tenure with the Padres on the DL with the oblique injury that scuttled the trade sending him to the Royals, and then he was out for a few weeks in early August with a strained right hamstring. He seems to be healthy now, but he could go down at any moment. Even though he's apparently fully healthy I give him about a 20% chance of missing time this weekend with a new or re-aggravated injury.

That seems high, right? Well, he's been on the DL 4 times this year, and when he missed almost two weeks in August he apparently didn't go on the DL, so that's 5 separate injury stints this year. He's played 51 games this year, so by a naive reckoning he has about a 10% chance of being injured in any given game he plays in. His chance of getting through tonight's game with the Snakes and then all three Dodger games without injury is 0.9 to the fourth power, which is about 0.66. According to this admittedly crude method, Bradley actually has a one third chance of missing time this weekend. Maybe 20% is a conservative estimate!

The Padres are hoping he's over his fragile phase for this season, at least. I wonder if they'll want him back next year? He's been such a good hitter this year for them --- he even has a 1.023 OPS in Petco so far. This is a small sample size, of course, made even smaller because of his injury problems. The problem with a player who only plays in half your games is that no matter how good he is when in the lineup, his replacement likely isn't very good, so you average out to something less than you were hoping. If Bradley puts up a 0.900 OPS for half of 2008, and his fourth outfielder injury replacement puts up a 0.700 OPS, then you're left with on average an 0.800 OPS in a corner outfield spot. It's probably better to just go after a durable 0.820 OPS kind of guy than someone like Bradley.

And that's a shame because Bradley is such an exciting player. But who knows, maybe he'll be mostly healthy next year. If so, I hope it's not with the Padres! Bradley shows no signs of wearing out his welcome in San Diego yet. If the usual pattern holds his team will tire of him after two years.

Whatever the future holds for Bradley and the Padres, the fact is that he's healthy now, and mashing the ball. He's probably the best hitter coming into this big weekend series. He's not striking out very much, about 14% of the time with the Padres, and with them he's hitting a home run every 11 or 12 at bats.

Adrian Gonzalez -- 1B

age: 25
bats: left

0.279 -- 0.347 -- 0.491

The Padres' Gonzo has 23 home runs and 37 doubles. He's certainly capable of hitting the long fly ball. After a July and June swoon he's been hitting well again in August, with a 0.989 OPS. Bradley bats third, he bats fourth. That's a brutal pair to have to face in the middle of the lineup. Forget about Broxton being the eighth inning guy --- I think Broxton needs to come in whenever these two are going to be up late in a close game. Leave the Blums and Bards to the likes of Beimel and Proctor instead.

Gonzalez isn't as interesting as Bradley because he's never injured. I give him a 1% chance of missing time this weekend.

Brian Stephen Giles -- RF

age: 36
bats: left

0.298 -- 0.383 -- 0.432

Giles has rediscovered his power stroke! Giles has just two home runs through July, a shocking total from the man who averaged just over 37 a year over a 4 year stretch in Pittsburgh. It's true that his power has been steadily decreasing ever since he came to San Diego, but still ... 2? Well, no more. He's hit 6 home runs in August, to take his total to 8. And may it stay there for awhile. Giles has an OPS of 0.979 in August. Does every stinkin' Padres hitter have to be blazing hot? Maybe all that heat will screw with Bradley's hamstring ...

Now, Giles still only has 1 home run in Petco. So the main thing with him is still just to keep him off the bases. Don't walk him. He's the Padre leadoff hitter these days, and it would be tragic if he got on base in front of Bradley and Gonzalez too often.

Michael Terrance Cameron -- CF

age: 34
bats: right

0.255 -- 0.335 -- 0.452

Cameron has been very hot and cold this year. In August he's been --- guess what? --- hot. Of course. OPS of 0.923 in August. I bet even the Padres pitchers have OPS's above 0.900 in August. Fortunately the Saturday and Sunday games are in September! So all of the hot August hitters will suddenly have to rebuild their hotness from zero in a brand new month. That's how it works, right?

Cameron's weakness is strikeouts. He typically bats second, so it's going to be important for the Dodger pitchers to make him a non-factor in this series.

Khalil Thabit Greene -- SS

age: 27
bats: right

0.248 -- 0.285 -- 0.451

If the Padres are smart, and unfortunately they often are, they will look hard for a shortstop replacement next year. Thabit has turned into a bad habit in the Padre lineup. He's making way too many outs. He does have more home runs than anyone on the Dodgers, but he has a worse OBP than Juan Pierre. He doesn't walk a lot. The Dodger pitchers really need to make him prove that he'll take a pitch out of the strike zone before they challenge him.

Michael Patrick Barrett -- C

age: 30
bats: right

0.248 -- 0.286 -- 0.381

I don't understand why the Padres wanted him. Yes, he put up good numbers in Chicago the last three years. But this year he's falling off, and it may be more than just bad luck for a 30 year old catcher. He's been even worse since he left the Cubs for the Padres. There's also his bad team chemistry issues. I normally don't care too much about team chemistry, but I make an exception for catchers. Don't they need to at least get along with their pitchers? How soon until he and known hot-head Peavy get into a fight?

Bard has been better this year, which has worked out just fine for the Padres while Barrett has been out from a concussion. But Barrett is on a rehab assignment right now, and may come back sometimes in the series with the Dodgers. I'm guessing he might play in one game, maybe Saturday. Does a fight with Peavy loom? Probably not.

Joshua David Bard -- C

age: 29
bats: switch

0.268 -- 0.351 -- 0.381

Bard has some gnarly home-away OPS splits. 0.569 v 0.901. His left v right splits are as strong: 1.006 v 0.633. Good thing Wells isn't facing him away from Petco, eh? Bottom line is the Dodgers pitchers ( except for maybe Wells ) can look forward to getting a lot of outs from the catcher, whoever he is.

Kevin Kouzmanoff -- 3B

age: 26
bats: right

0.243 -- 0.296 -- 0.422

Only 23 walks, with 82 strikeouts. Maybe he's not the long-term answer at third base. It's not as if he's only 22 or 23. Future utility infielder? One can say that his year-long stats are being dragged down by his hideous April, and that's true, but since his good May he hasn't had a month where he cracked an 0.800 OPS yet. It is too early to give up on him, though.

Third base is another weak offensive position for the Padres. They do well in the outfield and at first base, but everywhere else they make too many outs. One big difference between the Padres and Dodgers is that the Padres weak hitters do tend to hit a fair number of home runs. Kouzmanoff is no exception, with 14. Who are the weak hitters on the Dodgers? Pierre, Nomar, ( when healthy ) Furcal ( borderline ) ... none of them hit home runs.

Geoffry Edward Blum -- 2B

age: 34
bats: switch

0.249 -- 0.318 -- 0.354

While Marcus Giles is on the DL with a knee injury, Blum is the regular second baseman. Maybe Blum should be the regular at second anyway --- as bad as his stats look, they're better than Marcus'. And he does well in Petco!

Blum is the exception to the Padres bad hitter rule, as he only has 3 home runs on the year. I've now gone through the likely Padre starters this weekend, and the bottom of the lineup looks pretty bad. The Dodgers have more lineup depth, with fewer low OBP hitters. The Dodgers can't match the combination of Bradley and Gonzalez, though. ( yet --- Eithier, Kemp and Loney are on their way ) The Padres have more power, and their overall offensive stats are skewed by playing half their games in Petco.


Name -- batting side -- position -- OPS

Terrmel Sledge -- left -- OF -- 0.700
Craig Leo Stansberry -- right -- IF -- 3 AB
Morgan Paul Ensberg -- right -- IF -- 0.724
Robert William Mackowiak -- left -- OF -- 0.728
Pierre-Luc LaForest -- left -- C -- 0.987 ( 25 AB )

Seems like a decent bench to me. Short, though. I geuss LaForest will be gone if Barrett comes back.

Relief Corp

Overall the Padres have a strong bullpen, as they have all year. The win-loss record of the pen is still sort of middling, at 25-22. One would think such a strong 'pen wouldn't have so many losses. In comparison, the Dodgers 'pen is 22-13.

7+ K per game

name -- throwing arm -- ERA

Heath Justin Bell -- right -- 2.36
Kevin John Cameron -- right -- 1.42
Wilfredo Jose Ledezma -- left -- 5.68

Bell is the Padres' best reliever, and their primary set-up man. Ledezma may get the start Friday.

6-7 K per game

Trevor William Hoffman -- right -- 2.63
Olise Claborne Meredith -- right -- 3.53

4-6 K per game

Justin Michael Hampson -- left -- 3.21
Joseph Thatcher -- left -- 0.00 ( 5 IP )

Starting Pitching

Chris Young is making his return to the rotation tonight against the Snakes. Friday's starter for the Padres is still undetermined. It could be Ledezma, or maybe Hampson, or maybe they would call up Jack Cassel from AAA Portland. Wells goes for the Dodgers on Friday.

Jake Peavy pitches Saturday against Derek Lowe, and Justin Germano pitches Sunday against Chad Billingsley.

If Wells can rediscover his Petco magic, the Dodgers may have a slight advantage Friday. The Padres should have the edge Saturday, and the Dodgers should again be slightly favored on Sunday. This series will be low-scoring baseball at it's finest! More on each matchup the day of each game.

29 August 2007

Oh Me of Little Faith

by Joshua Worley

If I didn't think the Dodgers would win when down 6-3 ( as I declared in my last post ) what did I think when they were down 8-3? I was the equivalent of Nick Van Exel shouting "Cancun!" in the pre-game huddle with the Lakers down 3 games to none against Utah in the 1998 NBA playoffs. ( This story comes from Shaq's autobiography --- apologies if he was making it up. ) I was mentally checking out on the season --- oh, I would have come back by Friday, I always do.

It's just one game, right? They're all just one game though. All the one games add up. And dammit it's so good to be happy concerning the Dodgers over the next two days, to not have to try to figure out what results in the next two Padre-Snake games hurt the Dodgers the least. The Dodgers are gaining a game on one of those teams now; that's what matters.

So many players were heroic, from Dodgers loathed to Dodgers loved. I can't stand Hillenbrand but he was probably the biggest hero, certainly in timing if nothing else. I love Kemp and Martin and they came up huge. I hope Martin's early home run won't be overlooked. I didn't think Proctor had it in him to pitch three scoreless, and he really didn't, but luck, and the double play, are a pitcher's best friends.

I leave this game full of optimism for the Dodgers this weekend, and full of dismay at the decisions Grady Little has been making lately. He seems to be slowly losing his mind. Loney bunting? I think I'd rather see Ramon Martinez hit for him! ( Not that this was an option at the time Loney bunted. ) Proctor pitching a third inning, and continuing to pitch that inning past the point when he was clearly gassed? I'd rather see Hernandez than a third inning from Proctor, honestly.

I should really change the title of this piece, to something about the team, and not about the self-absorbed blogger. But I have to call myself to task for saying the game was lost in the fifth inning, and I do find the whole question of when one gives up fascinating. I don't believe in momentum for teams, but I do believe in momentum for a fan's emotion. When I started that last post the Dodgers were in the process of scoring a run, so I was almost confident that they could come back, but when I finished it up they had just given up a run, so my optimism of a few paragraphs previous was gone and I schizophrenically ended it with a proclamation of doom. When I read that post again it's like two different people wrote it.

That's how today's game feels, that two different teams played it, or that it was two different games. It doesn't seem that the game that featured Penny's meltdown is the same one that featured Proctor's scary third inning. But they were the same. What a sport. I love baseball.

Penny Lays an Egg

by Joshua Worley

I'm watching my computer screen, hoping for the blue circle to show up on retro-gameday, with the caption "in play, run(s)". Even if it happens, though, The Dodgers will still trail by 2. It's the bottom of the fourth inning, with the Dodgers down 5-2. Oh hey, it just happened! Run scoring play on Loney's single. Now 5-3, Dodgers trail.

A couple of days ago, back when the Dodgers were down 4-2 because of three home runs given up by Derek Lowe, I briefly lamented that Lowe had picked a bad time to have a stinky start. Which brought up the question: when would it be a good time for him to have a bad start? The Dodgers can't afford to lose many more games. If anything, it was a good time for him to have a bad start, if he had to have one, because the Nats were a team the Dodgers could come back against. Could, and can come back against. And they did, and maybe they still will today.

So I'm back to where I was two days ago, lamenting a bad start by a usually reliable Dodger hurler. Again though, if it had to happen, maybe now is the time. Because this game is not yet lost. The only problem is that if the Dodgers don't come back to win today, then the Padre series looks like a must sweep, and that's not going to happen. Even if the Dodgers could win 2 of 3 this weekend, which would truly be an admirable result, they'd still be treading water, hanging around at 3 or 4 games out of the playoffs.

You know what Penny is missing today? Foul balls. Especially in the first few innings. The first seven batters all took 3 or fewer pitches for their at bats to reach conclusion. That's just not like Penny at all. It's usually difficult to hit one of his pitches into play, let alone square on. The misses and near-misses on swings just aren't coming as often as they should. Penny just had his first strikeout of the game to end the fifth inning. His first and should be his last, as he just gave up his sixth run.

Penny's habit of inducing lots of fouls and the resulting marathon at bats often drives me nuts. But it's worth remembering that a pitcher who induces a lot of foul balls isn't easy to hit. If the fouls disappear because they are becoming swings and misses, that's a good thing. But if the fouls disappear because they are becoming squarely hit balls, then it's a very bad thing. The pitcher is getting ready to lay a very foul egg and likely ruin the game.

The Dodgers trail 6-3 at the end of 5 innings. No comeback today, I fear. Penny's egg is about to hatch, and it's going to be a loss.

Comfort and Ignorance

by Joshua Worley

There is something very relaxing about watching the Dodgers play the Nationals. These are among the most comfortable one-run games I've ever seen. The Nationals aren't awful, because they do have some good players, but there just aren't enough of them. Even when they were ahead Monday, or came back to tie the game Tuesday, Dodger victory still seemed, not quite inevitable, but very likely. When you're suddenly facing Ray King in a tie game, you have to like your chances after all. The Dodgers are a flawed team, but when they play the Nats they are clearly the superior team on the field. That's a very good thing when the two teams ahead of them are playing each other down south. Every Dodger win is a game gained on either the Padres or the Snakes. Right now the Dodgers are a combined 8 games behind the two front-runners. That sure seems like a lot, but as long as that number keeps coming down everything is fine.

It's imperative that the Dodgers finish off the sweep today, because if they don't they will only have gained a single game on the Padres and Snakes combined, which just isn't enough progress, especially given that the Padres have been winning. That, by the way, completely changes the nature of the chase the Dodgers are attempting. Two days ago they were after the Padres only. The Snakes were well out of reach, and in any case the Padres were the much closer target. But unless the Snakes win the last two games of their series with the Padres, these two teams will be separated by just a game in the standings, and the Dodgers will be just as likely to catch one as the other. The head-to-head matchups loom large, of course. Six games left with each of San Diego and Arizona, and at worst you need to go 3-3. But maybe just as important are the 6 left with a bad team like the Giants. Go 5-1 or even 6-0 and you can make up a lot of ground.


Dodger Thoughts and True Blue LA had some interesting posts about baseball general managers in general, and about Ned Colletti and just fired Tim Purpura in specific. I realized after reading these that over the past ten years I've become much more aware of what the Dodger General Manager is doing. With awareness comes thought, and opinions, and pain. Pain for when I don't agree with what the general manager is doing, when it seems to me and many other people that the GM is hurting the team.

For this reason I think becoming aware of the GM has interfered with my enjoyment of baseball. I was happier back when player acquisition and development was murky and magical. The play of the team was the only things that mattered. Isn't that the way it should be? It's about the well-defined game between the lines, not the ill-defined game played on telephone lines.

I'm older now, better able to understand and evaluate what a GM does, and there's more coverage of GMs now than when I was a young fan in the 1980's. There's more coverage of everything in sports, really. Trades have always made sense, of course, but back in the mid 80's free agency was rather mysterious and didn't seem very important, anyway. That's probably because of the collusion that was going on then! I couldn't have named the Dodger GM to save my life, nor told you what he did. If there was a trade or signing, it was always "the Dodgers" who did it. The team was in effect sentient, and if not infallible then at least not a suitable target for criticism. I had no awareness of Al Campanis's Nightline tumble. Fred Claire was the first Dodger GM I became vaguely aware of. It wasn't until Paul DePodesta that I finally started following what the Dodger GM did closely.

It sure seems that I'm advocating an unnatural state of blissful ignorance, doesn't it? I suppose I am, in this one narrow case. Most other advances in my baseball knowledge have made baseball more fun, such as understanding advanced stats. But unless I'm free to choose my favorite team based on the best GM, I'd rather not be aware of all the maddening things GMs do. And I'm not free to choose my team --- I'm a Dodger fan for life. Of course there's no going back. Now that I know that the Dodger GM is important to the present and future of the team, I have to be aware of what he ( or future she ) does. Ignorance can only be blissful when it's not willful.

The twist is that there is so much about what a GM does I don't know. I see the results of a GM's maneuvers, as well as the rumours and speculations about what they might do, and from that I think I understand what his options were, what decisions he was faced with. But I don't think I ever understand the full nature of a GM's decision. There's a lot behind the scenes that us fans never know about.


Matt Kemp made another baserunning blunder last night. If he hadn't tried to steal second, the infallible Russell Martin wouldn't have been caught off third base. Also, Matt Kemp personally juiced the ball that Tony Batista hit for a home run! He's out of control!

27 August 2007

The Dodger Dream for the Week Ahead

by Joshua Worley

The mouse that roared, eh? Wow, one game out of three against the mighty Mets. Heck, the Dodgers played them to a standstill in terms of runs scored, 11-11. Too bad they don't award post-season berths based on run differential. Good job surviving the Ruthian Roulette with Wells, though.

The Dodgers are 3.5 back of the Padres for the wild card, with the Phillies 3 back, the Braves 4 back, and the Rockies also 3.5 back. With the Dodgers being in a near tie for second, at this point it's basically all about catching the Padres, as I predicted about a week ago in my wild card speculations. If the Dodgers play well enough to pass the Padres they'll probably move out ahead of the other teams as well. Catching the Padres isn't something anyone should count on happening, but it could happen.

The Padres have 4 with Arizona starting today. Now this is very interesting, because the Padres are only 3 out in the NL West and if they won three out of four they would be just a game back of the Snakes. On the other hand, if the Padres were to say lose 3 of 4, then the Dodgers could pull within a game of them with a sweep of the Nats, whom they start a 3 game series with today. The Nats are not pushovers, but they still have to be counted as one of the easier teams to sweep in the NL. A team struggling to stay in contention would be well advised to sweep the Nats, as the Rockies just did. The Dodgers even have their three best pitchers going in this series. A sweep will be just the thing heading into this weekend's huge three game set with the Padres.

Yep, the Dodgers get a shot at the Padres this weekend. Getting swept by the Padres would basically end the season. It's a series win the Dodgers will need, at least. A lot will depend on how this week goes: if the Dodgers can sweep the Nats then they don't need to feel like they have to sweep the Padres. Which is good, since they really probably won't. The series will be in Petco. I'm sort of guessing that the Dodgers will skip Stults and go with Wells in the series opener if they can. With the day off before the series they ought to skip someone, so that Lowe and Billingsley can pitch the final two games against the Padres. One of the knocks against Wells was that he's been awful away from Petco this year, but the Friday start would be in Petco. For one shining start the acquisition would sort of make sense!

Speaking of Wells, how strange is it that he's spent all year trying to help the Padres, and now he's trying to hurt them? In their hearts I think a lot of players have to know that ultimately they are playing for themselves. In a larger sense it really is an individual game. You can talk about the team being the most important thing all you want, but it surely wouldn't make sense in connection with Wells. He's just trying to excel at his profession and make a few more bucks, all while living in Southern California. What could be better? Never mind that he pitches for separate bitter wild card rivals while he's doing it. Padres, Dodgers, whatever. Whoever is willing to give him the ball.

Who does pitch for the Padres in the big weekend series? At the moment it appears that it will be Peavy, Germano, and Stauffer. The Padres don't have an off day to play with, and in any case they probably view the series against the Snakes as more important than the one against the Dodgers. The wild card here is when Chris Young might come back. The Padres don't have anyone currently scheduled in for Thursday, so maybe he would start then if ready. I'm sure they'd also like to prevent Stauffer from getting another start as well, but the truth is the Padres starting pitching has become awfully thin after Peavy and Maddux. Maybe they should have made Wells rest for a few weeks instead of releasing him! I'm sure the Padres would rather take 2 runs in 5 innings than the stink bomb Stauffer produced yesterday.

Marcus Giles has gone on the DL, by the way. I'm sure this will hurt the Padres as much as losing Nomar Garciaparra has hurt the Dodgers. Over the last week the Padres have 6 red-hot regulars: Gonzalez, Bradley, Cameron, Bard, Greene, and Kouzmanoff. All have an OPS of at least 0.973 in the last week. Bradley is healthy again, while Gonzalez has carried the team all August. I'm not looking forward to seeing either of those guys this weekend.

Let's say that the Padres and Snakes split their 4 games. If the Dodgers can sweep the Nats and take two of three from the Padres, then they'd end up just a game back of the Padres next Monday morning. So that's the dream for the coming week. Near-perfection is what you need when you're 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.

After this week the Dodgers have three games left with the Padres, at Dodger Stadium. By that time I hope it's the Padres desperately needing to win the series. We'll see.

24 August 2007

Mets Preview: A Woodland Mets-aphor

by Joshua Worley

The Dodgers are like small helpless field mice entering the concrete and steel forest of New York City. Many dangerous animals and birds are waiting to pounce on them and gobble them up. It will be a battle for survival for the timid mouse-like Dodgers.

David Wright --- The Fox

He's fast and wiry, strong and cunning. This is the most dangerous animal the Dodgers are likely to encounter. You can't stop the fox --- you can only hope to contain him.

Jose Reyes --- The Ferret

He kills with stealth, stealing into the mouse burrow when the sleeping mice least expect it. He disrupts everything the Dodger-mice want to do. The only hope is to keep him at home.

Carlos Delgado --- The Sleepy Bear

Look, if they're careful and smart, the Dodger mice should be able to avoid getting maimed or eaten by this past-his-prime lazy bear. But if they are unwary, and get too close, he can do as much damage as any of the Mets woodland predators.

Moises Alou --- The Old Badger

The Dodger mice underestimate the tough old badger at their peril. Recently recovered from an illness, his teeth are as strong as ever and if they let him get too close he'll tear them to shreds.

Carlos Beltran --- The Wolf

Though the Fox is overall the most dangerous land animal hunting the Dodger mice, the Wolf is perhaps the most devastating if he gets hold of them.

Luis Castillo --- The Migrant Porcupine

A recent addition to the forest, he won't eat the Dodger mice or bother them much. But if a Dodger mouse is unwary and wanders too close he will be stuck full of quills. There is almost no danger of getting eaten, though.

Lastings Milledge --- The Young Stoat

Someday he may be a ferocious killer, but presently he's just as likely to fall out of a tree than to successfully swarm down the trunk and execute a perfect attack on a hapless Dodger-mouse.

Shawn Green --- The Snake of Uncertain Type

He's probably a harmless grass snake, but maybe he's dangerous. He might not even show up around the forest very much, especially if the Young Stoat is about.

Paul LoDuca --- The Sick Wild Dog

He is sick and will not be a threat to the Dodger mice. He was once a tame dog and a friend to the Dodger mice, before being sent off to the wilds.

Mike DiFelice --- The Billy Goat

This is a completely harmless creature, unless a Dodger-mouse is foolish enough to be trod upon by him. The Goat wandered up from New Orleans when it heard the wild dog was sick.

Even though the Eagle ( Pedro Martinez ) is sick, the Dodgers will still face a formidable set of birds of prey, any of which can swoop from high without warning.

Oliver Perez --- The Hawk
Orlando Hernandez --- The Owl
John Maine --- The Falcon

And then, when a Dodger mouse is near death, the Vulture ( Billy Wagner ) will swoop down to finish it off.

Do the Dodger mice have any chance at all of survival? They may, if the younger, more active mice are sent into the forest of New York. Every edge matters when surrounded by carnivores.

23 August 2007

Ruthian Roulette


Hey! Hey you! You in the blue!

Yeah, youse! I gots a lovely deal for youse.

For a million dollars I'll let you play Russian Roulette with this gun --- she's a beaut, ain't she? I call her boomer. Anyways, it will just cost you a cool million. It's a can't miss proposition, my friend. Five of the six chambers are loaded.

So this is what it's come to with the Dodgers. Which pitcher will they play Ruthian Roulette with? Will it be the Boomer, an expensive new piece that looks good from across the room, or the untrusty Bombko, the devil they know? Is the corpulent devil you don't know better than the devil you know?

The roulette is Ruthian because either the pitcher pitches like a reasonable copy of Babe Ruth, or more likely the opposing hitters swat the ball like they were zombie Babe Ruths. Also because Wells once wore Babe Ruth's cap, according to legend ( and fact ).

So according to reports Wells will soon sign for the Dodgers, maybe for more than a million dollars. So the Dodgers seem to have chosen which gun use in this deadly game. ( If all this talk of death and shooting seems very grim, remember we are talking about replacing Brett Tomko with David Wells. Carnage is assured! )

But which pitcher should they choose to play Ruthian Roulette with? Let's go to the grim record these pitchers have left to find out!

The rules of Ruthian Roulette are simple. If you give up at least two fewer runs than innings pitched, then the team remains alive. If you give up one fewer run or more than innings pitched, then the team falls over dead, nearly sure to lose the game. So 4 runs in 5 innings is dead. 7 runs in 3 innings? You'd better believe dead. 3 runs in 5 innings, still breathing.



Now wait a minute --- what an awful start he had. Yep, the Padres were regularly leaving themselves in a pool of blood in a ditch by the side of the road when the used the Boomer early in the year. Way too many bullets in the gun at that time. But then something changed in mid-May ...


That's nine times in a row surviving the Boomer! Though there were a few close calls, the Padres had to be feeling good. But then the hammer started hitting the bullet.


And that's when the Padres got tired of shooting themselves in the head and left the Boomer on the side of the road for some hapless passerby to pick up and use. That passerby ended up being the --- D'oh!

By the numbers Wells left the Padres dead 9 times and alive 13 times. 9 times is a lot, and for that I'd like to congratulate Wells. That's a job well done. But now the Dodgers are using him, pointing him at the head of Sunday night's game. On the surface it's a 13/22 = 59% chance that they'll still be alive when he's done. ( Remember being alive only means you have a chance of winning the game, while dead means the game is almost surely lost, especially if Hillenbrand is your idea of a starter. ) But if it's the late model Boomer who blew off the Padres head 5 out of 6 times, then the Dodgers are going into Sunday's game dead men walking. And it's worth noting that the Padres were left really really dead in his last four starts. None of this almost dead or almost alive nonsense --- he made good and sure that the Padres were finished in every game.

How about the Bomko, though? How have the Dodgers fared when using him?

Well, he started out well enough ...


That last game was the one where he gave up 8 runs in 2 and change innings. I was at that game and "Dead" just doesn't accurately describe what he did to the Dodgers in that game. Anyway, after that harrowing experience the Dodgers wised up and put the Bombko away for awhile.

When forced to start using him again, he started out well again.


The Bombko gives a survival rate of 60%, with 9 survivals and 6 deaths. Again, though, the odds feel much worse given his recent history. Even so, it sure seems as if the Boomer is a slightly worse choice than the Bombko.

Not that there are any good choices when playing Ruthian Roulette with these two.

The Billingsley Comparables

by Joshua Worley

Comparisons and associations make it easier to understand things. Language is an associative tool; language makes it possible, for example, for a large number of people to associate the same class of objects with the word "tree", or the same class of events with the word "home run". Numbers are another path to basic comprehension: we might even call them a specialized kind of language. For example, Billingsley is 3.48, Tomko is 5.80. As long as the context is known, a lot is communicated by those numbers. Chad Billingsley is an effective pitcher; Brett Tomko is not. But a simple association or comparison is not a shortcut to complete comprehension. A lot of information is missing, and depending on context we will hear some very different stories. A more complete comprehension only comes from making the simplifying associations and comparisons in as many contexts as possible. It is important to judge which contexts are important and which are not.

Billingsley v Castro

Let's try to comprehend how each starting pitcher did today, beginning with the simplest, most bottom-line contexts.

Score context: Each allowed 1 run in today's game. Billingsley = Castro.

Innings pitched context: Billingsly 7, Castro 5. Billingsley > Castro.

Comparisons are straightforward in these contexts, but they leave out a lot of information. How about a more subtle context that is still oriented around the bottom line of the direct effect each pitcher had on the game?

Runs allowed and innings pitched: Billingsley 7IP, 1 run allowed; Castro 5IP, 1 run allowed.

This is the standard way of looking at pitcher performance, because it sums things up pretty well. It's harder to compare now, though. In this case we can easily say Billingsley was better, but what if Billingsley had given up 2 runs instead? Would his two extra innings cancel out his one extra run allowed?

One of the simple associations made to group good starts together is the Quality Start standard, in which a pitcher gets a quality start if he goes at least 6 innings and give up 3 or fewer runs. By that standard Billingsley gets a QS, and Castro doesn't.

There's also game score: Billingsley 70, Castro 57.

I'm not satisfied with any of these bottom line numbers as providing a comprehensive picture, though. Both pitchers actually were worse than their bottom line numbers, in my opinion.

Castro gave up 6 walks. It could have been more. If the Dodgers had sent out a better lineup and their hitters been been even more patient then they surely would have scored more than just one run off him. Castro threw 48 balls and 40 strikes on the day.

Billingsley gave up 3 very deep fly balls. Any one of them could have been a home run if the hitter was a fraction less under the ball on his swing. If two of these balls had instead been home runs, would we be calling this an effective start? So --- maybe he wasn't really all that effective. On the other hand, Billingsley wasn't especially wild, nor did he use too many pitches, as has often been his undoing. The more we comprehend of Billingsley's start, the harder it gets to say how good it really was.

I think it is safe to say that Billingsley was a bit better than Castro, but that neither pitcher was as good as his final numbers might imply. That said, I don't think either team could reasonably complain about what they got out of their starting pitcher, even if things had not been so fortunate for both of them.

The Wild Umpire

There was one huge factor in this game that is largely invisible once play if over: one won't find any indication of it in the box score, certainly. It's the home plate umpire's strike zone. I followed the first six innings of today's game in gameday from mlb.com, and if the pitch locator was even approximately accurate then this umpire was using the Eric Gregg special as his preferred strike zone today. There were no high strikes being called, nothing above the belt buckle. There were a fair number of pitches well off the plate being called strikes. This is the sort of faulty strike zone that was epidemic in the National League 12 years ago, back in the days when Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux routinely got the outside pitch called a strike. When Chad Billingsley walked on five pitches, the one pitch that was farthest away from the gameday strike zone border was the pitch that ended up being called a strike! I know it's perilous to take the gameday pitch locations too seriously, especially for just one pitch, but this faulty strike zone was a clear trend the entire game.

Who knows what kind of games the starters would have pitched if the umpire had called the proper rule-book strike zone? Castro was wild regardless of what strike zone was called, but maybe he wouldn't have walked as many. And what about Billingsley? In the sixth inning with the score tied with two on and two outs and Rowand at bat with a 2-2 count, I was begging Billingsely to throw a pitch low and outside. I took my pencil and pointed it right at the screen where I wanted him to throw it. If he hit that spot, either the umpire would incorrectly call it a strike, as he had done all day, or the batter would swing and not be able to do anything with the pitch because of the location. Well, Billingsley put it exactly where I hoped he would put it, and Rowand swung and missed. I was quite proud of my pitching coach moment. But what if the umpire wasn't calling that pitch a strike? Would Rowand have swung then? What would Billingsley have done without that escape hatch?

Not only are there many contexts in which to examine how each pitcher did, but there are unique conditions in each game that if changed might have lead to very different results. Nothing is simple.

Billingsley v Tomko

This is a joke, right? Billingsley is an exciting young pitcher, with electric stuff. Sure, he sometimes throws too many pitches and can't go as deep into a game as we'd like, but he gives the team a chance to win more often then not, and he figures to only get better. Tomko, on the other hand, is widely regarded as a bum. He's routinely booed at Dodger Stadium, and derisively called "Bombko". Doesn't the ERA comparison of 3.48 with 5.80 say it all?

Brett Daniel Tomko -- 104 -- 79 -- 42 -- 13
Chad Ryan Billingsley -- 108.2 -- 103 -- 48 -- 13

What are these numbers? They are innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed in 2007 for each pitcher. These are the fielding independent lines of each pitcher. This raw data for each pitcher than has nothing to do with how well the fielders behind them perform, or how many hits fall in, or how many liners are hit at people. Funny thing is --- these lines aren't so different.

Indeed, the fielding independent ERA (FIP) for the two pitchers according to hardballtimes.com are 4.41 for Billingsley and 4.60 for Tomko. ( Does not include today's game for Billingsley. ) Billingsley has a somewhat better strikeout rate, and a slightly worse walk rate, and basically an identical home run rate, and the upshot is that he should be a marginally better pitcher than Tomko. Instead he's leaps and heaps better. More than two runs of ERA better, rather than the predicted two tenths of a run better.

So which context of comparison is the correct one? FIP? --- which has been shown to correlate better to ERA in future seasons than even current ERA; or ERA? --- which is after all the bottom line of what each pitcher has allowed to happen on his watch.

It's been shown statistically that pitchers have very little control over the batting average on balls in play that they allow. Not zero control, but not as much as traditional pitching theory would lead one to believe. That said, I don't think it's a just luck that has Billingsley giving up a 0.274 BA on balls in play ( BABIP ) to 0.327 for Tomko.

Look, we all know how Tomko pitches when everything isn't clicking. He's a little wild. He falls behind in the count. And then he pours a pitch right over the heart of the plate and the batter rips a double to the gap, or a double down the line, or whatever beat-down base hit he gets lined up. It's my subjective opinion that Tomko is a give-up pitcher. He gives up on trying to hit his spots, because walks do suck, and then he gives up a hard hit ball on his meat offering over the heart of the plate.

Billingsley has truly wicked pitches. His weakness is location --- when he's not on he's wild and throws way too many pitches, but the movement and zip is nearly always there. He doesn't often pour a pitch over the heart of the plate. It's rarely easy to hit his pitches hard.

The difference of 53 points in BABIP between the two pitchers helps explain their differing fates, but there is more. Tomko has allowed 31 doubles to just 17 for Billingsley. I believe the reason is simple; again, Tomko is just much more likely to give up a hard hit ball than Billingsley. Finally, one can compare the pitchers in pressure situations, when one mistake will ruin a day. Here are their AVE--OBP--SLG lines allowed with runners in scoring position:

Bills -- 0.253 -- 0.359 -- 0.347
Tomko -- 0.319 -- 0.392 -- 0.509

Bills rarely gives up a hard hit ball with runners in scoring position. Tomko does so routinely. Even if we ignoring the difference in batting average and call it luck, Bilingsley gives up an isolated power ( SLG minus AVE ) of about 0.100 to 0.200 for Tomko. We've all seen these two pitch; this isn't surprising. When it comes time to make a big pitch, Billingsley often succeeds, while Tomko usually fails.

Looking at FIP ( which is more or less the same as looking at IP, SO, BB, and HR ) is a good way of seeing how good a pitcher really is. But not always. Sometimes there really is no substitute for watching a pitcher, seeing how he pitches.

Which context tells the story on Billingsley? Is it ERA, or FIP, or pitch count, or something else? The obvious truth is that no one number that can sum up Billingsley. He is a young pitcher with tremendous stuff who seems poised to just get better. He often stuggles with his pitch location and builds up a high pitch count alarmingly fast. It's not hard to imagine him winning multiple Cy Young awards. It's also not that hard to imagine him never improving and taking the Tomko career route, of being a pitcher with flashes of good stuff but on the whole maddening results. I have to confess he is at times uncomfortably close to being another Tomko. The traditional sabremetric numbers say that Billingsley really isn't that good, yet. And that has to be given due respect. But I think he has a poise, and yes, a clutch factor well beyond his years. Billingsley is well on his way to his second season of an ERA below 4 with rather middling peripheral numbers. I don't think this is an accident. He has good stuff and great poise. He knows how to pitch. If he ever masters his pitch location, watch out.

21 August 2007

Wild Card Speculations and Rick Monday Observations

by Joshua Worley

1. The NL wild card will not come out of the central.

It's not that neither the Cubs or the Brewers can't catch the Padres and the Phillies, the current front-runners for the NL wild card. But for a NL central team to win the wild card, two central teams have to surpass the leading wild card team. That's not very likely to happen.

1a. Rick Monday has the strangest way to announcing. He's the master of bizarre segway. ( I spelled segue wrong on purpose, to make it even more bizarre. ) Often when he is forced to interrupt his meandering stories with a description of the action, he'll work in a reference to what he was talking about previously. For instance, a hypothetical scenario in which Monday is talking about belts and Pierre hits a grounder to short: "And that's why Craig Nettles refused to wear a belt --- and speaking of belts, Pierre belts a ball to the shortstop, who scoops up the grounder and throws for the out."

Here is an example Monday just said at the end of the top of the first. A bizarre segway, in which he feels compelled to repeat a word even though doing so doesn't really make any sense. "It may have been a delayed steal, but nothing is delayed as the Dodgers take the lead ..."

2. The order of finish in the NL east will be Mets, Braves, Phillies.

The Mets are five games clear of both the Braves and Phillies, so that part of the prediction is fairly safe. Why the Braves over the Phillies? First, because the Braves seem to be a slightly better team than the Phillies on paper. Both offenses are superb, but the Braves pitching is slightly better. The Braves have a higher third order winning percentage according to Baseball Prospectus. Second, because the Braves seem to have an easier schedule than the Phillies. The Braves out-of-division games are all against the central, while the Phillies get the west for their out-of-division games. I'm thinking the west teams are overall tougher.

2a. Speaking of divisions, Rick Monday used to shift Todd Zeile into a different division, alphabetically speaking. ( That sentence was meant as an homage to Monday's style. ) He called him Todd a-Zeile. He always added an "ah" right before the Z sound. This is nothing compared to what he'll do to a year sometimes. When Monday is moved to say a year in full, but it just won't come smoothly out of his mouth, he'll lubricate it liberally with extra syllables. For instance, 1999 = ah-nineteen and ah-ninety nine. There's nothing wrong with this, really --- I just always thought it was amusing that a professional broadcaster did this.

3. If the Dodgers can catch and pass the Padres, they will win the wild card.

This is the shakiest prediction --- so far. I base it on an assumption that the Padres will NOT collapse down the stretch. I think the Dodgers will have to play very well to pass the Padres, and in so doing they would also by necessity have to pass the Phillies and the Braves. I think the pitching of the Braves and Phillies will fail those teams enough to keep them from breaking out past the Padres.

3a. Rick Monday's full name is Robert James Monday.

4. The Dodgers will win the wild card.

Yes, I'm still delusional.

4a. I'm not sure, but I think Monday just called Cole Hamels "Whole Camels".

Attacking the Phillies

by Joshua Worley

The Dodgers can't afford to lose any more series if they hope to hold off the three teams right behind them and leap over the three teams ahead of them into the wild card lead. Their first test on this road to competence is among the toughest: a visit to Citizen's Bank Park, home of the mighty Phillie offense. Do the Dodger pitchers have a chance of keeping their team in the game? Do the hitters have a chance of outproducing the most prolific offense in the league?

It's true, the Phillies have the best offense in the National League. They've scored 670, 41 more than the next closest. It's not just the Phils favorable home park, either. They lead in runs scored on the road as well. ( Though the Braves lead in runs per game on the road. ) And while Citizen's Bank Park does favor offense, it's nowhere near as favorable as places such as Coors Field or Fenway Park. In fact, just by the numbers, Dodger Stadium is more favorable to scoring runs this year.

In yielding home runs, however, Citizen Bank Park is second to none in 2007. Woe and pain is promised for any team that comes into Philadelphia carrying pitchers who give up lots of home runs and an offense that rarely produces them. So how do the Dodgers measure up coming in to Philadelphia, especially regarding the long ball --- what chance do they have of taking the series?

Tomko, Lowe and Billingsley are scheduled to be the Dodger starters. Here are their home runs allowed per nine innings. Average in the National League is about 1.02.

Tomko -- 1.08
Lowe -- 0.65
Bills -- 1.15

I thought Tomko would be at 2, at least! Instead he's actually better than Billingsley, though these are such small sample sizes that one can't really say that Tomko is better than Billingsley. We can say that Lowe has a decent shot of keeping the Phillies from exploiting their home park, especially if his sinker is working ( obviously ). Tomko and Billingsley may be buried. The home runs against will likely come --- will there be men on base when they do? If they hope at all to be effective they'd better not be wild.

The Phillies starters are Kendrick, Hamels, and Durbin. How do they measure up in allowing home runs? Keep in mind that their numbers may be higher because they pitch half their games in such a homer happy park.

Kendrick -- 1.08
Hamels -- 1.34
Durbin -- 0.84

The best pitcher has the worst number. Hamels is carrying a 3.5 ERA in spite of his high home run rate because he strikes out a ton of batters and almost never walks any. Hamels have given up 25 home runs: only 4 of them have come with any runner on base.

But the Dodgers just don't hit many home runs. They are second to last in the NL with 90. The Phillies have 155. This is an advantage in favor of the Phillies that just gets amplified by their home park.

Chase Cameron Utley -- DL

Alas, the star of the Phils, the second place OPS man in the National League, is out with injury. He broke his hand in late July, and is only now able to swing a bat again. He is targeting August 27 to come back right now, so he won't play at all against the Dodgers. The Phils are 13-9 since Chase went down with injury, but it's obviously going to be easier for the Dodgers to take a series from them with him out of the lineup.

Shane Patrick Victorino -- DL

Another key player who's down with injury. He's on a rehab assignment right now, but it doesn't seem likely he'll be back in time to play the Dodgers.

Ryan James Howard -- 1B

bats: left
age: 27

0.258 -- 0.384 -- 0.563

He's not hurt. Funny thing is that he's not doing much at home this year. His line at home is just 0.222 -- 0.373 -- 0.509. That's a Betemit-like line, and not really so bad aside from the batting average, but it's much worse than his road line. Unfortunately he just kills right-handers, and all of the Dodger starters are right handed. Wildness is death against Howard, because he will gladly take a walk, and if a pitcher loses a pitch over the heart of the plate, then BOOM! I wouldn't be surprised if he's on base one way or another nearly every time up against Tomko and Billingsley.

Partick Brian Burrell -- LF

bats: right
age: 30

0.266 -- 0.413 -- 0.491

He's batting third with Utley out. I wish the Dodgers had a hitter with an OBP of 0.413 they could bat third. The huge problem is he bats right in front of Howard, so if he draws one of his many walks, then suddenly the pitcher really has to go after Howard, and then --- something bad happens.

James Calvin Rollins -- SS

bats: switch
age: 28

0.289 -- 0.343 -- 0.523

Rollins is 5 triples away from having 20 each of home runs, triples, doubles, and stolen bases. With a little less than a quarter of the season to go, I think he has a chance. I know that Ryne Sandberg almost had this quadruple 20 feat one year, but I don't know if anyone has done it since then.

Tadahito Iguchi -- 2B

bats: right
age: 32

0.267 -- 0.349 -- 0.394

Acquired near the trade deadline, he's been Utley's replacement. While not anywhere close to the hitter Utley is, he's not exactly been a black hole in the lineup either. He's batting second these days. Do I need to say how vital it is he's kept off base ahead of Burrell and Howard?

Aaron Ryan Rowand -- CF

bats: right
age: 29

0.307 -- 0.379 -- 0.516

He has an OPS of 1.027 at home. At least he does worse against right handed pitching. The Phillies lineup is stacked even with two of their starters on the DL. They might be the best team in the league if they could just muster some league average pitching; instead they are third worst in team ERA in the NL.

Jayson Richard Gowan Werth -- RF/DL

bats: right
age: 28

0.255 -- 0.364 -- 0.431

Werth has been playing regularly with Victorino out. Werth's biggest challenge this year has been his biggest challenge every year: staying healthy. I was always a fan of Werth and was sad to see him go.

Third Base

The Phillies have started Branyan, Halms, Nunez and Dobbs the last 6 games at third base. Branyan and Dobbs have some power but otherwise there isn't much to choose from in this group.


Carlons Joaquin Ruiz and Christopher Robert Coste are the Phillies rotating catchers. These guys hit okay for catchers. The Dodgers can probably steal on both of them if they get decent jumps.


I think the most surprised I've ever been while listening to a Dodger game on the radio was the time Ross Porter suddenly blurted out, "Antonio Alfonseca has 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot!" What? It just came out ot nowhere, and Ross had a way of making things sound surprising anyway. I guess he needed to fill some dead air, and there was that fact in his notes, so he let us all know. I really miss Ross.

So yeah, Alfonseca is one of the Phillies relievers, one of their better ones, actually. He, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers are the end of game guys, but Madson is out with injury right now. The overall 'pen ERA is 4.36, which is much better than the team ERA of 4.77. The back end of the 'pen is awful. Clay Condrey, Yoel Hernandez, JC Romero --- Romero has a good looking ERA but he walks more than he strikes out. Jose Mesa has been okay.

Colbert Richard Hamels -- P

throws: left
age: 23

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.50 -- 167.1 -- 156 -- 39 -- 25

His only weakness is the home run, as discussed earlier. If this guy pitched half his games in Petco we'd probably be talking about him as the leading Cy Young candidate. If Lowe is on his game ( as he was last time out ) he may be able to match Hamels long enough to get the game into the bullpen. If the Dodgers lose to Hamels they will probably wish they had used Lowe in one of the other games instead of a homer happy pitcher to maximize their chances of winning those games.

Joseph Adam Durbin -- P

throws: right
age: 25

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
5.36 -- 43.2 -- 25 -- 25 -- 4

Lots of walks, lots of baserunners. His WHIP is 1.69. And what's with the JD he goes by? How do you get JD out of Joseph Adam? Whatever his name, he is the weakness of the Phillies the Dodgers have to attack. The team weakness is starting pitching, and he is the weakest starter the Dodgers face.

Kyle Rodney Kendrick -- P

throws: right
age: 22

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.94 -- 75.1 -- 27 -- 18 -- 9

Wow, that's a Zach Duke-like strikeout rate. At least he keeps the walks down too. It's really weird to see a young pitcher have such a low strikeout rate --- usually they struggle with the walks or home runs, but the strikeouts are there. He is tonight's starter, and the Dodgers really have to pound out a bunch of hits to have a chance to win. It's not going to be easy to win with Tomko starting.

20 August 2007

That's Close Enough!

by Joshua Worley

I really don't want Brandon Webb to break Orel Hershiser's consecutive scoreless inning streak.

I became a baseball fan, and a Dodger fan, in 1983. My first favorite player was Dusty Baker. I'm not sure why; I think I thought the name "Dusty" was cool. My second favorite player was Mike Marshall. I have no idea why in this case. Maybe I liked the alliteration of his name; maybe it was because he was a young power hitter who seemed promising. I liked home runs as a kid.

Baker was gone after 1983, though fortunately as a young fan I was oblivious to the acrimonious nature of his departure. So Mike Marshall became my clear favorite player, a status he would hold for the next few years. I am quite sheepish about this, given his reputation for missing playing time for the slightest reason. I remember he did once have to miss time because he had his appendix removed: he can be forgiven that, I think. I don't know if his reputation was deserved or not, but his games played totals per season aren't very impressive. He looks like a fore-runner to JD Drew just by the numbers.

My all-time favorite Dodger is Orel Hershiser. I remember the first time I saw Hershiser in a Dodger uniform: it was late in the 1983 season, and Hershiser and some other pitcher were warming up in the pen. I had never heard of either pitcher, which is why this made such a big impression on me, I think. How often do you see two completely new pitchers warming up side-by-side in the 'pen? I suppose you see it occasionally in September, but I had never seen anything like it before. I wish I could remember the name of the other pitcher, but I can't. Hershiser started 1984 in the 'pen, and then went into the starting rotation right before the all-star break. He became my second favorite player on July 29 of 1984 when he came 4 outs from pitching a perfect game against the Reds. I was 8 years old then, and prone to unreasonable extrapolations, so I was sure that someday he would pitch a perfect game, based on having come so close already. Maybe more than one! Alas, he never did meet this expectation.

Hershiser became my co-favorite player early in 1985, when early in the year he pitched two straight shutouts to put together a scoreless inning streak of 22. A year older but still no wiser, I continued my pattern of unreasonable extrapolations by being dead certain that someday Hershiser would break Drysdale's record of 58 and 2/3 scoreless innings. I know, by the way, that it's officially only 58 for Drysdale, but back then it always had the 2/3 attached. Looking back on my projection of 22 to 59 I can only be amazed that such an unreasonable expectation was fulfilled.

As the years passed Hershiser clearly moved into the front as my favorite player, with Marshall moving into the background. I guess even at that young age I could see that Marshall just wasn't putting it all together. I suppose this means that I was all about the performance of a player even as a youngster. How cynical of the younger me! Thinking it over again, I think my most important criteria for a favorite player is not great performance, but the promise and possiblity of great performance. I stuck with Beltre for many years as my favorite player before he put it all together. I stuck with Dreifort as my favorite pitcher for years without ever seeing much from him. The promise of Marshall faded, but the promise of Hershiser never did. Hence I maintained my unreasonable faith in Hershiser.

This is why Hershiser's record of 59 scoreless innings in a row means so much to me. It's not just that he was my favorite player well before he broke the record. It's that he was my favorite player because I was sure he would someday break the record! I remember listening to those games well after I was supposed to be asleep, exulting when each runless inning went by. I loved reading the newspaper after each shutout, seeing the new total he had reached in print. 22 --- this was when he tied his previous mark that had started my absurd belief in the streak. 31 --- more than halfway there. 40 --- this is when the streak became serious.

So it is with Webb's streak. He's at 42 now, and it's very serious. I recognize that it's probably wrong to root against a player, but I'm doing it anyway. I want Hershiser to continue to hold the record. If someone else reaches 60, then what Hershiser did will feel just a little less special, a little less improbable. I remember back in 1998, when McGwire and Sosa were chasing Maris, Vin Scully had the thought that it would be better if only one of them caught Maris. If both went past Maris, then the record would be cheapened. Oh, it was so easy to reach 61 that two players did it? I think that the single season home run record has been cheapened a bit, after Sosa and McGwire passed 60 multiple times, and then Barry passed McGwire so soon after his 70. It sure makes it look as if something fishy was going on, doesn't it? How special is a record that is suddenly so easily broken or approached?

Of course nothing fishy is going on with Webb. And I think there is a good argument that no excellence of Webb in 2007 can taint in any way what Hershiser did in 1988. It certainly shouldn't taint the joy of that memory for me. But it would, a little bit, at least temporarily. Perhaps that is a personal failing.

I feel I should point out that if Webb does break the record, his streak would be more impressive than Hershiser's. 1988 was truly a down year for offense in the National League. Since 1950 there have been only 4 years with fewer runs scored per game in the National League. 1963, 1967, and 1992 by narrow margins, and 1968 by a wide margin. There were 3.88 runs per game in 1988 NL, compared with 4.63 so far this year. Only five qualifying players hit at least 0.300 in the NL in 1988, with Tony Gwinn leading the way at 0.313! This year there are currently 20 qualified players batting 0.300, with Hanley Ramirez in front at 0.339. In 1988 only Darryl Strawberry with an OPS of 0.911 was higher than 0.900. This year there are 15 players in the NL with an OPS higher than 0.900. ( Barry Bonds leads the way at 1.084. ) Brandon Webb is having to maintain his streak in a much higher run scoring environment.

Webb is now at 42 consecutive scoreless innings, and with two more 9-inning shutouts he would reach 60 innings and break the record. His next scheduled start is this Wednesday August 22 against the Brewers. Now the Brewers are an above average offensive team, but their offense is based on the home run. In fact they lead the NL in home runs hit. The problem with this is that Webb doesn't allow many home runs, with 9 allowed this year, so it may not be as easy for the Brewers to score even one run as one might initially think. Their offensive strength is largely neutralized by Webb. Still, they only need one run.

If Webb gets through the Brewers without allowing a run, then the Padres would stand in his way. That start would be either Monday or Tuesday of next week at Petco, depending on how the Snakes handle their rotation with a day off. One has to like Webb's chances against the weak hitting Padres in their run-limiting home park.

Even if Webb gets through both the Brewers and Padres, he may still be short of the record if he doesn't pitch two complete game shutouts. In particular I think it's unlikely he'll go all 9 against the Brewers. His next start after the Padre game would be against the Rockies in Arizona. The Rockies aren't a great hitting team on the road, and at this point he would need only a handfull of scoreless innings, so again his chances would be good.

I'm counting on Prince Fielder to take Webb deep and end the streak. But if it doesn't happen, if Webb reaches 60, I will congratulate him. And I suppose, somewhere in Arizona there is a 12 year old Diamondbacks fan with an unreasonable faith in Brandon Webb breaking Hershiser's record. So yeah, I'll congratulate Webb.

17 August 2007

Rockies Preview: Road Sour Road

by Joshua Worley

Rockies home record: 35-23
Rockies home OPS for and against: 0.850 -- 0.772

The Rockies are a fine home team, whether you look at record or their underlying hitting and pitching numbers.

Rockies road record: 27-35
Rockies road OPS for and against: 0.708 -- 0.756

They just aren't the same on the road. The odd thing is that the pitching is almost identical road and home, while the hitting is vastly different. Why would this be?

Rockies fans ought to hope that management is asking this question, for it may be crucial to turning the Rockies into real contenders. I have no idea what the answer is.

The first game is supposed to match up Eric Stults with Josh Fogg. Stults at 4.5 has a lower ERA than Fogg at 4.64. I'll take that as a good sign. What it really means is that either team should feel ashamed if they don't score at least 5 runs in this game. Given the Rockies struggles on the road the Dodgers have to win this game.

The second game is Billingsley against an unidentified pitcher. At this point I'm so desperate for Dodger victories that I wouldn't mind if the Rockies just threw up their hands and forfeited the game because they didn't have a starter. Which leads to the philosophical question, is the game truly the thing, or the result? In spite of my just expressed wish for a forfeit, the game had better be the thing, right? I know I get too wrapped up in winning and losing sometimes.

The Rockies are most likely to go with Franklin Morales in this second game, according to mlb.com. But he had an awful last start in AAA so there is some question about him going. In any case the Dodgers look to have a good shot in the first two games given the Rockies road struggles and their starters in those games.

The last game tilts the Rockies way because the matchup is Francis v Tomko. Need I say more? Maybe Tomko will have one of his random decent games. I really hope the Dodgers are looking for the sweep in this last game. They could really really use one.

A Matter of Principle

by Joshua Worley

I have to say, in opening, that what follows may be a bit of a reach, but this interpretation of events makes the most sense to me.

I've been trying to figure out why the Dodgers wouldn't sign Kyle Blair for 1.1 million dollars. My best guess is that it became a matter of principle for Ned Colletti.

When Colletti does something that appears to most neutral observers to be against the interests of the team, it's either because he doesn't understand how to value certain players, or because he's turned a decision into a matter of principle, divorced from baseball reasoning.

Colletti wanted J.D. Drew back for this year. When Drew opted out of his contract, Colletti was understandable upset, especially since Drew has said earlier that he wouldn't opt out. But instead of swallowing his pride and negotiating with a player he wanted back, Colletti just burned his bridges. I'm not saying he should have tried to resign Drew for 70 million over 5 years. Obviously that deal is looking rather bad for the Red Sox right now. But to me it makes no sense to do what Colletti did, which is to want a player back but make no effort at all to retain him out of some sense of principle.

Then Colletti failed to sign Luke Hochevar. It can't have been about money, because the price of a talent like Hochevar relative to a mediocrity like Tomko made Hochevar a bargain. It had to be about some principle regard what was proper to pay a draft pick. Hochevar's agent switching and brief acceptance of one offer must have also offended Ned's principles. And I don't blame him for being offended. But in the end you need to push that aside and do what's best for the team.

Apparently Colletti considers 1.1 million to be too much for a fifth round draft pick as a matter of principle. Because it's clear a talent such as Blair is worth 1 million dollars, when you look at the high cost of even league average pitching these days. Colletti must have realized the value of a player like Blair, because he did authorize the drafting of him. Did Colletti honestly think the Dodgers couldn't afford 1 million dollars to help their minor league pitching depth? It had to be a decision based on what he felt was right, not what made sense from a baseball perspective.

I wish we had a less principled general manager. Or maybe, one whose principles didn't all seem to revolve around his sense of personal honor. When you're a GM, it's about the team, not you.

14 August 2007

Shea It Ain't Show

by Joshua Worley

Seriously, I think seeing someone like Hillenbrand called up to steal playing time from younger and better players is worse than a four game losing streak. It makes me realize, again, that management so often doesn't know what it's doing. I will admit, a million times over, that I don't have all the answers, and that I don't have all the pertinent facts. Very well. But some things are obvious mistakes. Why did Delwyn Young deserve to be sent down? Hillenbrand goes into the same category as Pierre, though it's not the same scale of mistake. It's easy to recover from the mistake of thinking Hillenbrand can be a useful player. It's not easy to recover from the thought process that thinks it's a good idea to grab hold of Pierre and Hillenbrand in the first place, though. They don't give out bonus runs for having veterans in the lineup. Stop acting like they do!

I was naive enough to think that the signing of Hillenbrand to a minor league deal didn't mean he'd be up in the Show a week later. Hillenbrand is a guy who thinks very highly of himself: so why would he have signed with the Dodgers if he wasn't given a guarantee that he'd be up with the big club soon? I remember how I made fun of the Angels for employing him; never never never did I think he would end up on the Dodgers. It's like the time the Dodgers reacquired Tom Goodwin --- or was that just a bad dream I had?

It is with great pleasure and no regret that I skip tonight's Dodger game. I'm delighted to miss Shea's first start with the Dodgers. I'm relieved to miss another Tomko start; I hope also to miss his quotes after the game when he maintains his stuff was fine and he can't understand why he gave up 8 runs. I need a break from the losing, the disappointment of seeing good players fail to perform, the dismay of seeing known mediocrities do what they do. I'm going out to see a show.

I hope I don't come back to find out Delwyn Young and Tony Abreu have been traded for some waiver wire pitcher.

13 August 2007

The Dodger Decimal System

by Joshua Worley

Just how poorly have the Dodgers been playing lately? For one offbeat answer to this question, I decided to see how many recent at-bats I had to search through to find 10 total bases for each player. Obviously the fewer recent at-bats one has to search through to find 10 total bases, the better.

Dodger Hitter Decimal Rankings
( recent at-bats to reach 10 total bases )

Ethier -- 9
Loney -- 14
Young -- 18 (*)
Martin -- 26
Betemit -- 26
Garciaparra -- 28
Pierre -- 28
Kent -- 31
Furcal -- 40
Saenz -- 40
Kemp -- 45
Martinez -- 46
Gonzalez -- 51

This is a depressing list. Consider that 20 at-bats to reach 10 total bases is a 0.500 slugging, while 25 to reach 10 will be a 0.400 slugging. So anything above 25 is pretty bad. These are small sample sizes, of course, so it's not shocking to see a good hitter around 30 or so: it just means he's going through a small slump. Conversely you'll expect to see a few players who are in hot streaks, with fewer than 15 recent at-bats to reach 10 total bases. For the Dodgers, though, 6 of 8 starters are above 25. Only Loney and Ethier are hot. Even the bench has been awful; only Young has a respectable number, and that's a projection, since he actually has 8 total bases in 14 at-bats so far.

One of the shocking things about the numbers is that players like Furcal and Garciaparra have high recent at-bat totals to reach 10 total bases even though they've each hit a recent home run. The Dodgers just have no one outside of Loney or Etheir who can pick up extra-base hits consistently. Martin has a lot of recent singles, but little power.

One has to go back to June 8, 2007 to find 10 total bases to Saenz's credit. That was the night of his last home run, a pinch hit bomb in the tenth inning to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. I was at that game: it was certainly the highlight of the season for me.

One has to go back to July 8 to find 10 total bases for Martinez. This is a month better than for Saenz, but remember Martinez has been starting a lot lately. Betemit would have gotten a lot of those starts if he hadn't been traded away, which is why I included him. His numbers include his Yankee career. Betemit has 8 total bases in 16 at-bats with the Yanks; he was struggling just before the trade, though.

As bad as Saenz and Martinez have been, Gonzalez has been worse. I hadn't realized he was this bad. One has to go back to July 24 to find 10 total bases to his credit.

The one that hurts the most is Kemp. You have to go back to July 19 to find 10 total bases to his credit. He hit a home run that day, and then another two days later on Dodger Thoughts day; since then he's had just 3 singles. I suppose seeing that most recent home run at the stadium was my second favorite moment of the season. I wish the Dodgers would just play Kemp full time. Give him a chance to develop. The season is probably lost anyway, and if you want unreasonable hope, who between Kemp and Gonzalez is more likely to get absurdly hot? I say it's the younger guy.

What about the pitchers? We can do a similar recent history search for them as well. How many recent innings pitched do we have to search through to find 10 earned runs allowed? Starters first, then relievers. Obviously now higher numbers are better.

Dodger Starter Decimal Rankings
( recent innings pitched to reach 10 earned runs allowed )

Penny -- 30
Billingsley -- 29
Lowe -- 17
Tomko -- 17
Hendrickson -- 9

This is a trinary distrubution. 30 is very good, while 18 is very bad, and 9 is demonic. A pitcher who consistently gave up 10 runs every 30 innings would have an ERA of 3.0, while a pitcher who gave up 10 runs every 18 would have an ERA of 5.0. So to go with their sputtering offense the Dodgers have two good pitchers and three awful ones, at least in recent games.

For the relivers, it might have been better to ask how many recent innings it takes to find just 5 earned runs allowed, since that would result in a more comparable time frame to the starters. But it's ten for everything, and in any case staying with ten will show just how good Takashi Saito has been.

Dodger Reliever Decimal Rankings
( recent innings pitched to reach 10 earned runs allowed )

Saito -- 53
Broxton -- 31
Proctor -- 23
Beimel -- 19
Seanez -- 14

Seanez looks bad, but this is mostly from his homer-fest in July. He's been great in August so far. Beimel has been about what one would expect. Proctor has allowed only one run with the Dodgers; his value of 23 innings reflects some of his struggles with the Yankees. Broxton has been great, of course. One has to go back to May 31 to find 10 earned runs allowed by him. In fact, since he allowed 4 earned runs to San Diego is that awful defensive melt-down, Broxton has allowed only 2 earned runs. ( I'm appalled that Broxton was charged with 4 earned runs in that San Diego game, by the way. It's not right. )

But the real star here is Mr. Smile. I have a smile as big as one of his post-save smiles just thinking about the next sentence I'm about to write. One has to go back to September 18 of last year to find 10 earned runs allowed by Saito. Last year! Amazing.

I'll end this with a surprising and sad note about an ex-Dodger reliever, about the man who showed us what it was like to have a dominant closer, the man who taught us to love the ninth inning. ( Some of us, anyway. ) I note this with a bit of dismay, but also, I am ashamed to admit, a bit of schadenfreude. It does take some of the sting out of seeing him in a different uniform. I'm only human, I guess.

Dodger French Canadian ex-Reliever Decimal Rankings
( recent innings pitched to reach 10 earned runs allowed )

Gagne - 7

10 August 2007

Redbird Preview: Ankiel Ankles AAA

Rick Ankiel Rick Ankiel Rick Ankiel Rick Ankiel!!!!!!

Okay, with that out of the way, on to the members of the Cardinal team who really matter to the Dodgers chances of sweeping the series and making all my delusions come true.

Jose Alberto Pujols -- 1B

age: 27
bats: right

0.315 -- 0.417 -- 0.554

According to espn.com, his surname is pronounced "POO-holes". Only in America! Or the Dominican Republic, I guess, where he was born.

His swing has no holes. Many people consider him the best hitter in the game. Pujols is having a down year, by his standards, since he usually has a slugging above 0.600.

I'm thinking that if Penny and Lowe are really on their games they and the pen might keep him to something like 2-8 with one walk and no home runs. And then Hendrickson will be destroyed by him. The tall stiff has nothing that can hurt Pujols. We can only hope that Pujols will need a day off Sunday. ( After I wrote this I decided to check the stats. Pujols's OPS vs. Hendrickson is 2.270 in 8 plate appearances. Just walk him! )

Yadier Benjamin Molina -- C

age: 25
bats: right

0.264 -- 0.336 -- 0.316

I would suggest that only Juan Pierre is allowed to run on him, and only then because the poor little blighter can't really do anything else besides steal bases. Yadier has caught 17 of 31 thieves this year, which is more than half. Kemp or Ethier will be DOA if they try to steal. Martin will probably be out too. Furcal might be okay to steal if he was fully healthy. I think Saenz could steal because Yadier would drop the ball in amazement if he saw him going. Too bad Saenz probably can't hit his way on base.

He's not a threat at all with the bat.

Adam Thomas Kennedy -- 2B

age: 31
bats: left

0.217 -- 0.282 -- 0.290

Wow, I had no idea. He's batted ninth in 3 of the past 6 games, as part of LaRussa's wacky pitcher-batting-eighth plan. He's not likely to start against Hendrickson on Sunday, since his OPS against lefties is 0.395. More bad luck for the tall bearded stiff.

Scott Bruce Rolen -- 3B

age: 32
bats: right

0.264 -- 0.336 -- 0.392

Rolen the Bruce is no longer a superstar. He's not even a star. He's only 32 but his stats are of a man in his late 30's. A few months ago when the Dodgers were trying LaRoche and Betemit and Abreu at third base there was some chatter that the Dodgers might try to trade for Rolen. Good thing they didn't, really. His stats aren't much better than Nomar's.

David Mark Eckstein -- SS

age: 32
bats: right

0.286 -- 0.332 -- 0.350

Eckstein's OPS with runners in scoring position is 0.555. It's 0.535 with two outs. Ah, but "close and late", according to espn.com's standards, he's batting 0.459 with a 1.041 OPS. So he really is clutch. Call him David Clutchstein!

James Patrick Edmonds -- CF

age: 37
bats: left

0.243 -- 0.319 -- 0.381

Rolen's fate is his fate. At least his age gives him a better excuse than Rolen. I'm having a hard time shaking loose from the notion that the Cardinals still have a big three of Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds. It's down to just the one with the funny name now.

Christopher Edward Duncan -- LF

age: 26
bats: left

0.283 -- 0.378 -- 0.536

The Cardinals have only two good hitters in their lineup. Duncan is one of them. And yet he's started only 4 of the last 10 games. I can't figure out why. I'm not finding any mention of an injury. Career scrub Ryan Ludwick has been getting a lot of playing time in left field, for some reason. He has 9 home runs, but not much else, with a 0.306 OBP. Duncan is clearly the better option, the better player. Maybe LaRussa just hates Duncan. I wouldn't put it past him.

Richard Alexander Ankiel -- RF

age: 28
bats: left

0.270 -- 0.316 -- 0.570 ( AAA, PCL )

He hit a home run yesterday in his outfield debut for the Cardinals. He also struck out twice, and that's going to be the problem. If he can only manage a 0.316 OBP in a hitter's league at the AAA level, it's unlikely he can manage an OBP above 0.300 at the big league level. But if the Dodger pitchers make a mistake, he is more than capable of taking them deep.

Adam Parrish Wainwright -- P

age: 25
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
4.35 -- 134.1 -- 88 -- 49 -- 9

Wainwright is a mild ground ball pitcher, with a 3:2 ratio of grounders to fly balls. The Dodger fortunes on Friday may come down to how many of those ground balls find a hole, especially if there is a man on first with less than two outs. It would be nice if the Dodgers skipped over the luck part and just cranked out a bunch of extra base hits against Wainwright, but that doesn't seem likely.

Penny will face Wainwright tonight. It will be sad if the Dodgers can't win this game. You have Penny against a lineup with two ( maybe ) good hitters, and on the other hand a mostly solid Dodger lineup against a decent but not overpowering pitcher in Wainwright. Dodgers should win 4-2, or something like that. But to avoid the jinx I'm predicting the Cards win 13-1. We'll see.

Braden LaVern Looper -- P

age: 32
throws: right

5.25 -- 121.2 -- 59 -- 37 -- 15

LaVern is another mild ground ball pitcher, in spite of his non-ground ball surname. Again the Dodgers have to guard against falling into the trap of hitting a bunch of first or second pitch weak grounders. The Dodgers counter with Lowe. Same analysis as Wainwright's game, except that I wouldn't call Looper an even decent pitcher. He's bad. The problem is the offesive team still has to earn their runs. This season Looper has pitched 5 games of at least 7 innings and 1 or 0 runs allowed. There are no sure things. ( Three of those games were in April, though. )

Anthony Loza Reyes -- P

age: 25
throws: right

5.66 -- 82.2 -- 56 -- 29 -- 9

Starting in late June he had four awful starts in a row, and then followed that with 4 decent starts in a row. The Dodgers counter on Sunday with Hendrickson, who is also a hit or miss kind of pitcher. No final score in this last game would surprise me. Not even a final score of pi to e.

09 August 2007

Turnaround Starts Now

by Deluded Dodger Fan

I really wish I could give up. That would make the direction this season has taken so much easier. Instead every loss hurts because I honestly go into each game thinking that the Dodgers will win. When someone comes up with runners on scoring position I think the hit will come. Oh, I do also dread the inevitable fly out or double play, but deep down, I'm always surprised when it comes. Always.

It's this foolish and crippling optimism that causes me to say the turnaround starts now, after the Dodgers put up their first victory in a week. Deep down I really think it is the start of a turnaround. I really think they'll sweep the Cardinals. You know, the team that swept the Dodgers in St. Louis last year. If only I deep down expected the Dodgers to lose, then if they won it would be such a joyous boon. A Dodger win would be like a Mark Hendrickson hit. There, at least, I am not deluded. I've never deep down thought that Hendrickson would get a hit.

The Cardinals! I've often wondered what it was like to be a fan of theirs last year. That stretch at the end of the regular season when they lost nearly every game they played and almost coughed up their playoff spot to the Astros must have really been awful for Cardinal fans. Now one can say that winning the World Series makes up for it. I'm sure Cardinal fans would say that. But I don't know. They still had to go through that near-collapse. The World Series title didn't make that not be. Was it really worth it to hit such lows? But maybe most Cardinal fans didn't go through such a low. They took it in stride, and so there is no blemish on 2006 for them. That's how I want to be. Well-adjusted. But it's not happening, not yet. If I was like that I wouldn't be writing this blog.

It's amazing I haven't written an entry full of curse words and bile yet. I've wanted to after every shut out loss. But I'm not here to spread misery. I'm here to spread delusion. The delusion isn't that the Dodgers are good, or that they might start winning: the delusion is that any of this matters, that a Dodger win is worth being happy over. So, to anyone who is joining me in this madness, take cheer, for the turnaround starts now. And if it doesn't, then wait until next week, or the week after ... I'll still be here, peddling delusion. At least until the Ides of September.

07 August 2007

Redlegs Preview

by Joshua Worley

My father used to occasionally call the Cincinnati Reds the "Redlegs" because that was the name he first knew the team under. For a period in the 1950's, the Reds changed their name to the Redlegs to avoid being associated with Communism. I guess they instead wanted to be associated with "white slaves" in the Caribbean Islands, who were called redlegs because the sun burned their bare legs.

But what is a "Red", anyway? Obviously there were no Communists around when the Reds were formed. "Red" as a team name falls into the same category as "Dodger", in that both are shortenings of originally longer team names. The first professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who later moved to Boston, where they were also the Red Stockings. But that Boston Red Stockings is not the Red Sox of today; no, they eventually changed their name to the Braves and of course are now in Atlanta. Does that mean the Atlanta Braves are really the oldest team in baseball? I don't think so; as far as I know their usual history isn't really traced all the way back to Cincinnati. But it seems like one could do that.

It seems the Red Stockings name is a popular one, because in both Cincinnati and Boston a new team took on the Red Stockings moniker after the original with that name moved or took on a new name. So it was that the second professional team in Cincinatti was called the Red Stockings: they were charter members of the National League. Unfortunately they were kicked out of the League a few years later for serving beer in their stadium, among other reasons. There was yet a third Cincinatti Red Stockings who helped found the American Association. It was when this team joined the National League in 1890 that "Stocking" was dropped from the team name and they became the Reds. The Dodgers also joined the National League from the American Association in 1890, but the official stance of the Dodgers seems to be that the team didn't exist prior to 1890, as if there is something unseemly about the American Association years.

So that's what a Red is. A Red is also a member of a team the Dodger really need to beat, a team one might expect they should beat. If there's going to be a turnaround, a sudden hot streak, why shouldn't it start right now?

The Reds have outscored the Dodgers on the season, 519-513. Each team has played 111 games. This is eleventy-one, for those who are fans of the Lord of the Rings. Also, a cricket fan will know that it is considered unlucky for a team to be on 111 runs, since the number resembles the stumps of the wicket that the batsman is trying to protect from being bowled. Also, the score of 111 is called Nelson, after the famed admiral, because he lost an eye, arm, and leg. Except he never actually lost a leg. Even so there are cricket umpires (!) who will raise a leg when the score is on Nelson to avoid giving bad luck.

The important thing is that the teams are nearly evenly matched offensively, being separated by a mere 6 runs after a Nelson of games played each. Though I think with park effects and quality of opposition pitching the Dodgers are likely better. The Reds do it with home runs. They have outslugged the Dodgers 150 to 83 in taters. The Dodgers score by getting on base a lot, with a 0.340 OBP on the season, to just 0.325 for the Reds. The Padres and Diamondbacks bring up the rear in OBP, by the way, at 0.312 and 0.314. Again I must fight the urge to declare that the Snakes are deep down a bad team. When will I learn?

So if the Dodgers are going to get the sorely needed sweep, or at least series win, they will have to expliot their considerable pitching advantage. I think the toughest game will be the first, when Hendrickson tries to keep the Reds from hitting it out of their slutty ballpark. Hendrickson faces Bronson Arroyo, who surprisingly has a higher ERA than Hendrickson. But let's not kid ourselves, the second will be tough as well, when Lowe faces Reds ace Aaron Harang. Unless Harang can't go because of a sore lower back. Nothing is certain yet. At least Lowe appears to be healthy now. No, his groin is still barking. So things are really uncertain. Billingsley faces Phil Dumatrait, who will be making his second ever start after getting knocked around by the offensively challenged Nats.

The Reds have the worst bullpen ERA in the National League. If the Dodgers can at least play the Reds to a tie through six in each game, they have a good chance of winning. The Dodgers really have to start winning some one run games.