20 February 2008

All Notes Great and Trivial

Today, a rundown of some quotes from recent dodgers.com news stories.

Kuroda Cutter

"I heard in the States a fastball with movement away is better to have over here," said Kuroda. "I don't think I've perfected the location, but I was satisfied with the movement."

In Japan, Kuroda relied on a sinker thrown down and in to right-handed hitters, but many pitchers feel that Major League umpires are more likely to call strikes on pitches away than inside, one of the reasons for the recent popularity in the cut fastball.

I can't read this without thinking of the worst strike zone offender ever, the late Eric Gregg. He was at the height of his powers in the 1997 NLCS, when his ample strike zone helped Livan Hernandez strike out 15 to beat the Braves. I'll never forget that final "strike" to Fred McGriff, a pitch about a foot off the plate. One of the best things Bud Selig ever did was to not rehire Gregg after he resigned along with 21 other umpires in a negotiating ploy.

Strike zone discipline from umpires has become a lot better since then, but my observation is that we still see a lot more outside strikes than inside strikes called. The simplest explanation for this is that umpires set up over the inside shoulder of the catcher, meaning they can see the inside pitches a lot better.

However, the actual data paints a slightly different picture than what I think I'm seeing. This study done by John Walsh of hardballtimes.com last year shows a significant bias toward outside strikes to lefty batters, but no bias at all between inside and outside to righty batters. If this study is correct, then Kuroda's reasoning for learning the cutter is faulty, since the pitch he's trying to master is designed to cut outside for right-handed batters.

Russell Wear-down

Martin concedes he wore down in the second half, when he hit .275 after hitting .306 before the All-Star break.

Russell Martin's month-by-month OPS last year:

Apr: 0.863
May: 0.843
Jun: 0.807
Jul: 0.858
Aug: 0.943
Sep: 0.725

His best month was August, but his worst was September. If he wore down, it didn't show up in his hitting until September.

Another interesting Martin split from last year is that he was 16 of 19 in stolen bases before the all-star break, but only 5 of 11 after. I guess when you wear down, the legs are the first to go.

Lowe Averages

... Lowe is upbeat about the team's chances: "If everyone just has an average year, we've got a really good team," he said. "We have a lot of talent. We don't need a lot of career years to get over the hump."

I found this to be a deceptively provocative statement. Is this true, I wonder? Do the Dodgers make the playoffs if they have average years from everyone? But do we even know what an average year is supposed to be for most Dodgers? What's an average year for young players without even a full year of major league experience, such as Kemp and Loney? What's average from 40-year old Kent? Kuroda, who is coming to a whole new league? Schmidt, coming off of injury? A lot of average baselines have yet to be established or reset.

On reflection I've decided that the important thing is not that the Dodgers get average years from everyone, but that they get full healthy years from nearly everyone.

Lasorda's Lawn

The croquet field at Disney's Vero Beach Resort was renamed Lasorda Fielda in a Monday ceremony attended by the Hall of Fame manager, who will take over the Florida squad when Torre goes to China with the rest of the team next month.

I once got so mad playing croquet that slammed a mallet to the ground and broke it in half. I'd like to think Lasorda has done the same at least once in his life.

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