30 June 2009

Short Circuited Metaphors: Game 77 Unfair Win Shares

Turns out the circuit was phantom tripped. By the time we figured that out the Dodgers were deep into extra innings, extending their schizophrenic reign of superb relief pitching and inept offense.

It began late in last night's game around the eighth inning, so it was really in the middle of the game, but it felt late at the time. A circuit that carries the load for the refrigerator, mircrowave and a garage box freezer went down. The first indication of the loss of power came when I tried to get ice out of the fridge dispenser and none came. I would say that it was a cosmic resonance with the Dodgers inability to score runs, the inaccessible ice vibrating in sympathy across space-time with the unscored runs, but it was easy enough to open up the freezer and get at the runs, or rather, the ice. The Dodgers had no equivalent strategy to pursue, unless they might have hypnotized Ethier in the ninth inning and found that home run trapped in his psyche and made him to release it earlier. Judging from all the walk-off hits Ethier keeps uncorking, he has a lot of unresolved issues to work through. Or maybe he just enjoys being pummeled and thrown to the ground by his crazed teammates after a win.

It was when I opened the freezer to manually grab my ice that I noticed the whole contraption had simply stopped running. The little light inside the door was dark; the hum of coolness was silent; the Dodger offense was inert and sessile: another cosmic resonance. We moved into this house shortly before the start of spring training this year, so some things are still new to us, and we had a hunt for the circuit breaker box. Sure, the previous owner had shown us where it was, but that was several fuzzy memories ago. Eventually I found it, but not before missing most of the excellent relief pitching of the Dodgers in the ninth and tenth innings. I kept coming back to see the Dodgers bat, to see the game end, I hoped, a mercy win, to release me to more pressing concerns. Just win the game already, I implored. Go Nike on their asses. Just do it. They did not.

None of the circuit switches in the box were tripped. Moreover, though some were labeled clearly, the one we were looking for was not. The circuit breaker box was clearly deceiving us, and I called a balk on it.

If there was such a thing as a batter's balk, Wolf would have received one in the fifth inning. It looked like he was starting some half-hearted aerobics right there in the batter's box. Make a fist at your head and push out toward the air! And do it again! It is rare when I feel sympathy for that arrogant turd Tracy, but I did when his pitcher was faked out of his shoes by Wolf and induced to balk. That Wolf was not trying to induce the balk only makes the deception more effective. And then Wolf showed why he has been used as a pinch hitter so often this year. About time, Wolf. Jimenez would have been better off plunking Wolf in retaliation for his weird timeout dance at the plate and then gotten Pierre to weakly ground out with the bases loaded.

Concerning Tracy, I enjoyed the moment in the bottom of the thirteenth inning when the camera showed him in the dugout and he appeared to have his hand around his neck. Perhaps it was a trick of perspective, or my own late-inning addled perceptions, but it looked for all the world like he was pantomiming a choking action to indicate what we were about to see out of his pitcher. I think it was Tracy's way of preemptively assigning blame for the loss elsewhere.

The Dodger relief pitchers were lined up like circuit breakers for the Rockies to trip, but none of them did. Not even Weaver. I watched Weaver pitch to the first batter of his inning, hoping to see an out before I went back out to attempt solving the mystery of the phantom tripped circuit. Instead he gave up a double, and I thought the game was lost. It must have been something to see him strike out the side after allowing runners to second and third. The entire bullpen was something. The Dodger magic may or may not be gone but the bullpen magic has never left this team. Eventually we found the right switch, flipped it off, then back on, and power was restored to the kitchen appliances. I completed my circuit. Ethier completed his circuit. The Dodgers won.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 1
McDonald -- 1
Wolf -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Peralta -- 1
Barmes -- 1
Tulowitzki -- 1

29 June 2009

The Magic is Gone

I knew for certain the magic was gone in the third inning on Saturday, when Ethier was confounded in deepest, darkest right field. Russell Branyan had ripped a ball down the right field line, and Ethier waited in the corner by the foul pole for the ball to bounce over to him. He and the corner were like an old married couple, comfortable with each other, no surprises --- you send the ball over to me, corner, and I'll throw the ball in and Branyan will stand on second with his double and that will be that. But the corner made a cuckold of Ethier. It was faithless, and sent the ball off at a strange angle, and Ethier froze, for a moment, shocked. I don't know you, corner, he seemed to say in that horrible, slow-motion moment. When he finally took the ball, and threw it in, Russell Branyan was at third base, with a triple. A triple. Humiliation.

I feel bizarrely confident in saying that every triple Russell Branyan has ever hit was a soul-crushing moment for the fans of the opposing team. He only has 8 of them in his career, you know. That triple he hit Saturday was his first of the season. Branyan is slow. He's not a tripling man. When he hits a triple, it's to send a deeper message.

The magic is gone. That's the message. The Dodger magic has vanished. They have lost two series in a row. They lose pitching matchups they should lose, and then the lose pitching matchups they should win. Their starters are struggling. The offense is straggling. Just watch them and you can see it, feel it. This is not the team we saw in April and May.

The magic is gone. The skeptic must surely challenge this statement. I would challenge this statement if it came from any other source. Evidence is required. And here it is: the Dodgers have been outscored in June. There is no irrational interpretation of a triple in that. It is simply a number. Negative three. Not a good team, not a bad team. A middle team, at least in June. They haven't been outscored by much. Indeed, the Dodger magic lingered long enough into June that they won several come-back games and their record this month is 13-11. You could argue against the end of the magic if you wanted to. But you'd be wrong. It's gone.

The Dodgers are not doomed. You can win without the magic. The Dodgers can make the playoffs without the magic. They have a seven game lead. There is no call to panic. The Dodgers have all the same players they had. And more, coming in. Manny, certainly, and maybe someone in trade, though I do not wish for trade. A trade is too much like panic.

The magic could come back. I do not say it is gone forever. Maybe Manny can bring it back. But I am skeptical. We have aready seen that one man, even one Manny, does not make as much difference as we might have otherwise thought. The Dodgers did not lose the magic when Manny went out. They lost it later. It leaked away, in drips and trickles, until the day when it was clear it was all gone.

I want the magic back. It felt like 1988 again, until it went away. I think it can come back. But when? How? I don't know.

Game 75 and Game 76 Unfair Loss Shares

You could see going in to Saturday's game that the Dodgers were probably going to lose, with Milton going up against King Felix. When the Dodgers indeed went on to lose, at least there was the comfort that Sunday's pitching match up favored the Dodgers. And then that was blown away by the Mariners' three run third inning yesterday, and all that was left was a drab series loss to an American League team. I suppose it is a credit to this year's Dodgers team that they actually managed to break even against the American League.

The losses were routine, and so are the unfair loss shares. The Dodgers lost by formula, no dramatics, no surprises, no heartbreak. Get a bad start by the starter, and have a poor offense that features two hitless and walkless regulars, and the loss and the unfair loss shares just fall off the bone, as if the game was a well cooked rack of ribs. The Dodgers taste best served with barbecue sauce.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Game 75

Milton -- 1
Pierre -- 1
Ethier -- 1

Game 76

Hudson -- 1
Blake -- 1
Kuroda -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Mariners )

Game 75

Hernandez -- 2
Branyan -- 1

Game 76

Lopez -- 1
Olson -- 1
Batista -- 1

26 June 2009

Game Boom 74 Boom Unfair Boom Win Shares

Here is a list of Los Angeles Dodgers who have hit 3 home runs in a game, in order of my estimation of most likely to least likely to have accomplished the feat:

Shawn Green 2001, 2002

Green did it twice. When his swing was right it was gorgeous, and so were the results. When his swing was wrong he kept opposing second basemen very busy. The 2002 occurrence was actually a four HR game, in which he set the major league record with 19 total bases in a nine inning game.

Mike Piazza 1996

Piazza was certainly a better player than Green, but in his prime Green hit more home runs than Piazza, and I figure the guy who did this twice really should be most likely.

Jimmy Wynn 1974

Wynn was very good hitter, though not an especially prodigious home run hitter. He did have 32 HR in 1974.

Andre Ethier 2009

Tonight's hero. Someday it might seem more likely that Ethier did it than Wynn, but for now I have Wynn ahead a little bit.

Hee Sop Choi 2005

Choi is one of three LA Dodgers to have a three home run game in his last major league season. Which is really strange. Choi was known as a home run hitter, but he didn't really hit that many. He was more well known, at least by me, for being behind Jason Philips on the first base depth chart for awhile in late 2005. Jim Tracy didn't really like him. He would have had about 30 home runs in 2005 if he had played every day. Instead he had 15, including 6 against the Twins in one memorable interleague series. Perhaps Ethier can match him.

Davey Lopes 1974

Joined Wynn in the triple homer game club in 1974, but he wasn't nearly the home run hitter Wynn was, having only 10 on the season. He did hit 28 in a season later in his career.

Kevin Elster 2000

It's a miracle Elster isn't last on this list. Not only was 2000 his last major league season, but he didn't even play in 1999. And yet Elster was actually a pretty good hitter in 2000, hitting 14 home runs and posting his only season with an OPS+ above 100, not counting an early season when he played in only 5 games. If this list was ranked on glory of the feat rather than on likelihood of the feat Elster would easily come out ahead, since his three home run game came in the first game ever played at Pac Bell Park. The Giants must have been so surprised to see Kevin bleeping Elster ruining their inauguration of the new digs.

Cory Snyder 1994

It took Cory Snyder to beat out Kevin Elster for most unlikely three homer game. Snyder had only 6 home runs in 1994, and three of them came in a crazy early season 19-2 thrashing of the Pirates. He was pretty lousy the rest of the year and by the middle of August he had seen the last of the big leagues forever. Cory is not the only Dodger Sn(y|i)der to hit three home runs in a game, by the way. His more famous homosurnym-mate Duke Snider hit three homers in a game twice but both came in Brooklyn.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 2
Kershaw -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Mariners )

Beltre -- 1
Johjima -- 1
Vargas -- 1

Game 73 Unfair Loss Shares

In game 4 of the 2003 World Series Joe Torre made one of the most notorious decisions of his career, to bring in Jeff Weaver to pitch in a road extra-inning game rather than Mariano Rivera. At the time Weaver had not pitched in nearly a month, while Rivera was the best closer in the game. Weaver pitched a scoreless eleventh inning before giving up a home run to Alex Gonzalez to lose game 4. The Yankees would go on to lose the series in six games.

I wonder if Torre thought about that game when he brought Weaver in to pitch starting in the eleventh inning yesterday. I doubt it. Torre just isn't that kind of guy. It's pretty clear he doesn't have any doubts about how he uses his bullpen. Broxton is the closer, and closers are for leads and ties at home, and nothing else. Really. Broxton has entered 7 games with the score tied this year, all at home. All in either the ninth or tenth inning. Just once has he entered a game when the Dodgers trailed by one --- that was a game against the Phillies when the Dodgers rallied in the bottom of the ninth and Broxton picked up his sixth win. That is the only time this year Torre has deviated from his strict closer usage formula. It's pretty clear Torre never even considered using Broxton in yesterday's game. It's like he wasn't even available. Now if the Dodgers had picked up a lead, then he would have been available! It doesn't make sense to me, but I'm sure it makes perfect sense to Joe Torre.

I write all this not to complain but to simply understand. In truth I'm not really upset about Torre using Weaver instead of Broxton. First, this is just who Torre is, and it's going to be easier on me if I just accept that. Acceptance of certain flaws is vital for fans. Kemp is always going to strike out a lot. Lamar Odom of the Lakers is always going to make a few boneheaded plays per game. Kobe is always going to go into hero mode and shoot horrible shots once in a while. Vinny is going to coo over cute kids in the stands until I want to throw up. Sometimes you just have to utter the cliche phrase of our age --- it is what it is --- and move on.

Second, Weaver would have been in the game by the thirteenth inning anyway. Broxton maybe could have gone two innings if brought in, more likely one. In either case Weaver is on the hill for the thirteenth. Maybe if he starts pitching in the thirteenth the meltdown doesn't come until the fifteenth inning. Maybe.

Third, Weaver was effective for two innings. If the Dodgers had scored any runs in their four extra innings they probably would have won. I blame the Dodger offense for this defeat, more than any decision Torre made. Or perhaps I should credit the White Sox pitchers, especially Dotel. But no, I mostly blame the Dodger hitters. Kemp in particular was awful. He struck out 4 times while going 0 for 6. One of those strikeouts came when he failed to move Blake over from second with no outs in the ninth. Billingsley and Kemp each get an unfair loss share for their poor performances yesterday, that is easy. And the third --- I think that Weaver will not get it. It's a bit ridiculous to give a pitcher an unfair loss share for giving up one run in 3 innings, isn't it, even if that run lost the game, even if the shares are supposed to be in some sense unfair? No, I'm hitting Kemp with a second one. That's pretty unfair too, but his game was just awful. Kemp has arguably been the Dodger MVP so far and with that comes a higher standard. If he does his job with the bat at any point in the game, it's likely we never even have to see Weaver.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 2
Billingsley -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( White Stockings )

Dotel -- 1
Podsednik -- 1
Pierzynski -- 1

25 June 2009

Game 72 Unfair Loss Shares

Wolf lost the game, but the Dodgers weren't buried after he went out. If the Dodgers had received some good relief pitching, as they so often have this year, then they might have won the game, or at least sent it to extra innings. Instead Wade came in and laid an egg. The egg hatched and out came a couple of two run home runs.

Wade's ERA now sits at 5.88. That's bad, but sometimes with relievers ERA can be deceiving. Here is a look at Wade's distribution of runs allowed in each appearance:

0 runs -- 17
1 runs -- 3
2 runs -- 3
3 runs -- 0
4 runs -- 2

Wade almost never pitches more than an inning. When he has, it's been 2 innings, and he hasn't given up a run in any of those outings. Wade has also allowed two inherited runners to score, once a man at second with two outs, once a man at first with no outs. Both of those runs tied the game, and both came in games where Wade didn't allow a run of his own to score. So, of Wade's 25 appearances, 10 have hurt the Dodgers in some way. To me this isn't a very reliable reliever, though I suppose you can do a lot worse.

Mota, unlike Wade, pitched a scoreless inning yesterday. I've been down on Mota all year, but I'm wondering if maybe Mota is a better option than Wade at this point. Here is Mota's distribution of runs table:

0 runs -- 21
1 runs -- 2
2 runs -- 2
3 runs -- 2
4 runs -- 1

Mota has also allowed 7 inherited runners to score in 6 different games, though three of these runners were at third with less than two outs when he entered the game. Twice Mota allowed no runs of his own to score but did allow a preventable inherited runner to score, so Mota has hurt the Dodgers in 9 of his 28 appearances. Not great either, but a better rate than Wade. Mota's ERA is 4.80, a full run lower than Wade's. Does all this mean Mota is a better pitcher this year than Wade?

I guess it might. Both pitchers have 17 strikeouts, though Wade's have come in 4 fewer innings. ( 26 for Wade, 30 for Mota ) Mota has walked 13, while Wade has walked 10, but you know, Wade walked only 15 last year, in more than 70 innings. There's the biggest difference between 2008 Wade and 2009 Wade, I think. Meanwhile Mota has 7 strikeouts and just 1 walk in June, so maybe he has turned the corner. It sure seems as if Mota is headed in the right direction, and Wade is headed in the wrong direction, but you just never know with relievers. You can make all the plans you want and they will knock those plans right into a cocked hat.

Usage patterns for both relievers are revealing. Mota really hasn't been trusted at all this year. Most of his appearances have come when the Dodgers already trailed. He has never been called on with a small lead, outside of one game when he came in while the Dodgers led by 2. Now if the Dodgers have huge lead, Mota is your man, as he's mopped up three times when the Dodgers had a double digit lead. Mota has been called upon in four ties, but three of those were in extra innings when there were likely no other good options left. The fourth was the game he recently lost to the Angels in the eighth inning.

Unlike Mota, Wade has been trusted by Torre a lot this year. Most of his appearances have come when the Dodgers led. But clearly there has been a shift in Torre's trust in Wade. Before May 24, Wade had never been called to enter a game when the Dodgers trailed. Since that date, 7 of Wade's 11 appearances have come when the Dodgers trailed. He has recently entered two games in which the Dodgers led by 1, and both times he left with the Dodgers tied. Wade is clearly slipping down the bullpen depth chart and his bad performances are greasing the skids. Not too long ago it would have been Wade entering that tie against the Angels instead of Mota. ( Wade was available, having faced just three batters the day before and none the day before that. ) But now, Wade has replaced Mota as the Dodgers' worst reliever. At least until Will Ohman comes back.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 2
Wade -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( White Stockings )

Fields -- 1
Dye -- 1
Floyd -- 1

24 June 2009

Game 71 Unfair Win Shares

The game got kind of boring in the middle innings. Boring in a good way, though, since the Dodgers led, and Kuroda was mowing them down. It's just that Danks was also mowing them down by then. Kuroda was great, and I guess he's still the same guy he was last year, running hot and cold, sporting a fine ERA even though it sure seems like he gets in trouble more often than a pitcher with a sub-4 ERA should. I just had a quick look at Kuroda's game log from both years with the Dodgers, and I have Kuroda with 21 good starts against 10 bad starts last year, and 4 good starts and 2 bad starts this year. I think we can live with a 2:1 ratio of good to bad.

It was nice to see Mitch Jones get a couple of hits. And Loney too, with a late single and his early home run to put the game firmly in the Dodgers' control. Fellow young scuffler Martin didn't get a hit, sadly, but I guess not everything can go right all the time.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kuroda -- 2
Loney -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( White Stockings )

Podsednik -- 1
Thome -- 1
Pierzynski -- 1

23 June 2009

Major League Top One --- Big Bad Jon Edition

1. Broxton -- percentage of plate appearances ending in a strikeout ( 40.9% )

Two out of five batters that come up to face Broxton will go down swinging. Or looking. And maybe crying.

Rafael Soriano is second in strikeout rate among major league pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched. His rate is 34.4%. He isn't even in the picture with Broxton. After Soriano there's a large group of pitchers, mostly relievers, around 30%. That's a great percentage, and it's not even close to what Broxton is doing. It really is a list of one.

Dodgers Top Ten -- Pitching Edition

1. Stults -- shutouts ( 1 )

Of course Stults leads the Dodgers in shutouts! He's the only starter to have recorded one. Heck, he's the only starter to have a complete game. To me this is still the weirdest result all year.

2. Kershaw -- strikeouts ( 75 )

This is why we believe in Kershaw. This is the number that matters, that tell us how much we should value him. His team leading walk and loss totals are discouraging, but they don't tell the whole story. Only Billingsley has more total strikeouts than Kershaw.

3. Troncoso -- ground ball double plays ( 7 )

The double play is the secret of the Troncuilizer's success. He's not a strikeout guy like Belisario or Broxton. He just makes hitters pound the dirt, and then pound their helmets against the dugout wall because they hit into a double play. Don't be mad, batter guy, it's not your fault you hit into the DP. You were Troncuilized! Troncoso trails only starters Billingsley and Wolf in double plays induced.

4. Billingsley -- home runs allowed ( 3 )

Billingsley is tied for fourth with a bunch of other Dodger pitchers, but he's pitched a lot more innings than most of those other guys. Who is ahead of him? Kershaw, Wolf, and Ohman. Ohman! Yeah, the rarely used reliever whose been hurt for a while has still given up more home runs than the Dodgers innings leader. Ohman gives up a home run every 3 innings; Billingsley gives one up every 33 innings.

5. Mota -- losses ( 2 )

Mota is tied for fifth in losses with three other pitchers. We're lucky he's so low on this list, given his poor ERA and strikeout numbers. I think it's a credit to Joe Torre that as much as Mota has been used this season he's rarely been put in a position where he could blow the game for the Dodgers.

6. Wolf -- wins ( 3 )

Wolf is tied with Mota for sixth in wins on the club. In fact both Wolf and Mota have 3-2 records. It's pretty incredible that a Dodger starter who hasn't missed a turn and tends to go fairly deep into games has the same record as a reliever who is usually kept as far away from close games as possible.

7. Belisario -- hits allowed ( 31 )

Pretty much the same as the Ethier entry from the previous top then list, in that it fills a space and doesn't violate the arcane uniqueness rules I followed in constructing these top ten lists. Not much to say here. Belisario has pitched 42 innings, so that's a good hit total.

8. Weaver -- innings pitched ( 34.0 )

Weaver is eighth on the Dodgers in innings pitched this season, and I don't mind one bit. I sure didn't think I'd be saying that before this season started. Aside from Weaver helping out the Dodgers with long relief and solid spot starting, I'm also happy for Weaver that he's found some measure of success again.

9. Kuo -- wild pitches ( 2 )

Hey, it's hard to fill out the pitching list. This is yet another tied entry, but I never cheated and moved a player down if there was a tie --- ties always get treated as the highest possible spot. Kuo's 2 wild pitches came in 5.1 innings. That pretty much sums up what this year has been for him.

10. Kuroda -- batters faced ( 112 )

This is kind of cheating, since batters faced is pretty close to innings pitched, which I already used. But it's not the same, and no other unused Dodger pitcher is tenth in something, so this is it. I guess the insight here is that Kuroda has been hurt a lot and that's why he's so low in batters faced.

This leaves Broxton off the top ten list. There is a good reason for this --- he gets his own special list later tonight that will fully explore his true awesomeness.

Dodgers Top Ten

1. Hudson -- total bases ( 126 )

I would have guessed Kemp led the Dodgers in total bases, but he's a close second, three behind Hudson.

2. Pierre -- triples ( 3 )

Pierre really wanted to tie Kemp for the team lead in triples when he was thrown out at third Sunday. Face it, Pierre, Kemp is faster than you.

3. Blake -- runs scored ( 37 )

He's third on the team in runs scored, even though he's not fast and he batted in the eight spot for much of the year. Just shows how solid the Dodger lineup is from top to bottom.

4. Manny -- home runs ( 6 )

Still fourth on the team in home runs, even though he's now been suspended for more than half of the season to date.

5. Ethier -- hits ( 67 )

Imagine that! Ethier is fifth on the team in base hits. Yep. Okay, let's move on.

6. Kemp -- bases on balls ( 27 )

Kemp is a close sixth on a team full of hitters who can work the count, trailing both Loney and Furcal by just one. Kemp has really improved his walk rate over the last three years, going from 5.1% in 2007 to 7.0% last year to 9.5% this year.

7. Loney -- strike outs ( 32 )

Avoiding the strike out seems to be Loney's primary offensive weapon these days. If the hitters ahead of you get on a base a lot and you make a lot of contact you'll pick up plenty of runs batted in.

8. Martin -- doubles ( 9 )

Martin's home run drought is the attention grabber, but his relative lack of doubles is almost as troubling.

9. Furcal -- runs batted in ( 16 )

I guess it wasn't Furcal driving in Blake all those times when Blake was batting eighth. This is a rather shocking rank for Furcal --- it means he trails both Pierre and Manny who have far less playing time than him. Hell, it would be shocking even if Pierre had more playing time than him. Furcal had 16 RBIs in 36 games played last year. It's taken him 62 games to reach that total this year.

10. Loretta -- plate appearances ( 96 )

Lately I've been wishing someone other than Loretta was the primary bat off the bench. Looks like it was a bad idea for him to take that Mark Sweeney pinch hitting correspondence course back in May.

22 June 2009

Game 70 Unfair Win Shares

Just the shares today.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 2
Pierre -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Angels )

Guerrero -- 1
Abreu -- 1
Lackey -- 1

21 June 2009

Game 69 Unfair Win Shares

My memory of the 1996 brother battle between Pedro and Ramon Martinez is that younger brother Pedro was more bothered by facing his brother, while older brother Ramon seemed to take it in stride more. I wish I could find a quote to back that up --- in any case, Ramon prevailed in a tight 2-1 win. If that game had gone the other way and everything else had remained the same that season, the Dodgers and Expos would have tied each other at the end of the season for NL wild card. It was an important game.

That game in 1996 was a splendid pitching duel. The game last night was not. Jeff ended up pitching what for him has been a typical 2009 start: effective and short. He keeps you in the game. He's like the veteran quarterback who is damned with the faint praise that he "manages the game" by moving the chains occasionally and not turning the ball over. And it's true, Jeff manages the game. But I mean that as a unreserved compliment.

Jered Weaver did not manage the game. It is not out of the question that pitching against his older brother got to him just a little bit. Jered tried to call his brother before the game, but Jeff would not talk to him, presumably because he wanted to focus on winning. Jered's quote: I called him a couple of times, and he big-leagued me, so I don't know what quite happened there. He big-leagued you in the game, too. Or, to get to the real story, the Dodger hitters big-leagued you. Psychological explanations are fun, but let's be serious: Jered Weaver's bad game had more to do with the excellence of the Dodger lineup than facing his brother.

The Dodgers have a great lineup. You can never count them out. Not even against a pitcher with an ERA of 2. Not even without Manny. Not even when they've been struggling lately. Not even against the hated Angels of the hated American league. ( Well, hated by me, anyway. ) Not even when their former heart and soul has been hitting more like a diseased liver this year.

Speaking of Martin --- freaking finally! A home run. I loved it. I cheered more for that home run than I have for any other home run this year, excepting crucial late inning home runs. And that wasn't even his most impressive hit of the evening. He just smoked the single he had in the sixth inning. Kemp followed Martin's single with his own solid line drive single, but Kemp's was like a dribbler down the line compared to how hard Martin hit his. If it was possible to say it based on one game, and I wish it was, then I'd say that Martin is back. What the hell, I'll say it anyway. Martin is back.

Martin is back and Kemp has arrived. He arrived a while ago, but there's no harm in saying it again. Kemp is a star. Even if he never improves from what he is now he's a star. Only Carlos Beltran is better in center field in the National League right now. Kemp was on base three times and made that amazing catch at the wall. He's probably the Dodgers' best hitter right now. And he batted ninth. That's one hell of a number nine hitter, Torre.

Belisario and the Troncuilizer had very good games, combining for 3 innings of scoreless relief. Unfortunately neither will get an unfair win share. It's just one of those unfair games where the relievers get pushed out by other players. By Weaver. I just liked Weaver's game too much, especially his third through fifth innings. Belisario was great, but he was also shaky. Five dominating strikeouts, three baserunners allowed. He stranded Weaver's triple in the sixth inning, then left a mess for Troncoso to clean up in the seventh. It's tough.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Martin -- 1
Weaver -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Angels )

Weaver -- 2
Izturis -- 1

20 June 2009

Six battles: Game 68 Unfair Loss Shares

There are many individual battles in a baseball game. Some are predictable and resolve with the expected result. Some come out of nowhere and change the course of the game. Some are surprising in the moment they happen, but ultimately inconsequential. And some are regrettable even before they happen, and then after, when the feared result has come to pass? It is a Greek tragedy, with fate, hubris, and wasted opportunity.

Here are six battles that mattered.

Blake v. Aybar, bottom of the second inning

With the bases loaded Aybar hits a foul bloop down the third base line. Blake makes a diving catch. Blake wins, and the Dodgers stay tied.

Statement of the loser:

That's not even fair. My battle wasn't with him. It was with Billingsley, and I was winning. He came out of nowhere, man. That was just a little foul off. That shouldn't be an out. That was like a sucker-punch. Yeah. Blake sucker-caught me.

Statement of the winner:

Yep, I sucker-caught him. That'll teach him wander into the Blake zone with that weak $&^%.

Furcal v. Saunders, top of the fifth inning

Furcal smashes a Saunders pitch into the seats for a two-run home run. Furcal wins, and puts the Dodgers into commanding position.

Statement of the loser:

What's Furcal doing hitting a home run? Our scouting report said he had been injected with Juan Pierre DNA and was now weak as a kitten. I want a do-over.

Statement of the winner:

I sure hit that ball far, didn't I? It was going like a Boeing.

Billingsley v. Izturis, bottom of the sixth inning

Little Maicer Izturis singles in two runs off of Billingsley with the bases loaded. Billingsley loses and the Dodgers are nearly caught by the Angels.

Statement of the loser:

I wasn't beat by Izturis. I was beat by all the damn walks I gave up in that inning. I was beat by our sudden lack of bullpen depth that started with something as small as a dinged toe and turned into most of our good relievers being unavailable last night. I wasn't just running on fumes; I was being pushed up the hill. But there was no one to bring in.

Statement of the winner:

Were too beat by me. I am the greatest hitter in the world!

Pierre v. Speier, top of the eighth inning

Pierre slaps a foul ball down the left field line to where a perfectly placed fielder has an easy catch. Pierre loses, and the Dodgers open the door for the Angels to take the game.

Statement of the winner:

It was great, getting a battle with Pierre in that situation. Even though the bases were loaded I wasn't worried. He's a slap hitter. Rivera was perfectly placed to catch the pathetic slap the other way. I just had to make the pitch and let it happen. I wish all the batters I faced were that easy.

Statement of the loser:

I just did my thing and the fielder happened to get there to make the play. I'll get them next time.

Mota v. Rivera, bottom of the eighth inning

Rivera clubs a line drive home run off of Mota to give the Angels a 5-4 lead. The Angels walk through the door that Pierre opened. As if by fate.

Statement of the winner:

It was just a matter of time. One of us was going to hit Mota.

Statement of the loser:

It was just one bad pitch.

Hudson v. Fuentes, top of the ninth inning

With the tying run at first and no outs, Hudson purposely grounds out weakly to the pitcher. Fuentes wins the battle that was never really even contested, and the Angels go on to win the game.

Statement of the loser:

I thought I could bunt perfectly. It didn't happen.

Statement of the winner:

Man on first, no one out, some good hitters coming up, that's tough, man. It's always nice to get the easy out. It's even nicer to get the guaranteed easy out. I might have been facing a tough battle there and instead I got a walkover. I'll take it every time.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Billingsley -- 1
Pierre -- 1
Mota -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Angels )

Fuentes -- 1
Izturis -- 1
Rivera -- 1

19 June 2009

Russell Question Guesswork Martin: Game 67 Unfair Win Shares

Russell Martin steps up to the plate, and I don't know what he's thinking. If I was him, I'd be furiously trying to think of nothing. If you think of nothing the weight of disappointment and failure can't crush you. If you think of nothing maybe you can pretend you're the same guy who used to hit a home run nearly every week. Because you are still that same guy. But you're not that same guy, too. The nothing in the home run column is proof of that. It's impossible to think of nothing. It's always there.

Second inning. Russell comes up with the bases loaded. He's batting eighth now. Eighth. That's worth a diversion right there. Batting order is not the great determinant of how well a team will hit and score; rather it is determined by how well each player hits and scores. The Dodgers are unusual in that they have often used a strong eighth hitter this year, but this should not obscure the truth that the eighth spot is usually reserved for poor hitters, or good hitters doing poorly. Which is Martin?

Martin has often had to struggle against the known wisdom that being a catcher and being a good hitter are not compatible. If he was an obvious hitting savant such as Joe Mauer or Mike Piazza, then he would not have this problem. But his hitting exellence, when it has come, has been quieter. He is an on-base percentage hitter, with modest, functional power. Tremendously valuable, when he is right. He started his career batting in the eighth spot, because that's where catchers like him belong. Few at the time expected him to be more than a supporting player offensively.

July 22, 2006: Martin moved out of the eighth ( or ninth ) spot of the lineup for the first time. That he was a very good hitter could no longer be ignored. By the end of the season he was back in the eighth spot, mostly, a product of the idea that he started pressing too much and struggling when asked to hit higher in the lineup. It's always been a guessing game with Martin. How is the lineup position affecting him? How is his workload affecting him? How will his offseason training regimen help him? We make guesses. We hope, we worry. But we don't know.

In 2007 and 2008 Martin never started a game batting eighth. He was one of the top catchers in the game, and known as a very good hitter.

June 12, 2009: Martin is moved back to the eighth spot in the lineup for the first time since 2006. The hitter he was the last three years is gone. Martin is just a catcher again. Just a guy you have to play because you have to play a catcher. We still love him, for now, but the love is muted, pensive. What happened? We can only guess. The guessing game, again. Workload, or deep slump, hidden injury, or something darker? We don't know. Guessing makes it worse.

Uncertainty is where we are now when Martin comes to the plate. Back to the second inning, back to the bases loaded. This could be the key moment in the game. There is only one out, but Wolf is coming up next, so it's all up to Martin. I don't even worry about the double play. Instead I just hope Martin is still capable of getting a hit. He's an old man out there.

Sometimes Martin really works the count. That's always been on of his great strengths as a hitter. But not this time. He swings and misses for strike one, then hits the ball. He connects for a line drive, but this is a 2009 Martin line drive. It's a soft line drive, following the slope of a gentle hill. The ball doesn't make it over the shortstop's outstretched glove. He's out. I don't think I can call that a line out. I'm left grasping at what to call it. He hit it square, but not hard. Let's say he hit it trapezoidally. I don't know if he deserves to be out. I don't know if I can take anything good from that at bat. Does he take anything from it, except frustration and failure? We can only guess.

In the fifth inning Martin leads off and hits a slow grounder to short on a 2-2 pitch. That's the second time that he's pulled the ball weakly toward the shortstop. But the placement and slowness of this one make it a tough chance, and after a slight bobble by the shortstop Martin is safe at first. They give him a hit. That's not the kind of hit that leaves me thinking Martin is breaking out of his slump. It's a persistence hit. A perseverance hit. And an important hit for the Dodgers, since Martin will go on to score.

Martin's last at bat comes in the seventh. He falls behind 0-2 in the count. Cue the desperation swing. Watch as the struggling hitter presses and swings at something out of the strike zone. But Martin doesn't do that. He lays off three straight balls. Full count, and revelation. He's still patient. He's still the same guy he always was. Right? Right, dammit? Deep down I'm sure Martin thinks he still the same guy he always was. So why can't he hit anymore? What happened? We can only guess. He can only guess. The painful march of homerless games goes on. We're nearing half the year without a home run. The batting average is plummeting. Forget the home runs, a few solid line drives would be welcome. But it doesn't happen in that at bat. Full count, and a foul off, and then he walks. Martin will go on to be tagged on the rump during a run down. An inglorious out in an inglorious year. He was a little hasty running the bases. But at least he didn't make his out before the Dodgers scored that go-ahead run. He helped in that inning, in some small measure. Loretta got to come up without the pressure of there already being two outs. A small benefit. This is how we measure Martin's contributions now, in very small doses.

Martin ends up 1-2 on the day, with a walk. That's a solid game. It is. But the questions still linger. Martin never hit the ball hard. Right now he's getting by on patience and persistence. When will the power return? When will our Russell return? We can still only guess.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 1
Belisario -- 1
Loretta -- 1

One run allowed in six innings. Four outs in relief against the toughest part of the Athletics lineup. A pinch hit go-ahead RBI. That is the story of today's Dodger shares.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Athletics )

Zeigler -- 1
Sweeney -- 1
Cabrera -- 1

The losing run allowed in relief. A pinch hit game-ending double play. A rally ending double play and a caught stealing. That is the story of today's Athletic shares.

18 June 2009

Game 66 Unfair Loss Shares

In a comment on the last entry berkowit28 urges me to keep writing here, even though few visit, or at least few comment. I don't know how many visitors come here, and I'm not sure I want to find out. Better to labor in ignorance than learn the awful truth, eh? I don't know where visitors would come from --- not from any search --- I suppose a few people may click on the link from Dodger Thoughts. Most other Dodger blogs dropped Dodgerama links back when I stopped writing entries consistently. I'm like the old player hanging on in the independent leagues, hoping for another shot that will probably never come. But I still enjoy it, especially now that I found a gimmick to keep me writing every day.

Due to circumstances outside of my control that I will not recount here because that would just be boring, I missed most of the last half of last night's game. I was eventually able to follow the last inning on a computer with an ancient browser, which meant that gameday wouldn't work, which meant that I had to follow the game by refreshing the play-by-play screen constantly. I was so happy when Furcal reached first in the ninth inning, and Hudson had a 1-1 count. No outs, winning run at the plate --- I thought for sure the Dodgers would come back again. And then ...

O Hudson bunt popped out to pitcher

Noooooooo! Bad O-dog! Bad! Argh. gack. Splutter.

What actual dog act would equate with this thing the O-dog did, this horrible pop out bunt? I think the actual dog act that most compares would be humping the leg of an IRS officer who came to audit you, and then pooping in his briefcase. The hump is the bunt, and the poop is the pop.

Why was Orlando bunting, anyway? Did Torre tell him to? Was it Orlando's idea? I don't think I want to know. But if you're going to bunt, at least get it down, or get to two strikes so you can start swinging away again. Back in my day men knew how to bunt. Brett Butler once had over 200 bunt hits in a season. Okay, he didn't, but it really is true that no one can bunt as well as Brett Butler anymore. He was amazing.

The second worst moment of my play-by-play adventure was seeing this:

M Kemp grounded into double play, second to shortstop to first, A Ethier out at second

When I first opened the play-by-play I was reasonably pleased, because the Dodgers had cut the A's lead to 5-4, where it had been 5-1 last I knew. But going back to look at how the Dodgers scored and seeing that Kemp hit into a double play ruined that feeling. Not even seeing all those A's errors littered through the play-by-play could make up for it. At least I didn't have to see the DP live. And I didn't have to see Orlando's bunt pop out either. So I guess in a way it all worked out. Except for the part where the Dodgers lost.

I'm letting the O-dog off because he had a pretty good game outside of that thing he did in the ninth inning.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Kuroda -- 1
Loney -- 1

I wasn't too impressed with Cahill, back when I could watch the game, so he doesn't get any reward. Home run guys Cust and Davis are selected, as is Bailey, who actually held a one-run lead for the visitors in Dodger Stadium. That's almost been impossible lately.

Unfair Win Shares ( Athletics )

Cust -- 1
Davis -- 1
Bailey -- 1

17 June 2009

Game 65 Unfair Win Shares

Going into the eighth inning, it looked like a routine low-scoring Dodger win. The Dodgers had their best relievers lined up, with Belisario having already answered the call. The Troncuilizer would Tronc them in the eighth, and then Big Bad Jon would maul them in the ninth, and the Dodgers would win 2-0, or something close. Back then the offense was in danger of not picking up any unfair win shares. Blake had the best case, but he still had just one RBI. Kershaw and Belisario demanded appreciation for seven shutout innings, and there was a real chance that either Troncoso or Broxton might pick up the last share.

Troncoso started the eight in shaky fashion, giving up two baserunners in three batters, but it still seemed like everything was in control. The double play grounder was coming. We'd seen it before. Giambi up at the plate. He was hitting less than 0.220. Giambi was no threat, not to an ace reliever like Troncoso.

And then: Blast!

That thing just snuck over the wall. I remember being stunned, not able to process what I just saw. How could ---? What? Why isn't the ball bouncing back onto the field? Just like that the Dodgers trailed.

Okay. Oh well, they can reel the A's back in. They only trail by one. The game was fundamentally changed, but victory still seemed possible, even likely. These are the Dodgers. They rally. They win the close games.

And then Bobby Crosby hit a home run. Troncoso had been hit with his own neurotoxin, it seemed. Now he was Troncuilized. Torre made the grim walk to get him. I made the grim assessment that maybe the game wasn't the Dodgers to win. I think the second home run hurt more than the first.

The A's have an average bullpen. Not great, not awful. But Wuertz is pretty good, and the A's must have thought they were close to a win when he came out to start the bottom of the eighth. He had already shut down the Dodgers in the seventh. He strikes out a batter per inning. He was giving up less than a baserunner per inning. ( But not anymore, not after the Dodgers were through with him. ) That's a good reliever. Didn't matter to the Dodgers. They started their comeback against him. Blake drove in another run. Another pitcher came in. A walk. Yet another pitcher came in. Kemp got a hit, then broke up the double play on Ethier's grounder to allow the tying run to score. Geren tried everything he could to stop the Dodgers, win the game, and it was never enough.

Geren even won an argument with an umpire on an out-safe call at a base. I don't know if I've ever seen that before. Usually they consult each other on fair/foul calls, or hit batsmen. But it was the right call. And it didn't matter. Geren was doomed.

The Dodgers wouldn't be denied.

Halfway through that clip you see Geren, disgusted, turning away. That's what it's like to face the Dodgers. You do everything you can, and you still lose.

After that, the clip shows Ethier choking Kemp at the bottom of the pile. How dare you get the walk off hit! Only I may get the walk off hit! Die die die!

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Blake -- 1
Kershaw -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Athletics )

Cust -- 1
Wuertz -- 1
Ziegler -- 1

16 June 2009

Back in my day the umpires were men

In the old days that never happened. A man made his call and stuck with it. That's what real men did. Back in my day. Yep.

They didn't do what Jim Joyce did. They didn't ask for help after making the call. They didn't crumble when the manager came out and argued. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Joyce. That's a girls name. Go umpire in the WNBA, Joyce.

Oh sure, the managers came out and argued in the old days. Heck, they argued more than they do now. They could argue in their sleep, which was important, because a lot of managers sleep-walked through games back then. Why, Tommy Lasorda once argued with every umpire in a game. He argued for the cycle. Then he picked up every single base and tossed it in anger. Then he wrenched out home plate and threw it like a frisbee. Then he levitated the pitching rubber with his mind and hurled it up into the red seats way up high, back when those seats were still red, back before they changed the color of those seats because red was too frightening. Man, they knew how to argue then. None of this sissy calm talking stuff some managers favor these days. And yet for all that arguing, it never did any good. Never. The umpire made his call, and that was that. That was a man's way. That was the American way. My way or the highway. You went out and argued to show them that you were tough as nails, not because you thought you could win the argument. It would have been insulting to win the argument. What, do you need charity?

But now? Now the umpires' spines are made of rubberized warning track. Soft and squishy and bouncy, they are. They consider. They consult. They ask the most emasculating question possible. What do you think happened? I'm not sure. Hey guy. Hey umpire guy, who has to ask other umpires because he doesn't have the brass to stick with his original call. How did this happen, umpire guy? When did you become the UN out there? If Americans in 1775 were like the umpires are now we'd still be kissing the King of England's pinky ring. Or Queen. Whatever.

Man. Back in my day. Everything was better.

15 June 2009

Game 64 Unfair Win Shares

Billingsley went 7 innings yesterday! Dodger pitchers don't do that very often.

It seems Torre wanted him to go 8, but Billingsley was pulled after giving up a single to the first batter of the eighth inning. If Torre was going to have such a quick hook there, why even run Billingsley out there in the eighth inning, though?

Here is a list of Dodger starters, with number of seven inning starts out of total starts made.

Billingsley -- 8/14
Wolf -- 4/14
Kershaw -- 3/12
Stults -- 1/9
Kuroda -- 0/4
Milton -- 0/4
McDonald -- 0/4
Weaver -- 0/3

The Dodgers have only 16 starts of 7 innings or more, and Billingsley has half of those. I say "only", but this probably isn't too far out of line with what most other teams do. As one would expect, the Dodgers are terrific when they get seven innings from their starter, with a 13-3 record. This means their record when the starter doesn't go 7 innings is 29-19, which I find kind of incredible. I'd be delighted if the Dodgers could finish the season with that kind of winning percentage ( above 0.600 ) much less do it in games where they have to lean on the 'pen and the offense a bit more.

Blake was the offense on Sunday. He drove in the first run, turned the game around with his two-out three-run bomb in the third inning when the Dodgers were threatening to waste another promising rally, and started the two run rally in the seventh inning that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Blake -- 2
Billingsley -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rangers )

Murphy -- 1
Holland -- 1
Guardado -- 1

14 June 2009

Game 63 Unfair Win Shares

My nightmare that the Dodgers would lose all 15 of their 15 straight interleague games can now be put to rest. I suppose now I could have a new nightmare that they will go 1-14 in these games, but the win restores perspective wonderfully. It reminds me that yes, this really is a good team ( how could I doubt that ) and that they won't just fall apart against American League competition as past Dodger teams have.

The pitching yesterday was typical of the Dodgers at their best, with a strong yet short start, followed by excellent 'penmanship. The offense was not typical of the Dodgers at their best, as it featured a home run rather than an extended rally of singles and walks. Kemp hit his home run with a man on first and two outs, and to me this is the situation where team power is most rewarded. You might score that man from first with a couple of singles, but with two outs there is no margin for error. If you're hoping for a multiple run inning it's even harder to get there with singles and walks. The home run is the shortcut here. Instant offense, as they say.

Wolf's start was short, but of course this isn't his fault, due to the lengthy delay caused by the failure of the lights. Maybe this is a blessing for Wolf --- he might have struggled in the sixth or seventh inning, and lost his good start. Instead he's forced to call it a night after five and secures a reversal of his recent poor pitching. One thing hasn't changed, though. He gets another no-decision.

The Troncuilizer had another good game, bailing out Belisario and then setting up Broxton's save in the ninth. I think we've reached the point where Troncoso is the clear number two behind Broxton. This is a good bullpen.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 1
Troncoso -- 1
Kemp -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rangers )

Murphy -- 1
Cruz -- 1
Grilli -- 1

Game 62 Unfair Loss Shares

A day late, but that will happen sometimes on a weekend. Too many things to do outside, in fact I missed most of Saturday's game ( game 63, whose entry will come soon ) because of that.

berkowit in the comments from the last game argued that hockey gives superior intensity to basketball, and while I don't have anything to say about the relative merits of basketball and hockey, I will report that I did watch the third period of game seven between the Wings and Pens and that it was great. The Wings came so close to tying it as time ran out. This occured during the late innings of the Dodger game, so this is another reason why game 62 sort of disappeared for me.

This entry is also late because Friday's game was so terrible, so thorough and frankly boring a defeat. The Dodgers just couldn't get anything going, though they had chances. Kuroda had an average start that turned into a bad start. The Dodger offense had a promising start but foundered on Loney's failures. That's two of the unfair loss shares right there, and the last goes to hitless Kemp instead of hitless Martin because I expect more out of Kemp at this point, frankly. That's not fair maybe, but you know how this goes. It's right in the name of the shares.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kuroda -- 1
Loney -- 1
Kemp -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Rangers )

Teagarden -- 1
Padilla -- 1
Jennings -- 1

12 June 2009

NBA Finals Game 4 Unfair Win Shares

Basketball has an intensity that baseball just can't match. Intensity comes from immediacy. Down the stretch of a close basketball game the action rushes at you. ( At least when there isn't a time out. ) There's no buildup to the moment when the slugger comes up as the tying run at the plate. That moment is already there. It's always there. Facing Dwight Howard is like facing the Cardinals with Albert Pujols at the plate, and Albert Pujols on deck. Only at the last second Pujols can be replaced by a different batter who can do something entirely unexpected, like lay down a perfect bunt double. Basketball is so unpredictable in that way. Observe: Kobe is going to take that last shot, we all know it, up until the moment when instead it's Fisher.

I need the adrenaline rush of basketball. These games, these playoff games with the Lakers, they are a ride unlike anything Dodger baseball offers. When a Laker playoff game and a Dodger May or June game is on at the same time, the Laker game gets the big TV. I love the Dodgers more, and ultimately I think following them offers more, but this is basketball's time, this is the time when it seizes me and I yell happily, or in frustration, or in despair, or in dizzy disbelief at what I just saw happen.

Fisher. I didn't yell at his first three, the one he hit with less than five seconds in regulation of game four. I was stunned, happy, but also guarded, knowing that so much time remained.

I yelled at his second three. It just felt like that was it, that was the victory. Sure, there was half a minute left to play, but the Magic didn't really play it. That second Fisher dagger was too much for them.

All season long, Fisher was bad, or mediocre, or just okay, more often that he was good. All playoffs long, Fisher was bad more often than good. Missed three pointers, botched fast breaks, ill-advised pull up jumpers --- and then in the biggest game yet, with time running down, with the Magic about to look the Lakers in the eye and claim the higher ground Fisher found the ball in his hands, and ...

Pulled up, for a jumper, for a three, and hit it.

On the strength of that, and just that, he gets an unfair win share. That's the way basketball is, sometimes. One play saves all.

Ariza was the heart of the third quarter comeback, the first occasion for the Lakers to rise from the dead, and he gets an unfair win share. The last goes to Gasol, so strong in the post, defending both Howard and Lewis into bad offensive games. Sometimes I wonder if Pau Gasol is really, secretly, often stoically, the Lakers' best player. I know it's really Kobe, and I love Kobe, but I also hate him, hate him for when he goes into isolation, forgetting his teammates, seeming to forget everything, just him against the other team, against the world, against the failures of his own teammates, against the great players of the past, agsint his own demons --- against --- I don't really know. Kobe shot horribly in game four, and that's why he doesn't get an unfair win share. Too much hero Kobe. But not too much to win. He found Gasol for the basket that cut the deficit to three; he found Fisher for the dagger three in overtime. It was just enough of leader Kobe.

Pietrus gets an unfair loss share for taking a horrible shot to end regulation, and Lewis gets two for disappearing in a game where he could have easily tipped things to the Magic's favor. Dwight Howard maybe deserve an unfair loss share for his bonked free throws, but his work on the boards and the defensive end are so good I just can't do it. But think about this: How crazy is it that the Magic now have two infamous NBA Finals meltdowns involving missed free throws, but neither one involved Shaq? Shaq is, after all, the most famous charity brick layer in NBA history, and he started his career with the Magic.

Basketball has me right now, soul and nervous stomach, and baseball seems a distant second, at least for a little bit longer. And yet, in my memory, and in my thoughts of the future, baseball wins. Baseball is better. I can't really explain why, except this ...

Baseball has Vinny. And basketball doesn't, and never could have. Vinny could have been a basketball announcer, I'm sure, and he would have been a good one. But it wouldn't have been the same. Vinny fills the silent moments. He amplifies the speechless moments. He weaves history into the present. He discovers the character of each game and brings us into near conversation with it. You can't do those things in basketball. You just can't --- it has few silent moments, it has little sense of history. And that's okay, not everything has to be the same. But that's why baseball is better.

Unfair Win Shares ( Lakers )

Ariza -- 1
Pau -- 1
Fish -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Magic )

Lewis -- 2
Pietrus -- 1

11 June 2009

Game 61 Unfair Loss Shares

After the seventh inning I started thinking about who on the Dodgers would get the unfair loss shares. Up until then I had kind of assumed ( without even thinking about it ) that the Dodgers would come back, score some runs, probably win the game. Once the Dodgers failed to score after putting Blake and Martin on with no outs the game felt different. That was their one great chance, and Kemp blew it when he struck out into a rally-destroying double play.

I tagged Kemp and Kershaw for the likely unfair loss shares after that seventh inning, with the third yet to be determined. I hoped it wouldn't come to that; I hoped that Kemp might even come up in the ninth to again change his own fate. That didn't happen. You don't always get another chance.

I gave up on the game with an out to go in the ninth inning, after Blake hit into the double play. I rarely give up on a game until the last out, especially a two run game. Double plays are my one weakness. I watched Martin go out, but without any true hope that the Dodgers could do something. I'm even tempted to give an unfair loss share to Blake for that DP, but he did have a double so I'll give it instead to Hudson who did nothing good, as has too often been the case lately. Good times will return again, for Hudson and the rest of the Dodger offense. I'm sure of it.

The Padres pitchers are triple dipping into the unfair win shares. Kevin Kouzmanoff, so often the goat when the Dodgers beat the Padres, has a decent case for a share with two hits, an RBI, and a run scored --- but let's be serious --- he was actually out in the first inning. Correia gets two for pressing "2003" on the time machine from the second through sixth innings and acting like the Dodger offense was from that offensively challenged year. Seriously, this is the type of game I remember from 2003 --- great bullpen work from the Dodgers, but not enough offense to contend. That leaves one last share for one of the Padre relievers, and it goes to Mujica for getting the most dangerous Dodgers of them all lately, Andre Ethier.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Kershaw -- 1
Hudson -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Padres )

Correia -- 2
Mujica -- 1

10 June 2009

But Let's Be Serious

From a recent Rob Neyer blog entry comes the most awesome and bizarre smack-down of the Dodgers ever:

The current Red Sox-Yankees series, aside from featuring the two best teams in the majors -- with apologies to the Dodgers, but let's be serious -- also features two of the game's great first basemen.

Let me imagine a conversation between me and Rob Neyer, based on an attempt to think like someone who got paid to write the above would think:

Me: But the Dodgers are 5 games ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox in the overall standings.
RN: The National League sucks!
Me: The Dodgers have a run differential---
RN: National League!
Me: Are you saying that a 0.500 team in the AL would win 94 in the---
RN: NL sucks!
Me: Yes, I see.

I do see. The National League is a disgrace and a blight upon the national pastime. In that spirit, I will present the most serious and correct power rankings ever devised.

The "But Let's Be Serious" Power Rankings:

1. New York Yankees. Why? Come on, it's New. York. City. They play in a brand new and very very expensive stadium. They have various Steinbrenners. And of course, they have the best record in the only division that matters in the only league that matters. (ODTMOLTM) They are one half of the only baseball rivalry that matters. They are the New York bleeping Yankees. It doesn't get any more serious than that.

2. Boston Red Stockings. ( Can't go with Sox, you see. Not serious enough. ) Why? Do you need to ask why? Just look into the eyes of any Red Stockings fan and you'll know why. Tied with the Yankees in the ODTMOLTM. They are the other half of the only baseball rivalry that matters. The Red Stockings are as serious as death. Along with the Yankees, the only team that seriously matters.

That's it. That's the power rankings. No other teams need apply. But they did, anyway, those spunky irrelevancies. So now we'll have the order in which the somber power rankings panel was least offended by their applications for the "But Let's Be Serious" Power Rankings.

1. Toronto Blue Jays. Pros: They play in the ODTMOLTM. Cons: A whole game and a half behind the Red Stockings and Yankees. A game and a half! Are you kidding me? Get that weak $%^& out of here, Toronto. You can't possibly be in the conversation with those teams. Come back when you're at least 3 games ahead of the Yankees or Sox, and not in Canada anymore, and then we'll talk.

2. Texas Rangers. Pros: They play in the only real league. Cons: Not in the AL east. Play in flyover country. A full game back of the Yankees and Red Stockings. May not be a real team.

3. Philadelphia Phillies. Pros: Won World Series last year. Are on east coast. Only fan base that can compete with Yankees and Red Stockings for being serious. Cons: Are National League team. Their NL record of 33-23 would be 10 games worse in the only league with real baseball teams. World Series win doesn't count because they didn't beat the Red Stockings or Yankees.

4. Detroit Tigers. Pros: They play in the only league that matters. Cons: Not really that good.

5. New York Mets. Pros: Are New York team. New York! That's some serious east coast seriousness. Breathe same air as Yankees. Cons: Kind of suck. Not worthy of breathing same air as Yankees. Also, National League!

Let's skip ahead to the Dodgers:

14. Los Angeles Dodgers. Pros: None, unless for some reason you want to be ignorant enough to count 40 wins in a vastly inferior league. Cons: Play on west coast, where everyone is too laid back and they don't care about winning or the playoffs. Play in National League West, the worst division ever, a division so bad the 1962 Mets would win 90 games in it. If the Yankees were in the NL West they would have 70 wins and negative 10 losses right now. That's thirty games better than the Dodgers! So please, let's be serious, and dispense with the idea that the Dodgers even belong in the conversation with the Yankees and Red Sox.

So, Dodger fans, next time you think maybe the Dodgers are the best team in the major league, imagine Rob Neyer shaking his head at you and saying, "But let's be serious." It's the reality check you needed.

Game 60 Unfair Win Shares

For the Dodger unfair win shares, RBI and home run men Ethier and Kemp are easy. The last choice is a pitcher, and is more difficult. It comes down to timing and effectiveness. Broxton, Billingsley, and the Troncuilizer all struggled, allowing multiple baserunners per inning pitched, though none had a disastrous performance. Belisario and Leach were the only spotless Dodger pitchers, though Leach only pitched to one batter. Moreover Belisario held the Dodgers' two run lead in the seventh inning, and prevented Gonzalez from coming up with a man on base. That was an under-the-radar clutch moment, in my opinion, and gets him the unfair win share. Sometimes relievers will get them for one good inning, if the circumstance is right.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Belisario -- 1

After losing pitcher Young this is a weird one for the Padres. Giles and Kouzmanoff each had a hit in the game, and each had at least one RBI. But both of them also left many many runners on base. Kouzmanoff had a terrible strike out against Troncoso in the eighth inning --- he whiffed on ball four, and Gonzalez was at first, and the next hitter would go on to single --- it seems that every time the Padres play the Dodgers Kouzmanoff has a hand in killing a few rallies.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Padres )

Giles -- 1
Kouzmanoff -- 1
Young -- 1

08 June 2009

Game 59 Unfair Loss Shares

Q: Isn't this post a day late?
A: Yes.
Q: But why?
A: I had nothing to say about that game. It was a forgettable game, in a season that has had so few forgettable games. It happens.
Q: What about Wolf?
A: I find nothing noteworthy about his performance.
Q: Aren't you worried that he was hit hard for a second straight start?
A: No! Well, I was a little bit yesterday, worried I mean, but not at all today.
Q: Why not?
A: Wolf will have bad starts. He wasn't going to go all year with an ERA of 2. Most of the time he'll give the team a chance to win. That's enough. And --- he would only have given up 3 runs if Torre had sensibly pulled him after six innings.
Q: Didn't the bullpen need a rest?
A: Yes, and they got a nice rest yesterday, on the off day. Wolf needed to come out after six innings on Sunday too. There are many needs that must be balanced.
Q: But don't the needs of the many outwiegh the needs of the few?
A: Meaning the bullpen is many, and Wolf is the few, I suppose. The bullpen had to throw 2.2 innings anyway. Wolf was done, and Torre should have seen it. But it's not a big deal.
Q: What about Park?
A: That's just mean, bringing him up. This interview is over.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 2
Ausmus -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Phillies )

Ruiz -- 1
Feliz -- 1
Park -- 1

07 June 2009

Game 58 Unfair Win Shares

It would be easiest, I suppose, to just give out one unfair win share per home run hit in Saturday's 3-2 Dodger victory over the Phillies. Such a bounty for the offense would mirror what I did for the Friday night comeback, when in the immediate aftermath of the unexpected victory I piled two unfair win shares into Ethier's column for just a single hit. berkowit28 asks if one of those might better have gone to Broxton, and I think that this is a worthy point, that it might have been fairer if it had. But in general run scoring is easier to reward than run prevention, and in that particular case the game swung from still likely defeat to win in the moment Ethier connected with Lidge's pitch. Without Broxton's fine work previously Ethier's hit would not have won the game, but there are so many other pitchers who allowed that final moment to happen as well: Troncoso, Leach, even Mota, in his way.

The pitching was amazing in yesterday's game. From the Phillies, too, though they lost. I could just as easily reward every spotless Dodger pitcher with an unfair win share, and forget about the offense, which was lacking iron, as the cliche goes, more or less. But there were four Dodger pitchers unscored upon: Kuroda, Troncoso, Broxton, and Wade. Broxton would have to be let out for only pitching one inning. A pity that I don't treat the two comeback wins over the Phillies as a single entity from which to award the unfair win shares, because then Broxton would have two scoreless inning on which to build his case, and the Troncuilizer would have three scoreless innings for his case. Well --- I always knew that relievers would often go underappreciated in the unfair shares system. They are more likely to be noticed for blowing a game then helping win a game. Just like in real life.

Ethier will have to get an unfair win share. You can't hit two home run in a win and not get one. Well, actually, you can, as Ethier proved earlier in the season in Hudson's cycle game, which was also Billingsley's finest start of the year, arguably. So, I will try again: you can't hit a game winning home run and not get an unfair win share. But Ethier will have to settle for just one for this game. If his home run had erased a deficit and granted the win all at once, like his double on Friday, then he might have a case for two.

Surely the pitching deserves the other two unfair win shares. Yes, it does. But what am I to do about Furcal then? When Furcal came up as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning against Brad Lidge with one out and no one on, the last thing I was thinking about was a home run. Furcal just isn't that hitter anymore. Last year, before the injury? Sure. He was like a Manny who could play shortstop back then. Now he's like a Juan Castro who sometimes makes bad throws. That's probably unfair to Castro, who is hitting better than Furcal right now, and also unfair to Furcal, who is long-term surely a better hitter than Castro. I wouldn't say I had no hope when Furcal came up --- that would be strange given what I saw happen in the previous game against Lidge, but my hopeful thoughts tended toward Furcal somehow finding himself on first base, maybe through one of his strangely hard bunts. Not a home run. When he hit it, man, it looked like one. But it was close, so close, especially for how the ball had been carrying all day. ( Kuroda gave up some easy outfield flies in the early innings that seemed to carry way too close to the fence given how they came off the bats. ) At first I thought Werth had caught it. Even on the replays I could never tell. The ball is coming down, Werth closes his glove, the ball disappears. Into the glove or over the fence? I don't know. Only Werth's reaction after gave it away. The Dodgers were saved from defeat again, and Furcal has to get a share for that. Sorry, pitchers.

So the one share that the pitchers get will go to Kuroda, who pitched the most scoreless innings. Wade and Troncoso will get nothing. On the other side Lidge and Durbin get dinged. Such is the life of the reliever.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Furcal -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Kuroda -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Phillies )

Lidge -- 1
Durbin -- 1
Howard -- 1

05 June 2009

Ethier the lucky bum: Game 57 Unfair Win Shares

I had that sinking feeling with each stinking sinking Brad Lidge pitch that caught the corner of the umpire's fancy and was called strike. That pitch got Furcal for strike one, and for strike three as well. Both called, and Furcal didn't like it. The crowd didn't like it. I didn't like it. I guess they really were strikes, but I didn't want them to be. It wasn't fair. Dammit it wasn't. Not as unfair as Broxton's pitches, but that's different. Broxton is a good-guy. Lidge is Darth Vader. I'm not much for perspective or even-handedness in the bottom of the ninth down one. Not with just two outs left.

The nasty pitch on the corner was his slider, I think. Some of them might have been change ups. A nasty pitch, whatever. He gave some of those slider things to Hudson, who grounded pathetically out. I remember Lidge checking his throw to first for a moment, after fielding the little rolling comebacker, as if he couldn't believe how weakly that ball had been hit. It was as weak as the Dodger attack against Moyer. Again, a Philly pitcher who had no business shutting them down shuts them down. First Park back in Philadelphia, and then Moyer, but we can forget about Moyer doing it, because of how it ended. It never happened, you know? I don't have to hand out unfair loss shares to the hitters most responsible for not lighting up the creaky 46 year old starter, and therefore it never happened.

Back to Lidge. After perhaps contemplating how easy his save was going as he held Hudson's weak grounder, he lightly tossed it to first for the out. That's the second out, and the third out had to be right behind. This is where Data or Spock or young emotional Uhura-dating Spock would announce the terrible odds the Dodgers were facing, if this was Star Trek. Terrible odds! Point zero zero zero four eight percent, captain. We better all beam up and punch the warp drive and slingshot around the Sun so fast that we go back in time before this ever happened, that's how bad it is. Blake comes up against Lidge wearing a red starfleet uniform. Blake is a stormtrooper. The force is not with us. It's okay to mix Star Wars and Star Trek when things look this grim. I'd mix in some Last Starfighter tropes too if I knew any lines from that movie.

So Blake comes up, and he goes behind 1-2, and I know that pain is coming, and I'm thinking about picking up the remote so that I can switch off the TV as fast as possible after he strikes out, but that just feels too defeatist, you know? I'm supposed to have more faith in this team than that. Never give up on them, have faith Luke, turn off your targeting computer, blah, blah blah. Whatever. But I don't pick up the remote. And then Blake gets another evil slider, I think, but it's not quite perfect, and he hits it, and hard, and true, and into left field, where it is not caught, and that's a single. Wow. Huh. So now I can dream of an impossible Loney home run, and then after he goes out feel just a little more deflated than I already would have if it had just been a 1-2-3 surrender. Whoopee.

And Loney goes down in the count 1-2, but I'm not so sure of defeat this time. It seems like something has changed. Lidge can't hit that corner with the slider anymore. He goes to 2-2, then throws a fastball for a strike, but Loney fouls it off. Then two more balls follow, including ball four that is very close, and a very good job by Loney to lay off, and that's first and second and two out and now I guess the game is there to be tied. I start imagining a Martin single to left field, and then I imagine Blake being thrown out at the plate, I can't help it. Apparently Torre was imagining the same thing, because he hollers out at Blake to see if he should take him out, and Blake makes a great show of being ready to run, flexing his legs and all, but I'm not fooled. Dude's slow.

Now Martin swings at one of those sliders on strike one, only this one is about a foot off the corner. Aaaaauuuugggghhh. No no no. You don't waste a precious strike against Lidge like that Martin, that's like wasting water among the Fremen on Akkaris. ( I suppose Dune analogies are a little too far out in the outfield here --- we're talking the old Polo Grounds deep center field here. ) At least Martin lays off that same pitch the next time. But then he takes a nice hittable pitch for a strike. It's 1-2 again. Not again! And then Martin hits the next pitch, fairly well, but not great, and it's a hard grounder to third base. But Pedro Feliz boots it. Ex-Giant, Pedro Feliz, I always think of him. Always. He'll always be a stinking Giant to me. And this stinking Giant made a crucial error to keep the Dodgers alive. Ha ha ha! Can you spell Schadenfreude? ( Can you? It's not an easy word to spell. ) Bases loaded, baby. This is either going to be a wrenching loss or a hammering win.

Then Ethier comes up, and Brad Lidge throws a fastball right down the middle and Ethier connects and the game is over. Just like that. Crappy pitch right over the plate and Ethier gets to be the hero. Oh sure, Furcal and Hudson and Blake and Loney and Martin are thinking, we have to see all these nasty corner sliders and we barely escape with our baserunning lives ( some of us ) and then Ethier comes up and gets that easy pitch? Sheesh, some guys get all the breaks. No wonder they sent out Kemp to give the shaving cream towel pie in the face.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 2
Loney -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Phillies )

Lidge -- 2
Feliz -- 1

Game 56 Unfair Loss Shares

In his complete game shutout Hamels allowed just five baserunners, yet only faced 29 batters, two over the minimum. The three batters responsible for those missing three at bats get the unfair loss shares, though not only for that reason. In addition to hitting into double plays both Martin and Furcal were hitless and walkless and hopeless at the plate. Kershaw had a hit, but was out trying to stretch it into a double. But his real crime was too many walks, again. He's still a fine pitcher, and honestly two runs in 5.1 innings isn't bad at all, but it's not good enough when up against Hamels. I don't think I've ever given an unfair loss share to a starting pitcher who gave up only two runs before. Sometimes they are really unfair.

So what if the Dodgers face the Phillies in the playoff this year? It's not too unlikely, since both teams are in first place right now. Would the Dodgers have a chance against Hamels?

I don't know. Maybe he won't pitch that well. Maybe the Dodger pitcher could match him. Maybe Manny will be in the lineup and drive in some runs.

Maybe the Phillies won't make the playoffs. Right now that seems like the only way to stop Hamels. Let's go Mets!

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 1
Furcal -- 1
Martin -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Phillies )

Hamels -- 3

04 June 2009

Game 55 Unfair Win Shares

The Troncuilizer

Take a moment to appreciate Troncoso, the Troncuilizer. He faced adversity in the eighth inning last night, after Upton hit a rolling glue ball to Castro that he couldn't release from his glove. Hit, they called it, but I still wanted to see the throw, see Upton beat the throw, see the call of safe, if that was to be. It was a good pitch, and from it came the ground ball that the Troncuilizer works for. But still, that fast man was at first base, and they said it was Troncoso's fault, and I guess they had to. Base hit, and an earned run at first base, a blown save at first base, the beginning of a loss at first base, and he's fast. Upton is fast and strong and everything else you want a ballplayer to be. He's the Snakes' redemption for all the failed prospects before him, Young and Drew who can't hit, Quentin who was given up on, Jackson who has tumbled. Upton trumps them all. And he was at first, the ace of trumps standing at first, ready to steal second. At least he couldn't hit another grand slam from first base.

And so Troncoso had a two front battle against Upton at first and Drew at the plate. Troncoso must have paid at least as much attention to Upton as to Drew. When Drew struck out Upton was still at first. Maybe it wasn't just Troncoso, maybe they held Upton back. Maybe they told him not to go until there's at least one out. It was a mistake, if they did, because the Reynolds the next hitter singled, and Upton would have scored from second. Instead he galloped to third. And so then, in that moment, was the time of the Snakes redemption, with their best player at third and just one out, their best chance to make a stand, tie the game, then go on to win, take two of three from the mighty Dodgers. Maybe turn their season around, if you believe in that sort of thing, and I don't know that I do, but it makes a good story. That was the Snakes chance to come out of hiding and declare themselves. Some have suggested that the Dodgers are threatening to run away and hide in the NL West. But this is wrong, this metaphor is all wrong. The Dodgers don't hide. They are ferocious, huge and fanged, and they have made every other team run away and hide. The Giants are cowering in a closet corner. The Padres are under the bed. The Rockies have flushed themselves down the toilet. But the Snakes in this series against the Dodgers, they came out into the light, they came out fighting and snarling and bristling, and they gave the Dodgers their best shot with three great pitching starts, combining for just two runs allowed in 19 innings.

With Upton at third, Reynolds at first, one out, and Troncoso not yet defeated on the mound, Montero was the batter. The count went to 2-1. Then Troncoso got a swinging strike, something that broke down, hard, something that would have been a grounder if hit, I'm sure. And right then I knew Troncoso had him. That pitch would have to linger in the back of the hitter's mind, poison his reflexes just enough on the fastball. Two foul-offs followed, and then a simple, off-balance grounder right to Furcal. Easy play. Step on second, throw --- high! --- but Loney stretched up and had it, and the double play was secure. The inning was done, and the Snakes were done. Put to sleep by the Troncuilizer. Broxton would destroy the Snakes 1-2-3 an inning later for the save, but Troncoso faced the heart of the lineup and faced adversity on Upton's glue ball single and still came through, and that was the harder and more crucial task.

Loney's Triple

Should Parra have pulled up on Loney's opposite field bloopy liner down the left field line and kept it in front of himself? Concede the single but guard against the triple? I think he should have. Garland was going strong, no reason to be so desperate for the out. That's why Parra gets a second unfair loss share on top of the first for his terrible batting. If you're going to turn a play into do-or-die, and then you die, you will be punished for it later. At the other end of the play I loved Loney's hustle in getting down to third. And hey, he's not as slow as you think, if you think he's exceptionally slow. That was a triple! ( Do you think Pierre would have hit an in-play home run if he had been the batter on that play? I say yes. )

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 1
Billingsley -- 1
Troncoso -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Parra -- 2
Young -- 1

Facial Hair Share ( Snakes )

Zavada -- 1

03 June 2009

The Living Play: Game 54 Unfair Win Shares

In the bottom of the eighth inning, off the bat of James Loney, the ball hung, suspended between a home run and an out, like a Schroedinger's cat in a box about to decide: dead or alive. Alive! So it was, but not as the cat entered, serene and unruffled. It was not a highlight catch or a show stopping grand slam either, but a wilder beast altogether. Either catch or home run would have ended the action right there, and all that would have been left was the show. On the catch, Loney would have looked to the outer field, unbelieving, baffled, wondering, for a moment, when the real play would present itself, when he would get his just hit, only to quickly descend into grim acceptance that there was no hit, there was only a theft in the field, and a not-quite good enough mark on his best swing. On the catch, Chris Young would have held up the ball, even as he staggered, dazed, from the sheer effort and brilliance of the catch, and then he would have jogged in, all resolve and fire, like Kobe after a made three with a hand in his face as the clock tick ticks down to the void. Theatre. Loney and Young, acting their parts, and Schlereth too, redeemed and saved by the grace and balance of Young, but all signifying nothing. Because the play ended with the catch was made, and the rest was theatre, reaction, emotion.

On the home run, Loney would have slowed when he saw the ball clear the fence, and circled with leisurely joy, and building triumph. Young would have looked sadly up at the ball that was just too far, a failure not his, but stinging nonetheless. For the Dodgers the scene would play out, even as there was no possible play: of Loney and the Dodgers on base circling and scoring with no peril or tension. Again, as with the catch, the play ends when the ball decides. Alive, over the wall, and the rest is known, scripted.

Instead, chaos. Schroedinger's cat, or Schlereth's cat, perhaps, emerges, not dead, certainly alive, but not as it entered, a tame house cat. It is wild and feral, unpredictable. The ball bounces, rattles around, between Young, and the wall and the ground, as if it can't decide where it lives. The ball is alive. There is no time for theatre, for grand reaction. Upton, next to the staggering Young, must gather and throw. Loney must dig for second. Hudson, from first, must take the great circle path to home, as fast as he can, knowing that ball might meet him there, because it is alive. That is baseball, in its purest beauty. The living play, running, throwing, tension. A grand slam would have been instant glory, and I would have loved it, but not so well as I loved the bases clearing double and the subsequent slithering line drive off the bat of Casey up the middle of the Snake defense that put Loney home. The grand slam is to be preferred as a vehicle to winning, but my memory loves the bases clearing double and wild pitch and single more, the living play, the run that scores not when the ball clears the fence but when the runner touches the plate.

This is the team I love. They are made for the living play, the race around the bases. They are made for the comeback. The bullpen men stood strong, preserving the chance for the comeback, and preserving the sudden and surprising lead when it came. The entire lineup stood together, like a living wall, none allowing a breach, not even with two outs, until the job was completed. Loney was not the only hero, but his name is loudest in the cheers for the game that was.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 1
Weaver -- 1
Broxton -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Pena -- 2
Schlereth -- 1

02 June 2009

A Symphony of Angry Spinning Baseballs: Game 53 Unfair Loss Shares

I loved that game.

Oh, not the result. I wasn't too happy about that. And there were some hapless times in the middle. It was the end that got me. I loved the end.

Except, not the very end. I loved the lead-up to the end, I guess. Yes. Everything until the moment when Snakes left fielder Parra's glove closed on the fly ball and the last out was recorded.

I remember feeling stunned that Parra could just nonchalantly run off the field after he caught it, as if it was just another routine end of an inning. Didn't he feel the excitement when Loretta hit that ball? Or dread for him, instead of excitement, since he's a Snake. Didn't he think that maybe the ball would go out, even for an instant? And didn't he then think that the ball might tango with the foul line for a double? And didn't he then think that it might fall in for a single that he just couldn't quite reach? I thought those things. I felt them, and hoped, hoped, until the hope was caught and put out.

But I guess Parra had a completely different perspective. He saw the ball fly off the bat, and tracked it, coolly, cruelly, like a big game hunter with the latest high powered rifle who knows the prey is his. He tracked down that fly ball and killed it and the game was over, and he jogged in with trophy in hand.

The Dodger outfielders were all there in the ninth inning. Did you ever get the feeling that those outfielders are all going to collapse at the same time, and have terrible Junes, three awful Junes between them, until we are begging for a new "days of the month verse" that instead of beginning with "30 days hath September" begins with "A merciful mere dozen days hath June/ so Dodger outer fielders mayst end their swoon"? I just have this grim feeling that Pierre is going to come back to the salty earth, and Ethier will keep struggling, and Kemp will stumble into a pit of strikeouts and chased sliders, until we're thinking not even Manny's return could save this wretched outfield. But they all came through with hits in the ninth inning on June the first, so maybe that's a good sign that this grim feeling I'm having is merely indigestion at seeing so many wild pitches. Okay, so Kemp's hit was actually ruled an error, but I'm calling it pretty good anyway. The outfielders three helped to build up that inning to the point where I was up out of my seat ready for the moment when the win would carry me off my feet.

There was so much other stuff in that game. Kuroda's return, and Martin being gobbled up by angry spinning baseballs, and the Dodgers making a symphony of squandered chances, complete with double play section ( the brass ), strike out section ( woodwinds ), great defensive play section ( the strings ) and harmless fly out that seemed like a hit for a moment section ( percussion ). The only thing missing was the win.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Loretta -- 2
Leach -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Snakes )

Buckner -- 1
Whitesell -- 1
Gutierrez -- 1

01 June 2009

Game 52 Unfair Win Shares

How do you spell the name that sounds like h-o-f-m-a-n? If it's baseball royalty then it's Hoffman, like Trevor. But for new Dodger Jamie, more letters than just the "f" are doubled, so it must be Hoffmann, since none of the other letters would look right doubled. If Jamie Hoffmann hit a lot of doubles, we could call him Mr. Double, which would also describe his name. But though two of his three major league hits have been doubles, he's never been a great doubles hitter in the minor leagues, so that doesn't work. If he was a power forward who averaged more than 10 points and 10 rebounds, then we could call him Mr. Double-double. But Hoffmann is only 6-3, which is fairly tall but not tall enough to imagine him as a power forward or center, so that's out.

But say, what about Mr. Double Play? Not for hitting into them, but for starting them? Hoffmann's diving catch and subsequent throw home to double up Johnson at home is good enough to inspire a nickname, isn't it? He's started eight double plays from the outfield in five minor league seasons: that's good enough for me. If only "Mr. Double Play" was snappier. It sounds like the nickname of a low-level mafia guy. "Call Mr. Double Play. --- Why, are we finally going to whack the Zamboni twins? --- No, we need someone to babysit the Don's two kids."

Hoffmann is easy to spell, actually. Schlichting is the difficult one. ( Travis Schlichting was called up to the Dodgers after Stults was placed on the DL yesterday. ) If Schlichting has a sweet tooth, then he can be nicknamed the "C&H sugar man", which will help us remember that there are lots of "ch" combinations in his name.

I want to give "Mr. Double Play" an unfair win share for his great catch and throw out in the second inning yesterday, but Loney and Milton and Loretta just have better cases than him. Loretta especially was crucial --- after Kemp's strikeout with the bases loaded it seemed that the inning was on the verge of becoming a disappointment. A ground ball double play and the Dodgers would have to settle for only two. Instead Loretta turned on a pitch and doubled down the left field line, two runs came in and a third was set up for Mr. Double Play's sac fly, and the Dodgers were on their way to an easy win.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Loretta -- 1
Loney -- 1
Milton -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Cubs )

Marshall -- 3