31 August 2009

Reliever Revelation

The Dodger bullpen pitched 11.2 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday to help the Dodgers sweep the weekend and come out of Cincinatti with a 2-1 Series win. Every member of the Dodger 'pen participated in one of the two wins. They totaled 14 strikeouts, just 3 walks, and 11 hits allowed.

Jeff Weaver allowed 6 of those hits on Saturday. Weaver was the shakiest of the Dodger relievers, but he also had the hardest job of any of them, being asked to pitch multiple innings and preserve a tie after Charlie Haeger couldn't escape the third inning on Saturday. Weaver loaded up the bases once and escaped, then loaded them up a second time and watched as Troncoso recorded the last out for him.

On Sunday Troncoso, Kuo and McDonald each pitched a scoreless, two-strikeout inning when a run would have defeated the Dodgers. After the Dodgers scored in the top of the twelfth Broxton came in and gave up two baserunners, but then closed out the victory with two strikeouts.

It's impossible to pick out a single bullpen hero for the Dodgers. Broxton is the best they have but by himself he couldn't have done anything Saturday and Sunday. None of the bullpen members could even earn an unfair win share this weekend. But they were still essential to each Dodger win.

Game 130 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Furcal -- 1
Pierre -- 1
Kemp -- 1

The game was really close in the middle innings, and Jeff Weaver did some fine work in keeping the Dodgers from ever trailing, but he did give up 6 hits and require his own bases loaded bail-out. The offense turned the game into a rout and they get the spoils of victory. Between them Furcal, Pierre and Kemp drove in 7 runs and scored 5.

Game 130 Unfair Loss Shares ( Reds )

Maloney -- 1
Fisher -- 2

Game 131 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Kershaw -- 2

Kershaw set the two-strikeout per inning example that the bullpen pitchers would follow so successfully. And if not for Kershaw's fifth inning RBI single the 'pen wouldn't have even been pitching into the tenth, elventh and twelfth innings. Kemp ended the weekend with two home runs and two unfair win shares. He's closing in on Andre Ethier for the team lead in OPS among qualifying batters.

Game 131 Unfair Loss Shares ( Reds )

Votto -- 1
Cordero -- 1
Phillips -- 1

29 August 2009

Down Looking

I figured out who Manny reminds me of at the plate these days. It all came together when he watched a perfect strike three go by to end yesterday's game against the Reds. Manny is so out of sorts, so discombobulated at the plate --- he's swinging at pitches he shouldn't, he's swinging through pitches he used to hit, he's taking very hittable strikes --- he's lost. He's loster than than lost. Who is he, who does he remind me of?

Wilson Betemit!

Remember how awful Betemit looked in early 2007? So often he looked completely flummoxed at the plate, the low point coming against the Braves when he watched two beautifually hittable down-the-middle fastballs go by in the same at bat. During that time it just seemed that Betemit was guessing or hoping on every pitch. I think this pitch is a curveball that will break out of the strike zone, I've been burned on those so often --- no, it's a fastball down the middle. I hope this pitch is a fastball I can crush --- no, it's a terrible pitch you just struck out on. I think Manny is in the same kind of mental place. Now I don't know this for sure --- I don't know what either man was thinking, so in a way I'm guessing, and maybe my guess is as far off as Manny's guesses have been, but this is sure what it looks like.

This comparison isn't all bad for Manny. Right after Betemit had his infamous strikeout against Smoltz, when it seemed like he was the worst hitter in the world who would never collect another base hit in his life, right after that --- he hit two pinch hit home runs in a row. And he proceeded to hit better for most of the rest of 2007, barring a nasty late-June slump. In any case, this comparison offers hope for Manny. He's hit bottom, and now the recovery begins. I hope.

The crazy thing is that Manny shouldn't even have been up at the plate. With two outs and the bases loaded Andre Ethier swung and missed at a pitch for strike three. As he swung and missed the pitch hit his foot and bounced away, but at the moment the pitch hits Ethier it's a dead ball, and he's out by strikeout since he did swing at it. Game over. Except everyone just treated it as a wild pitch that got away, and all the runners including Ethier were allowed to advance. Here is a quote from the official rules: APPROVED RULING: When the batter is touched by a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead and no runner may advance. Seems pretty clear to me. I'm kind of stunned that the umpires got this wrong, and that Dusty Baker didn't argue, or the catcher didn't argue, or the pitcher didn't argue --- did that ball not actually hit Ethier, despite the visual evidence? Even if somehow it didn't hit him, it sure looked like it did, so wouldn't they argue even in that case? Do they just not know the rule? Am I getting the rule wrong?

I'm as confused as Manny at the plate, I am.

Game 129 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 1
Manny -- 1
Blake -- 1

Yeah, Billingsley had a poor game. He really did, allowing 11 baserunners in 5+ innings. But the heart of the Dodger order was just awful, going 1-13 with 7 strikeouts. They had pitches to hit against Homer Bailey, especially in the sixth inning, and just didn't hit them. I'll give the Dodgers this loss after their great series against the Rockies, but the truth is they did LOSE this game. Bailey pitched a lot better than last time but this was no Marquis-like performance. They let Bailey get away with a lot.

Game 129 Unfair Win Shares ( Reds )

Bailey -- 1
Gomes -- 1
Stubbs -- 1

I'm not buying that Bailey had a great start. The Dodgers were flat and he took advantage. He had a good start. It only seemed great because of how out of sorts the Dodger big boppers were. Maybe it was a Coors Field hangover effect.

27 August 2009

Seven-Bit Win

I'd rather watch a game on TV all things considered, but it is a lot of fun to hear the final outs of a really tight game on the radio. Not being able to see what's happening deepens the suspense and tension. Each pitch seems to crackle through the radio. I felt like I could hear the heat of Broxton's fastballs on the voice of the announcers. And then when it happens, when the final strike is swung, and the announcer erupts in excitement for the finish, then comes the best sound of all --- silence. The stunned unhappy silence of the crowd, for a dream denied, followed by the a deeper silence as I turn off the radio and feel only the serenity of the win.

Game 10000000 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Broxton -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Sherrill -- 1

Furcal scored and drove in a run, then made a questionable play in the ninth that left runners at first and second and one out. Having not seen the play I don't know what Furcal could have done, but the Dodger radio announcers seemed to think he left an out somewhere. Regardless of Furcal's play, I feel the day belonged to the Dodger relievers. After Padilla's strong five ( allowing two runs ) the Dodger 'pen took control of the game, and the series, and just maybe the season.

Kuo came first, and struck out three, and I'm just sorry I can't give him an unfair share as well. Troncoso was the weak link, I suppose, but even he wasn't too bad, giving a hit but getting two outs. Then the really tough work began. Picking up for the Troncuilizer with a man on second Sherrill struck out Seth Smith, then cut through the heart of the Rockie order in the eighth before running into a spot of trouble with a single to Hawpe. Broxton finished up the eighth, then mucked around a bit in the ninth before saying "screw it" and blowing away Eric the Younger and Seth Smith ( again! ) to end the game. Four scoreless in Coors Field, with 7 strikeouts. That is a spectacular performance by the Dodger 'pen.

Game 10000000 Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Smith -- 1
Young -- 1
Stewart -- 1

I almost gave Smith two shares. He struck out twice with the tying run on second, once against Broxton, once against Sherrill. But he did triple in a run and score, so he's only given the one. Young also went out twice with the tying run on second. Bad game. But he really looks like his father, doesn't he?

26 August 2009

Joe Torre is a Genius

I really should have known. I mean, I did know, which is why even as I was ranting and cutting loose with my frustration last night I added the caveat that Joe Torre should be fired only if both Broxton and Sherrill were healthy. It turns out Sherrill had a problem with his side, or something. Of course then Torre should have used Broxton ( in fact should have used him in the ninth instead of Troncoso ) but that is a battle that has long been lost. Torre will hold back his closer in road extra inning games every time. This is known and it will not change. Best to just accept it as part of the package.

The truth is I like Joe Torre. I think he's been a pretty good manager. He seems to get the team to play well more often than not. I'd rather have him than Tracy, that's for sure. So, Joe, I take it back. I don't want you fired. I offer my apologies, and promise to drink a cup of Bigelow Green Tea tonight.*

This series is about extremes. The wins leave me high and giddy and the losses leave me low and angry. You can see it from my entries. How high do I feel right now? High as an Ethier home run, I think. Either one will do. The Dodgers made sure this time and just hit the balls out of the park instead of taking the chance the Rockies would catch them again. Ethier, Ethier, Loney. Wolf was a bum at the plate but a hero everywhere else. Is he the new Dodger ace?

I think tomorrow's game favors the Rockies, slightly. It's a big game, with the Dodger lead swinging to either 2 or 4 depending upon the result. Though, honestly, I'm not sure it's that big of a game. I think in the end both of these teams are going to make the playoffs. But it sure feels like a big game.

Game 127 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Loney -- 1

Game 127 Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Fogg -- 3

*--promise will not be honored

Still Two Left

Remember that 14 inning win the Rockies had over the Giants on Monday? The most amazing thing about that game to me is that the Rockies went five innings without scoring a run when a single run would have won the game. Bottom of the ninth through bottom of the thirteenth --- nothing. All that pressure on the Giants for five straight innings and they never caved. Shoot, you almost have to make an effort NOT to score in Coors field. You can score runs just tripping over yourself there. The Dodgers really needed to score three runs in the top of the ninth, or at least follow up with a run in the tenth. I applaud the two they scored, I really do, but without a follow-up it was just delaying the inevitable. They had to take the lead back quickly but never did.

Game 126 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 2
McDonald -- 1

Until Manny had his clutch single to tie the game I had Ethier as the big villain. Really! Ethier was 3-4 with a walk but his one out almost cost the Dodgers a shot at a 4-4 tie, when he struck out with a runner on third and one out in the ninth inning. But after Manny's clutch hit Ethier was let off the blame, and it's just as well, because it would have been really strange to give a guy on base four times an unfair loss share. Instead my wrath descends upon Loney, who might even deserve three unfair loss shares. Instead he gets two, one for his sloppy throw and one for his terrible hitting.

Game 126 Unfair Win Shares ( Rockies )

Herges -- 1
Tulowitzki -- 1
Hawpe -- 1

Tonight's game is Wolf v. Fogg. If the Dodgers win, the headline will be "Dodgers Wolf Down Rockies". If the Rockies win, the headline will be "Dodgers Lost in a Fogg". Though there is a good chance neither starting pitcher will have much to do with the game in the end. Kershaw outpitched Hammel last night but it didn't do the Dodgers any good. Coors Field is like that.

25 August 2009

Fire Joe Torre

I take it back if it turns out both Broxton and Sherrill were hurt in the 'pen. I like McDonald as a pitcher, sure, but you don't go to him in the tenth inning of a tie game at Coors when you have those other options. I guess Torre was saving Broxton and Sherrill for a tag-team save if the Dodgers ever got a lead.

The Dodgers have collapsed. There is no getting around it. They have collapsed from a 0.670 team to a 0.500 team. They play like a team hoping to get the breaks they need to win the game. Anyone who watched that game can make excuses for the Dodgers. Good excuses, sensible, level-headed points. Screw that. I want no part of that. Make your own damn breaks, Dodgers. Hit home runs. Strike out hitters. Don't wait for the bloops to fall in, or lament the hard hit fliners that the Rockies catch. The Dodgers got lucky in the ninth with Pierre's single, and they got clutch when Manny drove in the tying run, but they didn't do enough before and after.

Fire Joe Torre. Fire him. Right now. It's easy to say because it won't happen. It's like cursing at the empty sky. It doesn't mean anything. Fire Joe Torre. It's just release of frustration. You know how Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts says his blog is his outlet for dealing psychologically with the Dodgers? Well saying "Fire Joe Torre" is my outlet for dealing psychotically with the Dodgers. FireJoeTorre Fire Joe Torre FIRE JOE TORRE!!! I'm going to be like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, typing it over and over.

Who would they hire? I favor Bob Dylan. Seriously. Why not? His decisions as manager would make just as much sense as Torre's do. He would be a natural at protesting games. He could ramble in the dugout and crack guys up but since no one could understand what he was saying the bench coach would be the de facto manager. Who is that, Mattingly? Man, I don't know. Bob Shaefer. I had to look it up. Sheesh.

Fire Joe Torre, hire Bob Dylan. He could wear his real last name on the uniform. Zimmerman. That would be cool. I'm all for it. I'm going to start an internet petition, just as soon as Juan Pierre hits his next home run.

The Revenge of Hideo

Can you imagine how much Giants fans must have wanted that game last night? Can you feel how much that loss must have hurt? That game was a Schadenfreude Symphony. That game Monday was a near must-win for the Giants. I'm sure it felt that way for most of their fans. The Giants entered the final game of the series three games back, after their excruciating come-from-ahead Lincecum-wasting loss on Sunday. If the Giants had won last night they would be two back, lose and they would be four back. That's such a huge difference. Two games back and you're still right there in it. Four games back, and ... and what?

Now let's be clear, even now when the Giants are seven games back of the Dodgers, and reeling, I don't count them out to rally and reel in the Dodgers. But let's be serious. The Giants' target right now isn't the Dodgers, it's the wild card spot, and that's held by the Rockies who are four games ahead. And even four games is a huge deficit with about six weeks of season left. You can overcome that kind of deficit but it's not easy, especially since realistically the Rockies are the better team. The three games the Giants have with the Rockies this weekend could help, but the Giants pretty much need to sweep at this point.

So four games back is a disaster, and the Giants were so close to avoiding that disaster. Even one run in the top of the fourteenth should have been enough, right, after the teams had combined for two runs through 13 innings? Instead the Giants scored three. They were going to win. The only problem? Someone switched Coors Field back on at the start of the fourteenth. The same run-scoring craziness that the Giants took advantage of in the top of the inning was also available for the Rockies in the bottom of the inning. How else can a bases loaded walk of terrible pitcher Adam Eaton be explained?

But for me it was payback. Sweet revenge, after all these years. I remember a game very similar that happened back in 1995. I remember watching highlights of that game with a Giants fan, neither of us knowing how the game had turned out. It was Hideo Nomo's first start ever in the major leagues. It was a big deal. But Hideo only went five innings, and the game went on far longer than that. No one could score through fourteen. But in the top of the fifteenth, the Dodgers scored three. A three run lead after a long scoring drought! Victory was certain. Sound familiar? I was sure that the Dodgers had won as they showed the highlights of those three runs scoring. I celebrated, not realizing the the highlight wasn't over. It wasn't over. I watched in mute horror as the highlights showed the Giants score four in the bottom of the fifteenth inning to win. Oh, the agony.

And now, finally, that loss is avenged. The revenge of Hideo Nomo, because I always think of that horrible 1995 loss as the Hideo Nomo game. It would have been better if the Dodgers had inflicted this parallel loss on the Giants, but I'll take it this way too. A game like this is more about the agony of losing than the thrill of winning.

24 August 2009

Farewell to the Cubs

Dodgers-Rockies in Coors is going to be very different than Dodgers-Cubs in Chavez Ravine was. This should be obvious, right? It's going to be a very different kind of baseball. The pitchers won't be in control anymore. A two run lead won't be safe for all eternity anymore. And I think that clutch hitting won't be as important anymore. If the Dodgers can put men on base I think they'll come around one way or another in Coors more often than not. So going in I feel that this series is pretty even.

Game 124 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Haeger -- 2
Blake -- 1

Both Blake and Kemp hit home runs on Saturday, but Kemp also lost a double in the sun, so Blake gets the nod. This was the game where Broxton pitched the eighth and Sherrill pitched the ninth. Three things about that. First, Broxton looked better than Sherrill in that game. Second, Torre should do this more often when the eighth inning looks like the more dangerous inning. Third, I don't think it truly matters what order they go in, since they're both good pitchers.

I haven't said anything about Haeger. What can I say? Only that if Padilla ever gets a start instead of Haeger I will be very upset.

Game 124 Unfair Loss Shares ( Cubs )

Bradley -- 1
Fukudome -- 1
Theriot -- 1

There were three major reasons I thought the Cubs would not be very good this year. Bradley, Fukudome, and Soriano. I thought Bradley would be injured a lot and the other two just not very good. Soriano of course has been terrible. Fukudome and Bradley have done okay. But not on Saturday. They went 0-8 with 5 strikeouts. And Theriot grounded out to end the game with the tying run on first base, so he gets the last unfair loss share.

Game 125 Unfair Win Shares ( Cubs )

Dempster -- 2
Fox -- 1

Game 125 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Billingsley -- 1
Hudson -- 1
Manny -- 1

Before the game, Dempster vs. Billingsley seemed like an even match. But what if you had known beforehand that both pitchers would do well through five, and that the game would turn on who mastered the sixth inning? When the matchup is looked at that way, it becomes a lot clearer that Dempster is the favorite, given Billingsley's recent struggles in the sixth inning and later. And so it turned out. Billingsley faltered in the sixth, and though he had a decent game, it wasn't what the Dodgers needed from him Sunday.

Hudson pinch-ground into a double play in the eighth inning and Manny was just putrid all game. Lately there has been too much of Manny being fanny.

22 August 2009

Wolf Flow

When Randy Wolf came up with two runners on and two outs in the second inning, I was very confident that he could drive in a run. And then I thought --- this is stupid, just because he had a great offensive game last time out doesn't mean he's going to --- At that point the thought stopped and the cheering started, because Randy hit a double off the first pitch he saw to drive in two runs.

The Dodgers are still leaving runners in scoring position, squandering chances. Only Wolf was able to deliver the big hit. But they won, so it's easier to take, and easier to look at rationally and say that it's just part of baseball.

Wolf was the undoubted pitching star of the game. Broxton was also terrific, throwing mostly unhittable strikes. It was a great rebound game for him. Sherrill was not so great. He got the job done, but I'm not sure I would say Sherrill pitched better than Broxton did last Wednesday when Broxton got the loss. Broxton walked Pujols to lead off his inning Wednesday, while Sherrill walked Soriano to lead off his inning. There's no comparison. There is simply no excuse to walk Soriano --- not only is he a much worse hitter than Pujols, but he's faster. Sherrill worked out of it with what turned out to be three fairly easy outs, but not before making a wild pitch and making a ton of pitches and generally looking like he might cough up the lead at any point.

Game 123 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 3

Broxton almost did enough to get one, but Wolf drove in two runs and delivered seven innings with just one hit allowed. Wolf earned the clean sweep, I think.

Game 123 Unfair Loss Shares ( Cubs )

Ramirez -- 2
Bradley -- 1

Aramis Ramirez gets one for his costly error in the second inning and one for his 0-3 performance with two strikeouts at the plate. Bradley was 0-4.

21 August 2009

August is the Goofiest Month

August Team Stats of NL West Contenders

Team | OBP | SLG | runs | wins

SFG | 0.333 | 0.420 | 75 | 10
Opp | 0.277 | 0.334 | 64 | 8
Dif | +0.056 | +0.086 | +11 | +2

COL | 0.345 | 0.487 | 103 | 12
Opp | 0.336 | 0.424 | 72 | 6
Dif | +0.009 | +0.063 | +31 | +6

LAD | 0.340 | 0.419 | 94 | 8
Opp | 0.304 | 0.355 | 71 | 11
Dif | +0.036 | +0.068 | +23 | -3

A Tale of Two Intentional Walks

Game 122 Unfair Loss Shares ( Cubs )

Soriano -- 1
Baker -- 1
Guzman -- 1

Top of the third, Cubs have just tied the game at two. Runners at second and third, and only one out. Weaver is a frayed thread from coming completely unraveled. This is the moment when the Cubs could have buried the Dodgers and won the game. Torre doubles down and walks Fukudome intentionally to load the bases. Soriano comes up, the $136 million disappointment, and he --- disappoints. Disappoints Cubs fans, anyway. Hear that? Hear that sound? You don't hear anything, do you? ( If you are hearing something as you read this, pretend you don't hear anything. Stuff some cotton in your ears. ) That nothing you hear is the sound of Soriano whiffing on three straight pitches. Three Jeff Weaver pitches. ( Okay, the first strike was a foul off, and that probably made a sound, but that's just a pesky detail. ) Then Jeff Baker came up, and he struck out on four pitches. And that was it for the Cubs. There would be no grand slam, or bases clearing double, or run forcing walk. There would only be disappointment, and the lingering question that defines the entire Cubs season so far: How could something that once seemed so promising turn out so poorly?

Game 122 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Martin -- 2
Furcal -- 1

Torre is getting kind of desperate, I guess. He manages like a man who doesn't believe in his team. He manages as if disaster will follow if the Dodgers allow the other team to pull one run ahead, which must be part of the reason why he risked loading the bases with one out in the third inning. ( Of course, a bigger part of the reason is likely that Fukudome is a considerably better hitter than Soriano. ) Torre also manages as if it is vital that the Dodgers pull ahead by even one run, even if the chance at a higher scoring inning is compromised. I believe that's part of why he had Hudson sacrifice Manny and Blake over in the bottom of the sixth inning. He wanted that runner on third with one out. The Dodgers struggle to get the big hit, so put them into a situation where they don't even need a hit to score a run, even if it means giving up an out and an opportunity for another baserunner.

Pinella was just as desperate, just as willing to raise the stakes as Torre. He ordered ( or allowed to be ordered, at least ) the intentional walk of Loney, therefore loading the bases for Russell Martin with one out. Through their choices both Pinella and Torre had essentially gambled the entire inning on Russell Martin's at bat. His at bat was a double play waiting to happen. It was a walk waiting to happen. It was a strikeout waiting to happen. It was a scoring fly ball waiting to happen. In this disappointing but still sometimes productive season for Russell Martin, it was everything waiting to happen except the one thing that happened. That will score a run! --- I shouted, when he hit it, a high and deep fly ball. Well, I was wrong. It would score four.

20 August 2009

Going Backwards

I guess I got over the loss during the long two hour drive back home after the game. I got what I wanted in that game, mostly. I wanted to see Kershaw pitch again, and I did, even if his outing was brief and his innings long. I wanted to see Matt Kemp play on his bobblehead night, and I did, even if he came up short at the plate and in the field. I wanted to see the Dodgers provide excitement, and they did. I wanted to see the Dodgers win. I guess 3-4 isn't too bad. A flawed three for four, with a deep sigh.

It ended for the Dodgers as it often does, with clutch outs. This is the curse of the Dodgers, that when they lose, they do it with their hands in the door, and when that door slams shut it hurts all the more. Monday's loss, in which the hitters went meekly down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, was an aberration. Last night they got a bizarre gift from Dennys Reyes when he plunked Ethier in his only pitch of the game, but Manny, Blake and Loney couldn't get him home.

The Dodgers were down a run because of what happened in the top of the ninth, and to really understand what happened there with Broxton I think we have to go pitch by pitch.


Strike (looking)
Strike (foul)

So far, everything is fine. At this point I'm thinking he will continue his dominance of Pujols.


Broxton loses Pujols and walks him. You just can't walk the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning of a tie game. I understand Pujols is an elite hitter, but Broxton is an elite pitcher, right? At least if you walk Pujols you'd better shut down everyone else. But that's not what happened.



Broxton has now thrown 6 out of 7 pitches for balls. That is poor pitching, no matter who you're facing. But the worst pitch is coming up.

Strike (looking )

Yeah, it's a strike. But Broxton completely ignored Pujols and let him get a huge jump. In my opinion this was Broxton's worst moment. Martin had no chance to get him, but threw to second anyway and made a bad throw.

In play, deep fly out to center, Pujols scores

So, after two batters, Broxton has allowed a walk, a stolen base, and a deep fly out. This is not a good outing, no matter what happens after. You can say that Broxton was unlucky that Pujols ended up on third after the steal, but then you also have to acknowledge that Broxton was lucky that his 3-1 pitch wasn't hit for a home run instead of just a deep fly out by Holliday.


Strike (swinging)
Strike (swinging)
Strike (swinging)

Broxton is still capable of excellence. I just wish he had found it against Pujols and Holliday.


In play, easy ground out

Broxton fell behind another hitter, something he does far too often lately, but this time he gets away with it. Broxton threw 18 pitches, half of them for balls. Sometimes you can get away with that, but more often than not you can't. Maybe in this particular outing you could argue that Broxton was unlucky, though I don't buy it. But I am sure that in the long run if you throw so many pitches out of the strike zone you will not be successful. I have no problem assigning Broxton a healthy dose of blame ( but not all the blame ) for this loss, even though he didn't give up a hit. There is more to it than what shows up in the box score.

I still think Broxton can recover from his poor pitching, and in any case the game was not all about him. There were the home runs in the seventh inning by Ethier and Blake, two of the most fan energizing non-game winning non-game saving home runs I've seen in Dodger Stadium. There was McDonald's excellent middle relief. There was Wainwright's dominance through six innings, and the early possibility of a shutout, or no-hitter, or perfect game. There was Kershaw's tough outing. There was Hudson's error that made Kershaw's third inning so much longer and harder than it needed to be. There was the official scorer bizarrely ruling that Hudson didn't make an error on that play. There was hope that the Dodgers would win. There were Matt Kemp bobbleheads. There was the feeling, when Kershaw first took the mound, that maybe I was about to see a really special performance. It didn't happen, but it was nice to think about.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Broxton -- 1
Martin -- 1
Kemp -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Cardinals )

Wainwright -- 1
Franklin -- 1
Molina -- 1

19 August 2009

Dodgers have a little Captain Hadley in them

Finally, the big hit was delivered, by none other than Chad Billingsley. When a pitcher leads the way on offense, the Dodgers win. I hope Kershaw takes extra batting practice today.

The seven runs the Dodgers scored makes it easy to dismiss the frustration of the first three innings, when the Dodgers stranded five runners. But I remember the concentrated dismay I felt, when it seemed that the Dodgers would let Boggs get the best of them. But the thing is the Dodgers will always have innings like that. Always. That's just part of the game when you get lots of men on base but don't hit a lot of home runs. It just gets hard to take when the stranded runners start piling up on top of the frustrating losses that have piled up on top of the blown saves that are piling up until you just want to scream STOP PILING!!!

I suppose the best news of the game was that Billingsley appears to be fully healthy again. He hit trouble in the sixth, again, but overall I think his mound work was a rousing success. Also successful was Jon Broxton, who didn't make me think he was back to his old form but also didn't stir up any trouble. And he continued his mastery of Pujols, who is now 1-10 lifetime against Broxton.

The best moment of the game came when Vinny started talking about protective cups, and which players wore them, and which didn't, and then he mentioned that Jose Oquendo the third base coach of the Cardinals said he never wore them, and then the camera showed Oquendo, and what the heck are we supposed to be looking at as the camera lingers on him? I think if the cameraman had zoomed in for a closeup of Jose Oquendo's crotch and then Vinny had said, "Well, it's hard to tell from this angle" it would have been the greatest moment in Dodger history.

Game 120 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Billingsley -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Hudson -- 1

On the telecast last night they gave Ethier player of the game honors. I would have gone with Billingsley. In fact I really want to give him two unfair win shares, but Hudson deserves one as well and of course Ethier can't be denied after his Pierre-style cycle. In the end two runs in six innings just isn't good enough to earn multiple shares for Chad, even if he did deliver the biggest hit of the night.

Game 120 Unfair Loss Shares ( Cardinals )

Boggs -- 1
Pujols -- 1
Holliday -- 1

Like Billingsley, starter Boggs may deserve two unfair shares, but again two hitters demand attention. Both Holliday and Pujols were 0-4. Pujols hit two wicked grounders to third that might have been hits if they didn't smack right into Blake ( who understandably couldn't field either cleanly ) but that's the way it goes sometimes for hitters. I give Billingsley and Broxton credit just for keeping him on the ground in those two at bats.

What do you think of when you hear the name Boggs now? Wade Boggs, the great third baseman for the Red Sox back in the 80's? Or Boggs from the Shawshank Redemption, one of the sisters who repeatedly violated Andy Dufresne during his first two years in prison? For me it's the latter. But wouldn't that be a great text message question thing for during the telecast last night? Now THAT would have been the greatest moment in Dodger history.

18 August 2009

Catching Up, With Vengeance

Game 116 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 1
Loney -- 1
Martin -- 1

This game was typical of the Dodgers losing ways lately. The starter stumbles, the secondary stars on offense do nothing. Both Loney and Martin were 0-4, with outs in clutch situations, when the Dodgers had a real chance to come back in the game. Simply put the Dodgers offense couldn't deliver the big hit. Sound familiar?

Game 116 Unfair Win Shares ( Snakes )

Haren -- 3

You could say, maybe, that Haren was just too good, both on the mound and at the plate. Maybe. I mean, there he is, getting every unfair win share for that game. But the Dodgers did have their chances against him. They had the tying run come up to the plate four different times after they went down 4-0. Once Martin struck out. Once Loney grounded into a double play with Kemp on deck. That should count as two blown chances right there, shouldn't it? Or three, given the great game Kemp had. Appalling, Loney. Then in the ninth, against closer Qualls, Hudson struck out and Loretta lined out.

It's maddening. I didn't watch or hear the game and yet I almost feel like I did. It's just like all the other losses when the Dodgers have their chances but never come through.

Game 117 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Broxton -- 2
Troncoso -- 1

After the home runs, after Broxton let the Dodgers down, the Dodgers had a chance to take the lead in the top of the tenth. With one out Kemp walked and stole second. The Dodgers had two chances to deliver a hit and take the lead again. Of course they didn't take either chance. Blake struck out. Loretta grounded out. And then they lost.

Game 117 Unfair Win Shares ( Snakes )

Davis -- 1
Montero -- 1
Reynolds -- 1

I really really hate giving Reynolds an unfair win share.

Game 118 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 2
Ethier -- 1

An anomaly. Sadly.

Game 118 Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Petit -- 3

Petit sure is a terrible pitcher. And that's how it seems to go lately for the Dodgers. They crush bad pitching. Sure, most teams do, but they punish bad pitching better than any team around. It's against competent pitching that the Dodgers come up short. They can't get the big hit.

Game 119 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Furcal -- 1
Hudson -- 1
Ausmus -- 1

The Dodgers went 0-5 with the third run on second base. A third run they would never get. They needed it. They keep failing when it matters. Yesterday it was Furcal twice, Hudson and Ausmus once. Haeger too, but he doesn't count, so call it 0-4 with that precious extra run out there. Even 1-4 would have made all the difference. Or maybe not. Then they would have lost in extra innings.

Game 119 Unfair Win Shares ( Cardinals )

Carpenter -- 2
Ankiel -- 1

Carpenter was good, just as Haren was three days previous. The Dodgers are losing to some good pitchers. I can see that. But again they had their chances. Good teams sometimes beat the good pitchers, you know. The Dodgers aren't playing like a good team any more. They still have time to change that. It could start today. Why not? Their turnaround last year came out of nowhere, and this year's team is a lot better than last year's team, and hasn't come close to the same nadir that the 2008 team hit. I don't know. I have nothing left to say about this team that is rational.

While I Was Gone

I heard one pitch of the series with the Snakes. It was Friday night and I decided to see if I could catch some of the game on the radio from the rustic cabin we were staying in. I fiddled with the knob and antenna until I could hear Vinny's voice, and I heard --- Kershaw give up a RBI single to Dan Haren. Spleesh.

I don't need this, I thought. So I turned off the radio and never turned it on again the rest of the time I was there.

I guess the biggest Dodger related story to happen while I was gone was Kuroda giving up a ground rule double off of his head. My mother told me that he was hurt badly when I talked to her on Saturday, but it was not until I was back home that I heard and saw the detail about the ball being hit so hard that it bounced off his head into the stands. I can't believe he's not hurt worse. He'll miss one start, and surely more after that? But maybe not, apparently. I would be amazed if Kuroda could come back so quickly, but the Dodgers seem to think he may do just that, since they haven't put him on the disabled list yet.

Jon Broxton gave up two home runs in that same game. I find that almost unfathomable. This is not the same pitcher we were watching at the start of the season. There is no way. The Jon Broxton I've been watching the last few years doesn't give up two home runs in one inning. Maybe he's hurt, maybe he's lost his command, I don't know. At this point I wouldn't care if the Dodgers made Sherrill the closer and Broxton the set-up man. I'm not saying that Sherrill is better; I'm saying that Broxton has declined to the point where I don't think it matters who pitches the ninth inning. I think there is a decent chance that Broxton recovers in the next month and regains the form he had at the start of the year, but that's not certain. Usually when someone criticizes Broxton I want to defend him but I just don't feel that way anymore. Now I want to join in the criticism. It takes a lot of mental energy to give him the benefit of the doubt now. It's so much easier to just assume he's lying about his toe being fine.

Wolf's incredible game was the third biggest Dodger news event while I was gone, or maybe the second, but I fear that I place Broxton's failure above Wolf's success. Yes, this is wrong. But that's the way it is these days with the Dodgers. The failures are obsessed over, with the victories few and forgotten. The team is doomed. Doomed! Well, I hope not. The truth is a winning tear could happen at any time, or not at all. There is no way to predict these things. It would help if the starting staff got healthy again.

I saw last night's game, and I wish I didn't. I feel like another vacation from the Dodgers. I'm this close to questioning the team's character and heart and will to win. I know that's a load of nonsense, but it would make me feel better.

12 August 2009

Into the Wild

My journey goes through a canyon, past a lake, through a desert, across the shoulders of mountains, then into the mountains, into the cool green under a brilliant blue sky. Away from the heat and noise, away from television and telephones and internet.

So Dodgerama pauses to meditate. The blog will return, perhaps wiser, early next week.

... and Awwww, darn it

Mota. So that's how they went down. A home run given up by Mota. You know, I feel like all the things I said about him early in the year are coming true again. It's like time is going backwards! If you see any contracting water ripples, look out. You might get eaten by a newly un-extinct raptor.

So, now for the unfair shares.

Game 115 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Blake -- 1
Mota -- 1

A number of Dodgers went hitless against Lincecum, but Kemp struck out three times, including once late with a runner on, and Blake hit into a double play early. I wonder, though, if I should take Blake's away and give a second to Mota. All of my old hostility toward him is coming back!

Game 115 Unfair Win Shares ( Giants )

Lincecum -- 2
Uribe -- 1

I was thinking that Lincecum might get all three before he gave up the tying run.

Believe it or not, I have one more post to make today, which will be coming shortly.


I let myself imagine it, almost as a counter to what I knew was coming. I didn't think it would really happen. I thought for sure Lincecum would get that last strike, and walk off the mound triumphant. He certainly deserved it, as those things go, given the brilliance of his entire outing.

I let the words play in my mind as Ethier stood at the plate with two strikes on him --- line drive single, and Furcal around third, and the throw is ... NOT IN TIME! Dodgers tie it! When Ethier hit a ball down toward first base, I thought that imaginary call was as close I would get to that sweet tying single, but no, it was foul. Still alive. I'm reminded of a much more important at bat, Kirk Gibson's duel against Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series, when Gibson fouled off a pitch down toward first base that just went foul. In that moment when you think the ball might be fair, and an easy final out, the game is OVER, if only for a moment, in the mind. It's a weird feeling to come out of.

When Ethier actually singled and drove in Furcal I was shocked. I'm still shocked, right now, as the Dodgers turn a double play to finish off the Giant rally in the ninth inning and send the game to extras. Though I expect I'm not as shocked as Giants fans. If the Giants go on to lose, they will only have their own bad offense ( and some bad luck ) to blame. Sure, the Dodgers threw out an effective patchwork of relievers, but I have to think the Giants will look back and feel that they should have scored more than two runs in their nine innings. How could the Dodger backup squad battle the Giant ace and reigning Cy Young to a draw?

Whatever the outcome of this game, I feel that the Dodgers reasserted their alpha status in the NL West. That is a welcome feeling after the way the Braves series ended.

Team Triple Crowns

It's really hard to win the batting triple crown. Everyone knows that. Hasn't been done since 1967.

It's so hard that even winning the triple crown on your own team is hard. Only three players lead their own team in home runs, RBIs and batting average this season. Here they are:

Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Pablo Sandoval, Giants

That's some hall of fame company the Kung Fu Panda is in. And he's not just winning the Giant triple crown because his teammates are so inept offensively. He has a very good traditional line of -- 0.330 -- 17 -- 68. So far Sandoval hasn't hurt the Dodgers much, with just two singles in eight trips to the plate. We'll see what Weaver and the relievers can do against him today.

Kemp and Ethier split the Dodger honors in the triple crown categories, by the way, with Kemp leading in batting average and Ethier leading in RBIs and home runs. Manny is ahead of Kemp in batting average but he doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify. If Manny hadn't missed those 50 games he probably would be winning the Dodger team triple crown.

Finally, here are some shockingly low team leaders in the triple crown categories. When you see this you can understand how these teams have had such disappointing years.

Mets, home runs --- Gary Sheffield, 10 ( Injuries are the reason for this. )

Pirates, runs batted in --- Andy LaRoche, 41 ( Brother Adam had 40 with the Pirates )

Padres, batting average --- David Eckstein, 0.264 ( Gwynn is hitting 0.290, Hairson 0.299, but neither qualifies )

Advantage Dodgers

The last two games the Giants have shown the side that prompted me to call them "not a good team" some weeks ago. Their offense has done nothing and their pitchers not named Cain or Lincecum have proved vulnerable to a good hitting.

I think now I would go along with the notion that the Giants are a "slightly good" team. Giants hitters are still getting on base at a lower rate than Giants pitchers allow ( which is really incredible when you realize how good the Giant staff has been ) and the run differential is just a lukewarm +28, but --- the offense is somewhat improved with the additions of Sanchez and Garko, and having those two undoubted aces in Cain and Lincecum does count for a little extra, I think. The Giants are 30-16 when either one of those pitchers starts for them this year. Make no mistake, whether the team as a whole is good or not, the Dodgers are facing a truly elite team today when Lincecum starts.

The Dodgers have actually hit Lincecum fairly well this year in two tries. Lincecum won both games, but he gave up three runs each time, in six and seven innings. I think the Dodgers would gladly take their chances in today's game with that kind of effort against him, and hope that Weaver and Haeger could make some Hae against the Giant hitters and keep things close.

Game 114 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Manny -- 1

Wolf was fabulous, though he only had three strikeouts --- kind of strange. But you know, the Giants may be the kind of team where a "pitch to contact" strategy may work. I thought about giving Weaver two shares, but I couldn't deny Manny and Ethier. Ethier had the biggest hit of the game, a double to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, and Manny drove in 3 runs after that to put the game out of reach. The most impressive hit of the game belonged to Matt Kemp, who hit a monster home run to deep deep center field, but it came too late for him to collect a reward for it.

Game 114 Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Martinez -- 2
Honest Abe ( Velez ) -- 1

I have to say I'm rather delighted that Eugenio Velez has become a regular for the Giants. I'm fascinated by how much he looks like Abraham Lincoln. Maybe I'm the only one who sees it. Let me check and see ...

No! I'm not the only one! I'm so happy. Check out this link to the McCovey Chronicles, but be warned, may not be safe for work because there is no "rule 1" there ( plenty of f-bombs ). Nickname for Eugenio Velez A nickname involving Lincoln is in the second comment down, but my favorite nickname is in the post below that, by "groug". It's so appropriate given what happened last night, when Honest Abe Velez couldn't handle Martinez's low but catchable throw to second.

I'll have a few posts later today, so be sure to check back.

11 August 2009

Pressing the Advantage

Virtual unknown Joe Martinez starts tonight for the Giants. The Dodgers counter with the usually solid Randy Wolf. The Dodgers appear to have the advantage, as much as they can have an advantage in any game in San Francisco.

I think of Joe Martinez as the Giant's version of Eric Stults. It's not an exact match, but close enough. Both made their major league debuts in their age 26 season. Both had good minor league numbers prior to the first call up, but neither could be considered anything more than a fringe prospect. Martinez's minor league numbers are a little better through the age 26 season but he hasn't logged the kind of innings in the PCL that Stults did. I guess what I'm saying is that more likely than not the Dodgers should be able to hit Martinez. He might produce a complete game shutout out of nowhere but more likely he won't go more than five innings.

It's hard to say because Martinez really has no major league track record yet. Tonight will be only Martinez's second big league start and fourth major league game, even though he made the Giants out of spring training. Martinez picked up the win opening day in relief of an ineffective Tim Lincecum, then two days later his skull was fractured by a Mike Cameron line drive. After several months of recovery and about a month in AAA, Martinez made it back up to the Giants six days ago, this time as a starter, and he got the win in his first ever major league start, with three runs allowed in --- five innings --- against Houston.

Martinez is the kind of pitcher I'd root for if he wasn't a Giant. But he is a Giant, and he should be vulnerable, and getting a win tonight is even more vital because the Dodgers face a game tomorrow that pits ace Tim Lincecum against the great unknown --- maybe Weaver, maybe McDonald, maybe Elbert? --- anyone but Billingsley, anyway, who can't go with a strained hammy. I guess it's not a disaster if the Dodgers lose the final two games of the series, but it's an opportunity wasted. Time to show the Giants who is still boss of the NL West.

Destination Home

Imagine a long day's journey toward a waiting home. A comfortable, comforting house, with the warm glow of a fire beckoning through a lower window, and a strong wooden door that will swing open in welcome when you arrive, and then once inside, the smell of roast chicken and potatoes, a welcome repast for a weary traveler. There's only one thing. You still have to reach it. The journey will be difficult.

The Sky Unravels

If the sky tells the future, then the signs and patterns in the sky were ominous for Dodger fans through the first three innings of last night's game. Sanchez started out with flair and dominance, striking out four in a row at one point and generally looking as if he would go ahead and shut down the Dodgers and lift up the cries of "Beat LA" from his rowdy partisans. Only his bouts of wildness provided any hope, and it was easy enough to lose sight of that. Sanchez started out five Dodger hitters with 2-0 counts through the first three innings, but only two reached and none scored.

If there was a road home, I could not see it. If there was a star to show the way ahead, it was lost in cloud and shadow. I felt about the game in the first three innings the way I did about the game when Stults faced Vasquez this past Sunday. Stults was not terrible but he could not match Vasquez. Even when the score was only 1-0 in that game the losing result felt inevitable, and it turned out to be. And here we were again, a day later, another 1-0 score, another Dodger starter who just seemed outclassed by his rival. Could Kuroda hang on? Would the Dodgers offense ever arrive, take advantage of the small opening provided by Sanchez's wildness?

The Sunlit Path

Lost and cold. Cold in spirit and mind, because the way seems hopelessly lost. But then the unraveling of the sky reverses. The light of the heavens is stitched together again, and the thought and hope comes that the way home will soon be found. And then, ahead, a path of light! Straight and true, a sunlit path, a smooth road, gently rising, with cliffs to the left and a river valley to the right. Straight and true, this is the road home.

Kemp's double was the road home, straight and true. It was the sunlit path, cutting through the noise and chaos of beat LA and ending up safely home after Loretta's single. The hope that Sanchez's wildness would betray him was true. The bases were loaded --- but the hit, they still needed that hit --- and they got it, straight and true down the line.

The innings after, four, five and six, were smooth and safe, with Kuroda never wavering and the Dodgers holding strong with a 4-1 lead. Home seemed so close, even as it was miles away. It was visible, a warm point of light in the distance.

The Rocky Descent

When Kuroda came out, with eight outs still to go, I thought that even if we could not always expect perfection from the Dodger bullpen, we should be able to expect a three run lead to be preserved with less than three innings to go. But with a bullpen you never know. There is no longer a sure road. All it takes is one bad step, a stumble, and then home may never come.

When Kuo came in I was thinking about that home run he gave up Saturday. But Lewis was left shaking his head after he whiffed on a rise-ball. Then Belisario got his guy, and got Hudson bowled over by the ball, too, but anyway, just six outs to go. So close! But the closer home, the rockier the path.

Sherrill came in and pitched a decent eighth --- though brilliant in the run column. I think, right now, Sherrill may well be a slightly better pitcher than Broxton, but only because I still don't think that Broxton is quite right. There is no question that at his best Broxton is the better pitcher. I wonder if it would be best for Broxton to be shut down for two weeks, to make sure that toe and everything else that might be wrong is fully healed.

But Broxton pitched, and the job got done, mostly by the fielders, not the pitcher, but that counts too. Home. Finally, we were there. The door swung open, revealing the comforting, warm glow of victory over the Giants. There's nothing else like it.

Tonight we get to do it all again.

Game 113 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kuroda -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Castro -- 1

The share I award to Juan Castro for his game ending dive and throw out from his knees is probably among the worst unfair win shares I have ever given, or among the best. I just think Broxton was so shaky, giving up all those hard hit balls up the middle, not to mention the home run, that it would have been really really dangerous to let the inning continue. And Castro didn't let it continue.

Game 113 Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Sanchez -- 2 ( F -- 1, J -- 1 )
Lewis -- 1

That's one unfair loss share each for Freddie Sanchez and Jonathan Sanchez. Fred Lewis was probably the noisiest, can-eatingest Giant goat, mostly for his goofy fake-and-go caught stealing in the second just ahead of Ishikawa's home run. I love the description of the play in espn's play-by-play of the game: F Lewis out at second on runner's fielder's choice. What the hell is runner's fielder's choice?

10 August 2009


How about some perspective?

So, just think about how bad you'll feel after the Giants sweep the Dodgers this week. When that happens you'll realize that being up by 5.5 games was like a paradise.
Too grim? Too defeatist? Probably is.

Well, just be happy you're not a Red Stocking fan this weekend. This isn't the worst boat to be in, even if it does seem like it's taking on water at an alarming rate.

I didn't write anything this weekend or this morning because I just didn't have much worth saying.

This series right now against the Giants matters. If the Dodgers win the series 2-1 I think that completely erases the bad of this weekend. If the Dodgers lose the series 1-2 I think there's still no reason to panic. If the Dodgers get swept, then we start looking for this year's late season turnaround, the eight game winning streak to follow the eight game ( or six game or whatever ) losing streak. I don't think the Dodgers will get swept. It could happen, but look, the Giants are still challenged offensively, even after their trades. Their pitching is amazing, better than the Dodgers, really, but their offense isn't close to being what the Dodger offense is. The question we have to ask is, has the Dodger offense fallen apart? I don't think it has. The last few weeks is not the next few weeks. There are no injury concerns on the offense. These are the same guys who were terrific before the All-Star break. They'll come around.

Game Nelson Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Mota -- 1
Loney -- 1
Manny -- 1

Two days later, I've mostly put aside the Dodger loss, and can just appreciate the brilliance of Kershaw's start. More often than not when Kershaw pitches like that the Dodgers will win.

Game Nelson Unfair Win Shares ( Braves )

Kawakami -- 1
Johnson -- 1
Medlen -- 1

Kawakami threw some really great pitches to the Dodger, but they could have hit him, at least a little bit. His scoreless 7 innings were not like Kershaw's scoreless seven. I think the loss would have been easier to take if that wasn't true, if Kershaw had been matched pitch for pitch, instead of being the better pitcher but still seeing his team lose.

Game Nelson + 1 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Stults -- 1
Troncoso -- 1
Kemp -- 1

In Cricket they have a superstition about the run total of 111, because supposedly British naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson had one leg, one arm, and one eye after being wounded several times. What Nelson has to do with cricket I don't know, ( except that both are English in origin ) but according to superstition a batsman is more likely to be dismissed on a run total of 111, which they call "Nelson". ( A total of 222 is called "double Nelson". ) The Dodgers, of course, were dismissed in their 111th game.

Game Nelson + 1 Unfair Win Shares ( Braves )

Diaz -- 1
Vasquez -- 2

edit: It turns out I screwed up the game numbers. The last game of the Braves Series was game 112. Oh well.

08 August 2009

Low Five

That was predictable for a title, right?

There were a lot of predictable things in that game last night, that awful 12-inning 9-5 loss. Bad things happened that after the fact prompt the weary and crestfallen fan to mutter --- of course. Billingsley gets hurt. Of course! He got hurt in his last start. Broxton gives up a run to blow the save. Of course! He's been shaky, by his standards, anyway, lately. Kuo gives up a two-run home run. Of course! He just pitched yesterday. Abreu grounds out with the bases loaded and two outs. Of course! He was just called up from the minor leagues. And worst of all --- the Dodger offense clunks to a halt after Manny is removed from the game. Ethier gets walked intentionally because there is no one to fear behind him. Of course.

Torre really managed that game right into a cocked hat. Why would he go to Kuo a second day in a row? Does he figure that maybe he can hurt Kuo's arm again and solve his bullpen logjam? And then why take out Manny? Did he really think Broxton was such a sure thing? Did he really think Pierre in left field would be THE difference in the game? Which is more likely, that Brox gives up a run and the Dodgers need Manny's bat, or that a ball is hit to left field that Pierre can catch and Manny can't, AND that this non-catch by Manny would have led to a run? Heck, Pierre's comparatively weaker arm could have cost the Dodgers the game, if we're going with unlikely scenarios. It was cruel haiku justice that Torre was punished for his stupid, stupid decision to lift Manny.

Even while slumping
Filthy helmet beats small cap
Better drink more tea

That tea Torre promotes is supposed to help with mental sharpness, right?

The most maddening moment of the game was not predictable. Loney fields a bunt, just misses the tag, then tosses the ball behind first base, letting the other runner advance to third, who scores on the subsequent double play. If Loney doesn't let that runner get to third, he doesn't score. McCann did something similar to the Braves, needlessly throwing to first and letting Kemp get to third when the throw got away. It was dueling blunders there, and the one by Loney ended up hurting more because the Dodgers lost.

Game 110 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 1
Broxton -- 1
Elbert -- 1

Game 110 Pointy Haired Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Torre -- 3

Game 110 Unfair Win Shares ( Braves )

Gonzalez -- 1
Escobar -- 1
Johnson -- 1

Relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez has a freaky delivery. I never want to see it again. Also, because he shut out the Dodgers for two innings.

Ryan Church hit that big three run home run in the twelfth but the Braves already had a lead. And I'm pretty sure he missed third base on his home run trot anyway.

07 August 2009

High Five

I got the five runs I wanted, in the end. Those are five of the most frustrating and delirious runs I've ever seen the Dodgers score. I mean, they could have had five way before they did, but in the end, would I really want it any other way?

Game 109 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 3

After the seventh inning, I considered giving Ethier an unfair loss share if the Dodgers went on to lose. Manny made the last out in that inning to strand two runners, but Ethier's failure in that inning was just as damaging. In the end I decided against giving Ethier an unfair loss share for his meek flyout in the seventh, pending further developments. The triple and run scored had to count for something, even if the triple was kind of lucky. Now if Ethier had hit into a double play in the seventh inning, he would have put himself in peril.

It's strange, but though I worried about the double play in the seventh inning when Ethier came up, I didn't even think about it in the ninth inning. It just seemed like destiny that he would hit his home run. More than any other of Ethier's walk off hits this year, I expected the one last night. It was just such a perfect, fitting ending, to leave Manny happily stranded in the on-deck circle, not even needed, as Ethier circled the bases. It was the perfect moment to pass the torch of best Dodger hitter, and it happened. Now maybe Manny is still the best, but I think it's clear now that it's not by much. You can't say it's Manny and the rest of the Dodgers anymore. No sir.

Game 109 Unfair Loss Shares ( Braves )

Soriano -- 3

I look at the Braves, and think, wow, this is a good team. They have good hitters up and down the lineup, and a solid starting staff. But they're only one game above 0.500. How can that be?

Maybe it's the bullpen, which blew the game last night. But that's not it, not really. In spite of last night's meltdown Soriano has been pretty good this year. And the Braves 'pen has a whole has been about league average.

I think the explanation is that the offense used to have plenty of holes in it, most of which they've now patched up with all of their recent acquisitions. Maybe if they had started the year with this team they would have a shot at the division, but now, they are fairly well hopelessly buried, too far back of the Phillies, too far back of the wild card, unless they really go on a tear.

Is it right to give Soriano all three unfair loss shares? Probably not. Both Prado and McCann were 0-5, and maybe if either of those hitters had done something the Braves would have entered the ninth with a much more secure lead. But the feeling of that game to me is that the Braves had held off the Dodgers through eight innings, and they had the win, they really had it. Think of all the hard work and all the escapes the Braves had through eight innings, and then it was gone just like that on one pitch. Soriano lost it all by himself on one pitch. Or maybe Ethier took it away from Soriano all by himself, but in the end it amounts to the same thing.

06 August 2009

Thirst Quencher

I think I speak for more than a few Dodger fans when I say that even more than the possibility of Manny coming up in the ninth inning I was looking forward to Ethier coming up. Manny was the secondary hope of that inning, and not just because of his undeniable slump, but because Ethier has been so good. Could it be that Ethier is, right now, a better hitter than Manny? I don't know what the stats say, what reason says, but the game-winning home run says yes. Tonight belongs to the home run, so Ethier moves to the top.

In the ninth inning Braves closer Soriano kept stumbling backwards and never could find his balance. First he fell behind to Pierre, then ran the count full, then hit a patch of bad luck when Pierre hit a dying roller up the third base line. Then Furcal hit a bounding ball just out of reach of the first baseman. Another bit of iffy luck. And then Soriano missed on his first two pitches to Ethier. That was all it took. Just like that Soriano and the Braves were doomed, and the Dodgers had won. It can happen so fast, so easily. A little bit of bad luck, a few pitches that miss their location, and then a catch-up in the count pitch that streaks low over the heart of the plate ...

... right into the waiting arms of Ethier's teammates as they mob him after the knock-off home run.

Stay Thirsty, My Dodgers

Schmidt's confrontation against pitcher Braden Looper with two runners on and two outs in the second inning was typical of his first three innings of work. Schmidt got the first two strikes, then nibbled to 3-2, then realizing the horrible folly of perhaps walking the pitcher, he grooved a fat pitch down the middle that Looper ripped to left field, where Pierre barely made a semi-leaping catch. Schmidt looked completely overmatched ( against a pitcher! ) but still more or less got the job done, and that's how it was through three innings. Then in the fourth it all came apart. It was just a matter of time until the Brewers broke through.

Schmidt will get at least one more start, and he may get several more after that, but it's just a matter of time before he is bumped from the rotation as well. To me Stults seems like the obvious candidate, and McDonald and Elbert wouldn't be bad choices either. I'd even give Weaver another shot.

I'm worried about the offense. One 17 run game doesn't impress me. Well, actually, it does impress me a lot. What I mean is that I don't take it as a sign that there is nothing wrong with the offense. It just seems a little too easy for opposing pitchers to have good games against the Dodgers lately. But I want to give this thing another week before hitting a panic button. If the Dodgers can score 5 runs in 3 out of 4 games this weekend against Atlanta then I'll be happy.

Game 108 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Schmidt -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Ethier -- 1

Game 108 Unfair Win Shares ( Brewers )

Braun -- 1
Looper -- 1
Lopez -- 1

05 August 2009

The Manny Slump

Right before last night's game started, my wife asked me if I thought the Dodgers would win.

Usually I would answer such a question with a yes, but not this time. I just didn't have a good feeling about the game. So I said no. I said I thought the Dodgers would lose.

Maybe I should say that more often.

One of the reasons I felt pessimistic about last night's game was the slump Manny is in. Was in? Manny had a great game last night, and finally picked up some runs batted in, but one game doesn't necessarily convince me a slump is over. The rule of slumps is not to overreact to them. Don't give up on a player because he's in a slump, or panic, or conclude the worst. Don't take a sample size of two weeks as if it means a whole lot. Well, the same caution applies to a one game sample, such as the game Manny had last night.

I think the perfect time to talk about a player's slump is after he's had a good game, because then you won't get too negative on that player.

In 54 plate appearances since he was hit on the hand ( and including the souvenir slam game ) Manny has 10 hits, 5 walks, and 13 strikeouts. It's the strikeouts and walks that jump out at me. It seems as if Manny has been taking a lot of strikes lately, and swinging through a lot of pitches he normally would hit well. It's almost like he's been trying to force his way into good hitter's counts.

There are a lot of theories about Manny's slump. His hand is bothering him, or he's gone off the juice and is feeling the effects, or it's that time of the month for him ( I kid, I kid! ) but the truth about most slumps is that they accept no theory. They just are, and then they go away, and all is well again.

This Manny slump just feels more dire than most slumps because we've never seen Manny slump as a Dodger before this, and because there are a couple of obvious theories for the slump out there that nag at the mind even if they are rejected, and because he's just looked so bad during the slump. Sometimes I thought I was watching a different hitter. If I still feel that way in two weeks then I'll really worry. For now, I hope last night marked the return of the old Manny.

Whenever the Dodgers have a really high scoring game I like to list all the players who had plate appearances in the game along with their totals of runs scored plus runs driven in. Here they are:

Kemp -- 8
Ethier -- 5
Manny -- 5
Martin -- 4
Blake -- 4
Loretta -- 3
Furcal -- 2
Pierre -- 1
Loney -- 1
Mota -- 1
Kuroda -- 0
Castro -- 0

Poor Loney had a terrible game. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts, but at least he walked once and scored. Otherwise he would suffer the fate of Castro, who has to suffer the ignomy of trailing Mota and his one RBI on the list.

But mostly this list is all positives. Kemp was the standout, but Manny, Martin, Blake and Ethier also had great games. Loretta, Pierre and Mota also did well in limited action.

Game 107 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Blake -- 1
Kuroda -- 1

Back when the game was in doubt, Kuroda did just enough to keep his team ahead. It was the bare minimum, but it was enough. He stayed low on JJ Hardy with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and got a borderline check-swing strikeout, then got Kendall to ground out. He couldn't escape the fifth inning unscathed, but at least after Braun and Fielder did their damage he was able to escape again with more ground balls. If Kuroda gives up even one more run in that inning to let the Brewers tie, I'm not so sure the Dodgers go on to romp.

Kemp had a monster game, and he did enough of his damage early with the game still in doubt that he gets a share. The last goes to Blake, who jumps over Manny and Martin who had more prolific games because Blake's double in the first inning was the key hit for the early run scoring.

Game 107 Unfair Loss Shares ( Brewers )

Gallardo -- 2
Hardy -- 1

I think the whole game changes for the Brewers if Hardy can get a bases loaded hit in the fourth inning. Instead he struck out ( and was hitless otherwise ) and the Brewers failed to score in that inning, which meant their rally in the fifth came up short of giving them the lead, which meant Gallardo was left in the game a little longer than he might have if the Brewers had a lead, which meant the Brewers got blown out.

Laugher Share

Mota -- 1

Mota may have moved up in the bullpen pecking order ( though Sherrill coming over in trade may have pushed him back down a bit again ) but when the Dodgers have a double digit lead Mota is still your man. Mota clinched his laugher share with an absurd RBI single to really rub salt in the Brewer's wounds.

And then he hit Prince Fielder and turned the end of the game and the aftermath into a farce that overshadowed the Dodgers nice rout, so once again I have to take a laugher share away from Mota. At least he didn't aim at his head.

04 August 2009

The Nature of an Ace

It's hard to think of guy who can suddenly lose his control as an ace. I guess it's not just about the ERA or even the innings pitched. There is a psychological component to the the concept of the pitching ace. Aces make a fan feel secure, and walks make a fan feel like the very structure of the game is crumbling. Baseball is about the ball being put into play, about the battle between pitcher and batter, batter and fielder, so when the hitters just watch pitches go by and trot around the bases without any fight it is unsettling. It's like someone gave the other team a cheat code. That's what the coaching signs really are. Cap, cap, belt, belt, left arm, right arm, left arm, right arm, Belly Button, Adam's Apple.

I still consider Kershaw an ace because if I didn't I think that would be a huge overreaction. There is no perfect pitcher. They will all have a poor outing occasionally. But the walks more than anything else shake confidence. Maybe it was an overreaction to call Kershaw an ace in the first place. Maybe he's an ace in training.

Fortunately it doesn't matter one bit what he gets called.

Game 106 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 1
Weaver -- 1
Manny -- 1

Oh Manny.

Well you came up and we hoped you weren't faking.
But they sent you away, oh Manny.
Well you missed it and flied out to Bill Hall
With the bases left loaded oh Manny.

If only Ray King had been playing right field.

Game 106 Unfair Win Shares ( Brewers )

Braun -- 2
Parra -- 1

Braun was the butter and sugar man, going 4-5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Parra was the yeast, rising to the occasion against a tough offensive team. Hoffman almost let the cake fall in the ninth inning, but in the end the sweet treat of a win for Brewer fans was salvaged. To Dodger fans it tastes like dust. Dussssst!

03 August 2009

Matt Kemp, Singles Hitter

It's true! Singles make up 73% of Matt Kemp's hit total, while singles make up only 66% of the average major league hitter's hit total. He's like Juan Pierre out there! ( Not really. Pierre is at 79% singles this year, and it's usually higher than that. )

Kemp collected two more singles last night. Not bad. One of them drove in two runs. He had another hit of some kind, but that other hit doesn't fit into my narrative, so I'm going to ignore it.

Why exactly is Kemp a singles hitter? Kemp's speed helps him collect a few extra leg singles, but that same speed will also help him turn a few singles into doubles, so that's probably a wash. I don't have an explanation other than that he just hits it hard all over the place when he's not striking out. Hard liners, hard ground balls, hard fly balls. Kemp hits a respectable amount of home runs and doubles, and draws a respectable number of walks. It's all the extra singles that have turned him into an outstanding offensive player this year. Add in the great glovework in center and you have one of the top players in the game.

Saturday's game:

Game 104 Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Martin -- 1
Wolf -- 1

Martin's poor Saturday is what I remember, but I think maybe Matt Kemp was even worse. Sunday's hero was 0-4 on Saturday, with a strikeout to end the game, a strikeout with a runner on second, a strikeout with runners on first and third and one out, and a strike --- no, strike that, a ground out fielder's choice in his first at bat, but he was picked off! I think that might have been Kemp's worst offensive game this season.

I'm still pondering the deeper nature of Martin's attempted pick off throws to first base. I lean toward the ego theory of these throws, that they are a way of showing off, a way to stating that he is one of the elite defensive catchers in the game, because one of the things elite catchers do is gun down incautious runners at first base. I can't remember the last time Martin got one of these runners. That, by itself, doesn't make it a poor play --- maybe he can take away some of the secondary lead with his throws to first, or the threat of them. Maybe. But I think they are unnecessary, an affectation, an indulgence. Whatever they are, his throw to first was costly on Saturday, but not as costly as his drop of Ethier's great throw a play later, when the tying run came in and the go-ahead run was set up at second base. Wolf was unlucky in the inning, but he still gave up the hits that led to the runs, so I'm not sparing him.

Game 104 Unfair Win Shares ( Braves )

Jones -- 1
McClouth -- 1
Soriano -- 1

Sunday's game:

Game 105 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 2
Billingsley -- 1

I think home runs to dead center are the most impressive home runs to watch. They are so pure, so symmetric. And there are no cheapies to dead center. You really have to hit it to clear a center field wall. Andre Ethier is the more prolific home run hitter, but I think Kemp has more pure power when he hits them.

I liked Billingsley start enough to give him the unfair win share, even though he had to leave after five. I try not to hold it against him that he would have given up 20 runs if allowed to pitch the sixth.

Game 105 Unfair Loss Shares ( Braves )

Jurrjens -- 1
Jones -- 1
Anderson -- 1

To echo the comments of announcers and other observers, it really is weird to see Garrett Anderson in an uniform other than Angels. And then I see his performance last night and his OBP of 0.322 on the year and I understand why the Angels let him go. On second thought, no I don't, since his career OBP is just 0.327. The Angels were apparently happy to live with that from their left fielders for years and years. I guess his defense and power made up for that. Anderson was with the Angels for so long that when he came up they were still called the California Angels.

01 August 2009

That Movie with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates

I'm rooting for him, even if I've mostly given up on him. After his awful start I said it was down to a 1% chance that he could really come back, and that percentage has to go up after his six inning scoreless start, though I'm not sure by how much. That's so cruel. Why can't he just be praised for the magnificent results provided by that start? What is it that makes people find faults, look for reasons to doubt?

I'd love to be wrong. I'm not upset I was wrong about Mota. ( Though I am also mindful that by the end of the year my initial assessment of him could still prove out. I hope not. ) I never thought the Dodgers would get what they got from Pierre while Manny was out. I never thought Schmidt could give the Dodgers six scoreless innings on the road, especially after what we saw in his first two starts. And he did it. That's great.

Let's be fair to everyone. Fair to Schmidt, and not pull him down after his great start. And fair to Stults, too. That's the hard part. I'm still not convinced Schmidt is any more deserving of the fifth spot in the rotation than Stults. All those walks and fly balls Schmidt gave up don't make Schmidt's start any less praise-wrothy, but they do change what we should expect from him in the future. On some other day if you walk 5 and give up lots of fly balls there will probably be at least one three run home run. It's a dangerous way to pitch. I wish it wasn't so but it is. As fine as that start is he's going to have to improve if he's going to be effective over the long run. I don't know if I succeeded in not pulling down Schmidt here. I don't want to, but I also don't want to say things I don't believe. At the very least we saw some real improvement in his last start. It wasn't all him getting lucky. Maybe he can build on this, reduce the walks, reduce the fly balls, and sustain these kind of results. I don't give it high odds, but it could happen. The good thing is that Schmidt knows he was a little lucky in Atlanta; he knows he has to improve.

None of this matters very much to the Dodgers chances this year, unless the teams behind them ( 8 games behind ) surge and make a race of it in which every start really matters, or unless one of the front four starters goes down for the postseason we all hope the Dodgers go to. The Dodger 'pen is so stacked that it doesn't figure any fifth starter will be used as a long man in the playoffs.

I'm going to let the positive have the last word here. After my entry on Schmidt's previous start in which he was bombed, the following anonymous comment appeared in response to me basically giving up on Schmidt:

i SO wanted him to succeed. i was introduced to Los Amigos Group (AA recovery)right around the time he went down & it changed my life, nobody believed i would sober up just like nobody believes Schmidt can come back...

I would say, whatever else happens with Schmidt, he has come back. Six scoreless innings in Atlanta is not something I ever expected to see out of him this year. That's something to be proud of, no matter what else happens. I really have no idea what AA is like but I'm pretty sure you take what victories you can find and don't listen to naysayers.

Game 103 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Schmidt -- 2
Ethier -- 1

I almost have one to the new Sherrill in town, but in the end I went with the sentimental choice. And big kudos to Ethier for his home run. It's about time these guys started hitting home runs again.

Game 103 Unfair Loss Shares ( Braves )

McClouth -- 1
McCann -- 1
Hanson -- 1

Other Braves had worse offensive days than McCann, but those other guys didn't leave the bases loaded.