Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Come on Charlie, Do a Little Homework for your Broadcasts

I'm not sure how this post will come out as I'm pounding it out on my cellphone from Reagan National Airport in Washington DC.  Here's my rant.

I watched Steiner and Monday broadcast the Dodger/Rockie game yesterday.  It was a 6-4 Colorado win in a split squad contest played by many Dodger minor leaguers.  These are the games I love because it gives us a chance to watch some guys that play on the back lots at CBR and don't get into games.  There are some interesting prospects and tons of stories to tell about them.  That is if you have a broadcast team that does their homework or a little bit of research on the farm system of the TEAM THAT THEY COVER!

Case in point.  Adam Law made his Dodger big club debut yesterday.  Grandson of former  Pirate Cy Young winner Vernon "Deacon" Law, and son of former White Sox Vance Law.  Don't you think that information could be passed along?  Or what about the interesting tidbit this Law's grandpa who is in his mid-80s still throws him batting practice in the off season, still sporting a nasty curve according to critics.

Come on Charlie and Rick.   There are hundreds of stories like that to make your broadcast interesting.

Rant over.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Back in Action...At Least Temporarily

After an 8 week sabbatical in Central America on work assignment in El Salvador and Guatemala, I find myself back stateside so disconnected from Dodger baseball...probably more than I ever have been since beginning this love affair with the team in blue back in he 60's.

With that said, there isn't much noteworthy that I can say other than a big "thank you" to the likes of Ron Cervenka and Harold Uhlman at ThinkBlueLA.com and Mark Timmons at LADodgertalk.com, two sites that I find to be "must reads."  Yes there are other sites and they are fantastic, but for some reason I tend to gravitate towards those two more than any other.

Speaking to graduating students at ILEA, San Salvador
On a personal side, my assignment at the International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador proved to be one of the most rewarding of my career.  One that is winding down towards retirement.  Amongst the 40 students I had in my class were 9 from the Dominican Republic and another 6 from Mexico.  it's safe to say that we had a LOT of conversations about baseball.  The Dominicans are so passionate about the game.  The Mexicans, favorites of mine because their hearts are with the Dodgers due to the Valenzuela influence of over 30 years ago, and the AGON/Urias connection today.
Visiting Mayan ruins in El Salvador with colleagues from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

Back to Dodger baseball

Such a series of dilemmas the team brass faces in roster decisions.

Absent of a deal or two, there's going to be some unhappy campers.  Darwin Barney, Alex Guerrero and Andre Ether, all in flux.   Dare I say Carl Crawford and Brandon League too? There are few that don't believe that Schebler and Van Slyke would serve well as a LF platoon.  

The bullpen?  It's wide open.  Paco, Aardsma, Bedard, Gaudin, Weiland, Bollinger, Yimi Garcia, Hatcher, Liberatore, Coulombe,  Huff, Baez, Tsao, Zach Lee, and Santos have all performed well so far.  Then there are the likes of Peralta, Nicosia, Howell, Guadin, and Mike Adams.  What it comes down to is there are a few guys that will be very unhappy when roster cuts are made and the competition for the final spots are gaining to be fierce.
Alexander Guerrero, regardless of what his contract says, he has earned a spot on the 25-man roster (photo by Gary A. Vazquez/USA Today Sports)

And those kids, what a spectacle!  Seager, Pederson and Sweeney.  Jensen, Dickson and Schebler.  The kids can all hit and are close if not already Major League ready.  We're going to have an exciting couple of years as the transition takes place.  It may be safe to says that the years of transition will not be "down years."  There's enough vets to stabilize the franchise while the kids learn their way to the highest level.

If you haven't noticed, Andre Ethier is beginning to hit.  That's a good thing because maybe, just maybe there will be a taker out there that is in need of outfield help.

Anyway, that's my return to blogging...but don't count on the daily article again.  As I write these words, I'm packing my bags for Queretaro, Mexico where I'll be teaching a class for a week.  No rest for the weary.  I'll be rocking the ball cap with the interlocking LA though.  Gotta represent...worldwide.  I should be back a few days before opening day.

Be safe everybody.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sabermetrics and Mattingly - "Buy In" Will Require Drastic Changes on His Part

As the 2015 MLB season is on the cusp of beginning, this Dodger 40-man roster has had a 40% turnover.   That's significant and I think it's safe to say that had Ned Colleti remained in charge, the likes of Kemp, Wilson, Federowicz, Butera, Gordon, Wright and others might still be around.

As two time defending division champions, the turnover in Los Angeles may seem by many to be an over-reaction.  It certainly is unprecedented, but with the Giants as reigning World Series Champions again, it's tough for the Dodgers to even view 2014 as a success.  The mind set in the front office is changing.  It's a "WS of bust" mentality.

All indications seem to aim towards Don Mattingly buying in to the new management's vision with a heavy emphasis in sabermetrics.    He certainly has said all the right things about the off-season changes.  The true question that needs to be asked  is: will his management style buy into that vision?  Mattingly has managed in old school style, straight out of the Joe Torre handbook.  His usage of the sacrifice bunt was about as asinine as that of any manager in the game.  More than once he took the bat out of his best hitter's hands only to leave a weak hitting player such as Andre Ether or worse yet, Drew Butera, to try to get  a key hit with two outs.

On several occasions he'd use up two players in double switches in inopportune times, or he'd burn up three pitchers in his bullpen to get three outs in the seventh or eighth inning.  It's fairly safe to say that Mattingly's bullpen management was not helpful to his lackluster middle relief and as a result, his decisions in that area cost the Dodgers in the NLDS.  

It's also quite clear that his decision to bench Yasiel Puig in the NLDS and utilize him up as a pinch runner (and not as a hitter) in their final loss was about as controversial a move as could be made.

It is this writer's opinion that Mattingly must change his style and make managerial adjustments in step with sabermetric analysis, or he's toast.  Gone needs to be the bunting.  Outs need to be valued at all costs. Mattingly has relied on the bunt all too often without looking at the game beyond one or two batters in his lineup.  Additionally, he needs a bench coach that is able to point out those particular facts to him and be influential enough to put a stop to it.  I haven't a clue if Wallach is doing this but all signs seem to point that is is not happening.

Mattingly's decisions in high pressure post season games have left a lot to be desired.  It has led many Dodger fans to wonder if he can't handle the high pressure situations.  Let this serve as a few painful reminders:

His failure to recognize that Kershaw was spent after six innings in game one and game four of the NLDS cost the Dodgers the series.  And it wasn't as if those moves (or lack of them) were unprecedented.  The same can be said for 2013 too as Kershaw coughed up an eight inning lead against Atlanta (in a game eventually won by Juan Uribe---who succeeded because he homered after failing to execute Mattingly's call for a BUNT!).  Even when the Cards had obviously figured out each Kershaw pitch that was coming in game one of the 2014 NLDS (7th inning), Mattingly left him out there to die.

Mattingly failed to think outside of the box, with his tunnel vision showing him that in his mind his only option was that uncomfortable middle relief corps.  I think it's safe to say that he never even considered stuffing out the rally with his closer, i.e. Jansen.  It's fairly obvious that Mattingly's mistrust of his middle relief forced his hand to leave his ace out on the mound to die.  

My apologies for diverting from the original points being made in this piece, (which are that Mattingly needs to adjust his managing style and decisions to analytics or perish), but it's tough to not start venting when thinking of the terrible on field decisions that were made the past two Dodger post seasons.

The Freidman/Zaidi team has removed some decisions from Mattingly by putting a vastly improved defensive team in his hands,  The losses of Kemp and Hanley Ramirez will be felt, but It can be argued that offensively the ballclub may be improved as well as the on base percentage will up-tick in the positive direction.  The new F/Z administrative team has agreed to give Donnie Ballgame a shot, but behind the scenes, one has to wonder if lengthy discussions have occurred discussing what in game strategy is acceptable and what is not.  It'll be interesting if Mattingly will adjust and has bought in to the changes.

The saying is "a leopard doesn't change his spots."  Hopefully Mattingly is able to prove that wrong.  For his sake, he better be willing to do so.  Based on this administration's willingness to cut bait with players they view as unproductive, regardless of how much money they are owed, I wouldn't doubt them doing the same with Mattingly if there isn't a meeting of the minds on baseball philosophy early on this year.  If that doesn't happen it would be no shock to see Mattingly packing his bags and returning home to Evansville, IN before the 2015 season is over.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baseball Bullets on a Monday Morning

  • So the Dodgers signed Eric Bedard only about 7 -8 years too late.  No biggie.  He's roster fodder and it's a non roster invitation.

  • Max Scherzer is a Washington National.  Details aren't official yet, but I'd guess that Scott Boras has influenced the Nationals to break the bank.  My guess: 7 years, $150 million.  I'm glad he's not a Giant.

  • Speaking of the Giants.  You'd think that a team that has won three World Series championships in six years would be an attractive landing spot.  Here they are, a few weeks from Spring training with only Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee added to the roster.  If Angel Pagan is not able to recover from injury, center field is a problem there.  For some reason, I don't think Bruce Bochy is too concerned though.

  • The Dodgers avoided arbitration with everyone, which is usually a good sign, leaving all parties happy and feelings spared.
The Dodgers and Kenley Jansen avoided arbitration by settling on a $7.425 million deal (Getty Images)
  • According to numbers supplied by Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA.com,  The Dodgers have committed $43.5 million to "dead money," which is best described at salary paid to players to play elsewhere or nowhere.  It seems ugly, but that number should diminish substantially next year when the payroll is reeled in to somewhere manageable.

  • Few will argue that yesterday's NFC championship game was a barn burner, but as exciting as it was.  I had no team in the fight and its biggest significance to me was that we're one NFL game closer to the start of baseball season.  And for those of you that think baseball is boring due to all the stops and starts of action, take a look at these stats about a typical NFL game.

  • Many blogs have dedicated a substantial amount of time to Don Mattingly's comments in passing that he sent unanswered texts to out-going players Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.  Why do we care?  It's time to recognize that Matt Kemp is a rival now.  When he returns to L.A. for the first time in April, he should be cheered in his first AB.  Recognize what he did for the franchise once.  After that, he's another player to get out.

  • What is comes down to is the statement that Jerry Seinfeld made on his sitcom years ago.  I'm paraphrasing but the gist of what he said was:  "Players move around from team to team so frequently now that we are essentially rooting for laundry."  Think about it.  There's truth in that statement.

  • For those seeking their daily Dodger news fixes, there are very interesting reads over at ThinkBlueLA.com where Ron and Harold are continually knocking it out of the park with their insightful daily posts, (and their fan forum section is rather interesting too).

  • It is 30 days until pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch.  76 days until opening day.  We are getting close.

  • Lastly, as little as I have been writing lately, it's gonna get worse.  I'm off on a work assignment to El Salvador for six weeks.  Enjoy fan fest, and the start of spring training folks 'cuz I'm not going to be around, (retirement can't come soon enough).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What Team Are We to Expect in April?

This off-season has proved to be the most confusing I've ever experienced as a Dodger fan.  I think I understand what the new team administration is attempting to do, I simply don't know if it'll create as competitive a team in the short term as it will in the long.  A lot of offense has departed, and it's fairly safe to say that the return isn't quite as strong with the bats.

With the removal of Kemp, Haren, Gordon, Wilson, Ramirez and probably Arruebarrena, that's over $100 million being paid to players to provide their services in another city.  In the end, freeing up payroll in the future and giving the new regime some room to make significant moves in the coming years is important.   Also freeing themselves from paying significant amounts in luxury tax penalties should be a priority in order to not hamstring the organization financially.

 If I were a betting man, I'd probably wager that more guys will be moved before the team breaks camp and the 25 man roster is finalized in April.  Players like Ether, Guerrero and League simply may not be safe, regardless of how much money they are owed.

Newcomers Howie Kendrick, Brandon McCarthy and Jimmy Rollins (photos by Matt Brown/Getty Images)

The fact that Freidman and Zaidi are willing to rid the organization of horrid contracts is a step in the right direction.

We are seeing the organization move in the direction of acquiring players that are performing when analyzed in the Bill James centered "sabermetric" world.   Essentially these are acquisitions of players on the offensive end that take a lot of pitches and work counts.  They also get on base and will take their walks. On the defensive end,  they have acquired slick fielding infielders (Rollins/Kendrick) and a catcher (Grandal) that has an excellent reputation of framing pitches and stealing the occasional strike on borderline pitches.  Additionally, they have shored up the bullpen with players that have a reputation of giving serviceable setup innings (Peralta) and with high upsides (Hatcher, Nicasio, Weiland).

Whether these moves are enough to allow the club to win it's third straight division title and advance in post-season is up in the air.  I think it's safe to say though that the changes advance the organization's cause substantially into the future.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chin-hui Tsao Should Have to Be Vetted by MLB Before Reinstatement

There was interesting news reported yesterday that the Dodgers are attempting to reach an agreement with right handed reliever Chin-hui Tsao, who has been out of MLB for over five years.  Reports are that Tsao is throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, at the ripe old age of 34.  Those excited about the proposed signing should probably hold back their enthusiasm.

Tsao was suspended for life from the Taiwan Baseball League (CPBL) for match fixing and accepting bribes from gamblers.  Never convicted, nonetheless, Tsao received the permanent ban in Kennisaw Landis fashion from the CPBL.  He has languished outside of organized baseball ever since.
Chin-hui Tsao attempted to pitch in the Australian Baseball League with Adelaide a few weeks ago, but his past transgressions didn't allow him to participate in the ABL (photo source:  LINKED HERE )
Suspended after the CPBL Championship Series, in which he was the losing pitcher of the 7th game of the series.  Allegations claim he was engaged in accepting unsuitable benefits from gamblers in August of that very season.  Later after being suspended by the CPBL, Tsao ran into hot water in 2013 in an embezzlement scheme with his restaurant, an allegation made public by his estranged girlfriend in litigation that has not yet been resolved.

Tsao attempted to make a comeback in the Australian Baseball League last year, but the ABL decided to suspend him as well after meeting with CPBL officials who presented their evidence for the lifetime ban.  All the facts of the case have not been made public, but they must be rather severe for such harsh decisions to be made.

If Tsao is reinstated and allowed to play Major League Baseball, the decision would be rather unprecedented.  First, because MLB would risk it's friendly relationship with the CPBL, which is something MLB has been cultivating for years.  Second, because MLB has NEVER tolerated even the hint of players associated with gambling.

If by some miracle Tsao is allowed in, watch for Pete Rose to speak openly about it.  Reality is that Rose will probably be Tsao's greatest fan for reinstatement as it would most likely open the door for him as well.  

I honestly don't see this happening, but who knows?  Maybe Bud Selig's replacement, Ron Manfred, will opine on the side of leniency.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Now as the Dust Settles, More Outfielder(s) Will Have to Be Moved

In this topsy turvy world of following the Dodgers, it's almost as if we are watching a soap opera with the dynamic turns of events.  Kemp is gone, then maybe not.  Then the teams are working out another package due to his arthritic hips.  Oops!  No, the original deal is back on again.  This is crazy.

Rather than update things, I'm finding that it is simply best to wait until the teams make the formal announcements of the trades, which should be happening as soon as Friday.  

What we know is this:

Sources from the L.A. Times, ESPN, and MLB network are saying that Kemp and Fedex are now Padres and Grandal and Weiland are now Dodgers.

This means that Rollins will be a Dodger and Eflin will be a Phillie.

There are more names probably, but as I said, it'll be best to wait until the dust clears and the announcements are made.

What continues to be unsettled is the glut of Dodger outfielders that remain on the roster.  They include Chris Heisey, Scott Van Slyke, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Scott Pederson, and Yasiel Puig.  Watch for two of those six to be moved before spring training.  The organization's willingness to part with players owed huge sums of money leads many to believe that a player like Andre Ether could be on his way out with the Dodgers paying the majority of the $73.5 million he is owed over the next four years.

It is probably safe to say that the Dodgers would have to agree to pick up about $45 to 50 million of that contract, as Ethier's depleting numbers make him a hard sell.  An American League team with a short right field porch might be an attractive landing spot for him.  Perhaps New York or Texas could be a fit, but it would be shocking to see the Dodgers obtain anything of value in return.

Carl Crawford is owed $62.2 million through 2017 and he's another practically immovable piece that probably remains in blue due to that contract.  Perhaps that's good though, as Crawford appears to be one of the lone Dodger pieces remaining that has speed.  He swept 23 bags in only 105 games last year, and it is expected that he, along with 36 year old Jimmy Rollins, will be the only real stolen base threats on the club now that Dee Gordon is a Marlin.

So that leaves Van Slyke, Pederson, Puig and Heisey.  Of the quartet, I'm thinking that Van Slyke may be the player that is moved.  That's unfortunate, as Scott has shown signs of brilliance and has never been given a full time shot.  Unfortunately, the numbers game has caught up to him.  Heisey was acquired because of his versatile defense and pinch hitting skills.  Pederson is the new centerfielder and Puig continues to be, in my opinion, a player with the ability to be the next Roberto Clemente.

Scott Van Slyke and Andre Ethier - Two Dodger outfielders that could be moved in the coming weeks. (photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A good match for Van Slyke may be in the A.L. East where he could be seen as a valuable asset to face Wade Miley in Boston.  His stat line of .444,  8 for 18, with 5 homers, should be of interest to Baltimore, Toronto or New York.  It's rather silly to use that small sample size against a lone pitcher as a selling point, but ownage is ownage, and Scott certainly has it against the new Boston starter.

Van Slyke was solid in his 98 games last season, hitting .297 with a .387 OBP and .524 slugging percentage.  He smacked 11 homers over 212 at bats and showed that he could handle all three outfield slots and an additional first base assignment.  This is a valuable player to have on a ball club, and added to that his salary comes in at the major league minimum.  Scott will be 28 years old this season, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him really emerge this season.  I hate to see him go, as he could be the one guy that someone could really steal from the Dodgers this off-season.  

Sabermetrically speaking, Van Slyke is the type of player that guys like Friedman and Zaidi like to acquire.  There's simply no room for him, unless the Dodgers magically are able to rid themselves of both Ethier and Crawford.  That Looks unlikely, but perhaps the new front office, affectionately monikered the "geek squad," has something up their sleeves.