Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The "Untouchable" Prospect that Few Talk About

So there's a young southpaw from Mexico that scouts project to have at minimum, number two starter stuff.  But he's not the guy.

There's that shortstop with a pedigree from North Carolina that has hit at every level, including the majors in his September call up.  It's not him eiher.

Jose DeLeon? Brett Holmes? Ross Stripling? Cody Bellinger? Jharel Cotton? Alex Verdugo?

All highly touted and I'd hate to lose any of them.  But none are the the player I identify either.

If there are position areas where the Dodgers seemed to have weak spots after the 2014 season, they were probably identified as catcher and second base.  In one full swoop, the Dodgers filled both those holes with the acquisition of that rare commodity, a Catcher/second baseman by the name of Austin Barnes

Barnes isn't expected to be on the big club to start the season, but it isn't because he's not ready.  To the contrary.  There are some in the organization that believe he should be the starting catcher right now.

As his name is tossed around in trade rumors, I can't help but cringe.  This is a team leader and the type of player you can build a franchise around in my opinion.  Don't believe it?  Well look at the numbers.  Coming into his own at age 25, Barnes was a middle infielder at Arizona State that the Marlins immediately converted to catcher because of his athleticism and basbeall IQ.

A lifetime .300 hitter with the overly impressive .390 OBP over four minor league seasons. That isn't a small sample size.  Barnes has 2,190 plate appearances during that time.  He works counts, gets on base, all the while with OPS in the mid .800's.  He can drive in runs, hit the clutch homer and steal the occasional bag, along with steady defense where scouts rave about his soft hands, strong arm and game calling skills.  Add to that the fact that he has thrown out an impressive 30% of runners attempting to steal on him.  Barnes is the real deal, but the one thing that isn't shown in his stats is that "leadership" intangible factor.

"The one that stood out to me the most was Barnes.  I like him.  He looked like a real good ballplayer.  I think we'll seem him playing real good in the big leagues someday."
Carl Crawford after spending July at AAA Oklahoma City during a rehab stint.

"He gets to know all his pitchers.  He really goes out of his way to find out what type pitcher you are."
Pitcher Mike Bolsinger on his Triple A catcher

Barnes, the nephew of former Oakland Athletic Mike Gallego, has that other intangible factor that few have noticed:  He's a winner at all levels in the minors.  Leading his teams in Greensboro, Jupiter, Jacksonville and Oklahoma City all to winning records and two division championships. This is the type of player that the Dodgers need during the upcoming years when the youngsters develop.

A cerebral player.  A guy that puts in his work and studies the game.  A leader by example.  You don't trade someone like this away, especially when AJ Ellis is on the verge of retirement and Yasmani Grandal is a huge question mark after his injury plagued second half. 

Austin Barnes is the Dodgers catcher of the future, and he shouldn't put his fielder's glove away either, because if the injury bug hits, we just may see him at 2nd or 3rd base if needed.  Maybe as soon as 2016.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Guest Post at ThinkBlueLA.com

This morning I provide a guest post over at Thinkbluela.com.

Take a look at my position regarding the D-Backs signing of Zack Greinke to a record-setting contract.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Right Now is NOT the Time to Trade Puig

I think its fair to say that Yasiel Puig is lacking in common sense.  He is his own worse enemy and his off-field exploits over the past three years are too numerous to accept.  I'll be the first to stand up and say I like the man.  I want him to succeed.  I believe he's misunderstood and a lot of that misunderstanding is based on cultural misconceptions, BUT...
(photo by USATSI)

The man has been warned numbers of times.  He has been told to toe the line and he makes the same mistakes over and over.  I've seen the other bloggers and their name calling.  "Knucklehead," "Idiot," "Clueless," "Immature," and worse.  A lot of those names are justified.  Here is my advise to the troubled Dodger outfielder.

"Yasiel, alejate de las discotecas, y la bebida..."

Puig needs to steer clear of bars and clubs.  Additionally, he needs to be kept from getting behind the wheels of automobiles.  Now he may need to be told to stay away from his own family members.  All seem to be a rather toxic situations for him.  Get him to lock himself on his compound with his personal trainer and get in shape both physically and mentally.  If he doesn't, his career will flounder and eventually fizzle out.

The truth of the mater is Puig is seriously blowing it and his hopes of landing future earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars are getting slimmer as time passes.

With that said, Yasiel Puig's value as a player has reached all time lows, which is the precise reason that the Dodgers should NOT trade him.  It's not like the Raiders are in MLB.  But I guarantee you this, if a team could have him for next to nothing, there are a number of them out there that will probably attempt to strike a deal with the Dodgers.

Puig would comes to them super cheap.  Five tool players with a ceiling in the stratosphere are not easy to find. Players of that ilk making 7 million/year are just not out there too often.  Remember, he's still not 25 years old until next month.  It would be borderline stupid to deal him now.

Puig could be a bust and never surpass his amazing rookie season.   In that scenario, the Dodgers lose out on the $23 million he is owed over the next three years.  Either that or the marginal player they could get in return for him if he was traded tomorrow.  Neither is that great a loss.  The Dodgers spend much more that $23 million on scrubs, scrapped and injured players year in and year out.

On the other hand, Puig could also turn things around, work hard and be an MVP candidate for years to come.  The risk/reward needs to be fully evaluated when considering losing Puig now.  Do the Dodgers want to be looking back ten years from now saying "what if" we hadn't traded Puig, the former WS MVP and 7 time all-star?  All of which is possible.  I sure would hate to be thinking of Puig as we currently remember Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez today.

At age 25, it is silly to even consider the fact that this grown man still is in need of a mentor on the team that serves as his babysitter, something that Juan Uribe did fairly well.  The man needs to grow up, and maybe a dose of humble pie will do that.  Is that a minor league designation?  I surely doubt it, but this will be the first true challenge of the new manager, Dave Roberts, a man that everyone lauds for his in-person skills with players.  

Meanwhile Yasiel Puig needs to remain a Dodger.  He needs to arrive at Spring training svelte and in the best shape of his life.  He needs to buckle things up.  Stop partying and get serious about his career.  If he doesn't, his days as a Dodger are done, and he'll become that "what if" story that will be talked about for years on end.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thoughts on the Off-Season Moves that Must Be Made

With the season over and the World Series four games in, the pain of post-season elimination is slowly wearing off and thoughts of a 2016 season are already on the forefront.  Don Mattingly is a Marlin and the rumor mill is grinding about his replacement.

It is this writer's opinion the Gabe Kapler will be that man.  First, because he is an Andrew Friedman hire and he immediately impacted the organization.  Second, because the Dodgers are set to announce that Rick Honeycutt is returning as pitching coach, and what manager in his right mind would not want to take a new job without a say in who his pitching coach was, unless he was already a part of an organization and he agreed to it beforehand?
Gabe Kapler, In contention for the Dodger Manager position (photo by Jon Soo Hoo/LA Dodgers, from 2011 Spring Training)

So there are a number of questions that will be posed once the World Series ends. I'll address them as they come to mind:

1) Zack Greinke.  We all know he will opt out and declare for free agency.  Do the Dodgers resign him?  Are they willing to pay him up to age 38 to the tune of $25 million+ per year?  That's what it is going to take to keep the man.  It's a lot of money...but losing Greike would be a disaster, especially if he ends up a Giant.  Pay him and pray the elbow holds up.  I can't believe I'm saying that , but a season without Greinke could be a disaster.  Signing a Free Agent such as David Price to replace him makes no sense, as the Dodger rotation would consist of only lefties.

2) Brett Anderson.  A qualifying offer is rather lofty.  About $15.8 million.  Frankly I don't think he's worth it, and I think with his injury history, he'll probably accept it.  With Hyun Jin Ryu returning and Zack Lee in the wings, I simply do think that sort of money should be offered to Anderson.  Crazy, I know.  I recommend spending $150 million on Greike and then pass on Anderson becasue of the cost of the contract, but it's more about there being better options out there for less money that fill the #4 slot in the rotation.

3) Howie Kendrick.  He was solid and extremely valuable, but he's 32 and it makes no sense to sign this guy for years when the club has cheaper and younger options that also play second base in Peraza and Kike Hernandez.  If it could be done for one year it would be great, but Kendrick has this one last chance to sign a big contract for several years.  He's probably wearing another uniform for the next three years.

4) Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.  Both gone.  They'll have problems finding a taker or two unless they're willing to accept bench roles and substantial pay cuts.

5) Andre Ethier.  The current dean of the Dodgers, coming off a solid year.  There's some trade value here, but the club will have to eat much of his contract.  It'll be interesting to see if there is an attempt to move him.  I say it's time.

6) Carl Crawford.  What a waste of money he is.  His regression and injury prone capacity are a true burden.  If he's moved, the Dodgers must take on all the contract.  He's a defensive liability and was so overmatched against the power pitchers in the NLDS, I'm wondering if he's done as a player.

7) Joc Pederson.  This young man and his free swinging ways at the plate were a disaster for the last 2/3 of the season.  He's in serious need of a hitting coach that reaches him, otherwise I see him possibly with an Oklahoma City future next season.  That's harsh, especially with his stellar defense and propensity to walk, but Pederson was a mess at the plate by season's end.  He needs shorten up his swing and stop going for the fences.  He must adjust his approach according to pitch counts.  The kid swings out of his shoes at all times and it's just stupid.  With Mattingly and McGwire there, I just can't believe they couldn't talk sense into the kid.

8) Adrian Gonzalez.  His poor second half concerns me.  Is this the beginning of a significant decline for AGon?    I sure hope not, because there's a lot of money left to be paid on that contract.  Gonzalez was killed by the extreme shifts this year and his failure to adjust cost him heavily.  While there's still value here, it may be time to move him.  Certainly it'll be an unpopular move but wouldn't it be best to get some value in return while you still can?

9) Yasiel Puig.  A misunderstood and mismanaged talent.  Maturity issues?  Sure.  But there is too much talent in this player to give up on him.  Roberto Clemente was a mess at age 24 too.  They have to give Yasiel the edict to report to Spring Training 20 lbs. lighter and in the best shape of his career.  Get him someone in the dugout that he can relate to and who will reach him.  Juan Uribe's departure hurt Puig's development because Papi could talk sense into this young man.  He's relatively cheap still.  He is capable of .290BA/25HR/.900 OPS production with gold glove defense.  You don't trade that away after an injury plagued season.  If Puig is traded, mark my words, we'll see him win an MVP in another uniform.  There's that much talent in this kid.

10) Manager. (Yes, I know, it was addressed already).  HIRE GABE KAPLER, with Roenicke as his bench coach.  Let Kapler work his magic.  He's the type of person that could dominate as a field general for 20 years.  He has reached minor leaguers such as Schebler and Seager.  This guy is the future of baseball.  He understands the game as it should be, honing in on modern metrics.  He's an intellectual, a nutritionist, slight eccentric and a SoCal guy.  He'll thrive in this position.  I'm excited at the thought that this man could be managing the club.  He has so much potential.  This move could be a true franchise changer, I truly believe it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Game Five Tidbits...It's a One Game Season!

Justin Turner's knee, Yasmani Grandal's left shoulder, Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig's tender hamstrings, Adrian Gonzalez's neck.  It's that time of year where they're all ailing, and also when they need to suck things up and play through the pain.  Champions play through pain.  Watch as one or two from that group turn out to be significant contributors in game five of the NLDS.
(photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The Dodgers are nine victories away from that ultimate goal, but one loss ends the season.

So as we prepare to watch the series deciding game five on Thursday night.  Aside from the injuries, there are a few things to consider:

  • Jacob deGrom is going to be tough, but the Dodgers know his repertoire and should have a game plan in place that works the counts deep and gets him tired in the early innings.  
  • Any faltering by DeGrom will probably result in a relief appearance by fire throwing Noah Syndergaard. 
  • The Chase Utley suspension headlines sure went away quickly.  Did the appeal process take place in NYC, or did they simply decide to table the matter until next season?  Perhaps MLB thought better of it and decided on the latter.
  • How many times have we seen a Dodger club falter after a terrible call, such as the David Wright foul tip strike three that was called a ball? (8th inning of game 4).  The fact that the Dodgers were able to record the third out and overcome that obstacle was huge and something that championship teams are able to overcome.
  • Speaking of that Wright at-bat.  Where was Don Mattingly?  I'm sure he was barking from the dugout, but didn't that warrant an "in-your-face dirt kicking tirade?"
  • One of the best reasons that the Dodgers need to get to the NLCS is that the next series won't be broadcast by TBS.  I can live with Ripkin, but Darling's homerism is getting to be unbearable.
  • It's fair to say that Clayton Kershaw has exorcised the post season demons that have affected him over his career.  A 2.63 ERA over 14 innings of work with 19 K's is dominance that we are accustomed to seeing from the best pitcher in the game.  Watch for that dominance to continue if the Dodgers are fortunate enough to make it to the NLCS against the Cubs.
  • Many consider Justin Turner to be the series offensive MVP, and that may be accurate, but Kiki Hernandez is definitely the most inspirational.
  • Hopefully Zack Greinke is able to live with AJ Ellis behind the plate in game 5.   We all know how fond he is of Grandal's pitch framing abilities.  Watch as Ellis extends his post season hitting streak.
  • Mets hitters that you don't allow to beat you: Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson.  There really isn't anyone else in the New York lineup that the Dodgers really need to fear.  I'm not saying there aren't other quality hitters in that lineup, only that those two are the guys that seem to be doing the most damage.
Prediction:  Dodgers take game five with a 4-1 victory.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Slide Heard Round the World

(photo by USAToday Sports/Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

With once full swoosh and clunk Chase Utley has forever marked himself in baseball lore as a hero and villian all in one.  It all depends on which coast you live.  That decisive take out slide may be talked about for decades.  The question that remains is:  Was it enough to turn the Dodgers fortunes around?

Ruben Tejada is out for the remainder of the year with a broken fibula.  The Dodgers have life again as they travel to NYC with a series split, and they have a renewed energy and life that had not been seen in the first 15 innings of the NLDS.

As Chase Utley was crucified on the TBS post game show for his "dirty" play, I seemed to think back to 2013 as the major Dodger offensive threat had been neutralized by a 95+ mph fastball to the ribs. What goes around seems to eventually come around.  Baseball is a game where things eventually even themselves out and as New Yorkers complain about being treated "unfairly" it reminds me of 1973 when a Dodger team finished second in the NL West with 95 wins and was forced to watch an 83 win Met team play in the post season.

Things aren't always fair folks, and Utley's slide, (which was late by all means), was done within the current rules of the game.  Tejada turned his back in the play, assuming that he could perform a pirouette throw to first to turn a game saving twin killing.  As a middle infielder, you never turn your back on a player barreling down on you to break up a double play.  I'm not saying the man deserved to be injured, but his actions placed him in a vulnerable spot.

Chase Utley did his job, and for that he will be remembered forever in Dodger history.  How much so only time will tell, but if the Dodgers win it all, the "slide heard round he world"will be talked about for decades.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Tidbits Before the Final Freeway Series of the Year

A 7 1/2 game lead with 28 games to play makes thing look mighty positive, but I've seen enough pennant races in my 54 years to recognize that some crazy things could happen.  So, I'll refrain from doing any celebration dances because I hate putting the hex on the season.  Also, will anything short of a World Series appearance be satisfying enough to remove the awful taste of how last season ended?

The additions of Chase Utley, Corey Seager and Justin Ruggiano seem to have sparked the club with new blood that has been sorely needed.  Time will only tell if the Utley rental won't bite us in the rear end for years to come, but that is one of those moves that I am all for...simply because it's guys like Utley that bring that playoff presence that just might be what's needed in post season play.
Justin Ruggiano homered on Friday night at San Diego.  (AP Photo/by Gregory Bull)

Ruggiano looks to be rejuvinated and a valuable bat against lefties.  Seager, well he's the real deal and appears to have ice-water in his veins.  I don't recall a Dodger rookie having that much poise, ever. And the have been a lot of successful ones.

I read on other blogs some strong words asking for Stan Conte's outster because of the slew of hamstring injuries this team has had.  I really have a difficult time believing that it is the fault of the conditioning staff that has caused the Dodgers problems in this area.  Do we really believe that the training staff doesn't have the guys stretching adequately in their pre-game preparation?  It's bad luck, simple as that.  Maybe there could be some blame on Puig's part for playing too many video games and not taking his conditioning seriously...but I could be completely off there too.

Injuries are fickle things.  Remember, it was just a few years ago when the oblique pulls and strains seemed to be the injury that was the most prevalent.  (The same injury that Giant Hunter Pence us recovering from at the moment).  I believe that with the Dodger training staff and state of the art facilities, that the team has done just about all they can to prevent the pulls, strains, tears and breaks that occur over 162 games.  Ask the Giants, who have had their share of bad luck this year too.  Injuries happen, and sometimes more often than normal.

The teams with the greatest depth prevail over injuries, and the Dodgers have definitely built a ball club with a lot of that.  This 2015 team has trotted out 54 different players on the field, the most of any Dodger team in history, (the 1998 team used 53 players), and who knows if a few more minor league call-ups occur after the PCL playoffs are over.   That's what $300 million in payroll can do to you.  That's also a lot of World Series rings if the club wins it all.  (Note: of those 54 different players, 31 were pitchers).


The countdown has begun.  The number is at Jim Gilliam at the start of today.  Hopefully it'll get down to A.J. Ellis by around 10:30 PM tonight.

I just took count and realized that this Dodger season I have watched our boys in blue on MLB network from three continents and ten different countries, and I'll add a few more locations before the month ends.  By my count they are USA, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ghana, Mexico, Colombia and coming up in the next three weeks: Brazil and Thailand.  I definitely got my money's worth out of the MLB internet package this year.  What a blessing that is.  It's watching games in crazy time zones that makes things difficult. There are a few misses for me as well:

  • For the first time in 34 years, I will not attend a home game this season, (but I did make it to Philadelphia and New York to see them play).  
  • This also was the first season since 1995 that I did not see the Dodgers play in person in San Francisco. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Up-coming Idle days in Schedule Should Allow Dodgers to Optimize Starting Rotation Order

The Dodgers have a rarity of two off-days this coming week, and three days off in the coming nine days.  This creates a unique opportunity to break-up the back-to-back Greinke/Kershaw starts without having either one of them losing a start.  Additionally a juggling of the rotation order can set up the home series against the Giants in two weeks, with both Greinke and Keshaw facing them.  Without a shuffle in the rotation, the Dodgers would play their three against San Fancisco with Latos, Wood and Anderson on the hill.

The approaching schedule is as follows:
Today, August 16: Reds (Greinke)
August 17: Offday
August 18: @ Oakland (Kershaw)
August 19: @ Oakland (Latos)
August 20: Off day
August 21: @ Houston (replace Wood with GREINKE)
August 22: @ Houston (Anderson with 7 days of rest)
August 23: @ Houston (replace Wood with KERSHAW)
August 24: Off day
August 25: @ Cincinnati (Wood with 10 days of rest)
August 26: @ Cincinnati (GREINKE)
August 27: @ Cincinnati (Latos with 8 days of rest)
August 28: Cubs (KERSHAW)
August 29: Cubs (Anderson with 7 days of rest)
August 30: Cubs (Wood)
August 31: Giants (GREINKE)
September 1: Giants (Latos)
September 2: Giants (KERSHAW)

Aside from setting up the starting staff to the most advantageous match-ups for the team, this also grants much needed extra days of rest for Wood, Anderson and Latos.   It makes perfect sense and I would hope that the decision makers would give these changes serious consideration.


Kike Hernandez is that rare gem that unexpectedly may be the key acquisition in the off-season trade with Miami.  He brings enthusiasm combined with versatility and a glove that can competently play 5 defensive positions.  I call him the modern day Derrell Thomas, but with a better bat.

Hernandez's three-run clout in last night's game was nearly hit out of the LF Pavilion.  The blast was shocking, not because he homered, but because of the distance the ball travelled.  ESPN tracked it's distance as as 433 feet.   I'm not sure how accurate that measurement was, but there's no doubt it was tattooed.

The Dodger's 8-3 win last night showed a return of the home run, as 5 were hit by both teams on a hot August L.A. night.  Something I would expect to continue in today's afternoon contest in the sweltering heat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The New Guys Contribute for the "W"

Dodger fans can be an impatient lot, and the early results of Jim Johnson, Alex Wood, Mat Latos and Luis Avilan have got a lot of them up in a tizzy.  For that reason last night's 5-3 Dodger win over Cincinnati may have temporarily calmed a few nerves.
Alex Wood went 6 1/3 innings in his first Dodger win. (AP photo)

It can't be ignored that Alex Wood pitched a good game last night.  He was on his game, his pitch count was low, he was getting ahead in counts.  It was a solid, not great, but solid outing and deserving of a win.

Jim Johnson retired the two hitters he was assigned, and luck was in his favor for the first time in which her wore a Dodger uniform.  I realize Johnson has been lit up in his previous outings, but I've seen enough nasty pitches from this guy in all but one of those appearances to still believe he can be a valuable piece to the bullpen.  To simply give up on him would be foolish.  As much as I'm quick to criticize Mattingly, I was glad he found a spot for Johnson to contribute last night.  I strongly believe that Johnson will be a significant contributor to the team between now and the end of the season.

Latos and Avilan remain to perform up to standard, but there's time.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers, in my opinion need about 27 more wins to wrap up the division title.  That'll put them at a 92 win season. Do they have it in them to finish up 27-18, (a .600 pace)?  I believe so, but there's still a lot of quality opponents that they'll have to beat.


Last season Dan Uggla found himself in a San Francisco Giant uniform for 4 games.  He participated in a three game series in SF against the Dodgers and went 0 for 9, while striking out 4 times.  He also made two errors at second base.  It was a putrid week for him as his batting average lowered to .152. As Dodger fans we were elated, after all the Dodgers swept the Giants and their new second baseman appeared to be done as a player.  The Giants brass didn't stick with him much longer, as he was released after his next game, an 0 for 3, two strikeout performance in a loss at home to Pittsburgh.

Uggla during his 4 days as a Giant. (photo by USA Today/SI)

The final numbers for Uggla as a Giant: 11 ABs, 0 Hits, 1 BB, 1 R, 6 SO, 2 errors.  He was a Giant from July 25-29th.

Q: What does he get for that?

A: A World Series ring.  

Uggla is in San Francisco with the Nationals this week and he was presented his ring, for that 4 game losing swing.  Sorry, but there's something wrong with that.

Oh, and another thing.  Uggla is still awful.  As a Nat he's hitting .191 with an OBP of .294.  At least in the past he had some pop to go with that low OBP, but even that is gone now.  Uggla has one homer this year so far.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Schedules / Road Trip Report

The Giants are finally hitting that rough patch of the schedule, and so far, things aren't looking good for the guys in the halloween colored duds.  Look at this brutal slate of games:

@Cubs (2 more, after having lost the first two), Astros (2) at home, Nationals (4) at home, @Cardinals (3), @Pirates (4), followed by a home stand with the Cubs (3) and then the Cardinals (3).

This stretch is against all playoffs contenders and in the dog days of August.  Following those 22 games they travel to Los Angeles and face the Dodgers for four.

Now if the Giants survive this stretch, September may be their month as they only face the NL West and A's, plus three home games with the hapless Reds.

So the Dodgers really need to take advantage of this month and stretch out the lead.  On the scheduling front, the Dodgers have their share of tough opponents too, (Nats, Astros, Pirates and Cubs), but the A's and Reds are mixed in there too.  If the Dodgers enter September with a 7 game lead, they should be in good shape.  They do have eight remaining contests with the Giants, who have pretty much owned them all season.

So I made it up to Philadelphia for yesterday's afternoon matinee.  Fact is, I traveled up to New York two weeks ago and caught the series opener there too, (which was Kershaw's masterpiece), but this piece is on Philadelphia's Citizen Bank Park, which was inundated by Dodger fans.

Who would have thought that Philadelphia would ever be accepting of a situation like that?  The city that may have one of the toughest fan bases in the all of sports.  Booers of Santa Claus, battery throwers at J.D. Drew and their own hometown star Richie Allen, fighters of opposing hockey players in the penalty box.  There's little doubt that Philadelphia fans have a reputation of being a tough group.  

I'd never think that visiting fans from a team over 3,000 miles away could openly cheer in such a place without receiving any hostility or any fights breaking out.  But such was the case yesterday. The Dodgers had quite a contingent of fans, with many dressed up in jersey, caps and more.  I saw friendly banter between them and Phillies fans, as things should be.

So I give my props to Phillies fans.  They were great hosts.  The fans I interacted with were actually very complimentary towards the Dodgers, and as I departed, one even wished us luck in the playoffs.  I'm sure if the Phils didn't have the worst record in the league that things would have been different, but that's neither here nor there.  What I witnessed was a knowledgeable fan base that was respectful.

Watching the blue crew lace out five hits while plating three runs in the first inning made me think that with Zack Greinke on the mound, the game was over.  How were we to know that Greinke would give up more runs in the first inning as he had in the previous two months?  It was one of those games.

With an 1 1/3 innings in the books, both teams had already combined for 11 runs and 13 hits.  There was no doubt that CB Park is a launching pad, as no lead appeared safe, even up to the final outs as the Phillies rallied from a four run deficit to having the potential winning run at the plate.

Props to CB Park's Bull's BBQ, where I had an amazing BBQ beef sandwich.

I met up with True Blue Will from New York.  A great friend and acquaintance from the Think Blue LA forum. I've met up with Will at CBR as well as Citi Field a few weeks ago. Will caught Amtrak from NYC and is about as loyal and knowledgable as  Dodger fan as there is, dating back to his days when he followed the Boys of Summer in Brooklyn. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lights Out Loss - Chalk It Up to Inept Nationals Staff + The Greatness of Kershaw

I had Friday night on my calendar as a game to attend for the longest time as I figured it would be a Clayton Kershaw start, being the first game after the AllStar break.  An ideal opportunity for a Dodger win.   All the stars were aligned for it to be the perfect road game to see in person.    But I couldn't pull the trigger.  I had to wait, and I'm sure glad I did.  In the end, when the Dodgers announced that Bolsinger would start, I didn't buy tickets.

photo by Brad Mills, USA Today Sports
In this age of modern technology, you'd think that a Major League organization with a stadium a mere 7 years old could keep the lights on.  But now, as a D.C. resident for the last 15 months, I must say, nothing surprises me in the nation's capital.

Chalk up the Friday-Saturday loss on the Nationals to an inept stadium staff.  They single-handidly gave their ball club a victory by forcing pitchers to warm up and cool down for a three hour period.  Why in the world the game wasn't played under protest is beyond me.

Tsao gave up the 2-run homer on Friday night after having warmed up and cooled down twice.  The third time, he clearly wasn't ready.  As I watched this debacle from home after the lights went out a second time, I couldn't help but think, "thank goodness you didn't attend this train wreck in person."
What a mess that was and an embarrassment for the Nationals organization.  That delay should have been no more than a few seconds, and not hours on end.

I'm obviously not savvy about technical issues, such as stadium lights, but it seems that there are enough out there in 29 other cities, (oops, make that 28, as I forgot about Chicago), that know how to keep them on without jeopardizing the integrity of the game.  If I had attended the game on Friday, I'd be asking for a full refund.


and....speaking of "lights out," how good is Clayton Kershaw right now?   Check out this stat line for his last two games:

17 innings pitched, 0 Runs Allowed, 27 strikeouts, 0 walks.

photo by Gary Fiume, Getty Images North America

Small sample size?  Sure.  Has anyone had such a dominant two game stretch in the past few decades?  I doubt it.  Twenty-seven Ks and 0 walks.  Nobody does that in two games.  Last night's Game Score of "90" was Clayton's highest since he pitched that no-hitter last year on June 18th vs. Colorado, with a games score of "102."  (Kershaw's no-hitter was the 7th highest game score in major league history and even surpassed Koufax's perfect game of "101").

That Bill James devised sabermetric stat (game score) is probably the best measure of game greatness out there for pitchers.  A score of 90 or higher makes up less than 0.025 % of all games played. Kershaw has thrown 4 of them in his career, and yesterday was one of them. He's the best pitcher in baseball bar none.  Watch him roll off 12 wins in a row.  I'm calling it right here.

How to calculate "Game Score:"

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  3. Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  4. Add one point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract one point for each walk.

Friday, July 3, 2015

It's Time to Take Over the Division...A Look Back In History

The moment has arrived.  The Dodgers need to step on the accelerator.

Everything is lining up in order.  The Giants are slumping on the road and now they head to D.C. to face a tough Nationals team.  The Dodgers are coming off their first off day in over a month as well their first winning road trip of the season.  They have a homestand coming up in which the schedule favors them with inferior teams, (Mets, Phillies and Brewers) and to top it off...Kershaw and Greinke start the first two games.

There comes a time in a season when you simply have to step on the gas and cushion that lead.  NOW IS THAT TIME!

As much as the Dodgers have pretty much led the division from the get go, it's safe to say that this team hasn't dominated by any stretch of the imagination.  If you want to see what this team is truly made of, I say this is the week we'll find out.  The Dodgers need to enter the All Star break with a 6 or 7 game lead in the West.


This has been a strange year.  With the Giants owning the Dodgers in head to head play, it reminds me of a similar situation of Dodger-Giant lore, but things were the exact opposite in 1971.

This was a Dodger team of Richie Allen, Willie Davis, Wes Parker and Maury Wills' last good season.  Al Downing won 20 games and Don Sutton 17. Jim Brewer in the pen sported a 1.88 ERA.

Richie Allen at 3B for the Dodgers in 1971 made Pedro Guerrero look like a gold glover.

The Dodgers absolutely owned the Giants that year, but San Francisco started out hot and they were in first place for 147 days of the season, almost from start to finish.  L.A. had a 12-6 record against the Giants that season, including winning their final eight contests with their hated rivals.  We all knew who the better team was.  It just seemed inevitable that San Francisco would cough up that 10 game lead they had as the Dodgers whittled away at it to move within one game of first place on September 14th.

Unfortunately, the Dodger schedule against San Francisco was done by then.  A four game losing streak to hapless San Diego and Atlanta set them back.  Even winning five of their final six wasn't enough as the Giants held their own and won the division by one game, depriving us of what would have been a classic NLCS with Roberto Clemente's Pittsburgh Pirates.

So my point is this:

It doesn't matter who the wins and losses come against.  The big picture right now is the overall record, and as things stand right now, the Dodgers beat the teams they should beat, much better than the Giants do.

 We know the Giants and Cardinals have owned us this year, but those were just blips on the whole schedule.  The '88 Dodgers were 1-10 against the Mets in the regular season, but that didn't matter when the NLCS rolled around.  The '83 Phillies were 1-11 against the Dodgers, but when the playoffs came around, and they took the Dodgers out in 4 games.

We express concerns with the way this team holds up against those NL rivals, but it's a clean slate in October.  There's a lot of time left.  There is a trade deadline looming and some exciting call ups coming for the September run.  This ball club will be a completely different animal in September. And so will the Giants.  For that reason, getting a cushion at the All Star break is very important.  Not crucial, but certainly important.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The "Cardinal Way" is Nothing to Brag About

Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals Manager
As word spreads about an FBI probe against the St. Louis Cardinal front office hacking in to the Houston Astros network, it leaves little doubt that the organization that boasts about doing things the "Cardinal Way" gives little thought to such words as integrity and fair play.  Now I'm starting to wonder how deeply entrenched cheating is in the Cardinal organization at all levels.

We watched helplessly as Clayton Kershaw's deliveries were whacked around in the 2014 NLDS.  A schalacking that we'd never seen Kershaw ever experience before.  Speculation that the Cardinals knew what pitch was coming was prevalent, but no proof surfaced.  Of course Matheny and company denied it, but those that have followed the game for a long time recognized hitters that were teeing off on pitches they knew were coming.  Did the Cardinals develop an elaborate scheme to tip their hitters about the pitches being called?  Was it sophisticated in a way similar to the '51 Giants, who used, telescopes, signals and buzzer systems to let batters know what pitch was coming?  Who knows?

We can only guess, but today's announcement proves one thing.  There is now concrete evidence that this organization cheats, and they didn't even consider the consequences of getting caught.  For that, they should be punished severely.  If it were up to me, I'd banish the culprits from the game for life, in the same fashion that the 1919 Black Sox were banned, and Pete Rose was given the boot.  This is serious stuff.  In the 21st century, network hacking in the tech savvy baseball world can do some serious damage to an organization.  It messes with the integrity of the game and gives an organization an unfair advantage.  That in turn affects outcomes.

Take away St. Louis' first five draft picks in the 2016 and 2017 draft.  Ban those in their organization that were involved from the game for life.  Sanction the organization $100 million dollars.  That should show St. Louis what the "Cardinal Way" is all about.  This needs to be near the equivalent of the SMU NCAA football death penalty in the mid 1980s.  Rob Manfred, you're up next.

As a Cardinal hater, I must say that I admit to some morbid enjoyment in watching the redbird fans squirm.  There's nothing worse than cheaters, and the Cardinals have just surfaced with a dishonest reputation that should follow them for years.  Chew on that Cardinal fans.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Since When Do Style Points Determine Whether a Pitch Is a Strike?

I never thought I'd say it, but umpire Mike Winters just proved that he views officiating at home plate the same  a figure skating judge does in the Olympics.  An inadequate "presentation" from Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis kept him from calling borderline pitches strikes.  Are you kidding me?  That has to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard and who can blame Ellis one bit for arguing to the point of receiving his first ever ejection last night?
(photo by CBSSPorts)
I was pretty much against instant replay when the officiating review rules were introduced.  And I still have my reservations about it, since I've seen some questionable decisions made in New York after reviewing plays, but one thing it has proved is that the four guys officiating each game certainly make a lot of mistakes AND they can be replaced.  Perhaps it is time to seriously consider replacing them completely, and that has to do with the guy calling balls and strikes.

It's time for Joe Torre to stand up and punish this umpire.    If A.J. Ellis is correct in stating that Winters said that the way he caught the pitches, or essentially his poor pitch framing made it difficult to call some strikes, then that's an admission that his calls are based on the acting skills of the receiver and not where the ball is while it crosses the plane.  A.J. isn't a liar, and why else would this level headed veteran lose it to the point of ejection?

But Joe Torre has had it in for the Dodgers for some reason since he left in 2010, so I highly doubt anything will be done.  We've seen a number of replays go against Los Angeles since these changes were instituted, and call me crazy, but I simply don't trust MLB brass and the officiating staff headed by Torre at all.  I have no proof of any shenanigans, just an opinion of a distant observer, coupled with the frustrations of a Dodger fan that has watched his team whittle away a first place lead of 5-6 games in a few weeks time.

It's tough enough to beat the likes of San Francisco and St. Louis on an even playing field, but when you've got umpires doing stupid things like calling pitches based on style points of the catcher, well that takes frustration to new levels.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Revolving Door 25th Man

It certainly has been a unique way to handle the 5th spot in the Dodgers rotation.  With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon Mccarthy's injuries, you're think that the Dodgers would be in a bit of a panic mode a little more than month into the season, but the Dodger front office has handled the problem in a unique way.

I call it the revolving OKC door.  Others may name it the "catch and unconditional release" method.  Whatever you call it, it has worked so far, but how much longer can the Dodgers continue this?  That answer might surprise you.  I think it might go on for months.

Carlos Frias is now the number 4 guy in the Dodger rotation.  Here he is facing the Brewers in this week's action at Milwaukee (AP photo)

David Huff, Mike Bolsinger, Scott Baker, Carlos Frias, and Joe Weiland have made spot starts in the fourth and fifth rotation spots.  Relievers Daniel Coulombe, Sergio Santos and Adam Liberatore have bounced between AAA and the majors in that 25th spot too.  Mix in position players like Darwin Barney, Chris Heisey and Enrique Hernandez and there you have the 25th man, made up of eleven different guys.  

By far, the Dodgers are making the most moves in baseball as they juggle their roster.  The risks?  Losing the players they send down who have major league service time on the waiver wire, but so far, nobody is picking those men up off the scrap heap.  That may change over time as rival NL West teams might want to mess with the Dodger's GM strategy as they repeat this process again and again.  The thing is though, there isn't much desire by other clubs for these types of players, and if they are snatched up by another team after the Dodgers unconditionally release them...it's no big deal anyway.

The guys like Baker, Barney, Bolsinger and Huff are serviceable players, but they aren't "difference makers."  At least we think that way now anyway. And again, the Dodgers appear to be snake-bit on the injury front again, perhaps more than any other team in the game.  More and more, this is becoming the M.O. of the L.A. Dodgers.  The front office loads up on depth and in the end, it proves beneficial.  How much would we have liked to hold on to Dan Haren right now?

Who can complain though?  19-10 is their record, and that's with the starting staff 40% gone and Clayton Kershaw not hitting his stride yet.  Friedman and Zaidi obviously know what they're doing and they have a plan.  It is probably plan "C" or "D" that is currently in place, but it's a plan nonetheless, and in the end, the ball club isn't panicking and overpaying in a desperate trade for someone like Cole Hamels.  At least not yet.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back to Winning...but Mattingly's Tendencies Remain the Same

As many predicted doom and gloom following the three game sweep in San Francisco, we are seeing that the globe is back securely on it's axis and normalcy returns.

(photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Frisco sweep in the grand scheme of things probably means nothing.  The Dodgers departed the Bay Area and proceeded to win again and hit again.  The Giants left and immediately lost to Colorado.  In September we probably won't even remember the April Frisco fiasco, except for the tendencies of our stubborn manager that doesn't believe in playing the hottest hitter in the game, until he inevitably cools off or the league figures out some of his weaknesses.  I truly believe that had Alex Guerrero started (AND FINISHED!) all three games, the Dodgers probably sweep the Giants.

Alex Guerrero is absolutely raking, but he continues to sit.  I've got to hand it to the guy.  He handles his benching with class and dignity.  He repeatedly continues to make a fool out of his manager by coming up big with the bat when given a chance.  I think we're all a bit bothered by the fact that he sits while Uribe and Rollins continue going out there and laying an egg.  That stick of Guerrero's would fit in nicely with the rest of the Dodger offense.  Heck, I'd even venture to test him out a shortstop too as Rollins' production deteriorates, probably due to the effects of playing baseball at age 36.

But Mattingly has this stubborn belief that he needs to show loyalty to veteran players that aren't performing.  He's refusing to ride the hot hand, while it is scalding hot.  That's a true shame too, because hot hitting spells usually don't stay with players for long periods of time.  The fact that Mattingly doesn't want to offend a veteran player speaks rather loudly...the guy fears his own players.  Rather than communicate with them (said to be his strong point), he keeps trotting the same faltering players out there day after day while the second coming of Rogers Hornsby sits.  What would have happened had Miller Huggins insisted on starting Wally Pipp over Gehrig, simply because he was a veteran?

So that's essentially my Mattingly rant for the day, but I guarantee you there will be many more as long as Freidman and Zaidi continue to put up with a manager that simply is set in his Torre-esque ways.

He'll continue:

  • Burning up his bullpen for one out at a time, pigeon-holing certain relievers into roles that they probably shouldn't be in.
  • Double-switching and taking out offensive threats in his lineup  (like Guerrero) in exchange for perceived defensive upgrades or to move the pitchers spot in the batting order.
  • Giving up outs with the call for the asinine sacrifice bunt, even with hot hitters at the plate.
  • Putting out a batting order with a .180 hitting Jimmy Rollins on top at lead off.

AP Photo

If you're a sabermetrician, it is easy to see that Mattingly hasn't changed his ways and he never will.  (The only exception to that are the defensive shifts the team has put in place that have saved the clubs a number of runs in this early season).  The Mattingly tendencies otherwise continue as always and I wonder if Zaidi and Freidman's patience is running thin.  This team would already have 3 more additional wins in this young season had Mattingly not been at the helm.  First place or not, Donnie needs to go.  Some may see that stance as paranoid, but the one missing ingredient of this team is a manager that will make decisions that maximize this ball clubs strengths.

You've got a guy like Paco Rodriguez that can get everyone out, but Mattingly uses him as a loogy.  Then you have a rookie centerfielder that has a history in the minors of leading off and nows how to work a walk, with an OBP hovering around .400, but our manager insists on putting him in the 8th spot of the lineup while a .250 OBP leads off, getting the most plate appearances on the team.

I could go on and on.  Here's the thing though.  Eventually this managerial weakness problem will really  be exposed, and we already saw it in post season play last year.  Are we really going to put up with that, have a winning season, only to falter in the playoffs when those vital decisions are magnified ten-fold?

I'll say it.  Pull the plug now and make a managerial change.  And while they're doing it, Andre Ether is red hot, time to trade him while he has value.  Yes, I know Puig is hurt, there there's a glut of outfielders that can fill in: Van Slyke, Schebler, Guerrero, Kike Hernandez to name a few.

Rant over...for now anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Newest Name in Dodger/Giant Lore

In one night, Justin Maxwell, San Francisco's newest right fielder, has become one of those Giant players that have came out of no-where to kill the Dodgers.

Justin Maxwell scores during 4th inning action in last night's 6-2 Giant win at AT&T Park. (photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Obviously I could name such players as Mays, McCovey, and Barry Bonds as perennial Dodger killers, but those names are too obvious.  They were superstars and hall of fame caliber, (no matter how much you argue against Bonds, his talent was hall of fame caliber).  But those aren't the guys I'm thinking about when Justin Maxwell's performance is mentioned.

I think of a young Bobby Bonds who hit a grand slam as a rookie to destroy the Dodgers in 1968.  Or Brian Johnson, who homered in '97 in a late September series that tied the Giants in the division race with the Dodgers, one ultimately won by San Francisco.  Maxwell is a nobody.  A wandering baseball nomad who changes uniforms each year in search of employment.

Add his name to the list that includes such players as the aformentioned Johnson, and Bonds the first.  Then there are others such as Jimmy Ray Hart, Larry Herndon, Randy Winn, Rich Aurelia, and Will Clark.  Some killed them in clutch moments.  Others did it all the time and had respectable careers to boot.  They were Dodger killers over time, (e.g. Will Clark, Hart, Jack Clark).

Now there's Justin Maxwell.  I had no idea who this guy was, and maybe I should have, because he has toiled in the majors off and on since 2007.  A former top prospect in the Nationals organization, Maxwell has had an injury ridden career that kept him from achieving the lofty status so many predicted of him after his 4th round selection by the Nats in 2005.

Tommy John surgery, hip surgery, and a series of concussions have sidelined Maxwell over the years.  He showed signs of potential, (18 homers in Houston in 2012), but he has never reached that pinnacle that many expected of him.  Ironically, it is an injury to Hunter Pence that may finally give him his chance.

Maxwell's amazing catch, rally starting triple and late inning clutch homer caught our attention last might.  Was it a fluke? Yeah, probably, but for some reason I'm thinking that Giant fans will revere the guy for a long time.  He did, after all, crush the Dodgers.

Long live he rivalry. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nine Games In and 2015 is already Showing Some Changing Trends

With the season a mere week and a half old, it would be ridiculous to believe certain events will continue for the remaining 152 games or so.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a few interesting trends in the National League that could hold up.  Here are some observations from afar.

1) The San Francisco Giants (3-8)
Their offense is deplorable.  Yes, others are even performing worse, but these are the defending World Series champions.  When Gregor Blanco is batting fifth in your lineup, that's a team some serious offensive shortcomings.  They are battling injuries (Pence, Cain, Belt)  but even the most faithful Giant fan has to be concerned about their 7 games losing streak and winless home record.  Is this a team that will rebound?  There was a time in 2014 when we all thought they were lifeless and doomed (remember the Dan Uggla series?), how wrong we were.  It would be foolish to count them out, but Bruce Bochy has to be a bit concerned with their 3-8 start.

2) The Washington Nationals (4-6)
This is a good team playing very sloppy baseball.  I expect them to turn things around and win their division going away, but Harper, Zimmerman and Desmond are batting .237, .162 and .211.  Then you have Dan Uggla (.130)  logging in significant time at second base.  Add to that they aren't catching the ball with 11 errors committed including a few costly game deciding mental errors and it makes you wonder.  Nah, too much pitching and too many good players.  They'll overcome the problems.

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado makes a spectacular catch before diving into the stands against the Giants on Tuesday night. (photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
3) The Colorado Rockies (7-2)
Everyone's predicted cellar dwellers are sitting atop of the west, having beaten up on the Brewers, Cubs and Giants.  Is this a result of easy scheduling at the beginning of the season or are the Rocks really this good?  Time will tell as they are about to meet their match with Kershaw and Greinke the next two games.  I think the truth is that a lot of people overlooked this team in the off-season, and they probably end up at around .500, which is a significant improvement for a team that won just 66 games in 2014.  Any team with a healthy Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzski in the lineup needs to be reckoned with.  To many people's surprise  over their first 82 innings of play, the Rockies pitching staff is posting a 2.41 ERA, trailing only St. Louis for the National League lead.

4) The New York Mets (7-3)
A pitching staff with Jacob DeGrom and a healthy Matt Harvey at the top of the rotation is fairly formidable.  Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon aren't slouches either.  Suddenly you look at a Mets team that can compete if those four horses stay healthy.  New York's bullpen has a lot of question marks and offensively there are players that haven't arrived yet, (i.e. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares), but if they get some decent offensive output that puts them in the middle of the pack in the N.L. offensively, the Mets just might surprise some people.

5) The Los Angeles Dodgers (6-3)
Even skeptical me is liking things as they stand right now.  This team was built to get on base.  With an OBP of .357, they dominate the league with the second best team in base percentage (Colorado) a full 26 points behind the Dodgers.  Clayton Kershaw hasn't even pitched well yet.  Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn't faced a batter and Yasiel Puig has slumped, yet to make significant impact.  Still the Dodgers keep winning, just coming off a 3 game sweep of a very good Seattle Mariners team.  With four comeback wins, and some after the 8th inning, the Dodgers in week one have surpassed their late inning comeback totals from last season's division winning club.  

I predicted a .500 Dodger club due to the starting pitching question marks, but I'm slowly beginning to realize that this club's offense will overcome those issues.  Friedman and Zaidi have constructed a ball club that gets on base and has a strong defensive foundation up the middle.  Though they have committed 9 errors in 9 games, some stellar defensive play has saved this team some games.  Rollins, Kendrick, Pederson, Gonzalez and Puig have all flashed outstanding leather a times.   Watch for the defense to improve and the Dodgers to be recognized as one of the best fielding teams in the league by mid-season.

Yimi Garcia has 10 strikeouts in his first 6 IP this young season.  (AP photo)
One last thing.  The bullpen may have arrived.  Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez, Paco Rodriguez, Joel Peralta, and Juan Nicasio have all stepped it up.  Hatcher and Howell have had their struggles, but have also shined at times too.  When Kenley Jansen returns to the fold, we will look at this Dodger bullpen with confidence.  Now if only we could get Mattingly to manage the bullpen with some intelligence and stop relying on these pigeon-holed roles that had has deeply engrained in his mind. You can't take the Torre trained managerial tendencies out of him easily.  Dodger fans will have to live with Donnie and his decision making, that is sure to cost the club a half a dozen games this year.

Did anyone notice in the comeback win the other night, how Mattingly had Rollins bunting against Fernando Rodney?  The same Rodney that Rollins had pounded in the past with a 1.000 batting average.  Thank goodness he failed on the bunt attempt because JRoll's gapper would have never happened had he executed the sacrifice.  These are the maddening managerial decisions that Dodger fans will have to put up with until Friedman and Zaidi have seen enough and decide to give Mattingly the axe.  A nice guy...but a very questionable strategic manager.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Starting Pitching Questions Marks Linger as Season Begins

I'm back stateside just in time for the home opener, and after a lackluster three game set against the Angels, it's finally time.  So with that said I'll just say that I think this might be the most uneasy I've been regarding the upcoming Dodger season for many years.

That uncertainty comes from:

Injuries in the starting rotation

Greinke isn't ready and his barking elbow is the cause.  The Dodger brass, commonly known to me as the lying medical staff, misled us again and said that his lubricating injection was not a big deal, but it was.  Five weeks later he's still not ready and now it's time to be ready.  Is the elbow issue a harbinger of things to come?

Ryu's shoulder issues last season should have warned us.  He was shut down twice last year.  Now a few weeks into spring, it's the same thing over again.  If Ryu pitches 100 innings, it will probably be a surprise.  I hope he makes a liar out of me, but that's the way I see it.

(Photos by Jon SooHoo/L.A. Dodgers)

And speaking of small work loads, Brett Anderson hasn't ever been able to provide a season's worth of starting pitcher innings.  Well at least not since his rookie year in 2009 (175 innings).  His left arm has sustained innings pitched workloads of 112, 83, 35, 44 and 43 in the following five seasons.  Now he's the number 4 or 5 guy, (depending on how you rank Brandon McCarthy and him).  After last night's game against Anaheim, confidence isn't a strong point.  It was one game, but the Angels were fooled by nothing as they were spanking the ball all over the place from the get-go.  He lacked command and they were hitting balls hard up in the zone.

McCarthy suddenly has become the number two guy on the staff, and that's a scary thought. He has lacked consistency and his spring training has not been anything impressive.  Yes, it's only spring training and let's just hope that he was working on stuff for the most part, as he did nothing to spark the confidence of the Dodger following faithful.

Look for significant starting pitcher innings this year out of Joe Weiland, Zach Lee, David Huff, Carlos Frias, and maybe even Juan Nicasio.  I just don't see the Dodger starting five as having enough  gas in the tank to make it through September.

So as we embark on following our guys for 162 games, I am hoping my concerns are those of an uninformed fan that really doesn't know things that are going on inside the organization.  I have watched from afar.  I missed spring training in person and for the most part I was out of the country and far removed from the team.  My observations are based strictly on MLB.com video streams and the occasional game I had time to see.  I see a lot of bloggers speaking very positively about this group, and there are many of them including: defense, young up and coming kids, Rollins/Kendrick DP combo, a catcher with power to name a few.

Prove me wrong Dodgers.  Please prove me wrong because right now I see an 81-81 team with struggling starting pitching.  Don't fret though.  I usually allow my emotional ties to the club to pick them to win it all, and look where that has got us over the last 26 seasons.

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.