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Dodger Thoughts


Saturday, May 03, 2003


If This Had Been an Actual Emergency ...

Over the past two days, reader Ro'ee Levy from Israel and I have been having an e-mail discussion concerning that old can of soup in our basement bomb shelter, Andy Ashby.

The roster issue becomes more pressing because it looks like Paul Shuey will be able to come off the disabled list on time, meaning that the Dodgers could soon be back to a 12-man pitching staff when, as Levy points out, they've really only been using 10.

Levy wrote:

The Dodgers haven't used Ashby since April 19. I personally think the Dodgers shouldn't give up on him yet. He only played in 4 games and as Jim Tracy said he has been put in somewhat of an unfair situation: turning him from a starter to a reliever and being used with the game on the line in extra innings in his second and third appearances.

On the other hand he also pitched poorly in spring training so maybe age affected him and he lost his talent.

My point is that the Dodgers should make a decision: Either give him another shot and let him play or release him even though he is owed a lot of money.

It is unlike Tracy to waste a roster spot, which is what's currently happening.

My response was:

--I'm sure the Dodgers would be thrilled to trade Ashby, but no one will pick up that contract until the trading deadline this summer, if even then. If the Dodgers decided to trade Beltre - which I'd be against, unless they were blown away - then you could perhaps include Ashby in a package.

--I don't think it's unfair to expect a veteran, even if he's always been a starter, to be able to pitch with the game on the line. That doesn't mean I expect him to be perfect, but it's not a free pass to give up runs every time out, either. Ashby has been ineffective in almost every appearance, relieving and starting - although he did have one amazing six-pitch inning against the Giants. Overall, there-s no reason to think right now that he isn't the 12th-best pitcher on the team, and should only be used as a last resort, as he has been so far.

--I think the Dodgers should be willing to eat his contact if it were keeping someone great off the team. But the fact is, the Dodgers don't really have 25 good major leaguers in the entire organization. If you can't trade Ashby, who do you replace him with? Larry Barnes? Wilson Alvarez? It's not that these people have no value, but there's no reason to think that their presence would help the Dodgers any more than Ashby or Ron Coomer or Jason Romano do - which is not at all.

--In short, there may or may not be value in keeping Ashby right now - but I'm pretty sure there's no value in releasing him. I don't know that there is a decision to be made right now.

In my latest e-mail from Levy, there was this:

I thought about your answer and I agree with the first two points you made: I also wouldn't want the Dodgers to trade Ashby if it involved trading Adrian Beltre (yet), and the fact that Ashby was used in extra innings isn't really an excuse for his performance.

But I disagree that there is no value in releasing Ashby (or at least letting him pitch):

One of the things Tracy has done so well with the Dodgers is use the whole roster. This season started with a 12-man pitching staff; the Dodgers are currently using 10. So far the bullpen has done an amazing job (I don't think Tracy has gotten enough credit for this; one of the reasons for the success of the bullpen was Tracy knowing when to replace pitchers and who to replace them with), but if the Dodgers will continue playing with only 10 pitchers, they might overuse some of them. So I think the Dodgers should give Ashby more playing time even if the main purpose is resting another pitcher, or they can call Alvarez or some other pitcher from the minors to give him a shot.

Another option is waiting for Shuey to return and then calling up one of the position players instead of Ashby. You might be right, these players might not help the Dodgers, but I think it's worth checking out. Maybe one of them will surprise the Dodgers and help the offense a bit. I think that with the way he's playing now, Bubby Crosby deserves a chance, but they can also call up Barnes or some other player.

Levy has me, at a minimum, questioning the wisdom of having 12 pitchers on the roster. Again, if there were a potential impact hitter in the organization, then by all means bring him up and dump a pitcher. Or, if you want to give Joe Thurston some more major league experience and spot him in the lineup, then bring him up (not that Thurston's current Las Vegas numbers inspire much hope.)

However, there is no such impact hitter. So my thinking remains that if the Dodger pitching is a strength and the hitting is a weakness, then play to the strength. If your last hitter is going to have an OPS of .400, then why bother keeping him - Darren Dreifort could produce those numbers at the plate. Whereas, keeping a 12th pitcher will give you a great advantage when a pitcher has a minor injury, like Odalis Perez did with his ankle, as well as in games that require numerous pitching changes. The Dodgers haven't had many games like that recently, but as we saw in the opening two weeks, they do come in spurts. Levy is concerned about the 10 top relievers being overworked - the fact is, they aren't overworked at all right now - with Perez throwing 132 pitches, they can barely get in a game. But that could all change rapidly.

In other words, I do not agree that Tracy is wasting a roster spot. I think the Dodgers could play this whole season with 24 players and have virtually the same record.

If you accept that thinking, who should that 12th pitcher be? Ashby or someone else?

Frankly, I'm still not convinced that, as bad as he's been, Ashby couldn't do better in the starting rotation than Kaz Ishii, and Ishii couldn't do better in the bullpen than Ashby. Admittedly, conditions were awful last night, but Ishii remains so inconsistent, I'm not sure why he isn't on the bubble. Perhaps someday, he will be.

Furthermore, I think Ashby should stay because, with pitchers like Alvarez and Steve Colyer able be stashed in the minor leagues, there is additional flexibility in keeping them there. Perhaps someday, the trade opportunity will open that allows us to get some hitting help, and we'll want to have the extra pitchers.

Ultimately, as I discussed at the end of Spring Training during the frenzy over Coomer, Thurston, Terry Shumpert and the like, the 25th man on the roster really just isn't that important - especially in an organization lacking in hitting depth. So while I still feel that the Dodgers should keep Ashby when Shuey comes off the disabled list, I won't have any strong feelings about any decision they make in that spot.

Perhaps you're wondering why I would spend so much time talking about a topic that I don't feel is that important. Well, even if it's not critical for the present, it is relevant to the future. And sometimes, we need to just work these things through.

Friday, May 02, 2003


Cora becomes Kora

Alex Cora passed Paul Lo Duca for the longest streak of plate appearances without a strikeout this season. Cora's streak was halted at 36 in the first inning Thursday night. He then struck out again in the third.

Si, Monde-si

In his expression of amazement at the Raul Mondesi turnaround (eighth in baseball with a 1.093 OPS), Steven Goldman and his Pinstriped Bible ask a reasonable question:

...cut us some slack here; who knew that working with Reggie Jackson, a guy who struck out 2,597 times, would turn Mondesi into a high-average hitter?

Pythagorean Addition

Because I wrote about it Thursday and he was asked about it today, allow me to print this excerpt from Rob Neyer's chat:

Bob Hope, Maryland: Can you explain the prospective value of Pythagoran record. I can understand how it may explain whether a team has been lucky or unlucky in the games it has played, but is there really any evidence that it can predict future performance?

Rob Neyer: (1:07 PM ET) There's not only "any" evidence, there's plenty of evidence. A team's Pythagorean record predicts future performance than does its actual record. So Braves fans, don't get too excited just yet.

This morning, the Dodgers remain tied with the Giants for first place in the NL West Pythagorean Standings.

For those of you who are Baseball Prospectus subscribers, Clay Davenport takes this approach even further, incorporating such items as strength of schedule. Davenport determines that so far, the Giants have been "the luckiest" team in baseball - and if baseball were played by the numbers, they would be tied for third place with Arizona, a hair behind Colorado and the Dodgers. Frankly, it's a virtual four-way tie.

Of course, this doesn't mean that baseball is in fact played by the numbers, nor that luck can't be the residue of design (as Branch Rickey would say). But it may mean that the pennant race could be more interesting than you might fear.

Environmental Oddities

Maybe it's global warming. Or more to the point, local warming. But after a month this season, offense is higher in Dodger home games than it is in road games.

.733...Dodger batters' OPS at home
.643...Dodger batters' OPS on road

.670...Dodger pitchers' OPS allowed at home
.617...Dodger pitchers' OPS allowed on road

According to, Dodger Stadium has been a ballpark that has favored pitchers over hitters every year of its existence. Last year, for example, Dodger Stadium's park factor was 91, on a scale where anything below 100 favors pitchers and anything above 100 favors hitters.

In 2003, the Dodgers have played games in the following cities:

City................2002 Park Factor...2003 Runs/Game...2003 Runs Allowed/Game

Los Angeles.................91..............................4.2......................................3.4
San Diego....................92..............................1.8.......................................4.0
San Francisco.............91..............................2.3.......................................3.3
Cincinnati...............New Park.......................1.3.......................................2.3

On the road, as one would expect, the Dodgers have scored amply in hitters' parks, amplessly in pitchers' parks. Their only above-average production in a pitchers' park has been at home, which makes sense if you believe in the home-cooking theory.

Dodger pitchers, on the other hand, have not followed the pattern. They have been average at home, effective in hitters' parks like Pittsburgh and Arizona, and average-to-below-average in pitchers' parks like San Diego and San Francisco (two opponents with a vast gap in talent, I might add).

Is it merely low sample size that is the cause of the contrarian behavior of the Dodger pitching staff? Maybe. Consider this, then. If the Dodger pitchers revert to form on the road, it could bode well for the team:

4.2...average margin of victory in Dodger wins in road hitters' parks
2.6...average margin of defeat in Dodger losses in road pitchers' parks

The Dodgers have considerable runs to spare in hitters' parks on the road. But in pitchers' parks on the road, the Dodgers are losing by a narrower margin.

It's just a theory, perhaps based on insufficient evidence, but we may see more improvement in the Dodgers' .438 road record than we'll see decline in their .538 home record.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


First Place!

With the victory, the Dodgers actually went into first place in the NL West Pythagorean Standings (scroll to the bottom of Rob's page).

This is an indicator that the Giants have gotten more wins out of their run-scoring and run-preventing ability than they could have expected, while the Dodgers have gotten less. At -3, no team is underperforming by this method worse than the Dodgers are. At +4, no team is overperforming like the Giants.

This may mean that the Dodgers and Giants are closer than the real standings indicate. Or, it just may mean that the Dodgers are wasteful of opportunities, with no indication that things will change. Or both.


Up in Arms

Odalis Perez threw 93 strikes Wednesday night. Not 93 pitches. Strikes.

In all, he threw 132 pitches before being removed with two out and two on in a 4-0 game.

Pitch counts have been a fevered topic, even more so than usual, in the blog and Under the Knife worlds of late - the latest flashpoint being the simultaneously devastating and predictable injury to Florida's A.J. Burnett.

The latest nuance, led by Under the Knife's Will Carroll, certainly through his own quest of knowledge but also in de facto response to the complaint that x number of pitches for one guy doesn't mean the same as x for another, is to evaluate how much a pitcher's velocity is dropping and use that as a danger signal.

I didn't keep track of Perez' velocity in the beginning of the game, but here is what I observed. Perhaps this will provide some useful background for Carroll, Aaron Gleeman, Christian Ruzich or any of the others that are paying close attention to this topic.

He had only 71 pitches through six innings, but zoomed up to 114 through eight. I was pretty sure that Jim Tracy would remove Perez at that point. Eric Gagne hadn't pitched since Saturday, so there was no reason not to bring him in - unless you're a slave to individual save and shutout statistics and are determined to come away with one or the other. And, as I later found out from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Perez had "felt some arm stiffness" Tuesday.

Tracy did let Perez bat in the bottom of the eighth, but in a sacrifice situation - nothing wrong with that. (Perez ended up hitting into a double play, which he didn't run out - not that anyone needs to dock him in that situation.)

But to my surprise, Tracy let Perez face Mike Lieberthal, who singled sharply, then Jim Thome, who hit a sharp foul before striking out. Perez's motion seemed labored to me, although perhaps that was fear talking to me. But then Perez also struck out Pat Burrell - on a bitter 91-mile-per-hour fastball - and nearly got Tomas Perez on a comebacker that grazed his glove before going into center field.

Vin, showing that he's a few years behind the times but not 40, was clearly surprised that Tracy was letting Odalis stay in so long, "in this age of ..." and for a minute I thought he was going to say concern about pitch counts, but instead he said, "...the closer." (You know I criticize constructively and with love, Vin.)

Finally, Tracy came out to make the switch. The fans booed him - and not, I suspect, because they thought Tracy had taken too long to come out. Perez clearly wanted to stay in. He listened as Tracy spoke to him on the mound, but did not look at him. I have no way of knowing whether Perez was upset with Tracy or not. In the dugout, you could see Perez showing Manny Mota how close he came to fielding the ball hit by Tomas Perez, so perhaps that was his chief frustration. The morning papers quote Odalis as understanding the decision.

So what's the verdict? I don't have enough evidence to convict of abuse, but I do have enough to prosecute for negligence. Was there any reason to let Perez even appear in the ninth inning after 114 pitches? Even if the risk of injury was 1 percent, was there any worthwhile reward at all?

Tracy did the same thing with Perez last year - almost exactly a year ago. Perez through 129 pitches in a complete-game, five-hit, 5-2 victory over Colorado at Coors Field. The bullpen was rested - the previous day, Jesse Orosco threw six pitches and Giovanni Carrara threw 11. I can distinctly remember my shock that Perez went all the way in that game.

As it happens, Perez was superb for more than a month following this game:

4/20/02...8.2 innings...1 run...116 pitches
4/26/02...9.0 innings...0 runs...91 pitches (one-hitter)
5/02/02...8.0 innings...2 runs...93 pitches
5/08/02...8.0 innings...1 run.....96 pitches
5/13/02...7.1 innings...2 runs..107 pitches
5/18/02...6.0 innings...3 runs...85 pitches

As you can see, after the workhorse game, Tracy tightened his leash on Perez (or Perez pitched so well, he tightened it on himself). Perhaps on Wednesday night, Tracy was seeking a reward via deja vu.

On the other hand, in Thursday's Times, beneath the noteworthy headline ...

Tracy Plays It Safe With Perez
as Dodgers Shut Out Phillies

Tracy indicated that he does worry about pitch counts - just later than some of us.

"...I have a player and an organization to protect," Tracy said. "I gave him every opportunity to finish the game, but if I let him throw 140 pitches and then find out he's not available in June, July or August, you'd feel a little different. It's the first month of the season, and he was extended out there pretty good."

It would be interesting to know why Tracy's magic number is in the 130-140 pitch range, and not 120-130 or 110-120. Honestly, he might have a good reason, but someone should at least ask him.

Like I said, I'll leave it to time and the more intelligent to pass judgment on Wednesday night. But I don't know how, in the age of ... Tommy John surgery, you can't worry about what happened at Dodger Stadium last night. It was a great win, but a scary one.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Tuesday night, I went out to a movie for the first time this year (in fact, for the first time since before my daughter was born in September). Thursday night, I'll be going to my brother's office to do rewrites on our own script, which takes Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and sets it in a Spring Training world based ever-so-loosely on Vero Beach.

There was a time when I was going to movies in the winter, during Oscar campaign season, the way I would go to ballgames in the summer. Like, just about every day. Marriage and parenthood have affected my free time, but not my feelings. Both in the watching and the writing, movies are a big part of my life. (Television too, but that's another story.)

I'm not unique. Movies are a big part of a lot of people's lives. In fact, I'd venture to say that just about everyone likes movies. They may not like bad movies, they may not like the lines at the movies, they may not like a movie made since 1974. But within the movie genre, it would be difficult to find anyone who isn't moved by something.

Whereas, some people just don't like baseball at all. Period.

The irony - and it's a useful one - is that baseball not only has much in common with the movies, in some ways it does movies better than movies do themselves. Baseball does character development like nothing else I know.

Don't get me wrong - I believe in the Shoeless Joe vision of baseball. And I believe that someday, an aging ballplayer, a natural if you will, could rewrite history (and the text version of his story) by hitting a home run that explodes the stadium lights into a shower of sparks.

I revel in the poetry of a double play, an inside-the-park grand slam, and a routine grounder to second base.

I go to the ballpark looking forward to my hot dog, and I go forward to it looking forward to being at a park.

But I'm pretty sure the main thing that keeps me coming back to baseball is that I care about the characters. I've cared about the characters for more than 25 years. They are part of my life, and I care about just about everyone that makes an impression. And so many of them do - both major and minor characters.

Just the ones named Pedro alone could keep me occupied. Pedro Martinez. Pedro Astacio. Pedro Guerrero. Pedro Borbon. Pedro Borbon, Jr. If these guys are doing anything, whether pitching a shutout or using the disturbing but effective low-IQ defense, I care.

It's all about backstories. The Pedros have backstories. Kevin Brown has a backstory. Hiram Bocachica has a backstory. Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth - all-time backstories. All the teams, from the Dodgers to the Devil Rays to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, have backstories. The sport as a whole has its own collective backstory. And then, when these actors take the field - either at the ballpark in front of you, or on television, or in a book or newspaper clipping, you have all this set-up to appreciate the significance of everything they do.

Baseball is a stage, a movie set, a comic-book world in which all these characters enter and exit and live and die. As you begin to care about one character and watch his journey, it snowballs and you begin to care about others upon others. It is not waxing mystical or fantastical to say that it is a world filled with drama and comedy and exhilaration and heartbreak. It just is - in a deeper, more evolved sense than any movie honestly can ever offer.

What a movie offers ... for better or worse, is that it ends. Baseball doesn't.

Now, you can get into arguments about why baseball, as opposed to football or curling. That's not what this is about. You can take the above philosophy and apply it to any sport or to all sports.

I happen to pick baseball - not to the exclusion of all others, but certainly above all others - for the ballpark and the hot dog and the rhythm of the game and so many other things. But the game itself is the set dressing - perhaps the best set dressing in the world, but a backdrop nonetheless.

The addiction is to the characters. Nothing else assembles a more compelling cast than baseball does.

There is something for everyone to love about baseball. If you want to share that love with someone, and that person doesn't seem to care about double plays or hot dogs, then start telling stories about the people who play the game. Give them the opening minutes of the movie - the part before the plot thickens. Think of what just hearing the name Odalis Perez or Adrian Beltre or Jim Thome evokes. Each has a story. And the next big chapter in those stories will reveal itself at the ballpark tonight. With chapters upon chapters to follow.

No special effects. None needed. Give anyone the characters, and see if down the road, that routine grounder to second doesn't become poetry.

Here Ego Again

Two home runs Tuesday night - wow. I can't believe my column yesterday had such an effect. I must be some kind of shaman ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Happy Musings

Thanks to David Pinto at Baseball Musings for his kind highlight from Dodger Thoughts on Monday. It helped boost traffic to this site to an all-time high.

David had his own take on some key offensive differences between the Phillies and the Dodgers in this entry:

Both teams have played 25 games, but the Phillies have scored almost 50 more runs (that's 2 more per game) than the Dodgers. Why? Neither team has hit many HR. The Dodgers are last in the league with 15, but the Phillies have only 17. The Phillies have 16 more hits, but they have 34 more walks, and that gives them a 40 point advanatage in OBA. On top of that, the Dodgers have hit poorly with runners in scoring position (.238), while the Phillies have hit very well (.294).

Meanwhile, Robert at Priorities and Frivolities had a detailed look at strikeouts by Dodger batters with runners on base. Check it out.

The Cold Front

Okay, kids - time for Extreme Dodgers!

With Monday night's shutout loss to the Phillies, the Dodgers fell to last in the National League in scoring at 3.57 runs per game. Extreme!

At the same time, they held their position as No. 1 in fewest runs allowed: 3.19 runs per game. Doubly extreme!

So, where are we headed on this extreme course? Crash and burn, or ... the opposite of crash and burn?

In 1965 and 1966, the Dodgers won the National League pennant with offenses that were ranked eighth in a 10-team NL.

In 1995 and 1996, the Dodgers reached the postseason (falling short of winning a pennant) with offenses that were 10th and 12th in a 14-team NL.

More often than not, however, the Dodgers have not been able to overcome a poor offense, even with the best pitching in the league.

Here are the worst offenses in Los Angeles Dodger history (The league had 10 teams through 1968, 12 teams through 1992, 14 teams through 1997 and now has 16 teams.):

Year...Rank in Runs...Rank in Runs Allowed...W-L Record

The point being, even if the conditions at Dodger Stadium dampen offensive production, the Dodgers have historically needed to find a way to overcome them.

Now, there is some potential for the Dodger offense to move up in the National League rankings.

2003 Runs per game, through April 28
6.08 Colorado
5.84 Chicago
5.65 St. Louis
5.58 Philadelphia
5.21 San Francisco
4.72 Atlanta
4.70 Florida
4.56 Cincinnati
4.48 Montreal
4.42 Houston
4.08 Milwaukee
4.00 San Diego
3.73 Arizona
3.60 New York
3.58 Pittsburgh
3.58 Los Angeles

Here's an illustration of how big an offensive hole the Dodgers are in. In order to move into the top half of the league in scoring - if everyone else held their pace - the Dodgers would have to average 4.75 runs per game the rest of the season. That's an increase of more than one run per game above their current scoring rate.

The simplest way for the Dodgers to do make progress toward such a leap would be to start hitting home runs. Last year, the Dodgers averaged 0.96 home runs per game. This year, with a similar lineup to last year's team, the Dodgers are only hitting 0.58 home runs per game. That's a pretty noteworthy difference.

To reach last year's total of 155 home runs, the Dodgers will have to hit 140 more - or 1.03 per game. Even if all 140 home runs were solo shots, that would have a huge effect on getting the Dodger offense out of its hole.

As predictable as this season has been - good pitching, bad hitting - the Dodgers remain a mystery team. They are not doomed to failure. An improved offense is necessary - but it's not a pipe dream. The power potential is there.

The obvious fear is that even if the hitting improves, the pitching will falter. But in looking at the stats, while I honestly don't see how the hitting can get any worse, the pitching can still improve. The ERA of the Dodger starters is 3.83. And while the bullpen ERA is out-of-sight good, improvement by the starters should allow the relievers to remain effective, if not spectacular.

Monday, Shawn Green hit a long fly ball to the wall in right field. Vin Scully said that on a warmer night, that ball might have gone out. Shortly thereafter, Jim Thome blasted a ball through the cool air halfway up the left-field bleachers.

With all the other factors that are out there, I think the success of the Dodgers this season depends quite simply on reversing those two events.
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Monday, April 28, 2003


Where Dodgers Go To Die

The Arlington that the Texas Rangers play in isn't Arlington National Cemetery, but for ex-Dodgers, it might as well be.

Seemingly unable to help turn around the wayward Chan Ho Park, designated Park-catcher Chad Kreuter is being released by the Rangers. Kreuter had an OPS of .405 in 21 plate appearances with Texas.

Meanwhile, Park is 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA in six starts. He is averaging less than five innings per start, allowing 1.9 baserunners per inning and striking out only 2.5 batters per game.

Everyone questioned whether Park would thrive away from Dodger Stadium. My question is, would Park even have continued to thrive in Dodger Stadium. Based on his walk and strikeout totals, I'm really not sure. Is it possible that the largesse extended to Darren Dreifort saved the Dodgers an even worse fate? (Okay, so this isn't exactly a topic for Point-Counterpoint on 60 Minutes.)

Anyway, good ol' Orel Leonard Hershiser IV is the pitching coach squeezing the lemons at the Rangers rickety lemonade stand. So far in 2003, the Rangers' team ERA is 5.45 - behind the pace of last year's 5.15. The Rangers were 27th in ERA last year and are 27th today. And just think - Texas pitchers never have to face Alex Rodriguez.


Wrong Again

Less than a week ago, I surmised that if the Dodgers went down to 11 pitchers, Larry Barnes would be the logical callup because the Dodgers need his potential punch with the bat more than they would need the versatility of Jason Romano.

Logical or not, the Dodgers went with Romano.

This move makes more sense with Dave Roberts hobbling about, but Roberts wasn't yet injured when the decision was made.

If Cora and Izturis stay healthy and above the lofty level of .200, will we see Joe Thurston before July, or even September? Probably not.

Giant Accomplishment

Congratulations to Kevin Millwood - who not only pitched a no-hitter, but had the good grace to pitch it against the Giants, and did it the day before a series against the Dodgers, which means he won't get to duplicate the feat in Dodger Stadium. That might have been a little too interesting.

Last season, Barry Bonds went 6-for-12 against the Phillies with three walks, two doubles, a home run and one strikeout. This weekend, thanks partially but not completely to Millwood, the Phillies held Bonds to a 1-for-11 performance, striking him out three times and not walking him once. Bonds doubled in the first game and was hit by a pitch in the second.

The odds aren't bad that the next time Bonds ventures to Veterans Stadium, it will be in the National League Championship Series.

Whiff it Good

I did some research this morning hoping to find a correlation between how often the Dodgers strike out at the plate and when they win. It didn't pan out the way I thought it would, but since I'm short on time this morning, I'm going to publish what I found anyway.

In their 12 victories, the Dodgers have averaged 6.22 strikeouts per nine innings.

In their 13 losses, the Dodgers have averaged 6.46 strikeouts per nine innings.

Not much of a difference.

While it's true that all three of the Dodgers' double-digit strikeout games have come in losses (including one in extra innings), the Dodgers have also had five losses in which they struck out five times or less.

Their best back-to-back performances in fewest strikeouts came April 4-5 (seven strikeouts total), April 10-11 (eight strikeouts total) and April 23-24 (eight strikeouts total). The Dodgers lost all six of those games.

If there's a lesson - and if there is, it's a surprising one - that lesson is not to get too frustrated when the Dodgers aren't making contact. It may not be all bad.

Some more strikeout trivia:

The Dodgers struck out eight times in each of their first two games of the season. Since then, they haven't had back-to-back games of more than six strikeouts.

Their season high in strikeouts is 16, against the Padres on April 3.

In their victories, the Dodgers have been struck out in a narrow range - never more than eight times or less than three, no matter the length of the game.

Paul Lo Duca has the longest streak this season of plate appearances by a Dodger without striking out: 34, from April 1-10. Alex Cora is closing in on Lo Duca - Cora is currently riding a streak of 28 plate appearances without whiffing. Every Dodger regular has a streak of at least 10.

Sunday, April 27, 2003


Ah, Three Rivers

My favorite thing about the Dodgers' trips to Pittsburgh over the years has been to hear Vin say, "Three Rivers Stadium, at the confluence of the Ohio, the Allegheny and the Monongahela." I'm telling you, you haven't lived unless you've heard the word "Monongahela" roll off Vinny's lips.

The Pirates don't play at Three Rivers any more, but that doesn't mean the rivers are gone. Vin still mentioned them Saturday - although in the wrong order. He mentioned Monongahela second - which didn't produce the same resonance. I hope to hear the vintage version the next time.

Sign Waves

At the outset of Saturday's telecast, Vinny said that when a team is struggling, "and the Dodgers, at 10-13, certainly fall into that category," they look for a sign that things are turning around.

The 16-4 victory over the Giants seemed like it might be a sign, Vinny said, although that was followed by the low-scoring performances in Cincinnati. Was Friday night's five-run ninth-inning rally a sign, Vinny wondered.

It seems to me that you've truly turned the corner when you're no longer looking for a sign that you've turned the corner. After all, are the Yankees or Giants looking for signs? No. The Royals are probably looking for signs that they're a fluke, although none have really come ... yet.

Two nice victories by the Dodgers, though. If nothing else, they really continue to dominate the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, as I discussed April 18. But Saturday night, they made some progress in the middle innings as well.

And ... Shawn Green's home run ended the drought by Dodger starters at two weeks and gives him three for April - his total in 2002.

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