Friday, May 30, 2003
Some Things You Can Tell from the Cover
I actually don't mind Joe Morgan as an announcer, but he has his flaws as an analyst. And on ESPN.com, they are even more pronounced.
Should Morgan criticize Billy Beane for writing Moneyball - both on May 23 and today - when Beane did not write the book?
JB (Danville, CA): Joe - Did you enjoy Diana Krall last night? I thought she sounded great! The A's offense is scuffling, Dye comes back this weekend and Tejada is starting to hit a little. If you're Billy Beane where do you look to add some pop? I'd love to see them go after a corner outfielder or even a move for Roberto Alomar (the Mets have to be looking to dump salary). Thoughts?
Joe Morgan: (11:03 AM ET ) I wouldn't be Billy Beane first of all!! I wouldn't write the book Moneyball!
Morgan says he read an excerpt of the book. Does he think that Beane wrote about himself in the third person?
It's not unreasonable to conclude from reading excerpts of Moneyball that Beane is not Miss Manners, but if anyone comes across poorly right now, it's Morgan.
No Big Deal for Diamondbacks
Even those of you who have long since abandoned the Adrian Beltre bandwagon should not be jealous of Arizona's acquisition of third baseman Shea Hillenbrand from Boston for pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim.
Putting aside the fact that it's a strange trade for a team plagued with pitching injuries, the Diamondbacks do not figure to get much added offense from Hillenbrand. Though he is batting .303, he has only three home runs and seven walks. His OPS is .778.
Now, 2003 may be the worst year in a long time for third basemen to come down the baseball pike (when's the last time any of you have seen a pike, by the way?), so Hillenbrand is not without value. According to Baseball Prospectus, Hillenbrand ranks as the 11th-best third baseman in baseball, far above Arizona's Matt Williams and even farther above Beltre.
Would one trade Andy Ashby for Hillenbrand? Sure. But in trading Kim, the Diamondbacks have traded their Odalis Perez.
Kim is 24 years old, 3 1/2 years younger than Hillenbrand. Despite his 1-5 record in his first year as a starter, he has an ERA of 3.56 pitching for a team that is housed in one of the top offensive parks outside of Colorado. (Fenway Park trails the BOB in offense noticeably, according to both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference.com.) BP ranks Kim as the second-unluckiest starter in major league baseball.
The trade does save Arizona money, according to reports. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark writes that "The Diamondbacks will save about $1.9 million in salary for the rest of this season. And next year, with Kim potentially due to make $5 million through arbitration, they figure to save at least another $3 million. If that $5 million keeps Curt Schilling in town, they won't have to justify this too hard."
Maybe so, although that $5 million may also be simply going to pay off the Diamondbacks' existing salary burden.
Hillenbrand's mainstream stats may look even better playing the rest of the season with the Diamondbacks, but it is very difficult to believe that Arizona has made itself a better team, today or for the future. If the Dodgers had made the equivalent trade, then you'd have reason to be upset.
If Darren Dreifort's knee problems are as serious as the media reports tell us, why not have him and Andy Ashby alternate roles for the time being.
Every other time the No. 5 slot comes up in the rotation, one pitcher would make the start and the other would serve in Ashby's current role of emergency reliever - pitching only when necessary, but otherwise resting. That way, Ashby stays fresh and Dreifort stays refreshed.
I guess your reaction to this idea would depend on your feelings about Ashby. I do feel the guy has some talent left that wouldn't weaken the Dodger rotation, Colorado notwithstanding.
With five off days in June, Jim Tracy can juggle the rotation around Dreifort's injury, so there isn't a critical need for this solution. That doesn't mean it might not be a useful one.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
From the Score Bard, in response to the question, "Can the Dodgers pitching staff carry them to the playoffs?"
I think it will cause too much strain
And the pitchers will start to feel pain
To shoulder the load
On the playoff road
I recommend using a plane
On the Bright Side
Will Carroll of Under the Knife on Baseball Prospectus, long critical of Dreifort's injury-inducing pitching motion, wrote before Wednesday's game that:
Leo Mazzone may be a genius, but Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn just might be a miracle worker. His adjustments to the delivery of Darren Dreifort have him not only effective, but healthy. Video on Dreifort shows a stark difference between his former cross-bodied motion and his current in-line delivery. I'm still far from expecting Dreifort to make it through a full season healthy, but he's a lot closer to it now than he's been at any point in his professional career.
Too Much Range
In the third inning Wednesday, Colorado's Greg Norton hit a ball up the middle. Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis both ranged over to get it.
And they both got it.
As Cora gloved the ball with his backhand, Izturis' face collided with Cora's glove.
The impact knocked the ball into right field, and Norton ended up with a double.
Some plays really aren't captured in a box score.
Out There in the Fields
In the NBA, you can sign free agents in the middle of the season to a 10-day contract. Baseball's signing rules are more entangling.
So even though outfielders Brian Jordan, Mike Kinkade, Dave Roberts and Daryle Ward are all hurting, don't expect the Dodgers to add anyone from outside the organization.
But for 10 days - maybe more, even - there's a guy out there who could probably help. A guy you may have heard of. Plays for a minor league independent team called the Newark Bears. Here's his statline:
Henderson, Rickey: .349 BA, .468 OBP, .635 SLG, 1.103 OPS, .396 EQA.
This fellow's stats, according to Baseball Prospectus, translate to a major-league EQA of .298.
Alex Cora, by the way, has a .277 OBP and a .588 OPS in the leadoff slot this season.
Another outfielder who has earned, if nothing else, a two-week reward in the big leagues is Las Vegas outfielder Bubba Crosby. A former first-round draft choice whose career to this point has been as distinguished as paste, Crosby has a major-league EQA of .323. In 180 plate appearances this season, Crosby is batting .401/.455/.710/1.165.
The Obvious, Child
Talk about missing the forest for the trees. Scratch that - talk about missing the forest and the trees.
In his report on Wednesday's 6-0 Dodger loss to Colorado, Mike DiGiovanna of the Times spent two paragraphs talking about the Dodger hitting.
He also spent three paragraphs talking about an injury to Brian Jordan, but the rest of his article focuses on the sudden problems of Darren Dreifort and the Dodger starting rotation.
At one point, DiGiovanna writes:
"The Dodgers, meanwhile, are wondering what happened to that great rotation. After combining for a 10-0 record and 1.63 ERA during the 10-game win streak, Kazuhisa Ishii and Dreifort have combined to give up 11 runs, nine earned, and 12 hits in eight innings of the last two games for a 10.13 ERA.
Something tells me that the Dodgers may be wondering a lot of things, but are pretty clear that what happened to their great rotation is Coors Field.
There is honestly no news to report about the Dodger pitching over the past two days, unless you thought the staff was immortal.
--Playing in Denver caused Ishii to give up more extra base hits than usual and Fred McGriff to miss more easy throws from third than usual. That's not news.
--Dreifort's knee can still bother him, and he couldn't get his pitches to land where he wanted in the mile-high altitude. That's not news.
The comments in this space have been as tough on Dodger pitching as any commentary around. But for the Dodgers to allow 11 earned runs in two games in Colorado - not really a big deal. The Rockies have been shut out in 11 out of 16 innings in the series.
On the other hand, the Dodgers have scored three runs and have failed to get an extra-base hit in 18 innings in Coors Field.
That's news, folks - even for the worst-hitting team in the majors. That's the story. Was it too obvious to see, or not obvious enough?
The results of the past two games are not cause for despair, but they are cause for disappointment. A reporter might want to explore why the Dodgers have generated no power this week at baseball's DWP.
It's been at least a couple of weeks since we talked about the ongoing lack of home runs, right? Here's a refresher.
The Dodgers are on pace to hit 100 home runs this year. Last year, they hit 155.
They have the same players at every position except first base and second base, where Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek combined to hit 22 home runs in 2002. The combination of McGriff and Alex Cora figures to match that, even if Cora hits none.
The only other noteworthy change is the loss of reserve Marquis Grissom's 17 home runs.
Jordan isn't hitting home runs. Shawn Green isn't hitting home runs. Adrian Beltre isn't hitting home runs.
This weakness is not the Dodgers' only one, nor does it negate their obvious strengths. Nevertheless, an overall dropoff like this demands an examination.
Is it only a matter of time before they start to hit them out? Or is a different philosophy at the plate needed? Or have they just completely lost their ability to reach the seats?
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
"West Coast Whiner" sent this response to my Jody Reed-Pedro Martinez story:
Good story, very good, but it seems highly likely that if he'd stayed with the team, the Dodgers would have slagged Pedro's arm at a young age the way they had his brother's before him.
Contrast the following simple lines:
Year Ag Team IP - Ramon
1988 20 LAD 35.7
1989 21 LAD 98.7
1990 22 LAD 234.3
1991 23 LAD 220.3
Year Ag Team IP - Pedro
1992 20 LAD 8.0
1993 21 LAD 107.0
1994 22 MON 144.7
1995 23 MON 194.7
What-could-have-beens will never be settled, but I would not have wanted to be a young pitcher's arm in the Dodgers organization.
Top o' the World (Sort of)
During my five-day vacation to the Bay Area (two days of which, admittedly, were mainly spent on the I-5), the Dodgers moved from relative anonymity to leading the baseball highlights on ESPN. It feels good.
Seriously, even though the Dodgers fell out of first place Tuesday, I'm still chipper today - in part because the Dodger story, relegated to the inside pages of the Times sports section earlier this month, had become important enough to follow the NBA conference finals and the Stanley Cup on SportsCenter.
External validation matters way too much to me.
Of course, another loss today, combined with a Giants win, and ESPN will probably drop the Dodger highlights behind the Arena Football League. And then there's that matter of trying to get back into the playoffs.
No reason to turn all pessimistic yet, though. I guess I'm also in a good mood because the lost first inning in Denver on Tuesday had a fluky quality to it.
As Kazuhisa Ishii prepared to pitch to Chris Stynes with two runners on and two out, already trailing 3-0, I did notice a sudden glare lighting up Ishii from the third-base side.
Here's my question:
If a player can't find a fly ball in the sun and it drops untouched, the play is ruled a hit. Why shouldn't the same ruling come when an infielder loses a throw from third in the sun?
There was no humanly way for Fred McGriff to catch that throw from Adrian Beltre on Stynes' grounder. It was a fluke, but it was a hit all the way.
The highlights on ESPN didn't capture this, but watching the game live certainly did.
By the way, a recap on ESPN of the Giants 4-3, 13-inning victory over Arizona followed the Dodgers-Rockies game. If you still can, you have to catch the replay of Ruben Rivera's Etch-a-Sketch pinch-running experience in the ninth inning.
In a 2-2 game, with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Rivera was on first when Marquis Grissom hit a fly ball deep to right field. Rivera:
--ran to second and headed for third, thinking the ball would drop
--turned back, retouched second and headed for first when he then got the signal that the ball would be caught
--ran through the infield toward third when David Dellucci dropped the ball - but didn't touch second again
--ran back to retouch second, then again headed for third
--would have been out by a mile as he slid into third, but the relay throw skipped past the third baseman
--headed for home, where he was thrown out.
How the Giants won that game after a play like that, I can't really explain.
For its part, Arizona missed a chance to move within 6 1/2 games of the National League West lead and make some noise of its own.
At any rate, it's fun right now, isn't it?