Saturday, June 21, 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dave Ross
Backup catcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
Career games with plate appearances: 13
Career games in which he has based: 8
Career totals: .297 average, .381 OBP, .676 slugging, 1.057 OPS
Friday, June 20, 2003
Paul Lo Duca's hitting streak is over, but he did have a walk Thursday. As John Wiebe points out, you probably won't hear much about this, "because 'on-base streak' doesn't roll off the tongue or conjure up the memories like 'hitting streak.' "
The solution seems simple enough. A new word: "basing."
Paul Lo Duca has a 26-game basing streak. How's Paul basing these days. That Paul is one heck of a baser.
Make the world a better place, everyone. Spread the word ... literally.
The Villains' Villain
Jason Schmidt is the real deal. Backed by 80 years of home-run hitter in Benito Santiago and Andres Galarraga, Schmidt had the Dodgers fruitlessly waving at pitches like they were the gnats that plagued Chavez Ravine this week, striking out 11 in a 2-0 victory on Thursday.
Picking who has pitched the best game against baseball's worst offense is one competitive beauty contest, but I'm going to try.
As a shortcut to guide me, I'm going to use Game Scores. Here's the definition, from ESPN.com:
Start with 50 points.
Add 1 point for each out recorded (3 points per inning).
Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
Add 1 point for each strikeout.
Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract 1 point for each walk.
Schmidt had a game score of 90 on Thursday, which you'll see is pretty damn great. In fact, Schmidt appears twice on the list. Here are the top 10 performers:
90 Jason Schmidt, San Francisco, 6/19 (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K)
84 Shawn Chacon, Colorado, 5/28 (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K)*
81 Brett Myers, Philadelphia, 4/28 (7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4K)
80 Bartolo Colon, Chicago White Sox, 6/7 (9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K)
76 Brian Lawrence, San Diego, 4/5 (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K)*
71 Russ Ortiz, Atlanta, 5/13 (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K)
70 Kurt Ainsworth, San Francisco, 4/10 (8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K)*
70 Jason Schmidt, San Francisco, 4/18 (7 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 8 K)
67 Jake Peavy, San Diego, 4/3 (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 11 K)*
67 Chris Reitsma, Cincinnati, 4/23 (8 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K)*
* Dodger road game
Schmidt looks like the man, doesn't he. Overall this season, Schmidt is 2-0 with a 2.02 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers, striking out 25 in 22 1/3 innings.
After last night, I'm all but ready to appoint Schmidt the villain's villain for 2003 to date. But let me ask you this. Take another look at Shawn Chacon's performance, and consider that it was executed in Coors Field. Is that not perhaps the biggest piece of resistance the Dodgers have faced this year?
It's too bad that Chacon's game was a 6-0 blowout, otherwise he might have gone nine innings and we would have had an even better comparsion. Still, given the different park factors, I'm going to go with Chacon.
For good measure, here are the top Game Scores from the Justice League of America, otherwise known as the Dodger pitching staff:
87 Hideo Nomo, at Milwaukee, 5/24 (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 8 K)
85 Hideo Nomo, at Arizona, 3/31 (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K)
80 Odalis Perez, vs. Philadelphia, 4/30 (8 2/3 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K)
78 Odalis Perez, vs. Florida, 5/17 (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K)
77 Kevin Brown, at Milwaukee, 5/25 (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K)
76 Kevin Brown, vs. Milwaukee, 5/31 (8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K)
76 Hideo Nomo, at Cleveland, 6/15 (7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K)
73 Kevin Brown, vs. Colorado, 5/20 (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K)
73 Kazuhisa Ishii, vs. San Diego, 4/16 (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K)
72 Kevin Brown, vs. Pittsburgh, 5/4 (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K)
72 Kazuhisa Ishii, at Detroit, 6/12 (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 8 K)
70 Kevin Brown, at Cincinnati, 4/24 (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 11 K)
70 Kevin Brown, vs. Philadelphia, 4/29 (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K)
69 Kevin Brown, at Arizona, 4/2 (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K)
69 Darren Dreifort, vs. Florida, 5/16 (8 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K)
The Dodgers have broken the 70 barrier 13 times - Brown alone has done it six times, compared to eight total by all Dodger opponents.
But the system, which puts a premium on innings, has rewarded Nomo for his two shutouts by making him - for a single game - the heroes' hero.
Update: Just found the top game scores in MLB on ESPN. Schmidt is on the list three times in the National League top 10, but his best game was not even against the Dodgers - he also posted a 91 against Chicago on April 30. Curt Schilling is No. 1 with a 96 - a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts. Nomo's 87 is tied with Schmidt's third-best game for ninth in the NL. (Please note that even though ESPN has the year wrong, it is up to date for 2003.)
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Based on 2003 stats, the pitching matchup tonight looks like a mismatchup. However, Odalis Perez has made nine of 13 starts on the road, where he has a 5.53 ERA, and 39 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings. At home, he has a 3.14 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.
Perez was better at home last year too, though the difference was not as great. He also made the majority of his starts at home in 2002.
Jason Schmidt has been more consistent in 2003, to say the least. He has a 2.68 ERA at home and a 2.66 ERA on the road. His strikeout ratio is just slightly lower on the road - 0.96 K/IP on the road, 1.21 K/IP at home. Both stats are excellent in a non-Eric Gagne world...
Perez has 68 strikeouts this season; Gagne has 67. Can Perez maintain his advantage?
The Return of Mr. Highwire
A 32-pitch first inning for Kazuhisa Ishii? No problem.
I can't believe how relaxed I am as he throws ball after ball. In case you missed the reason why, this link will explain.
Today, Ishii is:
No. 1 in baseball in walks, but ...
No. 5 in opposing batting average
No. 2 in opposing slugging percentage
He belongs in the circus.
No Flub, Bub
Dan Reines and baseball historian for hire Eric Enders both wrote to tell me that J.T. Snow's first name is also Jack, and so that Vinny did not necessarily make the flub I thought he had in the third inning of Tuesday's game.
My apologies for not knowing that there was a benefit of a doubt to give Vinny - and my congratulations to him on what now appears to have been a flawlessly entertaining broadcast.
1P + 30H = .600
Light schedule or not, the Dodgers have now won two straight from the third-best team in baseball, and become tied for the third-best team in baseball with a 42-28 record - .600. Now .600 - that's a gaudy number. That's a 97-win pace.
This may seem like an odd time to pick at the team, but nothing is forever and some things are barely temporary, as we note from the losing streak that followed the Dodgers' previous day tied for first place.
But for a while now, Brian Greene, or BigCPA as I now think of him, and I have debated the composition of the team. Brian thinks that over the years, the Dodgers have been too eager to pursue pitching and not eager enough to pursue hitting. My feeling has been that it doesn't matter which they pursue, as long as they make smart moves, but Brian believes at a certain point, the over-emphasis on pitching becomes inherently flawed.
Read our e-mail exchanges, and if you have any thoughts, send them over. How much does the imbalance of the team matter?
I enjoy your site and like the new look. Brief gripe for your consideration:
From your 4/12 entry "Quality Quality Starts"
"If the Dodgers keeping focusing on how many quality starts they've been getting, they're not going to go anywhere... Twice this week, the Dodger pitching staff was given three-run leads by its hitters. That's enough for a win. Both times, the staff blew the leads.... Pitching is clearly the Dodger strength. But let's not allow some phony measuring device like quality starts to give the pitchers more credit than they deserve or excuse them from trying to do better."
A month later now that the Dodgers are #1 in team ERA, #1 in bullpen ERA and have the #1 closer. With a 5 week sample size, it's quite evident that the #28 offense is the issue. Your piece today "This Is the Cause" spells it out perfectly. In 12 games in which Dodger pitchers have allowed 3 or 4 runs, the Dodgers are 4-8. These may or may not all be QS as defined, but you get my point. The pitchers have given the team the chance to win 25 games and they only have 16 wins.
I think Quality Starts is a great stat because it highlights games you "should win." Maybe it's better expressed like you've done, showing total runs allowed. Dodger pitchers have been underrated for years because of the anemic offense. Nomo should have won 20-22 last year. Ismael Valdes would have won 20 games 2-3 times easy with any kind of run support.
I've gotten a couple of comments on that 4/12 entry - doesn't look like I did the best job on that one. I still stand by what I was trying to say :)
Here's what I believe:
1) The Dodgers have great pitching and terrible hitting.
2) The Dodgers need to hold their opponents to no more than 3 runs in a game to win, because it's unreasonable to ask this offense to come up with more than 4.
3) If your barometer for successful pitching is the quality start, meaning that 3 runs in 6 innings is a success, you're then asking your bullpen to pitch shutout ball.
4) I don't think that's fair. The bullpen should have as much right to a 3.00 ERA (one run in three innings) as the starters. It shouldn't be 4.50 for the starters and 0.00 for the bullpen.
5) Therefore, for the Dodgers, a quality start isn't the best barometer.
By the definition of the term, Odalis Perez had a quality start yesterday. But it's tough for me to see it that way. Yes - if the Dodgers had scored four runs yesterday, they would have won - but only assuming the bullpen throws three shutout innings. If the bullpen can be expected to pitch that well, why can't I expect the starters to do better?
By and large, I think we're in agreement on the major points. The offense sucks, the pitching is great, and (I really appreciate this one) Ismael Valdes was unappreciated. I don't think that quality starts is a worthless stat - but I think it was being overemphasized. On 4/12, at least, I think the bullpen had been making the starting pitching look better than it really was. I was just afraid that the starters would rest on their laurels. There was, in fact, room for improvement.
I think, for the Dodgers, a quality start is two runs in six innings - or even two runs in five innings. That gives both the overachieving bullpen and the underachieving offense the cushion the team needs to win.
What do you think?
Thanks for the response. I agree with you that Qual Starts is just too rigidly defined. I don't necessarily think you should adjust your threshold of a QS based on a given team's offense. In the case of the Yankees I suppose a QS would be 6 runs!
Here's how I think the Dodgers should measured. They should aspire (and we should expect) to be in the top 5-6 in the league in both ERA and runs scored. If that means a 3.75 era so be it. It's all relative. Trade your surpluses and address your shortages!
The reality is that in the past 20 seasons through 2002, the Dodgers have finished in the top 4 in runs/game only once! They've finished in the bottom 5 ten times! In ERA they've finished in the Top 3 13 of 20 years and in the Top 6 17 of 20.
Clearly Dodger Stadium favoring pitchers plays a part in this. But my view is the organization is just pitching obssessed in an offensive era. Most winning teams go with 1 or 2 superior starters, 3-4 4.50 era guys and slug it out. See Boston, SF, Anaheim, Seattle, StL. We have 5 excellent starters with Ashby waiting in the wings, the best middle relief and the #1 closer. Come on already!
Then look at the trade deadline moves the last two years. They bring in Trombley, Mulholland, James Baldwin, Shuey and Mr. Tyler Houston to save the offense. Or dare I recall Konerko/Reyes for Shaw.
They make no run at AROD, Damon, Rolen, Thome or Frank Thomas and skimp on offering Floyd. You know the story.
Here's my blueprint to get things moving in the right direction: Beltre for Nick Johnson. Youth for youth, we get a 1b, bigtime OBP, and power potential. Then we make a deal for Lowell, Randa whatever at 3rd. You still haven't shot your wad. Now you break the bank for Vlad or Tejada.
Maybe you can use your website to get the word out. :)
Also, I've attached the yearly team batting/pitching data for you. Do I smell a future column?
(I had an e-mail reply that, among other things, said that there's no way the Dodgers could get Nick Johnson for Adrian Beltre, but I can't find it. Let's move forward...)
I sent you the email a few weeks ago with the Dodger offense rankings by year. I still think that data is worth an entry on your site.
While watching Kevin ($15M) Brown match zeroes last night with Darren (freakin) Oliver, I got to thinking about ballpark effects. If Dodger stadium is so pitcher-friendly, does this automatically mean you should allocate 3/4 of your payroll to pitching? If Darren Oliver and Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence and Livan Hernandez can put up zeroes in Dodger Stadium, why not save some money and just buy yourself an average staff?
I just don't think our "philosophy" makes sense. I read Dan Evans quoted somewhere recently that "in our ballpark you win with pitching and defense." Last I checked we had 2 division titles in 13 seasons in a division with 2 expansion teams and San Diego. How can this pitching-first philosophy still be considered so sacred?
Hey Brian -
You're right - there is more to be said on this topic. I'm sorry I haven't hit it yet.
Just to answer you,again for the time being...
1) I take Evans' quote with a grain of salt, but I don't think we have had that pitching-defense combo during most of the past 13 seasons. Certainly not the defense. And as you suggest, what looks like a good ERA may not be that good when you consider park effects. The pitching stats must be exceptional for the pitching to be above-average.
2) "If Dodger stadium is so pitcher-friendly, does this automatically mean you should allocate 3/4 of your payroll to pitching?" Of course not. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't. The point is, you don't build a payroll from scratch - you are always adjusting one or a few players at a time, based on the talent available and the talent you can get. It's not as if Evans is against improving the offense. But given the hand that he was dealt - for example, $33 million-plus to Brown, Ashby and Dreifort alone this season, all of whom are untradeable - there's a limit to what he can do.
3) "If Darren Oliver and Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence and Livan Hernandez can put up zeroes in Dodger Stadium, why not save some money and just buy yourself an average staff?" Again, I'm sure the Dodgers would love to save some money - but thanks to Kevin Malone, how do they do it?
Also, I think you're trying to have it both ways here. You are giving those pitchers credit for shutting down an offense that you yourself (correctly) indicate is poor. I think there's a pretty clear difference between Kevin Brown and Darren Oliver, despite how close last night's game was. Put them on opposite teams, and Brown's Rockies win the game by about a 5-0 score.
Overall - I agree with you. I think it's a myth to say that you win with pitching and defense. You win by having players who perform better than the other team's players, and it doesn't matter whether it's offensively or defensively. The Dodgers certainly could have their talent allocated better - of their top 25 players in the entire organization, I would say that perhaps 15 are pitchers. That's not a good balance. Yes, I'd like to see them make a trade to alleviate that imbalance, but it just ain't that easy. You have to be realistic. I take Evans' quote mainly as trying to put a good public face on what probably is a frustrating situation for him privately. I guarantee he'd like to unload Ashby and maybe Dreifort, but people only want Gagne and maybe Perez.
Nice article on the Dodgers by Tom Verducci at SI:
I especially like this point:
The Dodgers are swimming upstream against the tide of offense in today's game. Of the 64 postseason teams in the wild-card era (since 1995), only three finished worse than ninth in their league in scoring: the 1995 Dodgers, the 1996 Dodgers and the 2001 Braves.
I emailed you last month about the Dodgers crusty old pitching-first philosophy. I think Dan Evans needs to go read Moneyball and quit dreaming of Koufax/Drysdale/Orel. The Giants play in a pitchers park and lo and behold they're 6th in scoring and 6th in pitching. Seems like better constuction of a team to me!
Hey Brian -
You must think me a total flake. I actually did go back last week and look at the chart you sent me and all the past e-mails - all valid information, but I just had trouble adapting it into a column.
But maybe this is the launching point - maybe I should just run our e-mail exchanges. Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong or oversimplifying, but it almost seems to me like you are advocating balance for balance's sake. We can both stipulate that the Dodger offense is criminally bad. But the important thing to me is run differential, not whether the team is balanced. A team could score 162 runs in a season and go 162-0, after all (an extreme example, but it sort of evokes the 2003 Dodgers, doesn't it?).
Why is it better (I'm not asking this rhetorically - feel free to answer) that the Giants, in a pitchers' park, are sixth in the league in offense and ERA? What makes balance better? The 2003 standings certainly aren't that strong an arugment for balance - the Dodgers are only two games out.
To me, the Giants are better right now, simply, because their run differential is greater than that of the Dodgers. Slightly, but there it is. And I don't need to look at where the pitching and offense rank.
The key, to me, is not to rebalance the team, but improve the offense more than you hurt the pitching. Am I willing to consider a reasonable package that includes Guillermo Mota for Mike Lowell? Sure. But I'm not sure that the Marlins would be. And that's the problem. Just because this is the most pitching-rich, hitting-poor team in memory doesn't mean that there's a good trade being offered. I'm in the middle of Moneyball now, and one of the key points is that for Billy Beane, it's all about relative value. It's not about doing a trade because you have to.
Now, you can argue that somehow, Dan Evans should be able to find a profitable trade, and I'd agree with you. But that's not something we can really know, right now at least. It could be that Evans, for example, is waiting the Marlins out, hoping they'll reduce their asking price. He might be doing the smart thing.
I don't know.
But do keep in mind that the Dodger pitching really is truly exceptional so far, and has compensated for the lack of hitting - imbalanced team or not.
Feel free to hound me on this!
I totally agree that run differential trumps the design of a team. As Tom Verducci pointed out, 11 of the 16 teams to lead their league in scoring since 1995 have made the playoffs. And the Dodgers made it with the second to last offense twice. So whatever works works.
Here's another way of looking at this balance issue. Just imagine for a moment that the Dodgers had Manny Ramirez batting cleanup instead of Jordan or McGriff (position aside). Then imagine a scrub 5th starter like John Burkett in the rotation. If Burkett gets 30 starts, with a better offense, great defense and the #1 bullpen, they've got to win 10-12 of those games, maybe 15 (The Red Sox are 8-5 in his starts despite his 5.75 era!). So maybe you've lost 5 team wins vs the typical Dodger starter. But you've got a monster in the lineup for 150 games! I'm not a fan of game simulations, win shares etc., but I have to figure you're much better off. I just don't think the Dodgers think like this. They can't tolerate a single gap in their pitching arsenal. That's why we get Trombley, Baldwin, Valdes, Mulholland and Shuey at the trade deadline!
Question for you:
In the last 10 years since the Pedro trade, have the Dodgers made a single pitching for hitting trade?
No I don't think your a flake, but just to test you, here's a blog entry if I've ever seen one:
Did you know that the 1989 Dodgers finished dead last in runs scored an first in ERA?? It's in the spreadsheet I sent you! They won 77 games and finished 14 out. I can recall vividly the Dodgers trading Tim Leary/Duncan for Kal Daniels after that season. Amen! Mike Morgan had been a legit 6th starter in '89 and filled the hole. The next year their offense surged to 3rd in the league and they won 86 despite losing Hershiser for most of the year. With Orel back in 1991 and Strawberry signed, they posted a +100 run diff. and won 93 - their best team since 1988.
There has to be a moral in there somewhere for this 2003 team!
Hi Brian -
You got me. I can't think of a significant pitching-for-hitting trade since Pedro-DeShields. Of course, that one worked out so well...
Yes, Manny Ramirez is more valuable than the Dodgers' No. 5 starter, be he Dreifort, Ashby or Alvarez. But it's like when you proposed getting Nick Johnson a month or two ago. Great idea - but how do you get him?
The trades for Trombley, Baldwin, Valdes, Mulholland and Shuey et al were awful at the time and look even worse now. That fact doesn't make the question above any easier to solve. It's not like they haven't gone after hitters. Tyler Houston, anyone?
This offseason, the Dodgers will have an opportunity to go after a bigtime slugger. But right now, which I gather is the time period that concerns you most, the only power hitter available is Mike Lowell. And depending on the package, that's a trade I could get behind. And Dan Evans may get behind it too. Beyond that, what exactly can you do?
One reason the Dodgers' pitching is so good right now and the hitting is so bad is that they simply have gotten more mileage out of guys like Gagne, Mota, Perez, etc. than they have out of their hitters. They're just better at it right now. You can ask Shaquille O'Neal to start making 80 percent of his free throws, and maybe he can concentrate on that some, but the bottom line is, he's just not very good at it. That's the situation with the Dodgers right now. The Dodgers are paying Kevin Brown about $15 million this year and he's been awesome. They're paying Shawn Green almost the same, and he hasn't been. Last year, it was the opposite. That's just the way it's going. I think you're over-extrapolating the extremes of this year to previous years. The Dodgers have had obvious gaps in both their hitting and their pitching over the years. You've convinced me that they've tried to solve the pitching gaps more than the hitting gaps, but it doesn't necessarily mean that either gap was "solvable" - meaning that they could have made a move that would put them in the playoffs. Ultimately, in most of the trades of the past several years, their best move would have been no move.
So if there's a moral in the 1989-1991 Dodgers, I think that moral is to make moves to improve your club, but not to make moves out of desperation. If the Dodgers can parlay their pitching depth into a front-line position player, then they should go for it. But if you're thinking that somehow Wilson Alvarez or Steve Colyer is going to deliver a 40-homer player, it's just not realistic. I'm all for improving the offense, but show me how.
I think I'm ready to take this to the web...
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Vinny at the Ballpark
John Wiebe of John's Dodger Blog sends the following:
Jon - Scully does three innings simulcast, remainder of the game on TV. So yes, he was talking to people who could presumably hear him. I'm one of the people who was overjoyed when he started doing the extra inning on radio, because there's nothing better than hearing the bio stuff while you're at a game. It adds a lot to the experience.
Three years ago on Memorial Day (Green grand slam vs. Mets), I turned on my radio while sitting in the right field pavillion, and a guy in front of me who didn't want to hear it said, "Cmon, the game's right here," while pointing at the field in case I was missing something. "Why do you need that?" My friends and I just stared at him, blankly, because this guy was so far off, no amount of explanation from us could bring him back. Later, we listened to his conversation with the people he was with, and we realized he was a Dodger Stadium first-timer.
I don't sit in the pavillions anymore. The top deck (for the same price!) is a much better view - you can sit directly behind home plate for $6.00 - I don't know of a better deal in baseball - and still gives someone an opportunity to go to a game on the cheap. And if you forget to bring your own radio, there are top-deck regulars who always bring their boombox. The whole level can usually pick up the game from someone.
By the way, John had an interesting, detailed post on pitch counts for Dodger starters earlier this week, and has promised us a follow-up soon. So be sure to check it out.
From Start to Finish, A Dodger Night
(Groins Not Included)
With one out and J.T. Snow on first, No. 3 hitter Ray Durham sacrifices. This is an immediate gift for the Dodgers, an indefensible move by the Giants. Do you think the Dodgers care that a runner is on second base instead of first with Barry Bonds coming up? Are the Giants expecting Durham to hit into a double play? It makes no sense to give up an out against Kevin Brown so easily.
Bonds smiles as, after three pseudo-attempts to pitch to him, Paul Lo Duca comes out of his crouch to take the fourth pitch as an intentional walk. The broadcast cuts to a Giants fan in the crowd holding a rubber chicken brought for the occasion.
Rich Aurilia whiffs at a tailing fastball for strike one, but from Tuesday's research, I know that an 0-1 count doesn't bother him. He then takes a change for 0-2, but fouls off pitches and takes a couple of close ones to work the count to 2-2. Vinny: "You can tell the intensity of the series. ... This crowd is groaning in the first inning, just like it's the ninth." After fouling off the seventh pitch, Aurilia grounds into a 6-4 force play to end the inning. Opportunity wasted for the Giants.
Pedro Feliz replaces Snow at first base - we don't yet know how Snow was hurt.
Giants starter Jesse Foppert gets leadoff hitter Dave Roberts down 0-2, then makes a great pitch that could easily have been called for strike three. Roberts survives, but then grounds out 4-3 on the next pitch. Vinny takes the opportunity to tell us that the Giants have 31 errors, the fewest in the National League.
Lo Duca comes to the plate with his 23-game hitting streak. Vinny adds the relevant information that it's a 26-game on-base streak, then puts it in further context by noting that Bonds is at 38.
Lo Duca fouls two high-inside pitches that he might best take. But after another foul on an outside pitch, he blasts a home run to left field. "Boy - this crowd is pumped," Vinny says with a continued trace of surprise. But again, he doesn't get carried away. He notes how rare home runs have been for the Dodgers this season, just as slumping Shawn Green grounds out. Brian Jordan's routine fly to center ends the inning.
Edgardo Alfonzo has only 14 strikeouts in 280 plate appearances, which leads me to believe that his poor batting average will recover.
Daryle Ward, activated from the disabled list and playing first base for a groin-injured Fred McGriff, makes a nice backhanded play on a grounder by Jose Cruz, Jr. Perhaps the Giants' hottest hitter in April, Cruz has been dropped to eighth in the order.
Vinny has built up Foppert as a potential hitter because he is a converted infielder, but Foppert enters the game only 1 for 17, and becomes Brown's first strikeout victim.
Ward gets a leadoff single. Adrian Beltre is retired but moves Ward to second. On a 3-1 pitch that looked like ball four, Alex Cora grounds out but moves Ward to third.
The Giants make their second tactical error - not for the first time this season, if memory serves. They intentionally walk perhaps the poorest hitting starter in the National League, Cesar Izturis. Again, even if the pitcher's on deck, you're just setting the table for more trouble. The fact that Brown grounds a sharp single up the middle, making the score 2-0, is great for the Dodgers but irrelevant to the poor decision.
Vin introduces us to the fans of the night: a couple, the man a Dodger fan, the woman in a Giants jersey. "Interesting that the fellow is wearing a windbreaker, but the woman must be from San Francisco - no windbreaker for her," Vinny says.
Vin is also quick to note that Brown is not fooling many people - Marquis Grissom singles for the Giants' third hit.
As Feliz comes to bat for the first time, Vin surprisingly misses a nice gambit. He uses the phrase "sadder but wiser" in the same spoken paragraph in which he talks about Feliz' wisdom teeth being removed. Vin then also makes a flub, referring to J.T. Snow as "Jack" - the ex-Ram popping into his head. Snow has a groin injury - what's with all the groin injuries?
A 2-2 sidearmer pitch from Brown freezes Feliz. The angle of the pitch simply shocked him.
Durham reappears in the same situation as the first inning - one out, man on first. This time, he's swinging and singles. How about that?
Bonds is swatting at gnats as he comes to the plate. The gnats also surround Brown on the mound. Brown challenges Bonds, who hits a sharp grounder to second base. Cora justifies his placement in the game by starting a huge 4-6-3 double play.
Bonds is still swatting at gnats in left field. Vinny's line of the night, delivered matter-of-factly: "So the dreaded infield fly has moved to the outfield."
Lo Duca comes up for the second time and hits a 3-1 fastball off the short fence in left field. I've often derided Bonds' fielding, but he gets the ball back into the infield quickly. Lo Duca has a double.
Green swings at a bad 2-0 pitch, down and inside. He's having problems. The next pitch, in about the same location, is wild - in fact, it's so wild that it blasts through the word "PARTS" in the behind-the-plate advertisement for KRAGEN AUTO PARTS. Never seen that before. Lo Duca takes third, and the infield moves to play halfway in a 2-0 game. Momentum now on his side, Green works out the walk.
Vin notes that cars are still in the parking lot trying to get to the game. He urges the drivers to be careful and not to rush. Does Vin do three innings on radio now, or is he talking to people that can't hear him?
Jordan's sacrifice fly makes it 3-0.
Shawn Green's left ear looks as big as the ear flap covering his right ear.
Green steals second uncontested off a preoccupied Foppert - only Green's second steal of the year. Ward flies out. Beltre is up. When will Foppert pitch away to retire Beltre, I wonder? Instead, Foppert leaves a fat pitch over the plate, which Beltre uses to single in the fourth Dodger run. Vin says, "It didn't look like Green was running as well as possible," which has been my point all season. He just doesn't run well any more, period.
Santiago has a solid one-out single. Brown is definitely hittable.
Vin sometimes repeats his stories, but the first time you hear them, they're pretty good. Maybe it's because I've been spending too much time looking at stats, not at player bios. Anyway, Vin tells us something I didn't know about Santiago's terrible car accident from a few years back. The passenger lost a leg, and won $2.6 million from Santiago in a lawsuit.
Alfonzo hits into the second 4-6-3 double play in two innings for the Giants.
The AFLAC trivia question, well-tailored for this game, tells us that Santiago has the longest hitting streak ever by a catcher. The implication is that Lo Duca might catch him, but perhaps not as quickly as we might think, I realize. After all, as recently as Saturday, Lo Duca played not catcher, but first base.
Izturis gets a single - no doubt again putting the fear of God into Giants manager Felipe Alou. But the Dodgers try a hit-and-run with Brown, and it fails, with Brown whiffing at the pitch and Izturis erased by Santiago. "So the Dodgers, I guess, feeling a little cocky ..." says Vin.
Many cuts to the Giant-Dodger fan-couple this game, but no cuts to the kids. A small cadre of anti-Vinny people on Baseball Primer's message boards get on Vin for going overboard on the kids, but he really doesn't do it as much as they say.
Roberts is retired to end the inning. He looks impotent at the plate.
Grissom comes up with two outs, and I learn much about him. His .384 batting average in the leadoff slot leads the majors. Perhaps more interestingly, he is the 14th of 15th children, his father was one of 10 and his mother was one of 13. Marquis was named after the Mercury Marquis his father drove to the hospital, on Marquis' birthday, from the night shift at an auto factory.
Grissom then walks - the 500th of his career, matching Bonds' 2002 total.
Feliz follows with a single. Vin again puts Brown's shutout in perspective: "Every inning Brown has been pitching from a stretch. He has three strikeouts, two of three the opposing pitcher."
With Bonds on deck, Durham hits a slow grounder to Cora, who almost mitigates his fine play thus far by ballooning an underhand throw to first. Durham is out by half a step.
Lo Duca leads off and singles off a high floater over the middle. He needs a triple for the cycle - inconceivable except that he just hit an inside-the-park home run nine days ago. I can just hear my dad, who is at the game, asking, "Tell me again why he was in the minors for eight years?"
Green comes up and just like in the third inning, a low-and-inside wild pitch sends Lo Duca to third base. Santiago then saves another similar pitch from bringing Lo Duca home.
Green lines to Durham for an out. Bad luck for him that Lo Duca got a single and he got an out? Or irrelevant to the more important concern that Green is not hitting homers?
Jordan is retired, and then Chad Zerbe replaces Foppert to face Ward. A pitch hits Ward in the elbow and ricochets directly off Santiago's toe. Vin tells the story of a Dodger pitcher named Pete Mikkelsen who described making the perfect pitch - "it hit the batter, the catcher, and then the umpire in the neck."
Ward is spitting gushers at first base.
Beltre gets an 0-1 curve that he jumps on, but smashes foul. The Giant pitchers then come to their senses, and strike him out on an outside pitch. Is there an Outside-Pitches Anonymous that Beltre can join?
Vin begins the inning by sending best wishes to Darren Dreifort, "who I'm sure feels very alone right now," on the eve of his knee surgery. Not maudlin - just a nice gesture.
Bonds, leading off the inning, pops out. The Dodger boyfriend smiles ever so quietly to his Giants girlfriend.
Brown gets his first 1-2-3 inning, needing only eight pitches. He's thrown 73 for the game - on pace for 109.
The first kid camera shot of the night shows a young boy eating peanuts.
Wilson Alvarez is warming up in the bullpen - just to get his work in, I theorize.
Another shot of kids comes - and Vin articulates his fascination with them. "Aren't they great to see taking in the excitement of the game, and at the same time, in their own world?"
The Dodgers go 1-2-3 themselves. The busted hit-and-run in the fourth seems to have doused their offensive fire. Just coincidence, probably. That fire was bound to be doused.
A shot of Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt in the dugout, which his small eyes, round face and sharp rectangular tuft of beard, evokes Ziggy as a ballplayer.
Brown will extend his streak of allowing two or fewer runs to 11 starts, but a nightmare is brewing. The trainer has come to the mound, and Brown is coming out. And perhaps Dreifort is thinking he won't be alone.
I switch quickly to Baseball Tonight on ESPN - they're talking about the game. Bobby Valentine has some interesting comments. He says that Brown has thrown nothing under 90 - fastball, slider or sinker. He notes that Brown sometimes stands off the rubber, which is illegal. Says Brown doesn't need to do it. And then ESPN shows a replay of Brown grimacing and limping after his sixth-inning groundout. Their collective breath-holding speaks for all of us.
Paul Shuey strikes out Cruz, then faces Neifi Perez. Perez is somehow batting .417 as a pinch-hitter, and then augments that with an RBI double. The Giant fan cheers for the first time all night.
Grissom grounds out. And on a 2-0 pitch, Feliz smashes one to Ward's right at first base. Ward smothers it for the inning-ending out - this is his best game as a Dodger.
After a meek out by Roberts, Lo Duca makes a valiant bid for the cycle, driving one to the right-center-field gap. "Don't tell me," Vin says - and there's a little bit of consternation in his voice, believe it or not, as if he's saying that Lo Duca is making the game look too easy. But Cruz cuts the ball off in the gap and holds Lo Duca to a single.
Green gets just under a 1-2 curveball and misses hitting a home run.
The preliminary report comes in on Brown. A strained left groin - the epidemic continues. I have to assume that Brown is going to miss his next start. The last thing you want is for him to compensate for the injury and wreck another body part.
Jordan strikes out to end the inning. The Dodgers are counting on four runs being enough.
Bonds sends one to right-center himself, and Roberts makes a poetic diving catch. It is truly the Dodgers night. A replay shows the Giants fan cheering, then covering her mouth in shock. The Dodger fan exults. To me, I think it's great that the production crew has devoted a camera to telling this ongoing story. Certainly, anyone who can read this overblown account of my view of the game can get behind watching the emotional roller coaster of this couple.
Ward's single leading off the inning confirms this is his best game as a Dodger. Beltre, unfortunately, grounds into a double play. So depressing.
"Bienvenue, Monsieur Gagne ..."
0-0 high 94 mph fastball, fouled off
0-1 96 mph fastball in the northwest corner of the plate, taken for a strike
0-2 outside pitch pulled foul
0-2 A slow curve, 68 mph, whiffed. Vinny, in awe: "That is absolutely a killer! You can see that thing if you're in the last row of the bleachers!"
0-0 95 mph on the outside corner, taken for a strike
0-1 high and outside
1-1 85 mph sinker or change, whiffed
1-2 high pitch off the tip of Lo Duca's glove. Vin: "That thing took off for Mars."
2-2 95 mph - whiff
0-0 85 mph - whiff
0-1 95 mph, middle of the plate, taken for a strike
12 pitches, 10 strikes, 1-2-3.
It was a good victory for the Dodgers, but certainly nothing to get cocky about. Even against Brown, the Giants had more opportunities to score than the Dodgers did. The Dodgers made some good plays, the Giants made two bad decisions, and otherwise, things kept breaking the Dodgers' way.
This morning's Times brings the most coverage the Dodgers have gotten since Opening Day. Isn't it interesting that Bill Plaschke wrote more columns about the Dodgers in March than he has written since? Though I've missed the attention, I haven't particularly missed him. But his point today is legit: if only Green played to his potential, the Dodgers might have all the offensive kick they need.
The prognosis for Brown is positive - he may not miss a start, but I'm still not sure he should. For one thing, he's next scheduled to go on Sunday against the Angels. If they hold him back, Alvarez could take that start and Brown could pitch on Monday - against the Giants. I don't know if that would knock Brown out of his groove, or whether the Dodgers would do better not to have Alvarez pitch to a familiar AL opponent. It's just something to think about. But by all means, let's not rush Brown again.
With 67 strikeouts, Gagne has moved within one K of the National League Top 20. He's pitched 37 innings this season.
Lo Duca now has 22 of the Dodgers' 100 hits in June. That's, um, hang on, 22 percent!
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Giants Among Us
Tuesday: Jesse Foppert (4-5, 4.18) vs. Kevin Brown (9-1, 2.00)
Wednesday: Kirk Rueter (7-1, 3.60) vs. Kazuhisa Ishii (6-2, 2.97)
Thursday: Jason Schmidt (5-3, 2.67) vs. Odalis Perez (4-4, 4.70)
Four options after Thursday:
1) Dodgers are five games out.
2) Dodgers are three games out.
3) Dodgers are one game out.
4) Dodgers are one game up.
So, who are these beasts to the north? Here are some trivial answers.
--has five home runs in his past seven games
--is batting .314 and OPSing .828 as a full-timer, with OPS splits against lefties and righties of 1.030/.766
--first-pitch strikes don't bother him. He OPSes .851 after an 0-1 count, .664 after it's 1-0
--hit seven of his 11 home runs in April
--is having an Adrian Beltre-like June at third base: .479 OPS
--another slumping Giant in June: .349 OPS
--hurting righties with a .901 OPS, only 4 for 36 with six walks against lefties
--has a .507 OBP leading off an inning
--no walks, no power, but batting .330 on the road (.217 at home)
--the guy turns 42 tomorrow with a robust .962 OPS
--utility backup ... nine of his 17 hits this season are for extra bases
--backup catcher has 21 percent of his hits this season against L.A.
--former starting outfielder has become a spare part
--struck out 10 Chicago White Sox in his last start
--24 walks and 25 strikeouts in 85 innings, but 5-0 since April
--25 walks and 100 strikeouts in 91 innings, but 2-3 since April
--the substitute closer, has allowed 45 baserunners in 37 innings
--0.00 ERA in April, 8.31 in May
--a lefty's lefty - .472 OPS allowed against left-handed batters, .880 the other way
--career 402 strikeouts in 430 1/3 innings
--middle reliever was hammered in April, better since
--batters swinging at the first pitch are 8 for 13 against him
More Dodger Extremes
The Dodgers have baseball's top bullpen since 1974, according to STATS, Inc. numbers appropriated by Gregg Rosenthal, a Red Sox fan living in Los Angeles. Rosenthal found that the Dodger bullpen is No. 1 in ERA (2.02), batting average allowed (.196), strikeout-walk ratio (4.19) and baserunners per nine innings (8.77)
Rosenthal adds that the Dodgers have the best overall ERA compared to the league average since the 1906-1909 Chicago Cubs. The difference between the Dodger ERA (2.92) and the league ERA (4.36) is 1.44, or 49 percent of the Dodger ERA. Got that?
And lest I forget, Rosenthal also writes that this radical Dodger team can become the "best worst-hitting team ever," meaning that the Dodgers are well on their way to having the best winning-percentage ever of a team that finished last in the National League in scoring.
Good stuff - especially from an expatriate.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Not Pointing Fingers Today
Unusually bored on a hot day in the Valley in my usual position in the outfield at our Sunday morning softball pickup game, and with our team well out in front (not that these leads usually last), I requested a few innings at shortstop. Unfortunately, the first grounder that came to me took a bad hop (or was it just me?). Anyway, it went off my right index finger - a key typing finger, it should go without saying. To paraphrase Michael Jackson: "It's black. It's blue." But for peace in our times, I will persevere...
The dawn comes with only three major league teams holding better records than the Dodgers, who are back on pace to win 95 games and who hold a 1 1/2-game lead in the wild-card standings over the fading Montreal Expos. The Dodgers have won 20 of their past 28 games and 31 of their past 45 - that's .674 ball for a month and a half.
According to ESPN.com, of the 19 teams with records of .500 or better, the Dodgers have played the easiest schedule. Further, in July, the Dodgers play only nine games against teams with .500 or better records: six against St. Louis (four at home and only two on the road - how's that for a break) and three at Philadelphia.
But for the next two weeks, it gets Serious. Rigorous. Arduous. Six against San Francisco, six against Anaheim. How will it go? Well, the first nine will all be played in hard-core pitchers' parks, so it's hard to imagine that there won't be one low-scoring game after another - which means it could go any way you like...
Jolbert Cabrera is becoming a bonafide story. After 130 plate appearances, Cabrera has an OPS of .850 and an EQA of .297. He has also shown that he can field anything that comes to him, as long as it's hit in the air. Taking grounders and throwing the ball - that's another story. The shot up the middle that caused the bizarre infield-single-turned-game-saving double play Sunday was a ball of Cabrera's glove that Alex Cora would have likely fielded cleanly.
Brian Dohn of the Daily News writes that Cora is bumming about being benched so that Jim Tracy could keep Cabrera's bat in the lineup against Cleveland's left-handed starters. The interesting thing is that so far this season, the right-handed Cabrera is hitting better against righties, and the left-handed Cora is hitting better against lefties.
It's a clear sign of Tracy's committment to Adrian Beltre, who of course isn't hitting anyone at all, that Cabrera isn't taking more time at third base. It is also clear that until Cabrera proves he can't hit, he should be playing. I'm honestly just not sure it should be at second base - or only at second base, at any rate. Second base and shortstop are where Cabrera's offense is mitigated the most by his defense. Tracy should work him throughout the outfield and corner infield positions...
Strangest Move of the Weekend
When I criticize a Jim Tracy decision, it shouldn't be taken as an overall indictment of him as a manager. Tracy does a thousand things right - and doesn't get credit for them, because there's nothing noteworthy about making the right decision. There's nothing to discuss. But when he does something wrong, boy, it's glaring.
He made a move Friday that really blew me away. In the ninth inning of a tie game, Cora was on third base with one out. Tracy sent Dave Roberts in to pinch-run for Cora. Given how fast Cora is himself, think how little an advantage you gain by this move. Now think about what you lose - a great defensive player in a tie game, and the ability to use Roberts in a more pressing situation...
Call the AMA
Prostate cancer is a powerful disease, and the Dodgers were nearly powerless to join the fight against it. With every home run hit last week raising money for CaP CURE, the Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate, the Dodgers contributed one, by backup catcher Dave Ross. Should the Dodgers consider making a separate donation - or at least start keying the CaP CURE to Eric Gagne saves?
By the way, the Dodger season totals now stand at 40 home runs, 36 sacrifice hits.
As for Ross, his three-hit performance Saturday reinforced my position that the Dodgers need a third catcher so that Ross can be used more often. Daryle Ward will presumably replace Bubba Crosby on the roster, but again, Jason Romano's value as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement is a luxury the Dodgers can't afford. (Of course, I'd still be happy to lose Ron Coomer, but I've given up hope of that happening...)
Can We Still Make Axel Foley References?
Finally, I hope I haven't brought this up before, but have you ever heard how much Fred McGriff sounds like Eddie Murphy? It's quite something. As McGriff was interviewed on the radio last week, I was transported to Beverly Hills Cop: "I'm not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe again..."
Agents of Peace
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Milton Bradley and Paul Lo Duca, who made peace Sunday just like the Hatfields and the McCoys, are represented by the same agents: Seth and Sam Levinson.
No Littleball for Little
Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox has 12 freakin' triples already this season. Sunday, he hit his 12th - along with three doubles - against the Astros. Yet in the 14th inning, Garciaparra took it upon himself to sacrifice. According to the Boston Globe, Red Sox manager Grady Little was "livid" - at least until Manny Ramirez followed with a game-winning single.
Still, a warning. Dodgers ... don't try this at home.