Friday, August 15, 2003
Remember Phil Hiatt? Led the minors in home runs a couple years back while playing AAA ball in the Dodger organization?
Hiatt is still plying his trade, now with the Cubs - and he's talking to fellow blogger Christian Ruzich, aka The Cub Reporter, about life as a latter-day Crash Davis. At one point, Hiatt tells CR that Jim Tracy is "the kind of manager you want."
In his daily newsletter Thursday, Lee Sinins wrote that Jason Romano has the fifth-most plate appearances in a single season in National League history (since 1900, pitchers not included) with an on-base percentage and a slugging percentage each below .100.
1) Hal Finney, 1936, 35 PA, .000/.000
2) Ron Gardenhire, 1983, 33 PA, .091/.063
3) Bubber Jonnard, 1929, 33 PA, .097/.097
4) Alexis Infante, 1990, 32 PA, .069/.071
5) Jason Romano, 2003, 31 PA, .097/.067
You know that shirt, hanging in the back of your closet, that you never thought you'd wear?
The one that you don't even remember why you bought it? The one you wouldn't even consider, except that you're out of clean laundry? The one that makes you dig into your dirty clothes to see if one of your wrinkled regulars can make another go of it?
Until finally you say ...
"Hmm ... Masao Kida? I guess I could wear that."
And why not? After all, you were dressed in Scott Mullen just a couple of weeks ago.
It really isn't like the Dodgers, true stylists when it comes to pitching, to have to go the Goodwill route so often. But today - when everyone in Chicago will be wearing Mark Prior - Los Angeles will be sporting Kida, a hit in Japan but a fashion that hasn't caught on in the States.
With Darren Dreifort, Kazuhisa Ishii and Andy Ashby all unavailable, Kida will be making his first major league start after 51 career relief appearances (all with Detroit) that have left him with a 6.42 career ERA. That makes Kida the least likely starter to take the mound for the Dodgers this season - which is saying something, considering Mullen was also making his first career start when he toiled against Atlanta on August 3.
Last year, in similarly dire pitching straits, the Dodgers had to use Kevin Bierne for three games in September while still clinging to slim playoff hopes. This is a function of the contracts the Dodgers gave to the fragile Kevin Brown and Dreifort.
The Dodgers pulled Brown out of their laundry basket to pitch on three days rest Thursday, perhaps because they thought Ashby could make Friday's start. On the other hand, they might have decided that Kida would have to make a start at some point, and concluded that it was better to sneak him in a game the Dodgers were least likely to win - today's matchup against Prior, who posted a complete-game victory over the Dodgers on Sunday.
It would be overstating to say the Dodgers have conceded today's game - after all, they won the game that Mullen started. And the Cub offense, unlike Atlanta's, is only middle of the road.
But the Dodgers' best hope is that Prior, who has allowed one earned run in 15 innings since coming off the disabled list this month, is not the pitcher at Wrigley Field that he was at Dodger Stadium. This season, Prior has an ERA of 3.61 at home, compared to 2.10 on the road.
Otherwise, it will be the Cubs who are dressed for success today.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Extra innings are when the Dodger superiority in pitching should assert itself.
Extra innings are when the Dodger offense should find salvation against the desperation relievers of opposing bullpens.
Instead, the Dodger offense, which prunes in the best of times, has downright disintegrated after the ninth inning, leading to 10 losses in 14 extra-inning games.
Dodger Offense in Extra Innings, 2003
|4/1||at Arizona||10||L, 5-4||4||0||1||0||.250||.250||.250||.500|
|4/6||at San Diego||13||W, 4-3||14||1||3||3||.214||.389||.214||.603|
|4/7||vs. Arizona||12||L, 6-4||10||0||3||0||.300||.300||.300||.600|
|4/13||at San Francisco||12||L, 5-4||10||0||3||2||.300||.417||.300||.717|
|4/24||at Cincinnati||11||L, 3-2||5||0||1||1||.200||.333||.200||.533|
|6/10||at Detroit||12||W, 3-1||11||2||3||1||.273||.333||.273||.606|
|6/13||at Cleveland||10||W, 4-3||5||1||2||0||.400||.500||.600||1.100|
|6/23||at San Francisco||11||L, 3-2||5||0||1||0||.200||.200||.200||.400|
|7/2||vs. San Diego||10||L, 4-3||4||1||2||0||.500||.500||1.250||1.750|
|7/4||vs. Arizona||10||L, 3-1||3||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|7/24||vs. Colorado||11||W, 1-0||5||1||2||0||.400||.400||.400||.800|
|7/25||at Arizona||15||L, 2-1||18||0||0||2||.000||.100||.000||.100|
|8/12||at Florida||13||L, 5-4||12||0||0||1||.000||.083||.000||.083|
|8/13||at Florida||11||L, 2-1||5||0||0||2||.000||.286||.000||.286|
More blank points for the Dodger extra-inning offense (I'd call them bullet points, but bullets are not what the team is firing.):
In general, I do believe that one-run games are decided as much by luck as anything else. But I don't know that luck can explain such a collapse.
- 1.54 runs per nine extra innings
- Two extra-base hits in 111 at-bats
- An OPS that is 13 percent lower than that of Cesar Izturis
- No hits in the past 35 at-bats - a 12-inning span!
Dodger manager Jim Tracy has been wise not to wait for a save situation to use Eric Gagne in relief during the extra-inning games of the past two nights. How much more empty, after all, could the Dodger offense run on?
But this week, it has only served to prolong the agony - and further push an exhausting season for the team into a near-catatonic one.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
I hope to expand on this post later, but in the wake of Tuesday night's painful loss, here is a sad recap of the Dodger record in extra innings:
- 2003 Dodger record in extra-inning games: 4-9
- Against National League teams: 2-9
- Against NL West teams: 2-7
- Against NL teams in playoff contention (.500 record or better): 1-7
- Against San Francisco: 0-2
- Against Arizona: 0-4
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
When Will Carroll and Derek Zumsteg wrote on Baseball Prospectus on Tuesday morning that unnamed sources had told them that Pete Rose would be reinstated by Major League Baseball by 2004, I believed them completely.
I even believed the sources were telling the truth.
But I never believed that any of them were right.
Anytime anyone says something is going to happen, you have to hold your breath until that thing actually does happen. Say it ain't so? Well, saying it ain't so don't make it not so.
For unnamed sources, you have to redouble your level of skepticism.
There are many reasons why sources won't go on the record. One reason is that they might get in trouble for talking. Another reason - maybe they're just shy. But as likely a reason as any other for doing the non-porn Deep Throat is this: the sources can't completely trust their own story. And they don't want to be caught face-egged.
Staying off the record inherently, fundamentally diminishes one's credibility. Will and Derek are on the record - so I can believe their story: "Anonymous sources are telling us X." They're telling the truth. But they may well be wrong.
Just recently, for example, sources told everyone that Arnold would not run for governor. Where are those sources now?
The pressure for a scoop is absolutely intense - intense enough that one local sportswriter you've come to know simply did not want to put up with it and quit doing the work full-time. Eleven years later, I'm still not really sure why scoops are so prized. Sure, a reputation for being first in the business will drive readers to you, the way starving supermarket shoppers flock to the woman serving the sample wieners. But imagine trying to live your life off pigs-in-a-blanket. Scoops don't come every day, and so ultimately, it's clear that what keeps readers coming back is sustained quality coverage.
My first source for sports news is ESPN. If Fox breaks a story, that's great. But I would still want ESPN's take on it. And for that matter, I would want the Times' take on it - even if it's the next day. And for that matter, I'll wait as long as it takes for my Babes in Blogland to articulate their thoughts. (And for that matter, I hope a few of you want my take on things, however late I am.)
I can understand the desire for Baseball Prospectus to go with its Pete Rose story. Nailing this story splashes them across the map in a way that daily, nose-to-the-grindstone intelligent baseball coverage (unfortunately) does not. One type of story is not a substitute for the other - nor is it intended to be. Those who have written online that Baseball Prospectus lost sight of its mission by pursuing the Rose story are wrong. Baseball Prospectus reports baseball news, whether that news is Cesar Izturis and his OBP or Pete Rose and his OTB.
From a true journalistic perspective, however, I simply do not see the value of publishing the Rose story without named sources. This would be my litmus test for depending on unnamed sources for a story: Will people suffer if this story is not published? Example 1: Watergate. Example 2: Hypothetically, unnamed sources tell me that, say, a bridge is in danger of collapsing. I'd weigh the risk of being right vs. being wrong, and go forward if I felt confident that the risk of holding back would harm people other than myself. (But you can be damn sure I'd try to convince people to go on the record. In my experience, many - not all, but many - people who start off by saying "this is off the record" can be talked into changing their minds.)
Now, here's a diabolical thought - perhaps Carroll and Zumsteg are convinced that Rose's return will cause great harm to the game, and they published their true story in the hopes that the ensuing cacophony would prevent Rose's return from actually happening. Thus, the greater good is achieved. (I doubt it, but it's got a nice Wag the Dog feel.)
More likely, the writers thought they had something and simply did not feel the need to be patient enough for others to go on the record with the story. It's not a choice I would make - but it's a choice people make all the time.
For example, ESPN makes that choice all the time. That network has used anonymousources (sounds like stegosauruses) for stories. Peter Gammons, who said Tuesday that Will Carroll is a great writer but is dead wrong on the Rose story, practically reports a rumor a day - and I'm sure he wouldn't want Will keeping score on him.
ESPN responded the way most competitors respond to a scoop (putting aside that ESPN and Baseball Prospectus have an affiliation). ESPN put out its own take on the BP story - namely, that the story was wrong. Furthermore, ESPN got a source to go on the record saying that the story was wrong - MLB president and COO Bob DuPuy. All the credibility in the world, right?
Well, it just goes to show you how little value unnamed sources have when MLB can come out looking as stand-up as Walter Cronkite.
Perhaps the final irony was that in its promos for SportsCenter in the evening, ESPN felt perfectly comfortable teasing its audience with, "Is it finally coming up roses for Pete?" Talk about having the last laugh - ESPN steals the promotional value of Baseball Prospectus' reporting, knowing full well it will trash the story at the top of the hour.
In a manner no different from trying to predict election results from Florida too quickly, "The Scoop" is journalism's Achilles' heel. I'm only one person, but folks, you all have my permission to take a breath before pressing "send." Unless I need to hightail it out of town 'cause an unnamed source with the initials C.L. says the sky is falling, I'll know what I need to know soon enough anyway.
Eric Gagne : Closer :: Adrian Beltre: Cleanup Hitter?
Wishful thinking, I suppose. But Beltre, the Dodgers' biggest disappointment this season, rode the No. 4 spot Monday to take the team lead in home runs. Shawn Green, with only one home run since the All-Star break, has dropped into second ...
His playing time has declined since Robin Ventura arrived, and he still strikes out too often, but Dave Ross definitely has power. Having crossed the 100 plate appearance mark, Ross still has the highest slugging percentage on the team and the most home runs per at-bat...
Victor Alvarez will go to Las Vegas when Kazuhisa Ishii returns from the disabled list, and Jason "Jose Gonzalez" Romano will head there if Fred McGriff completes his rehab. But if Todd Hundley is somehow ready to go before September 1, look for Ross to make a quick gambling run to the 51s until the rosters expand...
The guy who's playing time has suffered the most since the new arrivals: Mike Kinkade. He has only two at-bats in August, and is 1 for 18 since the All-Star break...
Aaron Boone, with the New York Yankees: 4 for 37, 0 walks, .108 batting average, .108 on-base percentage, .135 slugging percentage, .243 OPS. This is not an evaluation or projection, just reporting what's happened so far...
Jolbert Cabrera has an OPS of .962 as a second baseman. But I wish broadcasters would stop marveling at the great record Cabrera has in games that he starts. Cabrera starts mostly against lefthanders, whom the Dodgers have been pounding (relatively) all season. The team OPS is .755 vs. lefties, .629 vs. righties. Yet Cabrera, as I've mentioned before, has hit righties better than lefties this year. It all doesn't quite add up ...
Monday, August 11, 2003
The Elephant Men
I'm not going to do this story justice, but here goes...
Saturday, Vin Scully was talking about bad jobs baseball players had before becoming baseball players. He mentioned that Eric Karros said his worst was cleaning up after races at the Cajon Speedway.
Vin then said that that sounded pretty bad, but not as bad as "cleaning up after the elephant parade."
The randomness of this comparison, I thought, was pretty funny in and of itself. But then, my wife said, "That's what I was thinking."
Where are these elephant parades, and how does one get tickets?
What's Done Isn't Done
When the Dodgers faced Florida in May this season, we all considered it a foray into a soft part of their schedule. And in fact, the Dodgers did sweep the Marlins, giving them wins 2, 3 and 4 at the front end of their 10-game winning streak. The Marlins left town 19-26, 5 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.
Since then, the Marlins are 45-27, and the Dodgers are 36-36.
The Marlins regular lineup hasn't really changed. Rookie Miguel Cabrera, a third baseman in the minors, has become part of the search for a productive left fielder. Otherwise, you still have C Ivan Rodriguez, 1B Derrek Lee, 2B Luis Castillo, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Mike Lowell, CF Juan Pierre and RF Juan Encarcion.
Perhaps the biggest deal offensively for the Marlins is their health: Their top seven guys have missed only 40 games combined this season, an average of less than six games missed per player. (Note: Lee is still adding to that total, having suffered a dislocated shoulder July 28.)
By comparison, your Dodger top eight of Paul Lo Duca, Fred McGriff, Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis, Adrian Beltre, Brian Jordan, Dave Roberts and Shawn Green have missed 168 games.
But one other thing has happened since May.
The day after the Marlins left Los Angeles, Dontrelle Willis faced Montreal in his third career start. He gave up five runs in three innings, and fell to 1-1 with an ERA of 7.07.
Since that time, Willis is 10-1 with a 1.87 ERA.
Everyone's talking about the moves the Dodgers have failed to make this season to stay in contention, but the only transactions the Marlins have transacted in their rally was to add Ugueth Urbina, a relief pitcher who has contributed all of 12 2/3 innings this season, and to not trade Lowell to the Dodgers.
Oh, and they fired their manager, Jeff Torborg, the week before coming to Los Angeles.
I make that last statement for the record, and not as a backhanded comment on Jim Tracy's situation. In fact, in my opinion, Tracy does not even have a "situation," except that other people have raised questions whenever the team isn't on a winning streak. Despite his minor flaws, Tracy has done well just to hold the Dodgers together.
Emotionally, however, it is frustrating and downright confusing to see a team with no apparent talent advantage, in a region that doesn't support it, with perhaps the worst ownership in major league baseball outside of the Expos, only six years after it won the World Series and then held a fire sale, positioned to take a playoff spot from the Big Blue Book of Job.