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Dodger Thoughts


Saturday, August 30, 2003

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 5.5 percent
August 29: 4.8 percent
August 28: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 30
Wins ... Team ... Chance of winning wild card
87 ... Philadelphia (37.0 percent)
86 ... Florida (18.7 percent)
85 ... Arizona (16.4 percent)
85 ... St. Louis (4.7 percent)
85 ... Houston (4.6 percent)
84 ... Montreal (8.4 percent)
84 ... Los Angeles (5.5 percent)

(Division leaders account for the remaining wild card possibilities.)

Those dang Diamondbacks get to play the Giants while Barry Bonds is mourning.

Friday, August 29, 2003


Angels on the Basepaths

In writing about Anaheim's disappointing 2003 season Thursday, Aaron Gleeman mades some points that are pertinent to thinking about the Dodgers:

Last year, Mike Scioscia was the king of the hit and run, the king of the stolen base, he was setting guys in motion and "making things happen" - and we all know how much baseball writers and announcers like that. That part of Anaheim's offense and the impact Scioscia had in that area were praised constantly as one of the main keys to their World Series run.

And this year? Not so much. I haven't heard a single thing about how brilliant Scioscia's managerial tactics have been when it comes to the running game and aggressive baserunning this year. ...

The Angels are actually running slightly more often this year than they did last year. They are on pace to steal about 10 more bases. They are also getting caught at a slightly higher rate, which isn't all that unexpected when you are running more often.

Yet, I don't think I have heard a single broadcaster bring up the Angels' work on the bases as a reason for their record this year, and I don't think I have read a single article opining that Scioscia's fondness of running and hit and running is the cause of their current place in the standings. I find it interesting that they are essentially doing the same things on the bases that they did last year and they are even doing it a little more this season, yet somehow it is no longer the reason for their record and their success (or lack thereof).
(Italics mine.)

When the Dodgers aren't scoring runs, the first thing that the letter-writers to the Times carp about is the lack of an ability to manufacture runs by the steal, sacrifice or hit-and-run. I wish it were possible for these people to understand that 1) those strategies require talent from your hitters, just like anything else, and 2) those strategies manufacture runs the way Ford manufactured cars pre-assembly line.

As Gleeman concluded:

Of course, in reality, Anaheim's work on the bases was pretty far down on the list of things that caused them to win a World Series title last season. When seemingly everyone on the team is having a career year with the bat, hitting .300 and smoking balls into the gaps everytime there is a runner on base, it makes a lot of other things look good and important.


Worse Things First

The Dodgers' four-game losing streak this week was grim, but it was nothing compared to the tailspin Philadelphia and Florida have encountered. Michael Blake captures the meltdown in sharp relief on View from the 700 Level.

I thought before the season started that Larry Bowa's presence as manager of the Phillies would allow Atlanta to maintain its hold on the National League East title. However, I also surmised that Jeff Torborg's presence as manager of the Marlins would leave them in last place. Little did I know that the Marlins would fire Torborg so efficiently.

By the way, I'd like to get one thing straight. I don't buy for a second that the Braves have won consecutive division titles since 1991. Montreal won the 1994 NL East title, strike year or not. Baseball recognizes individual statistical champions - Tony Gwynn, for example, gets credit for hitting .394 to win the NL batting race. Why on earth would the sport honor player accomplishments from a strike year but not team accomplishments?

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 4.8 percent
August 28: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 29
Wins ... Team
86 ... Philadelphia
86 ... Houston
86 ... St. Louis
85 ... Florida
85 ... Arizona
84 ... Montreal
83 ... Los Angeles


Once more, I refer you to Paul Hagen's article outlining tiebreaker scenarios.

Man, That Was a Heck of a Catch
Dave Roberts, take a bow. And don't let any fans reach out and hit you as you do.

I'd like some assurance that the umpires would have called interference on that fan in center field if it had been necessary. No need for a repeat of what happened to benefit Shawn Green and the Dodgers against Montreal last week.

I think Marquis Grissom saved Eric Gagne's save-ory bacon in similar fashion at Dodger Stadium last year. Update: John Wiebe has the story.

Cora Corraled
Alex Cora laced a nice single off left-handed Astros pitcher Mike Gallo in Thursday's Dodger victory.

Has Cora's OPS dipped from .805 in 2002 to .579 in 2003 in part because of a mistaken belief by Dodger manager Jim Tracy that Cora hits righties better than lefties?

Since 2001, Cora has been a more productive hitter against southpawmen. This season, however, Cora has had only 53 plate appearances against them.

Come on Down
According to Baseball Digest, Moises Alou's idol growing up was Pedro Guerrero.

Alou's favorite movie is Ghost and his favorite television show is The Price is Right.

Eric Enders, Come on Down
From the Times: "The Dodgers will conduct an Eric Gagne look-alike contest Sunday during the Viva Los Dodgers festival, which celebrates Los Angeles' Latino heritage. The winner will meet Gagne before Sunday's game against the Rockies."

Finally ...
Thanks to all those who sent best wishes about the house. They were truly appreciated.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


Nomo Gets Mail! Nomo Gets Mail!

Those of you watching this generation of Sesame Street will understand that headline.

Rip Rense, for whom the word "blogger" does no justice, sent me a letter regarding Wednesday's Hideo Nomo column.

Dear Jon,

I don't profess great sports knowledge, but I am so pleased to see somebody somewhere writing about how great Nomo is. You sure don't find it in the Times, or in those Jim Tracy quotes where he asks himself a question, then answers it. Stats that favor Brown aside, Nomo is remarkable, having rebuilt his pitching style into something perhaps more dependable and intimidating than in his earlier, more powerful incarnation. He is a damn warrior out there - up for every game, stoic, tough. With better offense, he'd have won 20-plus games last year and this year. He should be right in the running for the Cy Young. Nomo and Dave Roberts are really the only things I like about this team.

Anyhow, well done.

Rip Rense

This letter allows me to do a postscript on the Nomonia column that I left out - the fact that I was disappointed to find that Kevin Brown had the slim statistical edge on Nomo. I was rooting for the stats to bear out my emotions. To my surprise and gratification, Nomo really has been the epitome of stalwart over the past year - it has really been something to see. Even the walks he allows, properly noted by Robert Tagorda, add to his legend in my eyes - they make him the warrior with the Achilles' heel. Oh - I guess I could just say they make him Achilles.

Anyway, obviously Nomo's first-inning explosion Wednesday night hurt and hurts. But the guy definitely deserves due recognition for in many ways being the backbone of the best pitching staff in baseball.
* * *

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 28
Wins ... Team
87 ... Philadelphia
87 ... Houston
86 ... Florida
85 ... St. Louis
85 ... Arizona
84 ... Montreal
82 ... Los Angeles

I'm assuming the NL wild card will finish with a record over .500, but with teams like Milwaukee ripping off nine-game winning streaks while the Phillies, et al lose five times a week, who knows?

Ashby in Escrow

I come to you this morning, 13 hours after receiving the news that I have made the biggest purchase of my life - a bigger purchase, it seems like, than all previous purchases combined. My wife and I have bought a house.

It's a good house, in a good neighborhood. Not the prettiest in the world, but it'll do, pig, it'll do. Although it will be about 15 degrees on the average day there than the area I currently live in, there will be shade to be found. Although the yard is small, there will be space inside and out for my daughter to play. It's got the schools, the parks, the shops - all within walking distance.

I come to you this morning, the impending move occupying just about all the mental energy I have. Knowing I couldn't get the perfect house, but believing we made the best possible purchase. Trying to feel excited, but fearing something's wrong because I'm more anxious than excited.

All because I know that even the best intentions can turn out to be ... Andy Ashby.

To be sure, my house cost less than the $22.5 million the Dodgers spent to watch Ashby have four decent months over three years. In April, May, June and August, 2002, Ashby had a 2.95 ERA in 152 1/3 innings. In the other 13 in-season months of his Dodger career, Ashby's ERA has been 6.08 in 111 innings.

Ashby has now been sent to the bullpen for the final month of his Dodger career (although at any moment an injury to one of the Dodger starters could bring Ashby out again). In the morning papers, Ashby reacts to the decision with grudging understanding. In the Daily News, for example:

"I'm not going to worry about it anymore," Ashby said. "I didn't throw well so they're not going to let me (start). I'll do what they want me to do, and that's it. I've been there before; it's nothing shocking, so to hell with it. I'll do what they want me to do, and then go on."
Let's face it - paying $22.5 million to a ballplayer that says "to hell with it" is a vintage Money Pit moment. My question: Would it hurt more if the Dodgers had reason to believe Ashby should have performed better over the life of his contract? Would it hurt more if the Dodgers had real reason to be disappointed?

Because they do and they don't.

From 1994-1996 and in 1998, Ashby posted ERAs below 3.50. In 1997 and in 1999, his ERAs were 4.13 and 3.80. In 2000, his ERA soared to 4.92, but even that last ERA isn't as bad as it looks. According to, Ashby's ERA in 2000 was nearly at the league average - and after being traded from Philadelphia to Atlanta, it was well above.

So when Dodger general manager Kevin Malone pursued Ashby in the 2000-2001 offseason, he could be excused for thinking that Ashby might be worth taking a flyer on.

A flyer, however, is not $22.5 million. That's a Hindenburg.

The man replacing Ashby in the rotation, Wilson Alvarez - now he was a flyer. I'm not suggesting that Ashby in 2000 didn't deserve more than the $750,000, one-year contract Alvarez got in 2003, but it's not hindsight to say that low-seven-figures was the neighborhood to settle in. That's what everyone was thinking at the time.

Ashby has been a disappointment, but the disappointment began before he threw his first Dodger pitch. The Dodgers had no business signing him to that contract, and for all of Dan Evans' faults, I'm glad that the man now in charge is not a man who would repeat that mistake.

As for me, my family and my house, well, wish us luck. It's a big commitment for the franchise, but signs point to success. We just have to make sure the house passes its physical. Don't want it to end up on the DL in its first month.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003



It's silly to talk now about who will win the Cy Young Award, because the award is very often won in September. Take 2002, when Randy Johnson stepped up to take the prize from teammate Curt Schilling.

But as Cy Young Fever gripped this week with a series of articles and polls, one candidate was being dismissed almost out of hand. And though it may be too early to annoint a winner, it wouldn't be too early to make sure someone's nominated.

Out of more than 23,000 votes, Hideo Nomo received 3.8 percent for the National League Cy Young award. Russ Ortiz received four times as many, despite an ERA that is nearly a full run higher than Nomo's.

Let's not even debate Ortiz vs. Nomo - if people follow the Joe Morgan line of thinking that Ortiz's three additional victories on the high-scoring Braves matter more than ERA, there's probably no saving them.

However, we can look at Nomo vs. Kevin Brown. Tuesday, Jim Baker wrote on Insider of Nomo, "He is the second-best starter on his team. To be logical, that means he cannot possibly win the award in place of the best starter, Brown."

Is it true that Brown is better than Nomo? To compare:

Wins: Brown 12, Nomo 15
Run Support: Brown 4.08, Nomo 4.44

Nomo has more wins, but has benefited from better run support.

ERA: Brown 2.15, Nomo 2.70
Unearned runs allowed: Brown 9, Nomo 4
Runs Allowed per 9 Innings: Brown 2.62, Nomo 2.88

Brown has a better ERA, though it is mitigated by the number of unearned runs he has allowed. Unfair to bring those up? Isn't part of being a good pitcher being able to overcome your teammates' mistakes? Many argue that distinguishing between earned and unearned runs is a waste of time.

Nevertheless, Brown has a significantly better ERA and a slightly better RA.

Innings pitched: Brown 172, Nomo 190 1/3
Starts: Brown 26, Nomo 28
Innings per start: Brown 6.6, Nomo 6.8

Nomo has been slightly more durable.

To this point, Brown has a tiny, tiny edge on Nomo as the best pitcher on the team. Wins vs. run support cancels out as a factor, and innings works in Nomo's favor, but the narrow edge in runs allowed pulls Brown ahead.

Win Shares, according to, supports Brown's case while illustrating just how close this race is. Brown is third in the NL with 16.44 win shares. Nomo is fourth, with 16.23.

Now, Nomo is certainly within range to pull ahead of Brown - and everyone else - with a strong September. ERA advantages, for example, can easily swing in a month.

However, these factors are working against Nomo.

Strikeouts per 9 Innings: Brown 7.90, Nomo 7.28
The more strikeouts you get, the less you rely on the luck of the ball finding your fielders. Advantage, Brown.

Opponents' On-Base Percentage: Brown .283, Nomo .296
Opponent's Slugging Percentage: Brown .310, Nomo .331
Opponent's OPS: Brown .593, Nomo .628

Nomo's slightly higher runs-allowed numbers are no fluke - they are reflective of how he gives up more baserunners and extra-base hits than Brown. If you wagering, the odds are against Nomo gaining ERA ground on Brown.

Nomo and Brown will have approximately seven more starts this season. If Nomo wins five of those, he gets 20 wins - and as Russ Ortiz shows us, wins can have a unreasonably powerful effect on legitimizing one's Cy Young candidacy.

Based on the important numbers, however, the pundits are correct to pick Brown as the best Dodger starter.

* * *

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: Still waiting
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 26
Wins ... Team
88 ... Philadelphia
87 ... Florida
86 ... Arizona
86 ... Houston
85 ... St. Louis
84 ... Los Angeles
82 ... Montreal

In an otherwise impatient, lonely world, the teeming crowd is shoving the Dodgers back from a train that refuses to leave them behind.

* * *

Feeling bad about Brian Giles? Console yourself with Aaron Boone's continued struggles: .478 OPS and now, according to Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus, "a sprained ankle which he turned, embarrassingly, while running out to his position."

Tuesday, August 26, 2003


Without Guile, Giles

As if the Dodgers didn't have enough trouble with the Padres, Los Angeles will now face them seven times in September with the addition of Brian Giles and his .322 EQA - eighth-best in the National League - to the Padre outfield. San Diego finally consummated its trade with Pittsburgh for Giles, and did not even have to take on Jason Kendall's contract in the process.

* * *

Update: Dodger chances of making the postseason, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 26
Wins ... Team
88 ... Philadelphia
87 ... Florida
86 ... Arizona
86 ... Houston
85 ... St. Louis
84 ... Los Angeles
82 ... Montreal

Monday, August 25, 2003

* * *

Update: Dodger chances of making the postseason, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

With one loss Saturday, the Dodgers lost two days of gains. The effect of Sunday's loss wasn't so dramatic; the Phillies' Sunday loss appeared to hurt them more.

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 24
Wins ... Team
90 ... Philadelphia
87 ... Arizona
87 ... Florida
85 ... Houston
85 ... St. Louis
84 ... Los Angeles
81 ... Montreal

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of August 25
Wins ... Team
89 ... Philadelphia
87 ... Florida
86 ... Arizona
86 ... Houston
85 ... St. Louis
84 ... Los Angeles
81 ... Montreal

Thanks to Jim Baker at, I know that Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News broke down what happens in the event of multi-team ties.

Speaking of Strange, Check Out What's at the Souvenir Stand

A souvenir jersey, in the style of the Houston Astros' uniforms of the 1970s, but with Dodger colors and the word Dodgers on the front.

So strange, it must be cool. But what exactly are we homaging with that one?

And to Think I Used the Word 'Pissed' Three Times on Sunday

So I walk into the men's room at Dodger Stadium, like I've done many times in the past 30-odd years, and what do I see that I've never seen before.

(Tantalizing lead-in, huh?)

An ad for, framed on the wall like a diploma.

What an institution for higher learning Dodger Stadium has become.

There were several other frames, judiciously placed above the sink, above the trash cans, above the trough. Another had a Sportsline ad, while several carried your basic "Your Ad Here!" pitch.

My ad there? Right there? Think of the possibilities ...

Dodger Thoughts: So Good, You'll Pee in Your Pants
Dodger Thoughts: We Really Let It Flow
Urine the Know with Dodger Thoughts

Think those sound bad? Considering the home team was about to lose its second straight game to the Mets, thanks to two errors on the same play, one seems cordially invited by these signs to comment about the piss-poor Dodgers.

Well, the Dodgers got a gift when Milwaukee swept Philadelphia last week. They have now too generously given much of that gift back, but still somehow trail in the wild card by only three games. So no one outside of the Atlanta Braves or the mourning San Francisco Giants has much more to feel free and easy about than the Dodgers do.

But I have to say, when you're a team trying to prove deserving of the October spotlight, it seems more than a little pathetic that providing income-generating bathroom reading material has grabbed any share of your time and energy. Hardly the biggest desecration of Dodger Stadium, but most certainly the tackiest.

Not well-hung, my Dodger friends. Not well-hung.

Sunday, August 24, 2003


Cry Us a River, Jack

Jack Clark continues to make Gray Davis look like the king of introspection.*

Clark talked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about being fired as Dodger hitting coach, talked about coming back too soon from his motorcycle accident, talked about the players that were injured, talked about the lack of talent on the team.

The article offers no quotes from Clark on his inability to help the players who were healthy, much less any reason to understand why Clark deserved the hitting coach job in the first place.

It's fine for Clark to be pissed that he was fired, pissed about his situation, pissed about the whole damn year. But if he can't acknowledge at all that the Dodgers had some reason to dream that someone could do better than him, I don't know how we're supposed to sympathize. Clark comes back too soon from an injury that came from his own recklessness, shows that he's incapable of having any positive impact on the team, no matter how weak the talent is, and we're supposed to feel that the Dodgers are the bad guys?

Team officials are offering no comment, but given the second-guessing they have gotten from the press while producing a playoff contending team with the talent that Clark derides, I can only imagine what they are muttering under their breath.

*By the way, I'm anti-recall.

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball. To respond or contribute -- or if you are having technical problems with this site -- please e-mail

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