Feb 08

Pitchers and catchers report in five days


R.I.P. Frank Robinson. He was a force on the field for the Reds and then for the Orioles. Even at age 36 he had a slash line of .251/.353/.442 with 19 HR and 59 RBI in one season with the Dodgers. I remember hearing Dodgers-Reds games in the early 1960s and worrying when he was about to come up. The 1961 team which won the NL pennant had F Robby, Wally Post and Vada Pinson in the outfield and Joey Jay, Bob Purkey and Jim O’Toole in the rotation with a young fireballer named Jim Maloney in the bullpen where he was joined by wily veteran Jim Brosnan. They were good and Robinson was the best of them.

How tough was he?

Robinson was hit with a pitch 198 times in his career, an outlandish amount for such a great player. Nobody else hit that often ever had even 350 home runs. Aaron was hit only 32 times, Clemente 35 and Mays 44.

He was so much more than just one of the greatest players of his era, though. He was a tough hard-nosed field manager and executive in the Commissioner’s office after his playing days were done. Let this be his epitaph:

Pioneer, Hall of Fame player, manager, executive … yes, Robinson excelled in multiple capacities like very few ever did. His greatest role, however, may have been as a role model in what it means to compete fully and relentlessly. In that vein, Frank Robinson forever is in nobody’s shadow.

Jan 24

MLB teams embrace the gig economy

So says this article at SI, anyway.

For ballplayers, the gig economy divides work among more players, which means less pay for players. A record 1,270 players appeared in major league games last year. That’s a 15.8% increase in jobs since 1998, the first season with 30 teams. Yet the average salary went down last year for the first time since 2004—while revenues again went up.

The Dodgers are an example, says the author:

Take Los Angeles outfielder Joc Pederson, 26, as an example. Pederson hits 58 points lower against lefthanded pitchers than righthanders, so he has been given a gig job. Had he played outfield for the Dodgers in the 1960s, as Willie Davis did, Pederson would have been a full-time player. Davis hit 42 points worse against lefties than righties at the same age as Peterson. Yet by age 26, Davis had five seasons with 550 or more plate appearances. Pederson has only one such season.

It’s easier for the Dodgers to give at-bats against lefties to somebody else than to commit to sticking with Pederson in hopes that he improves on his career .181 average against lefties.

Jan 08

Hot stove stagnating?

Jacob Rudner of Sports Illustrated says

Andrew Friedman needs to rethink his strategy. Instead of being reluctant and hoping the roster pans out for another year, there has to be some benefit in going and making the changes you need to make to get the roster to the promise land. After two years of reserved salary acquisition, the Dodgers roster is cheap enough that the team should be going all out for a trophy.

Michael Wittman of SI says

Yasmani Grandal on the other hand, is the best catcher left on the market.

While passed balls became an issue behind the plate towards the end of the season, Grandal is still a better backstop than 95% of the catchers in the league and he could be primed for a nice bounce back season in 2019, especially if the Dodgers get him back on a one year deal. Then he would help bridge the gap to Keibert Ruiz in 2020, while re-establishing his own market before hitting free agency again at the end of next season.

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times is equally impatient

Because of their relative frugality last year, the Dodgers will be penalized as first-time offenders if their payroll for next season exceeds the luxury-tax threshold. And because they traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds, they can take on another outfielder.

So where’s Bryce Harper?

Hernandez argues that the fans expect and deserve better than this sudden apparent unwillingness to spend on payroll given the higher ticket prices and inability to watch Dodgers’ games on television, among other things.

Dec 14

Roberts on rosters

Newly-inked manager Dave Roberts used his media availability requirement at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday of this week to answer a few questions:

On the position player side, Roberts said he expects Cody Bellinger to be an everyday player in 2019.

“Just the way he can defend and how he can affect a game and impact a game with his legs, with the bat, the goal is to have him out there and handle lefties and righties,” Roberts said.

“I think for Cody, it was a tough year,” Roberts said. “It was a grind for him with a slow start. But if you look at the surface line, it wasn’t bad. Now you kind of introduce the defense and the versatility, for a second-year player, still pretty good.”

But if you have Bellinger in the lineup every day, what position will he play? CF or 1B? “Reply hazy, try again.”

Well, what about Muncy? Kiké? CT3?

Roberts said Muncy, Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández will all be options at second base, with Muncy also getting at-bats at first.

On the pitching side, Roberts said he sees Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood, who transitioned to bullpen roles by the end of 2018, as starters in 2019. Roberts said Ross Stripling will also compete for a starting job after an All-Star 2018 season.

I think Roberts was in a good mood, as shown by this:

On former Diamondbacks All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt going to the Cardinals:

“Goldy, he can stay in the (National League) Central as long as he wants. I’m trying to work on getting him to the American League next. But Goldy, one of my favorite players to watch. To get him out of our division is great. Hope he’s happy. I’ve got to send him flowers.”

Dec 08

Rumors, alarums and excursions

Over at MLB Trade Rumors Connor Byrne notes the recent Times story about Yasiel Puig’s ostensible “disgruntlement” about his diminished playing time last year. He also speculates about a Matt Kemp trade, but wonders how and to whom that might happen. So do I. I can’t imagine another NL team wanting the Bison, a 34-year-old outfielder who had an excellent first half of last year but then fell off drastically at the midpoint of the season. He did win the Players’ Choice Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2018 but was beaten out for the MLB one by Atlanta’s LHP Jonny Venters. He could be a useful DH for an American League team.

Here’s a wonderful Christmas gift idea. You can purchase it at ALL BLUEA for $28.99-$34.99.

Nov 08

Management turnover

Roberts extended.

“Nothing’s changed,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the GM Meetings here at the Omni La Costa Resort. “We remain extremely optimistic. We have just set it off to the side a little bit as we work through all of our coaches and the vacancies we have there. Nothing has changed from our vantage point.”

In addition to hitting coach Turner Ward and third base coach Chris Woodward, the Dodgers are also losing Danny Lehmann, their game planning and communications coach who was in uniform for games. And general manager Farhan Zaidi, who was introduced Wednesday afternoon as the San Francisco Giants’ new decision maker.

Friedman says the team’s only urgent need is catcher, presuming Grandal doesn’t accept the qualifying offer the Dodgers extended to him. Of the two players to whom those offers were made, Ryu is considered by observers to be more likely to agree.

This assessment of Grandal from Friedman is probably the same most Dodgers fans have:

“I would prefer a more even, level distribution,” Friedman said this week. “But I would also prefer how it has played out to most catchers in the big leagues. So.”

Former exec Jim Bowden speculates on who the Marlins’ Realmuto might be traded to and what he might bring in return. He thinks the Dodgers would have to give up Alex Verdugo and AA pitcher Dustin May. Incidentally, there’s a chart of MLB catchers sorted by WAR in that article: Realmuto’s 4.8 is the highest, but second is Grandal at 3.6.

Oct 30

Gather ’round the stove, y’all

We go into the offseason earlier than we hoped and without the ultimate prize, so who’s coming back to ensure we get back to the Series for the third consecutive year?

…the Dodgers retain their nucleus. Hill will return for the final year of a three-year deal he signed after 2016. Justin Turner and Jansen will be back. Max Muncy, this year’s breakout star, will be back and cost-controlled. Seager is expected to be healthy. A young nucleus of position players that includes Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson will also come back, with Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo perhaps ready to take on bigger roles.

Kershaw or not, the rotation could post a combination of Buehler and Julio Urías that is currently a combined 45 years old.

Besides Kershaw, other free agents include Machado, Freese, Dozier, and Grandal. Despite the current dissatisfaction with Grandal,

…only J.T. Realmuto was a more valuable catcher by Baseball Prospectus’ WARP metric, and he is coming off the best offensive season of his career. He will be paid, and handsomely, as the Dodgers will look to find a catching partner to join the light-hitting Austin Barnes.

Beyond Kershaw’s decision, which must be made this week, the biggest question is whether Dave Roberts will manage the team next year. You’d think three consecutive playoff appearances and two trips to the World Series would make that question ludicrous, but baseball owners have done screwier things*.

To win the World Series, the Dodgers would have had to play better than they had for any seven-game stretch all season. Roberts would have had to nail every single decision, which he did not. Puig would have had to throw to the cutoff man, which he did not. Their pitchers would have had to pitch to their strengths, which they did not. Their hitters would have had to, well, hit.

“You have to realize that we are a really good team to get to go to the World Series two years in a row,” Kershaw said. “It might not be a personnel thing. It might just be a ‘play better’ thing.”

So, what’s next? Here are selected events from Major League Baseball’s calendar:

  • Nov. 2, 2018 Deadline for teams to extend qualifying offer to own free agents, 5 p.m. ET
  • Nov. 8-15, 2018 Japan All-Star Tour (including CT3)
  • Nov. 12, 2018 Deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offer, 5 p.m. ET
  • Nov. 30, 2018 Non-tender deadline
  • Dec. 9-13, 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas
  • Dec. 13, 2018 Rule 5 Draft

*Back in 1964 the Cardinals’ owner Gussie Busch fired the team’s entire senior management in August, leaving field manager Johnny Keane as sole survivor for the time. Shortly after the Cardinals won the World Series, Keane surprised management by resigning (and then being hired by the Yankees, who’d just lost to Keane’s former team).

Oct 28

World Series Game Five, 2018

Red Sox at Dodgers, 5:09 PM PDT, TV: Fox

The English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller appears to be the first person to commit the notion that ‘the darkest hour is just before the dawn’ to print. His religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, 1650, contains this view:

It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.

Kershaw for the Dodgers, Price for the Red Sox. Let’s hope it’s the great Kershaw and the bad Price in this game.

Today in Red Sox history:

  • 1951 The Red Sox trade catcher Les Moss and flychaser Tom Wright to the Browns for backstop Gus Niarhos and outfielder Ken Wood. The deal will have little impact in Boston (6th place) and in St. Louis (7th place) as both teams will finish in the second division.
  • 2007 With a 4-3 win over the Rockies at Coors Field, The Red Sox, for the second time in four years, complete a four-game sweep to win the World Series. Terry Francona becomes the first manager to win his first eight games in the Fall Classic.
  • 2007 During the middle of Game 4 of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Rockies, SI.com reports Alex Rodriguez has decided to opt out of his contract with the Yankees. The timing of the announcement and being a no-show at the game to receive the Hank Aaron Award, which honors the most outstanding offensive performer in each league, are severely criticized by fans and the media.
  • 2010 Before Game 2 of the World Series at AT&T Park, Tim Wakefield receives the Roberto Clemente Award, in recognition of his excellence as a ballplayer and his commitment to the community. The 44 year-old Red Sox starter is actively involved with “Pitching in for Kids,” a nonprofit that provides grants to improve the lives of children across New England.
  • 2013 In the fifth game of the World Series, Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz ties Billy Hatcher’s 1990 World Series record, reaching base in his ninth consecutive plate appearance. ‘Big Papi,’ the Fall Classic MVP, extends the streak that began in Game 3 with a fourth-inning single in the team’s 3-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Today in Dodgers’ history:

  • 1953 Red Barber resigns as a Brooklyn Dodger broadcaster and will take the ‘catbird’ seat with the rival New York Yankees. The ‘Old Redhead’ is reported to have left the team because he was upset with Brooklyn owner Walter O’Malley, who refused to support him when he failed to get a higher fee from Gillette, the sponsor of the 1953 World Series on television.
  • 1981 After dropping the first two games of the Fall Classic, the Dodgers defeat the Yankees, 9-2, capturing the World Championship in six games. The victory at the Bronx ballpark marks the third time this postseason that Los Angeles will come from behind to win a series, having been down 0-2 against the Astros in the five-game strike-necessitated NLDS, and 1-2 behind the Expos in the NLCS five-game series.
  • 1981 Entering Game 6 of the World Series in the fifth inning, Yankee right-hander George Frazier, relieving starter Tommy John, gives up three go-ahead runs in the team’s 9-2 elimination loss to the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. The 27 year-old right-hander becomes the first pitcher to lose three games in a best of seven World Series, and the second hurler to drop that many decisions in any Fall Classic, joining White Sox southpaw Lefty Williams, who also lost a trio of games in the best-of-nine series played in 1919.
  • 2012 At a press conference held before Game 4 at Detroit’s Comerica Park, Clayton Kershaw is named the recipient of the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award, an honor given to a major leaguer who demonstrates the value of helping others by his action off the field. The Dodger right-hander and his wife, Ellen, founded the Kershaw Challenge, which includes its cornerstone charity, “Arise Africa,” that helps the couple to build and sustain an orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia known as “Hope’s Home.”

Lineups when available.

Red Sox:


Dodgers: