Gas Is Down, and So Is Manny

Holy crap, is there a lot going on today. I hardly even know where to begin! Trust me on this, you’re going to want to read to the end – we’re saving the best for last.

* I am crushed for Scott Boras right now. Buster Olney, hit me.

Executives around baseball wonder if that will change in the next few days, because they are having a difficult time envisioning how Ramirez would make more in salary in 2009 than if he accepted arbitration. He made $20 million last season — although the present-day value was just a little more than $17 million — and following a historic performance in which Ramirez hit .396 for the Dodgers in two months, driving in 53 runs in 53 games, his arbitration award would be breathtaking. Boras would be in position to set a new and stunning standard through that process, and could ask for A-Rod money.

But accepting arbitration would represent a staggering surrender for Ramirez, who had hoped for a nine-figure contract, and for Boras, who has been talking a deal for as long as six years for the 36-year-old outfielder. One year for $28 million is a long way from four years for $100 million, or six years for $150 million. Some friends of Ramirez do not believe that he will allow Boras to take arbitration, as tempting as it may be. “This is not going to be an easy time for Scott,” a friend of Ramirez said.

Admit it. The thought of Scott Boras getting embarrassed warms your heart just a little, doesn’t it? You know, Buster Olney makes a lot of good points here about how with the economy in such a tailspin, that there’s no way Manny’s getting the huge deal that Boras wants – not that we haven’t been saying that since day one. The question now is… what’s the best possible outcome for the Dodgers here? If Manny accepts arbitration, the Dodgers get him on a one-year deal and motivated for another trip through free agency… but they’d also be paying him a completely ridiculous salary for 2009 that would dwarf anything he could get anywhere else, and if Frank McCourt is forced to shoehorn $28 million into the payroll, we might be looking at nothing but AAAA players making the minimum.

On the other hand, if he’s forced to settle for a two- or three- year deal at a significantly lower salary than he’d hoped, he might be Unhappy Manny Being Manny, and that’s just not going to be good for anyone. So I suppose I’m rooting for him to accept arbitration… but it doesn’t matter since we all know that there’s absolutely no way that’s going to happen.

Moving on to better news about players we never wanted to see in LA in the first place:

* Thanks for staying away, Andy! Joe Torre apparently called Pettitte to gauge his interest in coming to Los Angeles, and it sounds like it’s not really going to happen. Now I said a few weeks ago that I wasn’t all that interested in Pettitte coming out, so this is good news. But here’s the quote from the Newsday story that makes this all the more hilarious:

Pettitte, nevertheless, has refused to agree to a $10 million salary for 2009, after making $16 million each of the last two seasons.

Really, Andy? You’re going to be 37 years old. You were awful most of last year. And the economy is driving down prices for everyone. Yet ten million dollars isn’t enough money for you? Especially when at this point, you should consider yourself lucky to even claim a roster spot somewhere. Sixteen million dollars for the rotting corpse of Andy Pettitte. Unbelievable.

* Everything you know is wrong. I usually have a good deal of respect for Tony Jackson of the LA Daily News, although I suppose when you’re going up against Plaschke and Simers every day it’s hard not to look good. But I have got to wonder about this update from his blog today:

Just found out there is nothing to the Wilson story, that the Dodgers haven’t talked to the Pirates about him in months.

Months? How is that even possible – we’ve been hearing “Wilson-to-the-Dodgers” stories every day for weeks, even so far as to hear possible names going back to Pittsburgh (Hu and D.Young). Now all of a sudden, there’s been no contact for months? There has to be more going on here than we know. That said, I could care less whether they communicate through carrier pigeons or smoke signals, as long as it doesn’t end up with Wilson in LA.

* You did not see this coming. Baseball Prospectus just put out their yearly top ten list of Dodger prospects, and before you click, just think to yourself, who would you think would be number one? It’s a little different now that guys like Loney, Kershaw, Billingsley, and LaRoche are no longer eligible, of course. So maybe you think James McDonald. Maybe Ivan DeJesus, Jr. Hell, why not Joel Guzman? That was a fun couple of years. Prepare to be shocked:


ethanmartin.jpgFour-Star Prospects
1. Ethan Martin, RHP
2. Ivan De Jesus Jr., SS/2B
3. James McDonald, RHP
4. Scott Elbert, LHP
5. Andrew Lambo, LF
Three-Star Prospects
6. Josh Lindblom, RHP
7. Devaris Gordon, SS
8. Josh Bell, 3B
Two-Star Prospects
9. Pedro Baez, 3B
10. Kyle Russell, RF
11. Xavier Paul, CF

You’d think a guy who really stepped up in the playoffs like McDonald would get some love over the kid who’s yet to throw his first professional pitch, but hell, whatever. If that list doesn’t get you too jazzed, this one will:

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Chad Billingsley, RHP
2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
3. Matt Kemp, OF
4. James Loney, 1B
5. Jonathan Broxton, RHP
6. Ethan Martin, RHP
7. Blake DeWitt, 2B/3B
8. Ivan De Jesus Jr., SS/2B
9. James McDonald, RHP
10. Scott Elbert, LHP

Now that’s a list of talent.

Got that right. After all that talent, we need to even it out by checking in with the worst player in baseball, non-Andruw Jones division. Dear god… could it be….

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick talked to Mark Sweeney‘s agent Barry Axelrod, who says his client will probably only play next year if a Major League deal is offered.  Sweeney, 39, hit .130/.250/.163 in 108 plate appearances for the Dodgers while earning $600K plus incentives.

Whoooooooo!

MSTI.com’s 2008 In Review: First Base

Welcome to day 2 of MSTI’s 2008 Season In Review.  Today, we continue on the diamond to first base, where we evaluate first base, beginning with Crazy Legs James Loney.
Now before I get into this, let us get some perspective.  Last year, in our reviews, I gave James an “A Fucking Plus” (the “fucking” part, of course, gave some authority!) due to his monster 2007 season where he put up just Godly numbers (.331/.381/.538), especially a sick September, where he hit .382/.429/.709 with 9 HR’s.
In fact, here was most of my 2008 outlook on James:

2008 Outlook: I don’t necessarily think that the James Loney that we saw this past September is the one we’ll see all year in 2008 (he did finish 2007 with a .352 BABIP), however, I don’t see James being all that far off, either. Simply put, he is such an awesome hitter. The ball just explodes off his bat and even his outs seem to be hit hard. I fully expect 2008 to be the first of many years that he will compete for batting titles along with Gold Gloves.

Err… O.K., so maybe not quite 2008.  Which brings us to our final grade:
James Loney = D+

(.289/.338/.434, 13 HR’s, 90 RBI’s)
I know, I know… “how dare you, Vin!  What, do you secretly wear a Nomar jersey to bed, every night?!”  I don’t, but I do want to clarify a few things.  First off, this was a hard grade to give and I’m more somewhere between D+/C-, and even I wasn’t expecting to give this grade, until I looked through everything.  Secondly, keep in mind that when I make this grade, it isn’t to say that he had this really crappy year.  He didn’t.  However, on the other hand, when I look at his overall numbers and after watching him this year, my reaction to his 2008 season was more… meh?  For someone who had such a strong season in 2007 after building some solid foundation to end an impressionable, albeit brief, 2006, you expected him to continue on that plateau, but, instead, like Russell Martin, took a step back this season.  In fact, they’re similar cases.  Because of their previous years, high expectations were set, but, alas, neither succeeded in fulfilling them.  And remember, we primarily base these grades relative to expectations.
So why the D+?  Well, as much as it pains me to say it, in 2008, James Loney was one of the worst first baseman in the National League.
It’s really hard to say it, because he started off the year so promising.  Remember, he began his 2008 campaign with a 15 game hitting streak and did have some torrid months in June (.362/.425/.500) and August (.330/.371/.468), but, alas, these are also inbetween a decent month (July = .277/.343/.479), a couple of below average months (April = .272/.322/.398, May = .267/.315/.446) and just a downright terrible month (September = .209/.229/.297).  Amongst NL first baseman to have at least 450 at bats, Loney ranked dead last in VORP (17.0) and MLV.  I know, I know… you must be asking: “What is this MLV you talk about, Vin, you nerd you?”  Well, basically, what MLV shows is how many additional runs a player adds over the course of a season if you had a lineup of completely average players. For instance, Albert Pujols was the best first baseman in the NL, and he added 89.2 runs above average.  Loney added 9.8 runs over the course of the season, the only NL first baseman to be in single digits in this category.  Just to illustrate the drop from last year, in 2007, Loney had a VORP of 30.7 to rank him 9th amongst NL first baseman with at least 350 at-bats (if 450, he wouldn’t have qualified due to not being called up until June), and also ranked 9th in MLV at 25.7.  His EqA this year was .269 (league average is .260) which is a drop from his .305 EqA of 2007.
But even if you’re into the more traditional stats, Loney doesn’t fare much better.  His .289 batting average was quite good, but it’s marred by his low .338 OBP, which ranks him 2nd to last amongst NL first baseman and also a big drop from his sweet .381 OBP, last season.  His slugging percentage of .434 also ranks him last amongst NL first baseman, and is a .104 point drop off from his .538 SLG%, last year and his 102 OPS+ (100 is average) is a big drop from his OPS+ of 131, last year.  His RC27 (basically, how many runs a full team of James Loneys would score per game, hence the 27, as there are 27 outs in a 9 inning game) dropped from 7.9 in 2007 to 4.7 in 2008.
Still, while he wasn’t particularly productive relative to his peers at first base, he was still a bit more productive relative to his team, albeit the results are still somewhat disappointing.  Amongst Dodgers who have enough at-bats to compete for the batting title (which counts Manny out, since he wasn’t here long enough), there are four: Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and James Loney.  Remember, we had some shuffling at 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and CF (which raises the question: how the hell did we make the NLCS again?!), so that explains the low number.  Still, with this criteria, Loney ranked 3rd in BA (.289), 4th in OBP (.338), 3rd in SLG% (.434), 4th in OPS (.772), tied for 4th in HR’s (13, also Martin’s total), but, to his credit, ranked 1st with 90 RBI’s.  And, as we’ve said before, yet another reason not to take RBI’s as an indicator of a player’s value.
So, it’s safe to say: the bat just didn’t cut it, this year.  However, when we turn to look at the defensive side of things, we get a much different story.  As has been said before and probably will many times again, defensive statistics are a bit murky and are not as definitive as offensive statistics.  So, what do we do?  Well, we can look at how other players relative to his position are doing and get a general idea of what’s going on, as well as using some of various statistics.  So, let’s do that:
Amongst all qualified NL first baseman, James Loney ranked 7th in fielding percentage at .991 (Berkman, Adrian Gonzalez and Pujols are tied for 1st at .996), while ranking 2nd only to Pujols in Range Factor at 9.81.  His Zone Rating isn’t as high, though, as Loney ranks 7th at .857.  His Rate2 is 101 (100 is league average).  The good news about all of these statistics is that they are all upward trends from 2007.  In 2007, Loney had a fielding percentage of .989, a Range Factor of 9.13, a Zone Rating of .809 and a Rate2 of 100.  So we’ve seen some improvement in areas; some far bigger than others.
So, when we put all these fangled statistics together, what do we get?  Well, simply, we get a player who had a regression and, offensively, was average at best.  But don’t get me wrong: I still love James Loney and have hope, and while this season does give me some slight concerns going forward, I am mostly optimistic.  He will barely turn 25 at the beginning of 2009 and let’s remember: despite the fact that he’s been up with the Dodgers in some capacity since 2006, this was his first full season.  That does take some adjustment and it is unreasonable to expect him to start becoming Don Mattingly reincarnate so soon, despite his flashes of brilliance.  But, while we weren’t expecting Mattinglyesque numbers, we did expect better, hence the grade.  Though speaking of flashes of brilliance, even though postseason performance doesn’t factor into grades, the “old Loney,” if you will, did show up with the big grand slam in game 1 of the NLDS and was one of the very few who decided to show up for the NLCS, going 7-16. So we at MSTI give James big props for that.  And, also… speaking of Mattingly, I do like the fact that he is paired up with Loney now and as James advances forward with a full season under his belt, I do expect an improved 2009.
God, I hope my prediction doesn’t turn out as crappy as last year; that one defined crapulence, I think.
Speaking of crapulence, this brings us to…
Mark Sweeney = F-
(.190/.250/.163, 0 HR’s, 5 RBI’s)
So you might say: “Vin, you DO know Sweeney only had 92 AB’s this year, right?”  Yes, I say.  But, like Gary Bennett, he was so fucking crappy this season, he HAS to get some sort of grade.  And so he does.  And, yes, the “-” part of the grade is tongue and cheek, although if I could go lower, I would.  But we’re saving that for another person… guess who!  But back to Sweeney…
I admit… after watching Sweeney play this year, I think I have officially run out of different ways to describe his sucktitude.
Actually, no, I haven’t.  He was sucky.  Shitty.  Shitty McShitty.  A waste of roster space, and, hey, even Olmedo Saenz version 2007 was better.
I mean, do I really need to show you all these fancy statistics to demonstrate why he was so miserable?  He couldn’t hit lefties, righties, at home or away.  In fact, the only associations I have with the words “hit” and “Sweeney” were most of the 92 times this year he made me want to hit a freaking bong after the painful at-bats he would give us.
However, while we have liked to rag Sweeney, because 1. it’s usually justified and 2. it’s just too damn fun, I do put quite a lot of blame on Joe Torre for this one.  While Sweeney can’t help the fact that he, well, sucks now, it’s not like he’s going to refuse to go up to the plate if he’s asked.  Torre had complete control on who would be in the lead pinch hitting role and he continued to send Sweeney out there, due to “swing paths,” “body language” and “demeanor,” rather than… I don’t know… whether he could hit the ball or not.
Yes, I have to ask again: how the hell did we make the NLCS?
To Torre’s credit, though, he did finally get it once the postseason started and regulated Sweeney to the more apt role: cheerleader.  Awesome, but, still, that move should have happened by at least June.
Outside of a brief moment of douchebaggery this season, Sweeney does seem to be a good guy and one of the pranksters in the clubhouse.  He’s had a very good career, but all careers come to an end, and it’s time for him to hang it up.  Or at least play for another team…
See ya, Sweeney Poo…

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

Sun Is Shining In The Sky…

…there ain’t a cloud in sight.
It’s stopped raining,
Everybody’s out and playing

That’s right: Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness – the only Dodgers blog where you can get musical references as varied as the Sex Pistols to House of Pain and now to Electric Light Orchestra. If I may continue…

Hey there, Mr. Blue
you did it right
But soon comes Mr. Night
Creepin’ over
Now his hand is on your shoulder

Now, I look at Mr. Blue and I see a team that’s gone 15-3 over its last 18 games to put a complete stranglehold on the NL West, moving from 4.5 games out to 3.5 up with just 9 games to play. Mr. Blue, you did it right! But soon comes Mr. Night.

There’s a lot of things that can still go wrong for the Dodgers
They lead the National League West by 31/2 games, but like in 1982, nothing is secure.

Couldn’t help yourself, could you, Bill Plaschke? Is it that you just can’t stand the thought of success because it’s so much harder to write articles praising people than bashing them? Believe me – I know it is, but when the team is winning, I’m more than happy to write positive articles. Is it because you’ve so relentlessly bashed everything and anything Dodger-related that if they were to succeed in the face of your protests, it would sort of make it look like… you have no idea what you’re talking about?

No. It couldn’t be that.

Anyway, after quickly recapping how the 1982 Dodgers blew a 3 game lead with 10 to play to Joe Torre’s Atlanta Braves, Plaschke moves on to the meat, listing nine things that still could go wrong. I love articles in a list format, it makes things so easy on me.

Cory Wade’s arm: After retiring 24 consecutive hitters, he looked tired Thursday, allowing hits to three consecutive Pirates in nearly blowing the game.

Wade has become Joe Torre’s new Jeff Nelson, an important middle reliever who will be constantly used down the stretch, a kid who “wows” but also makes you wonder.

How many innings has he pitched this late in a season before?

Answer: None.

It’s nice to get a “fail” right off the bat. First of all, Wade didn’t retire 24 consecutive batters, because there were walks involved. He didn’t allow a hit to 24 consecutive batters, which is a small yet important difference. Secondly, Wade hadn’t allowed a hit to 24 consecutive batters! This kid has been absolutely a revelation this year, posting a 2.32 ERA in a season in which no one expected anything from him other than perhaps a September cup of coffee. We’re going to kill him over one lousy inning? The best part is, I know what you’re saying – “But MSTI, you’ve been railing for weeks about Kershaw going over his innings limit, why doesn’t that apply to Wade?” Part of that is because Cory Wade is 25 and nowhere near as valuable or inexperienced as 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw, but it’s mostly because Wade has pitched fewer innings this season (81.2 combined) than he has in any season since his first year of pro ball in 2004 (99, 133, 92.1, 47, going back from 2007). That’s a good reason too.

Answer: Wade still has plenty of innings left on his arm. Knock it off.

Chad Billingsley’s legs: He has now pitched 45 2/3 innings more than he has ever pitched in a season, every throw placing him on new ground, and how long can he stand?

In his last two starts, he has given up eight runs in 10 2/3 innings.

If that happens in his next two starts, it will be the Dodgers who stumble.

On its face, this is a fair point, because as we’ve already said both he and Kershaw are into new terrority – and I suggested earlier this month that Billingsley get to skip a start or two, which hasn’t happened. But it’s somewhat disingenous to say that “in his last two starts, he has given up eight runs in 10 2/3 innings”, like he’s falling apart. The first of those starts was in Colorado, in which he gave up only 2 runs over 6 innings while getting the victory. You have a problem with that? I sure don’t. Sure, he was lousy in Pittsburgh the other day. It was also the first time in over two months (since July 8th) that he’d given up more than 3 earned runs in a start. I hardly think it’s time to panic.

Derek Lowe’s mortality: As I understand it, that is the only thing keeping him from starting and pitching in each of the last nine games, right?

Darn.

Wait, what? On the list of “things that could still go wrong” Derek Lowe being human is one of them? Setting aside for the moment whether being human is wrong (though, this could explain so much about Plaschke) wasn’t that already settled about 36 years ago? I think this is supposed to be some sort of weird compliment meaning that he wishes Lowe could go every night… but what an odd way to put it.

Matt Kemp’s mind: He has had a terrific summer as a good clubhouse citizen and emerging player.

But he still blunders on the bases — his attempt to steal third with two out in the eighth inning and the score tied Thursday was a doozy.

And the more he struggles on the base paths, it seems the more he struggles at the plate. He has not hit a home run in nearly three weeks, with only two doubles and two runs batted in during that time.

It doesn’t help that he is only four strikeouts shy of the Los Angeles record of 149 set by Billy Grabarkewitz 28 years ago.

A strikeout record is considered so psychologically damaging, some front offices bench players who are close to breaking one.

Um, the Dodgers can’t afford to bench Matt Kemp.

Or putting it another way… Matt Kemp’s hitting .311/.380/.356 over the last two weeks, and even better than that over the last week. Sure looks like he’s heating up to me. So yes, you’ve hit the world’s largest nail on the head – the Dodgers can’t bench Matt Kemp. Congratulations.

Greg Maddux’s umpire: He has two more starts and, let’s face it, he survives only if the plate umpire allows him to survive.

He needs a generous strike zone. But, with the exception of the late Eric Gregg, umpires in big games generally have tight strike zones.

That is only one reason Maddux is a losing postseason pitcher, and an unreliable one in September.

I love how Maddux gets the tag “is a losing postseason pitcher” because his record is a ghastly… 10-11. As if we don’t know how absolutely meaningless wins and losses are for pitchers. It takes all of 10 seconds of research to see that two of those losses came in the 1997 NLCS, where Maddux was absolutely horrible in giving up 2 runs in 13 innings. Or in the 2003 NLDS, where he gave up 2 runs over 6 innings. He sucks!

Also, Greg Maddux career in September (and regular season October games)? 61-48, 3.38 ERA. How unreliable!

Manny Ramirez’s concentration: You never know. You just never know.

Ramirez’s focus can be surreal or spotty, sometimes during the same at-bat, and often during important times of the season.

This is a guy who once batted .412 in the World Series for the Boston Red Sox . . . and also hit .056 in a division series for the Cleveland Indians.

Last month he went nine games without a homer, and the Dodgers won only one of those games.

Currently, he hasn’t hit a homer in a week.

Bench Manny! He’s only hitting .367/.441/.467 over the last week! Boooo! Because somehow, Manny’s only value comes from hitting homers. Not from all the singles and doubles he gets, not from all the times he’s walked, and not from all the value the guys hitting in front of him get in terms of pitches to hit. Manny is Dave Kingman. If he doesn’t homer, he’s useless. Got it.

And not to completely discount his antics in Boston, but the man is playing for a new contract. You don’t think that he’s a little motivated to win a World Series in LA and totally maximize his value?

Russell Martin’s throws: Players are increasingly running on a catcher who seems increasingly arm weary.

Martin has caught more games than anyone in baseball — 143 — and it shows.

He has thrown out only 22% of potential base-stealers, ranking 11th among 14 major league catchers with at least 100 games. This is compounded by some of the slow deliveries of the pitchers, particularly Jonathan Broxton.

With nothing to lose, the San Diego Padres and Giants will be running.

Obviously, running Martin into the ground has been one of our long-running complaints about the season, so I can’t argue this one. Unfortunately, it’s getting to the point where it’s almost too late to do anything about it. But as even Plaschke notes, caught-stealing numbers are almost entirely based on the pitcher, rather than the catcher.

The bench’s splinters: Nobody in the National League is more harmless off the bench in the late innings than the Dodgers.

They are last in the league with only one pinch-hit homer and 16 pinch-hit RBIs.

And if they tell you that this defense-oriented group will be bolstered soon by the veteran bats of Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, not so fast.

In the last four years in this unfamiliar situation, the two veterans have combined to go five for 26 as pinch-hitters with three RBIs and no extra-base hits.

This is almost entirely the fault of Mark Sweeney though, right? He’s sucked up 73 of those pinch-hitting at-bats. Take him out of the mix, and the batting average leaps 35 points. Besides, I’m not willing to say that having guys like Kent, Nomar, and Pierre off the bench can’t be useful. That’s a pretty good mix of power, defensive flexibility, and speed right there. Either way, if the race is coming down to the bench we’ve got bigger problems.

Those cheating Giants: They stole the signals that led to the 1951 Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

They drowned the base paths that rendered Maury Wills unable to run to a championship.

When they host the Dodgers on the season’s final weekend, if a championship is still at stake, strange things will happen.

Now batting, Barry Bonds.

There’s only one thing to be worried about regarding the Giants, and that’s Tim Lincecum, who the Dodgers might only catch once. You know what will make this point completely moot? Having the NL West clinched before the final series in San Francisco even goes off.

Thanks for being the poo in the fountain, Bill! Just can’t ever enjoy the ride, can you? Although if you see a slightly overweight gray-bearded man rushing the field to take out Manny’s knees with a bat, you’ll know who it is.

* As you’ve probably heard already, the Dodgers have announced that their triple-A affiliate will be moving from Las Vegas, NV to Albuquerque, NM starting in 2009 – restoring an affiliation that had run from 1972-2000.

We here at MSTI are probably more excited about this than just about anyone, because if you’re unaware, the team name “Isotopes” is taken directly from the Simpsons episode “Hungry Hungry Homer”. Clearly, anything that serves to further strengthen the Dodgers/Simpsons relationship is fine by us. Now we just need the official team mascot to be Dancin’ Homer, Ned Colletti to start scouring the American League, the National League and the Negro Leagues for good players – living players! – and for the stadium to start pouring Duff Beer. Duff Beer! Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff.

 - Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

MSTI Goes to Philly

Second time this year I’ve seen the Dodgers on the East Coast (May 30th in New York), and for the second time, Clayton Kershaw was starting. Plus, I get to add park #10 to my MLB lifetime tour. What luck, right?
Uh… right. About that. Man, what a brutal game. Between Kershaw giving up 3 runs in the first, the offense being completely non-existent, and the bullpen being all too happy to allow further damage, this was one of the most depressing games I’ve ever seen. No drama, no hope – although Citizens Bank Park is phenomenal – and an afternoon spent directly in the baking sun. That said, it wasn’t without its interesting moments. Let’s take a quick look.

Just look at the sun there – kind of helps to explain why Matt Kemp completely lost that ball, right? I had a hard time following any balls off the bat; I’ve never been in a sun field that brutal.
Before the game, we got there early enough to catch some batting practice, where I saw this exchange:

From left, that’s Greg Maddux, Hiroki Kuroda, Danny Ardoin, and I think Chad Billingsley, though I’m not sure on the last one. What kind of conversation do you think that was like? One of the greatest pitchers who ever lived, a guy who barely speaks English, and a career backup catcher. Just to the right of this, coach Ken Howell nearly lost his head on a screaming opposite-field line drive by James Loney.
No pictures of this next moment, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. Walking around the park, I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy amount of Dodger fans representing. I saw a pretty wide variety of players represented on shirts and jerseys: some Martins, a Manny 99 or two, a Kemp here and there, even a Kershaw. But there was one I nearly fell over after seeing – a legit gray “Sweeney 21″ jersey. Even more surprising, it was on a pretty attractive woman. Since they don’t make official Mark Sweeney jerseys, this woman had to drop some money on getting it custom-made. I mean, this has to be his wife, daughter, family friend, or crazy stalker right? Who else gets a Mark Sweeney jersey? She was behind the LA dugout with everyone trying to get autographs at the end of BP, although who knows if she was just trying to get his attention – or a lock of his hair.
And then there was the capper: seeing someone in the stands in a Dodger jersey whom I actually recognized. That’s right, the infamous Troy from West Virginia. The mutton chops are even more glorious in person, and just in case I wasn’t sure it was him, he was sitting next to a guy in a West Virginia t-shirt. No, I didn’t go say hello. “Hi.. I know you from the internet.” That’s always fun. But hey, at least I got this lousy, kind of creepy picture on my phone.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Some random stats – both good and bad – for you to chew on on this fine summer Friday…

Clayton Kershaw, 2008
Age: 20
ERA+: 119 (19% better than average pitcher)
Age: 20
Runs in last 19 IP: 1
Age: 20!!!

Chad Billingsley, 2008
ERA: 3.01, 12th in MLB
ERA since May 1: 2.48
K: 4th in MLB (behind Lincecum, Sabathia, Burnett)
Walks allowed on 3-0 counts: 9 for 9
Last 28 days: 1.83 ERA in 5 starts

Manny Ramirez w/ Dodgers
6 games, 13-23, 4 HR, .565/.615/1.130

OF starts since Manny’s arrival
Manny: 6
Kemp: 6
Pierre: 3
Ethier: 2
Jones: 1

Juan Pierre, seasons ranked by OPS+
1. 2004 (107)
2. 2003 (94)
3. 2001 (89)
4. 2005 (84)
5. 2006 (82)
6. 2007 (75)
7t. 2002 (68)
7t. 2008 (68)
Consecutive seasons in decline: 5 (2004-08)
2008 ranked by OBP: worst season of career
2008 ranked by SLG: worst season of career

NL win leaders since July 1
Brewers: 20
Rockies: 20
Dodgers: 19
Cubs: 19
Mets: 19

Russell Martin, OPS by month
April: .888
May: .851
June: .802
July: .738
August: .488
Innings caught: 884.1, 3rd among all MLB catchers
Total innings fielded: 937.1, 1st among all MLB catchers

Dodger VORP ranks in MLB by position
C: Martin 27.0 (4th)
1B: Loney 20.1 (13th, ahead of Ryan Howard)
2B: Kent 5.5 (27th)
SS: Furcal 26.8 (4th - and this is a counting stat!)
SS: Berroa -4.1 (63rd)
LF: Pierre 1.6 (42nd)
LF: Manny 11.6 (21st – that’s as a Dodger only!)
CF: Jones -15.2 (52nd, dead last at CF, 3rd worst overall)
CF: Kemp 24.7 (9th)
RF: Ethier 9.1 (23rd)

MLB Players with at least 75 plate appearances: 422
Mark Sweeney’s VORP rate: -0.535/game (422nd)

Also, over at Baseball Prospectus they’ve got a nice Q&A with Dodgers prospect Andrew Lambo, currently tearing up the Midwest League. It’s not behind their pay wall, so feel free to enjoy. Besides, you’ve got to a love a guy who says,

I got drafted by my hometown team – I grew up about an hour out of L.A., so my whole life I’ve been a Dodgers fan; I grew up going to Dodgers games.  So I guess it’s pretty cool.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg