Category: Dodgers

Dodgers. 2019.

It was in an uber on the way back to Sherman Oaks after “The Rich Hill Game” that I swore off the Dodgers – not as a team, definitely not in my heart, but from ever expecting them to actually win a World Series. I still remember the Yasiel Puig blast in the bottom of the sixth inning, a moment I was certain would take its place in the Dodgers pantheon along with Kirk Gibson‘s blast in 1988. The energy in the stadium at that moment was as frenetic as I’d felt at a sporting event, and I was nearly driven to tears with joy. The Dave Roberts/Rich Hill ‘miscommunication‘ followed, and the entire season fell apart, along with the very fabric of my Dodgers fanmanship.

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The offseason was rough. To cut to the chase, I didn’t want the Dodgers to acquire Bryce Harper, even though he, along with Puig, would qualify as what passes for my ‘favorite player’ as an adult. But then the Dodgers traded Puig! I despised the move, until I realized that it could only mean one thing – the Dodgers were going to get Harper!!! Why else would they trade the beloved, albeit inconsistent, fan-favorite? It had to be the genius of Andrew Friedman’s front office because, well, Matt Kemp was jettisoned in the deal too.

They were clearing out salary. . .then the days ticked by. So did the weeks. Then they signed AJ Pollock. Okay, quick pause for my thoughts on Pollock, the former Diamondback that would wreck the Dodgers when he was healthy: oft-injured, a pesky hitter with decent pop, a scrappy fielder that could pick off a runner, and a guy that could really help your team as your second-best outfielder. But the Dodgers signed him, seemingly instead of Harper, and that pissed me off. He was going to play 100-120 games per season for the Dodgers, I thought.

Spring Training started and not only was Harper unsigned, but the Dodgers were effectively out of the running. Until they were back in it. My heart was in my throat – would they really pay the rumored $40-$50million/season he’d require for a short contract? You think Guggenheim, you think about the disastrous TV deal that benefits nobody except the coffers of the organization, and you say, “it’s not my money – let’s do it.” But the Dodgers are too smart for that. From a business perspective. But what about the fans, you ask. And what about me? I personally want the first flag in 31 years, and with this offseason, one of minimal tinkering – Pollock, Joe Kelly, Russell Martin, and that’s it? Did the team actually get better, as some say, with addition by subtraction?

I personally feel the Dodgers are a worse team in 2019 than they were in 2018. Yet they still may be positioned to achieve the ultimate goal simply because of how the team is constructed. Back-to-back World Series provide a strong proof of concept, that the depth in this organization – and its deft application by Roberts – is a winning formula for the regular season.

Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger figure to be in the lineup every day in 2019. Corey Seager returns; he’s looked slick at shortstop in the spring, and still has one of the sweetest swings in the game. Kiké is now Enrique Hernandez, and after a two-year journey under Chase Utley’s wing, seems to have finally matured – with a revamped swing – and won the starting second base job outright. Austin Barnes will land somewhere in between the energy-infusing, quick-twitch backstop he was in 2017 and the disappointment he was in 2018, and splitting the job “60/40” with Russell Martin will provide a solid catching tandem. Max Muncy is a problem at first base, both defensively and offensively – he looked, in Spring, more like the player the A’s released in 2017 than the 2018 Home Run Derby participant. I do feel that Bellinger’s outstanding glove is nullified by placing him in right field. Joc Pederson is who we think he is, a 25-30 home run bat that will hit around .229 in a full season, but he may not get the chance as this is make-or-break time for Alex Verdugo, who looks primed to win one of the starting outfield slots by early May, and has proven everything he could at the minor league level. Chris Taylor is still going to provide a ton of backward K’s to go with his near-20 home run season, and is a great super utility player. And yes, David Freese is on the club again, an underappreciated piece in this mosaic of pretty good ballplayers up and down the roster.

The pitching, as always, is the key. We knew Kershaw wasn’t ever going to make 30 starts again, but to begin Spring Training with a balky arm and start the season on the Injured List is a cruel reminder for Dodger fans. With the brittle Rich Hill also shelved with a knee sprain, the Dodgers will look to the resurgent Hyun-Jin Ryu to start Opening Day, and hopefully repeat a wildly successful 2018 campaign. Walker Buehler, the true Ace, is back in the fold, but the organization is “slow-playing” the Justin Verlander clone after extending him last year. Additionally, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling are back, and Julio Urias is going to get his chance to stick in the rotation, unless the innings limitations are imposed upon him as well. Regardless, the depth is there but another arm – Dallas Keuchel, anybody? – would go a long ways in quieting concerns about another season of record-breaking trips to the mound by Honeycutt & Roberts.

I do like the bullpen, led by the newly-svelte Kenley Jansen, fresh off of heart surgery and full of guile, with (hopefully, the 2018 version of) Pedro Baez showing up as the set-up man. Joe Kelly is a little bit of an overrated acquisition as his career stats don’t exactly jump off the page, but he’s a veteran and as they say, his ‘presence’ should help the younger releivers, such as Caleb Ferguson  and Yimi Garcia. Scott Alexander and Dylan Floro round out the pen, and yeah – if this sounds familiar, it’s because this really is nearly identical to the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers.

That’s right, the team that went to the World Series. The Nationals have a fearsome rotation; the Cubs underperformed in 2018 and still went to the playoffs; the Phillies, as you may have heard, acquired Bryce Harper. The Mets are improved and the Rockies are still tough. But realistically, is there a National League team better positioned than the unimproved Dodgers? I really don’t think so. This organizational philosophy is clearly successful and they have laid the blueprint for regular season and (at least, National League) playoff success and they are continuing to follow the same formula.

For as much flak as Dave Roberts takes for his ‘game management,’ he’s one of the most adept clubhouse generals in all of sports and universally beloved by his players. That is not insignificant in the grind of a 162-game, nine-month season. Just make sure this year that when they’re in the World Series again, there are no more miscommunications. It would be too much for my heart to bear.

And as always, the obligatory Vin Scully reference:

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It’s time for Dodger baseball. . .



2018 World Series Preview: Dodgers vs. Red Sox

As I sat down to do my analysis, I really thought I was going to see more of a discrepancy between these two teams. The Red Sox won 108 games; the Dodgers needed an extra game to get to 92, in a supposed ‘weaker’ division, and in the ‘junior varsity’ National League. The Red Sox cruised through the season, having won more than 67% of their games up to this point; the Dodgers were nine games out of first place on May 8th, and 10 games under .500 on May 19th. In addition to the extra win necessary to get into the Division Series, they were taken to seven games by a good, but not great, Milwaukee Brewers team. The Red Sox, on the other hand, dismantled the Houston Astros, last year’s World Champions, by taking the final three games of the series in the Astros’ home park. So through that lens, the Red Sox should be a huge favorite. It says here, however, that these two teams are VERY evenly matched – and whoever wins this series better be packing some scary costumes because they will need the full seven games to hoist the trophy on Halloween night in 2018.

Let’s start with the ManagersAlex Cora and Dave Roberts.
Cora, 43 years old, and Roberts, 46, are part of the player-friendly, analytics-driven, bullpen-heavy wave of managers that are extensions of an influential front office. Riding under the guidance of veteran bench coaches – in the case of Cora, Ron Roenicke; for Roberts, it’s Bob Geren – they provide a heavy dose of reaffirmation, high fives, and support that tend to endear themselves to players. Neither manager is hesitant to rely on bullpen arms, and both are avid utilizers of their bench. Though the payrolls are extensive, each manager has a deft touch and capability of getting maximum production from both minimum and maximum talent. Roberts was questioned thoroughly in 2018 by Dodger fans, but his resume reads extremely accomplished: Manager of the Year as a ‘rookie,’ followed by back-to-back World Series appearances. Cora replaced the 93-win John Farrell, and improved on that first place total by 15 games.
AdvantageEVEN. Roberts has the in-game World Series experience, but that did not go perfectly and some key decisions (Yu Darvish) were rightfully second-guessed. Cora, remember, was bench coach for AJ Hinch during the Astros World Series run last year. 
Starting Rotation:
Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello
Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill
This is another fun one. Sale is one of the two most feared pitchers in baseball, a Randy Johnson 2.0 that is all knees, elbows, and wicked sliders that follow high-90’s heat. Kershaw, known for a decade as The Best Pitcher on the Planet, is considered more of a lower-tier Ace now, though he is (once again) pitching for his legacy. He is also the Modern Era record holder for lowest career ERA, so that looms significantly. Price and Ryu are not superficially similar, but their playoff versions are counterpoints. Price is a Cy Young pitcher that, until his Game 5 ALCS gem vs. the Astros, was the Worst Postseason Pitcher of All-Time. Ryu, who was exempted from military service due to his performance in a Gold Medal game in the Summer Olympics, is the definition of a big game pitcher – or he was, until the Game 6 implosion in the NLCS against the Brewers. Eovaldi and Buehler are, perhaps, the most exciting of this bunch as each is a young fireballer set on building off of a foundational year. Eovaldi has shown flashes of being unhittable, and Buehler reminds of Justin Verlander. Pretty heady stuff on that matchup. Then you have the two Ricks. Well, Rick & Rich. Each is crafty, took a while to get their career in order, and performed well enough to merit accolades; for Porcello, that was a Cy Young; for Hill, it was a nice contract. Each is very hittable and will have a short leash.
Advantage: Dodgers. This would be even were it not for Sale’s subpar health over the last two months of the season, culminating in a belly button infection during the ALCS. Though not quite mirror images, these rotations are very similar 1-4.
Craig Kimbrel 
Kenley Jansen
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Simply put, these are the two best closers in baseball over the last half decade. Kimbrel has saved 91% of his career opportunities; Jansen clocks in at 90%. Jansen’s career ERA is 2.20. Kimbrel’s is a microscopic 1.91. Kimbrel’s K/BB ratio is a hefty 4.23. Kenley’s is an unthinkable 5.76. What about WHIP, you ask? Kimbrel’s is 0.92; Kenley 0.88. So yeah, good luck against either of these fellas. The difference will be their recent body of work. Kenley struggled (by his standards) to a workmanlike 3.01 ERA in 2018, whereas Kimbrel’s was a career-high 2.74. Kenley, however, has been back at his best lately, cranking his cutter up to 96 mph in the final game of the NLCS, and he has yet to be scored upon in his six playoff appearances. Kimbrel, however, sits at an unsightly 7.71 ERA, with scare after scare versus both the Yankees and Astros. That said, he has yet to blow a save in the playoffs so once again, the
Advantage: is EVEN. Both of these guys are too good, and will likely close any ballgame once the ball is in their hands.
Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman 
Pedro Baez, Ryan Madson, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Scott Alexander/Alex Wood 
Both of these bullpens were maligned heading into the postseason. The Dodgers did not have a ‘bridge’ to Kenley Jansen, as they had recently moved Maeda out of the rotation to become the presumptive eighth-inning pitcher. . .except when Roberts would use his matchups. That meant, any one of Flora, Ferguson, Baez, Madson would, at any time, be brought in to face whoever the numbers dictated. But a funny thing happened after Pedro Baez was sent down to the minor leagues; he came back as one of the most effective relievers in Major League Baseball, allowing only one earned run over his last 24 appearances. This gave the Dodgers a bonafide set-up man, and a reliable power arm to complement the one-off approach Roberts generally uses. The Red Sox counter with a duo to fill the role, as Barnes and Brasier have each outpunched their regular season statistics, allowing only one run in a combined 13 1/3 innings. Kelly and Hembree have been equally reliable, with a 1.69 and 0.00 ERA as well. Not to be outdone, Floro, Ferguson, and Madson have only allowed one earned run in 14 combined innings. The difference here is that the matchups favor Roberts; he simply has more left-handers in the ‘pen, and in games that will be this close, the bullpen gates will be swinging open wildly, and Roberts will use that to his advantage.
Advantage: Dodgers – they figured out the roles at the right time and their depth and matchups prove will key in this series. 

 Red Sox postseason bullpen stats:

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Dodgers postseason bullpen stats:

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Christian Vasquez, Sandy Leon 
Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal
This position is essentially a black hole of offense for both teams. Christian Vasquez gets the bulk of playing time for the Red Sox, but is hitting .227 in the postseason, an improvement on his regular season .207. Leon is a good defensive catcher but has yet to collect a hit in the playoffs. On the Dodgers’ side, Grandal, for the second consecutive season, lost his starting job to Austin Barnes in October, and has played himself into contention for Worst Player in MLB Postseason History, after his glove inexplicably turned to cement in the NLCS. Barnes has a great approach and is a good defensive catcher, but has not been able to capture his 2017 hitting prowess, and is hitting .111 in the playoffs in 2018.
Advantage: Red Sox. The weakest position also happens to be one of the most important, and though nobody stands out here amongst the four players, it might be an unsung hero from this grouping that changes the complexion of the series. Though not impressive by any means, the Sox have the better backstops here.
Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Steve Pearce, Eduardo Nunez, Ian Kinsler, Christian Vasquez, Jackie Bradley Jr. 
Chris Taylor, David Freese, Justin Turner, Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Brian Dozier, Kiké Hernandez, Austin Barnes
These lineups are subject to change based on handedness of the opposing pitcher as well as the whims, intuition, and analysis of their respective team’s front offices. This is my projection, however, for Game 1 lineups and both are fierce. Though the Dodgers sport only a .691 OPS as a group in their 11 games, the designated hitter plays directly into their hands, as their depth is significant and will play well in the American League ballpark. The Dodgers feature nine players that hit 20 or more home runs during the regular season, and finished with the sixth most home runs all-time in a single season, 235. The Red Sox counter with eight players with ten or more home runs, and come in with a .745 collective OPS in the postseason, and are averaging a little more than six runs per game. The Dodgers are, if anything, too reliant on the long ball and have only averaged four runs in their 11 playoff games in 2018. The Green Monster will be inviting to the homer-happy, as the 310′ distance is shorter than most high school fields. The right field line is only 302′, so do not expect the Dodgers to shorten their swings; they rarely do. The top half of the Red Sox lineup is filled with not just good hitters but professional hitters, as Betts is expected to be the American League MVP, only because Martinez did not complete his run at the Triple Crown; otherwise he would have won the award. The back half of their lineup is not as deep as the Dodgers’, though they are not strikeout-happy either, averaging only seven per game as a team. The Dodgers average ten per game; a typical byproduct of swinging for the fences
Advantage: Red Sox because – how do you pitch to these first four guys?
Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Leon
Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Grandal
Some great depth here on both sides. As the Dodgers are expected to go with one additional bullpen arm, they’ll likely have one less bat, though all three of these players will likely start against right-handers. The Red Sox are no stranger to matchups either, as they have started Moreland, Devers, and Holt against right-handers as well. Moreland and Holt have a 1.101 and 1.145 OPS in the postseason, and Devers sits at .909. Muncy was at .973 for the regular season, but is at .736 in the postseason – along with 18 K’s in 33 at-bats. Pederson comes off of a 2017 World Series with three home runs, but is at a .741 OPS thus far in October 2018.
Advantage: Even. Though the numbers in these particular instances seem to favor the Red Sox, this is only a snapshot of the bigger picture. Roberts’ willingness – and the Dodgers’ ability – to mix and match positionally give them a unique advantage on the field, if not on the stat sheet. Bellinger, Muncy, Taylor, Hernandez, Barnes, and Freese are all proficient at multiple positions and can be used accordingly. Keep this in mind for the inevitable extra inning contest(s) that will arise in this Series. 

Red Sox 2018 Postseason Batting:

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Dodgers 2018 Postseason Batting:
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The Dodgers have stolen 13 bags this postseason; the Red Sox have swiped five. Though the element of speed should not be a defining aspect of the World Series, look no further than Dave Roberts to understand what one well-swiped bag can do for a team. The Dodgers have the advantage here. Defensively, both teams play clean baseball and were each ranked in the top ten during the regular season.
Advantage: Dodgers, but slight.


And this wouldn’t be a preview if I did not mention the Stadiums, yet another element of similarity between these great organizations. Dodger Stadium was built in 1962, and is the consummate ballpark; a picturesque, symmetric field surrounded by palm trees and nestled in mountains, with nary a bad sightline in the park. Fenway Park, completed in 1912, is an urban stadium with nooks & crannies, columns that block vision, and standing room only attendance in areas. Along with its history, the charm is undeniable, as watching a game in these confines is both intimate and awe-inspiring.
Prediction: This series will, as all postseasons do, come down to pitching. The Dodgers have more of it and they have better matchups. A fully healthy Chris Sale could turn this series for the Red Sox, but as it stands, the Dodgers have shown that they can hit anybody, even if they are capable of striking out incessantly in concurrence. Price may have solved his postseason woes, but he is is still a question mark heading into the highest stakes he has ever faced, and the fact remains that the Red Sox do not have a quality left-hander out of the pen, meaning Roberts can lean heavier on his right-handed lineup to provide the bulk of the offense. This bodes well for the Dodgers.
Dodgers in 7.

My Vin Post

I’ve had nearly the entire calendar year to internalize the impact of Vin Scully’s retirement.

It’s different than when an athlete opts to end his playing career. Kobe Bryant & Derek Jeter received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar treatment with tours, gifts, roasts, etc.; others, such as Barry Bonds or Allen Iverson, are forced to abandon their ride into the sunset. Magic Johnson, Barry Sanders & Bo Jackson are examples of retirements that were shocking in their suddenness. Each fantastic playing career carries specific moments over a generation – or if the athlete was particularly transcendent, generations plural – and defines a city, an era, a specific way of playing the game; something that entrenched the athlete in the milieu to the extent that their retirement itself was notable.

But for many Dodger fans and Los Angeles natives – and for me, specifically – the career of Vin Scully is inextricably intertwined with Life in L.A.

There was Vin when I was doing my homework in Mrs. Saunders class in first grade. There was She Is Gone. . .In a Year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. There were the sombreros being thrown to the sky when old friend Pedro Guerrero made the last out (a GIDP) of Fernando’s no-hitter. There was Vin in Spring for Henry Rodriguez’ four-homerun game. Vin was there when I came home from my first JV game as a 14-year old sophomore. It was Vin, as my Dad would kick back on the floor with his Golden Retriever, Doc, the two of them laying with the screen door ajar, letting the dulcet tones of Vinny complement the perfect San Fernando Valley summer breeze.

Vinny introduced me to Mike Piazza. Hideo Nomo. Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Omar Daal. Ismael Valdes. Vinny was serenading me as Eric Gagné, the mediocre starting pitcher morphed into Eric “Game Over” Gagné, still the most dominating pitcher I’ve seen, asterisk or not. Vin was in love with the O-Dog. Vinny ushered in Mannywood. Yasiel Puig became The Wild Horse.

In recent years, Vin was not there for the playoffs; first because of organizational ineptitude in the 90’s and subsequent Fox era, but mostly because of the Business of Baseball, which precluded ‘local’ broadcasters from doing much of the TV postseason work. Also, Vin’s age (the voice is truly timeless; humans, even a Saint, are not) demanded that the rigors of a baseball travel schedule were simply too much and the road games were increasingly narrated by Rick Monday, Ross Porter, Steve Lyons. Or Charley Steiner. Eric Collins. Recently, L.A. legends Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra have seen more TV work as Vin only works home games and the occasional trip to San Francisco. And Joe Davis, The Man Who Has to Follow in Scully’s Shoes, does a great job – but he’ll forever live with the moniker he’s no Vin Scully. So there’s less Vin now than ever.

And that’s okay. I’ve become busier. We all have. My son, Felix, is nearly 3 years old. And besides, “baseball is too slow.” But maybe that’s a good thing? When I do get to hear Vin, which I did about 30 times this season, I’ve flashed back to those serene summer nights in Sepulveda. I’d get off of a three-way call on my parent’s landline, run out to do a cannonball in the pool, careen back in the house, grab some Cap’n Crunch and Get Back to This One. You could always Pull Up a Chair, but if you couldn’t, that was okay. Vinny was going to see you again tomorrow night.

I really began to appreciate Vin and think about the dreadful and imminent end of Scully’s magical run a few years ago. I wondered if I’d enjoy Dodger games, or the Dodgers, or honestly, baseball, as much when he was gone. I didn’t want to find out, but knew it would happen. And when Felix was born, I wanted him to be able to hear and recognize Vin’s warm voice and that musical cadence. We sit and listen to games – a few innings, in Felix’s case, and I’m always sure to emphasize Vin Scully. He’s not likely to remember these nascent memories, especially of some old broadcaster, but I’m glad that I did have these years to share, and pass down the tradition.

Vin Scully is the narrator of this City I Love. Vin Scully is not just the voice of Los Angeles, he is Los Angeles. He came west as the city was just finding it’s sea-legs, a post-Baby Boom bastion of suburbs and planned communities that required you to have a car. No, really – that was a novel concept in 1958, and it’s exactly why Vinny became Los Angeles. You were, and still are, in a car all the time, and Vinny was painting games nine months out of the year. Until he’s not. And then what? Life goes on. L.A. will be here, Vinny and my Dad will hopefully live well into retirement, and the Dodgers will continue drawing 3 million fans per year. Baseball will certainly move forward. So will I, so will Felix.

But it will be different, an impact unknown. There may be a void, there will definitely be a ripple in the fabric of my fanmanship. But I do know that Vin Scully’s retirement will be more poignant and powerful than any I’ve experienced in sports.

I sent a letter to Vin during the first Dodgers season after Felix was born. I didn’t expect nor receive a response, and was told that he actually receives more mail than anybody in the organization. Maybe he read it, likely he did not, but the copy is below and the sentiment still holds.

Because Vin Scully really enhanced my life. And proud Los Angeles native or not, I’ve never said that about any type of celebrity before. And I certainly haven’t said it about an athlete. I do have a sombrero, but I’m not going to throw it to the sky, Vin. I’m just hoping that I can enjoy and cherish your five remaining telecasts and maybe, just maybe, the Baseball Gods will reward you and the fans whom you’ve impacted with one more improbable October.

July 15, 2014

Mr. Scully –

I just want to reach out and thank you for your presence within the Dodgers organization and the City of Los Angeles. I am a second generation Los Angeles native, and recently had a son (Felix) that will be the third Lovett male to be serenaded by your voice from April to October of each year. 

You are truly the voice that defines summer and provides the soundtrack to our great city. I am proud to be able to pass on the tradition of ‘listening to Vin’ to my son. 

In short, your legacy and influence is immeasurable and I cherish each of your broadcasts, and I appreciate your commitment to pulling up a chair and ‘getting back to this one’ in beautiful Chavez Ravine.

Enclosed is a picture of the three of us – my father, Stu; my son, Felix & me.

With admiration and appreciation,


Evan Lovett


The Dave Roberts Era

So if there was any question, Dave Roberts not only has put his imprint on this organization but is making it clear that this is an era where on-field management is a conduit for the front office yet still can have a major and positive impact (as opposed to being a puppet).

Removing Rich Hill yesterday during a perfect game, based on the fact that he was starting to have a little bit of “heat” on the blister finger (causing him to miss three of his last six scheduled starts), the move is objectively understandable. I would be extremely agitated if I was Rich Hill – or, frankly, any other Dodger – but the team won the ballgame and Roberts made the right move.

Roberts earnestly & honestly addressed his decision after the game (“I’m going to lose sleep” “I’ve never had a win feel like a loss”). He is clearly a team-oriented manager that understands what it’s like to be in those players’ cleats, and again, what he is done with such an undermanned, chronically injured, oddly constituted team this year has been nothing short of remarkable.


Image: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Deadline, Puig’d

My takeaways from this trade deadline:

1) Dodgers. Boring moves. I’d like to think they’re not done; I’d love to see them acquire Archer, whom I really believe has Ace ‘stuff’ without much mileage on his arm. Not to mention his contract; $6mm, then $9mm/year through 2021. Might be the most club-friendly deal in baseball. Reddick is solid, but I really do think Puig will be a star player –  I really do. Maybe it’s just not meant to be in L.A. Rich Hill is a total yawn and totally in the Alex Wood/Brett Anderson/hey-let’s-get-a-solid-but-not-spectacular-fourth-starter-type mold of this front office. Not inspirational. Then again, I’m not in favor of a ‘balls out’ approach if (maybe they know) Kershaw isn’t coming back. Unless you get Archer and Sale, it’s not happening without Kersh.

2) Yankees. Great work. Absolutely awesome hall. The kid Dillon Tate is a legit Ace, I’m hearing good things about their other players – I believe I read five guys in the top 100 in BA’s latest. That’s a haul. Good work Cashman.
3) Giants. I like Matt Moore. Shocked they’d get rid of Duffy, though. Wasn’t he a local kid/fan favorite? Biz is biz, though, and that front office makes quality moves. Nunez was such a great pickup. Dude plays like seven positions and can hit a little bit. Not a ton, but that park is going to play to his game, triples, doubles, etc.
4) Jay Bruce, Meh. He’s good, but he’s not 2015 Cespedes. And now they have like six OF’s, none of whom can play CF? Hmm. . .
5) Rangers. Wow. Lucroy is an a-hole for spurning Cleveland but it worked out. Man that was sneaky good.
6) Adios to Hector Santiago. Not many better dudes in baseball, and he’s a HUGE card collector so he always has my vote. I guess i won’t get to witness his bewildering inconsistency from aclose anymore. . .
7) Don’t sleep on Francisco Liriano to the Jays. I know this one went under the radar, but ‘if’ Liriano recovers what he has last year, maybe by pitching behind his former Pirate buddy J.A. Happ, the Jays might have pulled a coup.
8) Love Cashner to the Marlins.
9) Kemp for Olivera, what a deal. Blech for everybody.
10) Aroldis to the Cubs. Man.
Lastly, Yasiel Puig was sent down to Oklahoma City, perhaps ending an era for the Dodgers. Dylan Hernandez, on Puig, in today’s L.A. Times, explains the factors that led to his sendoff.

This really kind of ‘breaks my heart’ from a sports perspective. I’ve never been down on Puig’s long-term outlook because the talent – and enthusiasm – are so palpable that he really is, for me, the best singular player to watch in baseball “when things are going well.” We all know what led to this, and some say this was inevitable, but I really, REALLY hope he catches on somewhere and turns into the dominating force I think he can be.

Corey “The Kid” Seager

Corey Seager reminds me SO much of Clayton Kershaw in his approach, composure, poise, maturity, overall grasp of the game and awareness of his role & importance on the team. I’ve been reserving my enthusiasm for what seems like such an obvious superstar (and thus potential bust) but he really seems to understand the game and his role. And his approach is beautiful. Relaxed swing – he chokes up! – and literally goes oppo with ease, and power. His glove has surprised me as well, and damn – I’m genuinely excited for his future. Clayton has anywhere from three to fifteen (Randy, Nolan) years of dominance remaining, and Corey has about four years until he hits his prime – but he’ll be a superstar by next year. Could be really fun times at the Ravine for years to come.

cool early-season baseball thoughts

18% of the season has elapsed, so a quick look around the league from YKI:
*Bryce. Now that master strategist Joe Maddon implemented baseball’s version of Hack-a-Shaq (10 walks, 1 HBP in last 12 plate appearances) – and it worked! four game sweep for the Cubs – does this legitimize Harper as the game’s scariest threat since Mr. Bonds?
*Bryce, at one point this weekend, went 37 consecutive pitches without swinging the bat, per Mike Ferrin on MLB XM this morning.
*the Cubs are 24-6?!?!?! WOW. And Heyward (.212), Soler (.181) and Russell (.242) still aren’t hitting.
*That wacky, wacky NL West. We’re seriously looking at an 85-game winner taking the division. Every time I think the Dodgers fritter away any momentum, the remaining teams in the division lose right along with them.
*White Sox, 22-10. Big surprise to everybody that underestimated the Frazier acquisition, or didn’t realize that Quintana – well, that creep can roll. And Sale is the AL Kershaw.
*The Yankees are a really tough story this year. Basically, the deal that they made the playoffs last year was a bad thing. Everybody thought they’d breakdown in ’15, forcing them to make wholesale changes and give their kids the shot to see if they’d be Bombers (Judge, Refsnyder, at the time Bird). But the seniors played & played well and they trotted out the same bunch for the ’16 season. Now they’re seeing the ramifications and it is a really bad – and old – team that we’re watching out there.
*Houston, 12-20, is going to be fine. They have too much talent and Jose Altuve is a winner.
*Kind of unbelievable how awesome David Ortiz really is, even at the tail end of his career. I’m pretty sure it’s not unfair to consider him a Reggie Jackson-type of character, historically.
*Everybody knew the Braves would be lousy (7-23), but the Twins were last year’s wunderteam and they’re only 1/2 game ahead (8-23). What gives there?
*The Angels are garbage. Dull pitching and two watchable players (Trout, Calhoun). I hope they don’t waste Trout’s career, because it definitely looks like that’s the direction they’re headed.
*Some wanksters on this ERA list, but we’re in a pitching-forward era. Latos, Colon, Tyler Chatwood, Tanner Roark all under 3.00 kinda funny to see, though.
1  Zimmermann, J DET 5 1 1.10 6 6 0 0 41.0 35 7 5 2 8 25 .224 1.05
2  Arrieta, J CHC 6 0 1.13 7 7 0 0 48.0 26 7 6 2 16 44 .159 0.88
3  Quintana, J CWS 5 1 1.38 7 7 0 0 45.2 36 8 7 1 9 42 .217 0.99
4  Wright, S BOS 3 3 1.52 6 6 0 0 41.1 25 10 7 2 16 38 .172 0.99
5  Lester, J CHC 3 1 1.58 6 6 0 0 40.0 33 7 7 4 9 38 .228 1.05
6  Maeda, K LAD 3 1 1.66 6 6 0 0 38.0 26 7 7 3 10 35 .191 0.95
7  Sale, C CWS 7 0 1.79 7 7 0 0 50.1 29 11 10 3 10 47 .165 0.77
8  Hammel, J CHC 4 0 1.85 6 6 0 0 34.0 25 7 7 1 14 28 .212 1.15
9  Salazar, D CLE 3 2 1.91 6 6 0 0 37.2 18 8 8 1 16 43 .142 0.90
10  Walker, T SEA 2 2 1.97 6 6 0 0 32.0 30 11 7 3 3 29 .242 1.03
11  Roark, T WSH 2 2 2.03 7 7 0 0 44.1 34 14 10 1 17 41 .210 1.15
12  Kershaw, C LAD 4 1 2.04 7 7 0 0 53.0 38 13 12 3 3 64 .199 0.77
13  Pomeranz, D SD 3 3 2.12 6 6 0 0 34.0 21 10 8 2 16 41 .176 1.09
14  Kennedy, I KC 4 2 2.13 6 6 0 0 38.0 28 9 9 3 13 35 .209 1.08
15  Chatwood, T COL 4 2 2.15 6 6 0 0 37.2 34 10 9 3 8 27 .239 1.12
16  Velasquez, V PHI 4 1 2.17 6 6 0 0 37.1 25 12 9 3 11 44 .188 0.96
17  Gonzalez, G WSH 2 1 2.19 6 6 0 0 37.0 29 11 9 2 10 28 .216 1.05
18  Hernandez, F SEA 2 2 2.21 6 6 0 0 36.2 28 15 9 3 18 29 .204 1.25
19  Tanaka, M NYY 1 0 2.29 6 6 0 0 39.1 29 11 10 2 7 35 .200 0.92
20  Richards, G LAA 1 3 2.34 6 6 0 0 34.2 31 16 9 2 15 34 .238 1.33
21  Strasburg, S WSH 5 0 2.36 6 6 0 0 42.0 33 11 11 1 9 47 .220 1.00
22  Estrada, M TOR 1 2 2.39 6 6 0 0 37.2 27 10 10 3 14 36 .196 1.09
22  Hill, R OAK 4 3 2.39 7 7 0 0 37.2 28 13 10 2 16 46 .206 1.17
24  Happ, J TOR 4 0 2.50 6 6 0 0 39.2 37 11 11 4 10 25 .253 1.18
25  Syndergaard, N NYM 2 2 2.58 6 6 0 0 38.1 33 11 11 1 8 49 .234 1.07
26  Martinez, C STL 4 2 2.61 6 6 0 0 38.0 26 11 11 4 11 30 .190 0.97
27  Latos, M CWS 5 0 2.62 6 6 0 0 34.1 31 10 10 4 10 19 .238 1.19
28  Hamels, C TEX 4 0 2.68 6 6 0 0 37.0 28 11 11 4 17 36 .217 1.22
29  Smyly, D TB 1 3 2.72 6 6 0 0 39.2 23 13 12 5 8 47 .167 0.78
30  Colon, B NYM 3 1 2.82 7 6 0 0 38.1 39 12 12 4 4 33 .271 1.12
30  Sanchez, A TOR 2 1 2.82 6 6 0 0 38.1 33 13 12 3 12 34 .228 1.17
32  Griffin, A TEX 3 0 2.94 6 6 0 0 33.2 24 12 11 2 14 28 .195 1.13
33  Porcello, R BOS 5 1 2.95 6 6 0 0 39.2 30 13 13 6 8 41 .207 0.96
*Baseball’s back. Glad to see this particular HR leader list. 90% legit guys, and some great names. When the stars are strong, the game is strong.
1  Arenado, N COL 3B 31 121 27 39 6 1 12 29 14 14 0 1 .322 .397 .686 1.083
1  Cano, R SEA 2B 31 128 20 39 6 0 12 33 9 17 0 0 .305 .355 .633 .988
3  Cespedes, Y NYM LF 26 97 19 29 4 1 11 30 11 24 0 0 .299 .376 .701 1.077
3  Story, T COL SS 30 125 23 34 5 3 11 24 13 46 2 2 .272 .338 .624 .962
5  Carter, C MIL 1B 30 107 20 30 10 0 10 22 12 33 0 0 .280 .344 .654 .998
5  Harper, B WSH RF 31 98 21 26 6 0 10 27 30 25 5 2 .265 .432 .633 1.064
5  Rizzo, A CHC 1B 30 111 26 30 8 1 10 28 22 18 2 1 .270 .413 .631 1.044
5  Stanton, G MIA RF 28 100 17 26 4 0 10 24 18 34 0 0 .260 .375 .600 .975
9  Altuve, J HOU 2B 32 123 30 40 14 0 9 19 16 16 13 1 .325 .415 .659 1.074
9  Donaldson, J TOR 3B 33 123 30 33 8 1 9 21 20 33 2 0 .268 .379 .569 .948
9  Machado, M BAL 3B 30 123 24 43 15 0 9 22 10 20 0 2 .350 .403 .691 1.094
9  Ortiz, D BOS DH 29 107 17 33 12 0 9 27 15 21 1 0 .308 .393 .673 1.066
9  Trumbo, M BAL RF 30 117 16 38 3 1 9 24 8 34 1 0 .325 .378 .598 .976
9  Walker, N NYM 2B 30 112 14 29 1 0 9 19 6 24 1 0 .259 .297 .509 .806
15  Davis, C BAL 1B 30 110 22 22 2 0 8 19 18 40 0 0 .200 .323 .436 .759
15  Frazier, T CWS 3B 32 124 17 24 4 0 8 21 13 26 2 1 .194 .273 .419 .693
15  Kemp, M SD RF 31 122 15 34 8 0 8 23 3 24 0 0 .279 .291 .541 .832
15  Semien, M OAK SS 32 100 13 21 1 0 8 15 13 27 1 0 .210 .298 .460 .758
19  Braun, R MIL LF 29 109 19 40 6 0 7 24 12 17 2 1 .367 .430 .615 1.044

Ethier, Donnie & The 2016 Dodgers

So regarding whether Andre Ethier was mad at the umpire, missed a bunt sign, or was just f-bombing an invisible entity, the Dodgers petered out of the playoffs following the in-game, public outburst. Apparently he’s been simmering since the beginning of his Dodger tenure Spring Training when he asked not to play Centerfield despite previous success in Center for the Dodgers. He’s very passive aggressive, and has notoriously bottled his feelings until a blowup at the manager or the front office, or simply in the press. He’s not quite a malcontent, but he’s on the border. 

Bottom line is, that was the most demonstrative I’ve seen him in the realm of the field, and to have that kind of blowout in an elimination game speaks to both Ethier’s (somewhat understandable) general unhappiness with his role as a Dodger, despite a great career (top 15 in HR, hames, hits career as a Dodger) in L.A., as well as the general frustration within the clubhouse regarding Mattingly’s lack of consistency and clear strategy.
I believe that Friedman is going to clean house as much as possible, building the team around Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. I think the entire coaching staff is gone, Wallach finds a big league job somewhere, but 2016 begins with an out-of-house manager that changes the culture (Jason Giambi is a dream, but doubtful). It’s not like it was a horrible season. . .it was a stopgap season and they finished in line with (my) expectations, unfortunately.
It’s worth noting that I personally believed Puig needed to be jettisoned to end up more like Adrian Beltre than Raul Mondesi, but seeing a Puig-less lineup, even with Puig deservedly not starting, was painful. We’ve seen Puig’s talent and he needs to be supported & coddled to perform the way he can. It’s obviously not certain, but in my opinion, Puig is one of the top talents in baseball, so with him along with Kershaw and Seager, you have one of the best cores possible to compete with the Cubs & Mets for the next decade.
I also discussed something last night with my brother from another: those wacky ’25 cabs for 25 guys’ Red Sox winners were somewhat despicable, but the Dodgers seem more like ’25 iPhones for 25 guys.’ The difference is there was an emotion – passion? hatred? loathing? – amongst the Sox that made them hatable, but these Dodgers inspire. . . ambivalence.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter, but he’s very dull. Joc Pedersen should be the awe-inspiring, young talent, but he’s shown only regression since June – and definitely doesn’t play with emotion. Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley are awesome – but they’re old. So Seager, a promising young rookie, is easily to be excited about but these playoffs (I’m calling them his Kobe ’97 performance) dampen the expectations. Puig is a potential cornerstone, but would it shock anybody if he ended up like Mondesi? Or worse? Kenley Jansen is a great closer, but who gets excited about closers? Alex Guerrero? Jose Peraza? Who cares? Justin Turner turned into a gem, and could be the type of player that the Giants would LOVE, and the Dodgers just might look to improve upon, furthering the disparate chemistry issues. Really tough team to root for, and  I’m a die-hard.
I will say this, though: watching Kershaw is amazing. As my dad said via text during his final (301 K) start of the regular season:
“remember that you’re watching a Hall of Fame pitcher every time you see Kershaw pitch”
Either way, Go Dodgers in 2016. Should be a completely new team.

Dodgers Mets Storylines, Prediction

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The Ghosts of Kershaw – his postseason struggles are well-known and discussed ad nauseam. Career postseason, he’s 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA (as opposed to a 114-56, 2.43 ERA regular season career). That said, the (active) Mets have hit a cumulative .213 w/ a .553 OPS vs. Kershaw, and this includes a near-perfect game in July (ended up with a 3-hit shutout, 11 K’s). He also has a career 2.07 ERA in Chavez Ravine.

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Bullish on the Pen – both bullpens stink. The Mets had a 3.48 ERA, Dodgers 3.91, albeit with a 3.43 in the second half. The closers are the – pun intended – saving grace for both squads. Kenley Jansen hasn’t been as unhittable as previous years (2.41 ERA, but still 13.8 K’s per 9), but still saved 32 of 34 chances. Jeurys Familia was a revelation for the Mets, saving 41 games in 46 opportunities to go with a 1.63 ERA. Otherwise, it’s a handful of mix & matching for both managers, as Chris Hatcher has ’emerged’ as the ‘set-up man’ for the Dodgers, although his 8+ first half ERA could portend problems for the converted catcher. JP Howell is the one reliable arm in the Dodgers’ pen, though Mattingly tends to use him solely in the 7th inning and versus lefties, leaving Juan Nicasio, Pedro Baez & Yimi Garcia – all flamethrowers – to sort out the rest of the Mets batters, and though they all garner high strikeout ratios, they’re all very hittable. The Mets have an even sloppier mix of names, Eric Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and the suddenly gas-on-fire Tyler Clippard. So essentially this series is going to come down to. . .
Can These Starters Be Hit – We know Kershaw. Greinke, who had an ungodly 1.66 ERA this season, has traditionally been hit in the playoffs (3.63 ERA). That said, he’s only allowed 12 hits in 22 innings as a Dodger, to go with 21 K’s. What worries me slightly is that he is the modern pitcher most reminiscent of Greg Maddux. Great movement, pinpoint control, cerebral approach and pitches backwards; but Maddux was average at best in playoffs, and pitchers that tend to miss bits are the ones that dominate the most in the postseason. The number three starter, Brett Anderson, is a bit better than average and frankly – a roll of the dice. The Mets answer with Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey; three absolute Aces, or Aces-to-be. They are all young, untested, and most importantly – fatigued, as each has exceeded their innings maximum and never pitched in the postseason. Simply put – who can get to who’s bullpen. . .that will determine the series.
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But What About Offense – there likely won’t be much. The Dodgers, who led the National League in homeruns for the first time since 1983 (!!!), hit a ton of solo homeruns and struggled with runners on base. They also tend to be the proverbial ‘feast or famine’ squad – they’ll compile eight runs one game, one the next. The talent is there – Adrian Gonzalez, Puig is allegedly healthy, Andre Ethier has a good year when Mattingly allows him to play, and Corey Seager is amazing. But there are a ton of question marks – who plays second? Kendrick? Utley? Turner? Who plays third? Turner for sure, or do you put Seager at third and Rollins at Short? Do you need Rollins in the lineup due to his leadership and presence, not to mention postseason experience? Or is he out of the lineup since he hit .224 this year? And what about the outfield – Van Slyke is hurt and likely off the roster, Joc Pedersen had a spectacular first half but has been middling at best since, Carl Crawford is an injury waiting to happen (though clutch), leaving the unlikely trio of Enrique (Kikê) Hernandez, Chris Heisey and lefty-killer Justin Ruggiano as the potential keys to the series. AJ Ellis has probably reclaimed the job from All-Star Yasmani Grandal behind the plate, as Grandal is an unsightly 4-for-86 since his shoulder injury, and Ellis handles the pitching staff better anyway.
For the Mets – this was a tale of two halves. They were hands-down the worst offensive team in baseball in the first half (.233 avg). . .then they traded for Yoenis Cespedes, who along with call-up Michael Conforto sparked a run that had them near the top of the NL leaderboards in most categories in July and August. They normalized in September and flustered over the last few weeks, but there’s some pop in the form of Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and catcher Travis D’Arnaud – though all have holes in their swings that can be exploited with precise pitching. Daniel Murphy is a sneaky hitter that has potential to be the annoying X-factor in the series. Not too much depth otherwise, and the Mets bench isn’t to be feared.
Hometown Hero – David Wright is a pleasant story for the Mets and deserves mention. He had a near-career-ending back injury and he battled his way back to provide a productive second half (.277, 4 dingers) but is nowhere near the superstar he was. That said, he’s beloved in Citi Field, and being that Game 3 will be the first playoff game ever in the newish stadium (2009), there will be abundant emotion flowing through Queens.
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Nearly Negated – The Matt Harvey fiasco(s), however, may counterbalance the floral aura in NY, as there may have never been a player in the 21st Century that garbaged his goodwill so quickly. As the leader of the feel good story of the Major League Baseball season, Harvey recovered from Tommy John surgery to manifest back into the Ace he was, dominating in most of his starts and carrying his Dark Knight persona through the five boroughs. Then his agent, Scott Boras, announced that Harvey was being shut down for the season and all hell broke loose. The Mets management knew of no such arrangement, and Harvey was backing his agent over the team. You can imagine how that played out in New York, and only after a stern talking to from David Wright did he come to his senses and agree to pitch again. The damage was done, though not to the depth it could have been if he didn’t agree to take the ball again, and his last couple of starts showed that the innings limit is imaginary, and all would be well with his arm. Then he decided to skip a mandatory workout and made the back pages of the NY papers blow up again, leading to the memorable David Wright quote: “I’m only concerned with the players that showed up.”
In short, this is going to be an incredible series laden with tense, pitching-centric baseball. New York vs. Los Angeles, the young upstart squad versus the third-of-a-billion-dollar payroll, the team with no expectations against the team with the burden of a must-win ownership and championship-starved fanbase. The Dodgers should take Games 1 and 2, the Mets likely win Game 3, but the bats come alive for Game 4 in a surprisingly high-scoring series finale, as the Dodgers move on to the NLCS.
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Bonus Postseason Observation:

Arlington, Texas Rangers
Toronto, Canada Blue Jays
Kansas City, Missouri Royals
Houston, Texas Astros
not ONE of these is a market that MLB can be happy about representing the AL in the World Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
ALL of these cities would make MLB representatives very happy about representing the NL in the World Series