Category: Los Angeles

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.

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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
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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
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ALL of these cities would make MLB representatives very happy about representing the NL in the World Series

Decidedly non-SABRmetric MLB Observations

The 90-game mark is usually where I feel contented enough to start making assessments of the MLB season. The true halfway point (81 games) is a tad bit premature (and it’s pre-All Star Game, symbolically), so I tack on another week and assess. Without further adieu, here’s a relative stream-of-consciousness view at the non-SABR leaderboard (thank you, MLB.com).
Offense
National League
Top half of batting average leaders look normal, then
Yunel Escobar .337?!??
Nori Aoki
Joe Panik
DJ LeMahieu
Gerardo Parra
Matt Duffy (!!!)
Jhonny Peralta (!!!!!!!!)
AJ Pollock
also: only 12 guys over .300. That’s nuts.
Interesting to note the BOTTOM six hitters in the league, in reverse order (qualifiers):
Ian Desmond
Jimmy Rollins
Billy Hamilton
Ryan Howard
Joc Pedersen
Pedro Alvarez
This group would form a good fantasy team core pre-season.
I mean, I should have admitted this previously but I guess Todd Frazier’s power is legit? Has 26 doubles to go with those 25 bombs.
Nolan Arenado is a literal superstar in the making, if he’s not already.
Said it before will say it again – Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best players in the game. We know about the Triple Crown chase but 16 steals. . .wow!
Anthony Rizzo just chugging along again, while still really good ballplayer at only 25 and the veteran of that squad – .294 with 16 bombs.
Glad to see Ryan Braun’s power is still somewhat real – 16 dingers.
Has to be said: Bryce Harper is putting up a really nice year. Realllly nice.
Joey Votto ‘quietly’ putting up a votto year .289 16 dingers
Andrew Mccutchen is going to end up with Mccutchen numbers despite his ‘slow’ start.
Ready for a shock? 6/7/8 in OBP (and also in your batting order jk): Posey Aoko Panik.
Kris Bryant, good work kid.
Oh, I guess the Stanton beaning didn’t affect him much.
Freddie Freeman’s numbers may be ‘off’ by his standards, but 10th in the league in OPS in that lineup is a testament to his hitting ability.
Also gotta love posey 31 k’s only! 311 abs, 85 games. Again, Aoki and Panik clocking in top 5 in ‘least k’s’ of all qualified players.
 Nick Markakis .289 avg, .726 ops. not bad. ZERO dingers. z-e-r-o. wow
Billy Hamilton 45 steals is one thing – 6 CS is very impressive. By comparison – noted thief Dee Gordon has 33 swipes and 12 cs.
Charlie Blackmon is third – 24 bags!!!
Even with the swirling trade talk, Justin Upton might drop a 30-30 on you this year – 15/17 right now
American League
JD Martinez – man that guy is just donging his way through baseball now =,
Oldies Albert Pujols & Mark Teixeira 26 and 23 wow.
Legit boppers over in this league, though:
Mike Trout
Josh Donaldson
Nelson Cruz
My man Brian Dozier just going all Jeff Kent on people
Manny Machado
Jose Bautista
Chris Davis
Hanley Ramirez
A-Rod
Edwin Encarnacion
and of course Luis Valbuena, funny guy, mocking the non-SABR people (sure he’s only hitting .207 but look at his OPS!)
Is Miguel Cabrera a nut or what, .350 again you kidding me? in this era?
Jason Kipnis man that guy is legitimately good I guess?
I did NOT think Lorenzo Cain could match last year but he’s surpassed it .321 18 steals 3 cs
I kept hearing Julio Iglesias Iglesias Iglesias, mostly because Jim Bowden LOVES him but kid is solid – .321 , huh?
Billy Burns always shocks me, mostly because his game and name sound black but he’s white – but I guess he’s good too, huh? .304 and a handful of walk-offs (incidentally, did you know Dennis Eckersley coined the phrase, walk-off?)
Xander Bogaerts finally matching expectations with .309 and 44 RBI.
Brett Gardner surprising non-yankee fans everywhere – in my mind is a super dark dark dark horse for mvp.
AL only 11 batters over .300!
Mr. Dustin Pedroia again just playing baseball and being solid.
Mike Moustakas at .301!!! For sure ‘most improved’ which of course baseball doesn’t have.
Alcides Escobar at .296, which makes this escobar season with all the escobar success stories
Jose Altuve has 26 bags – but no triples.
And speaking of triples, Kevin Kiermaier has 9, which proves my theory that triples, you need some speed but more heart & hustle.
Chris Carter with a paltry 115 k’s, joining a list of FIVE hitters over 100 through 90 games in the AL only. (I neglected to mention the NL ‘only’ has three – led by Joc Pedersen’s gleaming 112.)
A-rod 9th in ops, that’s awesome
Pujols 38 k’s in 332 abs that’s pretty nice – whats crazy is only 29 bases on balls.
Ian Desmond, specifically, has a .248 obp. Just worsting Rollins .262
Mike Zunino, however, has them both “beat” with a .219. In 260 ABs he sports a .158 batting average. & 104 k’s. How are you still in the bigs, kid?
Pitching
National League
Gerrit Cole is having just an outstanding season, wow. 13 wins 2.30 ERA.
SEVEN pitchers have a sub-1.00 whip: Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Jacob DeGrom, Jason Hammel, Johny Cueto, Mr. Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta
I mean, Greinke’s numbers aren’t even real, right? 1.30 era? Max Scherzer’s whip is lower, but along with a certain ‘other’ Dodger, this may be reminiscent of the Maddux/Pedro/Randy era? Maybe?
I’d like to point out the other Dodger,  Clayton Kershaw, has 174 k’s. In 131 innings.
Fransisco Liriano is flying under the radar with his 1.03 whip and .192 batting average against.
Padres pitching is deceptively woeful: Ian Kennedy and James sShields have given up the 4th and 5th highest amount of bombs in the league, and Andrew Cashner has a 4.10 era. Meanwhile, “Iron Mike” Tyson Ross is ‘leading the league’ with 57 bases on balls in 117 innings. here’s that entire season that greg maddux walked 20.
Matt Garza’s done, right? 1.55 whip, 5.55 era?
The Cardinals are wowing everybody with their record, but are they doing it at the expense of their bullpen? three of the top four in appearances are cardinals, and rosenthal has already appeared in 42 as well.
American League
I still can’t believe Dallas Keuchel. He doesnt seem special to me, but his numbers say otherwise.
Sonny Gray – Ace.
Chris Sale – Ace. How does anybody hit this guy?
Chris Archer – very close, but not quite.
King Felix – of course.
Wei-Yin Chen is EIGHTH in the league in whip (1.09), directly ahead of Corey Kluber and David Price.
Sale, incidentally – 163 k’s in 125 innings
Archer 153 in 128. Maybe that ‘not quite’ should be amended?
Nate Eovaldi? probably not in this conversation. The league is hitting .308 (!!!) against him; that’s Mike Piazza’s career batting average.
I mean I guess I must mention Chris Young, .202 baa and 1.04 whip.
Phil Hughes is back. yeah that one. 23 dingers allowed in 19 starts.
Also, there’s one ‘perfect’ closer this year (minimum 20 opps). Can you guess who? Yep, K-Rod. 21 of 21.

Dodgers Winter Meetings 2014: This Is What I Think

I have no isolated insight, no secret sources, no magic metrics on the Dodgers flurry of activity under the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi/Josh Byrnes regime. What I do have is an objective fan’s outlook about both the Chavez Ravine management team and the club that will perform there this coming summer (and autumn).

I first want to address Matt Kemp, as he is the largest name involved in these transactions. For me, I’ve enjoyed his talent but have not consistently praised him as some (many) have. With effortless speed & power, we saw what Kemp could do – nearly a 40/40 season in ’11 when he finished second in MVP to Ryan Braun (Granada Hills HS). We saw the precociousness after the ferociousness, literally moping upon his move to left field. He was disinterested at times, downtrodden at others, and along with Andre Ethier, formed a really needy core.

Especially for really good players. Both of these guys needed to play, but they also needed to be loved. Ethier was nearly despised by some fans, though that chapter will be closed come January or February, when Friedman engineers that deal. In fact, I think both Ethier and Crawford are going to be moved prior to the first pitch of 2015, with management taking a wrecking ball to The Team That Ned Built. But I digress. . .We know Kemp is an undeniable talent, and in fact – I think he will play well in San Diego. The relaxed environ, the spacious field for him to gallop in Center and Right, the Man status; this will all play well to his soul, and he’ll perform. Plus, .280/25/90 on the Padres is performing, so good for him.

And good for the Dodgers. I don’t think the overhaul is so much due to lack of capable ballplayers on Colletti’s roster; I think the entire club ethos needed to change.

Letting Hanley walk, and I LOVED Hanley, was a must. He was the most exciting hitter I’d seen at Dodger Stadium since another Ramirez (99 on his jersey), and has a laserbeam line drive ability (I’m talking absolute screamers, check out his 2013 homer in San Diego, coincidentally) that I’d only seen previously with Gary Sheffield. But he had to go. He needs to have the option to DH, and the Dodgers needed to look for a real shortstop. That bat is irreplaceable, but he commanded too many years; 120 games played would soon be his highwater mark, and the Dodgers don’t need that albatross.

One deal that went nearly unnoticed is the acquisition of Joel Peralta. A professional; unspectacular and easily overlooked, Peralta is more a signal than anything – the bullpen is not a place to invest outside the organization. You can make prudent acquisitions, guys that will calm the ship, eat innings & understand their roles, but as evidenced by the Royals, Giants and Cardinals, you need to build your bullpen from within. Develop guys as starters in the minor leagues and let them hit their preordained innings mark through a variety of roles. But honing in on the pen – especially during formative years – is the most productive way to build pitchers and a safety net.

The Cardinals, in my mind, pioneered this with Adam Wainwright (he was their closer during the ’06 pennant run), converted Rosenthal to perma-pen status, but have brought up the youngsters this way. It’s smart, and it needs to be stated – the bullpen is for guys that aren’t good enough to be starters; they are inherently worse than the guy they’re replacing. Or at least that’s how it was, and why so many bullpens implode. But if you use it as a platform for your best arms, you’re making the bullpen a strength. It makes a ton of sense, and that, along with LaRussa’s inning specialization, will make the biggest impact on the makeup of ballclubs in the last half century.

In short, the Dodgers simply had too many old, crappy arms on the books (Wilson, League, Perez), which weren’t allowing the maligned Scott Elbert, the injured Chris Withrow, and the overlooked Paco Rodriguez to slide into natural roles that could have enhanced the team. I think that Peralta and Friedman acquisition Juan Nicasio will provide a stopgap for the pen while they’ll look to build in 2016 and beyond from the inside, which was luckily left fruitful by Logan White.

And speaking of stopgaps – Jimmy Rollins. What a dude. At least in the 00’s. He still seems like a good guy, a leader type, but is older than the guy the Dodgers let walk. Now, we’re talking a different iteration of player, as Rollins game is/was predicated on quickness & speed with a burst of pop instead of all brawn with a flash of speed. Rollins has been slightly above average for the past four years, yet is remarkably consistent. In today’s game, you don’t need your shortstop to light up the scoreboard, and Rollins’ .260, 14 hr, 55 RB, 29 steals will suffice until Corey Seager snatches the position.Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson. That’s the future right there and Friedman, et al, understand that. The ability to make so many maneuvers (10 trades in 25 days at one point) and upgrade without dealing the three kids is a major coup for this team. I really think the underlying statement that was made is the following:

we have a huge budget and aren’t afraid to use it, but we realize that the future is built on the backs of SABR-minded individuals that also understand that baseball is, and always will be, based on the eyeball test. 

Which brings me to Dee Gordon. Talk about a likable ballplayer; always smiling, always improving, a genuine good person on and off the field. Dodger fans loved his improvement this year, after teetering on the precipice of being a 4A player. “He was an All-Star,” they’d say. Shoot, I said it too. He was exciting. Sixty four stolen bases this year! But the dude couldn’t hit, and I worry that he’d end up being a .262 guy with no pop, and – well, there’s a reason Pat Listach didn’t have a long career. I wish him well in Miami, but most of all I thank him for turning into Andrew Heaney (who’s going to be damn good, ps, and really made me crack up on Twitter), who was flipped for Howie Kendrick.I’ve always likened Howie Kendrick to Kirby Puckett, my favorite player growing up. Free swinging, joyous dudes that came out of junior colleges to light up the big leagues with their smiles & their sticks. Kendrick, of course, isn’t the hitter Puckett was but he can swing it. Especially for a second baseman – and in my mind, the jump offensively from Gordon to Kendrick offsets the perceived drop from Ramirez to Rollins on the other side of the second base bag. Kendrick has a decent glove, and with only one year left on his contract leaves the Dodgers with options heading into 2016, the first real year of the new regime.

Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t done. I don’t know if that means David Price, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields or all of the above (just kidding, I think?). I do think that Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are untouchable, and Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen & AJ Ellis aren’t going anywhere.

Anything else is up for discussion.

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photo via fansided/lasportshub