Thursday, April 02, 2009

Batter up: Los Angeles Dodgers

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. Now batting: the Dodgers of Los Angeles.
  1. It's Vin Scully's 60th (60th!) year broadcasting Dodger baseball. Just thought everyone should know.
  2. In case you forgot, they made the playoffs last year. They actually won a round (okay, it was against the Cubs). Including October, they went 88-82, which, wouldn't you know it, is a worse record than three American League teams who didn't get invited.
  3. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs called them the 13th-best organization in baseball, dinging the (sometimes clueless) front office with a D+.
  4. For those who want to keep in touch with the team, like U.S.S. Mariner, Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts (now part of the Los Angeles Times) tells you pretty much everything.
  5. Strong points last year? Hitting...nah. Pitching...maybe. Dodger Stadium makes anyone look good. That doesn't apply to Chad Billingsley, who Dodger Thoughts pegged as the most indispensable (or least dispensable) Dodger, or #2 on-the-same-list Clayton Kershaw (not to be confused with Clayton Andrews; really, don't confuse them). Solid pitchers, both.
  6. MannyBManny is only third? Weisman knows more than I do, and there's no way an OPS+ of 219 holds up over more than 53 games, but that is surprising.
  7. So who is this Kershaw, anyway? Worth the hype? Sure is. Lefty. He was born in (sigh...) 1988. Drafted 7th overall three years ago out of a Texas high school. 276 strikeouts and 91 walks in 221 minor league innings. Struck out nearly a batter per inning in his first season in the majors last year. At age 20. Young pitchers will break your heart, but that's half the fun, isn't it?
  8. Let's not forget the impact the studly Russell Martin may have on the pitching staff. Or his decision to go by J. Martin this year--his mother's maiden name is his third middle name, Jeanson. Or his quitting of the chewing tobacco.
  9. Then again, any positive results from the pitchers, or J. Martin, will quickly be nullified if certain conditions come to pass.
  10. But wait! Unless Orlando Hudson has something to say about it as he replaces the he's-still-a-second-baseman-really?-huh-that's-odd Jeff Kent. Hudson, interestingly, joined the Dodgers on a huge incentives contract: if he reaches 569 plate appearances (three-year average), he gets $7.18 million instead of $3.38M. He is worth it. Nobody is allowed to disparage the O-Dog, who is was one of the best defensive second basemen in the game and would win every mayoral election of any city in which he has spent five or more minutes.
  11. Sadly, if Hudson does have something to say about it, you will need a good rewind button to figure out what he said. (Ten points to anyone who can transcribe this.)
  12. Last note on the pitching: Randy Wolf, far from young, "has not put together a full season of above-average pitching since 2002" (link) but is somehow in their starting rotation.
  13. 2009 predictions: 84 wins and too close to call from the CHONE system (one of the best predictors), 92 from PECOTA (probably the only better one), and a first-place 91 wins from a math prof at NJIT. All of those are enough to win the West.
  14. They open April with a lot of games on the road. The quick-to-snark fan would say "because clearly it makes no sense to play early games in warm and snowless Los Angeles" but their April road games are in San Diego, Phoenix, Houston, and Denver. You, the Southern Ontarian reader, were not fooled by today's high of 17 and would take a trip to those cities in a second.
  15. There's a joke about "you have the wrong Blake!" but someone else will have to put it together: Casey Blake (age: 35) may or may not start over Blake DeWitt at third (age: much less than 35). I must be missing something. Casey B. is tolerable, but B. DeWitt apparently wasn't handsome enough to tempt Joe Torre.
  16. They do have a good roster of young and talented players, though. Come October, Matt Kemp will be just 25, James Loney only 24 and Andre Ethier all the way up there at 27. Career OPS+ for each of them: 116, 114, 109. It doesn't matter which is which. All three are also at that early stage of their careers where they are ridiculous, ridiculous bargains.
  17. No, seriously, check out that lineup.
  18. Unrelated, but possibly interesting: both Kemp and Ethier hit fly balls in the 2008 NLCS that stayed in the air for six seconds before landing in a glove. Hang time, even on outs, is supposed to be a pretty good indicator of a hitter's power.
  19. Their manager is Joe Torre. Ever heard of him? Conventional widsom: he's one of the best. One statistical view (David Gassko in the 2008 THT Annual): he's about a win below average; good with hitters but awful with pitchers. Paul Quantrill's Overworked Right Arm: agrees.
  20. "Big Bill McCloskey coming up. As soon as he pops out, we'll go right to the post-game show." Wondering who used to have their AAA team in Las Vegas? It was in fact the Dodgers. Thanks to the Blue Jays (well, not really, but work with me), Ken Levine can now mention the Albuquerque Isotopes references during Dodger Talk without collecting residuals (well, he didn't write that episode, but work with me)
  21. Hey, look. Fernando Valenzuela, pitching cereal.
  22. There's nobody at this site who would like to publish a book one day, right? Good.
  23. The Sons of Steve Garvey: Great April Fool's Day gag or greatest April Fool's Day gag?
  24. For almost the bottom line, back to Weisman: "The possibility of having Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and an improving Kershaw for full seasons ought to mitigate many of the concerns that this can’t be as good a team as [last year's]."
  25. And finally...this retrospective-from-the-future could, plausibly, happen: "The Dodgers went 92-70 in 2009 because of an NL-best offense, a young, athletic defense improved by the absences of retired 2B Jeff Kent and Juan Pierre (traded in June), and a bend-but-not-break pitching staff led by Clayton Kershaw. Jason Schmidt stepped in as the team's closer when Jonathan Broxton went on the DL for the month of August, and cemented his 9th inning role with gritty saves in a September pennant race against the Giants, his former team."

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Schmidt will pitch in the 9th inning for the giants (next season) not against them this season. Hopefully he will be escorted to SF by neddy.