September 2007

High Quality Starts

If John Lowe, the writer in Detroit, can come up with a statistic of quality starts, why can’t we come up with another one? If six innings and three earned runs (4.50 ERA) is a quality start, how about a high quality start? That would be seven or more innings and two or less earned runs or a 2.57 ERA at its worst.

Brad Penny, who is tied for the Major League lead with 25 quality starts, has 13 "high quality starts" among them, which is pretty impressive. Peavy has 15 HQS in 25 QS, Dan Haren has 13 HQS in 25 QS, Carmona has 15 HQS in 23 QS and Sabathia has 16 HQS in 23 QS. Just some food for thought to show how good Penny has been (and Peavy and Sabathia, for that matter).

Meanwhile, in regards to tonight’s game, Derek Lowe cannot make the start due to the hand injury he suffered yesterday during pregame batting practice. Chad Billingsley will pitch tonight on normal rest followed by David Wells on normal rest tomorrow. We’ll see where we go from there…

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Kent, 2B

Loney, 1B

Martin, C

Ethier, LF

Abreu, 3B

Billingsley, P

If you’re counting, that’s six kids in nine spots, all of whom were developed in the Dodger farm system (with the exception of Ethier, who spent time in the system).

Now it’s off to the press conference where we’ll announce many of the plans in place for next year’s 50th anniversary celebration. Then it’s Team Photo Day where the guys take the photo for the season. More on those events later…

Tonight's game

Getting underway in just a few hours with a rather huge homestand. Hope you’ll be out here.

As for the question about Saturday’s game, FOX picked it up so it moved from 7:10 to 12:55 p.m.

Here’s the lineup for tonight:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Loney, 1B

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Martin, C

Ethier, RF

Nomar, 3B

Loaiza, P

A day to regroup

That was a pretty tough loss yesterday (and Friday), as both games were games that we could have won. Not much more you can say about it other than needing a huge homestand against the two teams ahead of us. A sweep of the Padres would put us right back in the mix for the wild card going into the Diamondbacks series and a sweep there would put us right back in the division race. OK, it’s unrealistic to think we’ll sweep the homestand, but five out of six would be nice.

Meanwhile, I know that a couple weeks ago, I told everyone to keep an eye out in Wednesdsay’s L.A. Times for a cool article but it got pushed back a few days and ran yesterday. In case you missed it, here it is.

Otherwise, not much going on over here today. Enjoy the "off day."

Beware of the Fog

There’s a cloud over AT&T Park this morning and maybe it’s the start of the NFL season. I, for one, am not ready to start thinking about football — not with three weeks left to go in the regular season, most of which come against the very teams we’ll need to beat to play in October.

It was great to see a couple of Inside the Dodgers readers up here in the Bay Area over the weekend. Glad you guys are all up north supporting the team.

Meanwhile, I know a lot of you guys have been worried about Russell needing more days off so I did some research to see how he stacked up historically against Dodger catchers. With 20 games left and three off days, it’s conceivable he could catch every game until the end of the year. If he were to do that, he would have caught 149 games and would break the record for most games caught by an LA Dodger catcher, but not by very much. Believe it or not, Mike Piazza caught 146, 146 and 139 games in 1993, 1996 and 1997, respectively, and somehow it didn’t seem to hurt him in the long run (the strike-shortened years of 1994 and 95 were the main reasons his games were down in those seasons).

And though Martin’s run production has tailed off a bit in the second half, he did did hit .300 with a .432 OBP and .511 slugging percentage in August, which is when the hot summer months usually take a toll on catchers across the game. He’s batting .280 so far in September, but it’s only a week so it’s tough to gauge much from such a small sample size.

Defensively, his numbers in throwing out runners in the second half are down (33 percent to 22 percent), but he’s thrown out six of his last 16 (38 percent), so he’s getting better lately. Plus, he hasn’t had a passed ball since the All-Star Break.

So while I certainly understand everyone’s concern for a player who will hopefully be a cornerstone of this team for several years to come, it’s not exactly like he’s being driven into the ground to the detriment of his future. Or at least there’s a historical precedent to look back on in that regard.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw a few facts out there so the debate is actually based on reality over beliefs.

Here’s the lineup for the road trip finale here in SF:

Abreu, SS (day off for Furcal)

Pierre, CF (batting .333 since the start of August)

Kemp, RF (his average is 5th in baseball over the last three weeks)

Kent, 2B

Loney, 1B

Martin, C

Ethier, LF

Nomar, 3B

Penny, P (he and Webb have the most wins in the NL over the past two years)

Bounce back time

Another huge game and it seems like every time, David Wells is on the mound for all the world to see (or at least the regional world to see).

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Hillenbrand, 3B

Wells, P

Today's game

Five home grown guys in the lineup again today…Nomar’s back at third base.

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Kent, 2B

Nomar, 3B

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Ethier, LF

Billingsley, P

I've gotta say it was a good day

So that was, um, a big win.

I’m guessing most of you agree at this point that today was our biggest win of the season, to date. If we are able to erase this deficit and get to the postseason, it’s safe to say that we’ll point to this victory as the day that the team’s fortunes turned. And since we have erased four games off the first-place lead over the last 18 days, it’s entirely possible that it can be done again over the next 18 days, which would put the Dodgers in first place by half a game with one week left to play.

This was truly a team victory, with help coming from the young guys (Loney, Kemp and Ethier), the guys in their prime (Beimel and Lowe) and the veterans (Saito and Gonzo).

I’m sure a few of you are wondering what Luis Gonzalez’s main contribution was today and while he went 0-for-4 on the field in a tough game for him, he was the driving force behind the postgame festivities. As has been a ritual in Major League clubhouse for many years, at the end of the season the rookies often are required to dress up in some sort of outfit that is intended to embarrass them and bring a little humility to them. A couple years ago, we had all of our first-year players in ******* outfits as we left San Francisco, which was a sight to see.

Last year, no one wound up taking the reins and making this happen so this season, Gonzo decided that it would be good team bonding if all of those guys had to get the "rookie treatment" for the day.

So, he organized the whole thing and there were about a dozen players on the plane with us who looked absolutely ridiculous in their costumes. Yet, the postgame shenanigans absolutely generated clubhouse chemistry and camaraderie like nothing we’ve seen this year. Every player, young and old, was laughing hysterically at these outfits. Among them:

Chad Billingsley as Robin Hood

James Loney dressed as Popeye
Chin-lung Hu dressed as a sorcerer
Tony Abreu dressed as Pocahantas
Delwyn Young as Snow White
Andy LaRoche in full clown attire
Russell Martin as Nacho Libre
Jonathan Broxton as a monk
Andre Ethier and Eric Hull in strange Vegas showgirl type outfits
and the kicker of them all was Matt Kemp, who was in some sort of "fat suit" with a bikini.

Of course, for many years this ritual was kept hidden from the public but in today’s My Space and You Tube age, I’m guessing that many of the photos are already circulating around the Internet, as the players were paraded around outside Wrigley Field in front of the fans and then dropped off a few blocks from our hotel in San Francisco and are now walking back here so that they could walk amongst the public. Many people commented that they won’t stand out in San Francisco and having seen that city at Halloween, they might be right. But there’s a lot to be said about a win like this and what it does for the team.

Now it’s on to AT&T Park, where the team has won the last 11 games and hoping to make it 14. Tomorrow Chad gets a chance to win his 11th game and while I don’t even know how to explain the outfit he was stuck wearing after today’s game, it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to seeing him back in a Dodger uniform at 7:05 tomorrow night.

Day game

Russell’s back in the lineup today…day off for Jeff Kent.

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Gonzo, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

LaRoche, 3B

Abreu, 2B

Lowe, P

Midwest Summers

All those great things I was saying about summer in Chicago…well, now it’s raining. Should be able to get the game in, though.

Russell Martin is out of the lineup today and he went for a precautionary MRI on his left knee because of the way he went into home plate yesterday, but we still have no results. From what it sounds like, no one seems terribly concerned but since Grady was planning for an off day tonight, it made sense to make sure everything is ok in there.

Here’s the lineup:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Kent, 2B

Ethier, LF

Hillenbrand, 3B

Loney, 1B

Lieberthal, C

Stults, P

My kind of town

Los Angeles will always be home for me and come January and February, we’re all reminded how good we have it out there, but summer time in Chicago is among the greatest places to be in the world. The weather is perfect, everyone is out and about and from what it seems, they have a real appreciation of the summer months because they know how brutal it is in the winter.

Yesterday was an incredible day because it was a holiday here and the city was in rare form, but obviously the results of the game were the highlight. That was all we could have asked of Esteban Loaiza and hopefully it will carry over to today.

We have added six people to the team – Nomar is activated off the DL and Erics Stults and Hull, Delwyn Young, Tony Abreu and Wilson Valdez were all recalled. Since Wrigley is the third oldest park in the country (I think), you can imagine how crowded the clubhouse is, but so it goes. I’m actually in the dugout right now, where Kim Ng will be hosting a live web chat in 45 minutes (at 2 p.m. PT).

Here’s today’s lineup:

Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Kemp, RF

Kent, 2B

Gonzo, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

LaRoche, 3B

Penny, P

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