October 2008

Congratulations are in order…

The Phillies are the World Champs and if nothing else, it feels good to know that we were beaten by the team that won it all. Congratulations to the entire Phillies organization, including our Communications counterparts Larry Shenk, Bonnie Clark, Scott Palmer, Leigh Tobin, Greg Casterioto, and Kevin Gregg among others. This means that since front-office blogging began with Scott Reifert (Inside the White Sox in 2005…when they won it all) and now Phillies Insider, it’s destined to be our year in 2009, right? (Even the Red Sox have apparently started an anonymous front office blog earlier this year, though they didn’t have it for last year’s World Championship).

Actually, while I wish that really had a bearing on what goes on down on the field, I have to say that as I drove home today from our departmental offsite team building trip to Danny’s Farm, I was listening to the last inning of the World Series and then the postgame interviews and a few things jumped out at me. The first voice (albeit almost completely gone) to come on was Jayson Werth, who was a really good person who never really was healthy enough in Los Angeles to show his ability and I’m very happy for him and his family.

He said something in the postgame that was echoed by Charlie Manuel, Pat Gillick and almost everyone else when they were asked what the difference was between this year’s team and last year’s, which reached the postseason but lost in the NLDS. All of them said that it was the experience gained in last year’s playoffs that helped them win it all this year and that’s a very reassuring for our team, which gained some much-needed experience. We have a very busy offseason ahead of us but regardless of how it turns out, we’re going to have nearly a dozen players at the bare minimum who experienced the NLCS this year and will be better off for it.

Anyway, tonight is the official end to the 2008 season and the beginning of 2009. Free agents start filing tomorrow and decisions have to be made on players’ options, trade proposals and much more. Next week is the GM meetings, which don’t make as much news as the Winter Meetings, but a lot of the groundwork gets laid during that period of time.

So congrats again to the Phillies…here’s hoping they’re congratulating us a year from now.

P.S. Spoke with Andre yesterday and he said a new Arizona restaurant review is coming soon…

The Hot Stove is burning…

As always, Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts has a very good caveat for enjoying this time of year if you’re a baseball fan. I, too, thought it was rather odd how every major media outlet jumped all over a supposed conversation with one person who supposedly had knowledge, but I guess that’s part of the fun of this time of year. In any event, Jon says it better than anyone, so check it out.

Also, there are three cool things coming up at Dodger Stadium that you might or might not know about. The first is the Madonna concert on Nov. 6. For those who haven’t heard, she’s performing here next week…that’s about all I can add on that front.

The second is a chance to take batting practice on the field, with Russell Martin and Andre Ethier serving as instructors. The event is called “Under the Lights” and I know how many Ethierholics there are here (that’s your term, not mine!) so check it out.

And finally, there’s an event going on this Saturday — the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual walk, which is one of the primary fundraising events for JDRF in Los Angeles.  I have to be up front and honest here – I recently joined the board of directors for the LA chapter of JDRF, so obviously I think this is a very noteworthy charity. It was brought to my attention by former Dodger Todd Zeile, whose daughter, Hannah, battles Type 1 diabetes every day. Adding to the grandeur of Saturday’s walk is an appearance by Nick Jonas (for any of you with kids or those of you who are Jonas Brothers fans). Plus, it’s a reason to come to Dodger Stadium in early November!

Anyway, if you would like to donate to the JDRF, here’s a very easy link and I know a lot of people who would be extremely grateful for your big hearts. You can donate at the main site of JDRF or the site I’ve started to help raise money, which is here.  

Friday wrap-up

First of all, thanks to all of you for the feedback regarding the environment at the stadium, especially dcollins for kicking off the thread. I can assure you that we take all of these comments very seriously and that much like all areas of the Dodger experience, we’ll be reviewing this particular topic closely and working to drastically improve in 2009. It’s a topic that has been discussed at the highest levels of the team and all of your input has been and will continue to be used to make things better.

Regarding Andre’s Dining with ‘Dre blog, yes, I believe he’s planning on continuing it during the offseason but I think it’s only fair that we give him and the other players some down time to hang out with their families. If I haven’t heard from him in a week or two, I’ll hit him up for an entry.

Birthday wishes go out today to Rafael Furcal, who turns 31 (as well as Wilton Guerrero, who is 34 and F.P. Santangelo, who is 44). I’d love to see Raffy back in a Dodger uniform (as would Ned and Joe and Frank) and I know he wants to be back, too. Hopefully we can find a way to make it work.

Meanwhile, with the World Series underway, it’s a good time to point out that the L.A. Times has a “Where are they now” gallery of the ’88 team.

And finally, for those looking for something to do this weekend/next week or more importantly, for a place to pick up a pumpkin, drop by Danny’s Farm in Altadena. The farm was started by former Dodger Jim Gott and his wife, Cathy, and they’re having a Fall Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 26-30 from 4-7 p.m. The farm was named in honor of their son, Danny, who has autism, and is a really cool place to hang out with the animals. Pumpkins are for sale but are also free for families in need. A suggested $5 donation admits one person, but no one will be turned away.  

Bill James' thoughts on the Dodgers…

Just got this press release that you can all debate. Personally, I’d like to think we’re higher than the 13th best young talent in the Majors, but I can’t say that I know every other organization or have studied them to be able to compare. I’m certain that Chad Billingsley got short-changed in this discussion and DeWitt is not even mentioned in the list of talented yong Dodgers, but in any event, enjoy debating…

Bill James names Matt Kemp and James Loney among top 25 young talent in baseball

Claims Dodgers #13 among all major league teams in young talent

In the second year of his newly developed “Young Talent Inventory,” groundbreaking baseball analyst Bill James names Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp 7th and first baseman James Loney 20th on his list of the top 25 major league ballplayers under 30 years old. In The Bill James Handbook 2009, to be published on November 1, 2008, James also judges the Dodgers to have the thirteenth-best overall young talent in Major League Baseball, up seven places from last year.

“2008 really was not a great year for young talent, except pitchers,” James says in his new book. “Some young position players took a step forward (Dustin Pedroia, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Stephen Drew, Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, Jose Lopez, Geovany Soto, Nate McLouth); others took a step backward (Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francouer). But the only really huge talent to emerge in 2008 was Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays.”

“In pitching, on the other hand, it was a good year,” argues James. “Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, John Danks and others emerged as major young talents–others including Jair Jurrjens, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey and Edinson Volquez.” James points out that evaluating the best young talent is a transitory task: “Virtually everyone who is on this list now will drop off within two years. In baseball, you get over being ‘young’ really quickly.” What is remarkable about this year’s list, he says, is that there is little turnover this year compared to last, which means that relatively little new talent emerged.

To achieve his inventory, James first eliminates from the list all players who were 30 years old or older in 2008. He employs two widely used statistics–“Runs Created” for position players and “Runs Allowed” for pitchers–as the basis for comparison. He makes several adjustments, including for injuries suffered during the year and the differences in predictability between pitchers and position players, and then takes into account the number of years the player should be at his peak performance.

James lists the Dodgers as the #13 team in all of baseball for young talent, just below the L.A. Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland A’s: “Nobody on the A’s is all that good, at least not yet, but they lead the world in guys who should get better. The Dodgers are the exact opposite of the A’s; they have very impressive young talent in Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley, Loney and Kershaw, Broxton and Martin, but their issue is depth.”

Only four teams–the Brewers (Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun), the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), the Red Sox (Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester), and the Dodgers (Matt Kemp and James Loney)–placed two players in James’ list of top 25 young players.

Making James’ list of the top 25 young players in order were:

 1. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, age 24
 2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins shortstop, age 24
 3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants pitcher, age 24
 4. David Wright, New York Mets third baseman, age 25
 5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, age 24
 6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, age 24
 7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, age 23
 8. Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher, age 26
 9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets shortstop, age 25
10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles right fielder, age 24
11. Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals pitcher, age 24
12. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman, age 23
13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, age 24
14. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies shortstop, age 23
15. Felix Hern! andez, Seattle Mariners pitcher, age 22
16. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox pitcher, age 24
17. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, age 22
18. John Danks, Chicago White Sox pitcher, age 23
19. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres first baseman, age 26
20. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, age 24
21. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop, age 25
22. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher, age 24
23. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers first baseman, age 25
24. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians center fielder, age 25
25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman, age 24

James also listed teams in order of overall young talent currently on the big league squad:

 1. Minnesota Twins
 2. Arizona Diamondbacks
 3. Tampa Bay Rays
 4. Florida Marlins
 5. Kansas City Royals
 6. Milwaukee Brewers
 7. Cleveland Indians
 8. Colorado Rockies
 9. Atlanta Braves
10. Boston Red Sox
11. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
12. Oakland A’s
13. Los Angeles Dodgers
14. St. Louis Cardinals
15. Cincinnati Reds
16. New York Mets
17. Pittsburgh Pirates
18. Seattle Mariners
19. Texas Rangers
20. Philadelphia Phillies
21. San Diego Padres
22. San Francisco Giants
23. Washington Nationals
24. Baltimore Orioles
25. Chicago White Sox
26. Chicago Cubs
27. Detroit Tigers
28. Toronto Blue Jays
29. New York Yankees
30. Houston Astros

As James has noted often, “Competitive teams don’t have as much room to let young players thrash around, and consequently most of the top teams don’t show as having a lot of young talent. They may have the young talent; it just isn’t in the lineup yet.”

For further information on The Bill James Handbook 2009
go to www.actasports.com or call Gregory Pierce at 800-397-2282.

Looking ahead to 2009…

Thanks to everyone for the kind words on the last thread. Yes, I read through almost the entire thread (can’t say I read every single word), but I’d be happy to serve as the tour guide for ITD posters. We’ll figure out a date early in ’09 and have everyone out to the stadium.

I’m curious to see what everyone would do if they were the GM of the team. Now is a great time to put your thoughts down for everyone to see so you can go back at the end of the year and see how it would have turned out. Of course, try to be realistic. We aren’t going to acquire Peavy for Kenley Jansen, so if you’re proposing a trade, think about the other team’s needs, the financial implications, etc. This is one of the most enjoyable times of the year, in my opinion. I hope I won’t get cited for tampering and don’t worry, Kenley, you’re not on the trading block (as far as I know). I just picked a name from our minor league system.

Anyway, I heard a quote last week that I think was really relevant to our team’s finish.

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

That certainly holds true for the ’08 Dodgers and in most walks of life. Let’s hope that experience proves valuable in ’09.

 

Thank you…

On a night like tonight, what more can be said?

On behalf of the entire organization — Thank you, Dodger fans, for a great year…

It's do-or-die time…

We need everyone’s support tonight. A win this evening would give us awesome momentum heading to Philadelphia, so if you’re coming out to the stadium, be loud. Steve Garvey was telling our office yesterday about the “10th man” and the role that you all played in helping us win three straight against Houston in October 1980.

It’s going to be a powerful night here, with everyone on their feet every time we get two strikes on a batter…and any key point in the game. I know you all know this, but it’s up to you guys to get everyone else up out of their seats.

Here’s tonight’s lineup, with more notes below…I fully expect to be posting another lineup in two days:

Furcal, SS

Ethier, RF

Manny, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Blake, 3B

Kemp, CF

DeWitt, 2B

Billingsley, P

THEY’VE BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT - Since the LCS became a seven-game series in 1985, 26 teams have taken a 3-1 advantage and six times, the team that trailed has come back to win – the 1996 Braves (with Greg Maddux), the 2003 Marlins (with Juan Pierre), the 1986, 2004, and 2007 Red Sox (with the latter two teams featuring Derek Lowe in ’04 and Manny Ramirez in both series), and the 1985 Royals.

► Five teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit in the postseason after losing Game 4 at home – the 1958 Yankees, the 1968 Tigers, and the 1979 Pirates all did it in the World Series, while the 1985 Royals and 2003 Marlins did it in the League Championship Series.                Source: retrosheet.org

IF AT FIRST - The Dodgers have scored in the first inning in four of their seven postseason games in 2008. In fact, the Dodgers are batting .330 in the first six innings of the LCS and just .111 from the seventh inning on.            Source: STATS, LLC

HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION - From 1995-2006, the Dodgers posted a 1-12 record over four postseason appearances. So far this year, Los Angeles is 4-3. 

BUCKING THE TREND – The Dodgers and Phillies have played 12 times this season and Monday night marked the first game that was not won by the home team, with Philadelphia taking seven of the 12 games overall. 

SEÑOR OCTUBRE – Manny Ramirez drove in a run in Game 4 for an eighth consecutive LCS game, extending his Major League record. He now has nine RBI during the 2008 postseason and 73 in his career, which ranks second all-time behind Bernie Williams (80). Ramirez has hit safely in 42 of his last 47 postseason games, with a .360 (63-for-175) average during that span.  His teams are 59-43 overall in the postseason.

► Ramirez is batting .500 (6-for-12) during this series. The Dodgers’ NLCS record for batting average (minimum 10 at-bats) is Dusty Baker, who hit .467 (7-for-15) during the 1978 NLCS vs. Philadelphia.

► Ramirez’s six RBI this series is two shy of the Dodger series record held by Baker in the 1977 series, also against Philadelphia.

IN A YEAR THAT HAS BEEN SO IMPROBABLE… – On this date in 1988, an injured Kirk Gibson hit a two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium to give Los Angeles a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series over Oakland. The homer was later voted the Top Moment in Los Angeles Sports History.

LONE-STAR - James Loney is batting .308 (8-for-26) during the postseason with eight RBI, the second-highest total on the team behind Manny Ramirez (9). Loney has at least one hit in all seven of his career postseason starts.

AN ELECTION YEAR - Tonight marks the final presidential debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain prior to the November election. Los Angeles has reached the postseason in four of the last six election years (1988, 1996, 2004, and 2008), including their last World Championship just 19 days before George H.W. Bush won the 1988 general election. The Dodgers have also appeared in the World Series in the election years of 1956, 1952, 1920, and 1916.

BILLS BACK ON THE BUMP - Chad Billingsley takes the mound tonight at Dodger Stadium, where he has not lost since July 8. Since then, the right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.60 ERA in seven starts at home.

WHEN IT COUNTS - During the 2008 postseason, the Dodgers are batting .286 (20-for-70) with runners in scoring position, .342 (13-for-38) with RISP and two outs and .455 (5-for-11) with the bases loaded.

TOUCHING HOME - Rafael Furcal has scored five runs so far during the NLCS, two shy of the club record for a League Championship Series held by Steve Sax, who scored seven times against the Mets during the 1988 NLCS.

THE FIRST PITCH - Tonight’s ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda. Lasorda guided Los Angeles to four National League pennants, eight division titles and two World Championships during an extraordinary 20-year career as skipper.

 

No one ever said this would be easy, right?

Just a few things to remember…

Ten times this season, we’ve won three straight games…

Seventeen times this season, we’ve won back-to-back games on the road…

We’re 12-7 in our last 19 road games…

We’ve won 23 of our last 34 games…

We’ve got Billingsley, Kuroda, and Lowe, each of whom has shown that he can win in the postseason, going on regular rest starting tomorrow night…

And tomorrow, when 56,800 fans will be showing up on our doorstep, marks the 20th anniversary that a guy named Kirk Gibson hobbled up to home plate against the best closer in baseball and with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning and his team down by a run, hit a two-run homer that won Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and took a team that no one said could beat a highly-favored team to its last World Championship…

If we don’t think we can do it, neither will anyone else. But if we believe, like Tommy and the ’88 Dodgers did back then, it’ll be all the sweeter when we pull it off.

Hang in there everyone and keep thinking positively!

 

Tonight's lineup

You guys rocked this place last night. Let’s do it again this evening. Here’s the lineup…

Furcal, SS

Ethier, RF

Manny, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

DeWitt, 2B

Blake, 3B

Pierre, CF

Lowe, P

Game 3 lineups

Rollins, SS
Victorino, CF
Utley, 2B
Howard, 1B
Burrell, LF
Werth, RF
Feliz, 3B
Ruiz, C
Moyer, LHP

 

Furcal, SS
Ethier, RF
Ramirez, LF
Martin, C
Nomar, 1B
Blake, 3B
Kemp, CF
DeWitt, 2B
Kuroda, RHP

Needless to say, it’s the biggest game of the year tonight. Here are some notes we put in the game notes for the media…

► Tonight’s game is the first NLCS game at Dodger Stadium in exactly 20 years. Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS vs. New York was on Oct. 12, 1988. Orel Hershiser, who is broadcasting tonight’s game for ESPN Radio, shut out the New York Mets, 6-0 to capture the National League pennant for the Dodgers.

RECORD-SETTING INFIELD – Tonight’s ceremonial first pitches will be thrown out by Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey, who played together with the Dodgers for a Major League-record 8 ½ seasons. The quartet appeared in four World Series, including the World Championship team of 1981. Lopes currently serves as the first base coach for the Phillies, Garvey and Cey work in the Dodgers’ front office, and Russell works for Major League Baseball’s umpiring division.

BATTLED TESTED – Nomar Garciaparra has appeared in the LCS twice with Boston in 1999 and 2003. The Whittier native batted .400 (8-for-20) with two homers and five RBI in 1999. In 29 career postseason games, Garciaparra is batting .318 (34-for-107) with a .380 on-base percentage, .598 slugging percentage, seven homers, and 23 RBI. He ranks seventh among active players with a .314 career batting average.

THIS DATE IN DODGER HISTORY – On this date in 1985, the Dodgers notched five doubles in Game 3 at St. Louis to tie the club NLCS record set on Oct. 7, 1977.

GETTING ON - Andre Ethier is batting just .222 (4-for-18) in five postseason games this year, but he has reached base at a .391 clip during the playoffs, as he’s drawn five walks. Since August 5, Ethier is hitting .354 with a .439 on-base percentage and .615 slugging percentage.

WHAT A RELIEF – A quintet of Dodger relievers threw 5.2 scoreless innings in Game 2. In five postseason games, the Dodger bullpen has posted a 1.65 ERA (3 ER/16.1 IP). During the regular season, the Dodgers’ relief corps ranked second in the NL with a 3.33 ERA behind only the Phillies (3.19).
 
SEÑOR OCTUBRE – Manny Ramirez drove in three runs in Game 2 to give him seven during the playoffs and 71 in his postseason career, which ranks second all-time behind Bernie Williams (80). Ramirez has hit safely in 40 of his last 45 postseason games, with a .351 (60-for-171) average during that span.  His teams are 58-42 overall in the postseason.

► Ramirez has three homers in his first five playoff games this year. The only other Los Angeles Dodgers to accomplish that feat are Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, who homered three times in the first five games of the 1978 NLCS.

MEDIA MADHOUSE – More than 800 credentials have been issued for the 2008 NLCS at Dodger Stadium. That includes more than 30 daily newspapers from around the country, several wire services and major sports websites, and media outlets from at least eight different countries – the United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador.

CATCHING SOME HITS – Russell Martin has a hit in all five postseason games this season and seven of the eight playoff games he’s played in during his career. He has a .313 career postseason average (10-for-32) with five RBI and six runs scored.
 

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