Following the Dodgers and Exploring The Team’s Past
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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reported today that Yhency Brazoban didn’t throw today because of shoulder tenderness. This isn’t a good sign this early in camp. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt speculated that Brazoban may have overdid it earlier in the week and the rest is a precaution.
Brazoban threw winter ball and hopefully he’s not coming to camp already wore out. You’d think a reliever wouldn’t have this kind of wear and tear but I guess it’s all relative. I’m not sure if Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll is doing his regular UTK reports, but I’d be interested to see what he has to say about this.
This is about a week old, but it’s worth looking at again. Prospect guru John Sickels recently listed the top 20 prospects for the Dodgers and man is it a sweet list. Ten prospects with a B rating or higher and seven of those have a B+ rating or better. Chad Billingsley leads the list with an A- and right behind him is Joel Guzman who also received an A-. It’s also worth comparing it to a mediocre farm system like the Cincinnati Reds that have only three players with a B rating or better.
So the Dodgers definitely have a good pipeline of players and it’ll be interesting to see who makes the big league team this year. Joel Guzman can play shortstop, third and left field but for him to make the Dodgers out of spring training would mean he’d be skipping AAA. Jonathon Broxton could find himself on the end of the bullpen after a strong September for the Dodgers and Billingsly will probably spend some time in AAA. No major rush because he’s only 21.
This is definitely some good news. The report says Eric Gagne was at about 80%, but the fact that he’s even throwing live is reason to be optimistic.
Frank McCourt recently had a chat over at MLB.com. It’s a solid read but nothing earth shattering. He talks about how he’s expecting the Dodgers to be better and how happy he’s been with the job that Ned Colleti’s done so far. Interestingly, he also answers a question from someone questioning his ownership and McCourt went with the age old, “actions speak louder then words” explanation and that he’s in it for the long haul.
Heading into the 2004 season, Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers from Fox. It was somewhat fitting that a real estate mogul would buy a baseball team with pretty much no money down, but that’s exactly what he did. In fact there was some major concerns about McCourt’s ability to grow the franchise with such a large amount of debt and many speculated that it cost the team Vlad Guerrero when he was a free agent prior to signing with the Angels.
Now, McCourt is settling up some of that debt. He’s giving Fox a total of 24 acres of Boston land. In exchange, he’s getting out from under a $145 million loan that he had with the media giant and in addition, they’ll be taking over some of the third party debt attached to the 24 acres of land. That leaves the team with around $250 million in debt. The $145 million loan was originally part of the financing McCourt used to buy the team.
According to McCourt, the Dodgers no longer lose money and this deal won’t really impact the cash flow of the team because McCourt wasn’t required to make a monthly payment on the loan. So it’s hard to say whether this will mean we’ll be pursuing some free agent gems next year or not.
The Dodgers won their first World Series in 1955. Don Newcombe was the ace of that staff and for the second time in his career, he won 20 games. The following year, in 1956, Newcombe won 27 games and won the very first National League Cy Young award along with the MVP. He was one of the very best pitchers for a six season stretch from his rookie year in 1949 through 1956.
In 1959, the ace was only 22 years old, but he was a good one and a player who’s exploits I’ll be documenting on this site. Don Drysdale led the league in strikeouts that year and he was a pitcher the Dodgers could rely on when his time on the mound came around.
In 1963, the Dodgers had not one ace, but two. Sandy Koufax had eclipsed Don Drysdale as the best pitcher on the team even thought Drysdale was still one of the top pitchers in the National League. Koufax won the MVP and Cy Young that season and led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. The two star pitchers had one last hurrah in 1965 as the Dodgers won their fourth World Series in eleven years. In that season, Koufax won his second Cy Young but Drysdale was no slouch with 23 wins. The only comparison to having these two guys on your team would be when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling led the Diamondbacks to a World Series win in 2001.
In 1981, Fernandomania was alive and well. Taking the baseball world by storm, Fernando Valenzuela won both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young in the strike shortened season. Valenzuela led the league in strikeouts and innings pitched and he was a dominant pitcher for the Dodgers through 1986.
In 1988, Orel Hershiser took the world by storm. He finished the regular season by throwing 59 scoreless innings, topping the former record of Dodger Don Drysdale. He won 23 games and his first and only Cy Young award.
In each of the Dodgers six World Series, they had an ace. And just to be clear, I don’t view an ace as the best pitcher on a given team. Living in Michigan, I saw something on the news about Jeremy Bonderman being the Tigers’ ace. While Bonderman has a bright future, I don’t think he deserves that distinction yet.
I view an ace as being one of the very best pitchers in the league. Great teams very rarely have long losing streaks, and that’s usually because their ace puts a stop to any long drought. We’re talking about a pitcher who, more times then not, will have his name mentioned in the same sentence as Cy Young. Pedro Martinez is an ace. Johan Santana is an ace. Chris Carpenter was an ace last season.
As I look at the Dodgers roster, I don’t see an ace. They have a few quality arms, but nobody that I’d consider a true ace. And while the Dodgers have an excellent pen, that’s usually a complement to a great rotation, it doesn’t make up for the lack of one. So as the Dodgers head into the 2006 season, one of the big questions will be, will one of their pitchers break out and become that ace that was instrumental in Dodger championships past. I’m not optimistic, which means it’s hard to be TOO optimistic about the Dodgers chances in this upcoming season.
While I would have preferred for Jeff Weaver to stay with the Dodgers (Dodger Thoughts give some reasons why), 6-4-2 reports that at least the Dodgers will be getting some compensation. Looks like the Dodgers will not only get the Angels first round pick (26th overall), they’ll also get a supplemental first round pick (31st). Doesn’t do much for us now, but hopefully down the line……
Pitchers and catchers reported today for the Dodgers. Baseball’s here folks and I’m smiling.
John Nadel wrote a pretty good summary of all the moves the Dodgers made this offseason. General Manager Ned Colleti was definitely busy, and in a little over a month, we’ll see if those moves paid off. The infield, while older, should be much improved. What I like is the upside. I know a lot of things have to go right for the Dodgers to secure a playoff spot, but I think Colleti did about as good of a job with what he was handed. If Nomar, Drew, Furcal, Kent and even Mueller do what they’ve done in the past, we could have a pretty good season.
In other former Dodger news, Jeff Weaver will be playing across town for the Angels. Weaver had a solid year in 2005 and I was a little disappointed to see him go, but I’m glad we’re not the ones paying him over $8 million for next year.
Barry Bloom, columnist for MLB.com, is predicting the Dodgers to finish in third place in the NL West, behind the Padres and the Giants. He doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the Dodger’s rotation and he’s also concerned about the potential for injuries among the position players. Nothing too earth shattering in the analysis.
There’s no doubt the biggest free agent signing for the Dodger’s last year was Rafael Furcal. Cesar Izturis got the bulk of the time at shortstop in 2005, and he sported a rather unhealthy OPS+ of 68. While Furcal’s OPS+ was right at the league average (100), that’s still a big upgrade over what we’ve had over the past few years. Another positive is that Furcal’s stolen base percentage the last two years has been 82%, which is above the magic number of 75% to where a player helps or hurts his team on the base paths.
Even more important to the team’s success, in my opinion, is the health of J.D. Drew. After a monster season in 2004 for the Braves, J.D. Drew found himself living up to his “injury prone” reputation and played in only 72 games after having both shoulder and wrist surgery last season. This report from about a month ago isn’t too encouraging, but if Drew can get back into the lineup on a regular basis by say May 1, it’ll go a long way towards giving the Dodgers a chance in winning the NL West.
On Drew’s Baseball Prospectus Pecota card, the 50th percentile is showing him with 489 plate appearances. This is well south of the 644 plate appearances in 2004, but it’s over 50% more then he had in 2005. They project a solid line of .298/.409/.548 with a VORP of 42 (last year his VORP was 27). I think the best Dodger fans could hope for is his 75th percentile, which would give him 535 plate appearances, a 58 VORP and a line of .305/.422/.564, which is eerily similary to what he did for the Braves in 2004.
So while I’m not sure Drew will ever live up to the $11 million he’ll be making in 2006, having him out on the field in May will be probably the biggest factor in the Dodgers success next year.
LA Times columnist Steve Henson wrote a nice column on the Dodgers new manager, Grady Little. Little will take over after Jim Tracy was dismissed during the offseason after coaching the Dodgers for the last five years. Little became infamous after he left Pedro Martinez in a little (no pun intended) too long in game seven of the 2003 ALCS. He was fired after only two seasons in Boston and while the Red Sox won it the year after he was gone, it would have been interesting to see how Little would have done if he had the services of both Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke.
There was some speculation that former Dodger’s pitcher Orel Hershiser would become the next coach but Little ended up getting the job.
Welcome to my Dodgers blog. This blog is a product of several months of waffling and pondering, but I finally made the plunge and I’ll take a stab at following the team and adding my thoughts to the blogosphere. Just as a little background, my father grew up in Brooklyn and despite moving to Michigan before I was born, he remained a Dodgers fan. He rooted for the Tigers, but his heart was still Dodger blue. I adopted that passion for the Dodgers and I’ve been following them ever since.
I have two people to thank for this blog. One I’ve been corresponding with for a few months now and the other doesn’t even know I exist. After reading one of his columns over at the Hardball Times, I began corresponding with Brian Borawski, who also writes on his own Tiger fan site, Tigerblog. He’s the one who prodded me into finally doing this, and actually helped me set up the site. When it launches later this year, I’ll be part of his informal network called Baseball Historians.
The other person I have to thank is Jon Weisman, who writes on his own blog Dodger Thoughts. Jon’s such a great writer and he writes with such passion. More importantly, he seems like he has a ton of fun when he writes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to fill his shoes or be the next Jon, but by reading his book (which is a great read for any Dodger fan) and reading his site, it made me want to give blogging a shot to share in the fun.
And not that Jon’s is the only great site. 6-4-2 is another great blog and I put a few more of the ones I frequent in my links section. If you’re not there, it’s not that I don’t like your site, it’s just that I haven’t found you yet.
So what will you see on this blog? I’ll be following the 2006 Dodgers as well as their minor league affiliates. I’m also extremely interested in baseball history so in April, I’m going to follow the career of one of the greatest Dodger pitchers of all time. April 17 is the 50th anniversary of Don Drysdale’s major league debut. Throughout the season, I’m going to document his appearances in a diary style that Brian has done over at Tigerblog for the 1935 Tigers and 1984 Tigers. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun reading it as I’ll have writing about it. I also plan on doing season lookbacks similar to this one to document the Dodgers history.
Hopefully you’ll stop by now and then. For those of you who don’t know, the name of the blog is a play on an old nickname for the Dodgers, which is documented here.
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