Following the Dodgers and Exploring The Team’s Past
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The Dodgers extended second baseman Jeff Kent’s contract through 2007. Kent will make $11.5 million and the team has the option of keeping him in 2008 for $9 million. If they decline the option, they’ll still have to pay Kent $500,000. The option would become guaranteed if Kent logs 550 plate appearances in 2007.
This is an awful lot of money to be paying for a guy who will be turning 39 next year, and he plays a position that tends to be harsh to players when they do decline (think Bret Boone). There’s no doubt Kent’s a great player, and if he’s not the best hitting second baseman of all time, he’s definitely in the top five. I just think that’s way too much money to be throwing around on a player who could decline in a hurry.
The spring season is winding down, and hope springs eternal for every baseball fan (okay, maybe not Royals fans). Each team starts with a clean slate and last year’s follies are long forgotten. It’s good time to think happy thoughts.
Which got me thinking about the last time the Dodgers won the World Series. It’s hard to believe that’s been 18 years. After back to back 89 loss seasons, the Dodgers weren’t thought of as contenders in 1988. They did make a big splash by signing outfielder Kirk Gibson after he was set free from Detroit because of the collusion problems that the league had. In a lot of ways, outside of Gibson, the Dodgers were bringing back a similar team from the previous two years.
Kirk Gibson is remembered for two things. The first was a homerun in game five of the 1984 World Series. The Tigers were up three games to one and they lead the Padres 5-4 in that game. Kirk Gibson hit a three run homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the game away. And then his most memorable moment was in game one of the 1988 World Series when he hit a walk off two run homerun off of Dennis Eckersley to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the World Series. I contend that neither of these homeruns were his most important clutch homerun.
At the end of April, the Dodgers were an impressive 13-7 and they were a half game back of the Astros. By the end of May, they had turned the tables and they were a half game ahead of the Astros. In the NL East, the powerhouse Mets were rolling. In June, after winning nine of ten at one point, the Dodgers had built a nice cushion that would hold. The Astros, Giants and Reds all made runs at the Dodgers, but they finished with a comfortable seven game lead over the second place Reds.
The Dodgers finished with 94 wins that season and they were definitely the underdogs against the Mets, who had won the World Series just two years before in 1986. The Dodgers didn’t get off to a good start. In game one, Orel Hershiser was just as good as Dwight Gooden for eight innings. In the top of the ninth, the Dodgers tagged Hershiser for two runs and then J.P. Howell gave up the go ahead run and just like that, the Dodgers were down by a game.
Game two went a little better and they tied the series up 1-1. Game three went to the Mets and game four looked pretty dire. The Mets jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and that lead held until the top of the ninth. John Shelby drew a lead off walk, and then catcher Mike Scioscia, who had three homeruns in 408 at bats all season, took Dwight Gooden deep to tie the game up. The Mets went down in order in the bottom of the ninth and the game went into extra frames.
Neither team scored in the tenth or the eleventh. Then in the top of the twelth and with two outs, Kirk Gibson hit a solo homerun off of reliever Roger McDowell, and the Dodgers had the lead. Tim Leary and Jesse Orosco loaded up the bases in the bottom of the twelth, but Hershiser came in and got Kevin McReynolds to pop up to end the game.
That solo homerun, in my opinion, was way more important then either of Gibson’s other two big homeruns. In 1984, the Tigers already had the lead in that game, and had they lost, they still would have had two more games to put the Padres away. If the Dodgers would have lost game one of the 1988 World Series, they would have needed to win four of six to walk away with the win. And with Orel Hershiser set to throw in three of those six games, I still would have liked the Dodgers chances. In the 1988 NLCS, had Gibson not come through, the Mets could have taken a critical 3-1 lead, and the Dodgers appearance in the 1988 World Series might not have ever happened.
Rafael Furcal went two for four today and improved his spring batting average to .417 (10 for 24). He has yet to hit a homerun so far but he’s only struck out twice and he’s stolen three bases.
Eric Gagne threw his seventh inning of the spring and he gave up his second earned run. Oddly, he’s also been walking batters. He now has four versus eight strikeouts.
Probably the biggest surprise of the spring has been Bret Tomko. He’s thrown 20 innings and given up only four runs (three earned). He has an impressive 12/4 strikeout to walk ratio and he’s given up only one homerun.
I was a little disappointed Hee Sop Choi was thrown aside. The Red Sox picked him up off of waivers and it’ll be interesting to see if the guy is ever really given a proper chance. Choi was a guy who was projected as having 50 homerun potential back before he broke into the big leagues. Since then he’s bounced around and was kept on a short leash wherever he ended up.
Aaron Sele pitched the Dodgers into a hole that the team couldn’t hit their way out of yesterday. Sele lasted only two innings and he gave up six runs on seven hits, two of which were homeruns. With a score of 8-3 heading into the ninth, the Dodgers scored three runs to make it 8-6, but the team couldn’t put three more on the board to complete the comeback.
Jae Seo, fresh from having a solid WBC, will make his Dodger spring debut tomorrow. So far, the Dodgers have liked what they’ve seen from Seo and he’s pretty much been penciled in at the fifth spot in the rotation.
Eric Gagne threw another shutout inning on Sunday as he continues to make progress after missing a chunk of last season. If we’re going to be there in the NL West, we need Gagne on the mound and it’s encouraging that’s he’s thrown well even if he hasn’t thrown often.
Russell Martin’s two run, two out single in the top of the ninth gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead over the Tigers. Chad Billingsley was sharp in his start. The pitching prospects only blemish was a solo homerun he gave up to Craig Monroe. Hong-Chih Kuo had a solid relief appearance. The left hander struck out four batters over two innings, and he now has eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings this spring. He’s given up only one hit and he’s walked one, and he’s making a solid run at securing a spot in the pen for the Dodgers. Ken Gurnick wrote about how long it’s been since the Dodgers had a great left handed reliever and Kuo might give the Dodgers exactly what they need.
Cody Ross had another good game. He went two for two. In a past post I talked about Ross probably not having a spot on the team and that he’s probably headed for Vegas, although a reader pointed he’s out of options. At one point, Ross was a high end prospect in a horrible farm system for the Tigers. I’m not sure if he’d clear waivers though.
Derek Lowe throws for the Dodgers tomorrow against the Nationals.
Joel Guzman, Cody Ross and Bill Mueller all went yard today as the Dodgers topped the Marlins. The Dodgers scored all five of their runs in different innings. Eric Gagne threw a shutout inning and he continues to look sharp. Gagne’s now thrown three innings and he’s given up two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. According to this story, Gagne is taking things one step at a time.
Maybe I spoke too soon about the hitting carrying the pitching. Bret Tomko gave up only three hits in five innings, Eric Gagne threw a shutout inning and Yhency Brazoban topped them all by striking out the side in his inning. Jeff Kent went yard for the time this spring and J.D. Drew continued to mash the ball. He singled and tripled in the Dodgers win. The Dodgers face the Red Sox tomorrow afternoon with D.J. Houlton geting the start.
J.D. Drew continues to impress. In February, it didn’t look he’d be ready for opening day based on some of the things I was reading then. So far this spring, he’s seven for fifteen with two homeruns, two triples, five RBIs and five runs. He’s only struck out twice vs. two walks.
Reserve outfielder Cody Ross is having an odd spring. He’s four for seventeen (.235), but three of his four hits have been homeruns so he’s slugging .824. Ross probably won’t have a shot at making the team this year with Joel Guzman moving to left field. Ross hit 22 homeruns last year for the Dodger’s AAA team and slugged .509. Wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up having another solid season for Las Vegas this year.
The pitchers are having a great spring. Tomko, Derek Lowe and Aaron Sele all have started at least two games, and they’ve given up only one earned run between them. Brad Penny is weighing down the rotation with his 3.00 ERA and 1-0 record.
New GM Ned Colleti was busy this offseason. Whether you like the moves or not, I think he really addressed our infield needs and if Joel Guzman is the real deal, we’re going to sport a formidable lineup. In fact, this could be the first year where the pitching doesn’t carry the hitting. It could be the other way around. Here are the projected starters at each position, their weighted mean average VORP from their Baseball Prospectus PECOTA card, along with their improve and break out percentages.
Catcher – Dioner Navarro (10.3 VORP, 52% Improve, 32% Breakout)
First Base – Nomar Gariaparra (14.4 VORP, 28% Improve, 8% Breakout)
Second Base – Jeff Kent (33.6 VORP, 34% Improve, 11% Breakout)
Third Base – Bill Mueller (20.2 VORP, 32% Improve, 12% Breakout)
Shortstop – Rafael Furcal (33.8 VORP, 41% Improve, 12% Breakout)
Left Field – Jose Cruz, Jr. (14.0 VORP, 45% Improve, 17% Breakout)
Center Field – Kenny Lofton (7.8 VORP, 18% Improve, 0% Breakout)
Right Field – J.D. Drew (41.2 VORP, 46% Improve, 7% Breakout)
And for comparisons sake, here’s Joel Guzman (16.3 VORP, 53% Improve, 26% Breakout).
Looks to me like our biggest hole is centerfield. Maybe they should be teaching Guzman to play center instead of left. I’ve always been a Jose Cruz, Jr. fan even though he’s had some rough years lately. Regardless, having either Guzman or Cruz as your fourth outfield gives the team some solid depth.
In the infield, Nomar’s numbers assume he only gets 329 plate appearances and you’d hope he’d top that. So somewhere in the low 20s as far as VORP goes would probably be my expectation. Furcal and Mueller both should be upgrades over last year.
The anchor is still J.D. Drew. We need him to stay healthy and play like he has the last two years. If that can happen, I think we have a shot in a weak NL West. The Giants with Barry Bonds might be the favorites, but I think we have a better depth then they do.
Only in a spring game can you lose 12-3 and still find postives. J.D. Drew continues to hit the ball well and if he’s 100% heading into opening day, I’ll be pretty happy. Drew hit his second homerun of the spring and he also tripled. He’s now hitting .417 in 12 at bats and he has five runs and two walks. He’s sporting an impressive .417/.500/1.083 line. I talked about how important Drew would be if this team is going to succeed this year and so far, I like what I’m seeing.
I’m not sure if McCourt is complimenting Grady Little and Ned Colleti as much as he’s bashing Paul DePodesta, but he sure seems positive. There’s no doubt this is going to be an interesting team and I’m looking forward to opening day.
I’ve been doing some preliminary work on my Don Drysdale retrospective. I have to go through everything one more time, but I’m missing a few of his games. I was hoping Retrosheet would have play by play for the 1956 season, but it sounds like they’re only going back to 1957. Not that I’m complaining because there’s plenty of stuff there to mess with.
Derek Lowe pitched four shutout innings and had his second solid start of the spring in the Dodgers 6-4 win over the Red Sox this afternoon. He gave up two hits and struck out four and he’s now pitched seven innings without giving up a run. Rookie Jon Broxton walked four and gave up a hit in 1 1/3 innings as he continues to struggle. Cody Ross went deep for the third time this spring and J.D. Drew and Ramon Martinez both hit solo shots. The Dodgers square off against the Tigers tomorrow afternoon.
More importantly, Eric Gagne and Jeff Kent both made their debuts yesterday. Gagne pitched a perfect inning and needed only five pitches to put the Orioles down. Jeff Kent served as the DH and went two for three.
Rafael Furcal and Jayson Werth both had solid workouts today. Furcal had knee surgery and Werth had wrist surgery during the offseason, and getting these two guys out on the field will be huge if the Dodgers want to get off to a good start when the real games begin.
Things got off to a rough start yesterday. Bret Tomko was tagged for a run in the first inning as the Cardinals took the lead. Fortunately he and the rest of the Dodgers hurlers would be nearly perfect the rest of the day. Tomko left after three innings in which he gave up three hits and the one run and the next three Dodgers’ pitchers didn’t give up a single hit. John Meleon gave up a hit in the ninth as he closed out the game and the five pitchers combined for a four hitter.
James Looney had two singles and a run in the 3-1 win. Adam LaRoche had two hits, a run and the game tying RBI. The Dodgers play this morning against the Orioles and hopefully they’ll improve on their 3-2 spring record.
The Dodgers lost on Saturday and won on Sunday as they finished their first week of spring games with a 2-2 record. On Saturday, the Baltimore Orioles jumped all over starter D.J Houlton. He walked one and gave up four hits and three runs without getting a single out. Eric Hull didn’t fare much better in the second inning for the Dodgers. He hit a batter, walked two and eventually got dinged for two runs.
Today, the Dodgers brought their bats. Against the Mets, the Dodgers scored eleven runs in the sixth inning. Five different Dodgers went yard and lost in the offensive onslaught was a solid start by Derek Lowe. He threw three perfect innings and struck out four Mets. The Dodgers play a pair of split squad games tomorrow against the Nationals and Marlins. Both games start at 1:05 pm.
Super prospect Joel Guzman is going to take a stab at left field. Guzman played shortstop throughout most of his minor league career and this will be the first time he tries the outfield. Rafael Furcal, who’s signing made Guzman’s move neccesary, is still on the shelf after a knee operation. MLB.com reports he’s at least a week away from his first spring game.
Everyone who is anyone is gearing up for the 2006 MLB season. My first step is going to be purchasing my Los Angeles Dodgers tickets. It is a tradition in my family for us all to take the day off of school or work to head down to Dodger Stadium for Opening Day. The Dodgers are looking pretty good this year and I have high hopes for the 2006 season. They are my favorite California team so I always buy Dodgers tickets and take the family out to support our local boys and the sport we enjoy so much.
This year’s spring schedule was challenging and the Los Angeles Dodgers performed well. I am really excited about attending some Dodgers home games this season and maybe even some away games. I’ll get some Houston Astros tickets, Padres tickets and New York Mets tickets to see the Dodgers on the road. April’s schedule is just as challenging as the spring was with match ups like the Los Angeles Dodgers versus Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium and versus the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. May flowers will be blooming when I use mytickets for Los Angeles Angels versus Los Angeles Dodgers. The rivalry between the LA teams always makes for some exciting baseball. Come August I will be wishing I had Florida Marlins box seats because it is sure to be hot and humid when the Dodgers visit Dolphins Stadium from the 4th to the 6th.
Our pitching core is the biggest reason I am so excited to buy my Dodgers tickets this year. We have great depth in our bullpen and have the potential for a winning season with Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko and Jae Seo in the rotation. Jose Luis Cruz is a major contributor in our outfield and Ramon Martinez is strong at the shortstop position. My favorite player by far is our star first baseman, Nomar Garciapara. I am very optimistic that these and the rest of our fine players are going to produce some great stats and scores this 2006 season.
In Los Angeles there are plenty of sports teams to keep a baseball fan busy in the off season. But, going to Lakers home games or watching Clippers basketball games and Mighty Ducks hockey on TV, really never compares to watching my favorite baseball team try to make it to the World Series year after year. Dodgers baseball games are a part of my history and of my future. I bought World Series tickets in 1988 when the Los Angeles Dodgers battled the Oakland Athletics. I’ll be spending baseball season watching Atlanta Braves games, Seattle Mariners games and Washington Nationals games to scope out and hopefully curse the teams that threaten the Dodgers chance to win the 2006 World Series.
Eric Gagne left the Dodgers spring training camp for personal reasons. I wish Eric Gagne the best of luck with whatever personal problem he might have.
Gagne looks like he’s going to be ready for opening day. Grady Little said that Gagne will be back on Sunday and that he’ll throw in his first game on Wednesday. Injury expert Will Carroll said in a recent Under the Knife that he expects Gagne to be ready for the Dodgers first real game.
The Dodgers won their first spring training game of the season yesterday. They topped the Braves 3-2 in an exhibition game against the Braves. New Dodger Kenny Lofton scored two of the Dodgers three runs and Brad Penny threw two decent innings. Nomar Garciaparra played four solid innings at his new position, first base. The two teams square off again tonight.
Derek Lowe was kind of a microchosm of the Dodgers season last year. On the face of things, he didn’t throw too bad. He had a 3.61 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. And his home/road splits weren’t that far off either. But he finished 12-15 and two of those twelve wins were complete game shutouts. One thing a lot of people gloss over is that he gave up 24 unearned runs, meaning his total runs against were more like 4.58, which doesn’t look as good. Regardless, the Dodgers went 15-20 in Derek Lowe’s 35 starts and that’s not what we were looking for when he signed him for nearly $10 million a year.
Lowe also had the much publicized affair with a local TV broadcaster. Lowe admits his concentration wasn’t there last year and this year’s he’s committed to getting back to his old form. Lowe’s had an unconventional career. He had a great season out of the pen for the Red Sox in 2000 but then slipped a little in 2001. He was converted to a starter in 2002 and finished third in the American Cy Young voting and won 21 games. He was 17-7 in 2003 but he did it with a 4.47 ERA and then in 2004, he fell apart and his ERA ballooned to 5.42. He finished 14-12 but he had a record setting offense behind him.
Then, of course, he had the good postseason in 2004, which raised his stock and then he signed the four year, $36 million deal for the Dodgers. One thing is for sure, Derek Lowe is an extreme ground ball pitcher. He needs a good infield defense behind him, and that’s one thing that probably won’t be better next year. He’ll probably get more run support but we’ll see if it’s enough.
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