Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not Enough Skills to Play the Bills

If I were a young pitcher in my first real spring with the major league club I'd be pitching better then Billingsly. Everyone tells me that he's been given the four spot (perhaps three), but in a rotation full of right handed pitchers, if I were him, I'd make sure I wasn't the weakest one. Especially when two lefties behind me, not expected to crack the starters squad, and the two veterans competing for the five hole are pitching so well.

Esteban Loaiza, Chan Ho Park, Clayton Kershaw, and Hong-Chih Kuo are all having amazing springs with a combined ERA of 1.22 over 37 innings. Park is throwing the best, allowing no earned runs in 12 innings pitched and the front runner for the 5th spot Loaiza allowing four earned runs also over 12 innings.

Meanwhile the group of Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsly, Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda have combined for a whopping ERA of 5.73 over 50.1 innings with Billingsly skewing the curve with 11 earned runs over 13.1. In this group only Penny is pulling his weight, dominating the spring with a 0.90 ERA over three starts and ten innings.

Spring is a time when everyone is working out the kinks so ERA's are often inflated. Lowe (who was named after an Alaskan trout) for example, tends to have to find his rhythm before he's successful and while he hasn't found it so far I'm sure he'll be fine once the season starts. Kuroda, as a Japanese veteran is most likely the same. But, Billingsly in my opinion hasn't established himself and should be careful.

Loaiza has practically been given the number 5 spot, Kershaw will probably be sent back to the minors, and Kuo is most likely destined for the bullpen perhaps even to play a swing roll once arms fatigue to the point of minor injuries. Park on the other hand is signed only to a minor league contract (I never liked him out of the pen) but he's done a great job this spring. I doubt he'll be strong for an entire season at this stage in his career but I think he's definitely pitched well enough to deserve a good hard look to see where he fits into the big club, maybe even a spot once reserved for a promising youngster whose last name starts with B, ends with Y and looks like a Chad.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sky is not falling

In 2004 as I was driving home from work while listening to the press conference that introduced Frank McCourt as the new owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I pulled the car over and sat for 20 minutes listening to this out-of-towner speak about our beloved franchise and its history. To me, this press conference was more important than any State of the Union address the President could ever give because leading up to that moment, every media report, local and national, every talking head on the radio, and any blogger with a keyboard painted this guy to be poor, evil, and incompetent. After all, that same off season the Dodgers had a chance to sign the biggest free agent on the market, Vladimir Guerrero, but couldn’t because his salary wouldn’t have worked for the financials the accountants drew up to make the sale work and as a result, Vlad went to our hated rivals?? (That’s another blog) the Angels, who themselves just months before introduced their new owner who was the complete opposite of McCourt. There were reports that he would cut the payroll, turn Chavez Ravine into a mini mall with condos, move Dodger Stadium downtown or move the entire team to Boston leaving us with nothing but memories. According to media reports McCourt was to be our version of Brooklyn’s Walter O’Malley. Fast forward to the present and not only is the payroll higher, Chavez Ravine has no condos, Dodgers Stadium is still standing, and the team still calls Los Angeles home. McCourt has embraced the city and made several charitable contributions while also creating the Dodgers very own foundation, Think Cure. He continues to honor the rich history of this franchise by bringing old legends back and having special events celebrating key moments in its past. Don’t get me wrong, McCourt has made his share of blunders and has had a quick turn around in personnel but he is nothing like the person he was painted to be back in 2004.

I bring this all up because last week I read a story how LAUSD wasn’t going to be able to have its championship games at venues like Dodgers Stadium and the Coliseum because due to budget cuts they couldn’t afford to pay the rent fee. I immediately said to myslef, “McCourt won’t allow it he’ll find a way of making it happen”. Sure enough in today’s Dodgers report in the LA Times, I read this:

Budget crunch

Proposed budget cuts affecting the Los Angeles Unified School District could deprive the district of the money it needs to rent facilities such as the Coliseum, Sports Arena and Dodger Stadium for City Section championship games. However, the Dodgers and chief operating officer Dennis Mannion, whose responsibilities include stadium operations, said Wednesday they are looking for a way to solve the problem regarding their facility, including the possibility of allowing the district to use the stadium rent-free.

Not bad for a poor, evil, incompetent out-of-towner.


Monday, March 10, 2008


The injury bug has hit the Dodgers early this year. Obviously enough it’s the old guys who are hurting but the most serious injury occurred to young 3rd baseman Andy LaRoche. By all accounts he’ll be out a minimum of 8 weeks which means a May return to the big leagues or AAA. The silver lining in all this is that the Dodgers now don’t have to choose between LaRoche and Nomar as to who will be the starting 3rd baseman. Although everyone up to now has been publicly saying all the right things, I don’t think Nomar was ever going to start the season on the bench. Same for the other position battle between Pierre and Ethier which makes this injury to LaRoche, well timely, if there’s such a thing.

All these injuries remind me of that horrific 2005 season when just about every starting player went down and was replaced by a Jason. (Grabowski, Werth, Phillips, or Repko, Art hates that guy.) The difference between this season and 2005 is that the Dodgers have solid internal options. Even with Abreu hurt the Dodgers could fill a decent infield of Young/Dewitt at 3rd and Hu at 2nd or vice versa. Yes this Dodger squad has many options and it’s going to be interesting to see who will be the starting nine at the end of it. I’m guessing the oldest guy starting will be tubby Andruw Jones.

By the way, I hear this kid is stupid sick. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYc8j6F50BU


Thursday, March 6, 2008


by free_form_art

Back in 2005 I was arguing with some idiot fan in the loge section of Dodger Stadium about the trading of Paul Lo Duca. I told him Dioner Navarro was the wave of the future and that eventually Martin would be the face of the franchise. I told him to look for a chap named Loney to plant himself at first base. I told him to be patient as our talent developed in the minor leagues. I told him to wait until 2008.

Well it's 2008 and sure enough here we are with a young and fresh team, perhaps powerful, perhaps good. So is 2008 really the year the Dodgers take it all? Well that's the question isn't it, and it has a lot of subquestions that live under its umbrella.

Starting Pitching
The rotation looks anchored with four solid front line starters: Lowe, Penny, Bills, and new import Kuroda, but the number five spot is the question mark here. Anyone who thinks Schmidt has anything left is retarded. Loaiza? Park? Kershaw? My guess is a platoon is in store. And heaven help us if one of our top four goes down with an extended injury, that alone can spell disaster.

3rd Base
Nomar = injury
LaRoche = ? (he hasn't flat-out taken the spot despite multiple opportunities to do so.)

Do we even have one?

Andruw Jones is coming off his worst year and I hear he's tubby. Still his 2007 was better then any other Dodgers' so it can't be all that bad.
Can the kids carry a team? I think yes here; they're ready.
Pierre or Ethier? My vote Pierre.

I don't get cynical till late July but in spring I like to be optimistic so I think the answers to these questions will be very favorable. Torre is better then Little, young is better then old, and last year wasn't all that bad. 90 wins easy, 95 wins likely, 100 wins not unheard of. 110 wins? 162!

Any other concerns I might have missed? Leave a comment and let us know.