The tater trots for April 11: Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez hit home runs in a memorable Dodgers/Padres game.
The fireworks may have been flying last night, but it wasn't thanks to the long ball. In the seven games played across baseball, there were a total of eight home runs hit. With the way the season has began, it was very atypical.
Don Mattingly's affinity for the bunt could be keeping the Dodgers from scoring more runs.
Like many a Dodger fan, I found myself pulling out clumps of hair on Tuesday night. The Dodgers—a first-place team at 19-10 to that point, surprisingly—were facing the Giants (14-15) in L.A. Despite having Clayton Kershaw on the hill, they were on the short end of a 2-1 score, because with a man on base in the second inning, their ace left a high fastball to Brett Pill a bit too far out over the plate, and Pill drove it 384 feet into the left-field bleachers. The Dodgers had plated a run against Ryan Vogelsong in the bottom of the second thanks to a pair of doubles, but they could get no more, and as the innings passed, the situation grew more desperate.
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Taking a look at whose season of ineptitude may have cost his team a spot in the playoffs.
Picking up where I left off on Monday, the Replacement-Level Killers is our semi-annual all-star team of ignominy, highlighting the positions at which poor production helped sink contending teams, with an eye toward the steps they've made to correct those problems as spring training approaches. For the purposes of this exercise, I've loosely defined contenders as non-playoff teams who finished no more than 10 games out of the running in 2011, which limits this particular turkey shoot to members of the Red Sox, Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals, not all of whom are represented this time around. If a particularly sizable hole in your favorite team’s production isn’t represented here, fear not, as all 30 teams are eligible for the forthcoming Vortices of Suck squad, the absolute bottom of the barrel.
Why the Dodgers have no need for one James Loney, and why other teams shouldn't be scared off by his history.
The Dodgers, as a semi-great man once said, are who we thought they were. Just as most pundits expected, their generally solid starting pitching has struggled to overcome an atrocious offense, with the heroics of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier put in stark contrast to the abysmal foursome of Juan Uribe, James Loney, Rod Barajas, and Aaron Miles at the bottom of the lineup. The Dodgers entered Tuesday night’s tilt averaging a mere 3.29 runs per game, just slightly above Atlanta and Minnesota for the worst mark in baseball. That is a fact which is in large part why they’re sporting a run differential mark which is worst in the NL and second-worst in MLB, ahead of only Seattle, and is also why you can see them down at 14th in Jay Jaffe’s most recent NL Hit List.
The dichotomy between Kemp and Ethier and the rest of the crew can’t be overstated; as Geoff Youngnoted yesterday, the duo were earlier this week hitting .424/.493/.602, compared to the unacceptable .202/.254/.282 from their cohorts. It’s actually gotten to the point that Cardinal manager Tony La Russa received a good deal of second-guessing for refusing to break the time-honored chestnut of not putting the winning run on base after Ethier doubled to start the ninth inning down 1-0 on Sunday. Rather than walk Kemp to face Uribe, Loney, and Barajas, La Russa chose to have embattled closer Ryan Franklin pitch to the red-hot Dodger center fielder, and the result was a joyous trip around the bases ending in a dog pile of Dodgers at the plate for Kemp.
Sorting out side bets for who does what in the Senior Circuit.
Last week, I unveiled a contest wherein readers could try to predict the performance of interesting players during the 2011 season by choosing whether they would perform above or below a given performance benchmark—in Vegas parlance, picking an “Over/Under.” The first installment listed two Over/Under lines for players on each team in the American League, generally players I think will be either key performers or interesting to follow in the upcoming season. Below you can find the two Over/Under lines I’ve set for each National League team.
The race to get shortstops while the getting's good could put the Rays in the catbird seat with Jason Bartlett.
The shortstop market is probably the most dynamic component of the Hot Stove position-player market. Lots of teams are looking for help, especially where dire need has sucked unlikely candidates like Jerry Hairston Jr. or Miguel Tejada into the breach on one club last season—a contender, no less! And then there's the perpetuation of players like Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis, or Tommy Manzella, easy fodder for die-hard contractionistas dug into Bud's bunker, as well as those grognards terminally committed to bellyaching about something about the game itself—why not the shortage of shortstops as the latest evidence that 30 teams is simply too much of a good thing?
How one major move might set up the defending world champions to win even more rings.
My first act as the Giants' general manager for a day is to thank a higher power that I have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner in my starting rotation. With those four pitchers in tow, anything is possible, even a World Series championship with an otherwise ordinary roster, as the underdog Giants proved in beating the Braves, Phillies, and Rangers in the recently-completed postseason.
There is celebration in San Francisco, while the Rangers are left to continue the hunt for their first world championship.
Fandom of the game itself provides a few reliable rewards. If you love baseball, you can simultaneously enjoy the beauty of a well-pitched ballgame and a game-winning three-run shot. Indeed, both things represent classic features, the stuff of victory and of defeat, now and forever. We all inevitably happen upon other elements, of course, and sample and promote them as a matter of discretion: bullpen hyper-specialization, little ball, the speed game, even the virtual oxymoronics of "productive outs." But the mechanics of the game reward the same things now that it did five years ago or 50: great starting pitching and three-run homers.
Jesse Behr looks at how the position players for the Giants came together.
Call him a genius. Call him just lucky. One way or another, GM Brian Sabean put together a very unique team in San Francisco. A National League championship team that does not include Barry Bonds, but rather nine draft selections raised through the farm system, five journeymen plucked up from the depths of minor-league free agency, and one playoff hero stolen off waivers.
Okay, since Sabean had around $98 million to work with in 2010 (more like $58 million when you consider all the money guaranteed to Zito, Rowand, and Renteria), the Giants aren’t quite the storybook team. Nevertheless, it’s impressive to see a “team of scrubs” match-up against a bankrupt ballclub from Texas in the World Series. Let’s breakdown how this Gyros squad came together:
It's a series that will feature superb pitching staffs, and one team will come away with a long-awaited title.
In baseball as in literature, archetypes tend to be formulaic, proof that fiction falls short of reality when it comes to the power to describe any one thing in shorthand. The need, indeed one of the great benefits of the human mind is to identify patterns, and to peg things that fall within those patterns, or to re-evaluate the pattern as a whole to create some new rubric, some new way of explaining things. Take our current post-season slate: instead of a much-anticipated rematch between the Evil Empire and the Phillies' a-bornin' senior-circuit dynasty, last week we got the pleasure of witnessing imperial ambitions utterly overthrown in both leagues.
Placed RHP Juan Gutierrez on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflamation); activated OF-LRyan Church. [8/3]
Optioned INF-S Tony Abreu to Reno (Triple-A); recalled RHP Rafael Rodriguez from Reno. [8/4]
Activated RHP Juan Gutierrez from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Rafael Rodriguez to Reno. [8/18]
Activated 2B/OF-S Eric Young Jr. from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [8/2]
Activated 1B-LTodd Helton from the 15-day DL; optioned MI-S Jonathan Herrera to Colorado Springs; claimed 3B-RWes Hodges off waivers from the Indians, and optioned him to Colorado Springs. [8/3]
Placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day DL (sprained big toe), retroactive to 8/4; recalled INF-RChris Nelson from Colorado Springs. [8/5]
Optioned INF-R Chris Nelson to Colorado Springs; recalled RHP Esmil Rogers from Colorado Springs. [8/8]
Placed LHP Jeff Francis on the 15-day DL (shoulder ), retroactive to 8/12; recalled 2B/OF-S Eric Young Jr. from Colorado Springs. [8/14]
Placed RHP Taylor Buchholz on the 15-day DL (lower back), retroactive to 8/14; recalled RHP Jhoulys Chacin from Colorado Springs. [8/17]
Released 1B/RF-LBrad Hawpe; purchased the contract of LHP Matt Reynolds from Colorado Springs. [8/19]