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Friday, March 31, 2006

Pickoff Moves, Bedtime Edition

Friday Night Traffic: Angels 6, Dodgers 6

The unseasonable late spring rain, I think, provided a nice metaphor: for the Dodgers, washing away the old, awful memories of 2005; and for the Angels, providing them with a baptism in preparation of the new year. Anderson and Salmon both homered, Anderson off a surprisingly shaky Eric Gagné, whose velocity is still down. The Dodgers managed some offense of their own; J.D. Drew homered against Hector Carrasco, and the real LA team generally seemed to have Jeff Weaver on the ropes a good bit of the night, perhaps a sign of things to come with him -- a 4.00 ERA and a .500 record. With the NL West still so weak even the Pirates would stand a chance at a postseason berth were the San Andreas to seismically shift them a few thousand miles west, both teams have reasonable hopes of arriving at the postseason -- if they get lucky, and especially for the Dodgers, if they stay healthy.

We'll be in the stands tomorrow night at Angel Stadium, and I hope it doesn't rain; so far, so good.

Angels recap

New SB Nation Dodger Blog: True Blue LA

SB Nation rounds out its MLB blog stable with its newest, Dodger-centric addition, True Blue LA, where Michael Nicks is your host. Stop on over, sign up for an account, and say hi. Sidebar links presently.

Pinto On PMR

Joe Hamrahi kindly e-mailed me to let me know about his interview with David Pinto on Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range, or PMR. It's the first of a four-part series about modeling defense, a hot topic in baseball of late.

Separated At Birth?

Sure, Vero Beach finally got themselves a mascot, but does anyone else see a familial resemblance between him and Mr. Met?

Vero Beach mascot SqueezeNew York Mets mascot Mr. Met

Clearly, Squeeze is Mr. Met's younger, better-tanned brother in Florida, and the fact that Squeeze wears Mr. Met's number of 00 is another dead giveaway.

Oakland Acquires Juan Dominguez In Three-Way Trade With Cubs, Rangers

Oakland acquired bullpen depth with Juan Dominguez by moving infielder Freddie Bynum and RHP John Rheinecker to the Rangers, who immediately sent Bynum to the Cubs for RHP John Koronka and a PTBNL.
"We've been trying to move Freddie most of the spring," assistant general manager David Forst said, noting that Bynum was out of options and there was no room for him to crack the Oakland lineup, "but he certainly played himself onto somebody's club."
From what I gather, none of these players had a shot at making their clubs' respective 25-man rosters, so this works out well for the players, anyway.

Fanning The Hate: Diamond Mind 2006 Projections

Good news, Angels fans: Tom Tippett has projected the Angels to finish last. Well, we all know how well that went the last time.

Update: BTF thread, including MGL's projections, which have the Angels finishing second at 83-79.

Pickoff Moves, Lunchtime Edition

Another Cactus League Pitch For The Dodgers

The Arizona Republic seems to think -- with some justification -- that the Dodgers and Indians would be a great fit for the Cactus League. In fact, they suggest that Baltimore and Cincinnati might also be interested, considering they're nearing the end of their respective leases. Cleveland maybe not so much, since they're probably closer to Florida, but the Dodgers, well... It's an operation requiring dynamite.

Roster Notes

The Cluephone's A-Ringin' For You, Mike

Christ, not productive outs again. Somebody wake me when this is shown to have a positive correlation to run scoring. Zzzzz.

Angels Opening Weekend To Be Televised

A "good faith" gesture from Fox? Or just more hot air?

Pastel Excites Frank

They made fun of Dan Evans for wearing pink shirts, and now Frank's mesmerized by the new pastel color scheme at Dodger Stadium. It looks good enough, anyway, but if your team's excitement comes from redecorating, well, maybe it's time to find a new vocation.

Two Games, Dodgers Split-Squad Edition

Astros 11, Dodgers (ss) 3

Mariners 4, Dodgers (ss) 3

Far too many years ago, before adipose tissues enveloped my once-scraggly frame and gray hairs infested my beard, I fell stupidly, head-over-heelsly in love with a girl. We were both in college at the time, and our first social visit was at her hospital bed following a rather tricky operation that could have left her paralyzed from the neck down. Fortunately, things went well, and perhaps as something of a flyer, upon recovery she requested -- nay, demanded -- my solo presence following a group visit.

She was model-thin, and if it hadn't been for a hooked nose that gave her a Rogers and Hart visage, model-gorgeous as well. That is to say, she was well out of my league, something I rather quickly discovered five months or so later when she got bored with me. Though I clung to the notion that something could be worked out between us for the better part of a year, reality and -- more important -- another girlfriend set in.

Frank McCourt with the newly renovated pastel seats in Dodger Stadium

Would you buy a used stadium from this man?

It's a part of my life I revisit around this time every year, because I vividly remember the date of our first meeting: April Fool's Day, 1982. And like that long-lost love with its star-crossed opening day, this year's Dodgers strike me as meretriciously attractive: just underneath an All-Star glow is a 25-man roster destined to break your heart. Certainly, the Dodgers' offseason couldn't have gone any less catastrophically:

In all, it was the most forgettable offseason the Dodgers have had since their disastrous 2003/2004, in which Frank's lily-livered efforts at placating Bud Selig prevented the name Vladimir Guerrero from being penciled into the team's roster every day. (Update: What's amazing is that they've really only had two under Frank McCourt's direct thumb.) Larry Dobrow of sportsline.com wrote that the thusly assembled team was "Not unlike an elephant attempting to mate with a ceiling fan, the parts don't fit." This has been easily the most dispiriting team ever assembled in my history as a Dodger fan; old, fragile, yet full of stars who would superficially appeal to customers possessing a vague familiarity with the game and its luminaries. Just as with my first girlfriend, you discover quickly what to avoid before handing out emotional commitments to someone else, or in this case, to a team that seems destined to break your heart if you believe in it.

How to catch flies

And so to the games. I didn't hear the first game because of more problems at MLB Gameday Audio; and the second I watched after the end of the rainout of the Angels game at AT&T Park. By the time I got there, it was subs and scrubsville, and nobody of note played for either side. Tomorrow, the Freeway Series, and the meaningful games beyond that. But I foresee a long season. In the Dodgers front office, there's creationism, and then there's creationism.

Astros 11, Dodgers 3
Seattle 4, Dodgers 3

Update: Thanks for the link back, LA Observed.

Today's Birthdays

Another day in which I just don't have enough time to do what I want, so here's the daily birthday list:

Chris Cron CAL b. 1964, played 1991
Balvino Galvez LAN b. 1964, played 1986
Bill Hallman BRO b. 1867, played 1898, d. 1920-09-11
Jeff Mathis LAA b. 1983, played 2005
Gene Snyder LAN b. 1931, played 1959, d. 1996-06-02
Moose Stubing CAL b. 1938, played 1967

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Roster Notes

Thanks to BTF for all of the above...

Two Games, Angels Split-Squad Edition

While I was rambling on about the Dodgers split-squad games tonight, I realized I had much, much more to say about the Blue Crew than I had time to write in one roundup post tonight. It will wait until the morrow.

Our Ace And All: Brewers 8, Angels (SS) 1

It was simply a wretched game for John Lackey, who just couldn't assemble anything like a solid start against the Brewers. Corey Koskie -- Corey Fargin' Koskie! -- drilled a three-run dinger off Lackey. But Lackey says his rusty shoulder's feeling better now:
"If I was a little more economical with them, that would have been a normal start," he said. "I'll be able to go up to 100 [pitches] easy now."


"That one inning I was getting ground balls like I wanted to, [but] they were hoping [sic] through some holes," Lackey said. "Once we get on a different field that's not like a parking lot, hopefully we'll be able to turn a couple of those."

With Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon being taken off the field after only two turns at bat each, most likely to pack their bags and get the hell on a plane headed for LA, the offense collapsed in a big hurry. And what kind of joker plays Edgardo Alfonso at second base? Geesh.

The rest of the offense was pretty much like taking a piece of scotch tape to a dog hair-covered sweater; you get all the bits you don't want -- the unfortunate second baseman, Devin Day, a former University of Arkansas infielder who's buried so deep he could give King Tut lessons, and just-outta-rookie-league Brad Coon -- along with some you do. In that latter category I place Kendry Morales, who, like Salmon and Anderson, also got yanked early. Perhaps we may take it as a Sign, for those who like to indulge in Kremlinology.

We also saw (or in my case, heard) Michael Collins, whom Stephen Smith likened to Mike Piazza and is 2-3 on his extremely brief adventure in spring training. As well, 2005 draftee P.J. Phillips appeared, not getting an at-bat but did play the field; and former top-30 prospect Drew Toussaint. Toussaint appeared as the 27th-ranked prospect in the Angels' system in 2005, but disappeared as more prospects jumped ahead of him on the team's depth chart last year. With one or two more graduations, Toussaint might jump back onto the Angels' farm system radar, but remember that this is a system that's going to slip once guys like Mathis and Wood graduate to the Show.

The let-the-kids-play theme extended to the pitching staff as well, with Mike sending organizational filler Aaron Pullin to his doom, whereupon he indeed proceeded to blow his own brains out on the mound. Following in Lackey's execrable footsteps, Pullin surrendered three earned runs in his one inning of work, a perfect 27.00 ERA in spring training. K-Rod, Donnelly, and Gregg finished up in splendid fashion, none of the trio coughing up an earned run.

So closes the final day of real spring training, with the Angels finishing 16-13, best in the AL West. Ahead lie the bragging rights of the Freeway Series, the onramp to the regular season. Too bad I couldn't get an Angels feed for this or the evening game on MLB Gameday Audio; well, let's hope they have these troubles worked out by the start of the regular season. For those of us who couldn't be there, Brian Clevinger has a nice series of photos from this game, including one of Tim Salmon autographing a ball.


Depth Charge: Angels (SS) 1, Giants 0

Does Jered Weaver indeed feel like he's back in college, mowing them down like grass on a fine spring Friday night? Oh, the things we dare to believe! Jered hasn't cracked the team's rotation, no, not tonight. But we peek at last year's strikeout rates among starting pitchers, and observe that Jered Weaver's spring training 7.64 K/9 would land him fifth overall, directly behind Randy Johnson, and ahead of then-Ranger Chris Young. If, as I think is plausible, he has a couple more points to go on that scale, say, to Lackey-an or (here I engage the fantastic) Santanan heights of near 9.00 -- and it has, at times, seemed entirely plausible -- the Angels have a man they can count on when Bartolo Colón falters. Or Escobar. Or brother Jeff.

Nine strikeouts per nine innings seems like such a small number, after years of Randy Johnson and his 12-14 K/9 rates defining the upper limits of pitching excellence, but even he must succumb to the effects of age. Perhaps one day we'll look at another Mariner starter atop the mound, and just whistle as he blows them by, chasing Nolan Ryan and the Big Unit for the all-time strikeout title. But for now, it is enough to discern that the Angels have assembled as solid a rotation as any in the majors, and one with unrecognized depth.

Sure, the Giants failed to put Moises Alou on the field, but the team's aging starter, son of manager Felipe, wasn't really the main show, as Jered got Barry out and narrowly missed a strikeout the second time, according to the radio crew. The sense that we may be witnessing greatness blossom here is no accident, and a welcome relief after his weak AFL showing nearly had me convinced he had turned into an overpriced bust. The anticipation of seeing Jered in the Show returns, goosebumps accompanying his name as it once did on Friday nights, and on draft day.

Update: Ken Arneson writes about his impressions:

Physically, Jared Weaver looks an awful lot like his brother. He's tall and gangly, and I can imagine he'll have days where all those long appendages don't quite synch up as well as they did last night.

Stylistically, however, he reminded me not so much of his brother as of Tim Hudson. They're physical opposites--Hudson is probably about eight inches shorter than Weaver--but the way Weaver just seemed to invent new pitches out of nowhere against Bonds and Feliz was quite Hudsonesque. They both use a low-90s fastball, and mix in a bunch of other stuff--sliders, curves, changeups. Weaver, like Hudson, doesn't seem to have that dominant #1 starter stuff, like a Johan Santana, Rich Harden, or Felix Hernandez. But he has such a diverse arsenal of weapons, he's clearly capable of being a solid #2 starter for a long time to come. Look out AL West.


Hardball: How Koufax And Drysdale Shut Out The Dodgers

Is Arte's declaration that the Fox TV deal is over with merely a negotiating ploy? In my estimation, the answer is yes; consider the words of Rich Lederer's dad, George, upon the holdouts of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in 1966. The Dodgers eventually came around; so, I think, will Fox.

Baseball America's Site Redesign

Yowzers! Take a gander -- it's pretty slick, though I confess I liked the old color scheme a little better, the new scheme being more amenable to Diamondbacks fans than Athletics fans. Hopefully they haven't orphaned any old pages.

Today's lead story is something that's not news to anyone who bought their 2006 Prospect Handbook, namely their system rankings. The Dodgers and Angels rank second and fourth, respectively, behind Arizona and Florida.

Update: Heck, while I'm at it, Jim Callis predicts a 2009 Freeway Series in the World Series that year based on the upcoming talent in the Dodgers and Angels organizations. The Angels beat the AL East-winning Devil Rays in the playoffs, and ... ah, why spoil it?

Pickoff Moves, Lunchtime Edition

Angels 8, Cubs 4

The Angels -- and Brandon Wood, in particular -- got a bunch of wind-assisted balls, some of which ended up over the fence. Wood's homer was of the inside-the-park variety, while Mike Napoli blasted one into the bleachers that just bounced clear of the wall. Bartolo Colón didn't get knocked around very hard, despite giving up three runs over six innings; the hardest-hit ball against him was a double by Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. Colón's not taking his responsibilities on opening day for granted:
"It is always special to take the ball when your teammates and manager are counting on you to get things started," Colon said through an interpreter. "I always think when you make your first start, it is your Opening Day. But it will never be routine; it is always special."
Friend of 6-4-2 Al Yellon wrote a much more detailed account of the game. Tonight, the Angels will play the Giants in a split-squad game in San Francisco, a game featuring Jered Weaver as the team's starter. A nice big, dank park next to the ocean -- ought to remind him of his old home park.


Dodgers 4, Nationals 3

The thing that pops out at you in the line score is Kenny Lofton's 1-3 line, because he's having such a terrible spring -- .159/.196/.182 in 44 at bats.


Roster Notes

Karros To Provide Color For Dodgers Opener

Jerry Crasnick says Eric Karros will be in the broadcast booth in the Dodgers' opening game at home, versus the Braves.

Angels Break Off TV Negotiations With Fox

The Angels have broken off negotiations with Fox over their next TV contract.
The deal is dormant, though, after Moreno decided negotiations had reached an impasse. Although both sides agreed long ago on the basic terms — 10 years and $500 million — sources said the parties could not resolve issues surrounding emerging technologies.
Arte didn't rule out an Angels channel, and other sources from within the organization say that the negotiations could be restarted at any time. Recall that the Angels had broken off negotiations with Jered Weaver and signed him at the 11th hour, too.

Today's Birthdays

Don't have time to do my normal morning roundup -- will get to it at lunchtime. Here's today's birthdays:

Terry Cox CAL b. 1949, played 1970
Jason Dickson ANA,CAL b. 1973, played 1996-2000
Nig Fuller BRO b. 1879, played 1902, d. 1947-11-12
Jack Lazorko CAL b. 1956, played 1987-1988
Mike Miley CAL b. 1953, played 1975-1976, d. 1977-01-06

Month Of Predictionary: Baseball Prospectus Offers Its Projections

Baseball Prospectus recently ran a pair of projections for the upcoming season, the first by Nate Silver using PECOTA. Once more, he sees the AL East coming down to the Yankees (94-68) and Red Sox (93-69), in a very tight race with the Blue Jays (79-83) and Orioles (77-85) not particularly entering into it, with the Devil Rays (69-93) doing what they always do. Silver tells us that PECOTA dislikes the White Sox to repeat -- in fact, it has them as a fourth-place 82-80 team -- and picks the 88-74 Indians to win their weak division, followed by the 84-78 Twins and the 83-79 Tigers, with the 61-101 Royals garnering their fourth 100+ loss season in the last five years.

In the AL West, Silver's number crunching likes the A's as 93-69 -- and then an incredible twelve games behind them, the 81-81 Angels. But Silver hedges his bets:

It shouldn’t be considered a surprise that the A’s rank where they do. Oakland did exactly what it needed to do this winter with the acquisitions of Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas, and the pitching staff projects to be the best in baseball. Vegas has the A’s installed as slight favorites to take the division. But the margin of victory that PECOTA is projecting is rather stunning.

This has mostly to do with the Angels’ offense. No disrespect meant to Tim Salmon, who spawned his way onto my BP-Kings roster, but when you’re seriously talking about making Tim Salmon your everyday designated hitter, your offense has some Issues. In all seriousness, take away Vladimir Guerrero, and the Angels might be outhit by their PCL affiliate. Of course, this projection could underrate the Angels, but only if they get the message and let players like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales and Dallas McPherson work their way into significant roles this season.

The fact that I think the above will happen -- and the kids will succeed, though not necessarily at first -- is why I'm a little more sanguine on the Angels' offense than his projection.

Moving to the Senior Circuit, PECOTA has this to say about the NL East:

NL East      W     L
Mets        88    74
Phillies    86    76
Braves      85    77
Marlins     71    91
Nationals   70    92
Silver writes
The Mets have probably bought their way to a division title. I don’t mean for that to come across as jaded: this is a franchise that identified exactly what its most pressing needs were, that stood to gain a great deal from fulfilling these needs, and went ahead and closed the loop. That is exactly what big market revenues are supposed to allow you to do, and the Mets did it, while teams like the Cubs flunked the exam.
In the NL Central:

NL Central    W      L
Cardinals    86     76
Cubs         85     77
Brewers      84     78
Astros       81     81
Pirates      79     83
Reds         78     84
The winner comes as no surprise, but the Cards are fading into twilight; Jim Edmonds' recent complaints about his foot and elbow, and his drop-off in production are signs that the team isn't as hale as it was even two years ago, and its outfield no longer as scary. On the NL West:

NL West      W     L
Dodgers     87    75
Giants      80    82
Padres      78    84
D'Backs     77    85
Rockies     74    88
The Dodgers borrow storylines from both the Mets and the Cubs. They’ve spent money wisely in places -- well, in one place -- and they can’t help but be less unlucky, assuming that they’re out from whatever strange hex that Alex Cora or Kazuhisa Ishii put them under last season. I think this projection places too much faith in a full-fledged Eric Gagne comeback. On the other hand, the Dodgers are loaded in the upper minors, which should give them some trading chips even if they don’t get some callups from guys like Chad Billingsley this season.

Every year the BPro crowd has a group experiment voting for the winners of the various divisions. This year, the concensus for the AL West is A's-Angels-Rangers-Mariners, which is what I expected as well. Of the voters, only Kevin Goldstein and Keith Woolner picked the Angels to finish first, while Christina Kahrl (who correctly predicted the Angels to finish first last year) sees them as a third-place team this year, behind both the A's and Rangers, as does Jonah Keri. The other races:
       AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

        AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The real numbers start coming in next week!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rangers Starter Adam Eaton Strains Finger Tendon In Pitching Hand

Rangers starter Adam Eaton strained a finger tendon in his right, pitching hand, during a start against his old team, the Padres. This may be a reoccurance of a similar injury that sidelined him last year; he eventually was replaced in the Padres postseason roster by Pedro Astacio. The Rangers are considering starting Juan Dominguez or Edison Volquez, Volquez being a high-draft prospects but neither of whom have pitched above AA.

The pundits in Dallas are already coming up with stupid ideas, like putting John Danks into the rotation. At 20, he's not ready, because like Dominguez and Volquez, he hasn't pitched a game above AA, either.

Dodgers Finalize Pitching Staff; Meadows Released, Sele Reassigned To Vegas

The Dodgers finalized their pitching roster, and have decided to go with 12 pitchers. Brian Meadows was released, and Aaron Sele will start the season at AAA Las Vegas.

Rafael Furcal has been diagnosed with a sprained back following an MRI. He is day-to-day. If Furcal is disabled, Ramon Martinez will be the team's main utilityman, with Oscar Robles as his backup. Russell Martin and OF Cody Ross remain possibilities but not certainties to make the big club; Ross is out of options. Martin will travel with the club as insurance against Navarro's hamstrings.

The pitching staff as it now stands: starters Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko and Jae Seo and relievers Gagne, Danys Baez, Yhency Brazoban, Lance Carter, Kuo, Franquelis Osoria and Hamulack.
Pat Borders will start the season at single-A Vero Beach.

Peter Gammons On How The AL West Will Be Won

Peter Gammons' latest blog entry ($$) talks about how the AL West race will go down:
The Angels aren't built to be the West Coast Yankees. They are built to win 3-2, 4-3 games. Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young last season, and Kelvim Escobar might have been their best starter. John Lackey and Ervin Santana are blossoming top-of-the-rotation guys. Lackey took his strikeouts to 8.6 per 9 IP (third in the AL) and Santana, who allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 23 starts, can be a star. Jeff Weaver is the fifth starter, at least until Jared Weaver (whose stuff is far more powerful than that of his brother) arrives. And with Scot Shields joined by J.C. Romero and Hector Carrasco in front of Fransisco Rodriguez, the bullpen should once again be solid.

Like Oakland, Scioscia's teams are sound defensively -- Orlando Cabrera and Kotchman are top-drawer defenders -- and also run the bases aggressively, advance runners and play not for the big innings, but for leads to hand to Shields and Rodriguez.

Scioscia says "the A's probably have the best pitching in the league." Beane says "the Angels' pitching scares me."

Managers To Watch In 2006

Christina Kahrl has some new or displaced managers to watch this year, and three of them are germane to this blog: Dodgers manager Grady Little, former Angels bench coach Joe Maddon (now managing the Devil Rays), and former Dodger manager Jim Tracy, now running the Pirates. Regarding Little:
  1. The Past: We all remember the Pedro Game, right? Yankees fans have to hold onto something these days. But whatever the complaints about Little's failure to effectively manage a bullpen by committee or stand up to a veteran pitcher, he did manage two second-place finishes in the AL East in 2002 and 2003, no better and no worse than expected. Before that, Little coached for Bobby Cox in Atlanta. That sounds good, but keep in mind that Pat Corrales has coached for Cox for a long time, and nobody's itching to give him another shot.

  2. What He's Got: Not exactly an All-Star team, but not far short of that. It's a veteran club, and just about the only complicated significant choice to be made is in left field, where Little could safely stick with Jose Cruz Jr., or he could use Joel Guzman's spring to convince him to give the kid a shot. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

  3. Who Might Catch a Break: Ramon Martinez has already made the team, so he's one. Generally speaking, when you're expected to win, it takes a pretty bold manager (see Cox, Bobby) to keep a couple of rookies for anything from a key role to last man on the bench. Little's boldest surprise picks seem to be his sudden taste for Jason Repko, and the decision to keep Hong-Chih Kuo as the situational lefty. Also, if he's healthy enough, I wouldn't be surprised to see Eric Gagne flirt with breaking the saves record.

  4. What to Watch For: Pushbutton managing in a sense that's far more true to the term: scripted bullpen usage roles, scrupulous observation of veteran pecking order, and nothing resembling a tactical surprise being sprung on the other guys. But with a rotation that's relying on Brett Tomko and Aaron Sele, will he develop a quick hook this summer? Will the enthusiasm for Repko survive the return of veteran Jayson Werth from the DL?

I'll leave the rest to subscribers, but she avers as to how Maddon's biggest problem will be his "ulceriffic" piching staff, and whether Tracy can make a credible team out of a roster that looks like a list of guys who didn't make the Dodgers -- or any other credible team.

Pickoff Moves

Today's Birthdays

Gibby Brack BRO b. 1908, played 1937-1938, d. 1960-01-20
Rube Dessau BRO b. 1883, played 1910, d. 1952-05-06
Hank Gastright BRO b. 1865, played 1894, d. 1937-10-09
Tommy Holmes BRO b. 1917, played 1952
Brian Jordan LAN b. 1967, played 2002-2003
Leo Meyer BRO b. 1888, played 1909, d. 1968-09-02
Alex Ochoa ANA b. 1972, played 2002
Domingo Ramos CAL b. 1958, played 1988
Mike Ramsey LAN b. 1954, played 1985

Roster Notes

Dodgers 4, Tigers 2

Eric Gagné got a pair of strikeouts and J.D. Drew a two-run homer along the way to defeating the Tigers. The Tigers, using a lineup that looked mostly like their opening day lineup, got a pair of solo homers, one off Jae Seo and the other off Gagné, for all their scoring. Seo worked six innings and got six strikeouts. Ramon Martinez collected another solo homer.

Today is the last day in Dodgertown, with a game against the Nationals. Tomorrow the Dodgers will play a pair of split-squad games, flying out to Los Angeles, where they will play the Angels on Friday in the first game of the Freeway Series. Regular season, here we come!


Padres 7, Angels 6

K-Rod melted down in this game, surrendering three runs in an inning in which he seemingly couldn't throw anything for strikes. Santana gave up three runs over five and a third innings, Hector Carrasco one earned over one and two-thirds, while Brendan Donnelly continued his strong spring by posting yet another scoreless frame. Tim Salmon collected his third home run of spring training; he hit out of the DH spot; Anderson sat out this game.


Mike Scioscia, Turnaround Artist

Is Mike Scioscia responsible for turning around the Angels? Doug Padilla gives him a lot of the credit:
The Angels have always had their following, but it was the Dodgers who reached the 3,000,000 attendance figure annually. That is, until Scioscia came along. Last season, the Angels drew a franchise-best 3,404,686 fans.

The Dodgers were the ones with the World Series rings, including two with Scioscia as their catcher. Since Scioscia arrived in Anaheim, the Angels have one title to the Dodgers' zero. They have 15 postseason victories and three appearances since Scioscia came along. The Dodgers have one playoff victory during that time. The Angels are the little brother no longer. It has a Philly flavor about it.

"For all the East Coast cities, Philadelphia has probably more pride at being from there than even New York or people from Baltimore, people from Boston," Scioscia said. "Philly's a special city because it's always been the stepchild of the East Coast.

Even though Scioscia now considers LA home, "remembering his Philadelphia roots helps bring the attitude necessary to make the Angels click."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Five Questions For The Angels

Once again, Aaron Gleeman was nice enough to invite me back to Hardball Times for their annual "Five Questions" series; here's mine for the Angels. Enjoy.

The Crank Uses EWSR To Predict The AL West

In line with the Rev's Month of Predictionary blogging, let me introduce you to the Baseball Crank's AL West predictions, based on Established Win Share Levels. But before I get to his 2006 predictions, let's take a brief look at his track record with the AL West. Last year, he correctly spotted the Angels as division winners, and of the A's, he wrote
My gut tells me the A's will be a force to be reckoned with this season. But EWSL is much more sober about the rebuilding job the team needs to suffer through before the A's can be considered a bankable contender rather than a maybe-if-everything-breaks-right longshot. Do the math and you'll see that the bulk of the problem is that Oakland has handed over 3/5 of the starting rotation to guys with no major league track record of success.
Indeed, that huge injection of youth was the dealbreaker for the A's, who struggled in the early going. In the interests of fairness, his first pass at this -- in 2004 -- showed the weakness of his methodology, by picking a very old Mariners team to win the division, followed by the Angels. Of course, he admitted immediately that the M's were begging for trouble with their roster full o' grandpas, and sure enough, the M's finished last with a 63-93 record.

This year, the Crank has the division going down in about the same order I did over at the Analysts (A's-Angels-Rangers-Mariners), but what surprised me is just how close the race really is at the top. Even the Crank isn't entirely sold on the idea that the A's will hoist the division pennant in their park come October:

I'm not sure I see Oakland beating the Angels this year, but this is definitely a team that will make the race neck-and-neck, at least. Much will depend on the health of Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas and the sophomore progress of Haren, Blanton, Street, Nick Swisher and Dan Johnson.
I completely agree. What I see as difference makers for both the A's and Angels:

Roster Notes

Dodgers Option Aybar, Guzman To Las Vegas

As Jon already noted, the Dodgers have optioned Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman to AAA Las Vegas, bringing the spring training roster down to 32. Cesar Izturis and Jayson Werth will start the season on the DL.

Royals Claim Former Angels Prospect Steve Andrade

The Royals claimed former Angels pitching prospect Steve Andrade off waivers from the Padres, along with Tony Graffanino off waivers from the Red Sox. He joins another former Angel, reliever Joel Peralta.

Marquis Grissom Retires

Former Dodger Marquis Grissom has retired from baseball. According to a Chicago Tribune article
"I'm at peace with myself," Grissom said. "I feel like the whole world has been lifted from my shoulders."
Also on MLB.com.

Update: BTF notes Grissom was part of the great fire sale that dismantled the 1994 Montreal Expos. In exchange, Montreal got ... Estaban Yan.

Pickoff Moves

Today's Birthdays

Kinda weak day for birthdays ...

Shawn Boskie CAL b. 1967, played 1995-1996
Larry Gonzales CAL b. 1967, played 1993

Overcoming Stanolozol For Pre-Teens: Little League World Series Stadium Moves Fences Out

Ah, the rippling muscles of those 12-year-olds, and their famously churlish behavior towards the press. The power hitting in Little League has gotten so pervasive that they're moving back the fences at South Williamsport's Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer stadiums. Must be the steroids... not.

Barry Wants To Retire A Giant -- And The Sooner, The Better

Barry Bonds' life is "in shambles", and the best thing about spring training is that it's practically over.
Bonds joked that he is ready for the season to start because then "it's closer to being over." He is in the final year of a $90 million, five-year contract and will be eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Spring Training Fever: Tony Jackson On The Threatened End Of Dodgertown

Tony Jackson writes that the Dodgers are thinking about leaving Dodgertown:
As the 2006 Grapefruit League schedule winds down, the Dodgers have yet to draw more than the 4,856 who showed up to watch them play a ghastly New York Mets split squad on March 5. Dodgertown, a sacred cow of the baseball-as-poetry crowd, would seem to have everything going for it: an intimacy between players and fans unmatched in any other facility, a rich history dating to 1948 and a pastoral, smalltown beauty that is tough to match anywhere else in Florida - much less in the barren Arizona desert some 2,500 miles away.

"It wasn't until I played here, and got a chance to walk the streets, that I really appreciated it," said former pitcher Jerry Reuss, who spent eight of his 22 major-league seasons with the Dodgers. "It's one thing to come over in a bus (as a visiting player), focusing on the fact I was going to pitch that day. But once I started coming here (as a Dodger) and saw the people who come here, the former players, it became a link to my childhood. I had watched the Dodgers play in the World Series on TV in the years when I first fell in love with baseball. Then I would hear all the stories, and the more I heard, the more special this place became." And yet, by 2006 standards, it is lacking in so many ways.

It is short on modern amenities, short on creature comforts and woefully short on proximity to the fan base back home. All of which would seem to suggest the Dodgers would be much more comfortable in Arizona's Cactus League, now the spring-training home to a dozen of the 30 major-league teams. The metropolitan Phoenix area, where nine of those teams can be found, is a six-hour drive from greater Los Angeles and about a 45-minute flight.


...[W]hat the Dodgers don't get, by and large, are fans from Los Angeles. No other team in baseball travels as far for spring training as the Dodgers, and no other team west of the Houston Astros still trains in Florida.

And yet, I love how he goes from "short on creature comforts" to this:
As with all leases, there are provisions under which the Dodgers could buy their way out of Dodgertown. At the very least, the club would have to pay off the remainder of two local bond issues originally totaling $17.6 million, the cost of which becomes increasingly less expensive the more time passes. But the facility is so vast (about 60 acres) and sufficiently modernized that if the Dodgers leave, another club presently dissatisfied with its own spring-training arrangement likely would jump at the chance to move in.
Well, which is it, Tony? Sufficiently modern or not modern enough? I agree that the Florida spring training experience -- while I haven't been -- is far too geographically distant from LA, not to mention the teams too distant from each other to be comfortable. If the Dodgers did move to Arizona, it would be mighty cool, but at the same time, I can understand them not doing so for historical reasons. Those reasons might no longer make sense, especially if it means adding another way of connecting to the fan base.

Update: Thanks for the link, David Pinto.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Two Games

Blowout: Dodgers 12, Mets 3

The Dodgers pounded the Mets, and amazingly, with Brett Tomko on the mound. It looks to me like the Mets put a lot of non-starters on the roster, which created the big disparity; Jason Repko went 4-4, Oscar Robles went 3-3 with a two-run home run, and Tomko got a three-run dinger off Mets starter Steve Trachsel. Yhency Brazoban managed to get a scoreless inning in, though he walked a batter.


Is This Heaven? No, It's Spring Training: Angels 15, Padres 2

Oh, sure, Garret Anderson, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Rivera and Dallas McPherson all homered, but what they don't tell you is that D-Mac's came off of Leo Rosales, a 2003 20th-round draft pick who has a great changeup... and, well, he's got a great changeup. In a way, he's illustrative of the general lousiness of the Padres' system, because there's a bunch of guys like him in their system. Believe it or not, Baseball America ranks him their 21st best prospect.

But I harp too much on the Pads. They recently graduated a bunch of guys -- Khalil Greene most notably -- and Rosales had never pitched above high-A ball before, anyway. Darrell Sales, the other player to homer off Rosales -- it was a five-run inning of woe for the Padres hurler, who only managed one out -- was a 16th-round draftee from last year's draft who has some interesting numbers in the AZL leagues, posting a .282/.375/.437 line in 103 at bats; 13 of his 29 hits went for extra bases. The Angels need to purge him as soon as possible, because anyone showing that kind of plate patience and power is clearly an alien life form.

Anderson continued to play left, and the Chronicler made a good point that one reason GA could have such terrible numbers at the DH position is because Mike always puts him there whenever he's injured.

Escobar held down a Padres lineup that included Mike Piazza, giving up only a pair of earned runs, one of which was a Mark Bellhorn solo homer. Both Esteban Yan and Kevin Gregg had good outings as well, allowing no runs. The competition for the last bullpen spot could be significant.


Roster Notes

Non-fluff roster notes:

Preseason Fluff

A minor roster adjustment or two and some of the usual preseason fluff—

Dodgers Cut Kelly Wunsch, Tim Hamulack, Announce 11-Pitcher Lineup

The Dodgers have cut Kelly Wunsch and Tim Hamulack, sending both to the minors. Wunch, signed to a minor league contract, was reassigned, while Hamulack was optioned; both were sent to AAA Las Vegas. In addition, the club announced it will go with an 11-man pitching staff, with Brian Meadows and Aaron Sele both in the mix for the long relief role.
From all indications, the bullpen will consist of Eric Gagne, Danys Baez, Lance Carter, Hong-Chih Kuo, Franquelis Osoria and one other. The final spot would come from Meadows, Sele or Yhency Brazoban, who has been fighting off shoulder soreness this spring. Kuo is the only left-hander in the group, but he is not considered a situational pitcher because he can pitch multiple innings and he's more effective against right-handed hitters.

Pickoff Moves

Today's Birthdays

Bill Collins BRO b. 1882, played 1913, d. 1961-06-26
Wes Covington LAN b. 1932, played 1966
Newt Kimball BRO b. 1915, played 1940-1943, d. 2001-03-22
George Magoon BRO b. 1875, played 1898, d. 1943-12-06
Adam Melhuse LAN b. 1972, played 2000
Vince Sherlock BRO b. 1910, played 1935, d. 1997-05-11
Bill Sudakis LAN,CAL b. 1946, played 1968-1975

Roster Notes

Baseball Analysts' Two-On-Two AL West Preview

In which I, Blez, Bryan "this clown" Smith, and Rich Lederer engage Option J, with the referent being our crystal balls (ahem) regarding the AL West. No surprise that we all picked the A's to win the division.

Jon Weisman's Hardball Times Dodgers Preview

It's that time again, and Jon does the honors at THT for the Dodgers.

Dodgers 3, Braves 2

Any time Aaron Sele throws three scoreless innings, you have to fear he's going to make the team. No such worrisome noises have come out of Grady Little's mouth just yet, but. I'm just saying.

Rafael Furcal drove in all the Los Angeles of Los Angeles runs. Yay. Oh, get here soon, regular season, I'm tired of not caring about the results of games save that they let one or the other incompetent fifth bullpen pitcher on the team.


Angels 15, Mariners 3

The Angels put up a conga line of hitters in this one, mostly against Mariners scrub relievers. The game was all about vetting the last couple places in the Mariners' bullpen; according to Jeff at Lookout Landing,
There's one good ERA in the entire group, and it scares the hell out of me. ... The other way to look at it, of course, is that while the guys near the bottom of the depth chart have had awful springs, the locks have been anywhere from acceptable to terrific, with Julio Mateo being the only pitcher guaranteed a roster spot to have an ERA over 4. And while I realize that ERA is an awful way to judge performance, particularly over such limited samples, it's really quick, and shut up. In case you were curious, Hernandez/Moyer/Washburn/Pineiro/Meche have combined for an FIP right around 4.00 with a decent K/BB. I'm not thrilled, but I'm certainly not disappointed.
For the Angels, it was hopefully a last look to see whether Jeff Weaver was lying when he told us a couple starts ago that he hadn't mixed in any breaking stuff to his repertoire and that was the reason for getting shelled. Giving up eight hits over six innings wasn't the most compelling outing, but neither did he walk anyone. As a result, he's been dubbed the team's third starter, which would mean the staff should shake out Colón-Lackey-Weaver-Escobar-Santana, unless something should happen to Colón that would make it impossible for him to take on the role of first starter.

Like his buggered up shoulder.

Shields' horrible outing is something to monitor; I don't remember when he looked so bad, save after last year's painful stretch following the August Blue Jays series. Anyway, Angels bats were all over the garbage end of the M's staff, and reacted accordingly, with every Angels starter collecting at least one hit. Perhaps most importantly, Tim Salmon got a homer, and he played as the DH -- while Anderson played left, a huge development. Anderson made at least one really nice catch against the wall, and hopefully he can continue to do that. Garret thinks if he can run the bases, he can play the outfield, and whether that's true or not, he's also not 100% by his own admission.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

OT: Backyard Wildlife Photoblogging

A really gold goldfinch. It's a month closer to mating season since I last posted about these guys; the males have dramatically changed plumage, many with fully black caps and bright yellow spring feathers. If I had known we would get birds this colorful, we would have been feeding them years ago.

A California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) hangs out under the finch feeder and stuffs his face. Ironically, bad dog Hannah, who has a history with the order rodentia, may have dug a squirrel-sized hole under the fence, making it easier for this little guy to get into our yard. She would have caught and killed him had she known he was there, but Helen managed to lock her in the house before I got this picture. He escaped unharmed.

Pickoff Moves

Today's Birthdays

Gene DeMontreville BRO b. 1874, played 1900, d. 1935-02-18
Joe Klugmann BRO b. 1895, played 1924, d. 1951-07-18
Frank Lankford LAN b. 1971, played 1998
Jack McCarthy BRO b. 1869, played 1906-1907, d. 1931-09-11
Mel Queen CAL b. 1942, played 1970-1972
Jose Vizcaino LAN b. 1968, played 1989-2000

Roster Notes

And You Thought Geeks Had No Lives

Pity the poor advance scout, who hasn't had a girlfriend in two years.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 1

Brad Penny blew up after an umpire accused him of scuffing a ball; Penny claims he just threw the ball into the dugout after noticing it was scuffed. Whatever, if he was scuffing the ball, it apparently didn't work, as he gave up all five runs in four innings of work.
"Anytime you get in an argument with an umpire who won't call strikes, it makes it a lot of fun," said Penny, who felt he was being squeezed out of strikes. Moser, a Minor League umpire in a spring tryout, would not comment after the game.


"The results were bad, but you get to this time of Spring Training, it's a stage to go through," Little said of Penny, whose spring ERA rose to 5.66. "The pitchers are chomping at the bit to get started."

The Dodgers' only run came on a Ricky Ledee homer.


Diamondbacks 6, Angels 2

John Lackey gave up three earned runs in 5.2 IP, while the entirety of the Angels offense came from a pair of solo homers off Kendry Morales' bat, the first against countryman Orlando Hernandez. Dallas McPherson continued his cold streak, going 0-4; Mike Napoli was 1-2 with a walk; Nick Gorneault was 1-3. Jason Bulger gave up three earned runs in 1.1 IP, and looks increasingly like he'll start the season in AAA.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

OT: Snakes On A Plane

There is nothing on this earth that will adequately prepare you for Samuel L. Jackson's latest project. I understand it needs a little work. You may wish to purchase a commemorative t-shirt. Defamer demurs; here's some Wikipedia completeness. (Warning: not to be drinking while reading.)

Today's Birthdays

Brian Barnes LAN b. 1967, played 1994
Chris Hartje BRO b. 1915, played 1939, d. 1946-06-26
Woodie Held CAL b. 1932, played 1967-1968
Dutch Leonard BRO b. 1909, played 1933-1936, d. 1983-04-17

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pickoff Moves, Bedtime Edition

The Literal Pain Of Davey Johnson

Former Dodger skipper Davey Johnson's had a rough life post-Dodgers:
Johnson, 63, nearly died in 2004 while suffering from a mysterious stomach ailment that turned out to be a year-long ruptured appendix. At one point, his weight plummeted from 250 pounds down to 145. But even that ordeal couldn't prepare him for the pain of last June when his youngest daughter, 32-year-old Andrea Lyn, an accomplished surfer, died suddenly after a lengthy battle with schizophrenia.
Peter Angelos refused to give him a contract extension in 1997, and thereafter, Johnson says he was "fired" from the organization, but harbors no ill-will. It amazes me how positive some people can be despite the awful things that happen to them. (Via David Pinto.)

Court To Barry: No Restraining Order For You

The court has refused to issue a restraining order against the publishers or authors of Game of Shadows, or the San Francisco Chronicle or Sports Illustrated for publishing that book. Barry, you made your needle... now you're gonna have to live with it. Unfortunately, it seems to me this was a rather dastardly move by someone high up in the federal prosecutor's office who decided the best way to take care of Barry was to leak enormous volumes of materials, a federal crime for which there will be no prosecution. What a surprise... not...

Five Questions About The Barry Bonds Giants of San Francisco

Steve Treder in Hardball Times' "Five Questions" series (which I'll appear early next week for the Angels) covers the Giants fan's perspective on Barry's, uh, "issues":
Being a Giants' fan over the past several years has been a mixed blessing. In Barry Bonds, we've gotten to witness up close perhaps the most remarkable run of hitting any baseball player has ever performed. Whatever one's opinions about the propriety of Bonds's training methods, and the precise degree to which illicit substances might have enhanced his performance, there can be no question about the staggering magnitude of the performance. Bonds had, of course, been the central reason why the Giants had been such a consistently good ball club until 2005.

But they had been a consistently good ball club, and never a great one. We Giants' fans have regarded each passing year of Bonds' astounding twilight with a sense of mounting anxiety, even frustration: the window of Bonds' presence was inexorably closing, and yet the ball club, though utterly drenched in gorgeous new-ballpark turnstile-and-concession revenue, never committed to putting the pedal all the way to the floor in terms of payroll. If ever it would seem that the time was right for a franchise to just say, the hell with it, we're going to do whatever it possibly takes to win it all just one time, it would seem to be when they had one of the very greatest players in baseball history in his last few seasons, selling out a jewel of a stadium in a very affluent media market. But that never happened: the Giants teased their fan base, putting good-but-hardly-stellar supporting casts around their superduperstar, and were consistently in the postseason hunt but were never (except perhaps in 2000) really a favorite. Their one trip to the World Series, in 2002, was as a Wild Card entry, and then they managed to tease us even more mercilessly by blowing a late-innings Game 6 lead, and with it the Series. The sense of missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity hangs deep in the hearts of Giants' fans.

I mention in passing their travails: Scott Freaking Spiezio, and of course, October 2, 2004, to list but two of their more recent humiliations. But there is no joy in this; in the diminution of the Giants -- and really, the NL West -- the entire division has become a baseball Siberia, a place where first-round washouts are born before the season even starts. The close of Barry's career, set amid the writhing and tumult of the snake pit, leaves everyone else that much reduced. Take him down at your own peril.

Rogers Agrees To Anger Management

Kenny Rogers agreed to take an anger management class in lieu of jail time, for punching a TV cameraman before a June 29 start.

Today's Birthdays

Wilson Alvarez LAN b. 1970, played 2003-2005
Jamie Arnold LAN b. 1974, played 1999-2000
Dick Egan CAL,LAN b. 1937, played 1966-1967

Royals 5, Angels 1

The silence of Angels bats were outmatched by a bad start by Hector Carrasco, who gave up five earned in 3.2 IP. The Halos got 11 hits, but couldn't string them together to make more runs; it's hard when the only extra base hit was Cabrera's lone double. Hopefully this doesn't presage the regular season.


Marlins 9, Dodgers 2

So what's the excuse this time, Derek? Girlfriend(s) got your tongue? Six earned in 4.0 IP, and a Dodgers offense that never really got started against Dontrelle Willis, who three-hit the club despite a lineup that looks mainly like the opening day batting order.


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