A Hollywood ending that even Hollywood couldn’t write

The day that should have had so much promise started out with the horrible news that baseball had lost one of its great stars in a fishing boat accident. Winning a pennant now seemed inconsequential. Witnessing the last calls of Vin at home was already going to make for a stressful day, losing Jose Fernandez and Vin Scully on the same day just didn’t seem right.

One was just starting out with a road map that looked like it could lead to Cooperstown, the other had parked at Cooperstown decades before. In a strange twist, it was going to take someone like Vin Scully to get me through another tough day, even if it was the last time he would be able to do it.

This game was fan appreciation day. It was Vin Scully’s last home game. It was a possible pennant-winning day.  The drama involved the combination of the three.

Could the Dodgers win their fourth straight pennant on fan appreciation day in front of Vin Scully on his last game at Dodger Stadium? Had the stars really aligned to make this a possibility?  I asked Craig Minami if the Dodgers had ever clinched a pennant on Fan Appreciation day, and he couldn’t remember it happening.

The LAD have won eleven ROY awards. The award is named after Jackie Robinson who won the first ever award for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers have owned this award from Jackie Robinson to Fernando to Mike Piazza but for one day Corey Seager transcended them all.

If  Corey Seager does nothing ever again he gave Dodger fans exactly what they needed and wanted on this Sunday.

He gave the Dodgers Extra Vinning when he slammed a two-out home run in the bottom of the 9th against a pitcher who had just toyed with Toles and Turner. He gave Vin Scully the call we wanted to hear one more time. The dramatic call, the roar of the crowd . Corey Seager gave us something we only hoped could happen, but never expected it to happen.

He gave us Charlie Culberson.

Charlie Culberson will never hit a more important home run for Los Angeles Dodger fans, I don’t care if he hits a World Series home run. This was it. This was not just a pennant-winning home run, that was going to happen no matter what. No, Charlie Culberson gave the greatest baseball announcer of all time the greatest call one could ask for to go out on.

Corey Seager and Charlie Culberson were the wings under our feet today.

Thank You

 

Horrible Sunday morning

Getting my car washed at 08:00 AM at a local carwash charity for Sebastian Bordonaro so he could get his service dog I had time to check out the twitter feed. I was expecting lots of Dodger love but instead,  I got a punch to the gut.

My favorite pitcher died this morning, an inspirational story has ended much too soon. This is when great writers come to the forefront to help us express what we are feeling and Grant Brisbee did just that.

Jose Fernandez was not someone you had to remind yourself to humanize. He was not a player you had reduced to an on-field construct because that’s just how we have to compartmentalize everything. No, no, goodness no. He was so radiant that when he’s ripped away, you almost have to force yourself to remember the talent. How well he played the sport is the afterthought because all you can think about at first is the joy.

Met fans are being taken on quite a ride

As the Mets struggle to keep up with the Giants and Cardinals in the Wild Card race despite their ravaged rotation, their fans are being treated to a great game after great game. The ending may not always be what they are hoping for, but the drama is coming at them in spades.

For the 3rd night in a row, the Mets engaged in a nail biter. They had lost the previous two games by one run, and it looked like they would lose this in extra innings by two runs, but Asdrubal Cabrera blasted a three-run walk-off home run to propel the Mets to a much-needed victory.

This game had everything:

  • Mets were leading 4 – 3 when Franco hit a three-run home run to give the Phillies the lead 6 – 4.
  • In the bottom of the 9th, much maligned Jose Reyes tied the game with a two-run home run.
  • In the top of the 11th, old friend A.J. Ellis hit a single to put the Phillies up 7-6. That was followed by another run to give the Phillies an 8 – 6 lead headed into the bottom of the 11th.
  • Cabrera hits the game-winning three-run home run
  • Final Score 9 – 8

That victory allowed the Mets to keep pace with Giants who beat the Padres in their own nail biter 2 – 1. The Cardinals didn’t play so they drop 1/2 game back of both teams.

Meanwhile, Matt Kemp crushed the Marlins hopes with two home runs giving him 33 for the season. Kemp now leads all NL outfielders in home runs.

Hey, did Carlos Ruiz become A.J. Ellis and A.J. Ellis become Carlos Ruiz after the trade?

Before the trade A.J. Ellis had a .537 OPS and Ruiz had a .719 OPS

After the trade A.J. Ellis has a .772 OPS and Ruiz has a .517 OPS

 

 

Yazmani Grandal and the big RBI game

Since Yazmani Grandal joined the team in 2015, he has had some big games, so how does his big games compare against his Dodger peers over the same time span? Pretty damn good.

If we look at LAD since 2015 to have driven in at least five runs:

  • Eleven times in that period a LAD has driven in at least five runs.
  • Grandal has done it four of those eleven times
  • Adrian Gonzalez has done it three of those eleven times
  • Chase Utley has done it twice
  • Justin Turner, Andrew Toles, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig have done it once
  • The Dodgers have done it nine times in 2016, only twice in 2015

Grandal and the LAD switch hitting home run numbers

LAD Switch Hitters with two or more home runs in a game:

  • 38 times a switch hitter has hit at least two home runs in a game
  • Grandal has now done it four times in only two years
  • Reggie Smith did it six times over a three year period 1976 – 1978
  • Eddie Murray did it five times  over a two-year period 1989- 1990
  • Milton Bradley did it five times over a two-year period 2004 – 2005
  • Four players did it one time between the Milton Bradley and Yazmani Grandal eras. Jose Cruz, Bill Mueller, Raffy Furcal, and Orlando Hudson
  • Grandal has the most RBI by a LAD switch hitter with 8. And 6. He had five tonight.
  • This was only the second time a switch-hitter with at least two home runs also hit a double. The other was John Shelby in 1987.
  • Unlikely names on this list are Maury Wills and Derrell Thomas. Wills hit only 20 lifetime home runs in 7588 at-bats. So he hit 10% of his major league home runs in one game. Derrel Thomas hit only 12 home runs over his five LAD seasons.
  • Eight times a LAD switch hitter has driven in at least five runs. Grandal has done it three of those eight times.

 

 

Wild, wild card night ends with losses for everyone

Ender Inciarte made sure the Mets couldn’t pull ahead of either the Cardinals or Giants with this walk off catch.

While the Mets were losing to the Braves, the Cardinals were blasted by the Rockies 11 – 1, and the Giants were sent packing by the Dodgers Yasiel Puig 9 – 3.

Even the Marlins got in on the losing, being dropped by the Nationals 8 – 3.  With everyone else losing the Pirates decided to make a little game of it and won their second in a row to jump over the Marlins in a futile attempt for the play in game.

Inciarte started off slow this year but since June 5th he has had an OPS of .800. On June 5th it was .523, and is now a cumulative .736. Add in his glove, and decent splits, the Braves have themselves a full-time centerfielder. Dansby Swanson has become the full-time shortstop and has acquitted himself well with his 112 OPS+ in his first 100 major league at-bats. Even Aaron Blair is getting in on the action with a nice game in his last start when he beat Thor.  Why am I mentioning Inciarte/Swanson/Blair? Oh, just because.
 

Scott Kazmir – Audition number one

Back in July,  it would have been hard to imagine that Kazmir would be auditioning for a spot on the postseason roster, but August came and everything changed.

Using Baseball Reference to get the game score and sorting by highest game score to lowest we can see that three of his six worst game scores came in his last three games before hitting the disabled list. We learned that when Kazmir hit the DL he had been pitching hurt for a while because the Dodgers had such few rotation options.

Game Score Date IP H ER SO BB Opp Rslt
76 31-May 6 1 0 7 1 CHC W5-0
76 2-Jul 6 3 0 10 0 COL W6-1
75 5-Apr 6 1 0 5 0 SDP W3-0
73 19-Jul 7 4 1 8 0 WSN W8-4
70 14-May 8.2 5 2 7 1 STL W5-3
70 25-May 6 4 1 12 2 CIN W3-1
59 10-Aug 6 4 2 6 3 PHI L2-6
55 27-Apr 6 7 2 6 1 MIA L0-2
52 3-May 6.2 7 4 9 1 TBR W10-5
51 21-Jun 6 8 2 4 1 WSN W3-2
49 30-Jul 6.2 8 4 7 0 ARI L2-4
47 11-Jun 5 3 3 3 5 SFG L4-5
46 16-Jun 4 5 3 8 2 MIL L6-8
46 24-Jul 5 6 3 3 0 STL W9-6
45 9-May 5.2 6 3 6 4 NYM L2-4
45 5-Jun 5 7 3 5 1 ATL W12-6
43 27-Jun 5 4 4 4 4 PIT W5-4
41 22-Apr 5 6 4 3 1 COL L5-7
41 20-May 5.2 3 5 5 7 SDP L6-7
41 17-Aug 5 8 2 1 3 PHI W7-2
40 5-Aug 5.1 5 4 2 4 BOS L0-9
37 8-Jul 3 6 3 5 3 SDP W10-6
31 16-Apr 4 7 4 3 4 SFG L3-4
28 22-Aug 2.2 6 4 1 3 CIN W18-9
27 10-Apr 4 7 6 4 1 SFG L6-9

Kazmir has been good and bad this year, and most people are remembering the bad because three of them came in his final six starts.

You could blame those bad games on the fact he was pitching hurt when the Dodgers couldn’t afford him to miss a turn and I would not argue with you. The question right now as he gets ready to pitch tonight, is he healthy enough to earn a spot on the postseason roster?

I hope so because a healthy Kazmir might be the best option the Dodgers have to follow Kershaw/Maeda/Hill.

One other note, you will notice that two of his best games this year came against the Cubs and Nationals. His best game of the year came against the Cubs.

Scott Kazmir was outstanding for six scoreless innings, going punch-for-punch with Arrieta. The left-hander struck out seven while only allowing one hit, a walk and a hit batter.

 Kazmir struck out 46 batters in May, joining Clayton Kershaw (65) and Alex Wood (41) as the first Dodgers trio with 40 or more strikeouts in a month since July 1963.

That was the best game pitched against the Cubs by a Dodger this year, and the eighth best by any pitcher.

His game against the Nationals on July 19th was the best game pitched by a LAD against the Nationals and the 11th best overall.

No one expected the cavalry to be the kiddie corps

but that is what happened when the original calvary all came up lame while Clayton was shelved.

At first, it was going to be Ryu then McCarthy, then Anderson. None of them survived their charge and all went back to the DL they came from.  Instead, it was rookies Urias / Stewart / Stripling who rode to the rescue. Later Kazmir went down, and Jose De Leon joined the kiddie corp cavalry.

Now as we head into late September the original cavalry is trying to make one more charge. McCarthy is throwing simulated games, and Brett Anderson talked his way into a start tomorrow night. Alex Wood was activated on Tuesday but only for bullpen duty. Scott Kazmir will be making a start on Friday.

It is possible the Dodgers will be able to add Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Alex Wood to the pitching roster.

Just like in the outfield Dave Roberts and the LAD front office will have some hard decisions to make if all of these pitchers prove capable over the next two weeks.

Vin Scully and the headfirst slide

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If you watched the game on TV last night you heard Vin Scully spend a good amount of time lamenting the lack of sliding skills in the major leagues. This was brought about when Brandon Crawford slid headfirst into 3rd base and injured his finger.

At my house or at the ballgame or at a bar, anytime someone slides headfirst into 1st base or home I’ll bemoan the action. Even though science says you might get to first a tick faster by sliding  into first base that is only in a perfect scenario and is not worth the injury risk.

It doesn’t actually matter if sliding is theoretically faster than running through if the sliding proposition requires precise timing and mechanics that no major leaguer employs

That one just seems foolhardy,  unless one is trying to avoid an errant throw in which case anything goes if that hit is more important to you than being able to play more games.

The home first slide makes sense in that you can manipulate your arms to try to find the seam where you can touch home before the catchers touch you. However,  the benefits of being safe at home in a 162 game season for one run, don’t seem to outweigh the possibilities of serious injury to your fingers or hand given you are sliding into a very protected player. A.J. Pollock put the Diamondback season on the rails even before the season started with such a slide.

Sliding head first at 2nd or 3rd is a different story.   Back when you only had a few teams and everyone was vying for the postseason money share,  players weren’t so friendly. You slid you got tagged hard. Much better to have that hard tag on your legs and feet than your head, arms, and hands. This is just an observation but as the hard tag went the way of baseball slavery, players stopped having to worry about a hard tag to the head or having their hands/fingers purposely stepped on if they slid head first. Maury Wills explains the mindset back in the early 1960’s. It wasn’t safe for African-American to slide headfirst. Can you imagine Jackie Robinson in 1947 doing a head first slide instead of his famous hook slide?

Wills was caught stealing only 13 times in 1962. He paid a tab physically with severe bruising in his legs, resorting at times to a rare headfirst slide to spare further pain. “They’d have brought a knee down and broken my collarbone,” he said, when asked why he so rarely went headfirst.

As the headfirst slide became a safer proposition and a much faster one to the bag you started seeing it more and more. I think Pete Rose had a huge impact on this as images of Pete Rose hurling his body head first at the 3rd base bag are ingrained in old time fans minds.

Sure, if you watch the brilliant sliders like Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, or Junior Jim Gilliam you could see the art of the slide as they hook slid into their base evading the tag, but damn that head first slide was exciting. It is what I did and I expect what many kids did who played baseball in the 1970’s.

Vinny was lamenting that they don’t even teach sliding anymore in spring training, and to be honest, I’ve been wondering that myself for 30 years.  Or at least since Pedro Guerrero almost ruined his Dodger career with one of the worst slides ever seen into 3rd base. Back when Puig looked to be the next Pedro Guerrero fans winced whenever he slid because it was always a trainwreck.

I think one of the answers is obvious. The other not so obvious. Vinny specifically mentioned the hook slide, and the answer to that one is that it is hard to learn and takes lots of work. Players would rather practice hitting/fielding than learning how to use a slide they probably would rarely use. Maury Wills tells us what he thinks:

Wills spent years perfecting his hook slide, reaching the Majors at 26.

Learning the difficult slides like the hook slide probably takes more time than any modern ballplayer wants to devote to a small part of his game.

Davey Lopes was not a head first slider, but he also wasn’t a hook slider. He did the simple slide hard and fast feet first into the bag.

It’s usually a guy trying to avoid a tag, and it just looks like a hook slide,” said Davey Lopes, who succeeded Wills as the Dodgers’ leadoff catalyst, making good use of his wheels on the basepaths. “A real hook slide is hard to do, very hard. You just don’t see it any more.

“Maury used to fade away with his hook slide, and he did it from both sides. More guys did it in the old days. Jackie Robinson used to hook slide. I never even tried it. I’d have broken an ankle the way I slide — late, straight and hard.”

So why has baseball simply stopped teaching their players the slide that Davey Lopes and thousands of ballplayers used to employ?

When you see a Puig,  slide feet first you understand why they slide headfirst because given how bad they are at sliding feet first they are actually in more danger of injury than with the head first slide.

But really, when you are spending millions on your players, shouldn’t you make sure they can do the fundamental aspects of the game that will keep them healthier over the term of team control? Even if the players don’t want to learn how to slide, it would seem it would be in the best interest of the players, owners, agents, that they make this effort.

Wild Card in a Carls Junior Three Way

With the Giants winning, the Cardinals winning, and the Mets losing, every team in the Wild Card hunt have the exact same record of 80 – 71.

  • The Cardinals are 5 -5 in their last ten games but have won four in a row to force their way into the three-way tie.
  • The Mets are also only 5 – 5 in their last ten games but have lost two in a row to the last-place Braves.
  • Meanwhile, the Giants are 4 – 6 in their last ten games, and even though they beat the Dodgers last night they have lost their Wild Card lead and are hanging on. The biggest question for the Giants is, “can their rotation make up for their bullpen?”. Last night both the rotation and bullpen were stellar, but that was a rare night for the Giants in Sept.

Jose Fernandez pitched at home last night and threw eight scoreless innings against the Nationals. The last time Fernandez pitched at home he threw seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers. In his last two starts at home against the two teams that seem destined to play each other in the NLDS, Jose has thrown 15 IP, given up just six hits, three walks, and an astounding 26 strikeouts.

Miami doesn’t have much of a chance to make the post season but they have won four games in a row to at least make their presence felt. Four games back with 11 to play while needing at least two of the three teams to stumble ahead of them seems like a tough task, but maybe Don Mattingly’s crew has some magic left in them.