Monday, April 18th, 2005
5:06 pm - Meanwhile, Back at Chavez Ravine...  
Heh, a week or so ago I was mentioning that as much as I admired the fact that the Dodgers seemed constantly able to pull games out of the fire with late inning heroics after giving up huge leads early, I would prefer they won games in a slightly less heart-stopping manner. Since then, they do seem to have hit upon a much more straightforward approach: pitch well and pound out runs early. Four straight excellent starts and an offense that leads the majors in runs have the Blue in first place with the best record in baseball at 9-2. It's the team's best start since 1955, which has to be a good omen. Even better, most of that 9-2 came at the expense of the two teams that were supposed to be their closest rivals for the division crown, the Giants and the Padres.

The pitching has been surprisingly good. Derek Lowe came back from getting hit on his pitching arm by a line drive to pitch a complete game shutout against the Padres, only the second shutout of his career. (His first was his no-hitter.) DeLo was a one man gang, getting his third career hit ever, and driving in two runs, the second and third RBI of his career ever. He also got hit again, this time by a shot off his leg, but he seemed to suffer no ill effects. Scott Erickson came back from a lousy start against the DBacks to pitch as he had all spring, beating the Pads 8-3. Then came Weaver who was just terrible last time out against the Jints (8 runs in 3+innings). He bounced all the way back against the Padres yesterday, throwing a five hit shutout. The Dodgers have now matched the number of complete games they got all last season.

The run scoring continues to amaze, especially since both Hee-Seop Choi and JD Drew are still batting under .150. Since they're usually 2-3 in the order, that's been a big hole in the lineup. Jeff Kent has been amazing, and so has Milton Bradley, and so has pretty much everyone else that Jim Tracy has plugged into the lineup. Even Drew has mitigated his performance somewhat by drawing 9 walks, and he finally hit his first homer yesterday, so here's hoping he's finally getting untracked.

Then there's poor Hee-Seop, who keeps getting lower and lower on Tracy's confidence scale. He was to be the regular first baseman, but didn't hit, so Tracy benched the left-handed Choi against lefties to try to get him going. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be working. Saturday, Tracy benched him against Adam Eaton, a power right-hander (according to Tracy), and replaced him at first with outfielder Jason Grabowski, basically the last guy on the Dodger bench, who'd played first exactly three times before in his ML career. Grabowski was 1-3 with an RBI. Essentially Tracy is saying that he doesn't think Choi can get around on a fastball right now. He has a huge hole in his swing, and that hole covers a good chunk of the strike zone. (This is one of the few apparent stress lines on the team. DePo is really high on Choi, thinking him to be a perfect moneyball player, and he can't be happy with Tracy taking him out of the lineup. Still, you can't fault Tracy here. Choi just hasn't hit. A change of scenery might be good for him at this point. I will note that changing teams seems to be helping Dave Ross, who is currently hitting .308 with 3 homers since getting traded to Pittsburgh, no end. Good for him, and I wish him well. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.)

Tonight they start a road trip in Milwaukee, and the team is apparently staying in a hotel that is haunted. Elmer Dessens gets his second start out of the bullpen, and by happy coincidence, the man Dessens is replacing in the rotation, Brad Penny, has a rehab start tonight in Las Vegas. If all goes well, Penny could take over his designated slot in the rotation this weekend without even having to move any of other pitchers around. They may need him. The team has ten straight games before they get a day off.
Current Mood: anticipatory
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brendalubrendalu on April 18th, 2005 - 05:41 pm
Huh. I've lived in Milwaukee for a good deal of my life and never heard anything about that hotel being haunted. I'll have to ask some people who know more about this kind of stuff than I do.

"There aren't many options in Milwaukee," Gagne said.

What. Ev.
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Hecubothecubot on April 18th, 2005 - 07:57 pm
After watching Jeff Kent on a regular basis during his Giants stint I can confidently assert the following:

1. You want him on your ballclub. He's very steady at second, has a strong arm. And he mashes. In fact - he's a HoF candidate at second base if you look at his career numbers. One of the best hitting second basemen of his generation. And by a pretty wide margin. If he hadn't played his whole carer in the steroids era, people would recognize this. (He doesn't use 'roids himself, and has been pretty outspoken about it.)

2. He's an asshole. You'll be happy to see him come to the plate with the game on the line, but you don't want to go out for drinks with him.

3. Even though he's an asshole with a porn moustache - you still want him on your team.

As for the Dodgers - they're doing all this without Gagne and Penny! Sheesh.

My friend Anita is a serious Dodgers fan and she keeps complaining about how DePo broke up the chemistry of the team. I have a hard time grasping this when they're 9-2. I do get that folks prefer homegrown talent and scrappy leader catchers. But he put the Dodgers in the playoffs for the first time in forever. And they're 9-2.
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DXMachinadxmachina on April 19th, 2005 - 06:47 am
Heh, I saw this quote in a post over on the Dodger Thoughts blog:

"Looking back a few years when I was walking Barry Bonds to get to Jeff Kent, I can't believe I was doing that." - Jim Tracy

The post in question wondered about comparing Kent to Kirk Gibson. The only thing that was actually agreed upon was the most folks think Kent is nicer than Gibson. Actually, I was looking at some old pictures, and Kent sort of reminds me of a taller version of Ron Cey (except for the whole running like a penguin thing).

Here's the thing about DePo. Last year he was lucky to even make the playoffs after trading Lo Duca, et al. To date, I still think it's one of the worst trades ever. It left us with huge holes in both the lineup and the bullpen. The only thing the may change my mind about it would be if Penny comes back to dominate long term, but as far as the short term, the Dodgers won in spite of, not because of, the trade.

That said, most of his other moves have been pretty good. Last year he picked up Milton Bradley, who I love despite his flaws. One could argue that picking up Finley last year *did* win the division. I would've preferred he kept Beltre, but he did get both Drew and Kent combined for just a little more the Beltre got from Seattle. I agree with his reasoning on Lowe.

Still, I can see Anita's point of view. There has been so much change since DePo got here, that it's almost like the Dodgers are an expansion team. Everyone is from somewhere else. Everyone you rooted for in the past is gone. You do have to wonder about team chemistry in situations like that. Fortunately, they've gotten off to a terrific start. Winning is the best thing in the world for developing chemistry.
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DXMachinadxmachina on April 19th, 2005 - 06:50 am
Also, FWIW, I'm still puzzled by the Valentin signing. Not that it hasn't worked out so far, but it still confuses me, because I didn't see it working out at all.
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