Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lights Out Loss - Chalk It Up to Inept Nationals Staff + The Greatness of Kershaw

I had Friday night on my calendar as a game to attend for the longest time as I figured it would be a Clayton Kershaw start, being the first game after the AllStar break.  An ideal opportunity for a Dodger win.   All the stars were aligned for it to be the perfect road game to see in person.    But I couldn't pull the trigger.  I had to wait, and I'm sure glad I did.  In the end, when the Dodgers announced that Bolsinger would start, I didn't buy tickets.

photo by Brad Mills, USA Today Sports
In this age of modern technology, you'd think that a Major League organization with a stadium a mere 7 years old could keep the lights on.  But now, as a D.C. resident for the last 15 months, I must say, nothing surprises me in the nation's capital.

Chalk up the Friday-Saturday loss on the Nationals to an inept stadium staff.  They single-handidly gave their ball club a victory by forcing pitchers to warm up and cool down for a three hour period.  Why in the world the game wasn't played under protest is beyond me.

Tsao gave up the 2-run homer on Friday night after having warmed up and cooled down twice.  The third time, he clearly wasn't ready.  As I watched this debacle from home after the lights went out a second time, I couldn't help but think, "thank goodness you didn't attend this train wreck in person."
What a mess that was and an embarrassment for the Nationals organization.  That delay should have been no more than a few seconds, and not hours on end.

I'm obviously not savvy about technical issues, such as stadium lights, but it seems that there are enough out there in 29 other cities, (oops, make that 28, as I forgot about Chicago), that know how to keep them on without jeopardizing the integrity of the game.  If I had attended the game on Friday, I'd be asking for a full refund.


and....speaking of "lights out," how good is Clayton Kershaw right now?   Check out this stat line for his last two games:

17 innings pitched, 0 Runs Allowed, 27 strikeouts, 0 walks.

photo by Gary Fiume, Getty Images North America

Small sample size?  Sure.  Has anyone had such a dominant two game stretch in the past few decades?  I doubt it.  Twenty-seven Ks and 0 walks.  Nobody does that in two games.  Last night's Game Score of "90" was Clayton's highest since he pitched that no-hitter last year on June 18th vs. Colorado, with a games score of "102."  (Kershaw's no-hitter was the 7th highest game score in major league history and even surpassed Koufax's perfect game of "101").

That Bill James devised sabermetric stat (game score) is probably the best measure of game greatness out there for pitchers.  A score of 90 or higher makes up less than 0.025 % of all games played. Kershaw has thrown 4 of them in his career, and yesterday was one of them. He's the best pitcher in baseball bar none.  Watch him roll off 12 wins in a row.  I'm calling it right here.

How to calculate "Game Score:"

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  3. Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  4. Add one point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract one point for each walk.

Friday, July 3, 2015

It's Time to Take Over the Division...A Look Back In History

The moment has arrived.  The Dodgers need to step on the accelerator.

Everything is lining up in order.  The Giants are slumping on the road and now they head to D.C. to face a tough Nationals team.  The Dodgers are coming off their first off day in over a month as well their first winning road trip of the season.  They have a homestand coming up in which the schedule favors them with inferior teams, (Mets, Phillies and Brewers) and to top it off...Kershaw and Greinke start the first two games.

There comes a time in a season when you simply have to step on the gas and cushion that lead.  NOW IS THAT TIME!

As much as the Dodgers have pretty much led the division from the get go, it's safe to say that this team hasn't dominated by any stretch of the imagination.  If you want to see what this team is truly made of, I say this is the week we'll find out.  The Dodgers need to enter the All Star break with a 6 or 7 game lead in the West.


This has been a strange year.  With the Giants owning the Dodgers in head to head play, it reminds me of a similar situation of Dodger-Giant lore, but things were the exact opposite in 1971.

This was a Dodger team of Richie Allen, Willie Davis, Wes Parker and Maury Wills' last good season.  Al Downing won 20 games and Don Sutton 17. Jim Brewer in the pen sported a 1.88 ERA.

Richie Allen at 3B for the Dodgers in 1971 made Pedro Guerrero look like a gold glover.

The Dodgers absolutely owned the Giants that year, but San Francisco started out hot and they were in first place for 147 days of the season, almost from start to finish.  L.A. had a 12-6 record against the Giants that season, including winning their final eight contests with their hated rivals.  We all knew who the better team was.  It just seemed inevitable that San Francisco would cough up that 10 game lead they had as the Dodgers whittled away at it to move within one game of first place on September 14th.

Unfortunately, the Dodger schedule against San Francisco was done by then.  A four game losing streak to hapless San Diego and Atlanta set them back.  Even winning five of their final six wasn't enough as the Giants held their own and won the division by one game, depriving us of what would have been a classic NLCS with Roberto Clemente's Pittsburgh Pirates.

So my point is this:

It doesn't matter who the wins and losses come against.  The big picture right now is the overall record, and as things stand right now, the Dodgers beat the teams they should beat, much better than the Giants do.

 We know the Giants and Cardinals have owned us this year, but those were just blips on the whole schedule.  The '88 Dodgers were 1-10 against the Mets in the regular season, but that didn't matter when the NLCS rolled around.  The '83 Phillies were 1-11 against the Dodgers, but when the playoffs came around, and they took the Dodgers out in 4 games.

We express concerns with the way this team holds up against those NL rivals, but it's a clean slate in October.  There's a lot of time left.  There is a trade deadline looming and some exciting call ups coming for the September run.  This ball club will be a completely different animal in September. And so will the Giants.  For that reason, getting a cushion at the All Star break is very important.  Not crucial, but certainly important.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The "Cardinal Way" is Nothing to Brag About

Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals Manager
As word spreads about an FBI probe against the St. Louis Cardinal front office hacking in to the Houston Astros network, it leaves little doubt that the organization that boasts about doing things the "Cardinal Way" gives little thought to such words as integrity and fair play.  Now I'm starting to wonder how deeply entrenched cheating is in the Cardinal organization at all levels.

We watched helplessly as Clayton Kershaw's deliveries were whacked around in the 2014 NLDS.  A schalacking that we'd never seen Kershaw ever experience before.  Speculation that the Cardinals knew what pitch was coming was prevalent, but no proof surfaced.  Of course Matheny and company denied it, but those that have followed the game for a long time recognized hitters that were teeing off on pitches they knew were coming.  Did the Cardinals develop an elaborate scheme to tip their hitters about the pitches being called?  Was it sophisticated in a way similar to the '51 Giants, who used, telescopes, signals and buzzer systems to let batters know what pitch was coming?  Who knows?

We can only guess, but today's announcement proves one thing.  There is now concrete evidence that this organization cheats, and they didn't even consider the consequences of getting caught.  For that, they should be punished severely.  If it were up to me, I'd banish the culprits from the game for life, in the same fashion that the 1919 Black Sox were banned, and Pete Rose was given the boot.  This is serious stuff.  In the 21st century, network hacking in the tech savvy baseball world can do some serious damage to an organization.  It messes with the integrity of the game and gives an organization an unfair advantage.  That in turn affects outcomes.

Take away St. Louis' first five draft picks in the 2016 and 2017 draft.  Ban those in their organization that were involved from the game for life.  Sanction the organization $100 million dollars.  That should show St. Louis what the "Cardinal Way" is all about.  This needs to be near the equivalent of the SMU NCAA football death penalty in the mid 1980s.  Rob Manfred, you're up next.

As a Cardinal hater, I must say that I admit to some morbid enjoyment in watching the redbird fans squirm.  There's nothing worse than cheaters, and the Cardinals have just surfaced with a dishonest reputation that should follow them for years.  Chew on that Cardinal fans.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Since When Do Style Points Determine Whether a Pitch Is a Strike?

I never thought I'd say it, but umpire Mike Winters just proved that he views officiating at home plate the same  a figure skating judge does in the Olympics.  An inadequate "presentation" from Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis kept him from calling borderline pitches strikes.  Are you kidding me?  That has to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard and who can blame Ellis one bit for arguing to the point of receiving his first ever ejection last night?
(photo by CBSSPorts)
I was pretty much against instant replay when the officiating review rules were introduced.  And I still have my reservations about it, since I've seen some questionable decisions made in New York after reviewing plays, but one thing it has proved is that the four guys officiating each game certainly make a lot of mistakes AND they can be replaced.  Perhaps it is time to seriously consider replacing them completely, and that has to do with the guy calling balls and strikes.

It's time for Joe Torre to stand up and punish this umpire.    If A.J. Ellis is correct in stating that Winters said that the way he caught the pitches, or essentially his poor pitch framing made it difficult to call some strikes, then that's an admission that his calls are based on the acting skills of the receiver and not where the ball is while it crosses the plane.  A.J. isn't a liar, and why else would this level headed veteran lose it to the point of ejection?

But Joe Torre has had it in for the Dodgers for some reason since he left in 2010, so I highly doubt anything will be done.  We've seen a number of replays go against Los Angeles since these changes were instituted, and call me crazy, but I simply don't trust MLB brass and the officiating staff headed by Torre at all.  I have no proof of any shenanigans, just an opinion of a distant observer, coupled with the frustrations of a Dodger fan that has watched his team whittle away a first place lead of 5-6 games in a few weeks time.

It's tough enough to beat the likes of San Francisco and St. Louis on an even playing field, but when you've got umpires doing stupid things like calling pitches based on style points of the catcher, well that takes frustration to new levels.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Revolving Door 25th Man

It certainly has been a unique way to handle the 5th spot in the Dodgers rotation.  With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon Mccarthy's injuries, you're think that the Dodgers would be in a bit of a panic mode a little more than month into the season, but the Dodger front office has handled the problem in a unique way.

I call it the revolving OKC door.  Others may name it the "catch and unconditional release" method.  Whatever you call it, it has worked so far, but how much longer can the Dodgers continue this?  That answer might surprise you.  I think it might go on for months.

Carlos Frias is now the number 4 guy in the Dodger rotation.  Here he is facing the Brewers in this week's action at Milwaukee (AP photo)

David Huff, Mike Bolsinger, Scott Baker, Carlos Frias, and Joe Weiland have made spot starts in the fourth and fifth rotation spots.  Relievers Daniel Coulombe, Sergio Santos and Adam Liberatore have bounced between AAA and the majors in that 25th spot too.  Mix in position players like Darwin Barney, Chris Heisey and Enrique Hernandez and there you have the 25th man, made up of eleven different guys.  

By far, the Dodgers are making the most moves in baseball as they juggle their roster.  The risks?  Losing the players they send down who have major league service time on the waiver wire, but so far, nobody is picking those men up off the scrap heap.  That may change over time as rival NL West teams might want to mess with the Dodger's GM strategy as they repeat this process again and again.  The thing is though, there isn't much desire by other clubs for these types of players, and if they are snatched up by another team after the Dodgers unconditionally release them...it's no big deal anyway.

The guys like Baker, Barney, Bolsinger and Huff are serviceable players, but they aren't "difference makers."  At least we think that way now anyway. And again, the Dodgers appear to be snake-bit on the injury front again, perhaps more than any other team in the game.  More and more, this is becoming the M.O. of the L.A. Dodgers.  The front office loads up on depth and in the end, it proves beneficial.  How much would we have liked to hold on to Dan Haren right now?

Who can complain though?  19-10 is their record, and that's with the starting staff 40% gone and Clayton Kershaw not hitting his stride yet.  Friedman and Zaidi obviously know what they're doing and they have a plan.  It is probably plan "C" or "D" that is currently in place, but it's a plan nonetheless, and in the end, the ball club isn't panicking and overpaying in a desperate trade for someone like Cole Hamels.  At least not yet.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back to Winning...but Mattingly's Tendencies Remain the Same

As many predicted doom and gloom following the three game sweep in San Francisco, we are seeing that the globe is back securely on it's axis and normalcy returns.

(photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Frisco sweep in the grand scheme of things probably means nothing.  The Dodgers departed the Bay Area and proceeded to win again and hit again.  The Giants left and immediately lost to Colorado.  In September we probably won't even remember the April Frisco fiasco, except for the tendencies of our stubborn manager that doesn't believe in playing the hottest hitter in the game, until he inevitably cools off or the league figures out some of his weaknesses.  I truly believe that had Alex Guerrero started (AND FINISHED!) all three games, the Dodgers probably sweep the Giants.

Alex Guerrero is absolutely raking, but he continues to sit.  I've got to hand it to the guy.  He handles his benching with class and dignity.  He repeatedly continues to make a fool out of his manager by coming up big with the bat when given a chance.  I think we're all a bit bothered by the fact that he sits while Uribe and Rollins continue going out there and laying an egg.  That stick of Guerrero's would fit in nicely with the rest of the Dodger offense.  Heck, I'd even venture to test him out a shortstop too as Rollins' production deteriorates, probably due to the effects of playing baseball at age 36.

But Mattingly has this stubborn belief that he needs to show loyalty to veteran players that aren't performing.  He's refusing to ride the hot hand, while it is scalding hot.  That's a true shame too, because hot hitting spells usually don't stay with players for long periods of time.  The fact that Mattingly doesn't want to offend a veteran player speaks rather loudly...the guy fears his own players.  Rather than communicate with them (said to be his strong point), he keeps trotting the same faltering players out there day after day while the second coming of Rogers Hornsby sits.  What would have happened had Miller Huggins insisted on starting Wally Pipp over Gehrig, simply because he was a veteran?

So that's essentially my Mattingly rant for the day, but I guarantee you there will be many more as long as Freidman and Zaidi continue to put up with a manager that simply is set in his Torre-esque ways.

He'll continue:

  • Burning up his bullpen for one out at a time, pigeon-holing certain relievers into roles that they probably shouldn't be in.
  • Double-switching and taking out offensive threats in his lineup  (like Guerrero) in exchange for perceived defensive upgrades or to move the pitchers spot in the batting order.
  • Giving up outs with the call for the asinine sacrifice bunt, even with hot hitters at the plate.
  • Putting out a batting order with a .180 hitting Jimmy Rollins on top at lead off.

AP Photo

If you're a sabermetrician, it is easy to see that Mattingly hasn't changed his ways and he never will.  (The only exception to that are the defensive shifts the team has put in place that have saved the clubs a number of runs in this early season).  The Mattingly tendencies otherwise continue as always and I wonder if Zaidi and Freidman's patience is running thin.  This team would already have 3 more additional wins in this young season had Mattingly not been at the helm.  First place or not, Donnie needs to go.  Some may see that stance as paranoid, but the one missing ingredient of this team is a manager that will make decisions that maximize this ball clubs strengths.

You've got a guy like Paco Rodriguez that can get everyone out, but Mattingly uses him as a loogy.  Then you have a rookie centerfielder that has a history in the minors of leading off and nows how to work a walk, with an OBP hovering around .400, but our manager insists on putting him in the 8th spot of the lineup while a .250 OBP leads off, getting the most plate appearances on the team.

I could go on and on.  Here's the thing though.  Eventually this managerial weakness problem will really  be exposed, and we already saw it in post season play last year.  Are we really going to put up with that, have a winning season, only to falter in the playoffs when those vital decisions are magnified ten-fold?

I'll say it.  Pull the plug now and make a managerial change.  And while they're doing it, Andre Ether is red hot, time to trade him while he has value.  Yes, I know Puig is hurt, there there's a glut of outfielders that can fill in: Van Slyke, Schebler, Guerrero, Kike Hernandez to name a few.

Rant over...for now anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Newest Name in Dodger/Giant Lore

In one night, Justin Maxwell, San Francisco's newest right fielder, has become one of those Giant players that have came out of no-where to kill the Dodgers.

Justin Maxwell scores during 4th inning action in last night's 6-2 Giant win at AT&T Park. (photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Obviously I could name such players as Mays, McCovey, and Barry Bonds as perennial Dodger killers, but those names are too obvious.  They were superstars and hall of fame caliber, (no matter how much you argue against Bonds, his talent was hall of fame caliber).  But those aren't the guys I'm thinking about when Justin Maxwell's performance is mentioned.

I think of a young Bobby Bonds who hit a grand slam as a rookie to destroy the Dodgers in 1968.  Or Brian Johnson, who homered in '97 in a late September series that tied the Giants in the division race with the Dodgers, one ultimately won by San Francisco.  Maxwell is a nobody.  A wandering baseball nomad who changes uniforms each year in search of employment.

Add his name to the list that includes such players as the aformentioned Johnson, and Bonds the first.  Then there are others such as Jimmy Ray Hart, Larry Herndon, Randy Winn, Rich Aurelia, and Will Clark.  Some killed them in clutch moments.  Others did it all the time and had respectable careers to boot.  They were Dodger killers over time, (e.g. Will Clark, Hart, Jack Clark).

Now there's Justin Maxwell.  I had no idea who this guy was, and maybe I should have, because he has toiled in the majors off and on since 2007.  A former top prospect in the Nationals organization, Maxwell has had an injury ridden career that kept him from achieving the lofty status so many predicted of him after his 4th round selection by the Nats in 2005.

Tommy John surgery, hip surgery, and a series of concussions have sidelined Maxwell over the years.  He showed signs of potential, (18 homers in Houston in 2012), but he has never reached that pinnacle that many expected of him.  Ironically, it is an injury to Hunter Pence that may finally give him his chance.

Maxwell's amazing catch, rally starting triple and late inning clutch homer caught our attention last might.  Was it a fluke? Yeah, probably, but for some reason I'm thinking that Giant fans will revere the guy for a long time.  He did, after all, crush the Dodgers.

Long live he rivalry.