The Cycle: Must Read Dodgers News

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We decided to try something new with the blog. Every Friday, we will post a list of articles from different sources that pertain to the Dodgers. Some of the news you may have heard, others may have slipped through the cracks. Whatever the case, this should round out the week of Dodgers news and give you a break from our dumb faces. If you have a source you’d like to see on here, let us know!

Michael Boyle pitches well in Great Lakes loss – (True Blue LA) “Oklahoma City and Great Lakes both lost again on Tuesday. Loons right-hander Michael Boyle matched a season-high seven innings pitched on Tuesday against Bowling Green. Boyle gave up just one run on four hits, two walks, and one strikeout.”

Dodgers survive tough May but still lose ground in standings – (Dodgers Digest) “Chad penned a post back on May 2 that basically said the Dodgers were in for the toughest month they’d have all season (you know, save those pesky September games). They were 12-13 entering the month. Weathered the storm they did. In fact, they fared quite well.”

Dodgers May review: Clayton Kershaw at his best –  (True Blue LA) “The Dodgers in May saw Julio Urias debut, saw Corey Seager tie a franchise record at his position in just his third major league month. The club on offense was led on offense by a pair of rookies, but ultimately May was about Clayton Kershaw, who had arguably the best month of his career.”

Looking at the Dodger bullpen, game by game – (Dodgers Insider) “… a snapshot of how each member of the Dodger bullpen has performed this season. In 173 separate appearances this season so far, the Dodger bullpen had done its job 76.3 percent of the time, with that figure slightly higher in May.”

Dodgers designate Alex Guerrero for assignment – (MLB Daily Dish) “The Dodgers have designated outfielder Alex Guerrero for assignment, as first reported by J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group. The team will now have 10 days to either trade, release or outright Guerrero.”

Corey Seager ties May homer record for shortstops – (Dodgers Insider) “It’s doubtful many people realize the kind of month that Corey Seager just had. The 22-year-old’s three-run homer in the ninth inning of tonight’s 5-0 Dodger victory was his seventh round-tripper of the month, giving Seager a share of a franchise record.”

Andre Ethier’s return to be delayed – (Dodgers Insider) “Andre Ethier’s recovery from has slowed, and his expected June return has been delayed, Dave Roberts told reporters today. Roberts said that there isn’t much new with Ethier, who hasn’t been running at full body weight.”

Kiké Hernandez Scores Lone Run Against Chicago Cubs

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
Jun 1, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Kiké Hernandez provided the first run on the second pitch of last night’s game. You could have turned off the TV at that point and called it a day. “Ah, the Dodgers beat the stupid Cubs.” You would say, “The world, it is right.” Instead, you suffered this game with Tio Piazza Parlor.”Mijo, go grab Tio a beer. It kills the pain of watching this team.”

The common complaint against the team has been the pitching. The Dodgers proved in this series that the pitching has kept the team in games. In fact, it is the pitching that keeps them alive in most games. Mike Bolsinger held the Cubs to two hits and struck out six batters over five innings of work. His command was off early on. Bolsinger hit two batters and gave up two walks. Though he only gave up one home run, it was a two-run jack that sealed the Dodgers fate. They were unable to tack another run on the board.

Pitching Keeping The Boys Alive

According to Fangraphs Leaderboards, the Dodgers rotation boasts the second best WAR in the National League. The starters also rank at least in the top four in ERA, FIP, and xFIP.

Team (ranked by xFIP) ERA FIP xFIP
Dodgers 3.41 3.29 3.41
Mets 3.29 3.10 3.46
Phillies 3.88 3.67 3.49
Nationals 3.08 3.54 3.54
Cubs 2.42 3.10 3.54

Sadly, the offense is lagging behind. Through the first few days of June, the Dodgers rank in the bottom five in wRC+. Here are the rankings according to Fangraphs.

Team (ranked by wRC+) AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Pirates .288 .362 .445 .349 121
Cardinals .274 .349 .471 .351 121
Cubs .265 .366 .439 .350 118
Giants .268 .344 .415 .328 111
Marlins .283 .342 .431 .333 107
Diamondbacks .271 .336 .452 .338 106
Rockies .285 .342 .483 .353 103
Mets .237 .314 .420 .318 102
Nationals .248 .327 .426 .323 100
Brewers .251 .337 .411 .326 99
Dodgers .245 .320 .387 .309 95
Reds .241 .296 .415 .305 86
Padres .232 .291 .378 .289 82
Phillies .237 .293 .370 .287 76
Braves .236 .304 .325 .278 71

Yikes! Being in the same company as the Reds, Padres, Phillies, and Braves is like sitting in the back of the class with the kids that eat paste.

If there is any silver lining to today’s loss, the Giants also lost. The Dodgers remain a game above .500 and still sit 4.5 games out of first place.

Tomorrow’s notes

Julio Urias will make his second start of the season. This gives Kenta Maeda an additional rest day. Urias’s first start was against the Mets. In that game, the young phenom pitched 2.2 innings but gave up three runs before being pulled. He will face an equally tough Cubs team tomorrow and will need all the run support he can get.

NL West Round-up: Week 7

Screenshot 2016-05-30 at 10.41.10 PM

We are about a third of the way through the season and the NL West is once again the Giants and Dodgers show. The Dodgers sit 4.5 games out of first place, but also boast the highest run differential in the division. In other words, the offense, although frustrating, is not in bad shape. Fortune should favor the Dodgers soon enough. Until then, let us see how the division did this last week.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers opened Week 7 at home against the Reds. The Reds are a poor baseball team. They are a team that anyone in the league should beat. Fortunately, the Dodgers swept them over a three-game series. Following the series, the Dodgers headed to New York to face the Mets. Despite losing the first game, the Dodgers took two of three to win the series against the team that knocked them out of the NLDS last season. Here are the box scores.

H R W/L (Dodgers)
05/23 vs. CIN 5 1 W
05/24 vs. CIN 11 8 W
05/25 vs. CIN 3 3 W
05/27 vs. NYM 8 5 L
05/28 vs. NYM 14 9 W
05/29 vs. NYM 9 4 W

Notable Injuries

Trayce Thompson left the game early on May 28 with lower back soreness. He sat out on May 29. In 116 PA, Thompson is hitting .274/.336/.528 with a .369 wOBA and 135 wRC+. His health is one that needs to be preserved, especially if the NL West becomes a race against a healthy Giants team. Thompson has given the Dodgers much needed depth in the lineup and in the outfield, where they’ve seen their share of injuries with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke. Thompson is expected to return by May 31.

San Francisco Giants

Much like the Dodgers, the Giants made short work of a team anyone in the league should beat – the Padres. Following the sweep, San Francisco headed to Colorado to face the Rockies. Much like the Dodgers, the the Giants dropped the first game to the Rockies but picked up the next two to win the series. Let’s look at the box scores.

H R W/L (Giants)
05/23 vs. SDP 5 1 W
05/24 vs. SDP 9 8 W
05/25 vs. SDP 9 3 W
05/27 vs. COL 7 2 L
05/28 vs. COL 16 10 W
05/29 vs. COL 17 8 W

Notable Injuries

Matt Cain was placed on the 15-day DL on May 28, sidelined with a right hamstring strain. His return is expected in June. Angel Pagan was placed on the 15-day DL on May 24 with a left hamstring strain. His return is expected in June as well. Also notable, but happening after Week 7, Matt Duffy found himself listed day-to-day on the DL with a bruised left wrist suffered after being beaned with a ball on May 30. His return is expected shortly.

Colorado Rockies

I’m always impressed with people that are impressed with the Rockies. They’re like the car that won’t start, ever, yet someone always goes out hoping that, somehow maybe, it will. Out of their last 15 played, including May 30, the Rockies have gone 6-9. Their week started with a loss in Pittsburgh, followed by a three game series in Boston where they lost the series. Despite being able to win the first game of the series against San Francisco, and string together back-to-back wins, Colorado could not get it together and dropped the final two games against the Giants. To the box scores!

H R W/L (Rockies)
05/23 vs. PIT 7 3 L
05/24 vs. BOS 6 3 L
05/25 vs. BOS 10 3 L
05/26 vs. BOS 12 8 W
05/27 vs. SFG 11 5 W
05/28 vs. SFG 9 5 L
05/29 vs. SFG 8 3 L

Notable Injuries

Nick Hundley, who has been on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, took batting practice on May 26 and caught live batting practice on May 28. He is expected to return today, May 31.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The D’backs are in just as bad of shape as the Rockies, except they have played three more games which have given them three more opportunities to tack an L in the standings. Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller – their ace and number two starter – have thrown a combined 5.65 ERA. To put that in perspective, the National League average for ERA is 4.05. Week 7 for Arizona started off in Pittsburgh. They were swept on the road, came home and added another loss to San Diego – dropping the first game in a three game series. They were able to string together two wins to take the series. Have a gander at the box scores.

H R W/L (Diamondbacks)
05/24 vs. PIT 6 1 L
05/25 vs. PIT 9 4 L
05/26 vs. PIT 13 3 L
05/27 vs. SDP 6 3 L
05/28 vs. SDP 10 8 W
05/29 vs. SDP 9 6 W

Notable Injuries

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 15-day DL on May 27 with right elbow inflammation. His return is TBD. Shelby Miller is sidelined with a sprained right index finger and was placed on the 15-day DL on May 27, but retroactive to May 26. His return is TBD. David Peralta has been out with right wrist inflammation. He hit off a tee on May 24 and his return is expected to be late June. A.J. Pollock is still recovering from elbow surgery. His return is possibly in late 2016.

San Diego Padres

We sure are at the bottom of the barrel aren’t we. In any division, a team always has to be at the bottom but the Padres waste no time making their way down there. With a 20-32 record and a -42 run differential, there is no doubt about them being the worst team in the NL West. Their week started with three straight losses in San Francisco, followed by a win in Arizona, then two more losses against a team that is only slightly better by virtue of not being the Padres. To the last of the box scores.

H R W/L (Padres)
05/23 vs. SFG 2  0 L
05/24 vs. SFG 9 2 L
05/25 vs. SFG 9 3 L
05/27 vs. ARI 18 10 W
05/28 vs. ARI 10 7 L
05/29 vs. ARI 5 3 L

Notable Injuries

Tyson Ross has been out with right shoulder inflammation. His injury report was updated May 27 to state that he could began playing catch as of May 30. His return is expected after the All-Star Break. Cory Spandenberg is out with a left quad strain. His return is expected early July. Cesar Vargas is on the 15-day DL with right elbow soreness as of May 29. His return is TBD.

Pedro Baez: The Worst

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
September 28, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This is Pedro Baez. He’s the worst.

Imagine you have an ice cream cone. We’ll say chocolate chip cookie dough because you have some cash to burn. Thrifty’s gave you a scoop that is loaded with cookie dough and for a brief moment, the world is right. Your friend, Pedro Baez, stops by and asks to try your ice cream. You feel uneasy. “But why Pedro? You dropped my last ice cream cone.” Reluctantly, and with the “I just drove over a bump too fast” sensation in your stomach, you hand him the ice cream cone. He takes a bite and is handing it back to you. Just as it is about to pass back over to you, Baez drops your ice cream. “I fucking knew better,” you tell yourself. You knew better because Pedro Baez is the fucking worst.

It took two pitches for Baez to muck this up. Look at the location of pitch number 2:

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Now look at Curtis Granderson’s zone profile for the season:

plot_h_profile

I’ll take, “All The Locations You Should Avoid When Pitching To Granderson,” Alex.

One has to wonder why Roberts decided to go with an awfully predictable Baez instead of Jansen. Well, we know why. It was the ol’ “Don’t burn your closer on a road game in a non-save situation” situation, duh! Don’t worry, it’s not supposed to make sense.

We can continue to lament over Baez, because it’s fun and easy. Or we can continue to scratch our heads over Roberts’s in-game management, but we won’t get far. Either way, both options neglect to focus on the maddeningly weak offense. Scoring four runs in the ninth to tie the game is a way to win a game, but it probably is not the best way to do it.

The Dodgers had multiple opportunities to take control of this game. In the top of the 3rd, with bases loaded and one out, Seager hit into an inning-ending double play.With men on the corners and one out in the top of the 4th, Pederson struck out swinging and Puig hit into a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat. The next inning, with two on and two out, Turner hit into a fielder’s choice.


The Dodgers remain 4.5 games behind the Giants. Kenta Maeda will toe the rubber against Noah Syndergaard. The last time Maeda faced Thor he gave up two dingers to the son of Asgard. Game time is at 4:15 PST.

Run Differential Says Things Aren’t So Bad

Screenshot 2016-05-25 at 10.20.45 AM

Following last night’s game, the Dodgers are coming off of a three-game winning streak. Despite this success (let’s celebrate the small stuff,) you will not be shocked when I say that this team is underperforming. The offense is impotent and the bullpen is a mishmash of wet noodles for arms and Kenley Jansen. The rotation –  not complete garbage as others may make it seem – is having struggles of its own. Without Clayton Kershaw, the rotation is the not-so-proud-owners of a 4.34 ERA. Throw Kershaw back into the rotation and the pitching staff’s ERA drops to 3.55. When all of this is combined, we end up watching a Dodgers team playing to the tune of a 24-23 record, 4.5 games out of first place.

A section of the Dodgers Twitterverse will have you believe that if the Dodgers are not in first place, all is doom and gloom. Of course, this same group of Twitter will also have you believe the worst is just around the corner even when the Dodgers are in first place. The point of this post is not to convince you the team is free of its flaws; that is far from true. Instead, I am going to talk about run differential and how the NL West should  look according to runs scored and runs allowed. Hopefully, that will alleviate some stress felt when looking at the standings.

A Primer on Run Differential

Simply put, run differential is the difference between runs scored and runs allowed. Theoretically, a run neutral team – one that scores exactly as many runs as it allows – is a team with a .500 record. If we take a 162-game season, a team that scores the same number of runs it allows should finish the season with 81 wins and 81 losses. If a team scores more runs than it allows, it should also have more wins than losses. In fact, every ten more runs scored in relation to runs allowed translates to one extra win. This is not an exact science. Rather, run differential is an indication of whether a team is underperforming or overperforming. Naturally we want to see the Dodgers outperform its run differential. In fact, we have seen this happen the last three years.

Season Runs Scored Runs Allowed Run Diff Actual W/L Pythagorean W/L
2013 649 582 +67 92-70 88-74
2014 718 617 +101 94-68 91-71
2015 667 595 +72 92-70 88-74

Looking at the table, you can see that the Dodgers outperformed their expected win-loss record the last three seasons. Were the Dodgers of years past bad teams? Definitely not. Think of it this way, if you expected to get a B in statistics but instead got an A, you were never a terrible student to begin with. Instead, you simply did better probably for a variety of reasons.

What Run Differential Says About 2016

Now let us look at the standings so far. The Dodgers are 4.5 games out of first place. Is that the expected outcome? Looking only at run differential, the expected outcome has the Dodgers in first place.

Team (Current Standings) Run Differential Acutal W/L Pythagorean W/L (Expected Standings)
Giants +13 29-19 25-23 (2nd)
Dodgers +22 24-23 26-21 (1st)
Rockies -11 21-26 23-24 (3rd)
Diamondbacks -15 21-26 22-25 (4th)
Padres -38 19-28 20-27 (5th)

Granted, what is expected does not change what has already happened but it should provide some hope for a season that has been frustrating, to say the least. Yes, the Giants are a team that should be feared, after all, they won the World Series after gaining the second Wild Card spot with only 88 wins. If the Giants continue to outperform their Pythagorean expectations, it will likely be because they dabble in devil magic and Hunter Pence is Lucifer incarnate. And I guess because they do have a solid team. Should the winning streak end and the Dodgers hit another skid, it will be difficult to regain ground lost against San Francisco. But the Dodgers will get back on course. Though it has been tough to watch them, they are not playing as bad as the rest of the NL West. Those teams are playing below expectations with a negative run differential. That’s like losing a footrace because you’re slow and you have no legs. At least for the Dodgers, they have legs, they’ve just tripped over several hurdles.

Even if you look at this and say, “Dude, this is shit,” you cannot change the fact that there is a ton of baseball to play – over 100 games still! Being 4.5 games back in May is different than being 4.5 games back at the end of September. The Dodgers have the ability and the time to make up the difference in the standings. Whether they do so remains to be answered.

NL West Round-up: Week 1

Screenshot 2016-04-11 at 8.03.44 PM

After six long months without baseball, we are officially through the first week of the season. For the last few seasons, the NL West has been the Dodgers and Giants show. Let’s take a look at how the NL West is shaping in 2016 so far.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Our Boys in Blue started the season off on the road. They swept San Diego and kept them scoreless in all three games. The team traveled North and faced the Giants – a team they went 8-11 against last season. Things did not go well for the Dodgers. Take a look at the box scores from last week.

H R W/L (Dodgers)
4/04 LAD v. SDP 17 15 W
4/05 LAD v. SDP 6 3 W
4/06 LAD v. SDP 11 7 W
4/07 LAD v. SFG 13 6 L
4/08 LAD v. SFG 9 2 L
4/09 LAD v. SFG 10 3 W
4/10 LAD v. SFG 10 6 L

Notable Injuries:
Carl Crawford is on the 15-day DL with lower back pain. Chris Hatcher suffered a twisted left knee but is day-to-day. Scott Van Slyke is suffering from lower back stiffness but is day-to-day.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants opened their season against the Milwaukee Brewers – a team that is in rebuild mode in 2016. Madison Bumgarner was not on his usual game in the season opener as he allowed five hits over five innings pitched. He gave up two home runs and walked five batters but still walked away with the win because pitcher wins. While they did not sweep the Brewers nor the Dodgers, they have found themselves in sole possession of first place by a game. Here are there box scores for the week.

H R W/L (Giants)
4/04 SFG v. MIL 15 12 W
4/05 SFG v. MIL 7 2 W
4/06 SFG v. MIL 6 3 L
4/07 LAD v. SFG 17 12 W
4/08 LAD v. SFG 2 3 W
4/09 LAD v. SFG 5 2 L
4/10 LAD v. SFG 12 9 W

Notable Injuries:
According to MLB.com, the Giants do not have anyone on the DL. We should all be scared.

Colorado Rockies

Can you believe that the Rockies got fifteen hits and scored ten runs outside of Coors Field?! On the season opener in Arizona, the Rockies trounced the Diamondbacks in amazing fashion. Of course, the story (EH? EH?!) this week within Colorado’s organization is Trevor Story. The rookie shortstop hit seven dingers in his first six games! That put him on pace to hit 189 home runs this season, which is definitely certainly likely to happen. Sadly, as is always the case with the Rockies, they are meandering in the middle of the standings because they are the Rockies. Whether or not the Rockies can take their success at Coors on the road remains to be seen this season. Take a look at last week’s box scores.

H R W/L (Rockies)
4/04 COL v. ARI 15 10 W
4/05 COL v. ARI 9 6 L
4/06 COL v. ARI 8 4 W
4/08 SDP v. COL 2 6 L
4/09 SDP v. COL 8 3 L
4/10 SDP v. COL 9 6 W

Notable Injuries:
Daniel Descalso is expected back sometime early this season. However, with Trevor Story crushing it, one has to wonder how the infield will adjust.

San Diego Padres

Remember last year when the Padres went all-in on offense last year. Yeah, that did not work for them. To remedy that, they brought in John Jay who represents a nice upgrade in the outfield. They also got Alexei Ramirez for $4M with a $1M buyout, who was a much-needed improvement at shortstop at a relatively low cost. The issue with Jay and Ramirez, however, is now the Padres have sacrificed some offensive power for strictly defensive upgrades. How has it worked out for San Diego thus far? To the box scores!

H R W/L (Padres)
4/04 LAD v. SDP 4  0 L
4/05 LAD v. SDP 2  0 L
4/06 LAD v. SDP 5  0 L
4/08 SDP v. COL 18 13 W
4/09 SDP v. COL 19 16 W
4/10 SDP v. COL 8 3 L
4/11 SDP v. PHI 6 4 L

Notable Injuries:
Tyson Ross has landed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. He is expected back in the rotation late April.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Speaking of teams that went all-in. The Diamondbacks inked a TV deal during the offseason and quickly signed Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to outrageous deals. Even more concerning, if you’re a D-Backs fan, is that the team traded one of their top prospects to get Miller. How has that worked out for them? Combined, Greinke and Miller have made two starts and have posted a 6.00 ERA to start the season. I probably don’t need to tell you that is not what you want from your Number 1 and Number 2 starters. Let’s examine the box scores to see how they became the cellar dwellers in Week 1.

H R W/L (Padres)
4/04 COL v. ARI 12 5 L
4/05 COL v. ARI 15 11 W
4/06 COL v. ARI 8 3 L
4/07 CHC v. ARI 8 6 L
4/08 CHC v. ARI 8 3 W
4/09 CHC v. ARI 4 2 L
4/10 CHC v. ARI 8 3 L

Notable Injuries:
Josh Collmenter is on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. He is expected to return in mid-to-late April. A.J. Pollock is out for the season as he is recovering from elbow surgery.

Dodgers 2, Giants 3: Baseball is a dumb sport and we’re all dumb for watching it.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
Apr 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA;  John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of anticipation. Players eagerly watch pitchers move across the mound as they run through their pitch sequence in their heads. As the pitcher takes the mound and places his toe on the rubber, the batter runs through the possible pitches he might see, having already expertly studied his opponents repertoire. The catcher and other seven position players’ muscles twitch as the ball is released from the hurler’s hands and glides towards one of two destinations: the catcher’s glove or the batter’s bat. Meanwhile, the fans, merely observers of the sport, are left on edge wondering what the outcome of each subsequent pitch will be. On nights like tonight, as each inning’s end tacks on another zero in the hit column, the fans’ anticipation builds into anxiety.

Every baseball fan is superstitious. It is around the fifth inning when we really start to notice opponents getting blanked across the board, yet we remain silent. We never want to be the one to say, “Hey guys, Stripling has a no-hitter heading into the sixth.” And if we do say it, we brush it off as “Jinxes are fucking stupid.” I mean, jinxes really are hokie stupid crap, but again, baseball fans are superstitious. Come the seventh, we can feel the stakes of a singular, non-postseason, beginning-of-the-season, game get higher and higher. Everyone starts thinking about history. We already start thinking how our stories will start, “I was at home doing….” The sentence will end with, “when so-and-so got the no-hitter.”

But baseball, as beautiful as she is, she is not easy. She will make you work for your exhilaration. On a night like tonight, if baseball were a hussy, she would have given Stripling his no-hitter, in his major league debut, on the road, against the Dodgers historic rivals. If baseball were easy, though, every young pitcher would have that and it would mean nothing. Instead, we will forever be left with, “Why?” after a down-by-one, extra-inning loss, in rainy San Francisco.

Despite the loss, there is still hope, should you choose to continue this terrible relationship with baseball. Ross Stripling looked amazing against a healthy Giants lineup. While the offense only scored two runs, it was able to muster nine hits against Matt Cain and the Giants bullpen.

***

Even better news, Clayton Kershaw will toe the rubber against Madison Bumgarner in the penultimate game of the series tomorrow. In his last start, Kershaw fanned nine batters and gave up only one hit over seven innings of work against the Padres. In his last start against the Giants, he struckout thirteen batters, gave up one hit – Oh yeah, the Dodgers also clinched the division.

Game time tomorrow is at 1:05 PM

Dodgers 6, Giants 12: Well that was fun until it wasn’t.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
Apr 7, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers streak of holding opposing teams scoreless ended at thirty-one innings. This team sucks, pack it up. The season is over.

In all seriousness, despite losing, the team has never looked better. In the last four games, the Dodgers have scored thirty-one runs and boast a +19 run differential (small sample size be damned.) The team is only four games deep into a very long season, if you are having trouble tempering your expectations, then let us use the positives of today’s game to help.

A lot of Dodgers fans are not sold on Alex Wood, understandably so. He has always been a young pitcher – still in his formative pitching years – with a lot of upside. Most of his issues have stemmed from his command. Looking at today, he appeared to be locked in until the fifth inning.

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My apologies for the potato quality of the gif. What is important to note is that throughout the game, Wood’s release point was somewhat controlled. There were some moments when the release point on his two-seamer deviated about six inches further right of home plate, relative to where he had been throwing the pitch most of the game. That slight change in location led to three fastballs that sat in the middle of the zone. If he is able to develop a more consistent release point with his fastball – preferably one that is a foot-and-a-half off of home plate – then the season holds a lot of promise for Wood.

Speaking of promise, the offense rallied! Can you believe it! Down 7-4, the Dodgers got within one run of the Giants’ surge. Granted, the game still resulted in a loss (courtesy of a Pedro Baez hanging slider that Hunter Pence walloped for a grand slam) the bats remained hot in spite of that. The Dodgers smacked thirteen hits against Peavy and company. Everyone but Wood and the bench garnered, at least, one hit a piece.

***

The Dodgers continue their road series against the Giants tomorrow. Ross Stripling makes his MLB debut against Matt Cain. Game time tomorrow is at 7:15 PM.

Dodgers 15, Padres 0: Baseball is good. It is really, really good

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Apr 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day is finally here! Well, for the Dodgers at least. For the Padres, Opening Day is likely tomorrow, or whenever they decide to show up to Petco Park.

Clayton Kershaw made his sixth consecutive Opening Day start and boy what a start. Over seven innings, Kersh was masterful, allowing one hit and fanning nine batters. No really, look at this gem against Alexei Ramirez:

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The only time the Padres showed a threat with the bat was in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings. Of course, this was after the Dodgers had scored fifteen runs and Kershaw was off the mound.

The spectacle, though, came from the batters’ box. Fifteen runs over seventeen hits will seal the fate of most teams, especially when more than half of those hits and runs come from the middle of the order.

Player H R
Justin Turner 2 2
Adrian Gonzalez 3 2
Yasiel Puig 2 3
Carl Crawford 1 1
Joc Pederson 2 1

With so much baseball left to play, there will undoubtedly be some less than stellar performances from this lineup. But with a showing like this, the Boys in Blue have given Dodgers fans much to look forward to.

***

Tomorrow, Scott Kazmir makes his Dodgers debut against James Shields. Game time is at 7:10 PM.

Donnie Baseball and Manufactured Runs

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It has been less than a week since the Dodgers season ended. In that time, two distinct camps have formed: those that want Don Mattingly to stay, and those that want him catapulted to the moon. There are various reasons that have been argued in favor of Mattingly’s dismissal. One of the loudest has been that he has not done enough to manufacture runs. This post will be dedicated to not only disproving that but also shed some light as to why a team should rarely attempt to “manufacture runs” in the first place.

First, let us define manufacturing runs as any attempt to bring baserunners home or into scoring position by way of a bunt attempt. In pure attempts, during Mattingly’s tenure as manager, the Dodgers rank fourth in run manufacturing in the entire league, behind the Brewers, Reds, and Marlins, respectively. However, that is an inaccurate way to look at manufacturing runs because it does not take into consideration plate appearances. If we look at bunt attempts with men on base as a percentage of plate appearances, the Dodgers still rank relatively high compared to the rest of the league.

Team PA SH SH%
Brewers 13003 363 2.79%
Reds 13329 359 2.69%
Marlins 13137 348 2.65%
Pirates 13203 317 2.40%
Nationals 13258 315 2.38%
Rockies 13428 317 2.36%
Dodgers 13677 321 2.35%
Braves 13153 306 2.33%
Phillies 13178 306 2.32%

Since 2011, the Dodgers sit in the top ten teams that have attempted bunts more often in relation to their plate appearances. Let’s take a look at the number of playoff appearances for these teams.

Team PA SH SH% POA
Dodgers 30900 729 2.36% 3
Pirates 29431 679 2.31% 3
Reds 29897 779 2.61% 2
Nationals 29954 741 2.47% 2
Braves 30491 747 2.45% 2
Phillies 30663 660 2.15% 1
Brewers 29678 693 2.34% 1
Rockies 30889 829 2.68% 0
Marlins 29963 747 2.49% 0

Among the top ten teams, both the Dodgers and Pirates have each made three postseason appearances. So if your argument has been, “Mattingly does not manufacture runs,” then it is simply wrong. The Dodgers, under his management, have made plenty of attempts to manufacture runs, ranking the Dodgers eighth in the league overall since 2011. Furthermore, among the top ten teams that make use of bunting with men on base, the Dodgers are tied with the Pirates with the most postseason appearances. But manufacturing runs is not all that it is cracked up to be. If we look at the last ten years of data, an interesting, and somewhat obvious, trend reveals itself.

From 2005 to 2015, out of 905,147 plate appearances, there have been 16,579 bunt attempts with men on base. In simpler terms, league-wide, teams have attempted to manufacture runs 1.83% of the time.  Interestingly, the teams that are ranked in the bottom third in manufacturing runs are also teams that have been dominant in the last ten years. Here is that list ordered by number of postseason appearances between 2005 and 2015

Team PA SH SH% POA
Yankees 31743 354 1.12% 8
Tigers 31058 410 1.32% 5
Red Sox 32251 272 0.84% 5
Rangers 30533 417 1.37% 4
Rays 29871 347 1.16% 4
Athletics 30550 280 0.92% 4
Twins 30633 395 1.29% 3
Indians 30702 396 1.29% 2
Orioles 29413 331 1.13% 2
Blue Jays 29783 322 1.08% 1

How can teams that attempt to manufacture runs less often be dominant? If we consider what a bunt attempt is, it is essentially an out in exchange for a runner advancing. The point of an offense is to score runs by moving runners around the base paths as many times as possible before earning three outs. However, a baserunner must move around the diamond four times in order to score. Bunting gives the defense an out, thus limiting the number of chances a runner can advance within the “out” parameter. Therefore, by limiting the number of bunt attempts, hence the number of “free outs,” an offense can continue to move baserunners with more outs at their disposal.

Is there a relationship between the number of postseason appearances and the number of bunt attempts? Interestingly, there is. The correlation coefficient between bunt attempt percentage and postseason appearances is -.3069, indicating that there is indeed a negative, albeit weak, relationship between the two variables. Furthermore, the covariance of the two variables, -.0033, indicates that when the number of bunt attempts with men on base increases, postseason appearances decreases.

Keep in mind, this is a very rudimentary examination. The coefficient of determination, r 2, is .0966. In other words, only 9.6% of the variance in postseason appearances can be explained by manufacturing runs indicating that it does not play as big of a role, one way or another, as most people may think. There needs to be a more refined approach that looks at what truly contributes to postseason appearances. Though I doubt run manufacturing will suddenly appear at the top of the list.

So what is to make of this? First, for those that say Mattingly does not manufacture runs, that is false. The Dodgers, under Don Mattingly, have attempted to manufacture runs more often than most other teams in the league. And if the next line of argument is, “His teams have not manufactured enough runs,” that is also not true. Under his management, the Dodgers have made the most postseason appearances among the top ten teams that have attempted to manufacture runs – as we have defined it in the opening of this post – even though there is nothing to prove that run manufacturing has contributed to that success. Furthermore, if there were a sharp and sudden dip in run manufacturing, it would be a boon for the Dodgers as the teams with the lowest percentage of bunt attempts have been some of the most dominant teams in the last ten years. Though that might indicate there is a greater contributor to success throughout the season.