Ed. Note: This week’s Battle of LA went up moments before the severity of Jered Weaver’s left elbow injury went public. Which is to say, this is the final BoLA. (Not really.)
The Week That Was
First Week Record That Is Apparently Enough Of A Sample To Freak Some People Out: 2-4
First Week Record That Is Apparently Enough Of A Sample To Encourage Some Folks: 4-2
Southern California’s Burgeoning Pissing Contest: The Leader In The Clubhouse
The Dodgers. Their team ERA is 1.00 (totally sustainable) and their bullpen has been absolutely lights out through the first six games of the season (0 ER in 14 appearances). The outstanding start by their pitching staff has made the slow starts by Matt Kemp (2-for-20) and the three-headed pile o’ futility that is the left side of their infield (hitting a collective .026) a little bit easier to swallow.
That said, three of the Dodgers’ four wins came against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have been nothing short of awful to start the 2013 campaign. The Angels got stuck with the shit-end of the stick by opening with the Reds and the Rangers, and their record reflects it.
Box Score Of The Week
LAA – Josh Hamilton: 4/6 vs. TEX — 0-for-4, 2K, 6 LOB
Albert Pujols was intentionally walked three times, so that the Rangers could face Josh Hamilton with runners in scoring position. (That had only happened six times in Hamilton’s career prior to Sunday night.) Hamilton responded by flailing at low-and-away curveballs and looking completely out of sync, and as a result he got showered with spiteful cheers from the Rangers faithful. There’s no doubt that he was (and has been) pressing, but there’s also no doubt that he’s bound to break out. He’s been mercurial on and off the field for his entire career, and there’s really no reason to expect that to stop any time soon. He’ll have weeks like he just had, and he’ll have weeks like this.
LAD – Clayton Kershaw (again): 4/6 vs. PIT — 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
You’d think that after a complete game shutout (and a bomb) on Opening Day, Kershaw was due to regress. At least a little bit. Not so, my friends. He followed up his 2013 debut with another freakish outing (albeit against the Pirates). Per Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA, Kershaw’s ERA in his last 50 starts is 2.01. That is pure filth. And it’s proving to be repeatable. And it’s totally fascinating to watch. Adjust your viewing schedules accordingly.
AL & NL West Standings Update
LAA – 2-4 (4th)
LAD – 4-2 (3rd)
Headline Of The Week
There’s no need for a designated hitter in the National League — ever From Bill Shaikin of the LA Times on 4/6
In which we take a tiny sliver of a sample and spin it into several hundred words that don’t make much sense.
The memories could last a lifetime. You could tell the kids, and the grandkids, about the tingles in the Dodgers‘ season opener.
Oh, no doubt. Clayton Kershaw pitched his ass off on Friday. You could probably “tell the kids, and the grandkids” about how a guy who should have won the NL Cy Young and is arguably one of the greatest left-handers of his generation, had an unbelievable outing (9 IP, CG, SHO, 4 H, 7 K) in the first home game of a season that has been saddled with unreasonable expectations because the team’s new ownership spent ALL OF THE MONEY during the offseason. He was nails. It was a treat to watch. He’s fantastic.
Yet, Dodger Stadium did not erupt into bedlam until the eighth inning, when Kershaw ended a scoreless tie by launching a home run that instantly became part of Dodgers lore.
Well, yeah. That was neat (because it rarely happens), but I think that …
Here come the killjoys, lobbying to eliminate the possibility of any such magic ever again.
Hello. Here is a strawman. I, Bill Shaikin, built it for you.
Should the NL confiscate the bats of its pitchers so both leagues can play by the same rules?
YES. But, uh … mostly because pitchers are really, really bad at hitting.
We’ll take up that issue in a moment, but first: among those who could change the rules, there is no momentum to do so.
None. None at all, because you asked a small sample of dinosaurs and bunt-happy managers how they felt about it.
Joe Torre … Mike Scioscia … Ned Colletti …
In the bargaining talks, Weiner said, the players were much more interested in minimizing the number of interleague games than they were in standardizing the rules.
Just guessing here, but I’d posit that the interest from players about minimizing interleague games has a lot to do with excessive travel, a decent amount to do with facing teams in a league that has a lesser bearing on their league standings (Why should the Angels play four games against the Chicago Cubs this year?), and absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the pitcher’s spot in the lineup has hit .138 over the past 10-ish years.
The greater the number of games between the leagues, the greater the potential effect on teams assembled under the rules of their own league.
The Angels, for instance, put together a fly-ball pitching staff, under the premise that Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos could run down just about any fly ball. Then they opened the season in Cincinnati, where Scioscia benched Bourjos so the Angels could keep Mark Trumbo‘s bat in the lineup.
If you’re playing in a band box with a small outfield (and OF coverage is lessened), and you have the opportunity to slot a guy in the lineup who hit 32 bombs last year over a guy who struggled and only got 168 AB last season, why wouldn’t you do that anyway?
Yeah. Who in their right mind wants to see two of the best hitters of our generation hit baseballs beyond the years they might be able to contribute in the field? Give me A.J. Burnett bunting a ball into his face or Santiago Casilla doing whatever in the everloving crap this is. Keep it pure, dad.
Scioscia thought the DH minimized strategy, until he became the Angels’ manager. He discovered that the NL had become predictable — bunt with the pitcher up, or do not bunt because the pitcher is due up, rather than bunt when the strategy appears most logical.
“When the strategy appears most logical” to Scioscia is almost always. He’s notorious for #buntfucking (credit: Jay Jaffe) and #runnyball-ing his way out of innings. He’s a manager who’s used the DH spot (save this season) as a spot for bench guys who needed ABs, not as a spot for people who have the ability to post solid offensive numbers. (Case in point: Mike Napoli had the most starts at DH in 2010 with TWO.) And he’s a manager who has earned a reputation for being an NL-style manager in the American League. It has no bearing on whether a DH is in the lineup or not. He’s had Mike Trout square around to bunt a couple of times this season. He loves small ball and “productive outs”. It’s infuriating and rarely does it pay dividends.
As the DH becomes less of a one-dimensional side show, and as strategies become common among the leagues, the urgency to standardize the rules tends to dissipate.
Wait … I thought this was about Kershaw hitting a homerun, and magic, and grandkids and eschewing a league-wide DH rule because every once in awhile a pitcher might run into a fastball.
And Kershaw hits, the loudest and most joyous of sounds in the soundtrack of opening day.
In 265 Major League ABs, he’s hitting .147. We definitely need more of that.
Quote Of The Week (From Either Side)
From Bill Shaikin’s “Rangers fans relentless in blasting Josh Hamilton in homecoming” on 4/6.
“I will never take back what I said until they show up every night for 30 years,” Hamilton said. “I’m glad I can help create spirit and fire in this town,” Hamilton said. “This was louder than any playoff game that I’ve ever been to.”
Josh be trollin’. Dallas is primarily a football town (in this Californian’s opinion), and I’m fairly certain that’s what Hamilton meant when he made the “baseball town” comment. Of course, Rangers fans took it the wrong way and spun it into fuel for relentless booing, sign-making and undeserved (and inexcusable) harassment of Hamilton’s family at the game on Friday. I’ve never really understood the vitriol spewed by fans toward a player who played a key role in helping their favorite team be successful for years. Sure, he left Texas for more money. And sure, he left to go to a division rival, but that’s baseball (and more specifically, free agency). How quickly we forget that we are fans of this game and its players by choice. They owe us nothing.
From Mike DiGiovanna’s “Texas defeat for Rangers star Josh Hamilton and Angels, 3-2” on 4/6.
Bonus LAA Quote
Mike Scioscia, on the team’s 3-2 series-opening loss to the Texas Rangers on Friday afternoon.
“This is a marathon, and as important as it is to play well in April, these guys need to get their feet on the ground, and that offense will appear.”
Ugh. This is one of my most-hated baseball cliches. It’s actually not a marathon at all. Running a marathon requires pacing and picking the proper spots to accelerate. (Note: I’ve never run a marathon. I’m neither a masochist, nor crazy. Although the latter might be debatable.) Baseball is more like a series of sprints, or a series of 400m races; shorts bursts of intensity marked by an incomprehensible number of variables. A team has to be able to focus and be ready to compete every pitch, every AB, every day. There are no spots to cruise, and there’s certainly not a spot toward the end of the “marathon” where any team worth its salt can “flip the switch” and just start playing better baseball when they choose to. The Angels had to try do that last year because of an awful April and they failed. It’s all about momentum. If it were a marathon, the 2011 Cardinals would have been running in swim fins for most of the year and realized in September/October, “Oh, we can take these off?” It’s not a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s baseball, and it’s weird.
Zack Greinke, following his first start as a member of the Dodgers, in which he gave up just two hits and struck out six in 6.1 innings of work.
“It’s one game,” Greinke said. “I was just trying to do normal stuff and it ended up working.”
I became a huge fan of the Greinke postgame interview after his short tenure with the Angels last season. His interaction with the media was always stilted, unaffected and dry as hell. In a locker room with Torii Hunter and C.J. Wilson (neither of whom is afraid of a microphone) and a bunch of other players who rely heavily on baseball cliches when answering questions, it was refreshing to hear Greinke respond to beat writers’ inquiries like a 15-year-old who hates his parents.
DERP Of The Week
Johnny Manziel, Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback, throws out the first pitch before the Angels vs. Rangers game on Sunday night in Arlington.
Put a baseball in the hand of the best college football player on the planet and he turns into an uncoordinated muppet.
SciosciaFace Of The Week
What caused this version of SciosciaFace?
- Ernesto Frieri grooved a letter-high fastball to Nelson Cruz that ended up in the LF seats.
- He’s picking up notes of hickory and mesquite in a recent Texas BBQ-fueled trouser cough.
- He’s coming to grips with being stranded in the vast expanses of the state of Texas without his pet Jeff Mathis.
- He’s daydreaming about what it might be like to watch a cocaine-addled and “borderline retarded” Pedro Guerrero try to make a bed.
- Nothing. Nothing at all.
Who Controls The Future
The Halos play host to the Oakland A’s (5-2) for a mid-week series (including their home opener on Tuesday), and welcome the Houston Astros (1-5) to The Big A for the first time as members of the American League for a weekend set.
At the time that this was filed, we were still waiting to see the extent of the left elbow injury that Jered Weaver suffered on Sunday night against the Rangers. X-rays came back negative, but Weaver told Mike DiGiovanna that his arm was sore, swollen and difficult to move, which puts his projected start on Saturday in doubt. Even more troubling than the elbow injury, might be his declining fastball velocity, according to Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Weaver’s fastball sat at 84-87 on Sunday night, and the graph atop Cameron’s article is, well … just look at it.
Here are the Halos probables for the week to come:
- Tuesday, 4/9: Wilson (0-0) vs. Parker (0-1)
- Wednesday, 4/10: Blanton (0-1) vs. Milone (1-0)
- Thursday, 4/11: Vargas (0-0) vs. Griffin (1-0)
- Friday, 4/12: Hanson (1-0) vs. Norris (1-1)
- Saturday, 4/13: Weaver ( vs. Harrell (0-2)
- Sunday, 4/14: Wilson (0-0) Humber (0-1)
The Dodgers begin a six-game road trip with a three-game set in San Diego (1-5), and wrap it up with three games against Kirk Gibson’s gritty, grindy, gutsy, hustlin’ Diamondbacks (5-1) over the weekend at Chase Field.
And the Dodgers probables are as follows:
- Tuesday, 4/9: Beckett (0-1) vs. Richard (0-1)
- Wednesday, 4/10: Billingsley (0-0) vs. Stults (1-0)
- Thursday, 4/11: Greinke (1-0) vs. Marquis (0-1)
- Friday, 4/12: Kershaw (2-0) vs. Corbin (1-0)
- Saturday, 4/13: Ryu (1-1) vs. Kennedy (1-0)
- Sunday, 4/14: (Beckett (0-1) vs. Cahill (0-1)
Until next week … Keep it up Internet, you’re doing a great job.