April 18, 1958: The start of something big

DSCN5970By Mark Langill

“You only get one chance to make a good first impression.”

Although the Dodgers finished in seventh place during their inaugural season on the West Coast in 1958, former vice president Buzzie Bavasi always looked at the April 18 opener at the Los Angeles Coliseum with fondness. A Friday that began with morning ceremonies at City Hall, followed by a parade through downtown and ending at the ballpark, culminated with a thrilling 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of more than 78,000 fans.

Manager Walter Alston tabbed veteran Carl Erskine, the author of two career no-hitters in Brooklyn, to pitch in front of the large crowd. Erskine was excited to play on Opening Day, but he quickly realized he wasn’t the only one. Early in first inning, he told batterymate John Roseboro, “the catcher isn’t supposed to throw the ball harder than the pitcher.” Roseboro didn’t realize the velocity on his return throws to the pitcher’s mound. Around the fourth inning, Erskine glanced toward the L.A. dugout and was amused at the sight of his teammates looking into the crowd, looking for movie stars.

Rookie third baseman Dick Gray hit the first Dodger home run, a solo shot off Johnny Antonelli in the seventh inning. The Dodgers held a 6-4 lead entering the ninth inning when Gray saved the day. He noticed Jim Davenport missed third base while attempting to score on Willie Kirkland’s triple. Davenport was called out on appeal.

Dodgers announce ‘Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball’

Kids BlhO96aCIAADrxTBy Cary Osborne

The Dodgers have announced the launch of a new community program that will give an opportunity to children and families, who due to economic hardship might not have the resources to attend a Dodger game, to not only attend a Dodger game but provide them transportation, a ticket, a T-shirt and food and beverage.

The “Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball” program will play host to 250 youngsters at each of 51 Dodgers games throughout the season, courtesy of the Dodgers. A total of 12,750 Los Angeles area inner-city youth will board a customized Dodger bus to Dodger Stadium and will each receive a ticket to a Dodger game, voucher for a Dodger Dog and beverage and a Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball T-shirt.

“It is our pleasure to launch Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball and host children at our games who otherwise may not get the opportunity to experience ‘Blue Heaven on Earth,’” said Dodger owner Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Our success on the field is just as important as how successful we are off the field in the L.A. community. I believe Kids 4 Dodgers baseball is a very special addition to the Dodgers’ community outreach programs.”

Each Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball group is pre-selected and chosen through an application process. Groups interested in being considered for the Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball program can contact the Dodgers’ community relations department by calling (323) 224-1435 or can apply online.

Yasiel Puig goes Yasiel Puig

By Jon Weisman

At this point, you could argue that Yasiel Puig is single-handedly funding the Internet, with all the clicks he is generating.

With two consecutive plays in the third inning of today’s Dodger game at San Francisco, Puig once again left the baseball world agog.

First, there was this not-by-design, 9-3 forceout.

Then, this whirling dervish of a catch in windy deep right.

April 17 pregame: X-rays negative, but Hanley misses start

Dodgers at Giants, 12:45 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Justin Turner, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

By Jon Weisman

Though X-rays were negative on Hanley Ramirez’s left hand, which was struck by a Ryan Vogelsong pitch Wednesday, the Dodger shortstop will miss his first start of the season in today’s afternoon affair (and road trip finale) against at San Francisco.

It’s not implausible that Ramirez would have been on the bench even if healthy, given that he had played every inning for the Dodgers in 2014 until leaving in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss.  Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez, on the other hand, will make their 15th consecutive starts.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com tweeted that Ramirez expects to start Friday at home against Arizona.

The Dodgers had more decent news about Chad Billingsley, whose right elbow ligament remains sound despite tendinitis, and Clayton Kershaw, who completed a bullpen session Tuesday and has another one Thursday. Neither pitcher, however, has a timetable for a rehab start.

Matt Kemp has the highest career BABIP in Dodger history — what does this mean?

DETROIT TIGERS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSBy Jon Weisman

If it’s better to be lucky than good, it’s best to be both.

Matt Kemp has the interesting dichotomy so far this year of a .194 batting average with an .890 OPS, thanks to the fact that he has seven walks, three homers and two doubles but only one single in 38 plate appearances.

That compelled me to do some poking around, and among other things, I found that in the early going this young season, Kemp is both walking (18.4 percent of the time) and striking out (34.2 percent) at the highest rates of his career. Of his 38 plate appearances, he has only put the ball in play 15 times. (That’s 39 percent, compared with a 64 percent career rate entering this season.)

Of those 15 times, he has gotten only the aforementioned double doubles and single single, for a .200 batting average on balls in play.  That’s on the unlucky side. I remembered that early in his career, Kemp had high BABIP numbers — folks who followed such things were always wondering if his BABIP would hold up as he got older — so I decided to see when the decline happened.

It never did.

Going into this season, Kemp had a career BABIP of .352. (It has since dropped to .351.) I’m no super-expert on stats, but this struck me as extraordinary.  And, in fact, it’s tops in Dodger history.

Here’s a chart showing the best BABIP hitters since the team moved to Los Angeles:

BABIP Dodgers

Kemp is also near the top in the Majors over the past 10 years.

BABIP

If Derek Jeter’s presence on this chart is any indication, BABIP is not necessarily something that declines significantly in your 30s. (Jeter was at .364 in his 20s, .345 since.)  We’ll see, of course, in Kemp’s case. But I wouldn’t worry about that .194 batting average too much, or in any case, I’d be much happier about his returning power numbers than sad about the arguably temporary loss of singles.

April 16 pregame: Pretty pictures

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Paul Maholm, P

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSBy Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers lost Tuesday, it didn’t stop Jon SooHoo from collecting some great shots over at his LA Photog Blog.

Still, a win would have made them a touch more enjoyable, I suppose.

Here are a few quick notes before tonight’s game:

  • Each member of the Dodgers’ regular infield has an OPS over .900: Adrian Gonzalez (.975), Dee Gordon (.917), Hanley Ramirez (.908) and at an even 1.000, Juan Uribe (.379 OBP, .621 slugging).
  • Yes, it’s true. Uribe still hasn’t drawn a walk this year. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he has seen nine three-ball counts in his 58 plate appearances, and he’s gone 5 for 9 with a homer and three strikeouts.
  • Matt Kemp has the highest walk rate on the 2014 Dodgers (17.7%) and is tied for second on team in walks despite only playing eight games so far. Though his batting average is .214, his OPS is .960.
  • With his 10th steal of the year Tuesday, Dee Gordon has matched his 2013 MLB total.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Oh yeah – one more thing …

Dodger minor league report: Week 2 — Conversions working

By Cary Osborne

Well, we almost got a no-hitter today from the Chattanooga Lookouts. Chris Reed went six innings, allowing no hits. Mike Thomas did his part in two innings. But Pedro Baez, who had been steady so far this season, allowed a single to the second batter he saw and later a double in the inning.  Chattanooga settled for the unusual two-hitter, a 5-4 win over the Jacksonville Suns in a game that featured eight errors.

That sets the table as we check in with what’s happening with out partners down on the farm. 

Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA)

Thus far: 6-6, 3 1/2 games out of first place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division

There is liftoff on Alex Guerrero’s stateside professional career. The Cuban second baseman made his minor league debut on Monday and in his third at-bat in Albuquerque, he homered off sidearmer Clay Rapada, who has 93 big league innings under his belt in seven seasons. The next day, Guerrero homered again, this time off converted pitcher and career minor leaguer Jonathan Arias. In Guerrero’s first two minor league games, he was 6-for-7 with two home runs, a double and five RBI.

There’s been no slowing Joc Pederson, who belted two home runs and knocked in five Wednesday for the Isotopes. Pederson leads the Pacific Coast League with an .884 slugging percentage and a 1.447 OPS. He now has five home runs and eight RBI in 12 games.

Veteran catcher Miguel Olivo can’t be ignored. He also hit two home runs against El Paso on Wednesday and has four homers and a team high 14 RBI in nine games to go along with a slash line of .351/.415/.730.

Zach Lee has been stellar in two starts, his last being April 11. He allowed five hits, one walk and one run (earned) while striking out three Tacoma batters. Through two starts (10 2/3 innings), Lee has a 2.53 ERA and a 0.843 WHIP.

Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

Pedro Baez

Pedro Baez

Thus far: 5-8, 3 1/2 games out of first place in the Southern League’s North Division

As indicated above, Baez came into today’s game having been impressive thus far, converting all three save opportunities this season and surrendering one hit in five innings (five appearances), while walking two and striking out three.

The 26-year-old was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in the offseason and thus far has been giving hitters fits with a high-90s fastball, while mixing in a good slider.

Unfortunately the Lookouts aren’t hitting much. Their .178 team average, .264 on-base percentage and .286 slugging percentage are all last in the Southern League.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A)

Thus far: 5-8, four games out of first place in the California League’s South Division

The Quakes have four relief pitchers — Freddie Cabrera (24 years old), Rob Rogers (23), Matt Shelton (25) and Blake Smith (26) — who have combined to allow no runs in 29 2/3 innings. Smith, like Baez, was converted to a pitcher last season.

Julio Urias did show he was human on Monday, suffering the first professional loss of his career. The 17-year-old allowed five earned runs off six hits and two walks in a setback to Lake Elsinore.

Corey Seager has been the steadiest bat, going 16-for-52 (.308 average) at the plate with a .362 OBP. But he has yet to homer in 13 games.

Great Lakes Loons (Low-A)

Thus far: are 7-5, 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division

Kyle Farmer is the organization’s top catching prospect. Through 10 games in Great Lakes, he has a slash line of .310/.356/.452 and has knocked in 11 runs to go along with two doubles and two triples.

Farmer was selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Georgia, where he played 211 of 212 games as a shortstop. Even back in high school he was a middle infielder. However, the Dodgers tried him out at catcher in a pre-draft workout and liked what they saw.

“It’s not an unusual move. There are a lot of infielders who move to catcher. Maybe they liked my arm or my feet,” Farmer told Saginaw (Mich.) News writer Hugh Bernreuter this month. “I’m not the quickest or fastest guy around, so being a catcher kind of fits me.”

Russell Martin came to the Dodgers as a shortstop in 2002 before being converted to catcher the following season.

Farmer is ranked by MLB.com as the Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect.

His batterymate and No. 13 prospect Zachary Bird had a solid bounceback on Tuesday after two rough outings to start the season. He went seven innings, allowing three hits and three walks, while giving up two earned runs and striking out two. That dropped his ERA from 11.05 to 6.91.

Photo: Chattanooga Lookouts 

No-no alert: Minor league style

By Cary Osborne

Chattanooga Lookouts pitcher Chris Reed, the Dodgers’ 2011 first-round pick and Cleveland High of Reseda graduate, no-hit the Double-A Jacksonville Suns through six innings in a game currently in progress.

It’s been a weird one as the Lookouts lead 3-2 at home.

Angel Morales was the game’s first batter and reached on a Chattanooga fielding error. He later came around to score on a wild pitch.

Morales scored again in the third inning after striking out but reaching base on a passed ball. He stole two bases and scored on another error.

Reed’s day was done after six innings, having allowed three walks while striking out nine. He threw 105 pitches.

As of this writing, the ball is now in the hands of reliever Mike Thomas, who retired all three batters he saw in the seventh inning.

Jackie Robinson Day celebrated at Dodger Stadium with community events

By Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers were (for a rare occasion) away on Jackie Robinson Day, the event didn’t go unnoticed at Dodger Stadium. On Tuesday, the Dodgers hosted scholars and alumni from the Jackie Robinson Foundation for a tour and seminar with the Dodgers to reflect on No. 42′s legacy.

In addition, the Dodgers staged a clinic with kids from the Challengers Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles. Definitely check out the photos here.

Julio Urias on Baseball America cover

Urias BABy Jon Weisman

Dodger Insider magazine will have its own story on Julio Urias in May, but Baseball America is going one better by putting the 17-year-old phenom on the cover of its latest issue.

Urias is the youngest player in the California League — by almost two years. “There are only two other 17-year-olds playing anywhere in full-season ball,” Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes.

The Irony Committee approves the fact that this cover comes the week of perhaps Urias’ poorest career start, allowing five runs on eight baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, but we won’t let the idea of a BA jinx worry us. Urias had a 2.48 ERA with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings for Great Lakes in 2013.

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