By Jon Weisman
You know Adrian Gonzalez had a great start to 2015. You know he has had a great career.
But do you really appreciate how high Gonzalez is rising among the best first basemen in the history of the game?
Answering that question was a main goal of Cary Osborne’s Dodger Insider feature, which was our May cover story and is now the latest in our new series of online specials.
What we found might surprise you: Gonzalez is already a top-40 first baseman all-time, and aside from Eddie Murray and (for now) Gil Hodges, he is well positioned to finish his career as the greatest first baseman to spend any significant time in a Dodger uniform. But read the entire story to get the details.
Our inaugural special, “Inside the #RallyBanana,” can be accessed here, our “Meet the Originals” package on the 50th anniversary of the MLB draft can be found here and our “What Wood You Do” bat feature can be found here.
By Jon Weisman
How unlikely was the Dodger bullpen meltdown in Monday’s 10-6 loss to Arizona?
- Joel Peralta (one inning, two-run homer): Hadn’t allowed two runs in a game for 11 straight appearances. Hadn’t allowed a two-run homer since June 27, 2014.
- Yimi Garcia (one inning, two-run homer): Hadn’t allowed two earned runs in a game or a two-run homer for 12 straight appearances.
- Juan Nicasio (one inning, two runs): Allowed two runs in an inning once (June 7) in 24 appearances this season.
- Adam Liberatore (1/3 innings, two inherited runs): Had stranded 10 of 14 inherited runners this season.
- Pedro Baez (one inning, four runs): Had allowed three runs all season in 16 appearances.
- J.P. Howell (1/3 inning, two inherited runs): Since the start of the 2014 season, had stranded 44 of 49 inherited runners, never allowing two to score in a game. But then Paul Goldschmidt came to the plate.
That all blew up in the same game, ending the Dodgers’ 26-game winning streak when scoring at least six runs, wasting the fourth-inning home runs by Yasmani Grandal, Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson.
And the Dodgers took it hard.
By Jon Weisman
Sandwiching a home run in the same inning by Yasmani Grandal, Dodger outfielders Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson each hit fourth-inning blasts that made a bit of history tonight in Arizona.
Pederson’s home run, which almost predictably came after a first-inning walk and third-inning strikeout, was his 20th of the season, making him the first Dodger since Gary Sheffield in 2000 and fourth in Los Angeles Dodger history to have at least 20 homers and 50 walks before the All-Star Break.
The 23-year-old rookie is only the eighth Dodger rooke ever to have 20 homers in an entire season.
As my colleague Cary Osborne informed me last week, Pederson is ahead of the pace needed to become the first rookie in MLB history with at least 40 homers and 100 walks. Al Rosen came closest in 1957 with Cleveland, homering 37 times and walking 100.
Only two National League rookies have hit more homers before July 1 than Pederson: Wally Berger (22, 1930, Boston Braves) and Albert Pujols (21, 2001, St. Louis Cardinals).
But let’s not forget Ethier. His home run was the 155th of his career, which the Dodgers’ public relations department noted put him in sole possession of ninth place on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-time list, ahead of Willie Davis.
It also gave the Dodgers six players with at least 10 homers before the All-Star Break for the first time since 1979, which admittedly was a team that finished the first half of the season in last place. Grandal, who hit his 11th home run, is one of those six players.
By Jon Weisman
Carl Crawford, who has been sidelined since April 27 with a right oblique injury, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with three games at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga beginning Tuesday, Don Mattingly told reporters today.
Crawford is then expected to move on to extend that assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City, while the Dodgers return home for their 10-game homestand that precedes the All-Star Break.
The 33-year-old has a .260 on-base percentage and .408 slugging percentage in 50 plate appearances before the injury. That .668 on-base percentage nearly matches the .684 OPS he had in the first half of 2014, a figure that declined to .601 through August 9 last year.
From August 10 through the end of the 2014 regular season, Crawford turned things around 540 degrees (yeah, that much!), with a .463 OBP and .606 slugging in his final 135 plate appearances.
By Jon Weisman
In the final All-Star Game balloting update before the results are announced July 5, no Dodger is within more than 2.4 million votes of a starting spot — but there is still some intrigue.
Although Bryce Harper returned to play Sunday for Washington after a brief absence, the next three National League vote leaders in the outfield — Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday and Nori Aoki– are on the disabled list. If none of those three are able to play in the game, Dodger center fielder Joc Pederson, in sixth place with a 330,000-vote lead over Jason Heyward, would be in line to start.
NL All-Star manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants will make the decision on who starts in place of any injured players, but fan balloting should be a factor in his selection (along with, perhaps, the presence of Dodger manager Don Mattingly as one of his coaches, not to mention the fact that the Dodgers have let the NL West most of this season).
In any case: Your votes still matter.
Earlier today on Fangraphs, Dave Cameron explained why he’d select Pederson to start and add Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen as reserves.
The starting position players for the 2015 All-Star Game will be announced Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Pacific on ESPN, with the reserves named the following night (July 6) at 4 p.m. Pacific on ESPN. Pitchers and reserves are determined through a combination of player ballot choices and managerial selections.
The All-Star Game Final Vote for the 34th spot on each team’s roster will then begin, continuing through July 10.
Current vote totals appear below:
In the history of the Dodgers, only one time has a pitcher had a better ERA in the first half of a season than Zack Greinke’s 1.58 with the Dodgers today.
That pitcher was Don Drysdale, the year of his record streak of 58 consecutive scoreless innings. Drysdale had a 1.37 ERA before the All-Star Break, before finishing the year at 2.15.
If Greinke, who extended his own scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory Sunday over Miami, can maintain his current ERA over what figure to be his two remaining starts before the All-Star Break, it would only be the 15th time in the past 50 years that any MLB starting pitcher has had an ERA below 1.60 at the break (minimum 75 innings).
If you really want to get ahead of yourself, nine starting pitchers — none of them Dodgers — have finished a season with at least 150 innings and a park/era-adjusted ERA better than Greinke’s today. The best was Pedro Martinez (1.74 ERA, 291 ERA+). Greinke’s current ERA is lower than Martinez’s, but the easier pitching enviroment puts Greinke’s ERA+ at 235.
Don’t expect Greinke to keep his 2015 ERA below Robert Hoover’s grade-point average at Faber College, but it’s still fun to think about.
By Mark Langill
Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart became linked in baseball history 25 years ago when they pitched no-hitters for their respective teams on June 29, 1990. Stewart and the Oakland A’s defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0, at SkyDome, with Valenzuela watching the highlights in Los Angeles on the clubhouse television. Hours later, Valenzuela was the toast of the town after his 6-0 gem over St. Louis. It remains the only time in baseball history that two no-hitters were pitched on the same day in different cities.
Valenzuela walked three batters, including Willie McGee with one out in the ninth, before inducing a double-play grounder from his former teammate, Pedro Guerrero. It was that moment that prompted Vin Scully to utter so memorably, “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky.”
(In the eighth inning, after Stan Javier ran to the warning track to run down a fly ball by Craig Wilson, Scully had warned fans to “hold onto your sombreros.” So it was only fitting that he allow fans to toss them in the air when it was all over.)
But the date that defined their baseball fates was April 8, 1981, when both Valenzuela and Stewart were rookies. One shrugged his shoulders at opportunity, while the other shouted with defiance and determination.
By Jon Weisman
Here are the National League West standings since June 1, entering play today (with run differential in parentheses):
13-14 .481 Los Angeles (+12)
12-13 .480 Arizona (-25)
12-13 .480 San Diego (-22)
11-13 .458 San Francisco (+9)
11-15 .423 Colorado (-9)
The best and worst teams are separated by 1 1/2 games. And the Dodgers are even with the Diamondbacks and Padres even though they’ve essentially outscored those two teams by 37 and 34 runs. Los Angeles is 4-6 in one-run games this month.
The June division title will be at stake Monday through Wednesday, when the Dodgers finish their 10-game road trip and stretch of 34 games in 34 days at Arizona.
* * *
Zack Greinke enters today’s game with 13 consecutive scoreless innings, a 0.98 ERA in his past four starts and a 1.79 ERA with a .596 opponents’ OPS in the nine starts (60 1/3 innings) he has made since his last victory. The Dodgers are 4-5 in that period.
Greinke has pitched 59 full innings since his last win, and has shut out the opponent in 49 of them.
By Jon Weisman
With one out in the first inning today at Miami, a few moments after the 11th home run of Justin Turner’s incredible 2015, Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich reached first base on an infield single.
The next batter, Adeiny Hechavarria, hit a blooper to right, and you thought, “Here we go again” with Clayton Kershaw.
That wasn’t even the half of it.
Then came a wild pitch by Kershaw, and just like that, 210 feet of hits had yielded two runs.
In the next inning, Kershaw gave up a leadoff double but appeared ready to emerge unscathed three batters later, before Joc Pederson misjudged a drive to center by pitcher Tom Koehler. Pederson volleyball-set the ball into the air, but it spiked before he could find it, and the Marlins had a third run.
The kicker: The Dodgers had a franchise-record 13-game errorless streak entering the game. And Kershaw, who had been bitten by home runs recently, didn’t come close to allowing one out of the park.
And all it meant was the first three-start losing streak of Kershaw’s career, a 3-2 defeat, and the latest chapter of brilliance disguised.
Kershaw allowed five singles and two doubles, while walking none and striking out nine. No, Kershaw hasn’t been perfect. On the other hand, here’s his record over his past seven starts: 48 2/3 innings, 30 hits, nine walks, 67 strikeouts, 1.85 ERA. Even his maligned homer rate in that stretch is 0.9 per nine innings.
After Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single (on a drive that befuddled Yelich about as much as Koehler’s confused Pederson) put Turner at second base with the tying run in the top of the fourth, Andre Ethier ripped a liner to second base that Dee Gordon snagged, and Hechecarria and Gordon than combined on a stylish double play off the bat of Yasmani Grandal.
Over the remaining five innings, the Dodgers got two baserunners, moved each of them to second base with two out, and stranded them there.
Kershaw kept the Dodgers close, even striking out the side after Marlins reached first and third with none out in the sixth, but the early fumbles were too much to overcome.
Although Paco Rodriguez was seeing some progress in rehab, it was not enough.
The 24-year-old left was examined Thursday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended an arthroscopy to remove loose bodies in the back of Rodriguez’s elbow. Surgery will be performed July 2, with Rodriguez expected to be sidelined for 8-10 weeks. That figures to put Rodriguez out of action at least until rosters expand in September.
A Dodger second-round draft pick in 2012, Rodriguez became the first from that entire draft to reach the Major Leagues, and from in 61 innings (87 games) 2012-13, he had a 2.21 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Rodriguez has thrown 24 1/3 big-league innings since, with a 3.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 8.9 K/9. He most recently pitched for the Dodgers on May 29.