Unlike a lot of Southern California kids, Davidson wasn’t a Dodger or Angel fan growing up, though he did attend a handful of games at each park.
The “second half” of the season will consist of 68 games for the Dodgers. Here’s what to watch for:
1. For lack of an obvious turning point in the Dodgers’ schedule over the next month, check out the Diamondbacks’ road trip from July 30 to August 4: Two in Tampa, one in Texas (a makeup game), followed by three in Boston. The Dodgers play the Cubs four times in that stretch, making it a good time to make up ground in the division.
2. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. They belong to Ricky Nolasco and Stephen Fife, once healthy, until further notice. The Dodgers are expected to announce a decision on Ted Lilly today — one that doesn’t involve him going back into the rotation — and move Chris Capuano to the bullpen once Fife returns from the disabled list.
3. The bullpen. As I indicated in my midseason report card, the Dodgers need more than three reliable pitchers out of the bullpen. With two open spots on the 40-man roster, count on one going to a relief pitcher over the next six weeks. Maybe it’s Carlos Marmol. Maybe it’s someone outside the organization who can provide a better right-handed complement to Kenley Jansen than deposed closer Brandon League.
4. Matt Kemp‘s shoulder. How much will a week’s worth of rest and a few rehab games do for Kemp’s swing? His power was almost nonexistent in the first half, as reflected in a devilish .666 OPS. Kemp could easily find himself batting fifth or lower when he returns next week from his latest stint on the disabled list.
5. Outfield playing time. Only left fielder Carl Crawford seems assured of an everyday place in the lineup. For all their talent, the others each have something to prove: Kemp that he doesn’t need occasional rest to be a productive hitter; Yasiel Puig that he’s not a strikeout machine; Andre Ethier that he’s not a platoon player (his batting average against left-handers is down to .245 and at home it’s .226).
Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:
A list of the most popular jersey sales on MLB.com/shop was released today:
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
2. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
4. David Wright, New York Mets
5. Matt Harvey, New York Mets
6. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
8. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
9. Mike Trout, LA Angels of Anaheim
10. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
11. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
12. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
13. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
14. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
15. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
More on Puig in a bit. Let’s not overlook that Ryu jersey sales rank 11th, only Puig separating Ryu from the buzz-worthy title of “Dodgers rookie sensation.” And that four Dodgers (with the cross-cultural appeal that comes with representing four different ethnic groups) rank among the top 15.
Onto the bullet points:
The Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday drew a 4.1 rating on Fox Sports Prime Ticket in the Los Angeles market, according to Sports Media Watch. That’s a season high and the network’s best Dodgers rating since 2009. The Dodgers’ season average has improved by 6 percent since mid-June.
The hype surrounding rookie right fielder Yasiel Puig is certainly a factor in the Dodgers’ improved ratings. Monday also held the intrigue of a rematch between two teams who brawled in their last series, and are currently first and second in their division.
Any fines and suspensions that Major League Baseball plans to levy on the participants in Tuesday’s brawl between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will have to wait until tomorrow.
That doesn’t mean that players and coaches on both sides weren’t anticipating it Wednesday.
The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks confirmed Wednesday that they will begin the 2014 season with a pair of games in Sydney, Australia. The news was first reported last October by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The games will be played Saturday, March 22 and 23, 2014 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Dodgers president Stan Kasten said that his team will play a spring training game in Arizona on Sunday, March 16 and fly from Phoenix to Sydney that night. After a day off Tuesday, the Dodgers will work out Wednesday, then play an exhibition game against an Australian team on Thursday. There may be a second exhibition game Friday — Kasten said “I don’t think we need it” — and leave for Los Angeles at the conclusion of Sunday’s game.
“It’ll be a long trip but we hope well worth it,” Kasten said.
If you haven’t seen the brawl between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, the most thorough video is up on MLB.com.
As you can see, a number of Dodgers players and coaches look upset. Angry, even. Enraged, boiling mad, fuming …
A few hours after the game the adrenaline had died down but the sentiment had not. What were the Dodgers so upset about?
All quotes courtesy of the Associated Press …
What has been the least productive position for the Dodgers this season? Third base? Shortstop?
FanGraphs.com recently calculated the WAR (wins above replacement) for every team by position. (For an explanation of the frequently misunderstood statistic, which is calculated differently by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com and has gained popularity in recent years, click here.) According to FanGraphs’ WAR, second base has been the least productive position for the Dodgers this year.
In fact, only five teams have gotten less out of the position than the Dodgers, in terms of offense, baserunning and defense. Mark Ellis (17), Nick Punto (10) and Skip Schumaker (6) are the only three Dodgers who have started games at second base this season.
The Dodgers’ best position, relatively speaking, is first base. Only the Reds and Tigers have gotten more WAR out of the position this season.
The chart has its limits. Take the Angels, for example. Add up their position-by-position WAR, and they should have the fourth-best team in baseball. In reality the Angels are 10 games under .500. The Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East, yet their combined WAR ranks 21st in the majors.
This is why you play the games.
More bullet points for a Thursday morning:
You get the feeling that the Dodgers will have a new closer soon.
Brandon League didn’t blow a save Tuesday, but he added another shaky performance to a long list of them in 2013. League allowed a pair of runs in the ninth inning, both on a Paul Goldschmidt home run that lifted the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 5-3 win at Dodger Stadium.
The Goldschmidt home run came on a belt-high sinker over the middle of the plate, the last of 11 pitches that included five foul balls after the count went full.
“My plan was to get Goldschmidt to ground into a double play,” League said. “That’s an example of what happens when you throw a good hitter a (feces-infused) pitch.”