Daily Distractions: On close calls on the basepaths, has Yasiel Puig run out of luck?

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig has been thrown out on the bases seven times this season. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have seen 15 runners thrown out on the basepaths this season. That’s two fewer than the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals in a statistical category that no team wants to lead.

Yasiel Puig is single-handedly responsible for seven of those misfortunes, tied with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the MLB lead. Puig was doubled off first base in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader in Minnesota. Umpire Tim Welke had a good look at the play from his vantage point at second base. Welke had an even better look at this play in the night game (from Yahoo.com):

With one out, Puig beat out a chopper up the middle that second baseman Brian Dozier threw in the dirt to first base. Chris Colabello couldn’t pick it and the ball hopped past him, with catcher Yosmil Pinto backing up the play. After he ran through the bag, Puig sharply turned his head to the right to check for the ball’s location. It was evident from Puig’s body language that Puig wanted to take an extra base, but when he saw Pinto with the ball, he applied the brakes. If Puig’s left shoulder began to dip toward second, the rest of his body actually leaned right. He never left the baseline, never crossed the foul line. He stopped, turned around clockwise (that’s away from second base), and started walking back to the bag like an innocent man who just had hit an infield single.

When Pinto tagged Puig, Welke signaled that Puig was out. Was that the right call? Judge for yourself.

The Yahoo! article suggested that Welke “seemed to be looking for a reason to call Puig out.” Without interviewing Welke, a veteran of 29 major-league seasons and the crew chief last night, it’s impossible to know that for sure.

Psychology tells us that there might have been a very real phenomenon at work. It’s called the confirmation bias and we’re all susceptible to it at some point, on some level. Reading further into the well-sourced Wikipedia entry on the topic, “even if people gather and interpret evidence in a neutral manner, they may still remember it selectively to reinforce their expectations.”

A player who’s already been thrown out on the basepaths six times in a month (Puig) can be reasonably expected to make the same mistake again. Puig’s mistake in the first game might have reinforced that expectation for everyone in the ballpark, including the second-base umpire. Given a split second to make his call at first base in the second game, Welke could easily have fallen prey to confirmation bias. That’s not an opinion — that’s a real possibility, reinforced repeatedly in scientifically valid experiments. Welke might not have been aware of a possible confirmation bias at work in his own mind. Even if reporters were given the chance to interview him after the game, the interview might not have cleared up the question.

Here’s what we do know: The more outs he runs into, the more Puig hurts his chances of getting the benefit of the doubt in situations like the one Thursday night in Minnesota.

Thursday was still a good day for Puig on the whole. The Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN) said that Puig is the first Dodgers player to reach base eight times in a doubleheader since Bill Buckner against the Giants in 1976.

Some bullet points for a Baby Day:
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Daily Distractions: Julio Urias gets his Mexican food, and Dodgers fans in Rancho Cucamonga get their prospects.

Julio Urias

Julio Urias struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso and got Chris Denorfia to ground out in his only spring training inning. (Associated Press photo)

This is a rough map of all the Mexican restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga.

Julio Urias is waiting.

On March 15, after he pitched a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres — something Brian Wilson couldn’t do last night — Urias still didn’t know where he would begin the regular season. At least the Dodgers’ prized pitching prospect had no trouble identifying the hardest part of being uprooted to the United States at 16.

“It wasn’t really hard except for the food,” he said in Spanish. “The food was probably the hardest part for me.”

Fortunately for Urias, now 17, there are many options in the neighborhood of the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate in the California League.

As we reported yesterday, Urias will be assigned to Rancho along with 2013 first-round draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, along with Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2012.

In case you’re counting at home, that’s four of the club’s top 10 prospects (per MLB.com) playing in one spot, about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Urias, Anderson and Windle all finished last season with Class-A Great Lakes, and each saw action in one Cactus League game. The Dodgers drafted Anderson and Windle in the first and second rounds of the 2013 draft, respectively, out of college. Urias was signed as a free agent out of Culiacan, Mexico.

Pitcher Zach Lee and outfielder Joc Pederson will begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. So will Matt Magill and possibly Onelki Garcia once he’s healthy.

Some bullet points for a Cesar Chavez Day:
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Dodgers 2, Texas Rangers 1: Zach Lee and Tom Windle offer a glimpse of the future.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee didn’t allow a run against the Texas Rangers in his Cactus League debut Friday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zach Lee came into camp hoping to make the Dodgers’ 25-man roster. Seriously.

The 22-year-old pitcher only reached Double-A last year, three years after the Dodgers selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft. Only a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle suffered early in camp forced Lee to temper his expectations.

By waiting until Friday to make his Cactus League debut, Lee knows he’s ticketed to the minors to start the season.

“Anytime you set a goal you want to set it high,” he said. “If you set it too low, you’ll probably meet it and get content with it.”

Lee pitched two scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday at Camelback Ranch. He allowed only two hits, walked none and had something to be proud of at the end of his long-awaited debut.

The right-hander from McKinney, Texas survived a loud leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo — “a 2-1 fastball right down the middle that you don’t want to throw,” he said — to survive a 21-pitch first inning on consecutive ground-ball outs by Elvin Andrus, Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre.

After a smooth second inning in which he allowed a single to Jurickson Profar, Lee’s day was over. He faced eight hitters, almost all major leaguers, and did not look out of place on the mound.

“He just looks like he belongs around the clubhouse, around the fields. He does everything well,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got a clean delivery. We feel like he’s going to be able to throw the ball where he wants. Just like in his composure — pretty much everything about him.”

Lee has a preternatural calm in the presence of almost anyone — reporter, major leaguer, minor leaguer. He said he’s tried to stay in the background like most rookies, while also trying to pick the veterans’ brains.

“I’ve talked a lot with (Josh) Beckett and (Zack) Greinke,” he said. “Probably Greinke a little more than Beckett from a baseball standpoint just because me and his game are kind of similar as far as our repertoire goes, how we pitch. It’s always good to get an outside perspective, especially with a guy who’s had the success he’s had and kind of the similar stuff we have and how we approach the game.”

Both pitchers share an analytical approach to baseball, something that impressed Dodgers management about Lee since his first days in the organization. Lee’s numbers in his second season at Double-A Chattanooga were better in almost every category in 2013, when he was named the organization’s pitcher of the year.

Lee took part in the Dodgers’ prospect camp at Dodger Stadium in January. Finally on Friday, he had a chance to show everyone what he’s gained since last season.

“Growing up, the way I looked at pitching, I was more of a cerebral, analytical person,” he said. “I really thought more kind of gameplanning and what (Greg) Maddux did back in the day, where he was able to pinpoint location rather than overpowering people. I kind of took after them and that’s where my game’s developed.”

Young power pitchers are often the first to reach the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, a 2012 draft pick who beat the Dodgers twice in last year’s National League Championship Series, is a protypical example.

Pitchers like Lee, who mix and match an assortment of pitches and rely more on location and guile, often take longer. This season marks his fourth in the organization and only his first major-league camp.

Lee said he threw all his pitches Friday and “some worked better than others.” For Mattingly, the first impression was a good one.

“I think that’s what you like about him: You see him around the clubhouse, the way he handles himself, gets after his work, does everything pretty well, takes fielding his position seriously, holding runners — all the things you don’t get a lot of attention for — but we like everything about him.”

Some more notes and observations:
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Dodgers 4, Angels 4: A Scott Van Slyke grand slam, instant replay, perfect relay all go for naught.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke hit a grand slam in the Dodgers’ 4-1 victory over the Angels. (Associated Press photo)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Scott Van Slyke’s grand slam in the sixth inning and an exciting play at home plate in the first highlighted the Dodgers’ 4-4 tie with the Angels before 6,457 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The 10-inning game is the second tie this week for the Dodgers (3-4-2).

The umpiring crew used instant replay to determine that Mike Trout was indeed thrown out at home plate attempting to complete an inside-the-park home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had a lengthy discussion with the umpires on the field before initiating the challenge. A 72-second review confirmed the call.

With one out in the first, Trout hit a long, sinking line drive just left of center field. Yasiel Puig dove at the last second but missed. The ball rolled past Puig and all the way to the warning track, where Puig got to the ball ahead of left fielder Scott Van Slyke. His relay throw to shortstop Hanley Ramirez on the short outfield grass was perfect, and Ramirez made an accurate throw to Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis just in time to retire the speedy Trout.

The only question seemed to be whether Ellis got his glove on Trout or not, but that wasn’t the only question circulating through the Dodgers’ dugout.
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Daily Distractions: California Superior Court judge tosses class-action lawsuit against Dodgers, Lakers, TWC.

SportsNet LA

The Dodgers’ new network, SportsNet LA, is launching Feb. 25. (Photo courtesy of SportsNet LA via Facebook)

A California Superior Court judge tossed out a class-action lawsuit filed against the Dodgers, Lakers, and Time Warner Cable on Tuesday, citing federal laws designed to protect the rights of cable providers. Judge Amy D. Hogue ruled that California’s Unfair Competition Law couldn’t be invoked to relieve Time Warner subscribers of the burden of unwanted fees or channels.

This blog space has focused on the Dodgers’ $8 billion, 25-year television contract to the extent that it impacts the team and its fans — the Time Warner subscribers who are bracing for a rate hike, and non-TWC subscribers who are being asked to “Demand Your Dodgers Now.” That makes sense. This is a Dodgers blog, after all.

But what about the non-Dodger (and non-Laker) fans who don’t want to pay for two channels they don’t plan to watch? That’s the group who filed the class-action suit. Their lead attorney, Max Blecher, summarized their position: “People should have the right to say ‘no.’ ”

Here’s how that position was eloquated in Judge Hogue’s nine-page ruling:

1. TWC plans to pass some the cost of its licensing deal with the Dodgers to its enhanced basic cable customers by increasing the cost of service by an estimated $4 to $5 per month. The Dodgers … knew and consented to the fact that the costs of the licensing agreement would be passed on to TWC enhanced basic cable customers without an opportunity for customers to opt-out of including those channels in their enhanced basic cable subscription.

2. TWC customers who subscribe to the enhanced basic cable package have no way of unsubscribìng from the costs of the Dodgers and Lakers networks, despite the fact that up to 60 percent of customers would do so if given the choice.

In response, TWC contended that the plaintiffs “entirely fail to address the ‘safe harbor effect’ of the CCA” — the federal law that allows cable providers to “bundle” channels in the same manner as SportsNet LA and TWC SportsNet (the Lakers’ network). The federal “safe harbor” law takes priority over California’s Unfair Competition Law. The judge agreed.

Blecher said he might file a notice of appeal if it can be argued that the judge’s ruling went too far. So this fight might not be over. The plaintiffs have at least one strong ally in Congress.

Some bullet points for a hump day:
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Dodgers prospects score exhibition win in Tucson.

Darnell Sweeney‘s two-run single highlighted a 4-0 win for a team of Dodgers prospects Sunday over Yaquis de Obregon, a Mexican Pacific League squad, at the “Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta” in Tucson.

The Dodgers scored all four runs in the eighth inning. After Sweeney’s single, RBI singles by Adam Law and Cody Bellinger drove in the Dodgers’ final runs.

Left-hander Chris Anderson, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft, started and pitched 1 ⅔ innings, allowing no hits, no walks, and striking out two.

Tom Windle, the Dodgers’ second-round pick in June, allowed no hits over the next 1 ⅓ innings.

Some highlights of the game (announced in Spanish) can be seen here.

Dodgers sign top draft picks Chris Anderson, Tom Windle, two others.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson (foreground) and Tom Windle (background, right) visited Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

The Dodgers signed pitchers Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, their top two picks in the First-Year Player Draft last Thursday. Both signed for the assigned slot value — Anderson for $2,109,900 and Windle for $986,500 — and will report to the Dodgers’ facility in Glendale, Ariz for a week of training. They will then be assigned to Single-A Great Lakes.
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Dodgers select Jacksonville University pitcher Chris Anderson with first draft pick.

Chris AndersonThe Dodgers chose Jacksonville University pitcher Chris Anderson with their first selection, 18th overall, in the First-Year Player Draft Thursday night.

Anderson, 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, has a fastball clocked as fast as the 96-97 mph range. He also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. The right-hander will turn 21 in July.

As a junior in 2013, he went 7-5 with a 2.49 earned-run average, walking 27 and striking out 101 in 104 ⅔ innings. (Complete stats here)

Seven of the Dodgers’ last eight first-round draft picks have been pitchers.
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