Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are the new Lakers.

A couple weeks ago, I received an official voter’s ballot for a trivial contest. There were 10 slots to fill.

And no, I’m not talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This was the annual Los Angeles News Group Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year ballot. All the stories we considered involved people and teams who hailed from, or competed in, the greater Los Angeles/Orange County/Inland Empire area. The number-one story on my ballot didn’t involve an athlete, let alone anyone connected to baseball. It was about Jerry Buss, whose death in February took up four of five columns on the front page of that day’s Daily News:

I was surprised to see my colleagues disagreed. The Dodgers’ tumultuous “return to glory” captured their hearts. The sample size of our staff writers may be smallish, but what do I know? L.A. likes a winner.

Then we chose Yasiel Puig as the Los Angeles Sports Person of the Year.

Then Ken Gurnick of MLB.com broke down the Dodgers’ season in 874 words and it didn’t seem like enough.

Then Puig was arrested. (Again.)

Then David Vassegh of KLAC (570-AM) tweeted this:

And suddenly, the Dodgers had become the Lakers.

Debate it all you want, but it seems the tides of buzz and drama and relevance have turned in the Dodgers’ favor. If there’s room for two teams in the public consciousness — as Magic Johnson said roughly one year ago — the Lakers aren’t taking advantage of it right now. The Dodgers are.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Daily Distractions: The market has been set for J.P. Howell, but will the Dodgers go along?

J.P. Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell went 4-1 with a 2.18 earned-run average in 67 games for the Dodgers in 2013. (Getty Images)

For a left-handed set-up man like J.P. Howell the market has pretty much been set. Right?

Javier Lopez got three years and $13 million from the San Francisco Giants.

On Friday, Boone Logan got three years and $16.5 million from the Colorado Rockies.

Howell was just a nudge better than those two in 2013 while doing essentially the same task, retiring left-handed batters in close games before the ninth inning. He’s 30; Logan is 29 and Lopez is 36. If the market trend continues, Howell can probably make a good case to earn a little more money than Logan. Say, three years and $18 million.

The Dodgers don’t necessarily see it that way.

They have one left-handed specialist in Paco Rodriguez. Another, Scott Elbert, could be ready to join the team at midseason. Right-hander Carlos Marmol has had good historical success against lefties as well, though the Dodgers haven’t had much communication with him since the off-season began.

Would they like Howell back? Sure. They’ve been more talkative with Howell’s camp than perhaps any left-handed reliever to this point. But general manager Ned Colletti suggested Saturday he isn’t as desperate for help in that area as the Giants and Rockies were when they signed Lopez and Logan, respectively.

“You have to make the right decisions despite sometimes what other teams were doing,” Colletti said, speaking generally about the market for left-handed relievers. “Some teams do it because they don’t have anybody else. It’s something done out of desperation. I get that. We’ve had to do it too from time to time. But (Howell) is another guy we’ve had a lot of conversations with. We’re still trying to get him signed.

“Whether we do or not, we’ll always figure it out. We might not figure it out on Dec. 14.”

After reportedly signing Juan Uribe on Saturday, bolstering the bullpen is Colletti’s top task. The market seems to be pointing in one direction for Howell, but the Dodgers might ultimately decide to go a different direction.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Daily Distractions: What the absence of a new Posting System means for Masahiro Tanaka, Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)


The Associated Press reported this morning that Major League Baseball is withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan.

What does that hold for Masahiro Tanaka, Japan’s best pitcher? Without agreement on a new bidding system, Japanese players would not be able to sign with MLB until they had nine years of service time and could become free agents. Tanaka has seven years of service time in NPB, Japan’s top league. You do the math.

Imagine for a moment that the best available free-agent pitcher is now off the market. Every other pitcher at the top of the free agent crop — Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, etc. — now jumps up a spot on teams’ wish lists. And those teams still have all their money to spend.

That figures to help a pitcher like David Price, who is not a free agent, but whom many expect the Tampa Bay Rays to dangle as trade bait. Perhaps Price’s price just rose too.

The New York Post reported today that a complete elimination of the posting system is now possible, which might ground Tanaka in Japan for another two years. It’s not clear what will happen to the proposal MLB just withdrew, which the Post described as “a moderate tweak of the old system: The team with the highest bid on a posted player would still win exclusive negotiating rights with that player, but the amount of the bid would be an average of the top two bids. … Furthermore, a team would be fined if it failed to sign the player after securing the negotiating rights.”

FanGraphs.com speculated that if this system were ratified, “the player won’t gain any leverage in order to get a better contract for himself, or play in a different city. But! If the posting fees actually do go down, the player should get a bigger slice of the pie.” The team with the highest bid still won.

Now? Even is if no agreement is reached this winter, the Dodgers’ odds of signing Tanaka might decrease. Their team payroll is expected to exceed baseball’s luxury-tax threshhold again in 2014, which means the Dodgers will be taxed 30 percent on every dollar spent on player salaries above $189 million. The tax rises to 40 percent if the Dodgers exceed the threshhold in 2015, and 50 percent in 2016. Team president Stan Kasten has said repeatedly that he doesn’t intend to pay these luxury taxes indefinitely, and that 50 percent tax-rate could be where the Dodgers decide to draw the line.

According to Cots, the Dodgers are already on the hook for $122 million for SEVEN players in 2016, and that doesn’t include a possible extension for Clayton Kershaw.

So assuming Tanaka’s health and effectiveness hold steady for two more years, would the Dodgers be restricted in their willingness to spend on Tanaka in the winter of 2015-16? Under the old system — and, presumably, under Monday’s proposal — posting fees don’t count toward a team’s luxury tax. But at least one small-market club reported by the Post, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would like to see that changed.

There are some variables in this equation that definitely work against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Colombian Woman:
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Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig finishes second to Jose Fernandez in Rookie of the Year balloting, Hyun-Jin Ryu fourth.

Yasiel PuigThe Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez as its Rookie of the Year, edging second-place finisher Yasiel Puig in the final balloting by collecting 26 of 30 first-place votes. Puig was chosen first on the other four ballots.

Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu finished fourth, collecting 10 third-place votes.

Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 earned-run average in his first major-league season. The 21-year-old native of Cuba had never pitched above Single-A prior to last season, but only improved as the 2013 campaign rolled along. He posted a 1.32 ERA after the All-Star break, with 84 strikeouts in 68 innings.

For the season, Fernandez led the majors in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.8). Only eight pitchers had a higher Wins Above Replacement in their first major-league season than Fernandez’s 6.3, according to baseball-reference.com’s version of the statistic.

Fernandez was named to the National League All-Star team in July, another honor that fell just outside Puig’s grasp as he raced off to a blistering start following his June 3 call-up from Double-A Chattanooga.

Puig’s batting average didn’t dip below .400 until his 35th game. He finished with a .319/.391/.534 slash line, with 19 home runs, 42 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 19 attempts. Beyond his numbers, Puig re-energized the Dodgers in the midst of a June swoon, pushing the team to first place in the National League West and an eventual six-game loss in the NL Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Todd Hollandsworth was the last Dodgers player to win the Rookie of the Year award, in 1996.

Here was the final vote count:
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Daily Distractions: IBWAA announces its end-of-season awards finalists.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu (center) was honored at an awards gala in Korea yesterday. Lots of awards these days. (Photo by Jun Park/Asia Society)


The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America was founded here, in the awards capital of the world, so naturally the IBWAA gives out awards at the end of the season. This year there are “finalists” too, just like the BBWAA has “finalists” who really represent the top vote-getters in each category.

The IBWAA has more categories, and more Dodgers, than the BBWAA awards. Clayton Kershaw (National League Cy Young), Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu (NL rookie of the year), Don Mattingly (NL manager of the year), and Kenley Jansen (best NL reliever) are all in the running for the virtual awards.

Jose Fernandez and Adam Wainwright are the other Cy Young finalists, same as the BBWAA awards. Fernandez is the other rookie of the year finalist. Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are the other finalists for best reliever. Fredi Gonzalez and Clint Hurdle are other manager of the year finalists, (same as the BBWAA.

Winners will be announced as follows:

Relief Pitcher, Friday, November 8, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Rookie, Monday, November 11, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Manager, Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Cy Young, Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
MVP, Thursday, November 14, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Some bullet points for a Thursday afternoon:

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Yasiel Puig, Don Mattingly, Clayton Kershaw are finalists for BBWAA awards.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw won the 2011 National League Cy Young Award and is the favorite for the award again. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers have three finalists for the annual year-end Baseball Writers Association of America awards.
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Daily Distractions: Minor-league awards honor Nick Buss as one Triple-A’s best outfielders in 2013.

Nick Buss

Nick Buss led the Pacific Coast League in RBIs, with 100. (Associated Press photo)

The Triple-A All-Star team, announced Tuesday by Minor League Baseball and the Topps Company, is a real motley crew.

The group includes a 30-year-old veteran of seven seasons of independent baseball (Chris Colabello), a first-round draft pick from 2001 (J.D. Martin) and Nick Buss, the former USC outfielder who made his major-league debut at age 27 with the Dodgers in September.

Buss had a .303/.363/.525 slash line at Triple-A Albuquerque before his call-up, when he collected 2 hits in 19 at-bats as a Dodger. He had 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases, and a PCL-leading 100 RBIs after spending all of 2012 at Double-A Chattanooga.

As the Dodgers’ 40-man roster stands now, Buss is one of three outfielders behind the four well-paid supertars (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig). Mike Baxter and Scott Van Slyke are the others.

Some bullet points for a Guy Fawkes Day:
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Daily Distractions: About the newfangled sabermetric Gold Glove Award component, and which Dodger it helps.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is one of five Dodgers nominated for Gold Glove Awards. (Associated Press photo)

At 320 pages, the most recent edition of The Fielding Bible is shorter than most editions of the more famous Bible, but still rather long for a topic that’s proved difficult to qualify and quantify over the years. There’s no Cliffs Notes version of the Fielding Bible, but I’ll recommend this excerpt that claims Matt Kemp shouldn’t have won a Gold Glove Award in 2011. Whether you agree with the conclusion or not, the thought process behind the conclusion is very insightful.

Today is a big day for fielding. THE big day. The Gold Glove award winners will be revealed at 5 p.m. in a live show on ESPN2, and five Dodgers are among the finalists. Their fates depend in part on a new wrinkle to the voting process: The SDI, short for the SABR Defensive Index.

The SDI counts for approximately 25 percent of the vote, according to SABR’s website, and that 25 percent can be further broken down into a series of acronyms that look like a disorganized jumble of refrigerator magnets: DRS, UZR, RED, DRA and TZ. Managers and coaches still hold a majority of the vote, and each player’s SDI score was included on the ballots distributed to each team’s staff.

What does it all mean, and what does this have to do with The Fielding Bible?

Fielding Bible co-author John Dewan is the co-founder of Stats LLC and the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, whose data feeds into all those nifty acronyms — and this year, the Gold Glove Award. And Dewan’s data believes that Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke should win a Gold Glove Award.

Yesterday, TheFieldingBible.com posted its annual picks for the best fielder at each position in the majors. Greinke is scarcely mentioned, because the two leagues weren’t separated and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey was chosen as the best fielding pitcher in baseball. But Greinke was chosen as the second-best fielding pitcher in baseball, and the best in the National League.

Greinke has never won a Gold Glove Award (a tiny shame, since his current contract holds no Gold Glove Award bonuses but his last contract, signed with the Kansas City Royals in 2009, did). Tonight could be his night. If so, he can thank SDI and TMI — too much information.

Some bullet points for a Turkish Republic Day:
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Daily Distractions: Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu named to All-Rookie team by Baseball America.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig (left) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (right), here celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff-clinching win in Arizona on Sept. 19, were named to Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team on Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Awards season is heating up, and Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu are starting to get some ink as two of baseball’s top rookies.

The two Dodgers were part of Baseball America’s 2013 all-rookie team, announced on Monday. Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez was left off the list, which covers both leagues and only left room for one relief pitcher, five starting pitchers, and three outfielders.

Here’s what Baseball America wrote about Puig and Ryu:

OF  Yasiel Puig • Dodgers

Though he plays the game with a flair that rubs some opponents the wrong way, Puig hit .319/.391/.534 to lead all rookies with at least 400 plate appearances in average, OBP, slugging percentage and isolated power (.215). Like Myers, his performance leaves no doubt about future power production in right field, not after belting 27 homers between Double-A Chattanooga and the Dodgers. His arrival in Los Angeles on June 3 also coincided with returns to form by Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez, leading the Dodgers to a 69-38 (.645) record the rest of the way. Pitchers succeeded in expanding Puig’s strike zone early in the year, but he stabilized his hitting approach in August and September, batting .273/.373/.487 with 21 extra-base hits in 54 games and a workable 24-to-46 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

SP Hyun-Jin Ryu • Dodgers

Ryu had no trouble slotting into the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as he transitioned from the Korean major league to the NL. While he didn’t provide the jaw-dropping highs of the other pitchers here—or the impact of Myers or teammate Puig—he did deliver the most innings by a rookie (192) while not hurting himself with walks, home runs or stolen bases. Opponents succeeded on only one of three steal attempts despite Ryu’s heavy diet of changeups (22 percent of the time), sliders (14) and curves (10).

Baseball America also chose Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez as its Rookie of the Year. If that’s any preview of how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America plans to vote — given Fernandez’s credentials, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be — neither Ryu nor Puig will be collecting any hardware on Nov. 11 when the BBWAA announces its rookies of the year.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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How (and when) Ricky Nolasco became the Dodgers’ Game 4 starter.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco will start Game 4 of the National League Division series for the Dodgers. (Associated Press photo)

Ricky Nolasco is starting Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for the Dodgers, just like everyone knew all along.

Yeah, right.

Not even manager Don Mattingly was sold on Nolasco at this time yesterday.

“We met yesterday,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling great about it. I wasn’t feeling 100 percent about it. It was on my mind all day yesterday, all the time here at the ballpark yesterday early on. It was on my mind: ‘What was the right thing to do?’ After we met, it got a chance to keep sinking in. At the beginning it wasn’t feeling great. About the third inning I said to Rick ‘I’m going with Ricky tomorrow.’ That was it.”
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