It's tough being Bill Plaschke these days. His man Ol' Snakeskin Boots Colletti is running the underperforming Dodgers, Pencilneck DePodesta having long been run out of town on a Plaschke-sharpened rail. Can Bill bring himself to admit that some of Bootsy's moves have been questionable at best? Well, no, not yet. You see, losing isn't about the players. It's about the air in the clubhouse
.Dodgers need to play the Angels' brand of ball
Scioscia, the former Dodgers catcher, is the model manager who has created an atmosphere of winning.
It's that simple. Mike Scioscia brings a Glade Plug-In labeled "Winning™" into the clubhouse and everyone who breathes it in gains 15 points in average. I love baseball.
Now for a quick FJM quiz. Recall, if you will, a Plaschke-poking post from January of 2007
Does anything seem familiar, here, your honor? Let me distill these two articles:
Around the hotel...
In the corner...
Around the hotel table...
In the corner...
Around the hotel room table...
In the corner...
It was a tough code, Plaschke's writing style, but I think I've broken it:
A = (physical location)
B = (different physical location)
Fast-forward to present day. The first sentence in Plaschke's column reads as follows:In one dugout, they were fuming....
Guesses as to the follow-up?
If you guessedIn the other dugout, they were thankful.
you guessed correctly! You win a glamour shot of Ned Colletti holding a blazer over his shoulder. The photo is autographed by Juan Pierre.The Angels consistently win, but it's not enough.
The Dodgers lose but, hey, well, everybody else in the division stinks, so whoopee!
The Angels expect to win.
The Dodgers don't know what to expect.
The Angels live by a standard of excellence.
The Dodgers live by the seat of their pants.
Still got it, Plaschke! Reading a Plaschke column is like being in one of those cartoons where a dog watches a tennis match and its head bobs back and forth as the ball caroms left and right. It's exactly like that, except you get a lot more misinformation.Scioscia speaks from the strongest seat of any major league manager -- unchallenged, unquestioned, and undeniably the boss.
And that's why the Angels win. I believe the Dodgers are being managed by a sixth grade class from Terre Haute, Indiana as a class project, correct?Torre sits on a throne of cardboard, deserving of instant respect but admittedly receiving little from a crowd much more amateur than those professional New York Yankees.
Oh right. They've got Joe Torre, widely believed to be one of the better managers in the game. Where's the atmosphere of winning (AtmoWin, for short), then?His young players still don't listen. When they should be looking at the scoreboard, they are looking in the mirror. When they should be moving the runner from first, they are often only interested in advancing themselves.
When they should be throwing to the cutoff man, they are reading Men's Health for ab workout tips. When they should be sacrifice bunting, they are buying effeminate designer jeans. When they should be fouling off pitches, they are masturbating. Always, they are masturbating.The Angels are all about winning in October.
([sigh] All together now,) THE DODGERS --The Dodgers are all about surviving tonight.When Frank McCourt examines the admirable amounts of money he has spent to revive the Dodgers franchise, he needs to look at those two dugouts, and ask himself two questions:
Is all this money changing the culture?
Is he rebuilding the championship belief system that Scioscia took with him to the Angels?
Stop. Read back all that Bill Plaschke has written. Is there one thing -- one thing
-- about actual baseball?
I think it's possible that Plaschke believes "baseball" is the name for a leadership camp you go to that teaches you about "brands," "cultures," "atmospheres," and "belief systems."McCourt finally has the right manager, but all the losing is turning Torre into just another museum piece. Hired for his gravity, Torre's surroundings have rendered him weightless.
So Torre is
the right manager. But he's not really the right manager because he's losing. Or is it that the losing is turning him into the wrong manager? Oh, fuck it, I'll just shit out another cute metaphor. How about one about gravity? Yeah, gravity, that's it. [lights a cigar, leans back, and falls asleep for fourteen hours]McCourt may have some of the right kids but not all of the right kids. They all might eventually be All-Stars, but it's clearly not going to happen for all of them here.
While waiting for some of these players to figure it out, McCourt needs to figure them out.
Who is a ballplayer? Who is not? Who can continue to grow here? Who will not?
Blake DeWitt, he's a ballplayer.
Perfect. PERFECT. Of course Bill Plaschke loves Blake DeWitt. Blake DeWitt, a corner infielder, is OPSing .695. He had a .472 OPS in the month of June after a hot start. I repeat: .472. That is very nearly Jason Varitek June-bad.How do they find a bunch of other guys who play the game the right way like he does?
I will tell you where: literally anywhere
. Of the 30 men listed as "3B" on Yahoo!'s sortable stats page, only two have OPSes lower than Blake DeWitt's: Marco Scutaro (who really plays shortstop) and Jack Hannahan (who is Jack Hannahan). So Blake DeWitt, despite being "a ballplayer" (whatever you want that to mean) and "play[ing] the game the right way" (also borderline meaningless) is probably, objectively speaking, the worst or second-worst offensive third baseman in the major leagues.
WHERE WILL WE EVER FIND A BUNCH MORE BLAKE DEWITTS?Some of their other youngsters have much more talent, but, having been coddled since double A, they might never become ballplayers here.
It may be time to trade some of that flashy talent for somebody who understands the fundamentals. And, yes, once again, Matt Kemp's name is being whispered through Dodgers offices.
This is a classic and well-worn Plaschke truism: the problem is always, always talent. You don't want too much of it, that is. Talent kills. Talent gets you in trouble. If Bill Plaschke were assembling a professional cello team, he would blackball Yo-Yo Ma right off the bat.
Players such as Kemp and Andre Ethier and James Loney have been more highly touted than guys such as Casey Kotchman, Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar.
But it is those Angels who have a better understanding of winning.
Sure, sure. Kemp, Ethier, and Loney have nothing going for them except better OPSes, ceilings, and ages than Kotchman, Izturis, and Aybar.
Kemp (age 23): .776
Ethier (age 26): .813
Loney (age 24): .817
Kotchman (age 25): .771
Izturis (age 27): .659
Aybar (age 24): .688
Izturis and Aybar are middle infielders, but man: those are sub-DeWitt numbers.Before Thursday, the Dodgers had a better team batting average and on-base percentage than the Angels, while scoring only 10 fewer runs.
Yet the Angels had won 11 more games.
Luck. Not only luck, perhaps, but luck is a huge part of it. The Angels are currently overperforming their Pythagorean record by a league-leading 6.6 games
. Second place is the Brewers, who are only outperforming their Pyth by 3.9. In other words, the Angels have been really, really lucky. Sometimes that luck lasts over the course of the season. Sometimes it doesn't (see 2005 Washington Nationals). The Dodgers, meanwhile, are marooned two games below .500 in part because they're two games below their Pythagorean. They've been a little unlucky.
The Angels have a culture that believes in winning over statistics, winning over awards, winning over everything.
Or it's the culture. Right. I forgot. All you have to do is value
winning and then the Pythagorean is meaningless. You can take your Pythagorean and shove it up your Pythagor-ass, eggheads. Of course: Takashi Saito is so caught up in winning the Rolaids award he could give a shit about winning a game.
It's a culture where the Angels have committed seven fewer errors, grounded into eight fewer double plays, and do all the little things that are hidden beneath the numbers.
The Angels' winning culture is so strong that they have allowed a mere 3.99 runs a game (5th in baseball) compared to the Dodgers' ridiculous 4.05 runs a game (6th in baseball)! What a bunch of losers! These are the things you can't judge by numbers. (Ignore the fact that within a sentence in which he complains about numbers, Plaschke cites number of errors and number of GIDPs.)Then there's the statistic that shows a team's ability to win close games while manufacturing runs.
The Dodgers are 1-31 when they score two runs or fewer, while the Angels are 8-13.
This is not "the" statistic that shows a team's ability to win close games. It's not even "a" statistic that shows that. This is nonsense. The Angels are 8-13 when scoring two or fewer runs. You know what that is? That's insanely lucky. Probably unsustainably lucky. Of the 2212 teams that have played full or partial seasons since 1901, six have had better winning percentages than the 2008 Angels when scoring two or fewer runs.
The Angels are going to start losing a few more of these games.
In 2007, the Toronto Blue Jays led the league in the vaunted "Record When Scoring Two Runs or Fewer" category, going 15-32. They won 83 games. The Colorado Rockies, who won 90 games and went to the World Series, went 3-36 in such games, which sounds pretty fucking awful until you realize what the fuck you're even talking about. You know what all of this means? Absolutely fucking nothing. It's a junk stat, or at the very least, something with so much noise in it that it's really, really hard to be drawing conclusions about cultures or atmospheres or belief systems.
The above three paragraphs (I'm counting the middle, one-sentence Plaschke-graph) were a complete waste of time. I'm worked up.The Angels lose John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, and they just get better.
The Dodgers lose Andrew Jones and Rafael Furcal, and they fall apart.
w. You should know this. He was signed by your best friend Ned for the fifth-highest annual salary in MLB and he's OPSing .521. I haven't heard you talk about this much, really.Scioscia's current team isn't as glitzy as his former team. But on a daily basis, they make a far stronger commitment to obtain the only piece of baseball jewelry that matters.
What does that mean, in baseball terms? So far, you have mentioned the following:
atmosphere of winning
not looking in mirrors
not being only interested in advancing themselves
championship belief system
more players like Blake DeWitt
winning over statistics
winning over awards
winning over everything
fewer double plays
So: make fewer errors? Don't hit into double plays? That's what I've retained.
"What the Angels have, they've got ballplayers," said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti. "They refuse to have anything else. That was the Dodgers three decades ago. That's where we're trying to go now."
Ohhhhh. Ballplayers. I'm really starting to see why Plaschke and Colletti (Plolletti? Claschke. Definitely Claschke) get along so well.
And so this discussion leads to the same place it leads seemingly every night in the bleachers and on Dodger Talk.
What about Ned?
He has had the flexibility. He has had the money. He has had his chance.
But some nights, it seems as if every Dodger he acquired in his three years here is either too old, too bruised or too boneheaded to figure out how to win.
From Ned Colletti's Wikipedia page:
"Colletti's notable player transactions, as GM, include signing Takashi Saito, Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre, and Andruw Jones, and trading César Izturis for Greg Maddux."
Yikes. Schmidt, Pierre, Jones...you want to bash Colletti a little, Bill? Not even a little?Some nights, many nights, the Dodgers are the worst possible embodiment in a town that understands baseball.
They are the anti-Angels.
Nope. It's all about the mystical powers of Mike Scioscia.Part of the reason that Paul DePodesta was fired from his job as the previous Dodgers general manager was because, during his final aborted managerial search, he did not even inquire about the availability of Scioscia.
If the same fate befalls Colletti this winter, it will be because he could not create the sort of culture embraced by the likes of Scioscia.
According to Baseball Prospectus' Third-Order Wins
, the Angels are actually a 44.9-43.0 team and the Dodgers are a 44.5-43.5 team. That 0.4-win difference? 100% Scioscia.
Lest you think that Mike Scioscia actually has the magical managerial ability to will his teams to victories in close games through atmosphere and branding and calm, baseball-faced, steely-jawed resolve, I present to you the following: during his tenure as Angels manager, Scioscia's teams have won 54.0% of their one-run games. Which is very good. Sixth in baseball, in fact. Makes sense: they have the sixth-best record in baseball over that span (2000-2008).
The Dodgers, with their culture of losing, their miserable, all-talent-no-fundamentals rapscallions, their carousel of managers, have only the tenth-best overall record from 2000-2008. But their winning percentage in one-run games is .559, .019 higher than Scioscia's Stalwarts and good for third in baseball. Those close ones -- that's where you really see the mettle of a team! That's where manufacturing and bunting and sacrificing and striking out if necessary if it's for the good of the team truly comes into play.
The team that won the highest percentage of one-run games from 2000 to 2008 is the Oakland Athletics, who have a culture of insidious numbers and are run by the chess computer Deep Blue.
Labels: angels, bill plaschke, blake dewitt, deep blue, dodgers, mike scioscia, ned colletti, yo-yo ma
Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
A player on your favorite baseball team is leaving today. What would you say about him if you knew the following: in 2003, your team signed this player to a four-year, $32 million deal, and he rewarded you with seasons of the following EqAs:
I sense your ire rising. But wait -- what would you say if I told you his games played totals looked like this for those four years:
Easy, there. Don't go kicking a homeless person just yet. One more thing: this guy punted footballs in college
. Now whaddya say
?"He's almost the last real gamer we have," Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke said.
Ah, Ersty, you old dog. People love you, don't they? No matter what you do on the field, the love affair never truly ends. You had one remarkable year -- one! -- and that's the one they still talk about.
The Angels lost another link to their 2002 World Series team and a big chunk of their heart and soul Tuesday when Darin Erstad agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox that includes an option for 2008.
chunk. It's sad, really. Look for the Angels to completely tank 2007. I'm thinking four, five wins tops. All because they didn't want to resign their heart and soul.
The deal, which is pending a physical this week, ends an 11-year Angels career marked by highlight-reel defensive plays, a spectacular 2000 season, several years of injury and frustration, and an endless reservoir of grit and determination.
, the new David Lynch film, will tackle the issues of identity, reality, and the human memory in his inimitable visual style. I'm becoming convinced that at the L.A. Times they must post a giant sign over everyone's computer that says "WAX MORE POETIC." This guy makes Bill Plaschke's articles read like economics textbooks.
Also: try to visualize an endless reservoir of grit
. Does that phrase really work, Times Staff Writer Mike DiGiovanna?
Over the last four years, Darin Erstad has played 86 fewer games than heartless, soulless, gritless, undetermined J.D. Drew, who has never watched or heard of American football. During that span of time, he earned $3.3 million more than Drew. No one likes J.D. Drew."I don't mean the other guys aren't gamers, but Darin is the old-school type, like David Eckstein and Adam Kennedy.
You don't say. He's like Eckstein. And Kennedy. Gamers. Not like fucking lazy-ass Chone Figgins, always jogging to first like some sixty-year-old Jewish woman.
Hmmm, "old-school," you say. I wonder what kinds of players played baseball in the olden times? I mean, seriously. What did they look like? I want to know.He's probably the biggest gamer I've been around as a coach. He really doesn't play for personal success. He plays to win the game."
I think it's pretty clear he hasn't played for personal success in a long time. Last season he managed to clog up at bats in 40 games with a sweet .605 OPS. But that's a personal number. He doesn't play for that.
"Even when he wasn't healthy, he was still valuable because of his presence," Roenicke said of Erstad. "He doesn't say much, but everyone watches him and sees how he plays and acts. I guess you could find someone to replace that part of the team … but I doubt it."
This is the power of personality and perception in sports. With virtually any other guy, you get hurt as much as Erstad did and play as poorly as Erstad did with that fat contract and you get absolutely crucified. You're stealing money from the club! You've got no heart! You're a bum!
But with the Punter, guys'll bend over backwards to say good things. Hey, he wasn't playing well, but he wasn't healthy -- and he's a leader in the clubhouse. Well, no, no he didn't really say much, but he didn't need to. He just lived the part. He was just there. Living. Breathing. Looking tough. Having stubble. Dirty hat-ting it. Smelling like sweat, like only a football player could.
I guess we could find someone to replace his smell ... but I doubt it.
Labels: angels, darin erstad, punter