The Howie Kendrick Signing Grew On Me



It’s late January and it’s a slow time unless you’re an infielder on the Dodgers 40 man roster. The depth chart was shaken up with the news that Howie Kendrick is coming back on a 2 year 20 million dollar deal, which is huge news because a mere 12 days ago, the reports said that the Dodgers preferred the compensatory draft pick to Howie Kendrick. The pick would have landed in the mid-30’s under the new Qualifying Offer based system and given how the new front office has done it’s best to hoard young talent, the only way Howie was coming back was on a super team friendly deal which is exactly what happened.

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Dodgers Were Kings of Pick-Offs Last Season

A big part of run prevention is the ability to control the opposing team’s running game. Throwing out runners trying to steal and holding runners on is a very important aspect of the game for the pitching staff and catchers. It’s something that doesn’t appear sexy in the box score, yet adds up as the season goes along.

The Dodgers have been very good at preventing the running game the last couple of seasons. Catchers A.J. Ellis and Yasmani Grandal have been pretty good at throwing out would be base stealers. However the one part of that equation that the Dodgers were excellent at in 2015 was picking off runners.

Clayton Kershaw

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Poll: Was The Dodger’s Resigning of Howie Kendrick Good or Bad?

I don’t want to jinx this before it’s finalized, but apparently Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that the Dodgers are working on a new contract with Howie Kendrick. The news comes as a bit of a surprise considering how late in the offseason it is and since Andrew Friedman had originally said that they were satisfied with Chase Utley and Kike Hernandez.

(Update) It’s official pending physical. Kendrick will get two years for a 20 million dollar guarantee. I changed the title and the poll to reflect the news. What do you guys think of the deal?

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Does Alex Guerrero Have a Place With The 2016 Dodgers?

There probably will be little suspense this spring while the Dodgers build their roster. Most of the positions are spoken for. There will be a few spots up for grabs. Sure maybe the last spot or two in the bullpen or the final place on the bench. Speaking of that final bench spot, what should the Dodgers do with Alex Guerrero? Will he have a place on the club in 2016?

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The Dodgers Must Improve Their Situational Hitting in 2016

We’ve discussed the importance of good base running and speed in the Dodger’s lineup. Now we’re going to discuss an equally important aspect of a well balanced lineup. That is the art of situational hitting. Some call it timely hitting, and some call it clutch hitting. Whatever you want to call it the skill of hitting with runners in scoring position is extremely paramount to a winning ball club. The whole point of a good offensive approach is to score runners once you get them on base and into scoring position.

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Did Joe Blanton Benefit From Francisco Cervelli’s Excellent Pitch Framing in 2015?

Never have so many words been written about Joe Blanton within the last week. The Dodgers recently announced the signing of the 35-year old veteran hurler to a one-year four million dollar contract laden heavily with performance incentives. The deal initially seemed horrifying to many of us who had to suffer through his awful pitching for those two months back in 2012 when he was a Dodger.

We had thought that we would never see him again and breathed a heavy sigh of relief, until this last week of course. I once wrote at Lasorda’s Lair that I thought he was the worst pitcher in baseball and indeed he was at the time. After his awful stint with the Angels he had to reinvent himself in some way or shuffle off to buffalo. I hoped he would shuffle, alas he did not.

Chad Moriyama recently chronicled about his improved slider thanks to an improved grip. That’s how he reinvented himself and settled in as a middle reliever. Indeed it seemed to work as he had solid bodies of work with the Royals and Pirates. However if you look deeper at his numbers you can see that Blanton fared considerably better in Pittsburgh than he did in Kansas City. Perhaps there is a reason for that.

Delving deeper into this we can see that in his 41.3 innings with Kansas City he allowed 43 hits with a 3.89/3.59 ERA/FIP. That accumulated to a 9.3 hits per nine rate. Way too many base runners allowed. In his typical fashion he put up a very nice strikeout to walk line of 40/7 and he allowed six long balls in KC. Once he was acquired by the Pirates his numbers improved drastically.

Once a Pirate he posted a 5-0 record and in 34.1 innings pitched allowed just 26 hits and a 1.57/2.11 ERA/FIP with a 6.8 hits per nine rate. Once again his strikeout to walk line was a very good 39/9 and he allowed just one home run. Overall that came out to a 7-2 record, 2.84/2.92 ERA/FIP with 69 hits allowed in 76 frames. Giving him a very respectable 8.2 hits per nine innings pitched.

So is it possible that pitching in a more pitcher friendly park like PNC could have helped? Or perhaps Pittsburgh backstop Francisco Cervelli’s superior pitch framing played a large part? As you can see Blanton allowed a .783 OPS against at Kaufman Stadium and a .634 OPS against at PNC Park. However if you take a look at these numbers by catcher, you can see that he greatly benefited from Cervelli’s pitch framing abilities.

Pitch framing is all the rage these days with the stat kids. It’s the measurement of how often a catcher fools an umpire into calling a borderline pitch a strike. Pitchers and coaches love it because it obviously means more strikes. More strikes means more outs, and more outs means more wins. Since they have a stat for everything nowadays, they are able to measure pitch framing for each catcher. Each catcher is rated with a number called RAA which stands for runs above average. The better the pitch framer, and higher number of percentage of strikes called the higher the rating they get.

So if we take a look we can see that Cervelli was the number one rated pitch framer in all of baseball with a 26.7 RAA rating. Dodger’s catcher Yasmani Grandal was very good as well, ranking third with a 20.8 rating. Meanwhile Salvador Perez was one of the worst with a -9.1 rating. Cervelli had 201 borderline strike calls and 1.79 estimated calls per game while getting 10.7% of the pitches thrown outside of the strike zone called his way. Perez posted just 6.5% in 2015.

Lo and behold if we look at Blanton’s numbers by catcher we see the difference.

When Perez Caught Blanton – 3.98 ERA 40.2 IP .266 BAA (42 for 158) .753 OPS 38K/6BB

When Cervelli caught Blanton- 1.53 ERA 29.1 IP .206 BAA (22 for 107) .558 OPS 34K/7BB

The difference is large even though it’s all a small sample size as the stat guys would probably claim. Regardless it’s still worth taking a look at. It’s a lot easier to get outs when you have a great catcher behind the plate framing all of your pitches and fooling umpires.

Perhaps the Dodgers are hoping that Yasmani Grandal and his excellent pitch framing abilities will be able to get the same results with Blanton in 2016. Only time will tell if this is the case.

Dodgers Announce 2016 Training Staff

I guess this is all the news we are going to get until spring training camps break in a few weeks. However the Dodgers have announced their 2016 training staff. Neil Rampe will serve as the new head athletic trainer, and there will be two new assistant athletic trainers. Everyone else will be returning from last season. Rampe was with the Dbacks organization until he joined the Dodgers.

I kind of miss Sue Falsone. She was nice and sat on player’s laps in photos. Since I have no knowledge of anything sports medicine related, and I am far too lazy to research any of it anyways I will go ahead and just copy paste in the Dodgers official press release. Perhaps you sports medicine experts will like it.  Enjoy!

The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced their training staff for the 2016 season, with the additions of Neil Rampe as head athletic trainer and Nathan Lucero and Thomas Albert as assistant athletic trainers. Brandon McDaniel (strength & conditioning coach, fourth season), Steve Smith (physical therapist, fifth season) and Yosuke “Possum” Nakajima (massage therapist, second season) will return to the club in their same roles as 2015.

Rampe spent the past eight seasons with the Diamondbacks as the manual and performance therapist, holding that role since 2008. The Kalida, Ohio, native graduated from the University of Findlay (Ohio) in 2000 with two Bachelor’s degrees in Athletic Training and Physical Education with an emphasis in Strength and Conditioning. He went on to receive his Master’s degree in Applied Kinesiology with a Sport and Exercise Science emphasis from the University of Minnesota in 2002, while serving as the assistant strength and conditioning coach in the Golden Gophers’ athletic department. He then served as a certified athletic trainer at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Boulder, Colorado, from 2002-03 and then spent five years at the University of Arizona from 2003-07 as the associate director of performance enhancement.

Lucero spent 23 seasons with the Astros, the past seven as the head athletic trainer for the Major League club. Prior to his promotion to head trainer in 2009, he served as the assistant strength and conditioning coordinator for the Astros from 2007-08. The Villanueva, New Mexico, native spent 14 years in the Astros’ minor league system before joining the big league club, serving as the club’s minor league strength and conditioning coordinator from 2002-06 and as an athletic trainer with the GCL Astros (1993-94), Quad Cities (1995-97), Kissimmee (1998) Jackson (1999) and Round Rock (2000-01), where he earned Texas League Trainer of the Year honors in 2000. Lucero graduated from New Mexico State University in 1993 with a Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training.

Albert joins the Dodgers following four seasons in the Indians’ organization as rehab coordinator. Prior to his time in the Cleveland organization, he spent three years at Physiotherapy Associates in Tempe, Arizona, and also worked as an athletic trainer for the Harlem Globetrotters from 2002-08. Albert received his undergraduate degree in Athletic Training from Upper Iowa University, where he played basketball, and earned a doctrate in Physical Therapy from A.T. Still University in Missouri.