Rebuilding the Dodger Brand

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans have been without a World Championship since 1988 when the greatest event ever in the history of baseball occurred “In a season that has been so improbable, the impossible just happened!”  Since then, the brand has eroded to some degree, but that has changed over the past three years and is about to change even more.

Al Campanis wrote the book on The Dodger’s Way to Play Baseball.  That was the Dodger’s Brand.  Another part of their brand was the heritage of their players – it seems there has been a long line of players from the Dominican Republic… until recently.  The Dodgers presence in the Dominican has waned over time and other teams have asserted their superiority.  This started back in the O’Malley years as they neglected the team, followed by more neglect by FOX and finally, the pillaging by the McCourt’s.  That is changing.

The Dodgers have recently invested heavily into their facility in the Dominican Republic.  According toDoug Padilla of the Dodgers have poured $8 million dollars into and rebuilt their Dominican Complex.  I could summarize this, but you would do well to just read it yourself. Give it another year or two and you will see the Dominicans come back to the Dodgers.  It’s about time!

Another way to re-build the brand is by developing pitching, but these guys are doing it in a way that has never been done.  Bill Plunkett of Baseball America  wrote this about the new Dodgers Minor League Pitching Development Program:

The Dodgers’ forward-thinking front office is not necessarily trying to re-invent the way things are done—but they’re open to it.

“We view part of our responsibility running baseball operations is to evaluate how the game and the industry has changed and adapt our own organization…to how the game has changed,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said of the decision to restructure the organization’s player development side to include a ‘Pitching Department.’

Following last season, minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp left for a job with Major League Baseball. Rather than hire a replacement for Knapp, the Dodgers hired former Rays reliever Brandon Gomes and former Angels scout and Ball State pitching coach Chris Fetter. They joined four others to form the Dodgers’ pitching department, dividing up the various duties a single pitching coordinator often handles.

“Particularly with pitching, there’s so much more information out there, so many more tools at our disposal that the traditional developmental pitching model of having one pitching coordinator who is in charge of everything didn’t make sense for bandwidth usage and really getting the most out of our players,” Zaidi said. “I mean, if every organization was scrapped and started from scratch in building it up, I think you’d see bigger pitching departments than exist today.”

Under the new structure, for example, Gomes’ expertise will be put to use in analyzing data and analytics available on young pitchers and using it to provide better developmental plans for those pitchers.

“Just think about all the pitchers a pitching department is in charge of in the organization,” Zaidi said. “All the factors that they’re in charge of—their development, what’s their arsenal, how many pitches are they throwing, what pitches are they throwing well, what is their pitching mechanics—it’s just hard to imagine it’s a job for one guy.”

The Dodgers Front Office led by Andrew Friedman is breaking the mold and you will see the astounding results as soon as THIS season. You are witnessing a paradigm shift and the Dodgers are leading the charge.

Dodger News

ESPN INSIDERpicks someBreakout Hitters No One Else Is Expecting.  On the list are Francisco Lindor, Kevin Kiermaier, Ender Inciarte, Cole Calhoun, Mitch Haniger, Ryon Healy and … Joc Pederson.  Here’s what they said about Joc:

2016 indicator:Batted-ball authority, improved swing-and-miss rate

Few players hit the ball as hard as Pederson, who ranked 11th in the majors in average exit velocity. His swing is tailor-made to launch balls over the fence. It’s just a matter of making enough contact. And hitting left-handers. And maybe not trying to jack every pitch 500 feet.

Pederson has a lot of marks in his favor, including youth. He turns 25 in April, and he did improve last season, raising his OPS from .763 as a rookie to .847, even though he hit just .125 against southpaws in 77 plate appearances. It’s way too early in Pederson’s career to declare that he can’t hit lefties. In fact, I’d suggest it would be fairly unprecedented to turn a hitter of Pederson’s ability into a platoon guy so early in his career. This isn’t Seth Smith we’re talking about. Part of the problem last year was that nobody on the Dodgers was hitting lefties, so Dave Roberts was constantly tinkering with the lineup. As a result, Pederson ended up on the bench more often than not in the second half.

This year, Pederson should be in center field every day. Yes, he strikes out a lot, totaling 300 in the past two season, but note that his overall swing-and-miss rate fell from 35.9 percent to 26.5 percent. He strikes out, in part, because he works the count, waiting for a pitch to drive, but that leads to a high walk rate. We know he can mash righties (.269/.371/.547). If everything comes together in the rest of his game, he could hit 40 home runs and lead the National League.

I think there is a pretty good chance another Dodger could have a Breakout Year – One Yasiel Puig!  Maybe I am just mentally weak and giving in to wishful thinking.  It could happen… and if both Joc and Yasiel had breakout years… man-o-man!

Does anyone really want TODAY’S MUSIC or any wise sayings?  No one says anything about them, so I assume no!

This article has 29 Comments

  1. Maybe, just maybe, people that comment in here will gradually stop saying Joc should hit 8th.
    The Dodgers have several new players that could wind up as familiar names among baseball fans across America. Thompson, Toles, Stewart come to mind.

    1. Too bad those three players will likely start at OKC this year, but I agree they will be factors going forward.

    2. Bum

      I think it is important for Joc to prove he can hit lefties, this year.

      And if he is going to face more lefties this year, it isn’t going to be, as easy.

      And if Joc doesn’t hit eighth this year, he won’t be able to to work the count as easily, or get a walk, as easily, either.

      And I think when Joc is hitting eighth, he slows down the game better, and waits for his pitch.

      And if he doesn’t get his pitch, he takes a walk.

      Maybe I am thinking about what is best for Joc, and the team.

      I just want Joc to be able to hit lefties this year, so he isn’t platooned, anymore.

      1. Because the 8th hitter is more often the poorest hitter on the team that 8th hitter gets more fastballs than do hitters in other spots in the lineup but not always. Pitchers don’t want to walk the 8th hitter mostly because they are not afraid to groove a fastball. But, when the 8th hitter has power and pounds fastballs, pitchers mix in off speed pitches.
        MJ, could it be that you assume Joc gets pitched to like most 8th hitters get pitched to? I don’t think he does and I don’t think he gets any protection with the pitcher hitting behind him.
        Other than maybe pressing more when he is hitting in the 3, 4, or 5 spots, he should do just as well there as he does in the 8th spot. I don’t disagree that he will probably start the year hitting 8th but I believe he will move up by mid-May.

        1. Bum

          I think the fact that Joc can hit a pitch out so easy, it makes pitchers, pitch him even more carefully, then other hitters, who bat eighth.

          I just hope he hits lefties, so he doesn’t, get platooned.

          I don’t like when young players, get platooned.

  2. Whether we like it or not, baseball is changing…at least putting together an organization is changing. I have not yet studied the player movement patterns in other organizations, but I doubt that any club uses the 40 man roster more than FAZ does with the Dodgers. Who wouldn’t want to see Koufax and Bob Gibson go at it for 9 innings; or Drysdale and Marichal each go head hunting with opposing batters expecting to go down and never charging the mound? Who didn’t enjoy seeing Denny McClain win 30 games? Or Mickey Lolich pitching three complete games in a single WS (Games 2, 5, & 7 – 1968). Warren Spahn averaging 252 IP over 21 years…and others like Whitey Ford/Lew Burdette/Lefty Carlton/Bob Friend/Don Drysdale/Don Sutton/Bob Gibson/Vida Blue/Al Downing each with 14+ years and averaging 200+ IP. Those days are gone. Sure, there is still Kershaw/Scherzer/Sales/MadBum who will routinely put up 200 IP, but that is not the norm, nor how pitching staffs will be managed on the whole. Get used to 5-6 IP, two times through the lineup, and then turning it over to the bullpen. The long line of middle relievers, the loogy’s and roogy’s, the shutdown setup or any high leverage situation pitcher, and then the closer. A manager can only get 3 IP out of a starter…bring in the long man/spot starter. Why do you think the 10 man DL was reinstalled? Teams can work it so that SP can miss only one start.
    How many other organizations brought up not just one but two players who started the year in High A Ball, made it to the ML, and contributed? The Dodgers did not lead all of ML baseball in time spent on the DL, lose the best pitcher on the planet for two months, still win 91 games and come within 2 games of the WS with Kershaw & Hill due to go, without the organization. Terry Francona got within one game of winning the WS without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Could it be with how he used Andrew Miller? Could it be that the Indians had the “depth” with Trevor Bauer/Josh Tomlin/Cody Anderson? Certainly no #2 or #3 there. Or could it have been the other quality bullpen pitchers like Bryan Shaw/Dan Otero/Jeff Manship/Mike Clevinger all leading to Cody Allen (the only name other than Andrew Miller)? Even Joba Chamberlain pitched 20 quality innings for the Indians. Most Dodger fans would have been furious with signing Joba Chamberlain. The ridicule to Brett Anderson and Joe Blanton and their respective physiques would have been minor league compared to Joba. Where would the Cubs have been without Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta? Not in the WS. They supposedly had the best team in baseball, and they almost blew it against SF/LA/and Cleveland. The Cubbies had a great 25 man, not a great 40 man.
    There was a question posed on Yusniel Diaz from yesterday. Diaz right now is an enigma. I do not believe anybody knows what his future will be. He was one of the youngest players in the California League (maybe 2nd youngest?), and put up respectable numbers…272/333/.418/.751, and a 20% K rate. Good numbers for a player at that level, but especially good for a 19 year old. He will undoubtedly get the bump to AA next year and be pushed like Bellinger and Verdugo. But he needs to stay healthy. He is a Cuban that needs to learn to adjust to American baseball. Some make it, but many more do not. He is the best RH hitter in the organization closest to the ML right now, but without the power. He has the potential of being a very good defensive OF, who can stick in CF. He is a very good prospect, but far from a “Can’t Miss”. He will be fun to follow.
    A follow up on Mark with Minor League coverage. Baseball America is the Holy Grail for the minors. It is also the go to coverage for amateur baseball (colleges and high school). Nobody does it better. Mark mentioned Harold Uhlman is as knowledgeable about Dodger prospects as anybody not employed by the Dodgers. He is a joy to discuss baseball in general with, but minor leagues specifically. We had some great conversations about the Loons last year. Ron Cervenka comes to know the Rancho players exceptionally well. I also find to be a very good source for all of minor league coverage. They also have a TV package through that I follow. If you get a chance try watching some of the Dodger prospects as they play in their games on MiLB; from Low A to AAA.

      1. Because that’s the way it was done back in the day and I don’t like newfangled changes. Let’s go back to horse and buggy trips, no computers and men who pitch 325 innings a year! (not my words or opinion). 😉

  3. “This started back in the O’Malley years as they neglected the team, followed by more neglect by FOX and finally, the pillaging by the McCourt’s. That is changing.”

    Glad to see you mention when the problem really started and acknowledge the disaster of the McCourt years on the team structure from bottom to top (Fox years readily understood).

    I especially enjoy your “wise sayings” and some of the music and don’t dislike any of it…hope you keep it up. I suspect many do as well. It’s like having a good cup of coffee in the morning, you might enjoy it but you don’t necessarily tell your neighbors about it.

  4. During the 2nd half of his rookie season, pitchers would throw Joc a lot off speed inside. He had that big leg kick and it was tough for him to adjust on those pitches.
    Last year, he tinkered with his mechanics and made steady progress. He showed he could go opposite field – remember that dramatic home run against Max Scherzer in Game 5? Dodgers were down 1-0 top 7 and the eventual Cy Young was cruising. Joc stayed on a fastball tailing away and put it just over the left field fence to tie the game, knock out Scherzer, and ignite the Dodgers offense. He hit an opposite field home run a couple games ago this ST – if Joc is willing to settle for the 390 ft HR to left field instead of ALWAYS trying to hit the monster 450 ft HR to his pull side, he will hit 40 home runs and cut down his strikeout rate from 27% to below 25%.
    He’s a good kid, always working hard to get better. He’s in a good place after getting a new puppy and then getting engaged. I say he’s going to have a monster season.

  5. Marc
    I for one love today’s music and the wise sayings. It never occurred to me to comment on them since we are talking baseball here. But just so you know…they are appreciated.

  6. I have read a lot from concerned Dodger fans about the continuing problem with injuries. Injuries are never good to hear. But I think before fans go on rants about how bad the Dodgers medical team and physical training is they should really look at what the problems are. Yes, Corey Seager is sitting out because of an ache/tweak/ or whatever you want to call it in his upper back. Doc Roberts has already said if this were the regular season Seager would be in the lineup. His sitting is precautionary. He is due back to lineup on Friday, and will then have more than three weeks to get in baseball condition. But at 22 (soon to be to be 23), I like his chances at making a quick recovery.
    Pedro Baez has a bone bruise on his right thumb due to a batted ball during live batting practice. This is an injury resulting from baseball play not because of poor follow up with trainers. These injuries happen with every ML team.
    Andre Ethier has hit very well in his limited opportunities, but does have back spasms; probably due to not playing much baseball for a year. At his age, there is more concern, but he says he will be ready to play. He is a veteran that does need a lot of time to polish his skills. What is the worst that can happen here? Toles then Bellinger/Verdugo in line to replace LH hitting Dre?
    Andrew Toles has a sore knee, but is scheduled to return later in the week. Trayce Thompson should get into action very soon. AGon is good to go after elbow tendonitis.
    Scott Kazmir is a legitimate concern. Did he follow his off-season training program? I do not know, and anybody who says different is just conjecture without foundation. His MRI is clean. What that means to his overall status we will not know until he gets out on the mound again. He may be done for the year, or he may return to start 26-31 games during the year. But is he more important to the Dodgers chances than Chris Tillman is to the O’s? Is Pedro Baez more important to the Dodgers chances than Zach Britton is to the O’s? Both Tillman and Britton are out with shoulder and oblique injuries respectively.
    Socrates Brito, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Duffy, Brad Boxberger, Phil Hughes, Cody Anderson, David Price, Sean Doolittle, Santiago Castilla…without too much effort I found these major leaguers who are currently out due to injury. Dodger fans too often look at the injuries with blinders and only see their team with being significant. It is how a team deals with the injuries that is important. As I stated earlier, both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the playoffs for the Indians, and they got to within one game of winning the WS. The Dodgers overcame all of their injuries and came within two games of getting to the WS. The Cubs had one significant injury all year (and Schwarber was never considered critical to their success). Where would the Giants be without Bumgarner (as the Dodgers were without Kersahw)? Why is it that the Giants cannot win without Hunter Pence, who is always on the DL? We saw what the DBacks were like without Pollock. What if they lost Goldschmidt? It is not the injuries (every team has them), it is how an organization deals with them, and no team did it better than the Dodgers or Indians last year.

    1. I totally agree with the observations on other teams and injuries. I predict that Pence will struggle with injuries again this year – either sore hammies, or strained quads, or shoulder problems, etc. etc. something’s gotta give. I give him props because he goes all out on every play, but what I saw last year is that his body is not able to sustain his full throttle type of play for the duration of the season. The Giants rely on veterans so they may have to deal with others going down as well. Bumgardner’s an Ox so I don’t see him getting injured. But any other starter in that rotation – I could see it. Cueto struggled late in the season with some sort of hamstring or groin issue. Moore, Samarja, Meloncon… you never know. The Cubs, on the other hand, rely on young talent so the threat of injury is not as great for their position players. If they do get hit by a major injury, it’s more likely to happen to one of their veteran starting pitchers. Also, Wade Davis had elbow issues last season that kept him from being effective. We will have to wait and see if he has fully recovered or if those issues might turn chronic.
      Regarding the Dodger ST injuries – I always take those reports with a grain of salt. It’s a long ST and a long season. The Dodgers are not in any hurry to get their key guys into these March games in Arizona. They would rather sit some guys but then tell everyone those players are nursing a minor injury.

    2. AS far as injuries are concerned, you are right of course – they happen to everybody. But – you do better avoiding them if you do due diligence as to injury status or you don’t sign pitchers with chronic injury problems.

      I remember Ned Colletti being constantly criticized for signing Jason Schmidt – he did nothing for the Dodgers as he was signed with a torn labrum. Either Colletti didn’t do his due diligence and get the right studies done before the signing or he didn’t care what the studies said. Either way it was a big blunder.

      The signing of Anderson, McCarthy, Kazmir, Maeda and Hill is the reason that I have criticized the Braintrust. McCarthy has given the Dodgers 0 good years out of 2; Anderson was 1 for 2; Kazmir 0 for 1; Maeda 1 for 1 (and with the kind of contract which allowed the Dodgers to take a chance and minimize the risk); Hill is unknown.

      While you make the point that it is how teams deal with injury, my response is that you can minimize the risk of injury by not signing the oft-injured to begin with. The signing of so many high injury risks as starting pitchers is a big problem for me.

  7. Yesterday I responded to a customer complaint in my business where she was making some claims that we had not sent her what she ordered. She was particularly abrasive and abusive, so I just decided I would respond. She spelled her first name “Monika” but when I wrote it, I accidently spelled it “Monica”. I supplied proof that we had indeed delivered what she had ordered.

    She came back accusing me of deliberately disrespecting her by spelling her name wrong and raging about it! I just wrote her back: “At US Water Systems, we try and treat people the way we like to be treated, but sometimes that is difficult so we fire customers… and you are fired! Never contact us again! Have a nice day

    The point is, Mark, Marc, Tim, whatever – just don’t call me that dirty rotten SOB. 😉 Life is too short to worry about how my name is spelled.

  8. Baseball has gone through several eras where the game has changed substantially. While I’m sure that others may have different opinions, here are a few since the modern era (beginning in 1900 when the American League started)
    1 – Dead ball era (1900 – 1919). Baseball “purists” detested the changes which began in 1919 when Babe Ruth hit the staggering number of 29 HR (setting a MLB record). Ty Cobb famously hated the changes that Ruth brought to the game.
    2 – The lively ball era (1920 – 1939). By 1930 the NL ERA was 4.97 and the league batting average was .303. All of this was contributed to by changes to the baseball, smaller stadia, the outlawing of the spitball, the influence of Babe Ruth.
    3 – The invention of the farm system by Branch Rickey (also beginning in 1919), allowing for the consistent delivery of new young and cheap talent to major league teams.
    4 – The post-integration era (1947-1960). The addition of talented ballplayers of color led to many teams, like the Dodgers, having a competitive advantage over those who wouldn’t integrate.
    5 – The expansion era (1961 – 1976). This era resulted in pitching overtaking hitting for its first half. Ballparks were bigger and the talent was diluted.
    6 – The free agency era (1976 – 1994). The advent of free agency led to teams like the Yankees trying to buy pennants and to increasing competitive disadvantage between large and small market teams as talent moved to whomever would pay most. Offense increased during this era.
    7 – The steroid era (1994 – 2009) During this era 10 players reach 500+ HR and 6 (at least) have been linked to PEDs.
    8 – The SABR era (1997 – present). (Obviously there is overlap here.) 1997 is when Billy Beane took over as GM of the A’s.

    The noteworthy thing about the various eras is that as the game has changed, fans either embraced the changes or disliked them, but that didn’t stop the game from changing. While my view of the game is informed by when I started watching in the 1960s, I accept that change will keep happening.

    This doesn’t mean that I like all of the changes that I have seen. Who liked watching the 1962 Mets hopelessly flail their way through the season? Who likes the constant movement of players to the highest bidder since the free agent era? Who likes the phony numbers put up by juiced sluggers in the 90’s make a mockery of the game?

    I don’t like the 5 inning starting pitcher, the constant stream of relief pitchers coming into a game, the shifting and platooning (although all of these things could be found in earlier iterations of baseball to a lesser degree). You can tell me that they are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t still say that I prefer the days when you could count on a starting pitcher going deep into a game.

    1. I think there should be a Tommy John era as well.
      I don’t like or want players to use PEDS but keeping some out of the Hall because they were suspected of using them disregards the fact that some players that made the Hall benefited from another type of technology that wasn’t available prior to TJ surgery or the advancement of microsurgery. Should someone in the Hall that had TJ have an asterisk by their names?

    2. I do not disagree with anything you say. Bluto asked above, “What exactly is captivating about seeing pitchers pitch a lot of innings?” I do not know if that was rhetorical or directed. I grew up in that era, and the game was fun and fine the way it was for me. I loved watching good starting pitching. Maybe I was spoiled by the Dodgers starters of Koufax/Drysdale/Podres/Osteen/Sutton…going up against Bob Gibson/Juan Marichal/Bob Friend/Tony Cloninger/Larry Jackson. Koufax’s perfect game was against Bob Hendley who also pitched a complete game allowing one hit and one unearned run. It was something about the complete game that I loved.
      I suppose it is like someone asking what is so captivating about watching men (or women) run around a soccer field. That may not be my idea of fun, but I bet Watford could discuss his love for the sport chapter and verse.
      Change is inevitable or we do not grow. I accept change, but like you, I do not have to like it. I loved the game I grew up with, especially the complete game. I am a baseball fan, but more importantly a Dodgers fan. Therefore, I am especially pleased that the current Dodger FO embraces the changes and creates a roster that takes advantages of those changes…yes in my opinion.

  9. Mark, you got me amped up man!

    Yasiel, this is the year baby!

    Joc, if he hits 30 dingers and can hit lefties finally, Christmas will be here early, I hope he does. I admit, he has not been my favorite Dodger at the plate, BUT, we turn over a new leaf for Mr. Joc this year. If he moves up in the lineup, that means he is doing good things, I say start him at #8, I am even like Marks idea at #9, make us move you up Joc!

    If I could choose a player to move up, I pray it’s Yasiel, because if that happens, watch out! Forsythe, Seager and a HOT Puig, 1/2/3, would be amazing. Oh ya, and a little Justin Turner sprinkled in the #4, slot, please!

  10. Joc hit .125 against LH pitching last year in 77 AB’s.

    This year, Doc has to give him all the AB’s for at least 60 games. If he can bring that up to .200 this year, it’s progress. Then another 20 points next year.

    I never thought Joc was more than a 4th outfielder when he was in the minors but he has proved me wrong. He just needs to get better against LH pitching and the only way that can happen is he has to hit! I would even hit him against MadBum early in the year. If he proves he is a platoon player, so be it. Thompson should start out in OKC and play CF exclusively. Toles is LH so there is no platoon there. Lots of moving parts here.

    If I were betting, I would say that Joc WILL NOT hit LH’ers, but I was wrong about him before….

    1. If I was a betting man, we would double up!

      Cheers to the hopes of being proved wrong

      1. All I can do is give my opinion.

        1. Yasiel Puig shows more promise for 2017 than he ever has – ten-fold!
        2. I don’t think Joc will hit LH pitching.
        3. Logan Forsythe will exceed expectations… by a lot!
        4. Corey Seager will be even better than 2016.
        5. Cody Bellinger is MLB ready.
        6. Julio Urias is the real deal.
        7. Thompson, Toles and Stewart need seasoning.
        8. Yasmani Grandal might hit 40 bombs.
        9. Scott Kazmir is toast!
        10. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball.

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