Yasmani, FAZ and Choke Artists

I want to address a few issues today.

  1. Yasmani Grandal
  2. The Front Office and Sabermetrics
  3. Calling players Choke Artists

Yasmani Grandal

When the Dodgers acquired Yasmani for Matt Kemp, I thought it was a great trade for the obvious reasons: (1) It was a salary dump that needed to be made; and (2) I thought Yasmani Grandal would be an All-Star Catcher who was capable of 30-35 HR a year.  Yasmani has not lived up to that billing, but he is arguably still one of the top catchers in the game. He has been a 20 plus HR hitter and a great framer, but he has fallen short of what I thought he would be.  He has never been my favorite player and if I were FAZ I would extend him the Qualifying Offer this off-season and hope he takes a better deal.  Sorry to disappoint anyone (you know who you are), but I do not have a man-crush on Yasmani.  If he takes the Dodgers QO, worse things could happen. He is just too streaky for me. Ruiz is likely ready in 2020 and I I do not think Will Smith is a starting catcher at this time.

The Front Office and Sabermetrics

Many cranky oldtimers do not like the new paradigm of baseball. They don’t like the high K rate, the inability to make “productive outs” or engage in good situational hitting is due to coaching and to roster design. They don’t like the stuff about launch angle, hitting HR’s as often as possible, the failure to hit behind the runner or to shorten up with 2 strikes. They don’t like that philosophy. They think that  SABRlovers don’t appreciate all of this hoary baseball wisdom. They think that FAZ thinks that everyone should walk and hits HR’s – that’s it. Don’t worry about bat-to-ball skills.

If you believe that, I don’t even know where to start.  Does anyone have an hour a day to devote to the Dodgers and statistical analysis?  Two hours?  Three?  I doubt it.  Yet the front office of the Dodgers devotes 12-15 hours a day to it and have 10-15 computer geeks crunching these numbers and developing moderating statistics for statistics.  If you think they are just looking at “launch angles,” and home runs, you are silly! These guys already know what Fangraphs wrote… long before they wrote it. THIS IS THEIR DAMN JOB! They eat, sleep and breathe it!  

Most likely, they have stats for productive outs. Are you kidding me?  Do you really think you know more than they do?  That’s just silly. I guess it makes you feel better to blame some young whippersnapper who obviously knows more than you…  OK, have at it! 

FAZ is building an empire: one of the best Farm System Machines in baseball and if there are any teams better at it, it is because they tanked before rebuilding!  Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have only been in control for 3 years.  Yes, it has been 30 years since the Dodgers won’t the World Series, but they were not responsible for the 27 years before the took over!  Quit kicking the cat! 

Dave Roberts may or may not be back.  I hope he is because it will mean good things happened in September… and beyond.  However, Friedman and Zaidi will be back (unless Farhan is lured away to be the President of baseball Operations for some other team).  Just don’t kid yourself that the front office just values Home Runs and Walks.  That would be really, really dumb for guys who are obviously smart. Of course, a HR is more valuable than a productive out, but they also know that a productive out is more valuable than a strikeout. Even Ray Charles…

I guess it is human nature that if we disagree with someone or don’t understand what they are doing, we tend to vilify them – it makes it easier for us to disagree. There’s a saying “Once the argument is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”  I am not saying FAZ is perfect – they are not, but let’s not forget that the Dodgers who are now last in MLB in “Clutch” stats were #7 and won 104 games last year with come-back-after- comeback… and maybe, just maybe… they are due for a marvelous September.

Calling Players Choke Artists

I call things the way I see them. To me, the opposite of Clutch is Choke.  I am not calling anyone gutless nor do I minimize or devalue the effort and talent it took them to get where they are.  I also know that it can change at any point.  They can go from Choke to Clutch in the blink of an eye.  I just tend to be very direct – I once started a job interview with “I hear you are a thief.” It was something I had been told about this person.  I won’t trouble you with all the details, but his answer was timely and he has been with me for 7 years now.  

The Dodgers were Clutch yesterday, particularly one Justin Turner who single-handedly carried the team.  Manny had a good hit and Kike was Clutch as well.  el Gasolino may have to change his name as he has been unhit upon in his last 6 appearances.  Floro was solid again – his ERA sits at 2.37.

Brian Dozier has not looked good with the bat, but his defense and hustle remain outstanding.  These guys just need to pick each other up. Good things happen when they do. The Dodgers are 2.5 games back and in charge of their own destiny.  They have plenty of fresh arms and all the bats have to do is what they are capable of.  I remain hopeful… especially with Striker Buehler going tonight.  If the playoffs started today, would this be the rotation:  1.  Kershaw  2.  Buehler   3.  Ryu  4.  Hill?

A bat looks like a foreign object to Austin Barnes right about now.  He is capable of so much more… but he just has not got it done all year. If the Dodgers need anything, it’s a backup catcher for Yasmani.  I wonder if AJ Ellis could be pried away from SD?  Just sayin’….

This article has 29 Comments

  1. What we have here is a good old pennant race!!! I for one was spoiled last year… This year is hard on nerves and such…
    I loved AC ending it yesterday and sharing with us the key to our future success…
    Doc gone??? Baffles me… QO to Yasmani??? A no brainer…
    Go after Manny… Hope Kersh wants to stay around!!! Start identifying stoppers in our system and work with em!!! It worked with Jansen and I know we got a few candidates out there…
    Would’nt mind seeing Joc and Puig traded… I need a Verdugo fix!!!
    Will we be back to the Fall Classic??? Damn I hope so!!!
    This is such an easy game to figure out!!!

  2. Would you have written this had they not swept the lowly Padres? I doubt it. You would be front and center abusing the words ‘choke artists’ and calling for so and so’s head. Seems a bit hypocritical to me.

  3. I resemble that crack about cranky oldtimers who do not like the new paradigm of baseball. It is not so much that I do not like the new paradigm, it is more that I liked the “GAME” better before. Maybe because I understood it more. But I do adjust and adapt, unlike some of today’s hitters. I do recognize that sports in general and baseball specifically do have changes throughout the years, but I fell in love with the game in the late 50’s and 60’s. I loved the complete game, the hit and run, the stolen base, no DH, managers who were not computer geeks (some who probably did not know what a computer was), and those same managers that did not need an algorithm to tell them what to do in any given situation…It was the strategy and reaction to that strategy in the mano v. mano mold, not the computer read out vs computer read out. I used to love to watch the batter come back to the dugout and get high fived because he hit behind the runner on a hit and run play to move him. Sure, the batter wanted the ball to go through for a hit, but he was able to move the runner into scoring position or to 3rd base with less than 2 outs, and the TEAM recognized it. Today his agent would tell that same batter to forget the team aspect, and that his market value would go down because he took away a chance for a HR.
    While I still yearn for the game I grew up with, I do accept the “new paradigm” as the current trend. But to ignore that the trend is moving to more launch angles, harder swings, and HRs, and looking past strikeouts vs. more bat to ball skills is not dealing in reality. It is an ostrich synopsis…hide your head in the sand. To think that FAZ does not value the HR more than bat to ball skills, one would have to ignore what Zaidi actually said the reason was for the Dodgers getting off to such a bad start this year…not enough HRs. Or to ignore Dave Roberts who on multiple occasions has said that this Dodger team is built for power not “small ball”. I love the HR as much as anyone, but I also respect that player that changes his approach depending on the game situation. The Saturday game was a great example. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs, and a fly ball gets a run in. CT3 and Yaz strikeout before Puig lines out (one or two batters too late). But in extra innings with a runner on 2nd, JT put bat to ball and dumped a pop fly in no man’s land for a run scoring walk off double. Launch angles work for a player like JT because he has very good bat to ball skills to begin with. That is not true with others on the Dodgers roster.
    I had a very interesting conversation with my two sons this past weekend. Both were very good baseball players and understand the game well. One made it to the pinnacle known as MLB, while the younger son was an All Conference 3B in junior college. But both players could not have been more different. The older one was a power hitter, while I labeled the younger one a pest who would get on base any way he could, but could not hit for HR power. And yet their current view of the game has flipped for them. The power hitter does not necessarily like the launch angles approach. I made a point that this approach was now prevalent throughout the minor league systems, and he went one further saying that the approach is now common place in youth baseball. He is working with youth travel programs with hitting, and he is instructed to teach and coach launch angles, an approach he does not necessarily agree with. But he recognizes the trend and is adjusting his approach. While the younger son who could not buy a HR, is fully on board with launch angles.
    I have no objection to Sabermetrics. In fact, I do believe that they have a place in the game. But those tools need to be used in conjunction with the eyes of super scouts Jerry Stephenson, Mel Didier, Mike Brito, George Genovese, etc. Where are those long time scouts? They are being replaced by computers. It is still a game played by humans not gigabytes. And it is still a TEAM game, but is being overtaken by agents working to push individual attributes rather than winning. I have no objection with their approach, it is their job. But it is the FO’s responsibility to make sure the team is prominent.
    With respect to FAZ, I have been adamant in my support. They took over a tough situation and have made the minor league system and player development program the focal point of the organization and have kept the team relevant while other programs have tanked to get better. But again we cannot ignore that FAZ preaches the power, power, and more power approach. Otherwise, why is CT3 still on the 25 man vs Verdugo. There is no doubt that FAZ believes that Joc gives the Dodgers a better chance to win more than Verdugo or Toles. FAZ may be right. Maybe Verdugo falls flat. Maybe the bevy of mediocre relievers on the 40 man is the right approach. As fans we do not have to agree with it. And yet we can still respect FAZ (at least I do). But as Lasorda said last year, they have won nothing until they win their 4th game of the WS. Until they do that, they are subject to scrutiny.

  4. Cranky old timers? Because some situational hitting would be a nice change? I just want the team to play better and more consistent baseball down the stretch. The division is there for the taking.

    Maybe it’s just me but I would like to see:
    DH in both leagues.
    Electronic strike zone.
    Pace of play rules enforced.
    Expanding roster sizes.
    Walks, HR’s, less K’s AND situational hitting for this team.

    Most cranky old timers did not call for Doc’s head-you did! Oh wait-maybe you are one of us!

    1. I did not say I wasn’t cranky!

      Image and video hosting by TinyPic
      But, I am not hypocritical. I would have fired Doc after the SL sweep… and I still would. I root for him because he is still the manager, but I think he can’t motivate these guys right now. I hope to be proven wrong…

      1. I respect this blog, but you lost me forever on the “fire Roberts” idea. You’re entitled to your opinion but I think it’s so over-reactive and unrealistic, I’m not sure it’s even fit to be taken seriously.

    2. We agree Vegas. The 1962 version of Tommy Davis was my favorite hitter type. 27 HR, 153 RBI, and a line of
      .346 .374 .535 .910.

  5. Unless I forgot something you said, I pretty much agree with all of it. And interestingly, I too thought that it would be nice if the Dodgers could acquire A.J. Ellis.

    Also, and this has nothing to do with Mark’s comments, don’t think of tonight’s Arizona and Colorado games as adding or subtracting a half game, but instead they will determine whether or not the Dodgers pick up a full game in the loss column vis a vis one or both of those teams.

    1. Exactly. It’s now time to start looking at the loss columns between us and the other 7 teams all bunched up around us. We need Anaheim and SF to help us out a bit, but we also now need to start watching Atl, Phil, StL, Milwaukee as well.
      As PeterJ said, it’s a good ol pennant race, and this will make it a fun 5 weeks!

  6. Now that was an enjoyable game yesterday! A little bit of everything. Good starting pitching. Ryu allowed a lot of hits, but as he typically does, prevented the Padres from scoring and kept his team in the game. Excellent offense once things got rolling. Lead by Ryu, of course! Just fun to watch. JT is just a marvel. Manny hit his first meaningful HR and provided excellent defense. By far his best game as a Dodger.

    Yeah, the Austin Barnes conundrum. He’s just having a miserable season with the bat, but has been a very good catcher. Replacing him at this point of the season may not be a good idea. He should only play once a week at most. It’s crunch time and Grandal needs to be in there as much as his body will allow. Agree, that AJ Ellis would be the only backup catcher I would consider. Besides his quality catching he’s having a nice offensive year. It would be special for him to come back and win a World Series.

    Max Muncy 1B and Bellinger CF. Or, Chris Taylor CF and Bellinger 1B. I take the former. I know Max is a liability at 1B, but his offense is so much better than Taylor. And, Max can hit LH. Taylor can’t hit any type of pitching. It’s just unbelievable how he can’t make contact. It’s just painful to watch him hit. I feel terrible for him.

    Looking forward to Verdugo to joining the team. I think he can have a real impact in Sept (and hopefully in the playoffs). His contact rate will be a welcome addition. Chris Taylor might not see much of the field the rest of the year.

    Mark, us old timers, obviously, don’t have access to all the stats that the front office has available to them. Stats for defensive shifts and players offensive and defensive tendencies I don’t have problem. My issue is mostly with using the stats to project on what might happen instead of observing the game as to what is actually happening. Tendencies are not what is going to happen, but what may happen. What you are seeing with your own eyes as the game is played is fact. Pulling a pitcher out just because he is going to face the order for the third time is total BS. And then you have the times when a hitter has reverse splits (Puig and Muncy come to mind) and Roberts totally ignores the stats. Anyway, this type of baseball is here to stay. I can disagree all I want, but it is what it is. I do totally agree with you on player development by the Dodgers. They are just the best at this aspect of the game. It just huge for the future. We have are young stars here already and the prospects will help compliment the team’s future either by playing here or used in trades. Lots of later round picks and international signings that are coming along nicely. Love the Always Compete updates on our prospects.

  7. The problem the Dodgers have with Barnes is that he only starts against lefties and therefore is accompanied in the lineup with Hernandez, Taylor, Puig (who flails against lefties), and Dozier who is struggling as well. That combined with Belli not doing as well against lefties as he did last year and Barnes ability to get walks and maintain a decent OBP isn’t enough.
    A team should have enough offense to allow a good defensive backup catcher to play without standing out offensively like a sore thumb and the Dodgers apparently don’t against lefties.

  8. But alas I have some sense of comfort during these dog days of summer!!! NCAA football is rolling in and my beloved Fighting Irish take on Big Blue this Saturday seeking it’s first national title since, drum roll, 1988… Damn, doesn’t that sound familiar!!!
    P.S. After Michigan I have a comfortable schedule that reminds me of USC!!

  9. Bum too much $$$ involved for an independent Notre Dame.
    It did work for the round ballers with the ACC merger though…

  10. Our host’s article quotes me directly, right down to the use of the word “hoary”, so I guess I’d better respond. First of all, it defies logic to assume that the people who put the team together have no responsibility for how it performs. I help to run a business, and ultimately how it runs, how good our attorneys are, how profitable the business is remains the responsibility of those who run it.

    Second, SABRphiles don’t believe that hitters striking out is a problem. It’s a dichotomy; they want pitchers to strike people out because a strikeout means no ball in play meaning that a hit is impossible, but they don’t care if hitters strike out because to them, an out is an out. As Tom Verducci of SI put it, “Front offices, not managers, control how the game is played. Armed with extensive data they understand games swing on home runs (either hitting them or defending them) and that the best defense is to smother offense with strikeouts. (Paradoxically, as front offices emphasize strikeouts on defense, they wave them away on offense as not much more than a nuisance, contributing to the strikeout’s rise in prominence.)”

    As long as the Dodgers’ front office doesn’t see the K as a problem you will see more and more of them. And if they see the HR as the end all and be all, then they will take the K’s. And bat-to-ball skills will be deemphasized.

    And it is a problem. The game today does not appreciate the base hit. The article by Scott Miller back on 8/20 previously linked by another savvy reader (https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2791455-i-find-it-very-difficult-to-watch-why-mlb-greats-think-baseballs-in-trouble) pointed out the following:
    “• The ball is not put in play in roughly a third of all plate appearances, 31.6 percent of which end in a strikeout, walk or hit batter.

    • The .248 MLB batting average is the lowest since 1972, the season before the American League instituted the designated hitter, when it was .244.

    • There were more strikeouts than hits in a month for the first time in MLB history in April and, through early August, MLB had accumulated more strikeouts than hits overall. The race is on for whether it will happen in a full season for the first time.”

    Anyone who thinks that this isn’t by design isn’t paying attention. And the Hall of Famers who have made the game great don’t like it either.
    Paul Molitor: “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third, it’s disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect…” (from his Hall of Fame induction speech)
    Don Sutton: “”As soon as somebody decides it’s not a good idea, then people will draft differently. They’ll train differently. But right now it’s about the home run and the strikeout and give me five good innings [from a starting pitcher]. Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton are not loving this. Neither is [Sandy] Koufax or [Don] Drysdale.””

    It’s hard to hit in the clutch when you are trying to hit a HR every time up. And you will try to hit a HR every time up if you are told that K’s are OK and that you SHOULD try to hit a HR every time up.

    Goose Gossage has presage the computer nerd in the dugout managing teams. Billy Beane of the A’s has preached for years that the manager is unimportant. The lever-pullers in the front office make all of the important decisions anyway. Here’s Goose: “”They’re going to have nerds in the dugout. And I’ve said it: If [Yankees general manager Brian] Cashman had any balls, he’d have done that a long time ago. Or he’d like to now. Put a nerd in uniform. Because anybody can manage today. There’s 100 pitches, and then you start parading your 10 relievers in.””

    The Dodgers are what they are by design. If the fans don’t like the outcome, there’s more than players and coaches to blame.

  11. AC

    I agree with everything you said!

    And I don’t think it is to much to ask for the Dodgers to elevate their game, and their thinking, like the Astros did, and after all, Friedman is from Houston.

    Because the Astros combined the tried and true things in baseball, that makes teams successful, along with saber metrics.

    I know it is probably to late this year, but if more players don’t adjust the rest of the season, we might not be there in the post season, this year.

    Because Turner can’t be there all the time!

    But at the same token, doesn’t it seem like Turner is almost always, there?

    Like most, I know it is hard to get to excited about this last series win, but like what Peter and Bobby said, we are still in this, so we should just enjoy this ride, and see where we land.

    It isn’t like any one team has dominated in the West, this year.

    1. I too read that article. I have been following the Bowie Baysox 4 since the trade. I am happy to read that part of Diaz’s problem is a change in his setup. Not all batter setups are the same, and batters hit best when they are comfortable and have done it enough times that muscle memory takes over. Changing the direction of the toe point may in fact be a good long term benefit for Diaz, but the change is tough. It apparently was not considered a problem for the Dodger development group.
      Dean Kremer and Zach Pop are doing fine at AA, while Rylan Bannon is struggling, which makes Gavin Lux’s success in AA even better.

      1. I still think it was a fair price to pay for indemnity due to Seager’s injury. Diaz was obviously the main piece but the Orioles did well take a chance on Kremer and Bannon as well. Pop was the wild card.

        It’s hard to do but it makes sense to root for the players we trade. It usually means our system is solid and encourages other teams to do business with us.

  12. Jim Johnson is still haunting the Dodgers. He just came out of the bullpen for the Angels and served up a grand slam to LeMahieu to give the Rockies a 7-5 lead. The grand slam followed 3 consecutive walks to open the inning.

    On a brighter note the Dodgers picked up a game in the loss column on Arizona who lost 2-0 to our beloved Giants.

  13. Just watched SF shut out AZ.

    Unfortunately, Colorado have come back from 5-2 down to lead LAA 7-5 in the 8th.
    Still, we gain again.

    1. Campy – just seen the score.

      That’s great news. The Rox BP is a mess.

      Now the Division isdefinitely there to be won

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