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Tag Archives: Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent, along with a number of other Hall of Famers and retired MLB stars during the Hall of Fame Classic this weekend. Kent of course ended his career with the Dodgers, but played six seasons with the Giants.

I would imagine this pretty much confirms which hat he’s going to be depicted wearing at Cooperstown.

As an aside, I’m glad Jeff finally found a younger teammate he’s happy to play alongside.

Mr. Grumpy, as related to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times:

“Scully is making the same point everyone else is making,” I said. “He says the stats indicate you are having success hitting behind Ramirez — tell me that isn’t the case.”

“I’m 40. You don’t get better when you are 40.”

What Kent is getting at is that just about everyone, the erstwhile Vin Scully included, is suggesting that Kent’s resurgence over the last three weeks has been solely the result of hitting in the 3-hole ahead of Manny. The idea is that pitchers have been serving Kent a steady diet of fastballs, because Manny is waiting in the on-deck circle.

The problem with that logic? What reasonable pitcher is going to extend the effort to put Kent on base? Wouldn’t giving Kent pitches to hit mean that he’s far more likely to get on base, and you know, present an RBI opportunity for Manny?

Furthermore, the idea of “batter protection” is largely false. Take a look at the links provided here. There isn’t conclusive data to suggest that a good hitter batting behind you increases the likelihood you’ll see better pitches. In fact, the opposite is much truer. The pitcher is far more likely to extend his effort to get the preceding batter out in order not to provide the “protecting” hitter with an RBI opportunity. It’s completely illogical to suggest that Kent is all of a sudden seeing a steady diet of fastballs now that he has Manny to “protect” him.

What is logical is to suggest that Kent was due, and he’s finally producing at the most opportune time — with an even bigger hitter behind him and two big hitters (Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) in front of him. Just prior to the Manny deal, Kent had been smoking the ball, but was finding fielders’ gloves instead of the holes. I don’t have splits showing this exact time period, but if you’ll look here, you’ll see that Kent’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and LD% (line drive percentage), indicators of how “lucky” or “unlucky” a hitter is — Kent was extremely unlucky prior to the trade — have come come closer to Kent’s career norms.

So for once, I agree with Jeff Kent. His resurgence has nothing to do with Manny. And anyone watching the Dodgers had to know that Kent was starting to warm up long before Manny was in the picture. But don’t count on ESPN, the LA Times, or anyone else to bother looking into that.

But Kent was dead wrong when he said this of Vin Scully:

“Vin Scully talks too much,” Kent said.

“We all love you, Vin,” Kent added with a mischievous grin, “but you still talk too much.”

Vin might have been wrong about Kent and Manny’s “protection,” but I’ll take Vin’s play-by-play a million times before I willfully listen to any of the other hacks out there.

Case in point — yesterday’s TBS broadcast of the Dodgers/Brewers game was presumably a national broadcast, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the excitement in Chip Caray’s voice when the Brewers mounted their 9th inning rally.

I mean really, look at them! Who doesn’t want to see this sort of thing? Who says the Dodger rookies are a bunch of me-first jerkfaces? What did YOU do today, Mr. Grumpy Second Baseman?

On a serious note, today’s game was historic — it was the first game in which a Dodger hit a HR on both the first and last pitch of the game.

It was frustrating losing the two games in San Francisco last weekend, as well as last night’s against the Brewers. Had the Dodgers not blown late leads in those three games, today’s win would’ve capped an 11-game win streak. They would’ve been 67-57, three games ahead of Arizona. Oh, to what could’ve been.

I love the Dodgers. I love baseball. But what I hate is the archaic, stuck-in-the-mud thinking that permeates baseball management. My baseball philosophy is much more in line with forward-thinking, statistically-inclined people such as Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta, Bill James, and is featured on websites such as Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and Dodger Thoughts, among many others. Essentially, I enjoy looking for a reasonable explanation for the innumerable vagaries of baseball. I enjoy reading about those who attempt to theorize why baseball is as exciting as it is for us.

As to the title, one of my favorite ballplayers, Andy LaRoche, is currently stuck in exile in Las Vegas (the Dodgers’ Triple-A team). He was sent there on a rehab assignment after he was injured in spring training. Halfway through that rehab, the Dodgers activated him, and then optioned him to the minors, wasting 10 days of rehab and an option year for LaRoche. Meanwhile, LaRoche, one of their best power-hitting minor league prospects languishes in Triple-A while the likes of Mark Sweeney, Andruw Jones, and Jeff Kent continue to feebly hit ground balls to NL infielders. All the while, Dodger management bemoans the lack of production on the major league club.

It would seem a very simple fix. No power hitters? Call up a power hitter. Of course, Blake DeWitt’s emergence has made this less simple (DeWitt and LaRoche are both third basemen). But if you can find time to play Kent/Sweeney/Jones, then you can cut bait on any of the three and find time to play LaRoche.

I believe that the most effective way to score runs is to get on base and hit for power. Take for example yesterday’s game against the Cubs. The Dodgers wasted a good outing from Chad Billingsley (6IP, 4H, 2R, 7K). Billingsley’s only mistake — a two-run blast to Derrek Lee, preceded by a walk to Ryan Theriot. But there you see the fundamentals of scoring runs — Theriot gets on base, Lee makes Billingsley pay with a home run.

Later in the game, Aramis Ramirez added a solo shot off of Scott Proctor, who continues to struggle this year. Two months into the season, and he’s still not looking very sharp. According to the broadcast, more than half the hits he’s given up this year have gone for extra bases. Perhaps he needs more innings, but it’s hard to argue in favor of it given his rather unsightly opponents’ OPS to date.

The Cubs won this game, despite good pitching from the Dodgers’ starter, by getting on base and hitting for power. I don’t think that could be any clearer to the Dodgers. Nonetheless, I should note that the Dodgers did just fine getting on base yesterday, racking up 10 hits and four walks. Fourteen baserunners, and only one run. Did they hit for power? Matt Kemp doubled twice, and Andre Ethier added one of his own. Other than that, just a bunch of little singles here and there. No power.

The Dodgers clearly lack power. Andruw Jones, their power-hitting messiah, has instead been a power-hitting void. Jeff Kent looks every bit of his 40 years. Meanwhile, developing hitters Ethier and Kemp are within reach of their career slugging percentages. Russell Martin and James Loney are a little further back of their career SLG, but still within striking distance.

According to the Dodgers (Joe Torre, anyway), inexperience is the problem. Inexperience, and not batting Mark Sweeeney (.100/.196/.125) fifth behind Jeff Kent (.242/.287/.373) is the problem. Meanwhile, I hear Andy LaRoche is getting PT at 1B. Why? You can never tell with Ned Colletti (improving LaRoche’s trade value/trading Loney/FINALLY DFA-ing Sweeney), but if it means he gets to LA faster (a la Jonathans Meloan and Broxton in the bullpen), then so be it. You’d think given Kent’s apparent to everyone but Bob Brenly and Joe Torre rustiness, that LaRoche would start taking grounders at 2B.

And speaking of Bob Brenly, I won’t even touch the very thinly-veiled disdain for Kemp. The guy must be a dear friend to Luis Gonzalez.