By David Vassegh
A theme of frustration for my partner Kevin Kennedy on "Dodger Talk" during the 2012 season, was the use of the cut fastball or "cutter" as most people in baseball call it now. It isn't that Kevin Kennedy doesn't think it shouldn't be used in a pitchers repetoire of pitches, but could be used too much by pitchers that can throw a 2 seam or 4 seam fastball north of 95 mph.
There is fact that if a pitcher throws the "cutter" too much it will take away velocity from his fastball. Mariano Rivera is the reason why so many pitchers now have incorporated the cut fastball in to their bag of pitches, but Rivera's cutter is a natural pitch for him because his fingers are so long that it creates the natural movement of that pitch. Other pitchers are not physically blessed to get the same consistent results as the Yankee closer.
I interviewed some of the most respected pitching and baseball minds in MLB over the last 9 months, here's their thoughts on the "cutter"...
Padres Manager and former Angels pitching coach, Bud Black conceded there is a place for the cutter, but agreed with Kennedy, it could be over used. Bud Black
Former Yankees star pitcher and now one of the best pitching coaches in the majors for the SF Giants, Dave Righetti does think pitchers do fall in love with the "cutter" because they get addicted to seeing the ball move.
2 Time World Series Championship Manager, Terry Francona, now manager of the Cleveland Indians, brought up the point that the cut fastball can take away from a pitchers 2 seam and/or 4 seam fastball...
It seems like Black, Righetti and Francona all agree with Kevin Kennedy on how the cut fastball should be used, it will interesting to see if we see less of the cutter in 2013. One thing is for sure, we'll be seeing the last of the master of the cutter with Mariona Rivera, since he'll be retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
Major League Baseball held the very first "Cactus League Media Day" at Chase Field in Arizona on Monday. Every team that will play in the Cactus League brought their Manager and General Manager to meet with the media. Here are a few of the more interesting things that were heard.
-Reds Manager Dusty Baker dodged my question on whether or not he likes the World Baseball Classic, but conceded he would have accepted an invitation to play on Team USA if the tournament was around when he was playing. LISTEN HERE AND HERE
-This is the first time around in the Cactus League for Indians Manager, Terry Francona. When he managed the Phillies and Red Sox, their camps were-and still are in Florida playing in the Grapefruit League. I asked Francona if he has felt that his voice has more authority in the Indians clubhouse since he comes in as a 2 time World Series manager compared to being a manager that hadn't won any rings in his first spring training with the Phills and Red Sox. LISTEN HERE
-Billy Beane, the A's GM, did reveal to reporters that he is worried that Mike Trout will be even better this year than he was in 2012.
Great job by KTLA to pull this interview up. Vin did ask all the tough questions like anybody else would at that time. - David Vassegh
It was a very happy mood inside the JD Morgan Center on Wednesday for UCLA Head Football Coach Jim Mora. The Bruins along with Ole Miss seemed to be the schools that surprised everyone and came in with Top 10 Recruiting classes. The Bruins got commitments from 7 offensive lineman, including the 3rd best Center in the country, Scott Quessenberry from La Costa Canyon HS in Encinitas. Another position Mora and his staff targeted was Linebacker, the Bruins recruited 5 players at that position. Since All-American punter Jeff Locke is graduating, the Bruins needed to try to fill his shoes, they recruited Sean Covington from the state of Florida.
I attended Jim Mora's press conference on Thursday, below is the audio along with a link on all the details of the 2013 UCLA Recruiting Class.
VIDEOS: Signing Day Update #1 - Update with Demetrice Martin | Signing Day Update #2 - Update with Taylor Mazzone | Signing Day Update #3 - Update with Jeff Ulbrich | Signing Day Press Conference - Jim Mora meets with the media
Since the Dodgers signed the best free agent pitcher, Zack Greinke and the Angels signed the best free agent position player, Josh Hamilton. Here is my head to head breakdown of the Angels and Dodgers.
DODGERS: AJ Ellis
ANGELS: Chris Ianetta
Defense more than offense carries more weight with me at this position. AJ Ellis did a great job handling the pitching staff that was 3rd in ERA (3.34) in 2012. Ellis also provided a lift at the plate when nobody was expecting anything from him with a .270 BA, .373 OBP and provided some pop with 13 HR and 52 RBI. The only thing that was an issue for Ellis was leading the majors in passed balls, something he is working on. Ianetta's only played 79 games because of a broken right wrist and he hit just .240
DODGERS: Adrian Gonzalez
ANGELS: Albert Pujols
Pujols is arguably the best hitter of our generation. He has 475 HR and a career .325 BA with a 1.022 OPS in his 12 seasons. Even though his power numbers have declined in the last 3 seasons, he still did hit 50 doubles in 2012 with the Halos. Adrian Gonzalez is the left handed power bat the Dodgers had been looking for at first base. For all the criticism he took for "not producing" with the Dodgers. Gonzalez hit .297 and drove in 22 runs in just 36 games to go along with his stellar fielding at first base. Both clubs are in great shape at first, but Gonzalez is younger and still in his prime.
DODGERS: Mark Ellis
ANGELS: Howie Kendrick
Nobody appreciates what Mark Ellis does for the Dodgers more than me, he has above average range up the middle and sacrifices his own personal stats at the plate for the good of the team. The fact is Howie Kendrick is younger, almost as good of a fielder with a .979 fielding percentage at 2B. Also, Kendrick is also versatile and can play OF and 1B when needed the last 2 seasons. Both players are good people and help clubhouse chemistry.
DODGERS: Hanley Ramirez
ANGELS: Erik Aybar
Hanley Ramirez brings the power dimension to a position where you usually don't find that type of production. Ramirez hit 24 HR and 92 RBI in 2012 with the Marlins and Dodgers. Don't forget the speed threat too with Ramirez, he stole 21 bases and stole 32 just 2 seasons ago. Even though, Ramirez can be frustrating at times on defense and at the plate with his "all or nothing" swings, he gets the nod over an inconsistent Aybar.
DODGERS: Luis Cruz
ANGELS: Alberto Callaspo
Luis Cruz became a cult hero amoung all the multi millionaires on the Dodgers roster when he hit .297 the last 76 games playing great defense at third base. The biggest question is: Can he do it again? If he can the Dodgers would get the edge at this position. Callaspo brings a above average glove to third, and is an average hitter.
DODGERS: Carl Crawford
ANGELS: Josh Hamilton
I know Hamilton might play more RF, but here, he is a left fielder. The Angels absolutely have the advantage with Josh Hamilton, who hit 43 HR last year, and they might for the entire 5 year $125 million deal. Hamilton though has only played more than 130 games 3 times since 2007! In contrast, Carl Crawford is coming off 2 nightmare seasons in Boston. The Dodgers are counting on him going back to the Crawford of 2010 with the Rays when he hit .307 and stole 47 bases. Crawford is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and has 5 years-$102.4 million left on the 7 year contract Theo Epstein signed him to in Boston.
DODGERS: Matt Kemp
ANGELS: Mike Trout
Matt Kemp has proven he can play at a high level a lot longer than Mike Trout, but if Trout's rookie season is any indication of what's to come, and there is no reason to think it won't, the Angels have at least just as good of a CF for the next 10 years, if not a better Center fielder than the Dodgers. 2 springs ago, Mike Scioscia said Trout "was the best prospect" he's ever seen. Kemp was plagued with hamstring and a shoulder season for most of 2012, but let's not forget Kemp's 2011 when he almost became the first 40/40 Dodger (39 HR/40 SB). Both CF's are gold glove caliber. I think the debate will not be which team is best in 2013, but which team has the best CF.
DODGERS: Andre Ethier
ANGELS: Mark Trumbo
Trumbo has been impressive at the plate in his first 2 full seasons in the Majors hitting 29 HR/87 RBI in 2011 and 32 HR/95 RBI. Andre Ethier has only hit more than 23 HR's once in his 7 seasons with the Dodgers, but he isn't a "power hitter" like Trumbo. Ethier has been one of the most consistent Dodgers in his career and also plays above average Right Field. Fielding is part of the game too, this isn't fantasy baseaball. Ethier gets the edge for what he brings in the field and his consistency in 7 major league seasons.
DODGERS: Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Billingsley, Capuano, Harang, Beckett
ANGELS: Weaver, Wilson, Hanson, Blanton, Williams, Richards
With all the excitement over the Angels hitting order, this is the reality check, their pitching. The Dodgers not only can score runs, but also have a deeper and stronger rotation than the Angels. Especially their 1-2 punch with 2 Cy Young winners in Kershaw and Greinke. After Weaver, I see a lot of question marks. Hanson's velocity has gone down the last 2 seasons and CJ Wilson is according to baseball analysts at best a "number 3". Blanton gave up the second most HR's in the NL in 2012 (29). Don't you think that will increase in the AL? Even if the Angels add RA Dickey, like some are speculating, I'm not buying.
DODGERS: Brandon League, Ronald Bellisario, Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, Javy Guerra, Shawn Tolleson
ANGELS: Ryan Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs
Again, more question marks in the Angels bullpen and lack of depth based on 2012 force me to give the Dodgers the edge. Ryan Madson is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Scott Downs was hurt for a period of time as well in 2012 with a shoulder strain. Frieri was great in the first half, as was Bellisario for the Dodgers. The Angels just don't have the depth in their bullpen if Madson or any other of their back end pitchers get hurt. Kenley Jansen is recovering nicely from a heart procedure and is expected to be ready for Opening Day or shortly after.
Both teams have a tremendous amount of talent and will have a lot of pressure on them to not only win their division, but to make it to the World Series, so it will be fun to watch in Anahaim and Los Angeles!