Mad Dodger Libs Season Preview

Friday, March 09 2007 @ 12:39 PM EST

Contributed by: Leigh

Due in part to our claim to be an Interactive Magazine, and due in larger part to the fact that I tend to present gimmicky material in order to mask my middling writing talents, most of today’s preview is in Mad Dodger Libs format.

First, I have to make some preliminary remarks about the Dodgers off-season transactions in more traditional prose, and then you can join me for a nostalgic game of Mad Dodger Libs in the player capsules.

After taking 2005 off (71-91), the Dodgers returned to the playoffs by winning the National League wildcard in 2006 on the strength of an 88-74 (both actual and Pythagorean) record and a first place tie with the Padres in the NL West. In order to return to the top of the division in 2007, they will have to finish ahead of the very young (Diamondbacks), the very old (Giants), the very bad (Rockies) and one clandestine powerhouse offence (Padres).


Among starting position players, Kenny Lofton (.301/.360/.403 in 2006) and J.D. Drew (.283/.393/.498) are gone, having been replaced by Luis Gonzalez (.271/.352/.444) and Juan Pierre (.292/.330/.388). Those moves represent a significant downgrade, though the age curves of Lofton and Pierre may be reaching the point at which their respective levels of productivity intersect. The big problem, of course, is that the Dodgers lost their best position player, J.D. Drew, when he opted to negate the remainder of his contract and go east to Boston. The sequence of these events – the decision to opt out and the deal with Boston – has been a matter of some contention. Short of some sort of Fenway/Watergate evidence-recovery mission (I hear that Jason Grimsley is available for contract work), it seems unlikely that those particular allegations will ever be substantiated.

Though Dodger fans will be spared the agonizing disappointment of watching Drew find new and creative ways to get injured, they will be forced to realize that certainty has a price and Gonzalez is simply incapable of being as productive as Drew. Gone is Drew, who is likely to be injured, and here is Gonzalez, who is guaranteed to be 39.

The rotation has turned over at rate of 40% since last season, with Jason Schmidt (125 ERA+ in 2006) and Randy Wolf (83) having stepped into the two rotation spots previously filled by Greg Maddux (110), Aaron Sele (101), Mark Hendrickson (110), Brett Tomko (97) and Jae Weong Seo (87). These moves will have a positive net effect relative to what the 2006 group would have produced in 2007, as both Sele and Hendrickson grossly outpaced their peripherals last season and fell ass-backwards onto the happy side of 100 on the ERA+ scale.

The bullpen returns its major players in Takashi Saito (222 ERA+ in 2006), Jonathan Broxton (177), Joe Beimel (155), Hong-Chih Kuo (109) and Yhency Brazoban (injured most of 2006; career ERA+ of 92).

The only notable defection from the bullpen is Danys Baez, who was traded to the Braves last season and has now gone to join the Orioles’ “Springtime for Hitler” bullpen (Producer Peter Angelos finally realized that, because of the Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing deal, he could make more money with a flop than with a hit!).

On to the Mad Dodger Libs Player Capsules!

Hopefully, most of you are familiar with the cultural phenomenon known as Mad Libs. In the original Mad Libs, the author prompts the reader for a certain number of adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs (sometimes the prompts are more specific), and then plugs them into blank spaces appropriately interspersed throughout the prose. The prose is then revealed to the reader. Hilarity ensues.

The Mad Dodger Libs found below diverge only from the original in that the prompts are asking for you to be slightly more specific. Oh, and all of the prompts are for words that are singular and in the present tense, unless otherwise noted. Each player capsule has five prompts and five corresponding spaces (prompt number one corresponds to the first blank space, etc.), so if your head is filled with sepia-toned memories of the Mad Libs of your youth, or if you want to re-connect with your inner eight year-old, feel free to grab a pencil and jot down your word choices for the prompts before scrolling down to the body of each capsule.

Russell Martin
2006 Line: .282/.355/.436
Became a Dodger: Drafted in the 17th round (2002)

(1) positive adjective
(2) positive adjective
(3) pharmaceutical item
(4) food item (plural)
(5) triple digit number

Martin had a(n) ________ first season in 2006 at age 23 and finished ninth in an absurdly _______ field for National League Rookie of the Year. They must be putting ________ in the _________ at Polyvalente Edouard-Montpetit High School in Montreal, as it has produced both Martin and Eric Gagne. In about _____ years, Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times will begrudgingly acknowledge that Martin is better than Paul Lo Duca.

First Base
Nomar Garciaparra
2006 Line: .303/.367/.505
Became a Dodger: Signed after the 2005 season

(1) positive adjective
(2) any player on the Yankees
(3) any player on the Royals
(4) verb
(5) human body part

After a _________ season in 2005, Nomar looked like Nomah! again in 2006, posting his highest OPS+ (120) since 2003. He is not the Nomar of twentieth century, though. Comparing a 150 OPS+ shortstop to a 120 OPS+ first baseman is like comparing _______ to ________. There is some talk that he may move to third base this season in order to clear a spot in the everyday lineup for James Loney, which makes infinite sense, provided that he can adequately field the position without _______ing a ________ muscle.

Second Base
Jeff Kent
2006 Line: .292/.385/.477
Became a Dodger: Signed after the 2004 season

(1) geographical location
(2) derogatory term connoting fragility
(3) animal
(4) animal body part
(5) expletive

Kent, who celebrated his 39th birthday earlier this week, must take a certain amount of pride in the fact that Garciaparra – who is six years younger than Kent – is the player forced to take refuge at first base in the Dodger infield. He probably rides his motorcycle all around __________, thinking about what a _________ Garciaparra is. If he can play two more seasons of reasonably good baseball before retiring, Kent should be able to reach 400 homeruns (he has 345), 2500 hits (2189) and 1500 runs batted in (1380), which would put him within a _________’s __________ of making the Hall of Fame. Four of his ten more similar batters are in the Hall (Berra, Sandberg, Doerr and Cepeda), and another one of them _______ing well should be (Santo).

Third Base
Wilson Betemit
2006 Line: .263/.326/.469
Became a Dodger: Traded from the Braves in exchange for Danys Baez and Willy Aybar

(1) human body part
(2) another human body part
(3) baseball skill
(4) positive adjective
(5) any position player on the Giants

Betemit surprised many last season with his power prowess, hitting 18 homeruns in only 412 plate appearances. The Dodgers are ______-deep in position players, so Betemit is going to have to watch his ________ or he could be overtaken. He could lose his starting job at third base either to the up-and-coming Andy LaRoche or to Garciaparra should Loney’s _________ require Nomar to move to the hot corner. Betemit’s future, at least on the Dodgers, is likely that of a(n) ______-sub in the Bill Hall mold. Betemit made his Major League debut at the age of 19 and was born in 1981, the same year that ________ made his Major League debut.

Rafael Furcal
2006 Line: .300/.369/.445
Became a Dodger: Signed after the 2005 season

(1) verb (past tense)
(2) attractive celebrity
(3) deity
(4) one of the five baseball tools
(5) positive adjective

Furcal ________ his best season yet in 2006, complementing his .300 batting average with 15 home runs, 37 stolen bases, a career high 73 walks and his fourth straight season with over 100 runs scored. High batting averages and stolen base counts are a little like a romp with ________ - better in fantasy than reality – but have their value nonetheless. Thank _____ for the extra innings package, which enabled me watch a number of Dodger games this past season and see Furcal’s _________ in action and hear the _______ Vin Scully deliberately pronounce Ra-Fi-Al-Fir-Call.

Left Field
Luis Gonzalez
2006 Line: .271/.352/.444
Became a Dodger: Signed after 2006 season

(1) noun
(2) inanimate object
(3) inanimate object
(4) inanimate object
(5) human body part (plural)

It has been a steady decline for Gonzalez since we went _______ on the National League in 2001 (.325/.429/.688). That is not to say that he cannot still be a productive player, just that he can only be productive relative to reasonable expectations. Gonzalez’s most comparable player through age 38 is Tony Perez, who’s _______ fell off the _______ in his age 39 season when he posted his first sub-100 OPS+ season in fifteen years. Gonzalez will forever be remembered for sticking a ________ into the ________ of Yankee fans with his World Series winning bloop single in 2001.

Centre Field
Juan Pierre
2006 Line: .292/.330/.388
Became a Dodger: Signed after 2006 season

(1) noun
(2) noun
(3) noun
(4) noun
(5) noun

In November, the Dodgers signed Pierre to a five-year, $44 million deal, which makes about as much sense as __________ ___________ ___________ ____________ _____________.

Right Field
Andre Ethier
2006 Line: .308/.365/.477
Became a Dodger: Traded from the Athletics in exchange for Milton Bradley

(1) positive adjective
(2) King of the Hill character
(3) positive adjective
(4) negative adjective
(5) deity

Still behind Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman – but slightly ahead of Mark Teahen – on the list of really ________ players that Billy Beane has traded away in the past few seasons (a list far shorter than the lists of really good players acquired by Beane and overvalued players dealt away by Beane). Dodgers’ Manager _________ has said that Ethier will hit seventh or eighth in the batting order this year, which seems __________ but is a _________ deal compared to what Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andy LaRoche are getting. Ethier suffered the ultimate human indignity by getting benched in favour of Marlon Anderson (in a corner outfielder’s spot for _______’s sake!) in last year’s NL Division Series loss to the Mets.

Starting Pitchers
Jason Schmidt
2006 Line: 213.3 IP, 3.59 ERA, 180 K, 80 BB
Became a Dodger: Signed after 2006 season

(1) positive adjective
(2) number between five and ten
(3) mediocre starting pitcher
(4) condiment
(5) human body part

The Giants’ loss is the Dodgers’ gain, as Schmidt has been less than __________ exactly once in the past six seasons. Schmidt was signed to a three-year deal worth $47 million, representing high annual value but at a length that showed remarkable restraint on the part of the Dodgers in a market that wouldn’t seem to hesitate in giving a _______ year contract to a pitcher like _______. A healthy Jason Schmidt could reasonably be expected to turn in the best season by a Dodgers’ starting pitcher since Kevin Brown in 2003. Despite being the Dodgers’ best pitcher, Schmidt will start the team’s third game of the season, which is kind of like putting _________ on your _________: completely irrational but ultimately innocuous.

Derek Lowe
2006 Line: 218 IP, 3.63 ERA, 123 K, 55 BB
Became a Dodger: Signed after 2004 season

(1) positive adjective
(2) any superhero
(3) any animal that burrows (plural)
(4) mildly positive adjective
(5) anything flammable

Lowe is a(n) ___________ case study in park and league factors. After pitching like __________ for the Red Sox in the 2004 playoffs, Lowe cashed in on a four-year $36 million free agent deal with the Dodgers. Since being in Los Angeles, he is striking out approximately 20 more hitters per year while walking 20 fewer. The combination of those contextually improved peripherals and inducing enough groundballs to make the __________ nervous while playing in front of two _________ defensive shortstops (Furcal and Cesar Izturis) has made him into a superficially better pitcher. His ERAs in 2003 and 2004 in the American League and Fenway Park were 4.47 and 5.42; in the National League and Dodger Stadium, he put up ERAs of 3.61 and 3.63 in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

In one of the classic panic trades of our generation, Lowe and Jason Varitek were traded to the Red Sox in 1997 from the Mariners in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb, who basically failed (96 innings worth of 4.97 ERA between 1997 and 1998) amid the absurd expectation that he would make the M’s bullpen significantly less _________ - like.

Brad Penny
2006 Line: 189 IP, 4.33 ERA, 148 K, 54 BB
Became a Dodger: Traded from the Marlins with Hee Seop Choi in exchange for Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion

(1) any baseball newspaper columnist
(2) any Woody Allen movie
(3) any “intangible” trait often ascribed to position players who lack both power and plate patience
(4) Christian existential philosopher
(5) any pitcher in the National League East

The trade that brought Penny to Los Angeles was a nice bit of thievery on the part of them-General Manger Paul DePodesta, despite that fact that _________ didn’t like it. The trade, as underrated as ___________, gave the Dodgers at least a league-average (and occasionally dominant) pitcher in exchange for Lo Duca’s _________ and Mota’s soon to be waning career. Of course, then-Manager Jim Tracy was able to properly use and develop Choi like Johnny Damon is able to deconstruct ____________, but that is hardly DePodesta’s fault.

Penny, pitching behind Schmidt and Lowe, could potentially outperform ____________ this season, a sign of the Dodgers’ depth and quality in the starting rotation this season.

Randy Wolf
2006 Line: 56.7 IP, 5.56 ERA, 44 K, 33 BB
Became a Dodger: Signed after 2006 season

(1) human body part
(2) verb
(3) brand of beer
(4) childishly derogatory name (plural)
(5) same as (4) above (but singular this time)

Wolf, due to injury problems, has not been a productive starting pitcher since the Chrétien administration, but things are looking up. It appears probable that Wolf will be ready for opening day: he gets a yellow light from Will Carroll, meaning that there is a 74.2% likelihood that his ______ will finally _______ properly this season. Dodger fans are now in the enviable position of having the opportunity to create a Los Angeles chapter of the Wolf Pack, wherein (if the Philadelphia iteration is any indication) fans are free to drink watered-down ________ and howl like _________ while concealing their identities with wolf masks. That sounds like a howling good time to this __________, though as a Jays fan I’ll have to be content concealing whatever I can behind a fake Sal Fasano moustache.

Other Rotation Candidates
Mark Hendrickson (164.7 IP, 4.21 ERA, 99 K, 62 BB)
Chad Billingsley (90 IP, 3.80 ERA, 59 K, 58 BB)
Hong-Chih Kuo (59.7 IP, 4.22 ERA, 71 K, 33 BB)

(1) inanimate object
(2) any container
(3) any NBA Centre
(4) positive adjective
(5) any natural disaster

Billingsley appears to be the most likely _________ in the __________ to win the fifth rotation spot, but clearly he is going to have to turn some of those walks into strikeouts in order to be successful (his minor league track record suggests that he is capable of this).

Hendrickson is more ________ than Randy Johnson, and may be best-suited to a role as a loogy. Unless the Dodgers’ decide to hold a one-on-one tournament to determine the fifth rotation slot, the former Philadelphia 76er is unlikely beat out both Billingsley and Kuo.

Hong-Chih Kuo is the most intriguing of the three, as he displayed __________ ratios last season, and not just in the relief role. Kuo posted 39 K and 7 BB in 29.3 IP as a starting pitcher for the Dodgers in September of 2006. Kuo has the potential to be either the best Taiwanese pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball, or the worst Taiwanese pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball, depending on how he pitches this season relative to Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang and teammate Chin-hui Tsao.

The admittance of any of Brett Tomko, Joe Mays or Elmer Dessens into the rotation would likely be the aftermath of a(n) __________ scenario in which the Dodgers are in big trouble.

Takashi Saito (78.3 IP, 2.07 ERA, 107 K, 23 BB)
Jonathan Broxton (76.3 IP, 2.59 ERA, 97 K, 33 BB)
Joe Beimel (70 IP, 2.96 ERA, 30 K, 21 BB)
Yhency Brazoban (72.7 IP, 5.33 ERA, 61 K, 32 BB in 2005)

(1) middle infielder with a good defensive reputation
(2) human body part
(3) inanimate object
(4) any type of baby food
(5) any team in the National League

These four pitchers, complemented by former starters Brett Tomko, Elmer Dessens, Joe Mays and two of Hendrickson, Kuo and Billingsley should form the Dodger bullpen for 2007.

Saito performed admirably as the closer in 2006, finishing eighth in Cy Young award voting and seventh in Rookie of Year voting. The Japanese import is 37 years old and as such may be simply holding the closer’s spot for a season or two before yielding it to Broxton.

Broxton’s weight is listed at 240 pounds on baseball-reference, and 288 pounds on wikipedia, representing a difference of approximately one ____________. Either way, he throws a fastball like his ________ is on fire and is striking out batters at an alarming rate He could challenge the Angels’ Scot Shields as the best non-closing relief pitcher in 2007.

Beimel could be the top situational lefty, depending on how the rotation shakes out, but he could potentially play third __________ to both Kuo and Hendrickson if both end up in the bullpen. Earlier this week, reported that Beimel complained that his arm felt “mushy”, which is a technical medical term that I don’t profess to understand. What colour light does “mushy” correspond to on Will Carroll’s traffic light scale? “Well, Dr. Andrews, it feels like __________.”

Brazoban should return from Tommy John surgery sometime early in the season. He took over the closer’s role from an injured Eric Gagne in 2005, but will find himself behind both Saito and Broxton in the pecking order for saves upon his return.

With Saito, Broxton, Kuo and Brazoban, the Dodgers quite possibly have a better bullpen than __________.


(1) any number between 82 and 86 (inclusive)

The Dodgers will win ____ games and finish third in the NL West, behind the Diamondbacks and Padres.

And Finally, Because I Cannot Resist

(1) verb
(2) human body part

According to this article, Tommy Lasorda is being accused of possibly having paid a woman to _________ his ________.