Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to catch any of the game tonight, as it was a Friday night and with a 10:40 start here on the East Coast, I was well into weekend plans by then. But now, arriving home at 3am, clearly it seems I missed an absolutely fantastic outing by Hiroki Kuroda. A complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts, just 4 hits, and best of all – only one runner allowed past first base? Plus, against what is currently the best team in the National League? Talk about pure, outright domination. Especially coming after his dreadful last start, I’m pretty sorry I missed this one. Kudos to Kuroda – and to Torre for letting him take it the whole way himself.
Of course, with the good must come the bad, and that would be that the Dodgers acquired someone who might just be my least favorite player in all of baseball (Bonds aside), Angel Berroa. I don’t know even know where to start with this one. Okay, it’s pretty clear Chin-Lung Hu is just not ready for the major leagues. I accept that, and even though he’s already one of the best defensive shortstops in the bigs, a .172 batting average simply isn’t going to cut it. Luis Maza can hit just fine (.357 BA), but he’s not much of a defensive shortstop. Something has to be done at shortstop, and soon. Fine.
But even though the Dodgers gave up practically nothing in this deal (shortstop Juan Rivera, who is somehow in his 5th pro season and has yet to progress above A-ball – think that .606 career OPS might have something to do with it?) and got the Royals to pay all of the $4.75 million remaining on his deal (less a $500,000 buyout for 2009 that I assume the Dodgers are stuck with), I have two very big issues with this.
1) So, does this mean Rafael Furcal isn’t really close to returning? Most sources I’ve read say that Furcal may be ready to return in another week or so, with Rotoworld even suggesting that he’s taking ground balls at shortstop again. But, what does it say when the Dodgers choose to acquire another shortstop now? Furcal’s been out for over a month now. Hu and Maza have been inadequate for just about all of that time. It just seems like odd timing to acquire another shortstop when Furcal is finally so close to coming back (apparently). The obvious retort is, “well, Hu needs to go to AAA and in case Furcal’s back acts up again, we’ll need a safety net,” which is fine, except that leads me directly to point #2:
2) Angel Berroa is incredibly bad at the game of baseball. There’s about forty different ways I could go about this, but this one stands out for me the most. This morning, I was reading Baseball Prospectus’ daily game previews, and in the Royals discussion, they pointed out just how historically horrible current SS Tony Pena Jr. has been. I won’t copy and paste their entire statistical argument here, but this is the take-home point:
There have been a mere handful of hitters over the last 30-plus seasons who performed as poorly as Tony Pena Jr. has this year. Since 1970, Pena has the third lowest EqA among players with a minimum of 164 plate appearances,
Remember that – current Royals SS Tony Pena Jr. is on pace to set records for horribleness. Just keep that in mind, read this, and try not to jam your thumbs into your eyes:
The defense for Pena last year, when he hit .267/.284/.356, was that his defense made up for his bat to the degree that he was a better option than the recently ousted Angel Berroa, who could neither hit (.248/.271/.356 with a .209 EqA) nor field (-6 FRAA) in 2006. Pena was able to field, with +13 FRAA last year, which helped make up for his -25 BRAA to a degree—sadly 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before—but this year he’s having difficulty fielding as well.
“Sadly, 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before.” He’s clearly a brutal fielder. In 2006, his last full season as the Royals’ starter, he put up an almost unbelievable line of .234/.259/.333, for a 52 OPS+. That made him just about half as effective at the plate as your completely average player – and he was a butcher at the most important defensive position. So right now we’ve got a SS who’s a great fielder and can’t hit, and a SS who’s a good hitter but not much of a fielder. Replacing them with a guy who can’t hit or field (and will cost that $500,000 buyout) is a better option how?
But hey, I clearly haven’t watched a ton of Royals games over the years. Who would know him better than the poor suffering KC fans? Let’s just take a sampling of some reactions of Royals fans online about this deal. Remember: the Royals are currently playing a guy who’s on pace to be one of the alltime worst at his position and they got back a non-prospect and agreed to pick up the entire money left on the deal.