That’s right, it’s that time again! Just like we did last year, we’re going to give a review to everyone who played for the Dodgers this year. I’m sure I’ll regret this when it comes time to discuss Luis Maza.
Remember, each player’s grade is in relation to what we could have reasonably expected from them and them alone, not as compared to other players. So even though Blake DeWitt and Andre Ethier are both getting A’s, it doesn’t mean that I think DeWitt did as well as Ethier did. Besides, if I did it the other way, Manny would get an A and no one else would even rate a letter grade.
Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Fun new twist this time around, rather than just put up pictures of everyone, I’ve whipped up some modern day versions of the indisputable best baseball card set ever, 1987 Topps. Hope you all enjoy these as much as I did making them.
Russell Martin (C-)
(.280/.385/.396 13hr 69rbi 18sb)
It’s hard to give a guy I like so much a grade like that, but a lot of this is due to the incredibly high expectations we had for Martin this year. Although his OBP is outstanding, his power really dropped off this year (three-year SLG from .436 to .469 to .396) and his 2008 OPS dropped markedly every single month from April to August before a September resurgence. Now as we said many times, I place a lot of the blame for that on Joe Torre and his insistence on playing Martin at 3B on his “days off” rather than actually letting him get a breather. I really think there’s more to this than people realize, because if you remember from July’s first-half review, I gave him an A+ and said,
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall.
Which, at the time, was true. The problem was that his second-half OPS dropped 122 points. While his OBP was still pretty good, his slugging dropped 100 points and he hit only 3 HR after the break. If that’s not a sign of a catcher who’s running out of gas, I don’t know what is. Pay attention, Joe! Also a matter of concern is Martin’s slipping defense, because he “led” the NL with 11 errors. Granted, the fact that he plays so often gives him more chances to make the errors, but still – that’s tops in the league. It’s sort of difficult to come up with a lot of defensive catching stats, especially since we all agree that caught stealing numbers mostly lie with the pitchers, so you’re just going to have to give me the eyeball test on this one – his defense wasn’t superb in 2008. Getting just five hits in the eight postseason games isn’t really helping his case either. I don’t mean to get down on Martin, because even if he’s not Joe Mauer or Brian McCann, he still finished 5th in the majors in VORP among catchers, and with the state of catching the way it is in baseball right now, that’s plenty valuable. Plus, he’s still only going to be 26 next year and just entering his prime, so it’s possible we’ve yet to see the best of him. But hey, you know what would really help with that? Joe Torre not trying to make Martin walk like my grandpa by the time he’s 30. Also, not trading him because of “bad makeup”. Shut up, Joel Sherman.
Danny Ardoin (inc.)
(.235/.278/.314 1hr 4rbi)
There’s few things tougher to write about than the performance of Dodger backup catchers, and I’m already realizing that I still have two guys with fewer at-bats than Ardoin did. Fantastic. Anyway, last year when writing about Chad Moeller I said, “This guy’s straight out of the Journeyman Catcher Central Casting Agency here. Now paging Paul Bako, Kelly Stinnett, Mike DeFelice, and Sal Fasano, please pick up the white courtesy phone.” Danny Ardoin could just have easily been dropped in that category, as the Dodgers were his 6th team in 5 MLB seasons. That said, Ardoin did a decent job – no, he can’t hit, but I had no problems with his defense and the pitching staff seemed happy with his work behind the plate. I’d rather that the Dodgers get a better hitter in 2009, so that Torre will feel more comfortable with resting Martin, but if it’s Ardoin again, I won’t really complain that much.
Gary Bennett (F!)
(.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi)
That’s right, we’re three players in and I’m already breaking my own rules by giving Gary Bennett an F, rather than the “incomplete” he deserves for only getting 21 at-bats. Bennett, like Ardoin, is your standard journeyman catcher, with the 2008 Dodgers his 8th team in 13 years. So when you’re a backup backstop, especially on a team with a solid starter like the Dodgers do, you’re really expected to do all of two things. You need to be a mediocre hitter (.241 career average: check) and you need to be a good defensive reciever. What you don’t need to do is to completely lose the ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher, causing both annoyance on the hurler’s part and occasional errors for you. The best part was, his season ended when he was put on the DL with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but the timing was fantastic. This is what I said when the news first came out about his “injury”:
The hits keep on coming – Gary Bennett gets placed on the DL, per the official blog, and Dodger Thoughts has the reason: “Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.
Needless to say, Gary Bennett probably shouldn’t have a job anywhere in 2009, but he especially shouldn’t have a job in Los Angeles.
A.J. Ellis (inc.)
Ah yes, the fun part of writing about every player. You get to dissect the September expanded roster call-up who got just three at-bats. I think Ellis’ impact on the 2008 Dodgers can be mostly shown by the fact that I couldn’t even find an action picture of him in an LA uniform and had to go with a 2007 spring training shot. I think most of my thoughts regarding Ellis this year revolved around me hoping he’d at least get an at-bat, because after getting called up in September he got into three games without getting a chance at the plate. (I believe at one point I declared, “Free A.J. Ellis!”) Fortunately for him, acting manager Nomar Garciaparra gave him a start on Sept. 28 in the last game of the year, where he promptly went 0-3 with 2 K’s. Seriously though, Ellis is going to be 28 next year and he might yet deserve a shot to be a backup somewhere; he did tear up AAA this year with a .321/.436/.456 line.