Three Cheers For Eric Stults

87toppsericstults.jpgEric Stults has always been an MSTI favorite, dating back to a big pennant race performance in his first major league start in 2006, going six one-run innings against the Mets. Last year, we really jumped on the bandwagon after that complete domination of the White Sox – a four-hit shutout in June. And by “bandwagon”, I mean more “hey, that guy’s not so bad – I wonder what he could do” and less “he’ll be the third man of the Kershaw/Billingsley powerhouse trifecta!” I mean, I like the guy, but he’s Eric Stults. That said, I always felt he got a raw deal last year, best explained in our 2008 reviews, in which he received an “A”:

Look, if you’ve got a lefty with the talent to shut out an American
League contender, and that lefty gives up 4, 1, 3, 3, and 3 earned runs
in his other starts, doesn’t that sound like a guy who’s worth a look?
No, he won’t be an ace; probably never anything more than a decent #5.
But probably a guy worth keeping up over the likes of Tanyon Sturtze,
isn’t it? One would think. But no, after Joe Torre prematurely pulled
him from a blowout win against Colorado because Stults wasn’t being
aggressive enough, Stults rotted in AAA for the rest of the year, save
for one token appearance in September.

All of which leads us up to Saturday night against the Diamondbacks, where, as I noted yesterday, Stults absolutely had to come up big. It’s a lot to ask of a 6th starter in the first week of the season, coming off a dreadful spring training, but the team needed a win and the bullpen had to be saved.

Well, I’d say allowing just one run and striking out six over 5.1 innings works on both counts, doesn’t it? Let’s not ignore the bats finally coming alive (particularly Orlando Hudson with a double and a homer), but Stults was clearly the hero of the night – not only putting the club in position to win, but allowing the bullpen to take a breather. 

Even better, Torre was effusive in his praise of Stults:

“Stults was great,” said manager Joe Torre, whose rotation now includes
three starters (Stults, Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald) with a
combined 10 Major League victories.

“We saw him last year come up and pitch against Cincinnati and throw a
lot of strikes and then [use] the changeup when he was behind in the
count. I thought he worked fast, which was a benefit for him. And
tonight he was aggressive, especially when behind in the count.”

Odd that he’d mention the Reds game and not the White Sox game just days later, but whatever – I’m just happy he’s recognizing Stults. It’s likely that Eric gets at least another start or two in Hiroki Kuroda’s absence… so let’s hope he continues to not make me look bad by supporting him.

On another note, Torre announced that Juan Pierre will be starting on Sunday. He didn’t say who will be sitting, but since he did say that Pierre will be in center with Manny in left, that means that either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier will take a seat. Much as I don’t like Pierre, that’s fine – it’s of course unreasonable to think that all three outfielders are going to play 162 games, and since Pierre’s the main backup, he’s likely to start once a week or so. Fine. What I do have a problem with is the timing, because as Tony Jackson notes, both Kemp and Ethier have had good success vs. Dan Haren:

Pierre is hitting .333 (2 for 6) lifetime against Dan Haren, but Kemp
is hitting .364 (4 for 11, 1 HR), and Ethier is hitting .467 (7 for 15,
1 HR).

Is this really the game we want to be sitting one of these two down in? With Monday being the home opener, you of course want your big three ready to go, so you’d think Pierre would have started on Saturday against Yusmerio Petit, who each Kemp and Ethier had lousy track records against. And as could have been predicted, Kemp and Ethier went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts (both by Kemp) against Petit.

As far as decisions go, it’s not a major one, and you hope it doesn’t come back to bite you on Sunday. It’s just a choice that doesn’t seem to have much sense behind it, and one that I’d love to hear explained someday