I Think Things Are Going To Be Okay

kempgrandslam.jpgAmazing how different this article looks now than it did when I was writing it with a 6-0 lead last night, before dozing off with the team still up 6-4. Look, we’ve spent approximately eighty billion words on all the bad news of Manny-gate in the last twenty-four hours, so let’s try to focus on the bright side of this situation.

1. Dear national media, last night’s loss had nothing to do with Manny…

…even though we all know that’s how it’s going to be portrayed. By which I mean, from the ESPN.com game recap:

The team with the worst record in baseball handed the Los Angeles Dodgers their first home loss of the season. Manny Ramirez had nothing to do with it — or maybe everything.

Or… maybe nothing, since the offense sure didn’t look to be missing a beat in putting up nine runs. Juan Pierre even had two hits, so I can’t put much blame on him. Look, last night’s loss was both a devastating collapse to the worst team in baseball and an epic case of lousy timing, but really, can we avoid the sensationalism and not pretend that Manny’s absense had a profound effect on Ramon Troncoso, Cory Wade, and Brent Leach completely imploding? If the bullpen has issues – which it might – they have nothing to do with a certain slugging outfielder. It’d be one thing if the team put up 2 hits and got shutout, but no. That’s not what happened, and don’t make it out that it was. Besides… 

2. The Dodgers don’t need Manny to win the NL West.

Offense is not exactly this team’s problem, wouldn’t you say? The Dodgers are leading the NL in batting average, on-base percentage, runs, and hits, so while swapping out Manny for Pierre obviously doesn’t help, it’s hardly as though this offensive attack was only about Manny – which I think was proven last night. 

I was going to run the stats to figure out exactly how much Manny->Pierre will cost us, but I’ve already found two much more talented guys who’ve done it, so let’s go with them.

Aaron Gleeman:

Of course, while the move from Ramirez to Pierre is a massive downgrade offensively it’s also likely a sizable upgrade defensively. My conservative estimate is that the difference between Ramirez and Pierre in left field for 50 games would be worth at least five runs, which takes a chunk out of the runs lost offensively. Add it all up and losing Ramirez for 50 games while replacing him with Pierre figures to cost the Dodgers around 20 runs.

Throughout baseball history 10 runs gained or lost has generally been worth one win, which means Ramirez’s suspension projects to knock two wins off the Dodgers’ total. That may not seem like a tremendous amount, but they won the division by exactly two games last season and that’s a six- or seven-win pace over the course of an entire season.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jay Jaffe suggests a few different options (#1 Juan Pierre, #2 Xavier Paul, #3 adding Blake DeWitt at 3B while pushing Casey Blake to LF, all of whom would cost the Dodgers between 15-18 runs), and comes up with much the same result:

Via this method, using the standard sabermetric exchange rate of 10 runs equaling one win, Ramirez’ absence should cost the Dodgers somewhere between 1 ½ and two games over the course of his suspension–enough to dent their chances slightly, but hardly the end of their post-season hopes.

So it’s going to cost the Dodgers about two wins. Anyone think that’s enough to let anyone else catch up? Remember: the Dodgers didn’t get Manny to win the division; they got him to win in the playoffs, and he’ll be back in plenty of time for that.

Okay, I can’t help myself – also from Jaffe’s article, good to see I’m not the only one who misses him

Ironically, the Dodgers actually had a better in-house alternative as recently as four weeks ago in Delwyn Young (projected to .256/.320/.429, .262 EqA, -0.46 MLVr); playing him in Manny’s place would have cost the Dodgers 14.4 runs. Alas, the 27-year-old was out of options, and the Dodgers designated him for assignment when they added futilityman Juan Castro to the 40-man roster, trading him to the Pirates a few days later in a horrific bit of roster mismanagement.

No, I’m never going to be over that. Anyway, back to players who are still in town, this whole incident actually has the potential to be beneficial in some ways…

3. Defense and baserunning will improve greatly.

It’s no secret how I feel about Pierre, but there’s little doubt that he’s a huge improvement over Manny in the field and on the bases. Plus, who knows how much playing time Paul actually gets, but he’s both fast and a good fielder with a strong arm, so any upgrade over the 0% he was getting with Manny around is helpful. The Dodgers were already one of the better fielding clubs in the league, so upgrading the weakest link – even if it is only left field – can only help a pitching staff that obviously needs every advantage it can get.

4. This could save the Dodgers money, possibly allowing them to invest in a pitcher.

Forget Bill Plaschke’s idiotic ramblings about how this is going to “put a huge dent in the Dodgers’ finances.” He doesn’t know where he is half the time, and someone really should walk him home. Manny’s absense shouldn’t impact ticket sales too much, since the season packages are already paid for and the team is still rolling out a young, exciting, first-place club. I’ll acknowledge that you’ll see somewhat of a downturn in $299 “99 Ramirez” jerseys and silly dreadlock hats, but since this is an unpaid suspension, the Dodgers save about $7.7 million in salary over the next two months. That’s almost certainly more than the club will lose in tickets and merchandise, so this may come out as a net savings. With another starter almost imperative at some point, this is extra money that may yet come in handy.  

5. The time off might be good for Manny.

In much the same way that you wonder if the time off for Hiroki Kuroda will pay off in a rested arm down the stretch, you can’t forget that Manny is a 37-year-old outfielder who really ought to be a DH. Is having him rest those legs over a stretch of time where you probably don’t really need him really an awful thing? Besides, you better believe that he’s going to be beyond motivated when he comes back; Manny in the second half may be a rested, focused, machine. 

So don’t panic, friends – this team is going to be just fine, between the lines at least. The only thing to worry about is ESPN and the local media acting as though Manny murdered adorable kittens in the dugout and then mailed their corpses back to cancer-stricken children. Just remember: this team has to lose sometime (…right?) and despite what the writers say, it’s probably not because of Manny.