Does Anyone Have a Direct Line to Bill Plaschke?

Because someone needs to get a hold of him and set him straight about the misinformation he’s putting out there. Look, it’s not that I particularly care what this joker has to say, and I don’t like having to focus on him in September of what’s been the been Dodger season in years (especially when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier continue to blow me away); it’s just that when he’s out there in print and on television presented as an “expert”, the general public tends to take what he says as honest, researched facts. And of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Today’s fallacy: Ned Colletti’s a failure because he didn’t get the Dodgers an ace. 

After some blathering intro about how Colletti’s box doesn’t have air conditioning and this means that he stewing in his own sweat of impending failure – or some such thing – we get to the meat.

Colletti finished his season’s work late Monday night, acquiring enough players to satisfy most of the team’s postseason needs.

All but the one that burns brightest.

The lack of an ace starting pitcher is still hanging out there, blinding and brutal.

Off to a good start. With wildfires torching much of the LA area (including close enough to Dodger Stadium to see giant plumes of smoke) Plaschke starts off with a reference to something that “burns the brightest,” that is “hanging out there, blinding and brutal”. Way to care about the people suffering, Bill. 

(Yes, I know that’s not what he means. But hey, if he can twist things around to come up with ridiculous metaphors, it’s only fair to do it right back to him, right?)

Colletti has done a masterful job of collecting every other imaginable championship piece, but none of it will work without an ace starter.

Why? Says you? It’s worked well enough to get the best record in the NL and second-best in MLB, hasn’t it? Baseball’s about more than “ace starters”, Bill. Just ask the Royals how well they’re doing despite having Zack Greinke, baseball’s best pitcher. 

Jim Thome and Ronnie Belliard will be nice late-inning threats — if the Dodgers can hold the lead that long.

Best ERA in baseball. 4th best starters ERA in baseball. Best relievers ERA in baseball, and it’s not even close. 135 more runs scored than their opponents, best in baseball – even better than the Yankees. What exactly makes you think that they won’t have leads?

George Sherrill has been nearly unhittable as an eighth-inning setup man — if the Dodgers are winning that late.

Which… they usually are. Still not seeing the problem here, Billy.

Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla are nice fourth starters — if the Dodgers are still in series contention.

So now you’re predicting the Dodgers are going to be swept in the first round or down 3-0 in the NLCS? I’m keeping this one for October.

Oh, and, guess what: you’re wrong. Padilla probably doesn’t even make the postseason roster, and Garland would be the 5th starter (behind Wolf/Billingsley/Kershaw/Kuroda) and is unlikely to get a start. Nice try, though.

The Dodgers can be confident in nearly every player at every position, except the most important player in the most tenuous spot.

Every player at every position, eh? So you’re not all that worried about the lousy seasons of Rafael Furcal, James Loney, & Russell Martin? Because if there’s any cause for concern, it’s right there. But since they don’t get a fancy newspaper word like “ace”, they’re not worth discussing. They’re fine. Got it.

Who will take the ball in their first game in the first full week of October?

Who will set the tone the way Cole Hamels set the tone for last year’s Philadelphia Phillies?

Who will throw the first roundhouse the way Josh Beckett once punched it for the Boston Red Sox?

wolfvsdbacks.jpgI’m not going to pretend that Randy Wolf is at the level of guys like that have been, because he’s a solid pitcher having an excellent year, and not more. Still, it’s hard to ignore how great he’s been this year, as he’s got a 2.80 ERA in his last 13 starts. Besides, funny thing about baseball… your pitcher isn’t facing the other pitcher. He’s facing the other offense. If the other team’s top guy shuts down the Dodger offense, as has been known to happen, it’s not really going to matter whether Wolf is excellent or merely just good.

The Phillies have Hamels and Cliff Lee. The St. Louis Cardinals have Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The San Francisco Giants have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Is that the same Cole Hamels who’s having the worst season of his career? Declining K rates, increasing hit rates, 4.26 ERA? So let’s not pretend he’s going to be Cole Hamels of 2008, no questions asked. 

Clearly, the rest of those guys are great, but if you ask me if I’m trading the Dodgers 25 man roster for the Giants just so I can have Cain and Lincecum and absolutely no offense whatsoever, then there’s no chance of that. It’s a team game. If Manny, Kemp, and the boys don’t get it going against those top pitchers, it’s all over anyway.

The Dodgers?

“That’s what the rest of the season will tell us,” Colletti said.

So far, so-so.

Except… for all of the stats I posted above saying how the Dodgers have allowed the lowest ERA in baseball, and have the best bullpen in baseball. Funny thing how that works; if you realize your starters might only be good for 5-6 innings, you load up your pen with quality arms to finish it off. Really, am I going to be crushed if Chad Billingsley is great for 5.2 innings and we have to see a fresh Sherrill/Kuo/Troncoso/etc. rather than force Bills out there due to some bygone notion of “starters go deep?” That’s important in the regular season when you don’t want to wear out your pen. It’s far less so in October when there’s ample days off.

If the playoffs began this week, their top starter would be Randy Wolf, who has 274 career appearances but zero in the postseason.

Now this I love. Talk about not presenting the whole story. How many postseason appearances do Cliff Lee, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and hell, let’s even throw in Roy Halladay, have? That’s right – zero. You just keep making up the story that fits your mindset, Bill.

Their second starter would be Chad Billingsley, who has disappointed the organization with his inability to either act or pitch like an ace. Not to mention, his career postseason earned-run average is 7.24.

billingsleyvsmets.jpgI won’t deny that Billingsley’s second half has been a struggle, but what the hell is this “act like an ace” business. Are you really going back to the same tired never-was-a-story-except-you-kept-harping-on-it business of Chad not throwing at people in the playoffs last year? God, let it go. Oh, and a 7.24 postseason ERA doesn’t mean much in just 13.2 innings, especially when one of those starts was excellent.

The other night in Cincinnati, Billingsley shook his head and said what the Dodgers hate to hear.

“Lately, I haven’t been able to find it, and I don’t know what it is,” he said.

Unfortunately, I can’t argue that this worries the hell out of me, but it’s sort of immaterial. There’s no way the Dodgers were getting enough starters better than Billingsley to deprive him of a postseason start, so all you can do is hope for the best with him.

Their third starter will be Clayton Kershaw, who will be a postseason ace in coming years, but not now, not at age 21, not with the sort of inconsistency that could end a game early.

“Sometimes, with young guys, you don’t know until you know,” Colletti said.

Inconsistency or not, he’s still got a 2.94 ERA and has allowed the fewest hits/9 of anyone in the entire league. Sure, there’s the chance he could go out and throw 103 pitches in 3 innings, but are you really going to pretend that a guy that talented isn’t worth throwing in October? As Colletti says, you don’t know until you know, and you won’t know until you give him a shot - and don’t forget, Bill, Kershaw has more postseason innings than Cain, Lincecum, and Lee combined.

Agreed. This is why the Dodgers should not have taken a chance. This is why Colletti should have offered more to the Cleveland Indians for Lee.

It is a failed trade that could haunt them through October, a failure of the entire Dodgers organization to either offer or cultivate the right prospects.

By all accounts, Colletti offered a package that included Midwestern League co-MVP Dee Gordon, as part of a four player deal, so let’s not pretend that the offer was a lowball. Most indications are that the Indians preferred the Phillies package of lower-ceiling players who were closer to the majors than the Dodgers package. Calling that a “failure” is a bit much; you can’t force Cleveland to like your package more than Philadelphia’s.

It could be that Colletti overvalued his kids. It could be that Logan White’s system has slowed in its development of kids.

I can’t even fathom how a man who’s watching a team with the best record in the league, fueled largely by the outstanding work of the farm system, is going to dump on Logan White right now.

Or it could be that this belongs on Frank McCourt’s desk. Remember that last summer, in an effort to save money, the Dodgers traded some of their best prospects for players — Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Greg Maddux — instead of just buying them.

This… doesn’t even make sense. “Instead of just buying them”? That’s not exactly how baseball works – this isn’t the supermarket. Then again, assuming that Plaschke has any clue about how baseball works is a stretch, so I’ll leave him be on this one. Besides, Andy LaRoche is hitting .244 in Pittsburgh while Bryan Morris has a 5.73 ERA in A ball, so don’t tell me that Manny Ramirez wasn’t worth that.

For Maddux, they gave up two low-minors prospects (Michael Watt & Eduardo Perez) who are still in A-ball and on no one’s top prospect list, so stop pretending as though they are. As for Blake, well, we’ve discussed Carlos Santana enough around here for my taste.

The bottom line is that, in acquiring Lee, the Phillies traded from a system that had four of Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects.

The Dodgers had zero players on that list.

This is so ridiculous I don’t even know where to start. Would you rather have guys on the prospect list, or guys who have been home grown and are the core of your club, like Matt Kemp, Billingsley, Broxton, Kershaw, & Martin? Of course the Dodgers don’t have anyone on that list; all of them have graduated to the bigs. And while you’re bagging on Logan White, higher than any Phillie on that list is Carlos Santana, a Dodger product.

Besides, three of the four Phillies on that list weren’t even part of the trade. Most people think the Indians got jobbed on the deal. So again, point invalid.

So Lee went to Philadelphia, where, typically for an American League pitcher going to the lighter-hitting National League, he is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA.

And guess who could be on the mound against the Dodgers in October?

“I thought we had the guys,” Colletti said of the Lee deal. “I really thought we had the guys to get it done, but you never know how organizations value their players.”

Exactly my point; the Dodgers made a solid offer and the Indians decided, for their own reasons, they liked the Phillies offer better. What’s the problem here?

Judging from raw statistics, the Dodgers’ pitching is set, with the league’s best ERA and lowest opponent batting average.

Didn’t you just spend half your article saying how poor the pitching staff is?

But postseason pitching is about raw, period. It’s not about cold statistics as much as swagger and savvy and stuff. Even though starting pitchers work less than anyone in a World Series, it is no coincidence that 11 of the last 23 Series featured a starting pitcher as MVP.

Ah, yes. “Swagger” and “savvy” and “stuff”. As though Billingsley and Kershaw, for any of their other flaws, don’t have the “stuff” to hang with anyone else already mentioned. Also, the MVP stat is laughable, because another way to put this would be “less than half of the last 23 Series, and just 1 of the last 5, had a starting pitcher as MVP,” and that’s without even including the fact that MVP awards are completely meaningless. I mean, David Eckstein won one.

The top pitchers in championship rotations bring the heat. If that guy doesn’t emerge soon, the Dodgers will be feeling it.

The correct point of view is, “if the Dodgers offense can’t hit that guy, the Dodgers will be feeling it.”

There’s no question that Plaschke is a joke, but apparently I need to make this point for the 12038123th time: regardless of whether you want an “ace”, there was none available. Toronto’s demands for Halladay was laughable, and they made a competitive offer for Lee. What other aces did you want to go get?

I’m not pretending that I don’t wish we had a Lee or a Halladay, because of course I do. But pretending that not having them means that the season is doomed is really short-selling all of the great work the team has done so far in collecting the best record in the NL.

Update: Reader Tim points out that even ESPN’s Rob Neyer realizes how batshit crazy Plaschke is, too:

Cole Hamels is little (if any) better than the Dodgers’ best starters. Matt Cain is little better (if any) than the Dodgers’ best starters. The Rockies’ best starters are no better than the Dodgers’ best starters. The Braves’ best starters are no better than the Dodgers’ best starters.

It’s fair to say that the Dodgers can’t quite match Carpenter and Wainwright. But nobody can. Not in the National League, anyway. It’s fairly rare for one team to feature two legitimate (at this point) Cy Young candidates.

What gets Plaschke’s goat, I suppose, is that Chad Billingsley leads the Dodgers with just a dozen wins and nobody else has more than nine. Clayton Kershaw, with the lowest ERA (2.94) and (perhaps) the most talent, is just 8-7. It’s been an odd season that way.