MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Third Base

85toppscaseyblakeCasey Blake (B+)
(.280/.363/.468 18hr 79rbi)

I just want to make this abundantly clear, because I’ve been getting grief over this for months: I don’t hate Casey Blake. I like him just fine, as he’s a solid 3B who had a pretty good year, and that’s not even considering the outstanding beard. I just think that far too much was given up in the trade that brought him to LA, and I think that giving him a guaranteed third year for 2011 last offseason was unneccessary. That’s all. Look, this is even what I said in the very first post regarding his arrival:

Look, I don’t really mind getting Casey Blake. He’s a useful guy. I just think that what Colletti gave up to acquire him is mind-blowingly out of proportion.

And that’s exactly the case today, though we of course know a little bit more about why Colletti had to give up Carlos Santana just to save a measly $2m. Back to 2009, Blake had, surprisingly, one of the best years of his career. What was more impressive to me was the timing, because while Blake had hot streaks and cold streaks, he got hot exactly when the club needed it the most – when Manny was suspended. As I said in our first half review:

Say this for Casey Blake, the man knows that timing is everything. On May 6, the day before Manny was suspended, Blake was hitting just .225/.324/.427. In the 46 games Blake played during Manny’s absence, Blake really stepped up, putting up a .319/.371/.530 line, with 6 homers. As the 11th most valuable 3B in MLB by VORP, the Most Interesting Man in the World has been more than serviceable at the hot corner.

Now sure, he suffered a severe power outage after that (just 3 homers in 2 months), and it’s true that he completely disappeared in the playoffs (just 5 singles in 32 plate appearances), which is what’s keeping me from giving him an A. The fact of the matter is, Blake ended up being the 9th most valuable MLB 3B by VORP, and if I’d have told you that he’d be a top 10 3B before the year, you’d have taken that in a heartbeat, right? Even better, his fielding, which was suspect, actually improved. I think you could see this with your naked eye, but even the relevant fielding stats – which had him as a slightly below-average 3B in previous years – had him pegged as being about 7-8 runs above average. So if you take all that into account and forget how he arrived in LA, all you can say is, “well done, Casey. Well done.”

Now let’s work towards making you the four-corners power bat off the bench in 2011 that you really ought to be. 

85toppsmarklorettaMark Loretta (F-)
(.232/.309/.276 0hr 25rbi)

Hey, look at Mark Loretta’s card! He’s doing exactly what he does best, and that’s congratulating others on a job well done. You’ll notice there’s not a whole lot of pictures out there of Dodger teammates congratulating Loretta on his own achievements, because, well, there really weren’t any (game-winning single in NLDS Game 2 aside, of course).

Let’s look back and see what exactly Loretta was signed to do, which, admittedly, I loved at the time:

I know I’ve been pretty negative about everything lately, but I love this signing, especially for just $1.4 million over one year. In fact, when the rumor first popped up a week ago, I was completely in favor of it – why wouldn’t I want a guy who could play all four infield positions and absolutely destroys lefties, especially when it seems as though at least half of the infield will be lefty batters? DodgerThoughts points out that Loretta’s had an OBP of .345 or better since 1997, and that’s fantastic. He’s basically Nomar, but better: he might have never had Nomar’s pop, but he can play more positions, and he won’t rack up an extra $10 million in doctor bills.

So how’d that work out? Well, not only did he have the worst season of his career, (345 major leaguers had at least 200 plate appearances this year, and by VORP, Loretta was 330th) he got worse as the year went on. A very nice April (1.050 OPS) was followed by five months in which he never managed a monthly OPS over .703 – and included an absolutely horrific July in which he had 3 singles in 30 plate appearances.

I’m not going to kill Ned Colletti for this one, because I thought it was a great idea at the time, and it just didn’t work out. For just $1.4m, anyway, it was a worthy gamble – as long as they cut the cord and don’t try to bring him back, Mark Sweeney-style.

85toppsblakedewitt

Blake DeWitt (inc.)
(.204/.245/.388 2hr 4rbi)

I probably should have used a picture of an airplane or a postcard from New Mexico, because DeWitt spent pretty much his entire season flying back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Albuquerque. How many times did he get recalled? Five? Six? I don’t even remember, and the exact number isn’t even important, because DeWitt was the definiton of “26th man” this year. Talk about a slight difference from his 2008 of “out of nowhere Opening Day 3B and playoff 2B” to his scenic tour of the southwestern United States in 2009, right?

You can’t put any stock whatsoever into his MLB stats, because 53 plate appearances spread out amongst 6 stints on the team are meaningless. That said, his minor league line from this year is indeed troubling. In 2008 at AAA, he had a line of .306/.366/.486 – an .852 OPS (granted, in just 124 AB). In 2009, every part of that line fell, to a .776 OPS.

Still, DeWitt will be just 23 for the majority of 2010, and it’s hard to really kill him on his AAA numbers considering how much he was jerked back and forth – and if there is a bit of hope, it’s his 44/48 K/BB line in the minors. I suppose at this point he’s at least got a prayer of being 2010′s Opening Day 2B, if the Dodgers decide to go the cheap route, but it seems incredibly unlikely. If that’s the case, it’s nice to know that you’ve got a guy like DeWitt in the minors, who should hopefully still be improving and might be a starter on other teams, ready to step in.

Next! Rafael Furcal’s back recovery! Juan Castro’s zombie-like ability to stay employed! Chin-Lung Hu’s token appearance! It’s shortstop!

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