MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Secondary Starting Pitchers

Before we get back to our season reviews, two quick items:

1) Yes, I saw Plaschke’s article about the 87-year-old Dodger scout who got his salary cut from $18,000 to $8,000, and yes, I share his disgust at the fact that this man who apparently has done so many great things is suffering a paycut while we read about Jamie McCourt’s financial atrocities. The cynic in me might add that a scout who has signed zero major leaguers since joining the Dodgers in 1994 should be pretty happy he even still has a job, but still. If he’s not worth the $10,000 for his scouting abilities, avoiding the public relations fiasco this is causing the team should surely have been worth that cash.

2) Check out SimonOnSports, where I answered some questions about the Dodger offseason.

Now, on to the rest of the starting pitchers…

V85toppsvicentepadillaicente Padilla (A+)
(4-0, 3.20, 1.220 WHIP)

Say this for Vicente Padilla: he’s not boring. When he was signed in August, the reaction was a collective, “meh?” For just $100,000, the cost was negligible, though of course there was the significant baggage of “known douchebag whose former teammates cheered the release of one of their starters even though they were in a playoff push.”

Still, don’t forget that he came in with zero expectations, and in fact worried those who thought he’d start headhunting and cause brawls, as if that made sense. Not only did he not start the latest round of riots in LA, he was actually… good. He allowed 2, 1, 2, and 0 earned runs in his first four starts. After two mediocre outings and a bullpen appearance, and with his playoff roster spot on the line, he came back with a dominating 10 strikeout performance against the Rockies on the last day of the season.

Then, he was the surprise starter in NLDS Game 3, pitching 7 scoreless innings of 4-hit ball. This earned him an even more surprising start in NLCS Game 2, in which he was again fantastic: just 1 run over 7.1 innings. At that point, it was hard to argue with the idea of starting him again in Game 5… after which it was hard to imagine that the season ended in the hands of Vicente Padilla, because he allowed 6 ER in 3 IP.

Oh, and then he was accidentally shot in the thigh in Nicaragua last week, a self-inflicted wound. Or one inflicted by his bodyguard. While hunting. Or at a shooting range. We never did find out the truth there, did we?

So, the man’s a nutjob. Still, Padilla’s 2 excellent playoff starts can’t be forgotten, and there were no clubhouse issues reported at all. I can’t imagine that he gets any sort of longterm deal with his baggage, but if he’s willing to come back on a one-year deal with an option, for a few million at most, then I’d happily welcome him back.

No guns, though, please.

85toppsjongarlandJon Garland (A-)
(3-2, 2.72, 1.266 WHIP)

I’ll admit it. We’ve done nothing but denigrate Jon Garland around here. Right from the day the trade was announced, I was against it, saying:

Did we need him? Well, last winter this would have been a “yes”, when we all saw inning-eating issues in the future and I advocated signing him for just that reason. So, yeah, we needed him in January. We needed him in April. We probably needed him in July. But now, when it’s already September? What’s he going to have, 5 starts? Maybe?

and

Survey says… We’ll of course have more to say on this once we know who the player is going back to Arizona. Right now, the feeling is more “worried” with a good chance of “horrified“. 

We’ve since found out that the player going back to Arizona is indeed Tony Abreu, which has made an unnecessary trade look even worse, and we’ve been bemoaning the situation ever since. Hey, it’s not like the team has a hole at second base, right?

But it’s important to remember that none of that is Jon Garland’s fault. Having to send Abreu back looks more and more to be directly related to the McCourt divorce disaster and the refusal to pick up any of Garland’s salary. Since the Diamondbacks didn’t save much money, they got a better player. That has absolutely nothing to do with Garland’s performance as a Dodger, and though he wasn’t really needed, he was pretty good when called upon.

In six starts as a Dodger, Garland posted a variety of stats that all would have been career highs if sustained for a full season: ERA (2.72), WHIP (1.266), K/9 (6.4), K/BB (2.89). He contributed five very good starts before a disastrous finale against San Diego. So Garland, more or less, did what he was asked to do. That’s all you can grade a man on.

Still, it should be noted that his opposition while a Dodger was hardly a murderer’s row. In 6 Dodger starts, Garland got to face Arizona (twice), Pittsburgh (twice), San Francisco, and San Diego, so let’s not act like he was shutting down the Phillies & Yankees.

85toppscharliehaegerCharlie Haeger (A)
(1-1, 3.32, 1.053 WHIP)

Free Charlie Haeger! Each year, I seem to latch onto a relatively unheralded minor leaguer or fringe vet and trumpet what they could do for the big team at a fraction of the cost of a name veteran. In 2007 and ’08, it was Delwyn Young. Later in 2008, we were also on board with Terry Tiffee. This year? Captain Knuckleball.

I won’t pretend that the novelty of the knuckleball isn’t at least part of what drew me to Haeger, but it’s more than that. First of all, he was successful in a tough climate in Albuquerque, making the PCL All Star team by going 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA in a notoriously tough park to pitch in. Then, once he reached the bigs, he was everything we’d hoped for – 3.32 ERA in 6 outings (3 starts) with a sparking 1.053 WHIP. For a team that heard all year that their starters weren’t throwing enough innings, why wouldn’t you want a knuckleballer with the ability to get things out?

I’m such a big backer of Haeger that I included him in my 2010 plan, saying:

10) Give Charlie Haeger a chance. I’m not saying to just hand the guy a starting gig, but he does seem to be completely invisible around the Dodgers, and it’s foolish to write him off. We’ve been running a “free Charlie Haeger!” campaign around here all summer, and he’s done nothing to change that.

The guy was one of the top pitchers in AAA last year, despite being in the high-altitude deathpad of Albuquerque. Then when he came up to the bigs, he was more than adequate – 19 IP in 6 games (2 starts), allowing a WHIP of just 1.053 and an ERA of 3.32.

With all of the complaints we heard all year about how the Dodger starters weren’t going  deep into games, why wouldn’t we want to see a knuckleballer who could soak up innings? Even if he’s “just” league-average, there’s still a lot of value in that. So give him a chance to crack the bullpen as a long man and spot starter, available to step in if/when someone gets hurt.

What’s the downside here? He’s cheap, can throw a lot of innings, and seems to be effective. Go with it.

85toppsericmiltonEric Milton (B)
(2-1, 3.80, 1.521 WHIP)

Are we sure Eric Milton was a Dodger in 2009? I mean, I see his card to the left. I see his stats above. I just have almost zero recollection of him actually pitching.

Still, he gets a B just because expectations for him were almost Schmidt-esque. After missing most of 2007 and ’08 with Tommy John surgery, Milton signed a minor league deal with a spring training invite. How’d he do in spring training? Well, this is what I wrote about him on April 1 in my post predicting who’d make the Opening Day roster:

#24. Lefty pitcher who should enjoy 2 weeks of big league service time until Will Ohman comes up on April 14… Well, it’s sure as hell not going to be Eric Milton, not after he added 8 runs in 2 1/3 innings to the 10.07 ERA he brought into today’s game.

So down to Albuquerque it was, where he was actually pretty decent - 2.83 ERA and 27/6 K/BB ratio at that point. Once he got called up in May, well, look. What can you say about the five starts Milton had? The end results were decent enough (2.89 ERA through the first four, though 3.80 overall after a disastrous fifth outing), the way he got there a little less so (11.4 hits/9 and a 1.521 WHIP – woof), and then he hurt his back, requiring surgery that put him out for the year.

I’m honestly struggling to say anything else about Eric Milton’s contributions this year. Good lord, just wait until I get to Travis Schlichting.

85toppsjasonschmidtJason Schmidt (RIP)
(2-2, 5.60, 1.585 WHIP)

na na na na…

na na NA na…

hey hey hey!

good bye…

Our long national nightmare is over! We no longer have to see “RHP – Jason Schmidt (shoulder)” taking up space on the 60-day DL, or more importantly on the payroll. To be fair, it’s important to remember that Schmidt was a class act through all of this. There’s a lot of guys who would have hung it up long ago, but Schmidt did his best to rehab and work his way back, managing to make four mostly terrible starts this year – though one was a completely misleading one-hitter over six innings against the Braves. (Misleading because he walked five in those six innings).

So the blame doesn’t go to Schmidt; it goes to Ned Colletti, who admitted that he knew Schmidt was injured when he signed him. Still, it was completely clear that the man just had nothing left. Sorry to see a great competitor go out like that… but I’d be even sorrier to see him still pitching.

Next! Jonathan Broxton’s still awesome! George Sherrill’s funky hat!! Troncoso and Belisario, oh my! Hong-Chih Kuo’s explosive elbow! And Jeff Weaver lives!! It’s relievers, part 1!

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  1. [...] Just like we did with Jon Garland, it’s important to just look at George Sherrill’s contribution rather than the price paid when assessing his season. Giving up Josh Bell was a steep price for Sherrill, especially since Bell got even better after joining Baltimore and might be their 3B for years to come. But that’s not Sherrill’s fault – he had nothing to do with that. [...]