In Defense of Blake DeWitt

I don’t really believe this is going to happen, but…

To create room on the roster for Furcal, an infielder will have to go.  The obvious move is to designate Nick Green for assignment, but Torre noted the club has two choices: Green, or optioning Blake DeWitt.  When asked if it would be tough to send down the club’s opening day second baseman, Torre said, “It’s always tough to be sent down,” but also said a decision has not yet been made. (via TBLA)

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

I’m not even going to bother explaining why Nick Green is useless. I’ve done so many, many times, and while I won’t pretend that nine plate appearances is a substantial sample size, it’s also not like he’s done anything to distinguish himself with the one single he’s accumulated. If this happens, the issue here wouldn’t even be “DeWitt or Green”, as they’re making it sound.

No, the issue would be “Blake DeWitt vs. overvaluing Jamey Carroll“. As you probably remember, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Carroll signing this offseason. Yet, even I’ll admit that Carroll’s been a nice surprise, playing nearly every single inning at shortstop since Furcal went down in the first place. As expected, he’s provided little range and zero power, but he’s been solid on the balls he can get to, and his .377 OBP overall is nice. Besides that, he’s really stepped it up since he took over the job, with a .396 OBP in the 25 games that Furcal has missed.

Coming from an emergency backup, Carroll’s been all you could expect, and considering what a disaster shortstop was in 2008 when Furcal was down, he’s really done nicely. I approve. Yet, let’s not confuse this with Carroll being a plus player, or someone who ought to be a starter, because he’s not. If DeWitt did go down, the team would essentially be saying that they prefer Carroll in the lineup everyday rather than DeWitt, since Carroll would presumably slide over to be the starting 2B.

DeWitt may still be waiting for his first home run, but that’s really the only blemish on his season so far. His 106 OPS+ means he’s been an above-average hitter this year, as compared to Carroll’s below-average 88 OPS+, and DeWitt has also really started to heat up. Since the calendar turned to May, he’s got a .288/.333/.492 line, with nine extra-base hits (as compared to Carroll’s three in the entire season). That’s an .825 OPS, which is fine by me.

On defense, he’s clearly been a work in progress, but he’s improving there too. Obviously, defensive stats are more prone to small sample size worries than anything else, but even all of the accepted metrics have him at near average or just slightly below it, which is also better than Carroll’s marks.

Again, I don’t think this will happen, and I’m fine with Carroll’s play thus far. But if the unthinkable occurs – if DeWitt is sent down just as he’s heating up, in order to play Carroll more and hold onto Green – it would be a massive mistake. Personally, I’m fine with just DFA’ing Green when Furcal returns, because I consider him to be of no value whatsoever, but knowing how the Dodgers roll, it’ll probably be a Haeger-esque phantom DL stint. As if anyone would really claim him on waivers, anyway.

******

In far sadder news, Jose Lima has apparently died of a heart attack today in Los Angeles. Lima was a Dodger for only one of his thirteen seasons, but that didn’t stop him from earning a place in team history. After a 13-5 2004 season which he described as “Lima Time” and had his wife become a minor internet celebrity thanks to her infamous picture while he sang the national anthem, he tossed a complete game shutout at the Cardinals in the NLDS – the first playoff game the Dodgers had won since 1988, and the only won they’d win until 2008. After his one season in LA, he had a horrible 2005 in Kansas City, a short stint with the Mets in 2006, and that was the end of his career. He played in Korea and independent ball in Canada and California trying to get back – that is, when he wasn’t popping up in bizarre Deadspin stories about his ex-wife trying to track him down.

An email from the Dodgers included the news that he’d actually been at the game on Friday night, and received a standing ovation from the crowd when introduced (the picture at right). RIP, Lima Time.

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  2. [...] this sounds odd to you, it’s because when I wrote a post defending DeWitt a few weeks ago, when there were rumors he may get sent down rather than Nick Green, I said this: [...]

  3. [...] (both doubles) in April, though he made up for it with an excellent .382 OBP. Despite ridiculous rumors that he’d be sent down in May, he managed to increase his OPS each month of the season he was with LA, from .681 in April to .745 [...]