Note: I don’t want to make a new post and shove this review down the page for the sake of lousy Scott Podsednik, so I’ll share it here: Dylan Hernandez reports that Podsednik has declined his option and will be a free agent. Hooray!
John Ely (A)
5.49 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, -1.0 WAR
I bet you’re dying to know how a pitcher with a 4-10 record, 5.49 ERA and a -1.0 WAR pulls an A, right? Well, before the season started, who the hell was John Ely, as far as Dodger fans were concerned? Even Andre Ethier didn’t know who he was. He was just one of the unknowns who came back in return for Juan Pierre, and that was about the extent most people bothered to even think about him. (Or as Chad from MOKM said about the return at the time, “Whatever, they could be dead for all I care.”)
He didn’t do much to change that impression with a lousy debut on a cold, wet April day in New York, allowing five earned runs in six innings, particularly damaging at a time when Vicente Padilla was injured, Charlie Haeger was imploding, and Chad Billingsley was off to a slow start. With James McDonald battling a broken fingernail in AAA, if Ely couldn’t hang in there, there no were other good options. Josh Towers? Seth Etherton? Yeeesh.
In Ely’s second start, he allowed Milwaukee just one earned run over 6.2 IP, striking out 7 without walking any. Then he allowed just two earned runs against Arizona, again not walking a man, and repeated the feat against Houston. From April 28 – May 22, he faced 89 batters without issuing a single walk, helping him go six straight games (the first six after his debut) without once allowing more than two earned runs.
Coming out of nowhere as he did at the most critical time in the season, you might say we’d found a new hero:
John Ely put up yet another quality start against Houston, going seven innings while allowing just two runs, striking out eight – a new career high – and walking zero. However, he achieved even more than you think he did tonight.
It’s been just four starts, but Ely is quickly becoming somewhat of a folk hero among Dodger fans. Of course, that’ll happen when you’re a guy who 98% of Dodger fans hadn’t heard of (including your own right fielder, and let’s face it, the left fielder didn’t know who you were either), and you come up with the rotation falling apart and immediately contribute, all the while doing it completely opposite from how the other young starters are doing it.
Of course, it didn’t last forever. His next three starts were rough, and though he rebounded with back-to-back 7 IP, 1 ER outings in late June, he failed to get out of the 3rd inning in either of his next two starts and was sent back to the minors until September. I’d worried that this was coming even back in May:
Let’s be clear here; Ely is not going to keep this up. He’s not a 0.94 WHIP pitcher over a full season, especially not when he wasn’t close to that in the minors. There’s going to come a day, probably soon, where he doesn’t have his pinpoint control, or batters don’t flail at his looping curveball, and sit on his mid-80s fastball.
And that’s exactly what happened, both after his great start and in four mediocre September/October outings. Look at it this way; in Ely’s first nine starts, he had a 41/13 K/BB ratio, helping him to hold batters to a .640 OPS and a 3.38 ERA. But in his last nine starts, that ratio skyrocketed to 35/27, and it’s no surprise that he got rocked in that time – .999 OPS and 8.18 ERA. Or this: he gave up 12 homers on the year, and after going eight starts in a row without one, every last one came in his last ten starts.
Ely’s never going to be more than a #4/5 starter, and in his second half he wasn’t even good enough to be a major league pitcher. If the Dodgers start off 2011 with him in the rotation, that’s probably not a good sign; you can do much worse than having him as the 6th or 7th best guy, ready to step in when injuries hit, but if you start off the year with him then that means you’re almost certainly going to have to suffer starts from pitchers worse than him. But he keeps the A, if only because the Dodger rotation was teetering on the brink, and he stepped in from nowhere with a run of outstanding starts.
Vicente Padilla (C+)
4.07 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.7 WAR
I’m not even sure where to start here. How about the completely unexpected Opening Day start?
Thanks to the magic of Twitter, let’s see the immediate reaction from several people I have a lot of respect for:
jay_jaffe Why, did he shoot Kershaw and Billingsley?
craigcalcaterra This has to be a joke, right?
truebluela What the hell?
DodgerDivorce You’ve got to be kidding me.
Padilla repaid that trust by being awful on Opening Day (7 ER in 4.1 IP) and pitching just 4.1 IP in his second start as well. He was better in his next two starts before landing on the disabled list with a forearm injury, a malady which knocked him out for two months until late June, returning with an unremarkable start in Boston.
On the morning of June 25, Padilla had made just five starts, allowing 40 baserunners in 27 innings, helping him post a 6.67 ERA – not exactly the kind of performance you’d expect to see from your Opening Day starter. But on June 25, the Yankees came to town, and were held to two runs over seven innings. On June 30, he held the Giants to one run over seven innings, and Padilla and his “soap bubble” were off and running.
From June 25 – August 9, Padilla was simply sublime:
Padilla took a no-hitter into the 7th in throwing his fourth career shutout (and first as a Dodger), baffling the Padres with painfully slow “soap bubbles” scattered among 90+ mph heaters, with James Loney just inches away from snaring a liner that may have kept the no-no going.
That, amazingly, is Padilla’s eighth straight start without having allowed more than two earned runs. No, really: look at his game log since his return from the DL:
As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, I can’t wait to see what the free agent market does for him. He missed two months with arm trouble, accidentally shot himself in the offseason, has a long reputatation as a jerk… and is pitching like an absolute ace.
But that’s where the magic ended. Padilla had a mediocre start in Philly on August 10 (4 ER over 5 IP) and a disaster start in Atlanta on August 15 (8 ER in 4.1 IP) before heading back to the DL with a neck injury. He came back for one forgettable start in September (3 ER over 4 IP) in San Diego, and was back on the shelf due to the neck.
At the end of the day, Padilla threw just 95 innings, though he did end up with career bests as far as K/9 and WHIP. He seems to have finally found a comfort zone in Los Angeles – no small feat given his well-known personal history – and the run of injuries this year should keep his price down. Yet he’s also proven that he’s effective when he’s healthy, so if he’s willing to come back for one year, ~$4m? I’d have no problem trusting one of the two spots at the back end of the rotation to him.
Ted Lilly (B)
3.52 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.4 WAR
I feel like we’ve been talking about Ted Lilly quite a lot lately, so I’m going to get through this one quickly.
When he arrived, I was incredibly unhappy at the deal, though this was far more because the deal was unnecessary than because I didn’t like Lilly:
Even if it is an improvement, is it one worth making? Lilly’s the 5th starter. You’ll never convince me he’s better than Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda, or Padilla right now, and the problems we’ve seen lately have been caused by non-existent offense and unreliable bullpen work, not poor starting pitching. Other than Ely’s poor last two starts, the most recent outings by #5 guys (Monasterios/James McDonald/Ely before those starts) have been overall a soup of mediocrity, no different than any other team. So if you’re using some of your trade chips, you really ought to be doing it on an area that’s a big problem, not to mildly improve an area that’s not desperately in need of it.
Again, I don’t mind seeing Lilly as a Dodger, but trading anything more than a non-prospect for him makes it completely not worth it. Ted Lilly is not the piece that propels you into October. And since he’s making $12m this year, you know he won’t be offered arbitration, so you can’t even look forward to any draft picks. If you were going to trade for a middling lefty who won’t really help that much this year, it might as well have been for Paul Maholm, who’s at least signed for 2011.
He started his Dodger career by being amazing for a month, but as the team fell further out of contention, I thought there was a better way he could contribute, by swapping him to a contender:
He’s been about a thousand times more effective than even the most optimistic among us would have ever hoped for, and for that he’s to be commended. Now if you remember, when he was acquired, I didn’t like the trade. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Lilly, who I acknowledged was an upgrade to the rotation, but that the the rotation wasn’t the problem as much as the offense was, and that the Dodgers weren’t good enough this year to be trading the future for 2010 anyway.
Think about it – Lilly’s good, and has been for a long time, but he’s not this good. His BABIP as a Dodger is just .138, and that’s not going to last forever. If he keeps this up for the rest of the season, that’s great, but it’s not going to put the Dodgers in the playoffs and it’s only going to price him out of their league should they wish to retain him in the offseason. Much more likely, he is at the absolute peak of his value right now, because with the performance he’s shown, there’s really nowhere to go but down.
The point is, Ted Lilly‘s been awesome for the Dodgers, and there’s two ways to extract value from him for the remainder of the season; let him make 6-7 more starts for LA and help you finish 7 games out, or let him go to the playoffs with another team and possibly bring back prospects, while finishing 10 games out.
I know which route I’d take.
Lilly then went out and gave up 7 runs in 4 innings in Colorado to kick off a streak where he lost four of his last five starts, with the sinking Dodgers declining to trade him to the Yankees after they had claimed him on waivers.
After the season, I hoped that the Dodgers would offer him arbitration, arguing that his declining velocity, advancing age, and increasing homer rate might make a longer deal an untenable risk, as I outlined here:
To be sure, I’m happy to see him back in 2011, but we can’t be short-sighted about this. Remember, Lilly just finished a 4-year, $40m contract, which is an average annual value of $10m/year. Somehow, despite being 4 years older, less than a year past shoulder surgery, and on the decline, the Dodgers saw fit to give him a deal which increases that value?
I’m not arguing that he wouldn’t have found a contract like that on the market, because he would have. I would have just preferred it be some other team to make a foolish investment. Spending money does not equal spending wisely, because while Lilly’s a good pitcher, he’s hardly a difference-maker, yet he’s being paid like one. Though I’m glad he’s back for 2011, I really think we’re going to regret this deal in 2012 and 2013 – which is basically exactly what I said about Blake’s deal after 2008.
I’ve softened on this somewhat since, as a large part of my concern was the idea that the Dodgers would be able to make only one big signing this offseason, and if Ted Lilly‘s the best they can do, that’s not going to be enough. As signs point to both the payroll being larger than anticipated and the free agent market being more expensive than in recent years, the deal doesn’t look quite as bad. I’m still not looking forward to paying him $13m (it’s backloaded) in 2013, of course.
Next! Carlos Monasterios lives the dream! Charlie Haeger fails miserably! Ramon Ortiz gives up another homer! And MSTI regrets sorting pitchers into threes, because a post with those three is miserable! (Trust me, though, the picture on Ortiz’ card will make it worth it.) It’s starting pitchers, part three!