Hold On, Ely’s Coming

(Update: Completely unexpectedly, I’ve been invited to be on Sirius/XM Fantasy Baseball tonight at 8:35p ET / 5:35p PT, so tune in.  XM 147 / Sirius 211.)

It’s an off-day, so at least the Dodgers can’t get shut out, right? Hey, it could be worse: the Red Sox are 0-6 and the population of Boston is about to plummet by 40% as half the inhabitants line up to leap off the Tobin Bridge. I joke, but so far we’re seeing exactly what we expected: relatively good starting pitching, a hit-or-miss bullpen, and just about no offense. Can’t say you’re surprised, right?

All indications are that John Ely will be recalled to make the Saturday start in San Diego, and I couldn’t agree with the decision more. If Ely’s going to succeed, there’s no better place than in Petco Park. Besides, as I laid out the other day, it makes no sense to DFA someone to recall Tim Redding, then risk losing him on his own DFA after one start. Since Jon Garland is all but certain to be ready the next time the spot comes up, it’s far, far easier to just call up Ely for one start and then send him back down immediately after. The question then becomes, of course, who loses their job on the 25-man roster; that would almost certainly be A.J. Ellis, simply because he has options left and the Dodgers are carrying three catchers. Ellis couldn’t be recalled for 10 days following his demotion (unless Hector Gimenez was injured), so you might see one of the rest of the usual grab-bag of roster fodder called up to sit on the bench before Garland is activated – Scott Elbert, Travis Schlichting, Russ Mitchell, or Jamie Hoffmann.

Speaking of the Isotopes, Chris Jackson of the Albuquerque Examiner kindly stopped by my comments section to lay out the early-season rotation. Dana Eveland starts the opener tonight, followed by Carlos Monasterios tomorrow, Randy Keisler (!) on Saturday, Alberto Bastardo in place of Ely on Sunday, and Redding on Monday.

On to other notes of the day…

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If you’ve been reading this blog for even a second, you know how little I think of saves, a statistic that tells you nothing about performance yet has completely changed the way the game is managed. Come on, the guy who comes into a bases-empty situation against the 6-7-8 hitters in the 9th is more valuable than the guy who gets out of a two-on, one-out jam against the meat of the lineup in the 8th just because of what inning it is? Please. In the same vein, blown saves are even worse offenders.

It’s with that in mind that I heartily recommend this look at “Shutdowns” and “Meltdowns” from FanGraphs, which even the article admits are nearly a year old but which I hadn’t known about until now. A quick definition:

Using Win Probability Added (WPA), it’s very easy to tell exactly how much a specific player contributed to their team on a game-by-game basis. If a player increased his team’s win probability by 6% (0.06 WPA), then they get a Shutdown. If a player made his team 6% more likely to lose (-0.06), they get a Meltdown. These cutoff points put Shutdowns and Meltdowns on a similar scale as Saves and Holds, meaning that 40 shutdowns is roughly as impressive as 40 saves. While the WPA aspect can take a bit to explain to saber newbies, having Shutdowns and Meltdowns on the same scale as Saves makes it much easier for new people to accept and understand.

This eliminates the difference between “closers” and “everyone else” and makes the 9th inning less important. As the article goes on to state, all-timers like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman still rank at the top (no one would buy the stat if they didn’t), but quality non-closing arms like Arthur Rhodes get their due as well. I recommend the full read; for the record, Jonathan Broxton‘s 2010 doesn’t appear on the noted leaders of either side, though Hong-Chih Kuo ranks 2nd in terms of highest ratio of Shutdowns to Meltdowns.

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As usual, I think T.J. Simers’ take on the ballpark violence issue is a bit over the top, because his schtick is well-known and his “data” consists of people emailing him to complain, as though anyone nutty enough to take Simers seriously was really going to write in to say “no, everything’s cool!” On the other hand, he’s taking the opportunity to turn this into yet another example of how the ownership of Frank McCourt has ruined the Dodgers – apparently Frank’s now even responsible for driving families away from games – so if Simers wants to take the approach of driving public opinion even further against Frank McCourt, that’s fine by me.

What happened to Bryan Stow (who is reportedly stabilizing) is no joke, of course, and we all hope not only for the best for him but also that his assailants are found and prosecuted. I suppose I’m just having a difficult time with the perception that this is some kind of Dodger Stadium-specific crisis, as though idiots don’t do awful things at football games in Philadelphia or basketball games in Miami. Yes, there should be more security, but you could have guards every 20 feet and you still couldn’t stop someone from randomly punching someone else. I’m all about personal responsibility, and the blame ought to be directed at the two animals who attacked an innocent fan.

Then again, when you’ve fired your head of security and neglected to replace him – as McCourt did last year – it’s hard to drum up a whole lot of sympathy for him, especially with his flaccid public statements on the matter. Just another black mark on the McCourt era, I suppose, and hardly the last. Yes, he hired former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton this week, which is nice, but that’s a move that can’t be seen as more than reactionary to this crisis.

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Speaking of McCourt, there’s a whole lot of talk lately that he’s close to making another deal with FOX about television rights, and if Bud Selig blocks the deal, McCourt would sue; the idea being that while his first proposed deal was denied based on FOX getting a below-market rate on rights, this deal would be more fair. I’ve even seen some people saying that Selig has no standing whatsoever to block the deal, since he’s approved similar deals in the past.

I prefer Buster Olney’s take, though:

Baseball’s biggest concern with the deal that Frank McCourt’s representatives are proposing is that it really doesn’t benefit the Dodgers franchise. The money that McCourt would receive wouldn’t be thrown into the baseball operations; it would be used to deal with McCourt’s debts.

Exactly. To put it in terms we’re all familar with, the Dodger television rights are a f’n valuable thing, man. Why should we want to let McCourt use them to bail out his own personal mess? This is the kind of thing that could hamstring the franchise for years to come.

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Lastings Milledge got DFA’d by the White Sox. The Dodgers won’t go after him, of course, and they’re overloaded with outfielders as it is. I’d prefer him to Jay Gibbons, though.

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Finally, and I’m a few days late on this, congratulations to Howard Cole of Baseball Savvy for his new gig blogging Dodgers over at the Orange County Register. He’s also selected the top ten Dodger blogs, and I’d say he’s chosen wisely.

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