2013 Dodgers in Review #29: SP Stephen Fife

90topps_stephenfife3.70 ERA / 4.35 FIP 58.1 IP 6.94 K/9 3.09 BB/9 (B)

2013 in brief: He really started ten games for the Dodgers? Ten?

2014 status: Valuable depth to have around, even if it’s usually bad news when he’s actually pitching.  

Previous: 2012

******

It’s nice to have a guy like Stephen Fife. You bury him on the depth chart and you hope you rarely need to use him, but when you do, you know he’ll at least keep you in the game, which is all you can ask for from your #7 or #8 starter, and… oh, the 2013 Dodgers made it only until their 18th game before they had to use him? That sounds about right.

Yes, with Zack Greinke & Chris Capuano injured, Aaron Harang traded, and Ted Lilly already in the rotation, it fell to Fife to make the surprise start on April 21 in Baltimore when Chad Billingsley‘s elbow gave out. Fife allowed four runs in 4.2 innings, then landed on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis. (Doing these reviews really reminds me how hilarious the first six weeks of 2013 really were. Sigh.)

Fife made one rehab start in May for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, and he returned on June 3 to replace Capuano. I’d tell you what he did in that game, but it doesn’t matter, because you might remember June 3 as being “Puigmas“. Fife stuck in the rotation for the entire month of June, and I have to admit that he was actually fabulous. In six starts, he allowed only nine earned runs, striking out 30 against 10 walks. On June 21, I had to take some time out to acknowledge him:

That’s 10 starts over 2012 (top) and 2013 (bottom). Eight times he’s gone at least five innings, nine times he’s allowed two runs or fewer. Obviously, raw “runs allowed” isn’t really the greatest metric in the world because it’s so opponent-, fielding-, bullpen-, and ballpark-dependent, but for a guy we had zero expectations for, that’s a pretty good run. Honestly, the only really lousy start he’s had was in his first of this year when he was a last-second replacement flown to Baltimore when Chad Billingsley‘s elbow gave out, and even then I can’t really kill a guy for having a hard time facing Chris Davis & Manny Machado.

(snip)But if the question is, “do I believe in Fife more than I do Matt Magill?” Right now, yes. “More thanTed Lilly?” Oh hell yes, you better believe I do. For a guy included in a trade that we absolutely destroyed Ned Colletti on — the Trayvon Robinson-for-Tim Federowicz deal, and while I hate to give Colletti any more credit than truly necessary, he was absolutely right on that one, and we were all wrong — he’s proven himself, so far, to be a pretty nice guy to have around. In a season of disappointment, we’ll take what nice surprises we can find.

But after a weird start in San Francisco on July 6 — four runs, but only one earned, yet somehow striking out and walking zero apiece — it began to fell apart, and quickly. Initially, it was announced that Fife would keep his job while Capuano would get bumped to the bullpen by trade acquisition Ricky Nolasco, but that never happened: Fife returned to the disabled list with another bout of right shoulder bursitis.

Fife made two good starts for Albuquerque in late July, then came up to briefly serve as a sixth starter on August 4 in Chicago, and this is where things started to get weird. Fife was good in Wrigley, tossing 5.1 shutout innings. Unfortunately, that was also the game where Hanley Ramirez injured his shoulder running into the stands, and since the team needed to recall Dee Gordon without wanting to disable Ramirez, that meant another trip back to the minors.

The Dodgers then attempted to have Fife work out of the bullpen in Triple-A… and it couldn’t have gone worse. He allowed ten baserunners over his first two appearances, and when they put him back as a starter on August 19, he got only a single out while walking five. In three August starts, he lasted 9.2 runs and had allowed 11 earned runs.

By the end of August, with Capuano struggling and Edinson Volquez existing, I had to focus on Fife’s difficulties just so people would stop calling for him:

Five days later, Fife was back as a starter against Oklahoma City, and it couldn’t have gone worse. He threw 34 pitches, but just 8 for strikes, as he left after having walked five and notching a single out. He at least made it through five the next time out, but then last night only 43 of his 80 pitches went for strikes as he allowed 12 baserunners in 4.1 innings.

Is his shoulder aching again? Did the brief move to the bullpen screw him up? We don’t really know, though Jackson indicates that he seems to be healthy. He’ll still likely get a recall when rosters expand this weekend, but it’s incredibly difficult to count on him right now. As poor as Capuano has been and as terrible as Volquez is, I can’t really say with any degree of confidence that Fife is a more reliable choice given his last month.

Fife did come up, and worked (poorly) out of the bullpen until being given a start on September 17 in order to give Clayton Kershaw an extra day. He lasted only 2.1 innings, allowing four earned runs.

So what we have here is a guy who had a surprisingly effective month of June in the bigs, had difficulty staying healthy, and couldn’t get anyone out at any level in the second half of the year. That sounds like a prototypical eighth starter to me — a guy you like having around, but one you hope you never really need to rely on.

******

Next! More starters!

610 comments
LA_Woman
LA_Woman

Grant Brisbee: But the Giants are paying $150 million or so to bring back the same 86-loss team from last year, plus Tim Hudson. I don't know, man. Seems iffy. There are a lot of contracts up there that I can -- and have -- argued for on an individual basis, but taken as a collective organizational strategy ... I don't know. Seems preposterous, especially after the bad season.

http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/2013/12/1/5165432/san-francisco-giants-2014-payroll

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

I don't care about Walking Dead actually. The grandfather of the Zombie Genre (George A. Romero) considers it to be a soap opera. Whereas he used it for Social Critique.

Nonetheless http://i.imgur.com/C0VvNLp.png

Tired Math Cat
Tired Math Cat

well, that was easy, i just got a guy to take his pants off

Chavez Ravine Fiend
Chavez Ravine Fiend

Funny how they have affeldt Casilla Lopez and romo combined to make like 20$ mill kind of an expensive bullpen for their budget.

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

@DINGERS!  Love love love love love  love love love love. (*=This makes me happy.)

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@NoHitWin2008 The yankmees suck they do all their negotiating in the press. Man fuck them I hope Cano signs somewhere else or gets his 260 from them!

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

its funny because Jay Z thinks hes actually smart. 

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@NoHitWin2008 @^<<**(vẻ đẹp)**>>^ yeeeeaaaah, Jay-Z thinks he's gonna get a Pujols special for Cano. That automatically eliminates most of MLB, including the Angels who have bailed out Crackhead Hamilton and Old man Pujols TROLOLOL

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

id pass and tell him to wallow in Jay-Zs overinflated ego

NoHitWin2008
NoHitWin2008

@^<<**(vẻ đẹp)**>>^ Well eventually the two opposing camps (Cano and whoever he signs with) will meet somewhere. And I don't think it's gonna go much beyond the $170M mark. 

I'd jump at 6/$170M with an opt-out after two. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

if he could be had for 6/170 and people actually evaluating his talent thought it was worth it, he'd be signed by now. theres a reason Jay Z is out twisting in the wind

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

i dont know how good he would be at this point to be honest. we have enough older established talent on the roster. signing these elephants to long deals hoping their bodies stay in shape is just a bad idea bomb waiting to explode

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

i dont know how many more lefty aging hitters our roster can take