MSTI’s 2009 In Review: Shortstop

Welcome to day 5 of MSTI’s 2009 Year In Review.  Have a good Halloween?  Good!  So as you sit there with your coffee, trying to sober up after your heavy partying last night, pull up a chair and join us, as we tackle SS!  Let us begin:

85toppsrafaelfurcalRafael Furcal = C-
(.269/.335/.375 9hr 47rbi)

You know, Rafael Furcal has now completed his fourth year as a Dodger (already?!) and, even despite that, it still feels a bit difficult at times to truly evaluate his tenure when you look at his numbers.  In 2006, he started off sub-par due to wrist and hand issues, only to finish the year as arguably the team’s MVP with a scorching second half.  Then in 2007, he comes back with arguably the worst season of his career     Then in 2008, he gets off to the best start of his career only to get sidelined for four months with more injuries.

Of course, he comes back in 2009 with one of his worst seasons (by the way, note the weird odd numbered year = bad year, even numbered year = good year?).  And, let’s face it, for as much as we like Furcal here at MSTI (his interviews are always such a hoot!), 2009 was a forgettable year for Furcal.  Comparing this season to his general career numbers (it wouldn’t be fair to compare them to his one insane month of 2008), we saw a decrease in pretty much all of the important numbers.  His .335 OBP this year is lower compared to his career .350 OBP, while his .375 SLG% was lower than his career .408 SLG%.  In terms of OPS+, it was a below average 88, while his actual OPS dropped from his career .758 to .711; his EqA of .259 was below his career .269.

Looking further than that, though, let’s compare him with his peers.  Amongst the qualified NL SS’s, he ranks 6th out of 9 in BA and OBP, while ranking 8th out of 10 in SLG%, and ranking 7th in MLVr, with a number of -.012.  Nonetheless, while Furcal performed poorly for most of the year, he did have a couple of great months, putting up a great July (.343/.395/.500) and really coming on strong at the end with a fantastic September (.330/.400/.491) and looking much more like the Furcal of old.  But one thing that didn’t look like the Furcal of old is that he didn’t really steal many bases this year.  This year, in his 150 games, we saw him attempt to steal only 18 bases, stealing 12 of them, though the decrease was more than likely an effect of being cautious after last year’s back injuries.

Defensively, Furcal, for the most part, was, well, Furcal and that’s a good thing.  His .967 fielding percentage is pretty much par for the course and, while low, it’s generally come from throwing errors throughout his career, as his arm can make him the Rick Vaughn of shortstops at times.  His Zone Rating was 5.786 which ranked him 6th amongst NL SS’s.  The interesting thing to note with Furcal is that over the past two years, we’ve seen a decrease in his range factor.  Through 2007, the worst number he ever had in this category was a 4.77, though since that period, he’s put up numbers of 4.20 and 4.25.  Again, 2008 must be noted for being a very short season for Furcal, and, as always the case, defensive stats can be a bit murky, but it is interesting to note the trend continuing into 2009, however much value you want to put into that…

Still, his defense wasn’t something that I had complaints with this year.  That was fine.  The problem was at the plate and, unfortunately, Furcal put up a year that is to rank amongst his worst, hence the low grade, but the encouraging thing going into 2010 is that he did end the season on very much a high note and finally seemed to start regaining form and hopefully this is something we can see A LOT more of next year.  Even if he can’t be the big stolen base threat he used to be, when he’s on as a hitter, he is a very valuable weapon to have, so we shall see what the future holds for him.  I mean, it’s an even numbered year next year: he’s gotta do well!

85toppsjuancastroJuan Castro = C-
(.277/.311/.339 1hr 9rbi)

When Colletti signed him earlier this year, it seemed more of just Ned needing more porn to satisfy his fetish of signing light hitting shortstops, but you know what?  Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the signing, Castro didn’t embarrass himself this year, either.  Well, at least if “this year” is April – July, anyways.  During the first half of the season, Castro put up numbers of .357/.397/.437 with an .834 OPS!  Really, Juan Castro putting up those numbers?!  I mean, geez, what kind of stuff was he pulling out of Manny’s locker to do that?!  A welcome surprise, indeed.

Alas, it all crashed and burned in the second half, where Castro went .146/.146/.171 and a .317 OPS to go with it, which is more of the real Castro than what we saw in the first half.  Still, did I mention that, despite that second half, he still managed to finish with one of his very best OPS+ in his long and storied 15 year career?

Did I also mention that his career OPS+ is 52?!

Nonetheless, one great half with one awful one?  Well, that’s about one more great (or even good) half I thought we’d get from him, and he did play decent defense more times than not, so a C- for you, Fidel.

 

85toppschinglunghuChin-Lung Hu = Inc.
(.400/.333/.600 0hr 2rbi)

Given that Chin-Lung Hu had six, yes, count them, SIX plate appearances, do you know how tempted I was just to type in “Hu?” and leave it at that?

Still, even in these six at-bats, Hu managed to get a couple of hits, but he played hardly enough to warrant a great.  Though this year in Triple-A Albuquerque, Hu managed to have a slight improvement upon his 2008 year, hitting .294/.332/.393, with 6 HR’s and 53 RBI’s.  Not much else to say about the Hu-ster in Dodger Blue in 2009… except, well…

(crickets chirp)

Hey, did you know that, according to Wikipedia, always the crown jewel of credibility, that he has the shortest surname in MLB history?! (Note from MSTI: Or as Diamond Leung Tweeted to me, Hu is now tied with Tigers reliever Fu-Te Ni for that honor).

O.K., I think that means we’ve done enough on shortstop.  So tune in next time!

Next! Manny Ramirez’ fertility-fueled fun! Juan Pierre’s battle for relevance! It’s left field!

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Frank And Jamie Headed For Divorce McCourt?

O.K., that is now our lamest title for an article, ever.  I know, I know… 

People DodgersSo, as I’m sure most of you have heard, according to the L.A. Times, the big story is that Frank and Jamie McCourt have now called it quits and have decided to separate.  While it’s generally sad to see any marriage end, for obvious reasons, that’s not really the concern here.  Rather, what’s the effects that this can have on the team?  Can the team survive this successfully or are we going to see another San Diego situation, where their owner, who alsoheaded for a divorce, pretty much slashed payroll and eventually traded the likes of Jake Peavy? 

Right now, it’s hard to say, and there’s certainly a variety of factors that play into it, which we just don’t know.  Though if they do indeed divorce, there’s definitely a chance that they would have to sell.  It’s certainly a situation that deserves to be closely monitored, as this situation can either (and hopefully) turn out well for the team or it could end up bad.  Very bad. 

On the other hand, we’re Dodgers fans, so what’s new?  Even during good years, there’s usually always that shot in the nuts (or as I call it: a “Holliday”) that has to happen.  But there’s still baseball to be played, and meaningful baseball at that, so let’s get it going, already! 

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O.K., So Maybe We Don’t Have To Play Them ALL The Time

So, a thoroughly miserable game all around.  I mean, it wasn’t a blowout, in fact, it was only a Manny82309  .jpg3-1 loss, but it was definitely a frustrating loss.  Chad Billingsley managed to go 6 IP, giving up 3 ER on 9 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 5.  Billingsley was, for the most part, decent, and managed to pick up another quality start, but also hit a wall in the 6th inning, which brought in the 2 runs that ended up making the difference in the game.  The 6th inning hasn’t been a particularly good one for Billingsley, this year, as he seems to either fatigue or loses something that causes him to become much more hittable. 

However, the bulk of this loss can’t really be blamed on Billingsley.  He wasn’t great, but he pitched well enough.  Unfortunately, even despite the fact that taking three out of four from the Cubs deems this a very successful series, the offense for the most part hasn’t really changed and continues to struggle.  The offense did come alive a little bit on Thursday, scoring 7 runs (albeit 4 of them came on a Russell Nathan Coltrane Jeanson Martin, Jr. Grand Slam), but Randy Wolf singlehandedly won the game for them on Friday (both at the plate and on the mound), while eeking out 2 runs yesterday afternoon and barely mustering one run today.  As has been the case, the problem isn’t necessarily getting the runners on base, but the inability to hit with RISP.  Take today: in the bottom of the 6th inning, Juan Pierre PH for Billingsley and singled up the middle, only for Furcal to ground into the force play at second and then for Ethier to ground into the inning ending double play.  Things become the most maddening in the bottom of the 8th, when the Dodgers wasted two leadoff walks and after Loretta grounds into a force play at second, Hudson comes in to PH and hits into the inning ending double play. 

Those two innings in some way have been a microcosm of what’s been killing this team over the past month or so, in addition to Furcal, Loney, and Martin having a miserable August (.221/.287/.267, .227/.320/.273, .238/.304/.349, respectively), and, well, Manny not being Manny.  Hopefully this does amount to nothing more than just a bump on the road, but those bats are going to need to pick up beginning Tuesday, when they begin a critical series in Denver against Colorado, who are 3.5 games behind after today.  Should be fun… 

Lastly, to take care of some business, as you may know, this weekend marks the ThinkCure radiotelewebethon and one of the notable contests is the Battle Of The Josh’s, which pits Josh Rawitch, the VP Of Communications for the Dodgers, against Josh Suchon who, along with Ken Levine, host KABC’s great “DodgerTalk” show, the same show, if you remember, MSTI (who, by the way, I think is still somewhere on the 5) appeared on back in May

Anyways, there’s a lot of cool things you can bid on, but one of the cooler things on there that we encourage you to look at is the opportunity to stalk… err, excuse me, follow Josh Suchon around Dodger Stadium for the day, amongst other cool things, which can be found on this link.  Bidding ends tomorrow, so check it out, especially as it all, of course, goes to a great cause. 

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Bigmouth Strikes Again, Part II

Yes, folks, he’s back,.  Actually, he was back yesterday, Plaschole2009.jpg with some crap article on Manny which I’m not even going to link, but, for my own sanity, I skipped it.  But today, I just can’t resist.  I try to resist, I really do, but it’s just so hard.  It’s therapy for me, despite the fact that with the amount of columns he’s putting out lately, we might have to rename ourselves: “Fire Bill Plaschke.com.” 

Anyways, he’s back today, whining about the ace the Dodgers failed to get.  Because pissing off Dodger fans wasn’t enough, he decides to also devote his article to pissing off Angels fans too, but, for the sake of brevity, I’ll just post most of the pertinent Dodger quotes.  Ironically, his article is entitled: “Dodgers, Angels make risky bets,” but it’s not half as risky as if you actually read the whole thing.  I assure you. 

Take it away, WPS! 

Both teams have done this before, refusing to imitate the big-market
swagger of the New York Yankees, shunning the win-it-now attitude of
the Boston Red Sox, preferring to trust stopwatches instead of wallets.

Refuse to imitate the “big market swagger?”  Not opening up their wallets?  Hey Kevin Malone, is that you?  If not, then, here’s a bit of a history lesson, WPS… but… hey… do the names Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Shawn Green, Jason Schmidt, J.D. Drew, Juan Pierre, and Andruw Jones ring a bell?  And, hey, I can’t even stand the Angels, but Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Torii Hunter are all on line one.  Does it also ring a bell when the Dodgers have been, sans 2005, in the top 10 in payroll every year with payrolls very near, but mostly above $100 million?  Same with the Angels since Arte took over.  Not bad for a bunch of cheapasses! 

Oh yeah, I forgot another thing: for all of your grumbling about these two teams constantly holding back, wasn’t it these two teams who, this time last year, made the two biggest blockbusters when the Angels got Teixiera and the Dodgers got… oh, what was his name again… ah, that’s right… Manny fucking Ramirez?!  I figured YOU, out of all people, would know that, given your fetish with smearing him every chance you get since May.    

It
suits local fans who feel as if they are growing up with the kids. It
suits local bankers by keeping their payrolls manageable.

Problem is, it doesn’t do much for the local ring industry.

So a team with young kids is detrimental to the “local ring industry?”  And therefore, as WPS will imply later, that’s a reason why the Dodgers haven’t won in so long?  Yeah, because you know what I’m really pissed off at over the past 21 years?  That the Dodgers didn’t spend the 1990′s trading away MORE young talent and spending MORE money on older players and kissing away the future.  Yeah, that’s right.  In fact, Bill, there was a time when YOU were sick of it, too.  Remember in 1999, which was, of course, a year after you advocated the Piazza trade (only to go 360 on it six months later, by the way), that you got sick of the Dodgers play to the point where you yourself advocated a youth movement to get back to “winning ways?”  And that was all despite the fact that those Dodgers were in the midst of doing everything you’re advocating these Dodgers do now: establish themselves as that big market, “go for it now,” checkbook opening team.  They even had the 7th highest payroll in all of baseball that year. 

Didn’t quite help out that ring industry, did it? 

In the last 21 years, the Dodgers and Angels have combined to win only one championship.

Really?  Only one?  So given that 21 years ago was 1988, did the A’s really win in 1988 or did the Giants really win in 2002 and that guy who used to be the Iraqi Information Minister is just lying to us?  Dammit!   

During that same time, the Yankees and Red Sox have combined to win six championships.

Hey, he might be able to count after all!  Nonetheless, very deceptive, William.  Did you also remember to mention that, while those Yankee teams did have their share of veterans, they also won their championships in the 1990′s on the backbone of players like Jeter, Williams, Pettitte, and Rivera?  You know, all the guys who came out of their farm system.  Thank God you weren’t in charge, though, because since Andy Pettitte’s first two postseason series (1995 and 1996 ALDS) weren’t anything to write home about (4 ER’s in each start), you would have shipped him out.  And, remember, the Yankees of 1996-2000 weren’t the “hey, let’s spend more money than every team combined” Yankees of 2001-present.  Yes, their payroll was always near or at the top, but it was at least very close.  Ironically, this defeats your point: what have those big spending Yankees won in 9 years?   

As for the Red Sox?  I’ll concede that 2004 was largely a group of veterans, but 2007 is a bit different: what about the performances of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Elsbury, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matzusaka, and even Kevin Youkillis, who was, for the most part, playing in his real first postseason (only 2 AB’s in 2004 playoffs)?   Does that sound like the reckless “win it now” attitude you claim they have? 

Yeah, I guess I can see your point; really didn’t do anything for the ring industry either, did it?

Billingsley has given up 22 runs in his last 26 1/3 innings and was rocked in two NL Championship Series starts last October.

And, in fact, totally rocked the Cubs in the NLDS that same postseason.  Again, why is that forgotten? 

Kershaw, still only 21, has given up only three earned runs in his last
38 innings, but his next playoff start will be his first.

Yo, Cliff Lee, here.  I’m the guy that Plaschke advocated the Dodgers should get.  But do you wanna know a secret?  Do you promise not to tell?  Cool.  Well… the truth is, I haven’t ever started a postseason game either!  Shhhhh… (whispers) seeeeeeecret… 

Billingsley was one player the Dodgers could have traded without much uproar but didn’t.

Hey, wait… something doesn’t seem right here… didn’t you just say a few days ago… 

No, you don’t trade Kershaw and, even though it’s tempting, you don’t trade a 24-year-old Billingsley.

Ah, he DID say that!  You liar!  I feel SO violated. 

The Dodgers will fight through with a starting pitching tandem of Chad
Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, both of whom have postseason talent
but lack postseason pedigree.

Two things, here.  First off, which pitchers don’t “fight through?”  Why is it just the Dodgers?  Secondly, ignoring all the vaguery of the terms “postseason talent” and “postseason pedigree,” if WPS means “postseason pedigree” in the terms of them lacking postseason history and experience, then way to contradict the whole argument, for both Billingsley and Kershaw on their own have more postseason history and experience than either Halladay or Lee combined. So given that we’ve settled the “postseason pedigree” part of this, then that leaves us with the “postseason talent” aspect, which you say both Dodgers have.  Now, surely, you think Halladay and Lee have them too.  However, given your articles and the quote above, you seem to place a much greater emphasis on pedigree.  So, given your stronger emphasis on “postseason pedigree,” then shouldn’t it logically follow that you advocate Billingsley and Kershaw above Halladay and Lee?  

Colletti stuck with them. He will now have to win with them.

Correction: not only can he win with them, but they have won with them.  In fact, if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. 

If Philadelphia shows up again, the young Dodgers have to keep down those pitches.

And, what, if we get to face Philadelphia, Lee gets to keep them up?  What the hell does this mean?  Only young pitchers get to keep their pitches down? 

Suicide squeezing, all of them.

Coincidentally enough, after reading through your columns, I would also advocate that you try s… oh, forget it, I’m too tired. 

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The Greatest Typo In The History Of The Universe

A caption from today’s My Way Sports News (typo highlighted below): 

Borasm2009.png
Now I’ve had several nicknames for this guy before, as you have too, I’m sure.  From Bora$$, to the devil himself, while I usually just liked calling him Bebe Glazer.  But this one tops it, I think.  It’s wrong, dirty, and yet hilarious.  From now on, I hereby dub the agent formerly known as Scott Boras as: 

Borasm. 

Tell all your friends.  It’s the latest craze.  Is it a bird?  No.  Is it a plane?  No.  Is it the Borasm?  Yes! 

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