2012 Dodgers in Review #41: RP Matt Guerrier

3.86 ERA 6.31 FIP 14 IP 5.79 K/9 4.50 BB/9 -0.5 fWAR F

2012 in brief: Proved adage that giving long-term contracts to mediocre relievers is never a good idea as he missed nearly the entire season with arm trouble.

2013 status: Signed for $4.75m in what will mercifully be the final year of his contract.

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Well, it’s pretty easy to review a guy who threw only 14 innings around four missed months, isn’t it? Matt Guerrier rarely pitched, and wasn’t all that great when he did. Even when he was out, I can’t say anyone missed him.

In fact, Guerrier was thought of so little around here – other than ongoing questions about how his injury, which was originally thought to keep him out for about two weeks, turned into more than four months – that the only time his name popped up in a significant way was on April 18:

But let’s skip right ahead to the tenth inning, because that’s all anyone is going to want to talk about.

Matt Guerrier came in to pitch, and while I absolutely hate the idea of saving your closer on the road for a lead which may never come, Guerra’s been shaky enough the last two times out that I can’t really say it absolutely positively had to be him in that situation, so, fine. Unfortunately, Guerrier was shaky, walking leadoff hitter Jonathan Lucroy, a mistake which was multiplied by A.J. Ellis sailing a throw into center field when Nyjer Morgan (running for Lucroy) attempted to steal second. With one out (thanks to yet another late-inning bunt fail gift), Guerrier intentionally walked Rickie Weeks in an attempt to set up the double play.

That’s fine, except that then Weeks stole second with little resistance from the Dodgers, eliminating the double play possibility. Guerrier made things even worse by walking George Kottaras, because that brought Ryan Braun to the plate. Say what you will about whether Braun really deserved his 2011 awards, but hey, whenever you can walk a backup catcher to get to the NL MVP in a critical situation, why wouldn’t you?

While it’s probably a little unfair to single out that one moment, it’s what we’ve got, so it’s what we’ll go with. If he’s healthy next year, the contract alone will give him a job, though it’s hard to say he’s more than the fifth-best reliever the team has — at best — even when he’s right. With his velocity down, a year lost to arm woes, and his age-34 season coming up, does Guerrier have enough left to even be mediocre? Still loving that contract, let me tell you.

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Next up! Brandon League gets himself paid!

2012 Dodgers in Review #40: RP Randy Choate

(w/ LA) 4.05 ERA 4.89 FIP 13.1 IP  7.43 K/9 6.08 BB/9 fWAR B-

2012 in brief: “Other guy” in Hanley Ramirez trade proved to be an effective LOOGY out of the pen.

2013 status: Signed a three-year deal with St. Louis because that’s apparently a thing that can happen for 37-year-old specialists now.

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It may rightfully be remembered as “the Hanley Ramirez” trade, and I think I’d have liked the deal just the same even if it was only Ramirez, but we tried to remember at the time that there was another player headed to the Dodgers also:

Of course, it’s not just Ramirez coming, because Randy Choate fills a need as well. The 36-year-old lefty has pitched in parts of 12 big league seasons for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rays, and Marlins, including an absurd 85 games for Tampa in 2010. While I’ve liked Scott Elbert‘s performance just fine, he’s not your typical lefty reliever in that he actually gets righties out better than fellow southpaws. Over Choate’s career, lefties hit just .203/.277/.285 against him, and this year it’s just .150/.200/.183. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, his OPS vs lefties of .454 is the best in baseball since 2009, minimum 300 PA..  He may not be a big name, but he absolutely fills a need.

Elbert injured his elbow just days after Choate arrived, making him the only lefty pitcher in the bullpen for much of the rest of the season until Paco Rodriguez arrived. The Dodgers got their money’s worth out of him, at least: Choate made it into 36 games despite being on the roster for just barely over two months, but only twice in that time – his first two games with the Dodgers, actually – did he pitch even so much as an inning. In fact, 28 times he threw eight pitches or fewer, which is great work if you can get it.

It also makes reviewing Choate’s work difficult, because when you’re generally having such little impact upon a game, it means your name doesn’t come up all that often. On one hand, that’s a good thing, because the best middle reliever is the one who keeps himself out of the headlines; on the other, there’s not a whole lot of notable moments to look back upon. So we’ll say this: when Choate was called upon to face lefties, he did his job, holding them to only a .171/.300/.268 line in 51 PA. When he was asked to face righties… uh, well, maybe Don Mattingly shouldn’t have asked him to do that. (.600/.692/.600 in 13 PA.)

While the Dodgers had interest in retaining him, I’m pretty sure there’s not a soul among us who really wishes they’d matched the three-year deal the Cardinals gave him, so that’s the end of a short Los Angeles career.

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Next up! Sigh. It’s Matt Guerrier.

2012 Dodgers in Review #39: RP Paco Rodriguez

1.35 ERA 3.09 FIP 6.2 IP 8.10 K/9 5.40 BB/9 0.1 fWAR (inc.)

2012 in brief: 2nd round pick shot through system to become first member of entire 2012 draft class to reach the bigs and impressed in limited opportunities.

2013 status: Could make roster right out of camp depending on numbers game, but if healthy is almost guaranteed to see big league time at some point.

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How can I talk about expectations when not a soul among us had ever even heard of Paco Rodriguez prior to June, when he was drafted by the Dodgers in the second round out of the University of Florida? He was, of course, identified right away as the draftee most likely to reach the bigs the soonest, but it was still surprising when he managed to do so after just 19.2 innings at Great Lakes and Chattanooga.

Rodriguez came up when rosters expanded in September and got into 11 games, though rarely in pressure situations or for more than two or three batters at a time. Still, he acquitted himself well, striking out six and allowing just three singles, flashing a decent fastball, usable cutter, and improving slider.

Paco’s never going to be a star – non-closer relievers rarely are – and his quick ascent to the bigs is largely due to his age and his position, not because he’s a better prospect than, say, Mike Zunino or Byron Buxton. That said, his brief time in the bigs showed that he belonged, and expect him to be a low-cost lefty option for Los Angeles for years to come. Whether or not he makes the team on Opening Day next year may depend on how many competitors he has (“having options” always hurts in that battle), but regardless we’ll be seeing plenty of him.

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Next up! Randy Choate signed for how much with St. Louis, really?

2012 Dodgers in Review #38: RP Mike MacDougal

7.94 ERA 4.86 FIP 5.2 IP 6.35 K/9 9.53 BB/9 -0.1 fWAR (inc., but… F)

2012 in brief: Proved us all right by lasting barely a month into the season before getting whacked, then pitched poorly in Triple-A for Cubs & Nationals organizations.

2013 status: Some team will give him a token non-roster invite to camp, because of course they will.

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Pretty sure my feelings on Mike MacDougal were made clear the day in early January that he signed, considering I named the post, “Mike MacDougal Close to Returning to Dodgers; Allows Inherited Runner to Score“. As we knew at the time, expecting him to be successful merely because he had a nice 2011 ERA was a gambit all but certain to fail:

Shiny ERA strikes again! This move has been such a fait acompli for such a long time that the only real surprise is that A) it took so long to actually happen and B) that it wasn’t for two guaranteed years. You know the story by now: MacDougal was fine as a non-roster invite, despite barely striking out more than he walked, constantly inflating the ERA of others by allowing their runners to score, and having a FIP of 3.96 that is far more accurate than that fancy 2.05 ERA. For a zero-risk warm body, fine. On any sort of guaranteed major league deal? Well, you’ll notice we haven’t heard a whole lot about other teams beating down his door, right? The fun part will be when he pitches exactly the same as he did in 2011, but his ERA balloons to 4.04, and people will complain about how he’s all of a sudden terrible.

Well, I wasn’t totally right, because he didn’t pitch exactly the same as he did in 2011; he was worse, allowing 15 baserunners in 5.1 innings over seven April games, including two separate stretches of at least a week where Don Mattingly refused to use him. Going back to when he was signed, we had a pretty good guess of where this was going to end up:

I’m kidding, sort of, because one year and $1m is practically nothing these days. It’s just about the lowest amount you can even give a player with MacDougal’s experience, and when he’s inevitably DFA’d by July, it won’t be anything worth complaining about.

So close! He was actually DFA’d on May 3. If anything, I was surprised that he was let go so quickly when Ronald Belisario returned, considering that Josh Lindblom still had options and that while MacDougal was on a guaranteed contract, Jamey Wright was not. So kudos, I suppose, to Ned Colletti for swallowing his mistake; on the other hand, that hardly cancels out having made it in the first place, because again — this was never, ever a good idea.

After getting borked, MacDougal went to Iowa to pitch for the Triple-A affiliate of the Cubs, but he was released there as well after a 7.85 ERA in 19 games, and ended his summer in the Washington organization pitching in Syracuse. In 29 innings between the two Triple-A clubs, he walked 24. Not exactly where he anticipated his season would conclude, I imagine, but pretty much exactly where we would have expected.

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Next up in the review series! Out with the old, in with the Paco Rodriguez!

2012 Dodgers in Review #37: RP Josh Wall

4.76 ERA 5.04 FIP 6.35 K/9 1.59 BB/9 -0.1 fWAR (inc.)

2012 in brief: Longtime starting prospect found success as a reliever in minors and finally made major league debut.

2013 status: Could battle for bullpen role in camp, but starting off as depth back in Triple-A seems far more likely.

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Josh Wall wasn’t so much an afterthought headed into 2012 so much as he was not thought of at all. The 2005 2nd-round pick was entering his eighth season with the organization and had yet to even make it to Triple-A; hell, in 2010 he was bumped back to low-A Great Lakes after two seasons spent with high-A Inland Empire. But after six seasons spent trying to be a starter, Wall was shifted to the bullpen in 2011 and responded with the best year of his career in 2012, striking out 52 in 53.2 innings for the Isotopes.

Wall got his first big-league chance in July, taking Javy Guerra‘s roster spot when Guerra was placed on the bereavement list, and his first appearance was memorable, pitching a scoreless 11th inning to “earn the win” as the Dodgers avoided being swept in New York. We didn’t see him again for a month, when he returned on August 27, the same day he was named a PCL postseason all-star. His travels had just begun; he pitched in two games before being sent down to make room for Matt Guerrier, then came back up again on September 4 when Guerra injured his oblique. Nearly two weeks later, he finally made his Dodger Stadium debut on September 16, and pitched three single scoreless innings in mop-up duty over the rest of the month.

Wall actually didn’t have an earned run charged to him in six of his seven appearances, though the one bad outing in Colorado inflated his ERA. (ERA is stupid for relievers.) That’s great, but it’s probably not going to matter. Though he flashed an impressive fastball (averaging 93.5 MPH) Wall’s got a low ceiling as a middle reliever at best. With so many returning pitchers ahead of him and returnees as well, Wall’s immediate future is as minor-league depth. As depth goes, you could do a whole lot worse.

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Next up! I can’t tell you. Seriously. I’d like it if you came back to the site again.