Dodgers of the Decade: Third Base

Jeff Kent is killing it at second base, so rather than wait until tomorrow, let’s just close it and move on. His win was notable if only for the fact that it wasn’t unanimous. Somebody needs to own up to being the Mark Grudzielanek fan, please.

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)

Today we move on to third base, but before we do, let’s think about what we’re really dealing with here. Third base for the Dodgers has been a black hole from whence no light can escape for years. Before Adrian Beltre, do you know who the last Dodger third baseman to play even 500 games (just barely over three seasons) at the position was? Ron Cey, and his Dodger career ended in 1982, nearly 30 years ago. So to say that third base for the Dodgers doesn’t exactly have the cachet of, say, center field for the Yankees is a bit of an understatement.

Even in this decade, it had somehow gotten worse. In October 2007, I noted all of the Dodgers who had seen time at 3B since Beltre departed after 2004, and let me tell you – it’s a sorry group:

Dodger Third Basemen, 2005-07 (3 seasons since Beltre left):
1. Mike Edwards
2. Oscar Robles
3. Antonio Perez
4. Olmedo Saenz
5. Nori Nakamura
6. Jose Valentin
7. Willy Aybar
8. Cesar Izturis
9. Wilson Betemit
10. Bill Mueller
11. Julio Lugo
12. Ramon Martinez
13. Joel Guzman
14. Wilson Valdez
15. Tony Abreu
16. Shea Hillenbrand
17. Nomar Garciaparra
18. Andy LaRoche

I look at some of those names and blood starts rushing from my ears. Antonio Perez! Shea Hillenbrand!! Nori Nakamura!!! I am now having an epileptic seizure. And that list is only just from after 2007, because since then we’ve added 7 more names: Blake DeWitt, Russell Martin (!), Casey Blake, Pablo Ozuna, Mark Loretta, Ronnie Belliard, and Juan Castro. While Blake has finally solidified the position, that’s still 25 players through the revolving door in just five seasons.

Yet while Beltre clearly had the best season of the decade with his monster 2004, and will have the highest total WAR, that’s also because he played the longest. He was largely subpar before 2004, even putting up a .290 OBP in 2003. Blake has, in some regards, actually outplayed Beltre, including in OPS. Also competing: Blake DeWitt and Wilson Betemit.

Third Base

Adrian Beltre (737 games, 2000-04)
Dodger stats: .278/.331/.476 .808 125 hr 421 rbi
WAR: 18.8

Casey Blake (197 games, 2008-09)
Dodger stats: .272/.349/.466 .814 28 hr 102 rbi
WAR: 7.1

Blake DeWitt (148 games, 2008-09)
Dodger stats: .257/.333/.384 .717 11 hr 56 rbi
WAR: 2.3

Wilson Betemit (139 games, 2006-07)
Dodger stats: .236/.332/.455 .787 19 hr 50 rbi
WAR: 0.3

Top three seasons
10.1 WAR Beltre, 2004
6.1 WAR Blake, 2009
3.5 WAR Beltre, 2000

Just like I said for catcher, this encompasses every year of the decade… except 2005. What a horrendous year.

Dodger third baseman of the 00s: go!

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That May Be the Best Pitched Game You’ll Ever See

You almost have to feel bad for both Greg Maddux and Aaron Cook, who were both just unbelievable today. What else could you ask of Maddux? He breezed through seven innings on just 68 pitches, a number which we’ve all seen other pitchers accumulate in just two innings, and allowed just two base runners. Of course, Cook was just as good, going eight scoreless innings. All this in Coors Field, which makes me wonder what would have happened if these two had matched up in Petco today. Would 14-inning dueling perfect games be out of the question?

I’m not all that worried about the loss, because it’s still a series win, and that’s all you can ever expect. What does worry me a little is Hong-Chih Kuo. We all know his gruesome history of arm injuries, and even now he just had to take an entire week off (plus a cortisone shot in his elbow), and after his first batter Joe Torre rushes to the mound to inquire about his health (seen at right). Kuo waves him off, but then proceeds to give up 4 hits and blows the game. It can’t be overstated how much he’s meant to the pen this season… so let’s hope this is just rust, and not anything more serious.

On to Pittsburgh, hopefully aided by the return of Andre Ethier.

* Casey Blake left today’s game with, according to Diamond Leung, “minor back stiffness.” I’m not sure if this is something that’s just popped up, but with how poorly he’s performed lately it wouldn’t surprise me if this has been bothering him for some time. Looking at his stats coming into today, Blake’s been very all-or-nothing. Over the last month, his power numbers have been fine (5 homers and a .432 SLG), but he’s only hitting .227 and getting on base at a .313 clip. It’s been worse even more recently, as he’s only been able to get 3 hits in the entire last week. He has hit 9 homers since joining the Dodgers, which is nice, but his OPS+ is now at 101 in LA - making him just about league-average. Of course, since Blake DeWitt had fallen off a cliff and Andy LaRoche never really got going, league-average was an upgrade.

* Speaking of third base… as a general rule, I’ve tried to refrain from worrying about 2009 while the Dodgers are still very much alive in 2008. This is why I haven’t really touched on the “Will Manny stay?” questions or “Will Sabathia come to LA?” rumors that are out and about. But this is a new one: via MLBtraderumors, we have Bill Shaikin wondering whether the Dodgers might be interested in re-acquiring Adrian Beltre from Seattle in the offseason. We’ll get into this and other rumors in a much more indepth fashion after the season ends, but for now I’ll say this: I wouldn’t mind seeing Beltre return, but I doubt that it’ll happen. For all the heat Beltre has recieved for being unable to match his monster 2004 season since going to Seattle, he’s still been a very effective third baseman. Still one of the best defenders in the game, he’s now completing his third straight year of 25+ homers with an above average OPS+, and that’s with an injured wrist that just required surgery. Would I be willing to pay the $12 million for 2009 remaining on his contract to see if a return to the LA area would be bring back his 2004 form? Probably – but when Beltre’s name popped up in rumors (mostly to Minnesota) this July, all the whispers said that Seattle was looking for frontline young prospects in return, partially to mend the wounds they caused themselves in the brutal Erik Bedard deal. That’s not a price I’m willing to pay for one year of Beltre. So I don’t expect to see it.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg