We’re not always right around here, you know. Sometimes we’re strongly for a move that backfires horribly. And sometimes we question a move that works out wonderfully. And sometimes we get one right; we deride a move as awful from day one and it works out exactly as we said it would. (That, by the way, remains one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written for this site).
Sure, there was a time where you could maybe, sort of, kind of make an argument for Berroa – back when Nomar and Furcal were both DL’d and the slim possibility of Berroa’s resurgence was preferable to Hu’s .159 struggles in the bigs. Maybe.
But to no one’s surprise, Berroa’s been terrible, despite his 2-4 performance tonight. Even in the emergent circumstances that have allowed him to play, a .206/.267/.243 line (coming into tonight) in a pennant race just isn’t going to cut it. Of the 72 men who’ve played shortstop in the big leagues this year, Berroa is 67th in VORP.
Now I know that Hu was awful at the plate in his shot earlier in the year; in fact, he’s one of the 5 players ranked lower in VORP than Berroa. But the idea that Hu should be given another shot over Berroa rests in two nearly indisputable facts:
1) Chin-Lung Hu is a better fielder than Angel Berroa. Actually, Berroa hasn’t been all that bad at shortstop, but Hu is so good that there’s little argument here. If you’ve got two guys who probably won’t contribute all that much at the plate, you might as well go with the one who offers more in the field, right? Even when Hu was struggling at the the dish, he proved that his fielding was the real deal, not even committing a single error in his 28 games at SS earlier this year. While Berroa hasn’t been as bad as I feared with the glove, he’s been middle-of-the pack (indeed, his .975 fielding % would tie him for 15th of the 20 shortstops with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, if he were qualified as well).
2) Chin-Lung Hu is more likely to contribute offensively than Angel Berroa. The fact that I’m saying a guy who hit .159/.224/.206 is carrying a bigger bat than anyone is pretty damning, but I really think this is true. Hu hit the minor league DL with vision problems soon after he got there, and since getting that taken care of has been killing the ball, putting up a .361/.400/.475 line. There’s precedent for this with him, too; after struggling through 2006 (.660 OPS) problems with his vision were first made public, and after getting his eyes healthy in the offseason, he busted out with an .871 OPS in 2007. I don’t know exactly what the problems with his eyes have been, but this is twice now that after getting his vision issues corrected he’s come back with a vengeance. Not to mention that Hu is a highly-touted 24-year-old who can be expected to improve, while Berroa is now 30 and five years removed from his one decent season.
The shortstop situation remains fluid; Nomar is supposedly going to return in the next week or so, and Rafael Furcal has targeted September 1 for his own return. Each will likely need a caddy, so why not go with the younger superior fielder who may have fixed his hitting problems rather than the older mediocre-at-best black hole of a veteran? Seems to make sense to me.
Also, I’m not going to write yet another post about how lousy Juan Pierre is and Joe Torre’s inexplicable infatuation with him; we’ve done that plenty around here. That said, I can’t help but direct you to the wonderful article Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus wrote on the situation yesterday. A lot of it is exactly the same sort of thing we’ve been saying around here from day one, but it’s still a good read. It’s far too long to copy and paste the whole thing here (plus, it is behind a pay wall), but these snippets should give you a good idea.
Ethier was also better last year, and has been the better player than Pierre from the moment he stepped into the league. This isn’t a debatable point—Andre Ethier is a better baseball player than Juan Pierre.
The argument that Pierre’s poor rate stats don’t accurately capture his skills is false. He isn’t a good leadoff hitter who generates runs via his speed. He’s not on base enough, and because he’s not on base enough, both he and his team are poor at scoring runs when he bats leadoff. Batting Juan Pierre leadoff is, to bring back a term, baseball malpractice.
If the Dodgers fail to reach the postseason, it will be in part because Furcal got hurt. You can’t just ignore that part of the equation. But it will be just as much because Joe Torre elected to kneecap his offense by putting a bad baseball player in a critical role, and stubbornly sticking with that decision despite what it was doing to his offense. No amount of geniality, experience, speed, or hustle can counter the statistics above. When anybody but Juan Pierre leads off, the Dodgers score 50 percent more runs than they do when Pierre leads off. Consistently
So… hard… to type… through… tears of joy…
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness