On OBP, John Lindsey, and the Continuing Fallacies of Bill Plaschke

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the offseason moves of the Dodgers and how they seem to have no regard at all for on-base percentage, which we all know to be vital if you want to score runs. I joked on Twitter the other day that I might almost be ready to start a “Free Jamey Carroll!” campaign, if only to have someone in the lineup who can actually get on base, and today Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts takes a deeper look at that idea. (Warning: you may not want to click that link if you didn’t like the Juan Uribe signing and don’t want to see stats that suggest Carroll was more valuable than Uribe in 2010.)

I wondered just how much losing the OBP skills of Russell Martin and others would hurt now that they’ve been replaced by the low-OBP likes of Uribe and Rod Barajas, but wasn’t quite sure how to quantify it. Fortunately, baseball-reference had a similar question, in that they wondered how much the Red Sox offense would improve now that they’ve added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. They used the lineup generator at Baseball Musings to try and predict the estimated runs scored for the likely 2011 Sox lineup.

I’m going to do the same thing, by comparing what the generator said for the 2010 Dodger lineup as compared to the likely 2011 squad. To choose a starting 9, I went with the 8 players who had the most PA at their position in 2009, and put the top bench player – Carroll – in the pitcher’s spot.

2010:

A lineup of Furcal, Martin, Kemp, Manny, Ethier, Blake, Loney, DeWitt, & Carroll would be predicted to score 5.148 runs / game. (The “ideal” lineup, featuring such moves as Carroll leading off and Manny 2nd, would get you 5.266 runs / game.)

2011:

A lineup of Furcal, Uribe, Kemp, Either, Blake, Loney, Barajas, Gibbons, & Carroll would be predicted to score 4.965 runs / game. (The “ideal” lineup gets you to 5.069.)

It’s not an exact science, of course; the games do take place on the field and not in a database, and you certainly can’t expect every player to perform identically to how they did the year before. We’ve always known that if there’s not some bounceback from players like Kemp and Loney, the team’s in big trouble anyway. But there’s always the worry of Furcal breaking down, Blake continuing to regress, and the complete unknown of the left-field situation.

Long story short, it’s not a good trend.

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Over at TrueBlueLA, Eric Stephen posts one of my favorite pictures ever, as you can see a color-coded, numerically-based roster board behind Juan Uribe at his introduction last week. Eric notes that we see J.D. Closser and Jon Huber listed as non-roster invites, which we didn’t know, but I also saw that John Lindsey is not listed under his #35. He’s still technically on the 40-man roster, but that’s about to be full, and his omission on the board almost certainly points to his departure. That doesn’t mean he can’t come back in the spring, of course, but any small bit of job security he may have had seems to be gone.

******

I hate, hate, hate to even acknowledge Bill Plaschke’s presence, but if he’s going to spout misinformation and stupidity, I suppose it’s my job to refute him.

Today, Billy’s complaining about how Los Angeles is apparently no longer a preferred baseball destination, because neither the Dodgers nor the Angels are going to land big-ticket free agents like Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, or Jayson Werth. Nevermind that giving $130m+ contracts isn’t always the best way to build a team, nevermind that Werth would never have come back to the Dodgers after how his previous tenure ended, and nevermind that the Dodgers needed to build an entire starting rotation, not just an ace. Nevermind that the Dodgers don’t get marquee free agents because they’re constrained by the McCourt divorce, a fact which Plaschke conveniently neglects to mention until the very last sentence. Why let facts get in the way of a sob story?

Rather than do the entire article, lest my keyboard get covered with bile, I’m going to pick and choose some of the fun ones.

In what may be the saddest of possible words, we were also the place that somebody named Matt Diaz just rejected for some place called Pittsburgh.

Though that did seem odd at first, Diaz – who went to high school in Florida – said he made the choice because he wanted to stay in the East and spend his spring in Florida. Also, the Dodgers never made a formal offer. Kind of hard to argue that, no?

The last time the Dodgers signed a premier free agent, they made Kevin Brown baseball’s first $100-million man, but that was a dozen years and a million Kevin Malone jokes ago.

Well, there was the time they signed Manny Ramirez after 2008. He seemed pretty “premier” to me. Or when Rafael Furcal bolted Atlanta, then chose to stay when he hit free agency a second time. Or the $44m and $47m, respectively, they handed out to Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt, and even though those were poor choices that didn’t work out, they still happened. Or when Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, and Jeff Kent all came to town. None of those guys got paid, or contributed, right?

These days, they don’t even last as long as the Washington Nationals, whose $126-million contract for Jayson Werth borders on the clinically insane, but at least the Nationals are players.

Not that Werth was coming back, but if the Dodgers handed him $126m, you wouldn’t be praising them for spending. You’d be assailing them for being foolish, just like we’ve all said about the Nationals. Don’t deny it.

When is the last time someone really wanted to play baseball in Los Angeles?

Well, there was last winter, when Jamey Carroll turned down more years and dollars from Oakland to come to Los Angeles. Or when Jon Garland turned down the likelihood of more money with the Padres to come back to the Dodgers. Or when Hiroki Kuroda turned down the chance to test the market for a certain three-year deal for big dollars to come back to LA. Or when Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas repeatedly said they wanted to be Dodgers. Or when Furcal, Ted Lilly, and Casey Blake all re-signed with the team after reaching free agency, rather than going elsewhere. And that’s just the Dodgers, in the last year or two, not including the Angels, and off the top of my head. LA’s actually a pretty good draw for players, wouldn’t you say?

I realize attacking Plaschke is low-hanging fruit and all, but… he gets paid for this. And people read it.

Buster Olney Contemplates the Unthinkable

Unlike most of you, I think, I actually like ESPN’s Buster Olney a lot. Not only did he grow up a Dodger fan in Vermont, his daily link collection is immensely useful, and he’s even promising a feature on John Ely tomorrow.

All that said, I think he may have gone off the deep end today:

The Dodgers’ payroll has been on lockdown, however, diminished by about 40 percent in recent seasons, and with the McCourts’ divorce proceedings in the slash and hack phase, ownership might not approve a significant midseason expenditure, such as Oswalt.

The truth is that maybe the best chance for the Dodgers to get some money freed up by midseason would come if the leading columnists in L.A. were to generate a daily drumbeat of sentiment for the team to spend some money. In other words: T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke, the eyes of Dodger Nation might be turning to you in the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes.

I don’t care if it resulted in the Dodgers picking up Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols, and Joe Mauer – I don’t ever want to be in a position where we have to look to Bill Plaschke, of all people, to be our voice in the community. Besides, as best as I can tell, Plaschke hasn’t even been bothered to write about the Dodgers since April 17, when it was – surprise, surprise – a negative article about the team’s slow start. Before that, it was April 5, complaining about Ronald Belisario‘s late arrival to camp. Typical Plaschke, isn’t it? He pops up to whine, but when the team surges into first place, he hasn’t been heard from in over a month. Sure, he’ll use the excuse “I’m on the Lakers beat,” but that’s all too convenient, isn’t it?

So thanks, Buster, but no thanks. If you’d like to help hammer the McCourts on the damage they’ve done, by all means, we’ll welcome you. But Plaschke pretending he represents the Dodger fan? Pass.

Even The LA Times Photo Department Can’t Stand Bill Plaschke

I’m not trying to make light of the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili - obviously, what happened was awful, and it’s a video I wish I could un-see. Still, “Death at the Olympics” makes for a pretty poignant tale for opportunistic psuedo-journalists, doesn’t it? It’s the kind of heart-wrenching story that cretins like Bill Plaschke drool over, and he didn’t disappoint, complaining that the Olympics seem to be business as usual despite the tragedy.

Now, whether the lifelong dreams of thousands of athletes and families, along with the years of work by the host country, really should be lessened or dashed by this unfortunate accident are a completely different argument. What’s not up for discussion is that, as usual, Billy’s got his facts wrong – except this time it’s the Times online layout itself that serves as the proof.

Plaschke’s article – dated today, February 14 – launches right into how he thinks the death has been overlooked, because the flags aren’t at half-staff and there’s no memorial to Kumaritashvili. In fact, he says just that:

One day later, the national flags above Turn 16 still flapped at full staff, the Olympic rings there still glowed a sweet blue, there was no makeshift memorial of flowers or cards, there was no visible memory.

Sad, isn’t it? You’d think that between the thousands of visitors and competitors affected by this tragedy, that someone would have at least put down some flowers in remembrance.

Oh, what’s that? They did, and depsite Plaschke’s claims to the contrary, there’s a photo of exactly that leading the story, just pixels above where he says they didn’t? Looks like my birthday came early this year!

Bill Plaschke: distorting the facts to fit his narrative since 1987.

If this all sounds slightly familiar to you, it’s because it’s not the first time. When Manny came back from his suspension last summer, Plaschke railed against him, saying (among many other tenuous claims) that Manny didn’t acknowledge the support of his fans in Mannywood… except for the photos on Deadspin clearly showing that he did.

Game 3 Aftermath: The Sky is Falling!

Well, I suppose this was predictable. I’ve been trying to make an active effort not to focus on the crazy ramblings of one Mr. Plaschke over at the LAT, because I feel like whenever I talk about him, it just brings more attention to him that he clearly doesn’t deserve.

However, sometimes he just goes off the rails so far that I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my job here if I didn’t present a counter-argument that contained a little bit more, what’s the word? Oh yes. Truth.

Okay, Bill. Get on with it. Go all Chicken Little on us here.

On a blustery night featuring timid Dodgers offerings and furious Phillies hacks amid an angry stadium awash in blue blood, you know what I would have liked to see?

I would have liked to see those Dodgers prospects whom they liked more than Cliff Lee.

Now that would have been ugly.

Who are those guys? Where were those guys?

It’s good that we’re starting off with a supremely important point – who were the prospects that were offered to Cleveland in July? The answer is, “we don’t know for sure,” and keep that in mind, because it’s going to come back to bite Bill here shortly.

They needed to stand amid the ruins of Sunday’s 11-0 Philadelphia Phillies victory to witness what the organization sacrificed to keep them.

They need to be part of this Dodgers tumble into the ropes in the National League Championship Series, the team falling behind two games to one after the franchise’s worst postseason loss in 50 years.

They needed to be here, and we needed to see why.

leephilliesDidn’t realize the NLCS had now turned into a best of three, where being down 2-1 automatically disqualifies you from victory. I won’t pretend that yesterday’s disaster wasn’t ugly – it was – but one of the 78,234,871 reasons I like baseball better than soccer is that there’s no such thing as “total runs” being a tiebreaker. Regardless of whether you lose 11-0 or 1-0, it’s still just one loss in the books.

Oh, and way to throw 19 year old kids who had nothing to do with this under the bus. Real nice.

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice the chance to acquire Lee, the starter stolen instead by the Phillies at the trading deadline, the guy who brilliantly held the Dodgers to three singles in eight innings of puzzled stares?

Yes, I’m sure it was as simple as, “ehh… no thanks.” We’ll get back to this in a second.

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice a sensible postseason rotation, forcing Joe Torre to hand the ball to a spooked Hiroki Kuroda, who threw it well for all of about one batter?

No. False. First of all, Kuroda’s been a very reliable starter when healthy since coming to LA, and as I wrote yesterday, there were several reasons to believe in him against the Phillies. You could make the case that Randy Wolf should have recieved this start, or even Chad Billingsley, but there’s nothing wrong with giving a guy like Kuroda a start. And if there was, you certainly didn’t mention it before he got shelled, did you? Besides, if the Dodgers did get Lee, they likely don’t feel the need to go get Vicente Padilla, meaning Kuroda gets this start anyway.

Why must this season now rest on the shoulders of Randy Wolf, tonight’s Game 4 starter, in whom Torre has so little confidence that in the fourth inning of the division series opener he was yanked with a lead?

Also false. Torre was universally praised for taking advantage of his huge bullpen advantage and not sticking with a starter for too long. I don’t see that so much as “lack of faith” as “going with your strength.” So, this is a faulty point.

Was it worth this? Were these players worth this?

These have been questions asked several times in this space since Ned Colletti’s trade-deadline whiff, and Sunday’s embarrassment makes it perfectly fair to ask it again.

“It’s just one loss,” Russell Martin said afterward. “But at this point, every game means the world.”

Well, it’s nice to see that we’re not overreacting based on one loss that probably happens regardless of a trade for Lee or not, isn’t it?

And one trade could have meant this game. Colletti has long said that his offer was better than Philadelphia’s offer, but the Indians obviously didn’t agree, and baseball folks say the Dodgers continue to overvalue their lower-level prospects.

Here’s where we get into the meat of this thing, because remember when I said right off the top that we didn’t know who the Dodger prospects were? So, how are you supposed to judge the failure or success of a deal when you don’t even know what you’d have to give up? Plaschke seems to think that no price was too high for Lee. What if that price was Kershaw, Billingsley, Kemp, and Ethier? Would you have been okay with that? I didn’t think so.

No, there’s two reasons why the deal got made with Philadelphia and not the Dodgers, and neither of them are due to some epic failure by Ned Colletti:

1) The Indians wanted players who were closer to the bigs. The top of the Dodger system has been emptied out by (mostly successful) graduations to the big league team; guys like Kemp, Kershaw, Billingsley, etc. The next wave of Dodger stars (Dee Gordon, Andrew Lambo, Trayvon Robinson, Ethan Martin, etc.) are at least 2 years away, if not more.

2) The Indians chose poorly. By just about any stretch, the Indians accepted a package of players that was not the most they could get for Lee. In addition to the fact that Colletti says his deal was better, you’ve got Indian fans who hated the trade at the time:

“It’s the worst trade they ever made,” Vavra added. “They really got nothing in this deal.”

“Nothing” is four minor-leaguers — pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson and infielder Jason Donald — but not the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, Kyle Drabek.

Many fans believe their team should have received more, much more, for the popular Lee, winner of last season’s American League Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher, and everyday left fielder Francisco.

And those who hated it after they got a look at their new players:

If Indians fans wanted instant gratification from the players they received in return for Lee, it isn’t happening. Righty Carlos Carrasco is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA (six homers in 14 innings); catcher Lou Marson is hitting .154; shortstop Jason Donald went on the disabled list in Triple A; and righty Jason Knapp underwent surgery to remove fragments from his shoulder.

In addition to not getting Drabek, Cleveland didn’t get any of Philly’s other top prospects, either – outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor. What did Baseball Prospectus have to say?

Given the valuation of prospects and the cash situation around the industry, you might have expected that the cheaper contract might yield a better package of prospects, but barring the Indians’ scouting achieving some unanticipated coup, that doesn’t look to be the case at first blush.

and…

between J.A. Happ‘s breakthrough and the retention of pitching prospect Kyle Drabek as well as outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, the Phillies might just have kept their best stuff for themselves despite making this sort of major move.

The point being, the Indians – for whatever reason – totally boned this one, in nearly every baseball person’s opinion.  It’s hard to say why they chose the offer they did, and impossible to judge whether Colletti “whiffed” when you don’t even know what the Dodger offer was.

Back to Plaschke’s Cavalcade of Wrong:

Here’s hoping those protected kids are named, I don’t know, Koufax and Piazza?

Imagine if Plaschke had been a writer in the late 50s, back when Koufax was a wild fireballer with mediocre results? Koufax was 8-13 in 1960, with 100 BB in 197 IP at the age of 24. You don’t think ole’ Billy would be beating the bandwagon to trade that no-good Koufax? You better believe he would have. Please don’t take this comparison any further than it needs to go, but Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are both far superior pitchers at their ages than Koufax was at the same ages.

Here’s hoping that one of those protected players wasn’t, as rumored, Chad Billingsley, who was finally forced into a game Sunday and responded by giving up two runs in less than four innings.

Of all the stupid things this sad excuse for a “journalist” has said, this is by far the dumbest. If Billingsley had been traded for Lee, Dodger fans would have turned this city upside down (remember, at the time, Billingsley had barely started his second-half slide yet).  Lee has the right to be a free agent after the season if he chooses, and you want to give away a 24-year-old All Star with all the talent in the world? This is why I hate writing about Plaschke, because he clearly knows nothing about baseball – it’s just unfortunate that so many read him and believe him.

Blah blah blah through another few lines repeating the same point over and over, until:

Lee not only fooled the Dodgers such that only one player reached second base, he also struck out 10, including a memorable punch-out of Manny Ramirez.

Memorable, because it came as the Citizens Bank Park crowd chanted, “You took steroids. You took steroids.”

Manny got 2 of the 3 Dodger hits last night. By this logic, 98% of the blame for the loss lays on him. But knowing that Philly fans – always known as a paragon of class – were chanting at Manny during a big playoff rout, well, that completely changes my opinion.

Skipping a few more lines to…

The Dodgers needed an ace, and Toronto’s Roy Halladay and Cleveland’s Lee were available, yet Colletti decided to fortify the bullpen with George Sherrill instead.

I don’t want to completely rehash July here, but saying “Roy Halladay was available” is bending the truth. We all know that what Toronto was asking for Halladay was astronomical – that’s why he didn’t get dealt! Whatever it would have taken to acquire Lee, it would have been much more to get Doc. No team felt that was the right course of action, not just LA.

For all the ways Colletti has respected Dodgers culture by building with pitching and defense, he has failed to adhere to their most important of traditions.

Did you know that a Dodger, Don Newcombe, was the first winner of the Cy Young Award? Did you know that the Dodgers won five of the first 11 Cy Young Awards?

Completely irrelevant to the 2009 NLCS. We all know how inaccurate the votes of the baseball writers can be for major awards, and besides, three of those five were won by Koufax, who’s only one of the five best pitchers who ever walked the earth. Why, oh why, don’t we still have one of the five best pitchers who ever graced us with his presence? Why? Ridiculous argument.

Yet they have not had a starting pitcher win a Cy Young Award in 21 years. That was also, incidentally, the last time they won the World Series.

Ah, yes. The little-known caveat deep within baseball’s official rules that the team with the Cy Young winner must win the Series. That’s why the Royals, led by Zack Greinke, are doing so well this October, and are on track to face Tim Lincecum’s Giants in the World Series. Right?

The point here is not that the Dodgers couldn’t use a top starting pitcher right now; of couse they could. It’s just that you can’t kill Colletti for not making a move for Lee when A) you don’t know what his offer was and B) the Indians seemed intent (wrongly, it looks) on taking the Phillies package of lower-ceiling guys who were closer to the bigs.

Bill Plaschke: playing “I told you so” even without the facts since 1996.

What Is With the Musical Ignorance of Today’s Baseball Media?

facepalm.gifBill Plaschke, tweeting on the national anthem:

Slash did weird guitar national anthem, making me wonder…who the heck is Slash?

Dick Stockton, in the bottom of the 6th discussing Russell Martin’s full name:

Coltrane is a tribute to Martin’s father, who was a jazz saxophonist.