It’s Time For a Little Math Lesson

This isn’t even going to be the kind of math lesson you think it is. This isn’t going to be about years or dollars, although believe me, that’s a kind of math we’re going to be dealing with a lot. No, today, we’re going to deal with the simple lessons of “greater than or equal to”.
 
Last July, the Brewers gave up highly-touted minor league slugger Matt LaPorta and three lesser prospects in order to acquire one of the three best pitchers in baseball, CC Sabathia.
 
Last July, the Dodgers gave up breakout star minor league catcher Carlos Santana and minor league pitcher Jonathan Meloan to acquire one of the most thoroughly mediocre third basemen in baseball, Casey Blake.
 
carlossantanaHere’s where the math comes in.
 
We can eliminate these two variables: origin (Sabathia and Blake each came from Cleveland, and x=x) and contract (Sabathia and Blake were each free agents at the end of 2008; again, x=x). Otherwise, CC Sabathia > Casey Blake. This much is obvious. Just think of there being 400 “greater than” arrows in that equation and all of them being the size of the moon, for proper perspective. Not only is a top starter almost always more valuable than a decent third baseman, but Sabathia is way better at his job than Blake is at his. Besides, Sabathia might be nearly as dangerous of a hitter.
 
So by that logic, the value of the players moved for the immensely more valuable Sabathia should dwarf what was given up for Blake, right?
 
Oh dear God:

 Baseball America’s Top 10 Indians prospects:
1. Carlos Santana, c
2. Matt LaPorta, of

Somehow the Dodgers acquired the far inferior Indians player, yet gave up the more valuable player. Oh yeah. Because that makes sense. Let’s not even get into the idea that Meloan would also arguably be as or more valuable than the rest of the players Milwaukee sent to Cleveland if the Dodgers hadn’t tried to convert him into a starter this year; the simple fact is, the Dodgers traded more for less than another team had to. And isn’t that the way it always is? Dioner Navarro for Mark Hendrickson. Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez and Lance Carter. All trades in which the Dodgers sent away much more than was received.

I hope you don’t get tired of this one, friends. “Santana for Blake” is going right up there with “Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields” in the annals of Dodger infamy.

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

Alright, What the Hell is Going On Here?

Tony Jackson, LA Daily news, July 7th:

the Daily News learned that sometime in the days leading up to that deal, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt nixed a trade that would have brought Sabathia to Los Angeles, along with Indians third baseman Casey Blake and utility man Jamey Carroll.

McCourt’s reason was financial, according to multiple industry sources. But that is a charge McCourt flatly denied.

Tony Jackson, LA Daily News blog, July 8th:

I was told this morning, by a source completely separate from the ones from which I got the earlier story, that Matt Kemp WAS involved in the aborted trade for Sabathia, Blake and Carroll, and that either Jon Meloan or James McDonald also was involved. 

Dylan Hernandez, LA Times, July 8th:

McCourt said a trade with the Indians was a real possibility at one point. “I think the deal as it started out had a potential to be a deal that wouldn’t have compromised the goals of this organization,” he said. “I think the deal, as it evolved, got to the point where it became unacceptable to the organization.”

The talks are believed to have started out with the Dodgers offering two players, one of them being third baseman Andy LaRoche, for Sabathia, but came to include several other players on both sides. Sabathia will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com, July 9th:

The Dodgers not only could have had Sabathia, but also Indians third baseman Casey Blake and infielder Jamey Carroll without giving up any of their top young major leaguers, according to major-league sources.

The Indians would have received a package that included the following types of players, if not the exact names: Third baseman Andy LaRoche, right-hander Cory Wade, Class AA right-hander James McDonald and Class A catcher Carlos Santana.

Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus, July 9th:

The Dodgers continue to confuse everyone. “Some want to buy, some sell,” I’m told. One faction of the front office wants to deal for a shortstop and is focused on Jack Wilson or David Eckstein, while another (which appears to hold sway with the McCourts for now) want to see if Nomar Garciaparra can hold the position down. Teams simply don’t want to deal with the Dodgers because of the confusion over who has final authority. One front-office source told me that the Dodgers have made deals, only to have ownership pull out at least twice.

So let’s recap: Matt Kemp WAS in the deal. Matt Kemp WASN’T in the deal. The Dodgers could have acquired Sabathia, Blake, and Carroll without including Kemp, Billingsley, Kershaw, Martin, Loney, or Ethier. (!!!!!!!!) Or just LaRoche and someone else for Sabathia. And that Colletti had a deal done, except that McCourt put the kibosh on it. Twice. Or he didn’t. But if he did, it was because of money. Or it wasn’t. Ned Colletti’s in charge. Or McCourt’s pulling the strings. Or, says another source of Rosenthal’s,

Others believe that assistant general manager Logan White exerts an inordinate amount of influence, discouraging trades of players that he once selected as the team’s scouting director.

This is getting completely out of hand, and it’s hardly the first time around here, is it? It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t even matter if you side with McCourt, Colletti, or even White (MSTI chooses White!) on decision-making, you just want to know that someone is actually in charge over there. I mean, look at what Carroll says: “Teams simply don’t want to deal with the Dodgers because of the confusion over who has the final authority.” How is that even possible? Is McCourt meddling too much? Is Colletti not assertive enough? This is the kind of internal politics that I really hate discussing – partially because you’ll never get a straight answer from anyone, but mostly because it distracts from where the focus really ought to be: on the field. You know what? That proposed deal for Sabathia/Blake/Carroll? I probably make that deal. I hate to give up LaRoche, but the thought of getting those players without giving up Kemp is mind-blowing. If the Dodgers aren’t going to be able to improve their chances at the playoffs because of some internal “whose is bigger” contest (sorry, Kim!), then that’s an insult to the fan base. Guess what, guys? Get it together. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL ISSUES. GET THE JOB DONE, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.

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

First Place… Really?!?

The idea that this team is in first place despite being a game under .500 is as crazy as saying “Nomar played shortstop and not only didn’t kill himself, but hit a homer, and a rookie Japanese pitcher who didn’t make it out of the third inning in two of his last four starts nearly pitched a perfect game.”

Wait, what?

I mean, what can you say about Hiroki Kuroda? He was absolutely fantastic last night, and perfect game or not, I’ll take a one-hit shutout every single time. Of course, some excellent defense definitely helped – particularly Blake DeWitt’s amazing bare-handed play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt, and as much as I hate to admit it, even Angel Berroa chipped in with some great defense after replacing Nomar at shortstop.

But about Kuroda… how manic is this guy? Look at his last five starts, interrupted by a DL stint:

7/7 vs. ATL: 9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6 K, 0 BB, 91 pitches – 3-0 win
7/2 @ HOU: 7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 83 pitches – 4-1 win
6/12 @ SD: 2.1 IP, 6 R, 5 H, 2 K, 4 BB, 63 pitches – 6-3 loss
6/6 vs. CHC: 9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 11 K, 0 BB, 112 pitches – 3-0 win
6/1 @ NYM: 2.2 IP, 6 R, 7 H, 0 K, 2 BB, 66 pitches – 6-1 loss

There’s not much gray area, is there? Obviously, it’s an encouraging sign that he’s been unscored upon since returning from the DL, but it’s also hard to point to a tired arm as a cause for those two lousy games since his gem against the Cubs was sandwiched in between them. Anyway, a solid round of applause for our man Hiroki for the effort he put forth last night. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Clap, clap, clap.

But even more importantly, first place! Sure, it’s mostly because the Diamondbacks have been so lousy as to keep the Dodgers in the race. But do you think the 2006 Cardinals kept their World Series parade subdued because they snuck into the playoffs with a 83-78 record? I doubt it. First place is first place, so let’s go with that. Interestingly enough, Baseball Prospectus has a “playoff odds report” updated daily, where they simulate out the rest of the season one million times to see what happens, using some fancy math algorithms I won’t even pretend to explain here. The Dodgers win the NL West 48.6% of the time, which may be less than half, but it’s still leading the division – Arizona wins only 41.5% of the time. They also have likelihoods for the wild card, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s going to be the division title or bust here. (Oddly enough, the Nationals, who are on pace for a 61-101 record, win the NL East .0006% of the one million simulations. What happened in those simulations? Did they poison the water supply of the Mets and Phillies? Did the Confederacy secede from the Union and take the Marlins and Braves?)

On to some trade rumor updates. Despite all the fur that’s been flying around here and elsewhere about Jack Wilson, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says “not so fast“:

The Pirates expect to keep shortstop Jack Wilson beyond Major League Baseball’s July 31 trading deadline, despite overtures from several teams in the past week.

And he might stay a lot longer than that.

The front office’s thinking, as outlined by internal sources yesterday, is that Wilson is valuable to the Pirates not only because of his fine performance in the past year-plus but also because his departure would leave a gaping hole, as was painfully evident when he missed two months to injury this season. Top shortstop prospect Brian Bixler has recovered nicely with Class AAA Indianapolis after a rough debut in Pittsburgh this spring, but he is not of Wilson’s pedigree. And no one else is on the horizon.

Management also values that it can retain Wilson for two more seasons, with a guaranteed $7.25 million next season and a club option of $8.4 million for 2010. That is well within market range for a shortstop of Wilson’s experience, and management has repeatedly stated that it is under no financial constraints to move any current contract.

Put that together, and the general view is this: Why give up Wilson when a comparable replacement must be acquired by next spring, at the latest?

That’s a little disappointing, but not crushing, I suppose. I thought Wilson was a good stop-gap solution, but hardly someone I’ve been drooling over. Really, I’d love for Nomar to nail down the job, and even if he hits as poorly as last year that’s still an improvement over Berroa and Maza, but there’s absolutely no one who thinks he’ll stay healthy all year, is there? Kovacevic also offers one other nugget:

Los Angeles initiated the inquiry about Wilson last week and was the first team to do so this year. Those talks, which never involved any player on the Dodgers’ major league roster, never got very far and seemed dormant, if not dead, late yesterday afternoon.

That’s a relief, if true. Hopefully all the hand-wringing over Matt Kemp getting dealt was just overblown media speculation. On the other hand, Tony Jackson has some very intriguing news about the Dodgers’ involvement in getting C.C. Sabathia:

Shortly after the Milwaukee Brewers finalized a trade for reigning American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia on Monday, the Daily News learned that sometime in the days leading up to that deal, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt nixed a trade that would have brought Sabathia to Los Angeles, along with Indians third baseman Casey Blake and utility man Jamey Carroll.

McCourt’s reason was financial, according to multiple industry sources. But that is a charge McCourt flatly denied.

I’m not sure I’m buying the financial part, because all three Indians are free agents at the end of the season. As the Daily News story says, they’re owed somewhere between $8-9 million for the remainder of 2008, and for a trade that would bring a Cy Young Award winner, are we really that hard up against the cap? Especially when you consider that obviously, some amount of salary would have to have gone back to Cleveland.

Of course, I shudder to think what the Dodgers would have had to give up for Sabathia, Blake, and Carroll. It’s well-known that the Indians’ #1 priority was to get a young power hitter, which they did in Matt LaPorta, so Matt Kemp is almost a certainty to be included. I can’t even imagine who else; assuming that Martin, Billingsley, and Kershaw are completely untouchable, and that it’s unlikely that both Kemp and Ethier would be moved in the same deal, I’m guessing.. James McDonald, Chin-Lung Hu, and Andy LaRoche? At the very least? Probably Delwyn Young too, since he really ought to be a DH in the American League? That’s a pretty steep price, and I’m just completely speculating here.

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

If the Dodgers Trade Matt Kemp for Jack Wilson…

…well, you won’t even get an analysis here. You’ll just get the .gif of the head-exploding guy from Scanners posted here about 40 times, and then no more MSTI posts ever since I’ll have broken my laptop by bashing my face into it. Be happy I just presented you with the still, because the motion one is way more gross, and that’s what you’re going to get if this deal goes down. Anyway, this story’s popped up everywhere, but I can’t help but comment on this one section of it. Let’s go with 6-4-2 for the link, originally from Ken Rosenthal:

To get Wilson, the Dodgers would need to trade the Pirates some of the same players that the Indians want for Sabathia, leaving Los Angeles with a choice of one deal or the other.

Please tell me that I didn’t just read that the asking price for a mediocre – at best – shortstop is going to have anything in common with the asking price for the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Jack Wilson is 30 and has a career OPS+ of 79. C.C. Sabathia is 27 and has never once in his career (and for all the hype over Clayton Kershaw, don’t forget that when C.C. was age 20, he was going 17-5 in 33 starts) had an ERA+ of below 100. So please, tell me, on what planet are we trading the same guys for these two players?

If we needed a pitcher – which we don’t – then yes, by all means, Sabathia is worth some top-shelf talent. Jack Wilson should be a player the Pirates are dying to give away. He’s not all that good, and he’s still got some sizable cash left on his deal ($7.25 million next year, plus a $0.6 million buyout of an $8.4 million team option for 2010). The Pirates should be begging the Dodgers to take him off their hands, no?

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

I Know it’s the 4th of July…

…you’ll be busy. You’ll have a family barbeque to get to, a local fireworks celebration – whatever it is you do to enjoy a national holiday. Really, if you’re actually reading this post right now, I’m a little disappointed in you. But I implore you, make some time in your day to catch the Dodger game (1pm PST). Because as you should already know, both Nomar Garciaparra and Andruw Jones have sped up their rehab in order to be available today. Tell me you’re not interested in seeing Nomar playing shortstop for the first time since 2005! Especially now that it’s been another year and nine more injuries since “he’s too fragile to play third base” was offered as a reason that he couldn’t be shifted across the infield from first base to make room for James Loney. And you know you want to see if Jones is going to offer any glimpse of the player he once was, especially since his rehab was originally supposed to end a full two weeks from now on July 18th. I know it’s only 3 minor league games, but he did go 4-8 with a homer and a stolen base in Vegas – and zero strikeouts. Is it possible that the knee really was the source of his problems? I guess we’ll have to see. But if he can come back and be even half of his former self, that would still help this power-starved team and be a massive improvement on the guy who was approximately 1/100000th of his old self earlier this year.

Of course, bringing both of these guys back will require some roster moves, especially for Nomar because, having been placed on the 60 day DL, he’s no longer on the 40-man roster. Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com says:

The Dodgers will need to make two roster moves to make room for the veterans. Newly arrived outfielder Jason Repko is one likely candidate. The other could come from a group of bench players, including Angel Berroa, Andy LaRoche and Mark Sweeney.

Repko, fine. Yeah, it’s only been seven at-bats, but the four K’s and zero hits haven’t exactly made much of an impression. Get an OF back in Jones, send one down in Repko. But here’s the thing, Ken. There’s a bunch of guys that could get the axe for Nomar. Angel Berroa’s got an OPS+ of 27, to the surprise of absolutely no one except Ned Colletti. With Nomar around, Berroa and Luis Maza seem a little redundant – and Maza’s OPS+ is 44, which is still bad, but at least he can play second as well. Mark Sweeney may be the most useless player the Dodgers have ever had, and yes, I do remember Jason Grabowski. He’s hitting .094, for chrissakes. There’s even a case to be made for sending down Blake DeWitt, now that he’s down to hitting .169 over the last month. The point is, there’s a lot of filler on the roster right now. However, in no way should Andy LaRoche be considered among them. I know, he’s not really lit the league on fire yet. But unlike Berroa, Maza, and Sweeney, he’s actually got a future. 30 big league at-bats is hardly enough to decide what it is. If Andy LaRoche is the one sent down for Nomar… well, that might be the end of this blog entirely, because I don’t know if I could ever rationally write about this team again.

On to trade rumor news, because that’s always a topic I find endlessly fascinating. First, the shortstop problem. We’ve discussed the possibility of David Eckstein before, and although I wasn’t really for it, I understood why he might be in the conversation. Well, hopefully this juxtaposition from the Toronto Sun can put an end to that right here and now:

It’s no surprise that the Blue Jays are shopping right-hander A.J. Burnett.

But what they’re looking for in return certainly is.

The Jays are looking to obtain a shortstop in talks with other teams.

Wait, the Jays have two shortstops, Eckstein and John McDonald. Why would they want another?

“They’re offering Burnett to any team that needs pitching,” said an American League general manager. “They’ve told us they’re not happy with either David Eckstein or John McDonald.”

McDonald signed a two-year contract for $3.8 million last fall and before spring training the Jays signed Eckstein to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Eckstein has had problems in the field while McDonald is hitting .163 in 29 games.

Manager Cito Gaston has given as much playing time at short to Marco Scutaro, who was signed as an utility infielder.

Fantastic. The Jays are in last place and even they can’t stomach Eckstein. I especially like the “has had problems in the field” part of this. I know the Dodgers are desperate at SS… but not that desperate, right?

Finally, C.C. Sabathia, also known as “an expensive starting pitcher the Dodgers simply do not need, yet the media seems to insist that they do”. I can’t find the video, unfortunately, but my eyes nearly fell out of my head watching Tim Kurkjian on ESPN last night saying that the Dodgers “desperately need a starting pitcher”. Yes, the fact that the Dodgers have the #1 pitching staff in the NL (by ERA), a bonafide young ace in Chad Billingsley, and a lousy offense shouts “more pitching!” Well, Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Brewers are jumping into this with both feet, saying:

The Brewers’ offer for Sabathia includes Class AA left fielder Matt LaPorta, according to sources with two other clubs that are interested in acquiring the pitcher.

Class AA shortstop Alcides Escobar also may be in the Brewers’ proposed deal, one of the sources says.

To put this into Dodgers terms, consider sending Matt Kemp and Chin-Lung Hu – plus likely more since LaPorta is considered an even better hitting prospect than Kemp. How many times can I say “pass”?

Have a happy holiday, folks.

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