NLCS Game 3: Kuroda > Lee

There’s a lot to be worried about for Hiroki Kuroda today, it seems. There’s the fact that he hasn’t pitched in three weeks and is coming off a neck injury, to be sure, and then there’s the ever-present lazy journalism of trying to drum up stories about last year’s overblown ‘headhunting’ incidents.

But me? I’m nothing but confident. Just look at the facts…

1) Kuroda was excellent after returning from being hit in the head.

Kuroda Fist PumpHis first start back was on September 5, and in five starts he was very effective¬†- a 2.79 ERA in which he allowed opponents to get on base at just a .269 clip. That even includes a lousy outing against Pittsburgh in which he lasted just 4 innings, and even that didn’t push the ERA over 3.

2) Kuroda owns the Phillies.

Hiroki’s got four career starts against Philadelphia:

8/14/08: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 0 BB
8/24/08: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 2 BB
10/12/08: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 K, 1 BB
6/6/09: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 3 BB

In just two seasons, Kuroda’s built up quite the history of success against the Phillies, plus this won’t even be the first time he’ll face them in October. It’s even more than that though; look at Kuroda against the current members of the Phillies:


.179 OBP! .336 OPS! Just two extra-base hits in 58 plate appearances, and Ryan Howard in particular being completely neutralized. How does that not give you confidence? It’s not just Kuroda, too…

3) Cliff Lee hasn’t had the same level of success against Dodger batters.

While Kuroda’s dominated Philly, here’s Lee against the Dodgers he’ll see tonight:


That’s 5 times he’s seen one of these men take him deep, as compared to 0 times that Kuroda could count, and an OBP against that eclipses Kuroda’s OPS against – with Manny in particular hitting him hard.

This is not, of course, to say that this game is in the bag – clearly, Lee is a great pitcher, and Citizens Bank Park is going to be cold, wet, and unfriendly tonight. Just don’t forget how much the Dodgers do have going for them – especially when they get into the bullpens.

So Much For a Quiet Rumor Season

Well, here’s something. Ken Rosenthal hits us with:

The Dodgers and Indians are in serious discussions about a blockbuster that would send left-hander Cliff Lee and catcher Victor Martinez to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney, one of the Dodgers’ young starting pitchers and prospects, according to major-league sources.
Holy hell! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Cliff Lee’s no Roy Halladay, but he is the top-level pitcher the Dodgers could use, and the idea of trading the somewhat-disappointing Loney for Victor Martinez (118 career OPS+) would boost the offense from “bad-ass” to “hell, yeah!!” Plus, both Lee & Martinez are under contract for 2010, so neither would be a “rental”.
But who’d go back to Cleveland? Loney, of course, then someone from a group of “young starting pitchers and prospects”. Okay, fine. So we’re talking guys like Scott Elbert, James McDonald, Josh Lindblom as far as pitchers, I’d think, and then maybe along the lines of Josh Bell, Andrew Lambo, or maybe Blake DeWitt on the offensive side. Depending on how many, that’s steep but fair. How’s a rotation of Lee/Billingsley/Kershaw/Wolf/Kuroda strike you? Because that’s pretty delicious to me.
Sign me up. Wait. What?!
Lee would replace either left-hander Clayton Kershaw or right-hander Chad Billingsley — it is not known which the Dodgers would part with in the package — giving manager Joe Torre the more experienced starter that he covets.
No. No, no, no, no, no. Back this up for a second. There is nothing in baseball more valuable – nothing - than talented young pitching that’s cost controlled for several more seasons. We’ve been pretty consistent about this around here - I’ve been saying that we need to lock up Billingsley for months and that I wouldn’t trade Kershaw for Roy Halladay straight up – and nothing’s changed. If we’re to get another starting pitcher, it needs to be someone to add to these two guys to create an unholy trio, not someone to replace them. 
Look, put aside age, cost, and history for a second and know this fact: Cliff Lee hasn’t been as good as either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw this season.

Kershaw: 1.260
Billingsley: 1.286
Lee: 1.324

(and that’s even though both Billingsley and Kershaw walk more than they ought to!)
Kershaw: 8.8
Billingsley: 8.5
Lee: 6.4
Opponent’s OPS
Kershaw: .606
Billingsley: .689
Lee: .709
Even better, despite being several years older than either Dodger, Cliff Lee actually has zero innings of playoff experience to boot, something you can’t say about either Kershaw or Billingsley. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to add Cliff Lee to the rotation. But at the cost of either of those two? You may have not only just weakened your rotation, both for the rest of the season and in the playoffs, you’ve tossed in some other top prospects for the pleasure.
Now I completely understand that rumors are just that – rumors – and always have to be taken with a grain of salt. And I’m happy to hear that Ned Colletti isn’t sitting on the lead and is actively looking for ways to improve, both expected (a top starter) and less so (an upgrade at first base). But to give up either of Billingsley or Kershaw for just about anyone who’s not Albert Pujols is a monumental mistake – and with the Indians already possessing the fruits of last year’s mistake, Carlos Santana, there’s no way I can live with sending them the futures of either of our young pitching duo.
Just say no.

I Don’t Care About Manny Ramirez Right Now

Look around the world of baseball media right now; you’ve got ESPN and the MLB Network doing live Manny look ins. You’ve got ESPN with a “Manny Watch”, and Bill Plaschke sticking his head ever further up his own ass (yeah, SOSG‘s been killing it on this). Manny’s return to organized baseball is being covered in much the same fashion as Miley Cyrus announcing she’s dating the Pope. Pope John Paul II, at that.

Yet, what do you get on this site? Not a word. Because the thing is, I just don’t care what Manny does in Albuquerque, Inland Empire, or any other minor league burg west of the Rockies. We all know that this ten-game stint is completely irrelevant, other than to give bored sportswriters something to squawk about. Manny could hit .150, or he could go nine for nine with nine homers in each game – it just doesn’t matter.

So get back to me next week on this when Manny’s return is actually imminent, because right now, it has nothing to do with what’s going on on the field. I’m more interested in Hiroki Kuroda’s triumphant return, Clayton Kershaw’s continued development, and trade rumor after trade rumor after trade rumor (in regards to that last one, I’d happily trade James McDonald, Blake DeWitt, and just about anyone else in the system – even Andrew Lambo – to get Cliff Lee. Just sayin’.)

We’re a Manny-free zone through the weekend. Disagree? Let’s hear it.