Monday Roundup: The Law Firm of Miles, Wade, Loney & Gould

I was a little off the grid this weekend thanks to a wedding and other family commitments, and there’s so much going on right now that I could probably write six different posts about it. In the interest of expediency, let’s try to hit as much as of it as I can right here.

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ESPN’s Molly Knight brings us news that’s relevant to the only thing more important than winning baseball games: being rid of Frank McCourt. But this isn’t the usual business about Frank’s court fight with Jamie, or even about his fight with Bud Selig and MLB. This story has a quite unexpected hero: Manny Ramirez.

We’ve long known that the Dodgers owe Manny a nice chunk of deferred salary both this year and in years to come, but what’s noteworthy here is the amount and the timing: the Dodgers owe Manny a full payment of $8.33m by June 30.

Here’s how Knight lays out the June responsibilities:

$9ish million for June 15, $9ish for June 30, $8.33 for Manny.

Remember, every two weeks we’ve been wondering if McCourt would make payroll. He had to borrow from sponsors to meet the May 30 payroll, and while he’s reportedly ready to make the June 15 bill, that’s yet to be confirmed. Manny’s bill is essentially a third payroll responsibility for June, and it’s anyone’s guess where McCourt thinks he’s going to come up with that kind of money.

Imagine if, after all of the garbage spewed at Manny (much of it deserved, but certainly not all) by the media and some fans, that he was the one who finally sank Frank McCourt? I’d start measuring him for a statue, if that’s the case.

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The Rays have released ex-Dodger Cory Wade from their AAA affiliate in Durham, NC. (They also added ex-Dodger Lance Cormier to Durham, which, ha.) Wade was released not because of his performance, which has been excellent in Durham, but because of a logjam in the Tampa bullpen – and because Wade had a June 15th opt-out.

You probably remember that Wade was a surprisingly effective reliever for the 2008 Dodgers, before spending most of the next two years being injured and ineffective. (You can probably search the archives here and find reference to me pinning that blame on his overuse by Joe Torre in 2008.) After shoulder surgery last season, he was quietly signed to a minor-league deal by Tampa this winter… and he’s been very good. In 36.2 AAA innings, he’s allowed just five earned runs with a 34/6 K/BB, and Rays fans aren’t happy that he was let go.

Wade is a 28-year-old relief pitcher and while he’s no longer a “prospect”, he looked like a player that could help in the Rays’ bullpen this season. After having shoulder surgery last season, Wade was doing very well in Triple-A this year, striking out 8.4 batters per nine, while walking a miniscule 1.5 batters per nine. He’d allowed four homeruns over his 36 innings pitched, but still, he had a 1.23 ERA and 3.34 FIP — he was darn good. Not only that, but Wade had frequently worked two innings at a time, making him a prime candidate to serve as a long man for the Rays.

I’m beginning to wonder what sort of compromising pictures Andy Sonnanstine must have in his possession in order to stick on the roster instead of Wade. Sonnanstine is getting lit up every time he takes the mound, posting a 6.06 ERA and 7.52 FIP, and he simply doesn’t look like a major-league caliber pitcher anymore.

Why, Friedman, why? Do you enjoy subjecting your fans to the horrors of watching Sonny pitch? Are you afraid of those pictures from the playoff celebration last year getting out? Because man, I would have liked to see Cory Wade get a shot.

Other than Sonnanstine, the Rays bullpen has been effective, so the fact that he couldn’t get a shot isn’t a black mark against Wade. (As for Sonnanstine, Tampa has been overly devoted to him for some time, and Rays fans and bloggers have been bemoaning his roster spot for months.)

So getting to the obvious question – why shouldn’t the Dodgers go and try to give him a shot? I’m sure that he won’t be unemployed for long, so I’m sure he’ll end up in the big leagues soon for someone, and why not the Dodgers? It’s not like it’d be hard to make room in the bullpen. Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth aren’t going anywhere, but Ramon Troncoso, Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra all have minor-league options, and Elbert & Troncoso just got lit up in Colorado. There’s also Mike MacDougal, who would have to be DFA’d, but who has done nothing to live up to his shiny 2.01 ERA.

(Update: Wade signed with the Yankees. Of course he did. Oh well.)

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James Loney‘s grand slam over the weekend in Colorado was his second career salami, with the previous one… also coming in Colorado. This isn’t the first time I’ve noted his brutal home/road splits (or the second… or the third…), but the success he’s found in Denver is particularly noteworthy.

I Split PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
LAD-Dodger Stad 1316 119 313 55 6 20 171 112 167 .265 .327 .372 .699
COL-Coors Fld 178 26 53 12 1 8 49 14 18 .325 .376 .558 .935
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2011.

I’ll be the first to tell you hitting is about more than just home runs, but of all the numbers there, that’s what stands out to me the most. Loney has more than seven times as many plate appearances in Dodger Stadium than he does in Coors Field… and just barely more than twice as many homers. Dating back to last season, three of Loney’s last five homers have come in Colorado, and even one of the others, against Jason Hammel on May 30, came against the Rockies, though at home. (The fifth came against Florida’s Javier Vazquez, possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball right now.) When Loney gets non-tendered, as we all believe he will, just wait for the Rockies to snap him up. It’s not a perfect fit, since Todd Helton is also a lefty and having a great season, but Helton’s going to be 38 next year – and the Rockies have found a way to squeeze lefty first baseman Jason Giambi onto the roster this year anyway. I look forward to the day when Loney is both not a Dodger and tormenting us from afar.

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In the comments yesterday, I made an off-hand remark that Aaron Miles has the emptiest .300 average in team history, and it’s true. He never walks, and he hits for no power whatsoever. That’s why his OPS is a subpar .658. I didn’t say that meaning to bash Miles, but that upset a lot of people who felt I wasn’t giving Miles enough credit. So let me clear that up by saying Miles has been far more than I’d ever expected. His .300 may not be indicative of much by itself, but it’s about 150 points higher than I thought he’d give us. When I give out midseason grades next month, he’s almost certainly going to get a B+ or higher. As a multipositional, switch-hitting backup, he’s been something of a pleasant surprise. You’ll notice that I haven’t been making calls to have him DFA’d or replaced.

The problem here, which is not on Miles, is that he’s not serving as the 5th or 6th infielder. Due to the rash of injuries, he’s been an everyday starter. His 190 PA is fifth most on the team, behind Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Loney, and Jamey Carroll. An empty .300 from a bench player is great, but it’s a problem from a starter. Again, that’s not on Miles; he didn’t create the injury situation, and all he’s done is help fill the holes while playing better than expected. That also doesn’t mean he’s someone we should want to see every night.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLA looked at the infield situation recently, and his takeaway was while Don Mattingly seemingly prefers Juan Uribe and Casey Blake to play every day at 2B and 3B around Loney and Dee Gordon, that Carroll and Miles have outplayed the two enough that they should be playing everyday at 2B and 3B. Jackson’s argument is that Blake & Uribe get preferred treatment because of their salaries, and he’s probably not far off there.

I understand where he’s coming from – after all, I’ve been saying for two years that counting on Blake to be an everyday player this year was a mistake and that the Uribe contract was a terrible idea – but I can’t say I totally agree, and that’s partly because I’m more focused on the future than the present.

Here’s my optimal infield, with the pieces around right now. At first base, Loney and Blake split time. Blake sees all lefties and half of all home starts; Loney gets to bat in all nine positions the next time the Dodgers go to Colorado. At second base, Carroll needs to be the nearly full-time starter if only for his on-base skills, with Miles starting twice a week to get him time and keep Carroll fresh. Gordon is certainly going to play most days at short, though Uribe or Carroll can spot there now and then, and Uribe should play most days at third, with Blake or Miles getting a start or two a week there. I say this because even though I have little faith in Uribe being worth the value of his contract, the fact is that he’s here for 2.5 more years and it’s too soon to give up on that. Besides, he can’t always be this bad. Right?

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News on two Dodger prospects from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:

Garrett Gould, RHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
A second-round pick in 2009, Gould had a so-so 4.09 ERA in the Pioneer League last year. When scouts saw him, all they could really talk about was projection, as while the skinny 6-foot-4 righty oozed it, his right-now stuff left plenty to be desired. That projection is starting to come through; what was once an upper-80s fastball is now in the lower 90s, and he is maintaining his good control and a very good curveball. He’s looking like one of the best arms in the Midwest League after reeling off back-to-back starts without allowing an earned run. Consistency is a word rarely used in Low-A, but with a 1.55 ERA in 12 starts, in which he has never allowed more than two earned runs, Gould has been just that and maturing.

Trayvon Robinson, OF, Dodgers (Triple-A Albuquerque)
Over the past six weeks, we learned that hitting in Chavez Ravine is very different from hitting in Albuquerque. Just ask Jerry Sands. Still, is it time for Robinson to get the next chance? With a home run on Friday, a double and two walks on Saturday, and five hits on Sunday, he’s now batting .299/.357/.543 in 58 games, and while he might not have Sands’ pure bat, he his speed and ability to play all three outfield slots offers more lineup flexibility. Robinson still struggles against lefties (which is all Sands could hit), so there would be a different dynamic in play, but when Tony Gwynn Jr. is on pace for nearly 300 plate appearances, there has to be a better way.

Gould is someone we’ve never heard all that much about, obscured as he’s been by the Zach Lee / Chris Withrow / Allen Webster types, so it’s good to see some positive news there. We’ve heard plenty about Robinson and I’ve contemplated making a “when will he arrive?” post for a few weeks now. If the Dodgers have surprised at all this year, it’s in that they’ve promoted prospects like Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa, and Dee Gordon far sooner than we’d expected. Robinson’s probably not completely ready yet – a 67/19 K/BB mark at AAA isn’t something I’m dying to add to the lineup – but as Goldstein notes, the production is there and Gwynn (and Trent Oeltjen, and Marcus Thames) are clearly not the answer in left. I’ll say Robinson doesn’t get the call in June, but I could see it any time after Independence Day.

Three Games, Four Injuries

Russell Martin’s groin is still the talk of camp, but he’s hardly the only one dealing with injuries. Casey Blake left today’s game after 2 innings due to a strained muscle in his right side, and Cory Wade received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder, which will shut him down for two weeks.

Wade had almost no shot of making the club anyway, and by all accounts Blake’s injury is the sort of incredibly minor thing that wouldn’t stop him in July, but isn’t worth pushing through in March. That’s fine. Yet it seems that Wade isn’t the only reliever who’s sore, either, according to a line buried deep in the game recap from today’s tilt against the Giants:

[George] Sherrill opened the spring with sore knees and was further slowed by taking a line drive off his right ankle last week.

First I’ve heard of any of that. Clearly, it’s not something the team is all that concerned about since no one’s talking about it and Sherrill’s scheduled to pitch against Colorado tomorrow, but certainly worth keeping an eye on. With Ronald Belisario still MIA, the last thing this club needs is another important reliever unable to contribute.

MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Relievers, Part 3

Finally! This is the last player review segment of the year, and while I won’t pretend this one is the most interesting grouping of players you’ll read about all year, this whole series served its purpose. It allowed me to get some thoughts down on each player this year, and almost as importantly, helped fill some space between the end of the season and the start of the Hot Stove.

85toppscorywadeCory Wade (F)
(2-3, 5.53, 1.373 WHIP)

See Cory Wade in his picture over there? He looks sad. Sure, that’s a picture from 2008 (you can tell because of the 50th anniversary patch on his right arm), but maybe he just looks sad because he knows that his 2009 will in no way reflect his excellent 2008.

Really, Wade’s 2009 stands as glaring proof of two truisms: 1) that except for the best of the best, reliever performances are incredibly volatile year-to-year, and 2) Joe Torre tends to crush his new favorite toy like he’s Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Thus, Wade’s problems were pretty clear this year. He couldn’t stay healthy (two trips to the DL for a right shoulder that bothered him even in 2008) and he wasn’t very good even when he was available (huge increases in BB/9 and WHIP, huge decrease in K/9). That being the case, part of his problems is that he was never as good as he seemed in 2008 – a .227 BABIP is completely unsustainable and was a large part of why the ERA that looked so good (2.27) was nowhere near what FIP said he should have been (3.78). This year, his luck completely changed, since the huge increase in BABIP to .294 helped turn an already lousy FIP (4.40) into a much worse ERA (5.57).

You have to wonder how much of the blame for his injuries should be heaped on Torre, because we tend to forget how much Wade was worked in 2008. Even in April, Kensai and I were both ringing the bell on this, as I said at the time

Wade’s pitched in four games this season, and has been great in three of them (three scoreless outings of an inning apiece, allowing two hits) and awful in one (three hits and two runs in 1/3 of an inning). The poor outing was the only one that came on a back-to-back appearance, and since this is apparently the same shoulder issue that bothered him last season and in spring, you have to wonder: should we be treating him as the right-handed Hong-Chih Kuo? I’d rather live with an effective Wade who’s not available as often as everyone else than no Wade at all. Some guys just aren’t built for the constant workload, and you have to wonder if Wade falls under that category.

Wade, of course, never did come close to regaining his form for the rest of the year, and even worse, was horrible in the minors – allowing 17 ER in 22.2 AAA innings. He’ll still just be 26 when Opening Day comes, so his time has hardly passed. But he’ll likely have to prove his health in the minors again before he gets another shot at what looks to be a pretty loaded big league bullpen crew.

85toppsbrentleachBrent Leach (?)
(2-0, 5.75, 1.377)

Brent Leach is a left-handed pitcher who appeared in 38 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball.

Okay, I was tempted to just go with the Wikipedia-esque description and leave it at that, because I seriously have no recollection of Brent Leach doing anything meaningful for the Dodgers this year. Did he really get into 38 games? Jesus. My top memory of Leach is mainly the firestorm Kensai unwittingly set off by discussing his wife’s hilarious blog (which I can’t seem to find the link to anymore).

As for his pitching, he got the call from Chattanooga because he was dominating down there (1 ER and 17 K in 13 IP). Before you get too excited about that, remember that this was AA and he turns 27, well, today. (Happy Birthday!) Once he got to the bigs the strikeout rate was nice (8.4/9) but the homer rate much less so (1.3/9) and the walk rate was pretty bad (5.31/9).

Actually, he looks to have had control issues his entire career – only in 2008, as a 25-year-old in High-A ball, has he ever really been able to keep it below a walk every other inning. Still, some lefties are known to develop late, and he appears to have the stuff to miss bats, so if he can ever get a handle on that control, he might actually have a future in a bullpen to be named later.

85toppswillohmanWill Ohman (F)
(1-0, 5.84, 1.622 WHIP)

Oh, Will Ohman. I had such high hopes for you. I actually had first brought him up way back in October 2008, before any rumors had attached him to the Dodgers, in my 2009 plan:

Ohman’s a 31-year old lefty reliever and Pepperdine alum who’s made it into at least 56 games in each of the last four seasons with the Cubs and Braves, with ERA+ marks of 151, 112, 94, and 112. Plus, he’s absolutely murder on lefties (.571 OPS against in 2008), which makes him unlike Beimel (who’s actually harder on righties) and Kuo (who kills everyone, but isn’t really a situational kind of guy).

So when he became another victim of the lousy free agent market and signed with the Dodgers late in spring training, I was thrilled (and had only mentioned it about eleven times in March during the whole song-and-dance).

But there were worries from the beginning. Having missed most of spring training, Ohman was behind in his conditioning and was hit hard almost immediately. In 21 games over the first two months, he got shelled, somehow allowing a .609 SLG and .979 OPS in that time. On May 29, he went on the DL with a sore shoulder, experienced pain in his elbow during the rehab, and finally ended up having shoulder surgery in September. So clearly, that didn’t work out, and his 2010 option was obviously declined.

Still, I’m sad it didn’t work out. He had high socks, which rule in their own right, but he was also one of the funniest players the Dodgers have ever had. You know it’s good when sportswriters are breaking their own rules by cheering for him, but also check out these two videos:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4kkmlh92LA]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZWjdDTjtXw]

So long, Will.

85toppsclaudiovargasClaudio Vargas (C)
(0-0, 1.64, 1.000 WHIP)

Sometimes you sign a mediocre veteran to a minimum salary contract, and you hope for the next Chan Ho Park or Jeff Weaver.  Sometimes you get a nice surprise like that… and sometimes you get a guy who gets this written about him in spring training

I had a whole section on Claudio Vargas written out, mostly about how unlike Milton, Estes, and Weaver, he was given a major-league contract rather than just a spring training invite. But all that’s out the window after Monday, because Claudio Vargas has committed the unthinkable: he allowed a home run to our favorite fat sack of crap, Andruw Jones. That alone should disqualify him – and if it doesn’t, the three other homers he’s allowed in just 8.1 innings so far ought to. Odds: Andruw Jones’ weight times a hundred-to-1

…before being put on the 60-day DL with arm troubles, missing the first three months of the season. So to say Claudio Vargas was an afterthought is putting it lightly.

But then something crazy happened; when Vargas returned in July, he was good. Really good. In 11 innings over 8 relief outings, he allowed just 2 ER, struck out 10, and held opponents to a puny .184/.279/.263 (.542 OPS) line. Sure, it was only 11 innings, and nothing in his history suggested he could keep that up – I get that. Still, with the depleted Dodger staff at the time, any contributions were welcome.

So what happened? The Dodgers traded him for a 29-year-old backup catcher hitting .249 on Milwaukee’s AA team, Vinny Rottino. This didn’t make sense to me at the time

Believe it or not, Vargas has actually been pretty good for the Dodgers since coming off the DL. 11 innings isn’t much of a sample size, but he’s allowed only 11 baserunners and 2 runs in that time, with a nice 10/4 K/BB ratio. I’m hardly crushed that he’s gone, but did we really need Vinny Rottino? He’s 29 with all of 18 MLB games under his belt, and he’s so highly thought of that he’s being sent to AA. You almost feel bad for the guy, being a Wisconsin native and all, now being shipped out to Chattanooga.

No, what this feels like is a way to clear out a roster spot for George Sherrill, but there were better ways to do that. DFA Jason Schmidt, for one, and no, I don’t care that he’s tonight’s starter. Send down James McDonald or Scott Elbert, if you must, because you know that either one would be right back up in a week.

Vargas wasn’t great, but he was at least useful, while Vinny Rottino looks unlikely to ever play a single game as a Dodger. I hate to act as though I’m all worked up over losing Claudio Vargas, of all people, but this move just makes no sense at all.

…and it doesn’t make any more sense now. Vargas went to Milwaukee and continued to excel (1.78 ERA, .530 OPS against), Rottino went to Chattanooga, never to be heard from, and I still can’t find a good reason for any of it.

85toppstravisschlichtingTravis Schlichting (inc.)
(0-0, 3.38, 2.250 WHIP)

Signs that your newest reliever may not have been a top prospect: when MSTI’s first mention of him was pointing out that his Wikipedia page showed him as a third baseman for the Devil Rays. (Actually, it still does. Doesn’t anyone want to go fix that?)

Schlichting actually had a pretty nice minor league season (in 29.1 IP across 3 levels, he allowed just 3 earned runs), but the less said about his major league stint the better. He got into 2 June games, managing to walk 5 and allow a Ryan Howard homer in first major league at-bat. So, yikes.

Still, those minor league numbers are nice, and it’s important to remember that he’s only been a pitcher since 2007, having turned himself around from being a failed third baseman. He’ll likely start 2010 in the minors, but don’t be surprised to see him back in the bigs – and maybe even do well enough to get himself a real Wikipedia picture.

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So that’s it! We’re done with reviews. I suppose I should probably write something up for Joe Torre as well, and I probably will at some point.  Damn it, why isn’t there VORM for managers?

Blake DeWitt Should Choose US Airways

Because according to Priceline, that’s the cheapest fare for a roundtrip ticket between Albuquerque and Los Angeles.

ABQtoLAX.jpgWith Cory Wade going back on the 15-day DL, DeWitt has now been recalled to the big club for the fifth time this season – and it’s only the first game after the All-Star break. Anyone know what the record is for most times one guy has been sent up and down in one season? I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for that.

MSTI’s First Half In Review: Pitching

So, today is the second Tuesday of July and the day after the Home Run Derby.  That means it’s time for a historic tradition that we see every year…

MSTI’s First Half Pitching Review! 

Today, we’ll go through all of the pitching fun, so let’s get started… 

The Starters: 

Chad Billingsley = A   
billingsleyvsmets.jpg(9-4, 3.14 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) 

Chad Billingsley has been, simply, one of the best pitchers in baseball, this year.  As I wrote in May… 

Still, though,
Billingsley has been incredible this year and only continues to improve
and he’s still barely 24 years old.  It’s not enough to say anymore
that he’s going to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He already
IS and can stand toe to toe with almost anyone.  What’s also been
impressive is that even during the games that Billingsley hasn’t had
his best stuff he has managed to pull through.

That’s pretty much held up.  Granted, Billingsley has gradually slipped each month, going from a 3.76 ERA in June to a couple of poor starts so far this month, but his first half numbers have been awfully impressive, with his 3.14 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and his 1.23 pLI actually leads all pitchers in MLB.  The control is still a bit murky, ranking 2nd in walks, behind teammate Clayton Kershaw.  Nonetheless, Chad made his first All-Star appearance this year and I’m sure it will be the first of many, as he continues to improve and solidify his place as one of the games best pitchers. 

Randy Wolf = A   
(4-3, 3.45, 1.17 WHIP)

I was a bit leary of signing Wolf the second time around.  While his first stint in L.A. tends to be thought of with good memories, he was still pretty much the definition of average, putting up a 97 ERA+, and a 4.73 ERA, and his year was cut short due to injuries.  After going to SD last year, he couldn’t really last well inside Petco Park, before finishing up the year in Houston where he turned it around.  Injuries have played a big part of Wolf’s career and one of the concerns was whether he’d remain healthy.  After all, outside of last year, he hasn’t put together a healthy season since 2003.  Well, so far he has been quite healthy (tied for first, along with Billingsley, in the NL in starts) and not only that, but he’s off to one of the best starts of his career.  Wolf so far is putting up a 3.45 ERA, with a good 1.16 WHIP, and a VORP of 23.5, third amongst Dodgers pitchers.  His peripherals aren’t too bad, either: his H/9 of 7.9, his BB/9 of 2.6 are the best for Wolf since 2003 and he also leads all Dodgers in the CTUNW stat (changing their uniform number weekly). 

Wolf has played a vital role this year for the Dodgers and has helped, at least thus far, in eliminating any concerns we had about starting pitching going into the year. 

Oh yeah, another thing: we beat the whole “wins for pitchers aren’t significant” for pitchers thing to death around here, so why not again?  Anyways, Wolf in 2007 only pitched until July for the Dodgers.  Again, he was essentially league average, but he had a 9-6 record.  So far this year?  4-3, despite a 122 ERA+. 

Clayton Kershaw = B+/A- 
Sandy Kershaw.jpg(7-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)

So, I’m struggling to decide what to give him, and this grade is pretty much where I’m at.  Either way, what else can you say about the kid?  If he were putting up merely league average numbers at this stage, I think we’d be alright with it, but he’s not just doing that.  After struggling out of the gate, Kershaw has been simply great, going from a 7.29 ERA in April, down to a 2.57 ERA in May, 2.36 in June, and through the first three starts starts of July, 0.53.  While the 0.53 July ERA is definitely a small sample size, it has helped illustrate his continuous growth.  What’s also surprising is that he actually has the best VORP amongst Dodgers pitchers, edging out Chad Billingsley 26.7 to 26.1 and also puts him 12th amongst all NL pitchers.  Now Kershaw hasn’t necessarily perfect, either; while his 8.9 K/9 ratio is quite good, he does lead the league in walks and still carries some control issues which boosts his pitch count and therefore limits his innings.  However, at merely 21 years of age, he has shown to be not just someone who can just simply fit in the big leagues, but someone who can learn to adjust and also can carry a great deal of success (133 ERA+!), as well, and certainly someone who will play a huge role in the second half. 

Well done, Clayton! 

Hiroki Kuroda = C- 
(3-5, 4.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) 

In ways, it’s hard not to give the Hiroki Pokey Man an incomplete, given that he missed a lot of time.  But in his starts this year, he’s been going back and forth between solid starts to sometimes the downright awful which, in all honesty, isn’t too much different from 2008.  However, he hasn’t been back that long, so I will cut him a little slack. 

The Spot Starters: 

Eric Stults = C- 
(4-2, 4.80 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) 

Eric Stults for a few years now has been the perfect guy to give you the spot start that you need and he’ll usually be pretty effective, provided that you don’t use him for too long.  It’s pretty much been the same story, this year.  In his 9 starts (I’m actually surprised he’s started that many, when I think about it), he’s had about 6 good ones and 3 bad ones, which translates to a 4.80 ERA, or an 87 ERA+.  Not stellar numbers in the least, but about what you’d expect from Stults: an average pitcher at best who, in Stults case, throws in his obligatory complete game shutout each year.  Kinda funny, by the way… this year, Stults is the only Dodger pitcher with a complete game. 

Eric Milton = C 
(2-1, 3.80 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) 

Can’t say that the thought of Eric Milton starting games for the Dodgers is something that put a smile on my face, but in his 5 starts for the team, he did respectable enough, going 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.  The WHIP wasn’t particularly good 1.52, but he didn’t necessarily embarrass himself this year, either.  Unfortunately for Milton, he was DL’d in late June and might have season ending back surgery.  But he had 5 games with the team and didn’t do terribly… can’t really ask for too much more than that.  

Jeff Weaver = A+ 
weaveraward.jpg(5-3, 3.48 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)   

The title of this year’s Chan Ho Park goes to Jeff Weaver.  When he signed a minor league deal going into Spring Training, I didn’t really think anything of it and, to be honest, I certainly didn’t see him making the team.  But not only did he manage to do that, but he also managed to become a key member.  He has done everything asked of him and has done it well, whether coming up with the key spot start or pitching valuable innings in the bullpen, or just going out there and beating his kid brother when he needed to.  Now has some of it been smoke and mirrors?  Sure, his WHIP of 1.57 isn’t particularly good at all, and his FIP is actually 4.13, but somehow he’s getting the job done, so I’ll take it, right now.  2009 has been good for Stoner and hopefully, unlike Chan Ho last year, he can finish 2009 just as strong. 

James McDonald = D-     
(2-1, 4.71 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) 

Yeah, remember him?  James McDonald came on to the scene last year for the Dodgers, pitching a mere 6 scoreless innings, which was nice, but where he really helped make an impression was during the NLCS, where he came in and put in some big innings for the Dodgers.  Eventually, he won out the 5th spot in the rotation this year and proceeded to promptly suck, getting 4 starts and putting up an 8.78 ERA and walking 14 to his 6 strikeouts.  That was enough for Joe Torre and after being demoted to the bullpen afterwards, he was shortly then sent back to Albuquerque where he was actually quite good, putting up a 3.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 30.1 innings, while seemingly fixing some of
his previous control issues (14 BB and 40 K’s) and putting up a nice 11.9 K/9 ratio.  Since being recalled to the Dodgers on June 19th, he hasn’t appeared in too many games, but in the games he’s appeared in he hasn’t embarrassed himself either, giving up 1 ER in his 10 innings.  Small sample size, yes, but hopefully McDonald can continue to turn it around and show more of the form he did in 2008.  The talent is definitely there. 

The Bullpen:

Jonathan Broxton = A+ 
brox.jpg(6-0, 3.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) 

It’s been a good year for Jonathan
Broxton.  He stepped into the closers role and has transitioned
seamlessly, got elected to his first All-Star game, and after a 24 year
pregnancy, finally gave birth to his first child, a beautiful baby
boy. 

O.K., that was wrong.  But, still, Broxton has been
awfully good, this year, and one of the best in baseball.  His ERA is
3.14, though that’s taken a big hit these days, as 5 of his 14 ER’s total this year
have come from his past two appearances alone, which seem to have
stemmed from a toe injury that has kept him out since last week.  His
WHIP is 0.94 and his 2.63 WPA ranks him 4th amongst all active relief
pitchers, while his K/9 ratio has bumped from 11.5 in 2009 to 14.4 in
2009, thus far.  In addition, he has saved 20 of his 22 saves and, for
the most part, in convincing fashion.  Provided that his toe doesn’t
become something serious, once again, the Dodgers continue their string
of truly great closers.  

Ramon Troncoso = A+ 
(3-0, 1.75 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) 

Last year, the Big Tronny got a C grade.  From last year: 

Still, Troncoso was another rookie inserted into the bullpen in 2008,
although not quite the story Cory Wade was.  But, nonetheless, Troncoso
didn’t Falkenborg himself either, going from a less than stellar 4.91
ERA in the first half to a respectable 3.81 in the second half, sparked
by a good August where he sported a good 2.57 ERA.  His ERA+ was 100
even and that about sums it up; average and servicable for the role he
played throughout the season.  For a person in his rookie year, not
bad; here’s to an improvement in 2009

Well, he improved and improved greatly.  Trancoso has been incredible this year putting up a 1.75 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP and a mere 240 ERA+ in his appearances this year, including ranking 4th in VORP amongst all Dodgers pitchers and his 2.83 WPA ranks 1st amongst all active relievers in baseball.  Troncoso isn’t one who necessarily grabs the headlines, but he’s been incredibly important to the team this year and a key aspect of the success of the bullpen.  I definitely didn’t see his 2009 coming, but well done.  

Ronald Belisario = A+ 
Belisario.jpg(1-3, 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) 

Belisario is generally one of those guys
you see on the transaction list during Spring Training that you
generally overlook, given the amount of Spring Training invites that
tend to happen and usually don’t pan out.  But he did enough to get a
shot with the big club and not only did he do that, but he has become
one of the best arms out of the bullpen.  In his 48.1 innings, he has
put up a 2.42 ERA, with a nice 1.18 WHIP and 173 ERA+ and out of all
the pitchers on the team, he has the 5th best VORP at 14.5. 
Unfortunately, due to elbow stiffness, he has been placed on the DL,
although the reports about it show it isn’t something too serious and
hopefully he can come back and continue to be effective.  But a spring
training invite to one of the best relievers on the team?  Well… 

I’ll drink to that!  And so will Ronald!

Guillermo Mota = First Half Of First Half =

Second Half Of First Half = A+
(3-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)      

Yeah, it was time to pull out the ol’ Andruw grade and it was certainly applicable to Mota for the first half of the first half (shut up, it exists!).  Mota has literally gone from one extreme to the
next, hence the two different grades, as it feels like I’m grading two different people.  I hated the signing when it happened and for quite a while he
gave me good reason to, putting up ERA’s of 7.71 and 6.65 in April and
May.  After Brad Ausmus apparently discovered a flaw in Mota’s
delivery, Mota found the fountain of youth, or at least another
syringe, and put up a 0.56 ERA in June and has only given up 1 ER in
his last 22 appearances, which goes back to his implosion in Florida in
May.  He’s gone from arguably one of the worst relief pitchers in
baseball to one of the best and he has to be commended on that. 
Hopefully he can keep it up and continue to give the Dodgers a much
needed boost in the bullpen.

Brent Leach = B 
(2-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)  

Leach has pretty much become the LOOGY of the
team and he’s done relatively decent.  His 98 ERA+ puts him essentially
average, though his 1.05 WHIP has been pretty nice, but he’s been for
the most part dependable more times than not.    

Cory Wade = F
(2-3, 5.53 ERA, 1.37 WHIP)   

So, what the hell happened to Cory Wade, this year?  In 2008, he was the most dependable reliever we had and was definitely one of the great stories of 2008 for the Dodgers.  Last year I wrote this: 


In 55 appearances this year, which translates into 71.3 innings, Wade
put up a good 2.27 ERA with an even better WHIP of 0.92.  The great
thing about Wade this season is that, as the season went on, he got
better.  Throughout the first half, his ERA was 2.56, and topped that
with a 1.93 ERA in the second half, spurred by great months in August
(2.16 ERA) and September (1.08 ERA).  In fact, that’s what was so
impressive about him, this year.  I don’t remember a period where he
ever really truly sucked and went all Proctor on us.  The worst month
he had in 2008 was July, where he had a 3.52 ERA and gave up 6 ER in 15
IP.  Not great, but not horrific.  He was also arguably our best
reliever in 2008 ranking second in VORP only to Hong Chih Kuo with
22.9.

This year?  Not so good, putting up a 5.27 ERA in his 27 appearances and has made a visit to the DL with some arm troubles.  Hopefully his usage in 2008 hasn’t had an effect on him in 2009.  His star has definitely fallen, but hopefully he can come back and rebound. 

Will Ohman = D-
(1-0, 5.84 ERA, 1.62 WHIP)   

Signed at the tail end of Spring Training to
be Troy from West Virginia’s new BFF, or just Joe Beimel’s replacement,
Ohman has failed to impress to the point where, when you heard the name “Ohman!” you shouted back “Ohcrap!”  In his 21 appearances, he put up a 5.84
ERA, with a 1.62 WHIP.  Having a BB/9 ratio of 5.8 didn’t help either.  To
be fair to Ohman, though, he didn’t really get much of a Spring
Training as he didn’t have a job until the end of the Spring Training,
and he hasn’t pitched in a while (late May), being on the DL with
apparently a sore shoulder.  Still, though, he had enough appearances,
and appearances of sucktitude at that, to warrant the D-.  Though bonus
points for doing a killer Harry Caray impression and being an all
around funny guy. 

The Incompletes: 

Hong-Chih Kuo = Inc. 
Thumbnail image for kuofrombullpen.jpg(1-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) 

While Hong-Chih Kuo is just unbelievable when he’s on, in fact, he won MLB’s Set Up Man Of The Year Award last year, there’s always the potential for his arm to fall off at any point.  He’s had two Tommy John surgeries (and four arm surgeries total) and he’s had some arm troubles this year already which put him on the DL at the end of April.  He’s yet to return, but in the 5.1 innings he threw, it wasn’t particularly something to write home about.  Something was definitely wrong, originally with reports coming out that perhaps Kuo was suffering from a lack of confidence and now the arm troubles.  The talent is certainly there for Kuo to continue to be effective.  The health, though, might be another story.  We shall see…  

Travis Schlichting, Claudio Vargas, and Scott Elbert = Inc.
(0-0, 3.38 ERA, 2.25 WHIP), (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), (1-0, 5.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)  

So, I’m going to combine these two and give them the same grade, which is an incomplete.  For Schlichting, he got a brief cup of coffee early in the year and only threw a whopping 2.2 innings.  Granted, he gave up a HR and 5 BB’s to go with 2 K’s, but, again, not much at all you can derive from 2.2 innings.  Vargas barely came into action this month after being out due to injury and, while I wasn’t a fan of the signing when it happened, perhaps he can serve as the mop up man.  In regards to Elbert, it’s also awfully hard to gauge anything meaningful.  Only four appearances this year, with three of them coming in April and the next one just coming in July. 

That about does it for the pitching.  Tune in tomorrow when MSTI finishes our first half reviews by going through the coaching staff and the overall review! 

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg