MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Secondary Starting Pitchers

Before we get back to our season reviews, two quick items:

1) Yes, I saw Plaschke’s article about the 87-year-old Dodger scout who got his salary cut from $18,000 to $8,000, and yes, I share his disgust at the fact that this man who apparently has done so many great things is suffering a paycut while we read about Jamie McCourt’s financial atrocities. The cynic in me might add that a scout who has signed zero major leaguers since joining the Dodgers in 1994 should be pretty happy he even still has a job, but still. If he’s not worth the $10,000 for his scouting abilities, avoiding the public relations fiasco this is causing the team should surely have been worth that cash.

2) Check out SimonOnSports, where I answered some questions about the Dodger offseason.

Now, on to the rest of the starting pitchers…

V85toppsvicentepadillaicente Padilla (A+)
(4-0, 3.20, 1.220 WHIP)

Say this for Vicente Padilla: he’s not boring. When he was signed in August, the reaction was a collective, “meh?” For just $100,000, the cost was negligible, though of course there was the significant baggage of “known douchebag whose former teammates cheered the release of one of their starters even though they were in a playoff push.”

Still, don’t forget that he came in with zero expectations, and in fact worried those who thought he’d start headhunting and cause brawls, as if that made sense. Not only did he not start the latest round of riots in LA, he was actually… good. He allowed 2, 1, 2, and 0 earned runs in his first four starts. After two mediocre outings and a bullpen appearance, and with his playoff roster spot on the line, he came back with a dominating 10 strikeout performance against the Rockies on the last day of the season.

Then, he was the surprise starter in NLDS Game 3, pitching 7 scoreless innings of 4-hit ball. This earned him an even more surprising start in NLCS Game 2, in which he was again fantastic: just 1 run over 7.1 innings. At that point, it was hard to argue with the idea of starting him again in Game 5… after which it was hard to imagine that the season ended in the hands of Vicente Padilla, because he allowed 6 ER in 3 IP.

Oh, and then he was accidentally shot in the thigh in Nicaragua last week, a self-inflicted wound. Or one inflicted by his bodyguard. While hunting. Or at a shooting range. We never did find out the truth there, did we?

So, the man’s a nutjob. Still, Padilla’s 2 excellent playoff starts can’t be forgotten, and there were no clubhouse issues reported at all. I can’t imagine that he gets any sort of longterm deal with his baggage, but if he’s willing to come back on a one-year deal with an option, for a few million at most, then I’d happily welcome him back.

No guns, though, please.

85toppsjongarlandJon Garland (A-)
(3-2, 2.72, 1.266 WHIP)

I’ll admit it. We’ve done nothing but denigrate Jon Garland around here. Right from the day the trade was announced, I was against it, saying:

Did we need him? Well, last winter this would have been a “yes”, when we all saw inning-eating issues in the future and I advocated signing him for just that reason. So, yeah, we needed him in January. We needed him in April. We probably needed him in July. But now, when it’s already September? What’s he going to have, 5 starts? Maybe?

and

Survey says… We’ll of course have more to say on this once we know who the player is going back to Arizona. Right now, the feeling is more “worried” with a good chance of “horrified“. 

We’ve since found out that the player going back to Arizona is indeed Tony Abreu, which has made an unnecessary trade look even worse, and we’ve been bemoaning the situation ever since. Hey, it’s not like the team has a hole at second base, right?

But it’s important to remember that none of that is Jon Garland’s fault. Having to send Abreu back looks more and more to be directly related to the McCourt divorce disaster and the refusal to pick up any of Garland’s salary. Since the Diamondbacks didn’t save much money, they got a better player. That has absolutely nothing to do with Garland’s performance as a Dodger, and though he wasn’t really needed, he was pretty good when called upon.

In six starts as a Dodger, Garland posted a variety of stats that all would have been career highs if sustained for a full season: ERA (2.72), WHIP (1.266), K/9 (6.4), K/BB (2.89). He contributed five very good starts before a disastrous finale against San Diego. So Garland, more or less, did what he was asked to do. That’s all you can grade a man on.

Still, it should be noted that his opposition while a Dodger was hardly a murderer’s row. In 6 Dodger starts, Garland got to face Arizona (twice), Pittsburgh (twice), San Francisco, and San Diego, so let’s not act like he was shutting down the Phillies & Yankees.

85toppscharliehaegerCharlie Haeger (A)
(1-1, 3.32, 1.053 WHIP)

Free Charlie Haeger! Each year, I seem to latch onto a relatively unheralded minor leaguer or fringe vet and trumpet what they could do for the big team at a fraction of the cost of a name veteran. In 2007 and ’08, it was Delwyn Young. Later in 2008, we were also on board with Terry Tiffee. This year? Captain Knuckleball.

I won’t pretend that the novelty of the knuckleball isn’t at least part of what drew me to Haeger, but it’s more than that. First of all, he was successful in a tough climate in Albuquerque, making the PCL All Star team by going 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA in a notoriously tough park to pitch in. Then, once he reached the bigs, he was everything we’d hoped for – 3.32 ERA in 6 outings (3 starts) with a sparking 1.053 WHIP. For a team that heard all year that their starters weren’t throwing enough innings, why wouldn’t you want a knuckleballer with the ability to get things out?

I’m such a big backer of Haeger that I included him in my 2010 plan, saying:

10) Give Charlie Haeger a chance. I’m not saying to just hand the guy a starting gig, but he does seem to be completely invisible around the Dodgers, and it’s foolish to write him off. We’ve been running a “free Charlie Haeger!” campaign around here all summer, and he’s done nothing to change that.

The guy was one of the top pitchers in AAA last year, despite being in the high-altitude deathpad of Albuquerque. Then when he came up to the bigs, he was more than adequate – 19 IP in 6 games (2 starts), allowing a WHIP of just 1.053 and an ERA of 3.32.

With all of the complaints we heard all year about how the Dodger starters weren’t going  deep into games, why wouldn’t we want to see a knuckleballer who could soak up innings? Even if he’s “just” league-average, there’s still a lot of value in that. So give him a chance to crack the bullpen as a long man and spot starter, available to step in if/when someone gets hurt.

What’s the downside here? He’s cheap, can throw a lot of innings, and seems to be effective. Go with it.

85toppsericmiltonEric Milton (B)
(2-1, 3.80, 1.521 WHIP)

Are we sure Eric Milton was a Dodger in 2009? I mean, I see his card to the left. I see his stats above. I just have almost zero recollection of him actually pitching.

Still, he gets a B just because expectations for him were almost Schmidt-esque. After missing most of 2007 and ’08 with Tommy John surgery, Milton signed a minor league deal with a spring training invite. How’d he do in spring training? Well, this is what I wrote about him on April 1 in my post predicting who’d make the Opening Day roster:

#24. Lefty pitcher who should enjoy 2 weeks of big league service time until Will Ohman comes up on April 14… Well, it’s sure as hell not going to be Eric Milton, not after he added 8 runs in 2 1/3 innings to the 10.07 ERA he brought into today’s game.

So down to Albuquerque it was, where he was actually pretty decent - 2.83 ERA and 27/6 K/BB ratio at that point. Once he got called up in May, well, look. What can you say about the five starts Milton had? The end results were decent enough (2.89 ERA through the first four, though 3.80 overall after a disastrous fifth outing), the way he got there a little less so (11.4 hits/9 and a 1.521 WHIP – woof), and then he hurt his back, requiring surgery that put him out for the year.

I’m honestly struggling to say anything else about Eric Milton’s contributions this year. Good lord, just wait until I get to Travis Schlichting.

85toppsjasonschmidtJason Schmidt (RIP)
(2-2, 5.60, 1.585 WHIP)

na na na na…

na na NA na…

hey hey hey!

good bye…

Our long national nightmare is over! We no longer have to see “RHP – Jason Schmidt (shoulder)” taking up space on the 60-day DL, or more importantly on the payroll. To be fair, it’s important to remember that Schmidt was a class act through all of this. There’s a lot of guys who would have hung it up long ago, but Schmidt did his best to rehab and work his way back, managing to make four mostly terrible starts this year – though one was a completely misleading one-hitter over six innings against the Braves. (Misleading because he walked five in those six innings).

So the blame doesn’t go to Schmidt; it goes to Ned Colletti, who admitted that he knew Schmidt was injured when he signed him. Still, it was completely clear that the man just had nothing left. Sorry to see a great competitor go out like that… but I’d be even sorrier to see him still pitching.

Next! Jonathan Broxton’s still awesome! George Sherrill’s funky hat!! Troncoso and Belisario, oh my! Hong-Chih Kuo’s explosive elbow! And Jeff Weaver lives!! It’s relievers, part 1!

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

Time To Talk About Pitching, I Suppose

With Manny back and the offense cruising once again, it seems everyone’s focusing – and as usual, completely overreacting – on the Dodgers pitching staff. Let’s get to it…

Since when are Jeff Weaver and Eric Milton big deals? So, Weaver was lousy on Saturday. But you know what, he wasn’t even that bad. No, 6 hits and 3 walks in 3.1 innings aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, but even that only allowed two earned runs (Rafael Furcal’s error was a killer), and you expect that from a guy like Weaver. Look, he’s got a 3.47 ERA as a starter this year. Are we really that upset over his performance? Am I really that crushed that Milton, who’s contributed all of five mediocre starts this year, may be headed for season-ending back surgery? Of course not. Most teams patch and fill their 5th starter spot throughout the year, and the Dodgers are no different.

weaversidearm.jpgSo, why is the Los Angeles Times treating this as though it’s a crucial problem, one that could torpedo this magical season? It’s not as though there’s any shortage of other guys to toss a start to; unlike some teams, there’s no dipping into AA to pull some unprepared kid up to make his major league debut. Bring back MSTI favorite Eric Stults, who’s proven more than once that he can be a servicable major league starter. Give James McDonald another shot, or pull Claudio Vargas out of the pen to fill the role he was originally signed for. Hell, sooner or later you’re going to have to see what Jason Schmidt can do, right?

The point is, none of the guys in this conversation are making starts in the playoffs. Whether the names filling out the back end of the rotation are Weaver and Milton or Stults and Schmidt are immaterial  The only starting pitching worries the Dodgers have right now involve just simply getting to October, and while I’m not blind to the idea that you might want to give Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley a breather before then, whether you’re using Mediocre Space Filler X from inside the organization or Mediocre Space Filler Z from outside the organization matters only in the difference between what one costs to acquire. With the chokehold the Dodgers have on the NL West, you can afford to see if Stults can be consistent, or if McDonald can get over his early season woes, or if Schmidt can walk to the mound without getting hit by a car. The best part is, if you try one and it doesn’t work out, you’ve still got 3-4 other options.

While it might not matter all that much who’s the #5 and #6 starters at any given time are, it certainly does matter who the top guys are. Despite what anyone might say, Chad Billingsley is an ace, and while you hate to add any more pressure to a 21-year-old, Clayton Kershaw’s sure pitching like one (currently four more shutout innings on the board as I write this) - plus Randy Wolf’s been better than expected, and Hiroki Kuroda’s working his way back into form. With the 3rd best ERA among starters in all of baseball, adding another starter isn’t a pressing need.

That said, the rumors are swirling about Roy Halladay. I wasn’t even going to discuss it, because the odds of a trade seem so slim that it seemed pointless, but since it’s still in the news I might as well weigh in: there is almost no trade the Dodgers can make for Halladay that I’d be okay with.

halladay.jpgDon’t get me wrong, I like Halladay well enough – he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a long time. Even the fact that he’s 32 doesn’t bother me, as he’s proven his durability for years now (even his injuries have been fluky, like a liner off the leg). It’s not the money (remainder of $14+m this year, and $15+m in 2010) either, because if you get your hands on a guy like that, you know you have to pay him. It’s the fact that what Toronto is looking for in terms of prospects is likely to be crippling – and I can’t even blame the Jays for that.

Look, Toronto has a rare jewel to trade; it’s not often that a pitcher of his caliber comes available, and even less so when you consider that A) he’s not a free agent at the end of the year and B) the rest of the pitching market is so weak (really, Jarrod Washburn?) So they’re going to ask for an absurd amount, and they’re likely to get it.

The problem is, this isn’t the Dodgers system of 2006-07, utterly overflowing with prospects. All of those guys have graduated to become vital members of the team, and most rumors about the Dodgers and Halladay start with Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw, which would be ridiculous. Let me make this utterly clear: I wouldn’t trade either Billingsley or Kershaw for Halladay, straight-up. Not that such a deal wouldn’t help the club for this season, but they’re both so much younger, so much cheaper, and already productive pitchers that it’s insane to even consider such a deal. The same goes for guys like Matt Kemp or Jonathan Broxton, who would certainly interest Toronto.

And then there’s this from the LA Times, where Bill Shaikin argues that Russell Martin and others should be the focus of the deal. Because, trading a guy when his value is lowest totally makes sense. Besides, as bad as Martin’s been, do you really want to see Brad Ausmus out there every day?

If you can build a deal for Halladay around Andrew Lambo, Blake DeWitt, and James McDonald, then yeah, I could be into that. But anyone from the current team? I can’t see that working.

Eric Stults May Be Pitching For His Job Today

With the news that Hiroki Kuroda will make his long-awaited return from the DL to pitch at Dodger Stadium on Monday, someone’s going to have to be dropped from the rotation – and it’s obviously going to be Eric Stults or Eric Milton. Since they’re pitching back-to-pack this weekend against the same opponent (each on national TV, no less) it makes a pretty nice competition between the two. However, dodgers.com seems to have already declared a winner: 

stultslaststart.jpg“Will likely make his last start for a while” sounds pretty pro-Milton to me. Are we really that sure of the outcome already? Sure, Milton was nice the last time out, getting a win in Colorado, but he only went five innings and was hardly dominant. Stults has had two lousy starts in a row, but he did throw a fantastic shutout the time before that and was effective in four of his first five starts preceding the shutout.

I tend to think that it’s probably not going to matter much, both due to the big lead and because it’s likely both are still going to get some time as the #5 starter regardless, but let’s not write off Stults so easily. He’s inconsistent, but he’s shown some real talent at times. And isn’t that all you can ask for from a #5 starter?

(I now reserve the right to delete this entire post if he goes out and gets lit up today.)

These Jackholes Are Taking Your Dodgers Away From You

STEVIE_B.jpgSee that guy, over to the right? That’s something called “Stevie B”. Hey, Stevie – nice notch in your hair, there. You look like the black Kenny Powers, only somehow stupider-looking. And did you steal that red leather jacket directly from the set of “Thriller”, or did you just decide it was so cool that you had to have one yourself?

Look, I don’t care that your biggest hit, “Because I Love You”, somehow made #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Hot Songs, because I couldn’t make it more than 12 seconds into the video without having my eyes start to bleed. (By the way, Billboard, you’re putting this piece of crap higher than the varied excellence of “I Love Rock n’ Roll”, “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In”, and that tour de force, “Whoomp! There It Is!”? For shame.)

Let’s put Stevie B aside for a second and move on to 1980s Latin Freestyle trio TKA. (Bear with me here, I swear that this will become relevant and that we haven’t sold out to become TKA_-YOU.jpgBoyz II Men’s Tragic Illness). Yep, that’s those fine looking young gentlemen to the right – the ones that appear to have applied the graphics to their CD cover with Microsoft Paint. TKA had approximately 10 minutes of popularity in 1991 and broke up shortly after, but that didn’t stop them from reuniting in 2001 to unleash Forever, described by allmusic.com as… well, it didn’t even rate a review. On ALLMUSIC DOT COM. This is a site that was able to force out a few words about the soundtrack to the third installment of the Mighty Ducks movies, yet they couldn’t be bothered to say anything about TKA’s big comeback. In fact, this group was of such little importance that AllMusic only bothers to list their leader, “K7″, as a member of the group. This is important when you realize that in the travesty I’m about to describe, it’s not the band “TKA”, and it’s not the musician “K7″… it’s the other two guys from TKA. The Florida Sun-Sentinel has further details:

It’s freestyle flashback featuring Stevie B with special guests Angel and Aby formerly of TKA at Florida Marlins’ Super Saturday this weekend.

Angel and Aby formerly of TKA rose to fame in 1991 with hits such as “Louder Than Love.”

The first pitch in the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers is set for 6:10 p.m. at Land Shark Stadium, 2267 NW 199 St., Miami Gardens. The first 15,000 fans will receive Marlins pom pom.

First: “Land Shark Stadium”. Haaaaaa.

Second: Yes, I thought that last line said “Marlins porn porn” at first.

But the most important part of that sentence is the 6:10pm (3:10pm PST) start. You see, Saturday afternoons have been FOX’s exclusive territory for years – there’s a national blackout between the hours of 1pm and 4pm western, and that’s why the teams that don’t have the 1pm FOX game scheduled either play at 10am PST, or the regular 4pm PST. If any team wanted to be stupid enough to start a game in the blackout period, they’d be unable to broadcast the game until the blackout ended - even in either team’s home market. Knowing this, no team would do something that idiotic.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Florida Marlins.

That’s right, thanks to the Marlins wanting to fit in a “concert” of washed-up never-was’s, they’ve pushed up the start time an hour to 6:10pm eastern, under the theory that if the post-game concert had to wait until 10pm, it’d be too late for those who - for some reason – actually wanted to see this crap. So thanks to this, it means that we’re all going to be missing the first two or three innings of the game – just so this ridiculous concert can go forward. With this being Eric Milton’s first start, that might be just long enough for us to not even get to see him at all!

You can blame FOX if you like, and I agree that I hate that they’ve been given such power. But the fact is, this isn’t a new rule, and it’s not a surprise to anyone – this is entirely the fault of the Marlins. This isn’t the first time this season this has happened, either, as the same issue came up against the Mets in April due to a concert by rapper Flo Rida. As you can imagine, their fans weren’t that pleased either…

UmpBump:

So you know what that means, kids? I can’t watch the game until 7pm, when SNY (the Mets channel here in NYC) begins broadcasting. I can’t even go on the internet to watch it because it’s the same fricken’ situation down in Miami. I just. can’t. watch. the. game.

Hulk get mad.

I can only hope that instead of Ron, Keith and Gary, the SNY team decides to have Ralph Kiner open up the telecast. I’d love to hear Ralph try to explain this %#$!-show on-air (Welcome to Mets baseball. This is uh… I’m uh… Well, we open up the telecast in the fourth inning here in uh… There’s a musician named Flo Rida who’ll be playing tonight… And as a result, here we are in the second inning, with Darryl Strawberry coming to bat).

It might be the only thing that could make this okay.

Kranepool Society:

Due to a rap concert after the game Saturday, the Marlins decided for some reason to start that nights game at 6PM instead of 7PM why? Beats the shit out of me as I’m sure the Gang Bangers that want to hear Flo-Rida rap out “LOW” (luv them Apple Bottom Jeans girlfriend) don’t mind staying up a little later on a Saturday night so if I’m going rip anyone a new asshole over this it’s has to be the Florida Marlins  and that little stooge David Samson.

I won’t let the Skill Sets off easy either as they should be using their muscle in getting the Used Car Salesman to force the Fish into changing the time of the game.

I’d kill FOX but that’s a lost cause as any company that thinks having Doofus Joe Buck and Tim Mc Fullofshit as it’s lead team is beyond help.

Yeah, that sounds about right. So enjoy that, Dodger fans, and mark my words that something amazing is going to happen in the early innings of this game that we’re going to miss. Like a triple play, or a Juan Pierre grand slam, or a zombie apocalypse. I’m not sure which of the last two seem less likely. Seriously, though; it’s one thing to miss a few innings of Eric Milton, but it was just about this time last year when Clayton Kershaw made his debut. Can you imagine the uproar if we’d been deprived of seeing that?

(Have a good weekend, kids. I’m blowing out of the big city and headed to… a slightly smaller big city. But the good news is, I’m turning over the reins to our very own long lost Latin Freestyle King, VIN! Treat him right.)