Eric Stults Will Go At Least Six Innings Today

Looks like you can ignore all of my complaining about Scott Elbert not being put in a good situation to start today, because after his bullpen work, not only is he not starting, he’s not even on the team anymore, having been optioned to AAA to provide for Ronald Belisario’s return. In what has to be be one of the oddest sequences I can ever remember, Elbert was announced as the starter, only to be replaced by Jeff Weaver after Elbert had to be used, and then Weaver was replaced by “TBA” when he had to be used in relief.

stults.jpgSo we spin that pitching wheel and land on… *no whammys, no whammys, stop*! Eric Stults! For the record, two of my three roster predictions from Friday have now taken place, and we’ve yet to see a corresponding roster move to make room for Stults. If James McDonald gets a one-way trip to New Mexico, I’m going to start buying lottery tickets.

As for Stults, this is clearly the right choice. It’s no secret that we’ve been fans of his for quite a while around here, and while he’s never going to be Clayton Kershaw, he has proven that he can have short bursts of success in the big leagues. And isn’t that all you need out of a 5th starter?

Stults has almost no history against Atlanta – only three current Braves have faced him, and each of those was only one at-bat each – but considering his history of getting off to good starts once he returns to the majors after a long layoff, that could work in his favor. Besides, he managed to go at least 6 innings in his last 5 starts in the minors, before being pulled after 3 IP on Thursday in anticipation of having to start for the big club this weekend.

Eric, we’ve been pulling for you all season around here. So no pressure or anything, but between that, the club wasting Kershaw’s great outing last night, and the uncertainty about Chad Billingsley’s leg, you really need to go at least 6 innings today and get this team a win. Aren’t you glad you’re back in the majors?

Let’s Shake Up That Roster

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times has some news on roster changes that are about to happen… and they feel a little familiar.

MSTI, July 28th:

But it’s also time to add some new blood to third base, and I’m not talking about Mark Loretta. Remember Tony Abreu? Not only is he not dead, he’s tearing up the PCL (1.026 OPS!) and is particularly on a hot streak lately (.475 BA with 3 homers in his last 10 games). Injuries almost ruined his career, but don’t forget that we looked upon him as a huge part of the future at one point.

Why not give the old man a breather once or twice a week – which might also help his second half slide – while playing the hot hand in Abreu?

Hernandez, today:

Infielder Tony Abreu is expected to be called up today from triple-A Albuquerque

abreujumps.jpgHey! That’s a great idea – wish I’d thought of it. Seriously, though, this can only help the team. Casey Blake has turned it around a bit lately (1.167 OPS over his last 8 games, though he still hasn’t homered in over a month), but he’s had a rough second half, and Orlando Hudson is coming off two lousy months of June and July. When you’ve got a guy like Abreu – and remember, talent has never been the issue with him, it’s health – tearing up AAA, you can’t help but want to see him in the bigs. Remember, Hudson isn’t signed for next year, and if he doesn’t turn it around, you wonder if they let him walk and see if Abreu can handle second base.

Moving on, after Hernandez also adds that Ronald Belisario’s return is imminent, we have news on the 5th spot in the rotation. Hmmm…

MSTI, August 6 (and about a dozen other times):

It’s not like there’s not other options; I detailed how great of an idea Charlie Haeger would be the other day, and we’ve been calling for Eric Stults – who’s only thrown a complete-game MLB shutout in each of the last two years! – all season.

Hernandez, today:

Eric Stults was pulled from his start in Albuquerque on Thursday night after only three innings, a sign that he could be promoted to replace Jason Schmidt as the Dodgers’ starter in San Francisco on Monday. Stults, who was in the rotation until a sprained thumb landed him on the disabled list on May 31, bumped fists with teammates and waved at Albuquerque Manager Tim Wallach as he exited the game.

Yes! Yeeesss! Please let this be true. There’s no way that Stults isn’t going to be more effective than Schmidt right now – none. I also wonder if part of this is to avoid the embarrassment of Schmidt having to go back to his former stomping grounds of SF and having him get lit up in front of all his old fans. There’s also the question about what happens to him. Does he get sent to the bullpen? DFA’d? Placed back on the DL? Does he simply walk away?

In fact, if we’re adding three players – Abreu, Belisario, and Stults – there’s quite a few roster decisions that need to be made. Since the usual option (send down Blake DeWitt!) has already been exhausted, I’m going to take a guess at what happens with no inside information whatsoever:

1) Schmidt gets moved off the 25-man roster for Stults. I doubt he hangs them up, and he’s clearly not one of the best 12 (okay, 20) pitchers right now, so the bullpen’s not the right option. I’ll go with a 90% chance of DL with a 10% chance of DFA. 

2) Scott Elbert gets sent down to AAA to make room for Belisario. Elbert’s been very good in short bursts, but I can’t help thinking that his future is still as a starter, so he might be able to step into Stults’ rotation spot with the Isotopes to get some longer outings.

3) James McDonald gets sent down to AAA to make room for Abreu. To be honest, this was the hardest call, and I’m not sure I’m convinced they’d drop down to 12 pitchers, but unless there’s a DL stint coming for a position player I don’t know about, there’s no obvious choice to drop. Juan Castro’s the only even slight possibility, and he’s been very good as a caddy for Rafael Furcal, so I don’t see it.

Of course, now that I’ve made these three predictions, expect exactly zero them to happen.

And There’s Your Ace

kershawshutsoutcards.jpg(Update: Okay, I wrote this as the Dodgers were in the process of blowing two saves. They’re currently in the 12th inning, tied 2-2. Depending on how this ends, this post might look really out of place. But you know what? Clayton Kershaw RULES, and nothing that happens in this game is going to change that.)

You want an ace? You’ve had a problem with recent weak outings from the rotation? Or with the fact that they don’t work deep into games? Well, how’s 8 shutout innings against a team with the best hitter alive strike you? Not only that, but in a one-run game on the heels of the first three-game losing streak of the entire season? I wasn’t kidding when I said I wouldn’t trade Clayton Kershaw for Roy Halladay straight up, because even though I hate the word, Kershaw’s been absolutely nothing if not ace-like. Now, it’s true that Jonathan Broxton just blew it for Kershaw in the 9th (reason #10830371 why wins are a terrible pitching metric!!), but while that’s a worthwhile conversation, it’s also a separate one – it takes nothing away from how good Kershaw was in this game.

Look, what Kershaw is doing right now is simply unbelievable, as his 2.76 ERA is good for 11th in all of baseball. Forget his age for a moment, because the performances we’re seeing are outstanding no matter what year his was born. In the 9 starts since his 2.2 inning struggle on June 10, Kershaw’s pitched 56 2/3 innings… and given up all of five earned runs. That’s an ERA of 0.80, which would be awesome if it didn’t make the blood rush to my head hard enough to make me think I’m going to pass out. Really, you think there’s anyone in baseball that’s going to improve on that? There’s a pretty solid case to be made that Clayton Kershaw has been the best pitcher in baseball for the last two months, and that’s even with Mark Buehrle doing nothing but throwing perfect games lately (he gave up 8 ER in 3.1 IP four starts ago).

Oh, and he’s 21, and still improving. So there’s that. I don’t think this was ever really going to be an issue, so I can’t even get too mad about it, but how’s about we stop with the idea that it’d be fun to trade him, okay? Yes, I’m looking at you, Steve Phillips. Yes, it’s my own fault for ever listening to a word Steve Phillips says.

As for trades that were made today, let’s all take a moment to laugh at the Giants for trading top prospect Tim Alderson for second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Granted, second base is a huge black hole for San Francisco, and Sanchez is indeed an upgrade – except that he just missed the entire Giants/Pirates series with a bad knee. But at this cost? Well, it’s always fun to look around the internet and see Giant fans freaking out…

El Lefty Malo:

That’s the
report
. I’m not disappointed the Giants have traded Alderson, but for a guy
who won’t hit with any power? Why? Why why why why why? Was it not possible to
put Alderson and a couple other prospects together for someone who can hit
cleanup? If Sanchez hits .330 / .380 / .460 down the stretch and the
Giants score five runs a game, I’ll be happy in a general sense. But I still
won’t be happy about this trade. Even worse, I’ll have to read for the next two
months the national punditry revving their LOLSABEAN engines yet again.
Sigh.

McCovey Chronicles:

But this was an awful, stupid, and unbelievably short-sighted move. Bengie Molina
is on pace to become one
of the worst cleanup hitters in the last 50 years
. Think about how special
that is. A lot of people have stunk in the last half-century, but we’re watching
one of the greatest stinks in the history of stink. As such, a
productive-for-his-position second baseman and a productive-for-his-new-team
first baseman isn’t the boiling water to our contending-flavored ramen. The
Giants needed someone who would have pushed Molina out of the cleanup spot.

And, just for fun, FanGraphs:

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing for a site like Fangraphs is
“hearing” the banter between writers behind the scenes. After news broke of the
Pittsburgh-San Francisco deal that saw second baseman Freddy Sanchez head from the Pirates to the Giants, these
comments were made from some of Fangraphs’ finest:

“What the hell?”

“The best pitching prospect of the day doesn’t get traded for Cliff
Lee
, but for Freddy Sanchez. Awesome. Nice job, Cleveland.”

“My lord, Sabean, what are you doing?”

Just when you thought it was safe to love San Francisco prospects again,
general manager Brian Sabean tossed away the club’s second best pitching
prospect for an injury-prone, veteran second baseman in his free agent year
(although he has an $8 million option that is way too high). Oh, and the Giants
organization just gave away its third best pitching prospect (Scott Barnes) to the Indians for a league-average first
baseman. Madison Bumgarner is suddenly very, very lonely.

If you want to imagine what it’d be like if the Dodgers traded Kershaw, take that vitriol and multiply it by the intensity of forty billion suns. Not to be hyperbolic or anything, but I’m pretty sure that it would be the worst thing in the history of the human race. 

The other big winner to come out of the Sanchez trade? Old friend Delwyn Young!

What the deal does is give Delwyn
Young
a chance to get regular at-bats as the Pirates’ second baseman. The
27-year-old has definite offensive potential and has been waiting for a chance
to play every day, and it appears he might finally get his opportunity as the
team evaluates if he can be an option there in 2010. Young’s defense at second
base is still a work in progress, and is likely going to be a negative in terms
of holding on to a starting job. However, he could be a quietly effective
producer in deep mixed leagues, hitting for batting average with a little pop if
he gets regular at-bats down the stretch.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know we’ve been huge Delwyn supporters, so it’s great to see him finally get a chance.

But it can’t all be good news, can it? Of course not, because despite my best efforts, Jason Schmidt is getting another shot to start on Friday. The question I can’t seem to answer is, why? He’s proven completely that he’s cooked, and even Joe Torre admitted that Schmidt’s bullpen session was just “okay”. Why not bring back Eric Stults? He’s pitched exactly 6 innings in each of his last 4 AAA starts, giving up 2, 3, 2, and 2 earned runs. It’s not great, but you’re not looking for “great”. You’re looking for “5th starter acceptable,” and that’s exactly what Eric Stults is. Either way, it’s much better than “busted old man who ruins the bullpen,” i.e., “the Jason Schmidt special.”  

Who’s Going to Start on Monday?

With Eric Milton likely out for the year following back surgery, the Dodgers are short a starter for Monday’s game against the Reds, the fifth game following the All-Star break. So… who’s it going to be?

Eric Stults (5000-1)
Though I don’t think the team agrees, Stults would have been my #1 choice; we have been backing him pretty hard all season, and his 9 starts are the most of the “non big four” guys. Unfortunately, Stults threw 94 pitches in AAA last night and is almost certainly unavailable for Monday.

Claudio Vargas (3000-1)
Vargas was signed to be a part of the 5th starter competition, and he’s been pretty good since returning from the DL – allowing just 3 hits and 0 runs in 4 games. However, he’s gone just one inning in each of his outings as he works back from arm troubles; I can’t imagine they now try to ask him to go 4 or 5 innings, especially after pitching in both of the first two Houston games.

Jeff Weaver (2000-1)
Weaver was almost certainly going to be the choice, as he’s already stepped into the rotation five times this season, with varying degrees of success. However, thanks to Chad Billingsley’s disastrous start last night – getting only 5 outs – Weaver had to step in and throw 58 pitches over 4.1 innings. Actually, coming in like that and getting that many outs was a pretty big deal, because as badly as the pen was beat up, it could have been much worse. There’s no way Weaver starts Monday on two days rest after that, but he should be available as a backup plan, as he did yesterday.


elbertontheroad.jpgScott Elbert (2000-1)

Elbert’s never started a major league game, but he has been primarily a starter in the minors, even through this season. He has pitched each of the last two days, but only 42 pitches combined. I suppose that having him make his starting debut on just two days rest is probably unlikely, but there’s also the possibility that they’ll want to showcase him for a possible trade.

Charlie Haeger! (1500-1)
Okay, I don’t really think that Haeger’s got much of a chance to be called up, but it would be awesome if he did, because who doesn’t love a knuckleballer? Not only that, he’s been very good in the high altitude of Albuquerque, earning an All-Star berth with a league-leading 8 wins. He was especially good in June, with a 2.09 ERA, and novelty of the knuckleball aside, isn’t someone who’s an innings eater exactly what we need right now? He’s gone at least 6 innings in 12 of his 15 starts, something that none of the big leaguers can come close to saying. Haeger’s scheduled to pitch tonight, so we’ll know pretty soon if he’s got any prayer.

James McDonald (20-1)
We all know McDonald wasn’t very good when given the 5th starter spot at the beginning of the season, but since returning from the minors in June he’s been fantastic: just 7 hits and 1 run allowed, with a 10/3 K/BB ratio, in 10 innings. All of those outings have come out of the bullpen, and that’s really the question, isn’t it – is there some reason he’s more effective out of the ‘pen? I don’t have an answer for that, and I would love to see him get another shot to see if he’s truly turned the corner. He’d also avoid the issue of having to make a roster move (i.e., “sending Blake DeWitt back down again“), but then there’s also the worry of weakening a bullpen that’s already missing Ronald Belisario and has a hobbled Jonathan Broxton.

Jason Schmidt (10-1)

schmidt2007.jpgDear lord, I can’t believe I’m calling Jason Schmidt, of all people, the most likely to do anything involving physical activity. If he were to actually get the call, I’d still think he’d be just as likely to hurt himself putting on his uniform in the locker room than to actually make it out to the mound; even then, people in the front row may want to be extra careful during warmups for fear of his arm flying completely off and hitting them in the face. (sidenote: this would be awesome.)

But it sort of makes sense, doesn’t it? The Dodgers obviously have a need for a starter, and Schmidt is not only rested (hasn’t pitched since July 12), but he’s at the end of his minor league rehab stint, which expires on – you guessed it – Monday. I think that aspect has been a little overblown, because the Dodgers could just option him to AAA (he’d be allowed to refuse, but I can’t imagine he would or that any other team would want to take on his contract). Schmidt hasn’t been great in AAA, but he has pitched at least 5 innings in his last 5 starts without ending up in the hospital. We’re quickly running out of time to see if he’s going to give us anything from his massive contract, so if you bring him up and he gets hurt again, well, who cares? It’s not like he was helping anyway, so you might as well give it a shot.

That’s right: MSTI is advocating that Jason Schmidt start on Monday. The end times are upon us.

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