Please Look At Our New Reliever’s Wikipedia Page

Eric Stults has pitched his way right onto the DL (thanks for making me look bad, Eric) with a severe case of “he sucked, but let’s go with.. *throws dart at board*… thumb“. In his place, right-handed reliever Travis Schlichting gets the call from AA Chattanooga.

schlichtingwikipedia.jpgHe’s not someone I know a whole lot about, so I started doing some research and… well, look, I know Wikipedia is hardly a paragon of truth in journalism, but still, when you look up biographical information on a pitcher, you don’t expect to see this picture (at right) on his page. I suppose that’s sort of like seeing James Loney as a top high school pitcher on his own page.

Anyway, that’s not an incorrect picture, it’s just old – Schlichting was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 4th round of the 2003 draft and never really hit in about 900 low minors at-bats between 2003-05. In 2006, he was traded to the Angels for catcher Josh Paul, and did so well as a 21-year-old in A ball that they flat-out cut him.

Here’s the interesting part, though. He decided to reinvent himself as a pitcher, and went off to the independent leagues to do so. So just two years ago, he was pitching for a Kansas City T-Bones team populated by an entire roster of guys no one has ever heard of, other than perhaps failed Orioles prospect and real-life Crash Davis, Calvin Pickering. That league (2007 Northern League) featured such well-known outfits as the Joliet Jackhammers, Gary Southshore Railcats, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, and the Edmonton Cracker-Cats (go Cracker-Cats!!). Here’s the real kicker: Schlichting was terrible. Sure, it was his first year as a pitcher, so fine. But a 5.29 ERA and a 1.980 WHIP (and allowing 12.7 hits/9) in the indy leagues hardly puts a guy on the fast past to major league stardom.

Somehow – and believe me, I would love to know how this happened, so please email me or comment if you know – that got him an invite to Dodgers camp last year and a spot on the AA Jacksonville Suns, where he was actually decent, putting up a 3.77 ERA in 59.2 innings, and cutting that WHIP down to 1.274. Kept in AA as the affiliation switched to Chattanooga this year, he’s been phenomenal, allowing just one earned run in 13.2 innings thus far. As far as what he throws, his skill-set, etc, just check out the prospect profile over at FNCN, because I’m not coming up with anything to add to that.

I know this, though: a story like “terrible third baseman to lousy independent league pitcher to the bigs in less than three years” is enough to get my attention.

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.)

Eric Stults Is Better Than You Think He Is

stultshutsoutgiant.jpgFor the second time in a year, we’re praising Eric Stults on a completely dominating shutout performance. Don’t look now, but this guy is 4-1, and his two career shutouts is one more than Chad Billingsley has. Again, Stults is never going to be an ace, but can performances like this possibly get him more than the “one bad game gets you gone” leash that Torre always seems to have him on?

Well done, Eric.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened on the day Stults threw his last shutout – Scott Proctor was headed to the DL, we were against trading for CC Sabathia, and Brian Falkenborg was being recalled. Oh, how times have changed.)

Because I Guess You Can’t Really Put Him 10th…

…Juan Pierre’s hitting 9th tonight, according to Tony Jackson:

the rationale is that you can still bat Manny third so he comes up in the first inning, but in subsequent innings, you have three table-setters hitting AHEAD of Manny so that Manny, in effect, is batting fourth. And before anyone suggests it, no, it ISN’T because Joe thinks Eric Stults is a better hitter that JP.

I’d like to think that “he’s your worst hitter, so you’d want to make sure that he doesn’t get the most at-bats by hitting him leadoff” would be a pretty good reason, too. Actually, I have to hand it to Joe Torre. He’s made a whole lot of questionable decisions in his Dodger tenure (recently, his odd refusal to double-switch, thus putting pitchers in position to bat in late-inning pressure situations), but for someone with such a reputation for going “by the book”, putting Pierre 9th is a pretty outside-the-box decision by him.

I don’t even mind playing Pierre tonight, actually. After a fantastic start, Matt Kemp’s been slumping lately (.190 over the last 7 days) and going against Tim Lincecum is no way to break a slump, especially when he’s 0-4 with 2 K’s against Lincecum. Of course, nobody really has any success against that guy – other than Orlando Hudson, who’s got 4 hits in 9 at-bats.

Speaking of batter vs. pitcher stats, look at tonight’s Dodger starter, Eric Stults, against current Giants (via baseball-reference):

stultsvsgiants.jpgI know there’s tons of small sample size alerts going off there… but that is a lot of four digit OPS lines. Worse, the 1.106 total OPS would be even higher if you took out the five hitless at-bats from pitchers Barry Zito and Matt Cain, who I’m pretty sure we can safely say won’t be hitting tonight.

So if we’ve learned anything at all from when I do this… Dodgers 9, Giants 2.

Three Cheers For Eric Stults

87toppsericstults.jpgEric Stults has always been an MSTI favorite, dating back to a big pennant race performance in his first major league start in 2006, going six one-run innings against the Mets. Last year, we really jumped on the bandwagon after that complete domination of the White Sox – a four-hit shutout in June. And by “bandwagon”, I mean more “hey, that guy’s not so bad – I wonder what he could do” and less “he’ll be the third man of the Kershaw/Billingsley powerhouse trifecta!” I mean, I like the guy, but he’s Eric Stults. That said, I always felt he got a raw deal last year, best explained in our 2008 reviews, in which he received an “A”:

Look, if you’ve got a lefty with the talent to shut out an American
League contender, and that lefty gives up 4, 1, 3, 3, and 3 earned runs
in his other starts, doesn’t that sound like a guy who’s worth a look?
No, he won’t be an ace; probably never anything more than a decent #5.
But probably a guy worth keeping up over the likes of Tanyon Sturtze,
isn’t it? One would think. But no, after Joe Torre prematurely pulled
him from a blowout win against Colorado because Stults wasn’t being
aggressive enough, Stults rotted in AAA for the rest of the year, save
for one token appearance in September.

All of which leads us up to Saturday night against the Diamondbacks, where, as I noted yesterday, Stults absolutely had to come up big. It’s a lot to ask of a 6th starter in the first week of the season, coming off a dreadful spring training, but the team needed a win and the bullpen had to be saved.

Well, I’d say allowing just one run and striking out six over 5.1 innings works on both counts, doesn’t it? Let’s not ignore the bats finally coming alive (particularly Orlando Hudson with a double and a homer), but Stults was clearly the hero of the night – not only putting the club in position to win, but allowing the bullpen to take a breather. 

Even better, Torre was effusive in his praise of Stults:

“Stults was great,” said manager Joe Torre, whose rotation now includes
three starters (Stults, Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald) with a
combined 10 Major League victories.

“We saw him last year come up and pitch against Cincinnati and throw a
lot of strikes and then [use] the changeup when he was behind in the
count. I thought he worked fast, which was a benefit for him. And
tonight he was aggressive, especially when behind in the count.”

Odd that he’d mention the Reds game and not the White Sox game just days later, but whatever – I’m just happy he’s recognizing Stults. It’s likely that Eric gets at least another start or two in Hiroki Kuroda’s absence… so let’s hope he continues to not make me look bad by supporting him.

On another note, Torre announced that Juan Pierre will be starting on Sunday. He didn’t say who will be sitting, but since he did say that Pierre will be in center with Manny in left, that means that either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier will take a seat. Much as I don’t like Pierre, that’s fine – it’s of course unreasonable to think that all three outfielders are going to play 162 games, and since Pierre’s the main backup, he’s likely to start once a week or so. Fine. What I do have a problem with is the timing, because as Tony Jackson notes, both Kemp and Ethier have had good success vs. Dan Haren:

Pierre is hitting .333 (2 for 6) lifetime against Dan Haren, but Kemp
is hitting .364 (4 for 11, 1 HR), and Ethier is hitting .467 (7 for 15,
1 HR).

Is this really the game we want to be sitting one of these two down in? With Monday being the home opener, you of course want your big three ready to go, so you’d think Pierre would have started on Saturday against Yusmerio Petit, who each Kemp and Ethier had lousy track records against. And as could have been predicted, Kemp and Ethier went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts (both by Kemp) against Petit.

As far as decisions go, it’s not a major one, and you hope it doesn’t come back to bite you on Sunday. It’s just a choice that doesn’t seem to have much sense behind it, and one that I’d love to hear explained someday