So We’d Want Roy Halladay For His Bat?

Despite the incredible outing by Clayton Kershaw last night, the Dodgers are on their first four-game losing streak of the season, and with another loss tonight would have suffered their first sweep in St. Louis in 22 years. But Kershaw pitched brilliantly, Randy Wolf allowed just two earned runs in the first game, and while Chad Billingsley did implode after 5 solid innings in the middle game, it’s not as though he’s getting replaced in the rotation. No, the real problem right now is the bats – just three runs scored in the three games of the series. When you’ve got Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Matt Kemp all hitting under .200 over the last week (small sample size, granted), your offense isn’t going to go that far.

So then what the hell is Gerry Fraley at talking about?

To understand why the Los Angeles Dodgers are skittish despite their healthy lead in the National League West, consider the first two games of a series against St. Louis.

Because they scored one run in those two games?

The Dodgers took on a true ace in right-hander Chris Carpenter and lost. The Dodgers took on a budding ace in right-hander Adam Wainwright and lost. Carpenter and Wainwright combined to allow one run in 15 innings.

You got it. Hard to win when you score one run in fifteen innings.

The losses will have no impact on the Dodgers’ march to the playoffs.

The losses tell why the Dodgers could be short-timers when the playoffs begin.

Because the offense would struggle against aces in the playoffs? Possibly; it’s an old baseball cliche that “good pitching beats good hitting”. But it seems to me that it’s just a slump; there’s not too many offenses I’d take over the crew the Dodgers have. Either way, go on, Gerry: tell me more about the struggling Dodger offense.

The Dodgers have a good club for the long haul of a 162-game season and have benefited from playing in a soft division. They went into Wednesday’s game at Busch Stadium at 30-12 against the NL West and 32-26 in all other games.

Cliche alert! The best team in the league and the top two wild card contenders (so, three of the top five NL teams) all reside in the NL West. Sure, Arizona and San Diego are dreadful. But the East has Washington (and lately, the Mets) and the Central has Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. “NL West as weak sister division” = “fallacy”.

The Dodgers are not set up well for the playoffs.

The club lacks the starting pitcher(s) that can win against the top-shelf starters such as Carpenter and Wainwright, who both rank among the NL’s top eight in ERA.

clayton-kershaw.jpgWell, I’d say Clayton Kershaw – currently 7th in the NL in ERA, ahead of Wainwright – is a pretty good start. Randy Wolf, by the way, is in the top 20, and Billingsley is top 30. I won’t argue that the Dodgers’ top 2 are better than the Cardinals top 2, but as MoKM pointed out, it doesn’t matter how badly Billingsley blew up when the offense is putting up zero runs, does it?

A Dodgers-Cardinals series is a real possibility for the NL playoffs. In that matchup, the Cardinals would hold a huge advantage because Carpenter and Wainwright outweigh any pair from the Dodgers’ current rotation.

Well, it’s a good thing that games are played in pairs. Win one, get two! Fortunately, you only play one game at a time, and right now I’ll take my chances with Kershaw in one of those games.

And in a third game, the Cardinals could trot out right-hander Joel Pineiro, who ranks ninth in the NL for ERA at 2.95.

Really, Joel Pineiro? That’s the best you’ve got? Yeah, he’s having a nice season, even though it’s the first time he’s had his ERA below 4 since 2003. He’s also had terrible success against the current Dodgers, allowing a .325/.360/.815 line in 140 plate appearances against the boys in blue throughout their careers. I’m not all that worried about him.

In one breath, Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez said it is too early to talk about the playoffs. In the next breath, Ramirez said “you see a lot of good pitchers in the playoffs.”

That explains why general manager Ned Colletti is pushing for a top-shelf starting pitcher before Friday’s waiver-driven trade deadline. (Another arm for the fraying bullpen would help, too.)

Last night’s debacle aside, the “fraying bullpen” has the third-best ERA of any bullpen in baseball and the second-lowest batting average against. They’ve already gotten a boost by the return of Hong-Chih Kuo and look to get another when Ronald Belisario returns, and you show me a bullpen that’s going to add two better arms than that right now. It’s true that the high innings count by the pen is a concern, but “fraying”? Hardly. More like an unexpected strength. But that’s okay, Gerry, just like with the bit about the weak NL West, you just keep following the party line without doing any real research. We don’t mind.

What the Dodgers have now in the rotation — kids and questions — will not do come October. The manager understands that.

“I don’t think that it’s any secret that we’ve been inquiring about how we can make this ballclub better,” manager Joe Torre said. “Pitching is always the priority. Pitching controls everything.”

Kershaw is a “kid”. Billingsley is a “kid”. Regardless of whether the Dodgers go get Roy Halladay or not, they’re still going to get postseason starts – as well they should. So that point is invalid. I’m not suggesting that I wouldn’t like to see a move made, just that this whole article is taking the fact that the Dodgers couldn’t hit Carpenter and Wainwright and somehow turning that into meaning the pitching staff sucks. Because Halladay’s going to hit 5th in the lineup on the days he doesn’t pitch, right?

In their current form, the Dodgers lack a starting pitcher who can go 4-0 in a postseason, as Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels did last season and Boston right-hander Josh Beckett did in 2007.

Why? Because you say so? It was only yesterday that I made the case that Kershaw’s been the best pitcher in baseball over the last two months, and while I realize that’s a lot to throw on a 21-year-old, with each outing you see more and more that there’s something special there. Who’s to say what he can’t do at this point? And as we’ve shown a million times, “wins” are ridiculous, so even if Kershaw were to go out and throw a stinker, the offense could pick him up and still get him a “win”.

The Dodgers consider themselves fortunate to get a starter through the sixth inning. Their starters have averaged only 5.62 innings per game, the second-lowest total in the NL.

That is no way to go into a postseason.

This is a stat that gets trotted out a lot, and it kills me. The Dodgers do average 5.6 innings per start, and of course you’d like to see that be a little better. But it gets made out to be as though Dodger starters are getting knocked out in the first inning every night, when in reality the league average is 5.9 innings per start. That means that Dodger starters are getting, on average, 1 fewer out than the average team. Big god damn deal. Besides, it’s somewhat of a faulty stat, because it includes all the short outings we saw from guys like Eric Milton, Jason Schmidt, and Jeff Weaver. You really think any of those guys are getting an October start?

The Dodgers’ top two starters are right-hander Chad Billingsley and left-hander Clayton Kershaw. It would be an act of faith to send them out for the first two games of a postseason series.

Back here on Planet Earth, it’d be an act of lunacy to not send them out for postseason starts. Unless you’ve got a plan to trade for Halladay, Johan Santana, and Tim Lincecum, you’d be crazy to complain about these two guys.

Kershaw is 21 years old and has all of two innings of postseason experience. He has won his last five decisions but is prone to walks and inflated pitch counts that force him out of games early. He goes into Wednesday night’s scheduled start against St. Louis averaging 5.03 walks per nine innings.

I love that first sentence, because it’s so uninformed. Let’s apply this to the top starters available at this year’s trade deadline:

Roy Halladay is 32 years old and has all of zero innings of postseason experience.
Cliff Lee is (almost) 31 years old and has all of zero innings of postseason experience.

See what fun stats can be when you neglect to use them properly? While Fraley wants you to think Kershaw’s lousy two postseason innings means he should still be in grade school, in reality they’re two more than Halladay and Lee combined.

Billingsley leads the rotation with 10 wins but has been erratic, with one win in his last nine starts. On Tuesday, Billingsley shut out the Cardinals for five innings but allowed six runs without getting out of the sixth. It marked the third time in Billingsley’s last four starts that he could not go six innings.

billingsleyvsmets.jpgWins are stupid, and I don’t care about them. Yes, Billingsley’s been slumping lately, but we’ve been through this. He’s still one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Billingsley also carries the mental scars of last season’s poor performance against Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.

He lost twice, allowing 10 earned runs in five innings. Billingsley also failed to respond in kind after Philadelphia’s Brett Myers brushed back Ramirez in the second game of the series.

No. This is so stupid it that it almost offends me. I’ve never even heard of Gerry Fraley, so clearly he’s not someone who follows the Dodgers closely. So what’s basically happening here is that Fraley remembered reading an equally ridiculous Bill Plaschke article last year, and decided to parrot that theme with zero research whatsoever. Well done, Gerry!

Of the other three starters, only right-hander Jason Schmidt has postseason experience, but he is a shell of his former self. After missing nearly two years because of shoulder problems, Schmidt has made two unimpressive starts as he tries to remake himself into a finesse pitcher.

You know, most of this has been just me making fun of Fraley’s ill-informed opinions, but here he’s just factually wrong. Nice to see he’s just wiped the memories of Hiroki Kuroda’s two excellent outings last October (12.1 IP, 2 ER) off the face of the earth. Good to see this guy collects a paycheck.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, the opening-day starter, has also been ineffective since missing nearly two months because of a strained oblique muscle. He is 2-5 with a 4.85 ERA for 10 starts since returning.

Kuroda has actually lowered his WHIP, allowed fewer hits, and has struck out more in 2009 as compared to 2008. He’s had some hard-luck games, but he’s going to be just fine.

That leaves left-hander Randy Wolf, who has never pitched an inning in the postseason. Wolf is the club’s hard-luck pitcher of the season. The Dodgers have had seven blown saves behind Wolf.

And that is Wolf’s fault… how, exactly? Randy’s been solid this season, tied for the league lead in games started, and if his record doesn’t reflect his effectiveness, well that’s just because WINS DON’T MEAN A GODDAMN THING FOR A PITCHER.

It’s a stretch to count on the bad-karma pitcher in the playoffs. It’s a stretch for the Dodgers to count on any of their starting pitchers in the playoffs.

So now we can’t count on Randy Wolf because he’s offended the sun god Ra and has “bad karma”, or something equally ridiculous. We can’t count on Clayton Kershaw even though he’s awesome because… I’m not even sure why. We can’t count on Hiroki Kuroda because he’s never pitched in the postseason, except that he has. We can’t count on Chad Billingsley because he’s been slumping, which is the only halfway plausible point, but he’s got enough history here that you of course count on him.

No, the only thing you really can’t count on is Gerry Fraley to write an informed article. Look, I’m not against the idea of getting Roy Halladay, if it’s for the right price. The fact that the Phillies had to give up zero members of their major league club and none of their top 4 prospects might drag down Halladay’s price, so if we can do it for a package along the lines of Elbert/Bell/DeJesus/Lambo, hell, I’m in. But it’s just crazy to take the idea that the Cardinals pitching shut down the struggling Dodgers offense, and make it out to be that the Dodgers couldn’t hit because they can’t pitch. Even though they can.