MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Starting Pitchers, Part 3

You know the offseason has started to get fun when it’s been over a week since I’ve posted a Season in Review piece, thanks to all the hoopla over ownership and the signing of Juan Rivera. Before we completely turn the page to 2012, let’s continue our look back at 2011 with the third and final installment of starting pitchers, featuring two veterans who combined for 65 starts and a youngster who received just one.

Hiroki Kuroda (B+)
3.07 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 7.17 K/9, 2.18 BB/9

Here’s one of my favorite “pitcher wins and losses are stupid” notes yet: Kuroda set career highs in both wins (13) and losses (16) this year, which must of course mean that he had both the best and worst season of his career.

That’s ludicrous, of course, because the 36-year-old Kuroda had nothing but another productive season, breaking the 200 inning mark for the first time, though an uptick in home runs allowed made it slightly less valuable than in 2010. Kuroda got off to an especially good start this season, allowing three earned runs or fewer in five of his first six and seven of his first nine starts, but he didn’t always get the support he deserved, as we noted on June 14:

The failure of the bullpen and the inability of the offense to overcome it really has to make you feel for Hiroki Kuroda, as Steve Dilbeck points out at the LA Times blog. Kuroda was once 5-3, but has now been hung with five consecutive losses to push him down to 5-8. On the surface, it sounds like he’s struggled, but we know better; the Dodgers have scored eight total runs for him in those five games. While he deserves his share of the blame for the first two, games in which he allowed four and five earned runs, he’s allowed a grand total of five earned over his last three starts. All of them go in the books as losses, despite his season xFIP of 3.50.

And again on June 19:

For 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday, the Dodgers looked likely to set us up for disappointment. Hiroki Kuroda had sailed through the first seven, allowing just five baserunners before Matt Guerrier threw a clean eighth. After a tough turn around the starting rotation, it was a much-needed boost from the veteran. But yet again, there was absolutely no support from the offense, as Bud Norris and Sergio Escalona held the Dodgers to harmless singles by James Loney and Dioner Navarro, and walks by Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. There’s a reason Kuroda has a losing record both for the season and his career, and it’s because of games like this.

And yet again on July 28:

If Wednesday night’s loss to Colorado was indeed the final start as a Dodger for Hiroki Kuroda, it came in the most appropriate fashion possible: six innings of one-run ball, twice as many strikeouts (six) as walks (three)… and yet another loss, since the inept Dodger offense couldn’t be bothered to put a run on the board until Rod Barajas‘ solo homer with one out in the ninth. (On a side note, another strike for pitcher W/L records; Kuroda, Blake Hawksworth, and Mike MacDougal all allowed the same damage of one earned run. Kuroda allowed that much over six innings, while Hawksworth did it in one and MacDougal in one and a third. Yet Kuroda is the one with the blemish on his record. Uh, okay.)

That inspired Jon Weisman to pass along this astonishing note:

Since May 22, Kuroda is 1-10 with a 3.38 ERA.

Of course, noting Kuroda’s misfortune was hardly what we’ll remember this season for, because the “will he or won’t he” question of whether he’d accept a trade at the deadline of a lost season swirled for weeks. Kuroda almost certainly would have been the most desirable starter on the market other than perhaps Ubaldo Jimenez, and could have brought the Dodgers a nice return. It’s amazing to think what might have been if Kuroda had accepted a deal to Boston, wouldn’t it? Perhaps the Red Sox might have avoided a full collapse, and Theo Epstein and Terry Francona might still be there.

Part of the speculation was fueled by Kuroda himself, since for most of July he refused to come right out and say that he would or would not accept a trade. Finally, one day before the trading deadline, he announced that he would be exercising his right to reject a trade and stay in Los Angeles. Though I respected his decision, I had to admit that I was disappointed at the time:

I look at it from more of a “wanting my team to win” point of view, and from that standpoint, it’s hard not to think that Kuroda has hurt the chances to do that, even if only in a small way. A few weeks ago, I noted that I would be more than okay with keeping Kuroda to soak up some innings over the last few months if the deal was just going to be a salary dump, with little in the way of talent coming back. Yet as dominoes have begun to fall over the last few days, we’ve seen that this particular trade season is shaping up as a clear seller’s market. Look at what Toronto was able to do in exchange for some relievers and eating a bad contract. Look how much the Orioles got for 36-year-old Koji Uehara, or the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran, or the reported return for Ubaldo Jimenez if that goes through. With Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland (maybe) all having picked up starters, that left the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers to fight over Kuroda, the clear top remaining starter. That’s an enviable position to be in.

Instead, we have 8-10 more starts of Kuroda to look forward to, and that might be it if he decides to go back to Japan after the season. I know some will be happy with that, saying that it proves he’s “true blue” or makes the club better for the last two months, but I don’t really see what that accomplishes. At the end of the season, his current 6-13 record will be something like 8-17, and the team will still be several games under .500 and double-digit games out of a playoff spot. Having Kuroda around, or not, was not going to change the fortunes of the 2011 club. Trading him might have helped future versions of the club, teams he’ll have been long retired from, and while I’m glad he enjoys being a Dodger enough to invoke his no-trade clause, he could have also gone on a two-month road trip somewhere and re-signed in Los Angeles the day after the season ended, if he chose. His gain, short-term, is probably our loss, long-term, and it’ll be a bit hard for me to watch his next start without that thought in the back of my mind.

That came to fruition the very next day, when the dust had settled from the unexpected and unpopular Trayvon Robinson / Tim Federowicz deal:

Worse, there’s also the feeling that this goes back to Hiroki Kuroda‘s refusal to accept a trade. Boston writers Gordon Edes and Sean McAdam each reported that Federowicz and Juan Rodriguez were initially discussed in negotiations for Kuroda, an assertion backed up by Ned Colletti’s comments that Federowicz was someone he’d been eyeing for some time. (McAdam says that a third prospect likely would have been included, though he doesn’t state if that was Stephen Fife or not.) Kuroda was clearly higher on Boston’s starting pitching shopping list than Erik Bedard, so if he agrees to the deal, the Dodgers send two months of Kuroda to Boston for a package nearly identical to the one that ended up coming for Robinson. That’s a deal that I think most of us would have been pretty satisfied with – I know I’d have been – and Robinson would have remained in the system. Remember when I said I was disappointed in Kuroda’s choice? Yeah, that paid off a lot quicker than I thought it would.

I know the arguments on the other side of that, namely that Kuroda had the right to choose to stay and that he should be commended for his loyalty, or that Robinson wasn’t stellar in his short MLB debut in Seattle (which again, is totally beside the point) and I understand that. But as we saw, even though Kuroda pitched well down the stretch (slightly hampered by a neck injury) and the Dodgers played well, there was never any chance they were going to get back in the race, so that asset is now lost.

Still, that’s in the past, and for the third time in a year, we’re playing the “will he or won’t he” game with Kuroda, this time about if he’ll return to America for 2012. There’s no one who seriously thinks he’ll come back to MLB with anyone other than the Dodgers, and right now I put it at 70/30 odds that he will return for another season.

I hope he does. Kuroda’s been a solid performer and by all indications a good teammate, and the Dodgers are in the unique position of being (probably) the only team able to buy a valuable asset for one year when pitchers of similar value would require three or four.

Ted Lilly (C-)
3.97 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9

Of the two main starters on this page, it’s a little surprising that it was Hiroki Kuroda who dealt with neck pain rather than Lilly, considering that the veteran lefty was the one who was constantly whipping his head around to see balls leaving the yard – hence the card picture, which come on, I had to use.

To be fair, Lilly improved greatly as the season went on, but we’ll get to that in a second. When he initially signed his 3/$33m deal last October, my reaction was less than positive:

So sure, I’m happy to see him back in 2011, but we can’t be short-sighted about this. Remember, Lilly just finished a 4-year, $40m contract, which is an average annual value of $10m/year. Somehow, despite being 4 years older, less than a year past shoulder surgery, and on the decline, the Dodgers saw fit to give him a deal which increases that value?

I’m not arguing that he wouldn’t have found a contract like that on the market, because he would have. I would have just preferred it be some other team to make a foolish investment. Spending money does not equal spending wisely, because while Lilly’s a good pitcher, he’s hardly a difference-maker, yet he’s being paid like one. Though I’m glad he’s back for 2011, I really think we’re going to regret this deal in 2012 and 2013 – which is basically exactly what I said about Blake’s deal after 2008.

The fact that it started with a $7.5m outlay this year and increases to $12m and $13.5m in 2012 and 2013, incredibly high numbers for a late-30s mid-rotation pitcher, doesn’t help to ease our uncertainty. The discomfort increased as Lilly failed to make it through five innings in either of his first two starts, and his ERA was still north of 5 even headed into his first start of August.

The funny thing is, as I look back through the year of posts, Lilly was just sort of “there”. He was rarely bad enough to get killed, nor was he effective enough that he really stood out. Scrolling through the database, I see more than a few times where I note a solid Lilly outing that avoided a “what’s wrong with Ted Lilly” post after several bad starts. Despite the seemingly outrageous homer rate, when I looked at him in June, that wasn’t the largest concern:

So what’s going on? Well, it appears to be two issues. First, despite the fact that I mentioned his K/BB hasn’t changed, he’s definitely missing fewer bats. He’s striking out more than a man less per nine innings, and his swinging strike percentage has sunk from 9.5% in 2009 to 8.9% in 2010 to 7.5% this year – and that last number is sure to fall further when tonight’s game is factored in. He’s walking fewer than he ever has as well, so that’s how the K/BB stays lower.

If you’re striking out fewer, you’re relying more on your defense, and that’s where we run into our second problem. According to Baseball Prospectus‘ “Defensive Efficiency”, the Dodgers currently rank 28th in MLB as far as turning balls into outs. So you’re seeing exactly what you’d expect to see when you have a pitcher who isn’t striking people out, and isn’t getting support from his defense. The problem is that I’m not sure how we see either of those items changing any time soon, particularly since Lilly is still signed up for his age-36 and age-37 seasons the next two years.

In July, you can see just how we felt about him during our midseason review:

Ted Lilly (D) (6-9, 4.79 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Lilly hasn’t been awful (back, back, it’s gone!), but nor has he been (throw to second, and the runner is in!) in any way worthy of the $33m deal he received in the offseason. He’s (that ball is far, it is out of here!) striking out fewer than ever, and more (he’s going, and he swipes second without a throw) batted balls in front of a defense that isn’t great at converting them into outs isn’t (that ball is crushed into the second tier!) a good mix. Oh, and he’s 35 and has complained (Navarro’s throw to second, not in time, another steal!) of arm soreness already. Loving that three-year deal more than ever.

Not exactly the sort of start you’re looking to see in the first year of a multiyear deal, particularly from a player Lilly’s age, and at the time, there was little hope for improvement. Yet somehow, he did, perhaps based on this chat with Clayton Kershaw that provided really the only Lilly-based entertainment all season.

No, really: through the first 22 starts of Lilly’s season, the returns were poor, allowing 23 homers, a .791 OPS, and a 5.02 ERA. But beginning with a six inning, one run performance in San Diego on August 3, Lilly was practically a new pitcher; in his final 11 starts, he allowed just five homers, a .543 OPS, and a 2.09 ERA. We noted this on August 15:

Ted Lilly has taken a lot of criticism this year, and for good reason: he gives up homers every five seconds, he can’t hold runners on, he’s now 7-13 on the year, and, oh yeah, he’s still owed about $28m through 2013, when he’ll be 37. He’s given up fourteen dingers over his last ten starts - fourteen!– and only once in that time has he made it through a game longball-free.

Still, after allowing just one run over seven innings tonight (yes, on a blast to Ryan Braun), it’s worth noting that Lilly’s actually been very good lately, since this is the fourth start in a row in which he’s allowed two runs or less. That’s a total of just six earned runs over 26 innings, which is excellent. The catch, of course, is that Lilly has come down with the loss in each of his last three games, since the Dodgers have scored – wait for it – one run in that span. One!

Of course, one area he never improved at was holding runners on, where he allowed 35 steals against just two caught stealing, among the worst rates in baseball.

Despite the roundabout way in which he got there, Lilly had a basically average Ted Lilly season, despite another year of declining strikeout rates. His 4.21 FIP and 3.72 SIERA largely fall into line with what he’s been doing for years.

John Ely (inc.)
6.23 ERA, 5.67 FIP, 9.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9

Geez, how long ago does “Ely-mania” seem right now?

Ely made only one start for the Dodgers this season, and even that was way back in April. That’s mostly due to the season-long health of the top four in the Dodger rotation, but also because Ely followed up a 6.22 AAA in 2010 with a 5.99 mark in 2011. The usual “yes, but Albuquerque” caveats apply, which, fine, but that’s still pretty ugly. (His home FIP of 4.52 and road FIP of 4.71 are at least a bit less stomach-turning.) Despite being called up in September as depth, he spent most of his time watching, logging just four innings over three unimportant games.

All of which is not to say that Ely has no place with the Dodgers. Every team needs a decent-ish 7th or 8th starter for a spot start here and there. I’d just recommend he get mighty comfortable in New Mexico.

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Next! Javy Guerra, Proven Closer™! Scott Elbert‘s enormous comeback! And far too many words spilled on Vicente Padilla! It’s relievers, part 1!

Dodgers Finish Off 2011 Home Schedule


In just a few minutes, the Dodgers will take the field for their final home game of the season, and we won’t see them back at Chavez Ravine until April 10, 2012 – a little over six months from now. (At 41-39, they have clinched a winning home record). I don’t usually do game threads, but what the hell, it’s the last home game of the year – and it comes with a question.

Tonight’s lineup:

Gordon 6, Sands 9, Kemp 8, Rivera 7, Miles 5, Loney 7, Barajas 2, Carroll 4, Kuroda 1

When we next see the Dodgers in the spring, how different is that lineup going to look? Matt Kemp is the only fully guaranteed returnee, with Dee Gordon most likely joining him and Jerry Sands doing his best to make his case. Beyond them? James Loney may yet be a non-tender. Juan Rivera, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Rod Barajas, and Hiroki Kuroda are all free agents, and the prevailing winds on Kuroda are that he’s going back to Japan. How many of those guys are going to come back? (The correct answer, probably, is “more than I hope”.)

To be honest, I’m about ready for the season to end. As much fun as it’s been to see the team come back from the absolute depths of June and July to play well over the last six weeks or so, what we’re watching is clearly a roster in transition, populated by two top stars, a few prospects making their bones, and a lot of veteran filler. I’m ready. I’m ready for the tough arbitration decisions, the tug-of-war between “McCourt will make a big splash” and “uh, yeah, he’s a penniless scumbag”, the pie-in-the-sky creative plans for moves that might be made, and the inevitable disappointment at the ones that are.

Of course, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, because there’s one thing I’m ready for first, and that’s for Kuroda and the Dodgers to deal yet another blow to San Francisco’s dwindling playoff hopes. Let’s get on that first, okay?

Kuroda & His Mustache Fall to Nationals, 7-2


Through the first 109 starts of Hiroki Kuroda‘s career in America, he’d never once allowed three homers in a game. This afternoon in Washington, it took the Nationals all of 21 pitches in the first inning to take Kuroda deep three times, as Ian Desmond, my boy Michael Morse, and Jayson Werth each gave Labor Day souvenirs to fans in left field. (Morse added a second blast in the sixth inning, and while it was tough to see Kuroda get hit so hard, I can’t pretend that watching one of my non-Dodger favorites produce wasn’t enjoyable.) Despite the dingers, Kuroda still struck out nine – tied for second-most in his career, behind only a 2008 shutout in which he whiffed twelve on the day the Dodgers acquired Angel Berroa – without walking any, and settled down to retire 14 of 16 between Werth’s homer in the first and Morse’s in the sixth.

Of course, the Dodger offense didn’t do much to support Kuroda, getting back to their usual pattern after scoring 32 runs in his previous four starts. After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on back-to-back doubles by Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers managed just five scattered singles against Washington starter John Lannan and several relievers until A.J. Ellis and Justin Sellers also had back-to-back doubles for the second run. The 7-2 final, oddly, was identical to the score of the July 22 game which had also featured Kuroda against Lannan. That game was also the last time the Dodgers had lost by more than three runs, as pointed out by KABC’s Joe Block.

On the plus side, since James Loney stepped aside in favor of Russ Mitchell until entering as a pinch-hitter and going 1-2, we didn’t have to suffer him bunting ahead of Kemp. So that’s something. Speaking of Mitchell, I don’t mind getting him a start every now and then, but I’m not sure what the point is of putting him at first base, regardless of trying to get Loney out against a lefty. With Casey Blake & Juan Uribe each out for the season, the Dodgers’ third base depth is thin; while Aaron Miles has been okay at second, he’s ill-equipped to handle third, since he doesn’t have a strong arm and has made errors there in each of the last two days. If Mitchell is going to start, it should be at third, though if anything, I’d be interested to see how Sellers can handle the position in anticipation of his future career as a utility man.

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Dee Gordon went 0-5 with three strikeouts today, marking the first time in the five games since his return that he hasn’t had at least one hit. He hit leadoff, as he has done in each of his last ten starts (dating back before his shoulder injury), and since his OBP is now at only .276, I’ve already seen some question whether Mattingly is too blinded by his speed and not cognizant enough of on-base skills at the top of the lineup. It’s a very fair point, because OBP is king at the top, and Carroll – hell, even Ellis, now hitting .281/.410/.391 after a 2-4 today – would seem to be better equipped to get on base in front of Kemp and others. In this case, however, I’m not sure I agree. Remember, the goal in September for this club should not be so much to win games as it should be to gain information on players going forward, and in Gordon’s situation, you want him to get as many plate appearances as possible. It’s the same reason why watching him make errors on balls that Sellers or Carroll may have had doesn’t bother me that much. If hitting him leadoff for the rest of the year slightly hurts the team’s run expectancy but gets him another 10-15 plate appearances, that’s a trade I’m more than okay making. We can revisit the ideal batting order next year; for now, let Gordon see as many pitches as he can.

The Aftermath of the Trayvon Robinson Trade

A day after the unexpected Trayvon Robinson trade with Boston & Seattle, the dust has started to settle, but the shock is still there. 98% of Dodger fans, at least the ones I’ve heard from, are horrified, and rightfully so. However, I want to clear up one misconception, and this is the same one I heard often when the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana for Casey Blake and several prospects for Scott Podsednik, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Theriot, and Ted Lilly last year: trading away a prospect, no matter how good, does not automatically make it a bad trade.

With the rise of the internet and social media, fans have become far more aware of prospects than they’d ever been before. For decades, fans would only perhaps know their team’s best prospect, if even that. Whereas before, you might have only heard of Robinson when he hit 26 homers in little more than half an AAA season, now you have fans who have been following his career for 3-4 years already. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s good that fans have more interest in the team’s fuller organization. However, it also means that people get invested and attached to a prospect, and it’s understandably difficult when someone you’ve been dreaming about as a Dodger for several years gets shipped out weeks before he’s likely to make his debut.

That means that fans – not just Dodger fans, this happens on all teams – tend to overvalue their own players, and even yesterday on Twitter I saw people groaning about losing Robinson before even knowing who was coming back. I think that’s short-sighted, because I have no problem with trading prospects. A solid farm system exists to provide value, and while the obvious outcome is “good young player comes up to join the big club”, value can also come from “good young player is traded for immediate impact veteran or another good young player”. Depending on the circumstances, trading a top prospect is not always a bad thing – as long as you get value back. If the Dodgers are deep in outfielders and short in catching, than the idea of trading Robinson for an impact catching prospect is not a terrible plan.

The problem here is that few think Tim Federowicz is an impact catcher, and many doubt he can hit enough to even be a viable major league starter. This isn’t a new theme, because so far in Ned Colletti’s tenure, he’s often spent prospects to get players who were not of equal value. I didn’t mind trading Santana when we all thought Russell Martin would be here for 5-7 more years; I hated trading him for two months of a good-but-not-great third baseman. (If Santana had been sent to Cleveland for CC Sabathia that year rather than Blake, I guarantee you there wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same outcry.) I didn’t mind the idea of trading James McDonald & Andrew Lambo, two players unlikely to be stars, but the problem was a team that had no business going for it in 2010 trading them for an elderly reliever who wasn’t going to make a difference. This is why the Robinson trade stinks so bad, because you’re trading a top-5 Dodger prospect for three guys who are barely top-25 Red Sox prospects. (Jon Weisman has more on the newcomers at Dodger Thoughts.)

Worse, there’s also the feeling that this goes back to Hiroki Kuroda‘s refusal to accept a trade. Boston writers Gordon Edes and Sean McAdam each reported that Federowicz and Juan Rodriguez were initially discussed in negotiations for Kuroda, an assertion backed up by Ned Colletti’s comments that Federowicz was someone he’d been eyeing for some time. (McAdam says that a third prospect likely would have been included, though he doesn’t state if that was Stephen Fife or not.) Kuroda was clearly higher on Boston’s starting pitching shopping list than Erik Bedard, so if he agrees to the deal, the Dodgers send two months of Kuroda to Boston for a package nearly identical to the one that ended up coming for Robinson. That’s a deal that I think most of us would have been pretty satisfied with – I know I’d have been – and Robinson would have remained in the system. Remember when I said I was disappointed in Kuroda’s choice? Yeah, that paid off a lot quicker than I thought it would.

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It’s no question that most Dodger fans don’t like the trade, but we’re not a fair sample. We’re biased. We loved Robinson, none of us had heard of the three Boston guys before yesterday, and we don’t trust Colletti. What’s really informative is looking outside our little sphere of Dodger fandom, and seeing what the feeling is on the other side of the trade and from the national writers who don’t cheer for either team. If the trade is getting positive reviews from those groups, then maybe we need to shift our way of thinking.

Not today, however, because just about every smart person who writes about baseball is completely confused about what the Dodgers are trying to do. Red Sox & Mariner writers are thrilled. Prospect writers are blown away. Just about everyone is united in killing the Dodgers over this; in fact, the only person I could find who wasn’t 100% against it was Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, and even he could only muster an “it ain’t so bad”.  Read these assorted quotes on the deal at your own risk.

Mainstream media!

Jeff Passan, Yahoo:

Los Angeles Dodgers, who couldn’t convince Hiroki Kuroda(notes) to drop his no-trade clause and gave up their top hitting prospect, Trayvon Robinson, an outfielder with pop and plate discipline, to get into the Erik Bedard(notes) three-way deal and land catcher Tim Federowicz and two arms. As is the case with everything Dodger-related this year, they are losers.

Evan Brunell, CBS Sports:

There was only one trade made the entire week in which a team was instantly ridiculed for its move. The Cardinals were headed for the loser’s seat before the waning minutes of the deadline, but Los Angeles took it away with a staggering display of incompetence. To help Boston facilitate acquiring Erik Bedard, the Dodgers agreed to trade away Trayvon Robinson, one of the few bright spots in the high minors that could actually hit. Robinson, along with Jerry Sands, could have made a pretty decent first base-left field combo over the next few years. Instead, Robinson will take his .293/.375/.563 line with 26 home runs in Triple-A to Seattle while the Dodgers come away with three organizational pieces.

And really, that’s all they are. You’ve got catcher Tim Federowicz, who has a strong defensive reputation but whose hitting will be challenged enough that he best profiles as a long-term backup catcher. Those aren’t tough to find. Add in starter Stephen Fife, who has pitched to Federowicz all season for Double-A Portland, who profiles as a back of the rotation starter or solid middle reliever. Lastly, Juan Rodriguez, a reliever who throws smoke but is 22 years old and in Class A. Splendid. Oh, and all three will be Rule 5 eligible after the year, meaning they need to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being lost in the draft — and all three would be strong candidates to be taken. The Dodgers, in one fell swoop, traded away one of their few high-ceiling prospects for three organizational players who will all require 40-man spots, which are incredibly valuable.

Nationally respected prospect writers!

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus:

I spent 15 minutes after this trade waiting to hear which players I’m missing while simultaneously trying to talk Jay Jaffe off a ledge via instant messenger. The Dodgers took a perfectly good Top-11 prospect, a player who is having a great year at Triple-A and easily projects as an everyday outfielder, and received three pieces of fringe in return. You’d almost think Frank McCourt was running the team.

Keith Law, ESPN:

The Dodgers get … I’m not really sure what they get. Tim Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn’t likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34-percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors. Stephen Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he’ll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball. Juan Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch, and below-average command and control — a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in their pockets, this doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, as they didn’t get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange.

Statistically-inclined sites!

Jay Jaffe, Baseball Prospectus:

What the… excuse me… whiskey tango foxtrot? A deal sending a good prospect such as Robinson in one direction and a possible stretch-run helper such as Bedard in the other is the stuff deadline deals are made of, but what business did the Dodgers have for throwing their good prospect into this deal in order to enable somebody else’s stretch run acquisition without something to make it especially worth their while? Is Colletti expecting a playoff share from the Red Sox? A future job with the Mariners? Is this being written off as a charitable donation? Is it a cry for help from a man about to jump out the window? Is there somebody out there who will post bail if I fly to Los Angeles myself and extract a few teeth in search of the real truth?

(later in the article – MSTI) Against this bleak backdrop, the GM managed to make the situation worse by trading down in a deal he had no business butting into, punting away a future everyday player. This wasn’t the Angels taking on Vernon Wells‘ bloated contract or the Cardinals punting the future of Colby Rasmus, but it ranks among the most shockingly inept deals of the year. In a five-and-a-half year tenure that’s seen its good moments—three playoff appearances, including back-to-back trips to the NLCS—and bad ones (the Jason Schmidt contract, the Andruw Jones contract, the Juan Pierre contract, the Blake trade…), Colletti may have set a new low. That’s saying something.

Jack Moore, Fangraphs:

It did take four warm bodies to acquire Bedard, but that’s about it. None of the players moved by Boston appear on Kevin Goldstein’s top 20 organizational prospect list, nor do they appear in our Top 100 Prospects list or top 10 organizational prospect list. This isn’t to say they’re doomed to complete non-productivity in the Major Leagues — the prospects will be covered in a separate post — but the Red Sox don’t lose much from a good farm system and improve their chances at a World Series. Hard to argue with that logic.

Other Dodger bloggers!

Jon Weisman, Dodger Thoughts:

For those three, the Dodgers gave up Robinson (24 in September), who has a .375 on-base percentage and .563 slugging percentage (26 homers) this year for Triple-A Albuquerque. Robinson, who has hit well on the road as well as at home this season, has had his fine year marred by striking out 122 times in 100 games. But it’s stunning to see him traded for such an offensively challenged catcher and two sketchy pitching prospects.

In 2007, A.J. Ellis had a .382 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage in Double-A – better than what Federowicz has – and Ned Colletti does all he can to keep Ellis from getting regular playing time.

The only rationale I can think of is that the Dodgers think they’ll do better in the offseason trying to find a proper left fielder than they would trying to find a proper catcher. Essentially, Robinson was not in their plans, and they decided to unload him to fill a positional need. But it’s still puzzling, because the trade feels less like a step forward behind the plate and more like a step backward in outfield depth.

Eric Stephen, TrueBlueLA:

There is a decent enough chance Trayvon Robinson may never be a major league regular. But at the very least, Robinson could have been a cheap fourth outfielder for three to six years, which seems like more of an upside than the Dodgers received in return. To me this trade is an overreaction to fill a need, a need Colletti himself was largely responsible in creating. I’m not even confident that need was anywhere close to being filled. Which leaves me empty.

Jared Massey, LADodgerTalk:

At least it appears that Ned tried to address an area of need with Federowicz, given the fact that their catching depth is suspect. The problem is they didn’t need another glove first backstop with questions about his hitting. They have that guy in Matt Wallach. They also have the aforementioned Griff Erickson, who’s batting .275 thru 19 Double A games, is younger and has more potential at the plate. Add to that the three catchers drafted this past June and Tim becomes even less valuable.

The two pitchers profile as relievers, which is another area in which the Dodgers don’t need help. With the young hurlers in the majors, as well as guys like Steve Ames and Shawn Tolleson in Double A, Fife and Rodriguez don’t fill areas of need.

I suppose it’s nice to have depth, but you don’t trade the best hitting prospect in the organization for warm bodies. Unless Tray had incriminating photos of members of the front office, I really don’t get this deal.

Jimmy Bramlett, LAist:

So fine. The Dodgers got a catcher. The other source of confusion was the Dodgers receiving two pitchers who project to be back-end of the rotation guys at best in the deal.

“We’ve got a lot of pitching,” Colletti told reporters on Saturday explaining his evaluation of the Dodgers’ farm system.

“You’ll never turn down good pitching, but a lot of our emphasis is on position players.”

Evidently good pitching can be expanded to mean mediocre pitching.

With all of this double-speak, it is hard to determine the direction of the Dodgers. It seems they acknowledge and want to remedy their offensive holes, but all of the actions they undertake are contrary to that goal. Perhaps Colletti is thinking two or three moves ahead of everyone and will pull off a genius move.

But here’s is a sobering thought for everyone. With both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp eligible for free agency in 2013, what happens in the very likely possibility the Dodgers cannot re-sign them?

Federowicz might be the catcher of the future for the Dodgers, but what good will it do if the only power sources for the Dodgers jump ship?

Bloggers from the other teams involved!

Jeff Sullivan, Lookout Landing:

But the Mariners just gained two good talents without really making any kind of significant sacrifice at all, and that’s the sign of a hell of a trade. It is impossible to be disappointed by this.

Jay Yencich, U.S.S. Mariner:

All-in-all, I’d say this is a win for the M’s, far better than what was initially coming down the wire, which was some backup catcher coming our way. I wouldn’t say either of these guys is a guy that I’m going to pencil in as the anything of the future, though Robinson has good odds on seeing some time down the road. For what may end up as a rental for the Red Sox (and whatever it is that Fields is), this is a pretty darned good return.

Marc Normandin, Over the Monster:

Most importantly, Federowicz, Fife, and Chiang were all going to be Rule 5 eligible this upcoming winter, so Boston was moving pieces it was planning to lose anyway in exchange for help now.

All in all, this was a good trade for Boston, as they didn’t give up anything they weren’t planning on losing in the short-term anyway, and they received a high-risk, high-reward hurler in Bedard. If Buchholz ends up missing significant time the rest of the year, and Bedard can stay on the mound, the Red Sox and their fans will be very happy about a rare July 31 deal that has a major impact.

Chip Buck, Fire Brand of the American League:

The good news for the Red Sox is that none of the prospects they traded away were highly touted.  According to Sox Prospects, Federowicz was ranked #22; Chiang #23; Fife #32; and Rodriguez #44 in the Red Sox farm system.  Essentially, they traded depth, rather than premium talent.  All-in-all, I’m pretty psyched they were able to obtain a pitcher while holding onto Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, Anthony Ranaudo, Ryan Kalish, Kyle Weiland, and Felix Doubront.  You should be as well.

I’m More Disappointed In Hiroki Kuroda Than I Thought I’d Be


As you’ve no doubt heard, Hiroki Kuroda has informed the Dodgers he will not be waiving his no-trade clause, and thus will be staying with the club for the rest of the season. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed in that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of Kuroda’s. Choosing to exercise his option to stay is well within his rights, and I certainly understand and respect the view of those like Jon Weisman (and, I must say, a surprising amount of Dodger fans, at least among those who post on message boards) who see Kuroda’s decision to stay amongst the turmoil as a refreshing change of pace. I get all of that, and from a human interest point of view, it’s commendable.

Unfortunately, I look at it from more of a “wanting my team to win” point of view, and from that standpoint, it’s hard not to think that Kuroda has hurt the chances to do that, even if only in a small way. A few weeks ago, I noted that I would be more than okay with keeping Kuroda to soak up some innings over the last few months if the deal was just going to be a salary dump, with little in the way of talent coming back. Yet as dominoes have begun to fall over the last few days, we’ve seen that this particular trade season is shaping up as a clear seller’s market. Look at what Toronto was able to do in exchange for some relievers and eating a bad contract. Look how much the Orioles got for 36-year-old Koji Uehara, or the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran, or the reported return for Ubaldo Jimenez if that goes through. With Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland (maybe) all having picked up starters, that left the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers to fight over Kuroda, the clear top remaining starter. That’s an enviable position to be in.

I know rumors are just that, but when the Dodgers reportedly asked the Yankees for starter Ivan Nova and one of their three quality catching prospects, several baseball writers I respect greatly tweeted that they didn’t think that was enough of a return, even if the Yankees balked at it. The Dodgers were reportedly even scouting Tiger 3B prospect Nick Castellanos, who they almost certainly weren’t going to get, but at least they were shooting high. As the market took shape, my initial misgivings that the prospects may not be worth the effort turned into a feeling that the Dodgers could really get someone who would make a difference for the future. Not a superstar, of course, but at least a solid starter and perhaps a lottery ticket at one of the positions where the Dodgers have little depth.

Instead, we have 8-10 more starts of Kuroda to look forward to, and that might be it if he decides to go back to Japan after the season. I know some will be happy with that, saying that it proves he’s “true blue” or makes the club better for the last two months, but I don’t really see what that accomplishes. At the end of the season, his current 6-13 record will be something like 8-17, and the team will still be several games under .500 and double-digit games out of a playoff spot. Having Kuroda around, or not, was not going to change the fortunes of the 2011 club. Trading him might have helped future versions of the club, teams he’ll have been long retired from, and while I’m glad he enjoys being a Dodger enough to invoke his no-trade clause, he could have also gone on a two-month road trip somewhere and re-signed in Los Angeles the day after the season ended, if he chose. His gain, short-term, is probably our loss, long-term, and it’ll be a bit hard for me to watch his next start without that thought in the back of my mind.