MSTI’s 2010 in Review: Relievers, Part 3

Kenley Jansen (A+)
0.67 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 13.7 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, 1.3 WAR

I didn’t really talk about Kenley Jansen much entering the season; though we all knew about his arm and conversion from catching, it didn’t figure that a guy who’d thrown just 11.2 innings in his life would figure that much into the big league club until at least 2012.

Uh, yeah. About that.

Jansen started out the year with High A Inland Empire, and made the overmatched kids look ridiculous – how’s a 14.0 K/9 ratio strike you? After just 11 games with the 66ers, he was promoted to AA Chattanooga and somehow struck out even more, pumping his K/9 up to an unreal 16.7 (that’s 50 K in 27.0 IP). That his walk rate rose to 5.7 in AA was worrisome, but when you’re only allowing 4.7 hits per nine and striking out people at that rate, you can live with it a little more easily.

So after 45 minor league innings this season, and only 56.2 total, Jansen was called up to the big leagues in late July. Lest you think he’d be eased into the back of the bullpen against lesser opponents, Jansen instead made his mark right away. The first six batters he faced were Angel Pagan, David Wright, & Carlos Beltran (7th inning, July 24), and Beltran, Jason Bay, and Ike Davis (9th inning of a 1-0 game, July 25). None reached, four struck out, and Jansen had picked up a save in just his second big league game – the first Dodger to do so since Alejandro Pena in 1981.

It didn’t stop there, and there’s few words to describe how jaw-dropping Jansen’s debut season really was. In 27 IP over 45 games, Jansen allowed just 2 ER while striking out 41. Batters managed only a .422 OPS against him, and his 13.67 K rate not only was 2nd in the majors (min. 25 IP), it was the 10th highest rate since 1900 among those who pitched as much as he did. Think about where he came from, and think about that.

The really scary part, though? Jansen did all that while relying almost exclusively on his fastball, which he threw nearly 87% of the time. He’s spending time in Arizona this offseason working with Ken Howell on developing another pitch and refining the other aspects of pitching, and I think this quote will inspire some confidence:

Howell said Jansen is working on holding runners, pickoff throws and refining secondary pitches, the slider and changeup. Another task is to get a better handle on managing the game, and he’s using a logical role model.

“Kenley’s favorite pitcher is Mariano Rivera, and I wanted Kenley to see how Rivera manages his business,” Howell said. “He never comes off the mound. He’s always ready to go. I picked Rivera because it’s somebody that will hold Kenley’s interest. I like the way he’s calm during the game; he controls his emotions and his mound presence.”

“I didn’t think I would be this good this fast, but I’m not there yet,” said Jansen, who had only 56 2/3 Minor League innings when he was called up to the Majors. “I’m working on throwing over to first, getting a slide step. I respect the hitters. They will adjust to me, and I have to adjust to them to stay ahead. That’s why I’m here. I want to get stronger, get in better shape, learn from Kenny on how to control the game.”

Hell and yes. Barring injury, the only concern for Jansen going forward is managing expectations. Could he be the closer next year? Could he be the next Rivera? Sure, why not. Just remember that he’s only 23 and barely one year into pitching. It’s important not to set your sights too high – at least not yet.

James McDonald (inc.)
8.22 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, -0.4 WAR

Obviously, there’s only one thing anyone wants to talk about regarding James McDonald‘s 2010, and that’s the horrendous and unnecessary trade that sent McDonald and Andrew Lambo to Pittsburgh. But McDonald had no control over that, and I’m going to save my disgust with that move for Ned Colletti’s review. Let’s focus on McDonald’s actual accomplishments here.

McDonald entered the year in the running for the #5 starter, but a poor spring first cost him a chance at the rotation, and then threatened to cost him a spot on the team entirely:

Yet at some point, you have to realize that James McDonald is rocking a 20.25 ERA – having allowed 19 runners in just 5.1 innings - and wonder how much of that stat line can be dismissed. When McDonald was knocked out of the 5th starter competition the other day, it didn’t bother me all that much; with the issues the bullpen is having and the limited number of starts the last rotation member gets, you could make the case he’d be needed more in the bullpen. But too many outings like yesterday’s…

…and you wonder whether he’s even going to make the roster at all. Remember, despite his failure as a starter last year, McDonald was excellent out of the bullpen (2.72 ERA, 48/20 K/BB ratio) so his inclusion on this year’s squad should have been a foregone conclusion. But McDonald has been so bad this spring (nothing is more troubling than the 2/5 K/BB ratio) and there’s so many other pitchers impressing that it’s going to be hard to look past his otherwise meaningless spring line.

That’s exactly what happened; McDonald started the year in the ABQ rotation, but missed time in April with a broken fingernail, had a 5.77 ERA as late as May 20, and missed much of June with a hamstring pull. Still, with the Dodger rotation in need, he was called up for a start in mid-July:

Let’s start off with the rotation, where James McDonald appears likely to get the Monday start in John Ely‘s place, and while that’s not confirmed, McDonald was scratched from his start today. McDonald missed over a month with a hamstring pull, and his three starts since his return have been mixed. Four shutout innings on July 1 was a nice start, but then he allowed four earned runs in 6.2 IP at Iowa on July 6. Then on the 11th, he allowed just one run over 6.1 at Omaha, but did so while walking four and striking out just two, so it’s hard to say what to expect. I’m not convinced that he’s any better than Ely is right now, but I’m glad to see him get a chance – and fortunately for him he gets to face the Giants.

The start wasn’t much to write home about – 4 ER in 5 IP – and he was sent to the bullpen for the rest of the month with Carlos Monasterios returning to the rotation. When I noted his new role on July 23, I made this chilling-in-retrospect statement:

At the very least, it’s the last time we’ll have to see him start, since we all know that by this time next week, the Dodgers will have traded Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, & Kenley Jansen for Paul Maholm & Octavio Dotel.

Dotel, of course, did come to LA in the last seconds before the deadline for McDonald and Lambo. As I said, I’m not going to focus too much on that here, but as you remember, I hated it at the time, and it didn’t get better when I looked at national and Pittsburgh reactions.

The deal only looked worse when McDonald finally got a chance to pitch regularly in Pittsburgh and was immediately effective. He struck out 8 over 6 scoreless in his debut, had back-to-back scoreless outings of 7 and 8 IP in August, and ended the year by throwing 6 one-run innings in St. Louis. It wasn’t all domination, of course, but he ended up with a 3.52 ERA and a .678 OPS in 11 Pirate starts.

As McDonald excelled and Dotel imploded, it only twisted the knife further:

Just when you thought you couldn’t hate the James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) for Octavio Dotel deal any more, McDonald tosses out yet another quality start for the Pirates, this time going eight shutout innings in New York. Needless to say, the internet is all over it…

Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts:

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

It appears to be an outstanding trade by Neal Huntington, even at this early stage, given that it will not take any time to know what the Dodgers have in Octavio Dotel at this stage of his career. James McDonald has been very good, and Andrew Lambo has shown promise while playing around that nagging shoulder injury.

Jack Moore at Fangraphs:

McDonald’s peripheral numbers are actually quite similar to those of hard throwing left handed pitcher David Price of the Rays. Both have K/9 rates around 8.0 and walk rates around 3.5. McDonald has allowed fewer HRs this year in his small sample, but that’s unlikely to continue, as Price has a ground ball percentage in the mid-40s. McDonald’s fastball averages 92.5 MPH to Price’s 94.5, and Price’s arsenal contains a slider whereas McDonald relies on the curveball and changeup as his offspeed pitches. Both draw similar amounts of swinging strikes, with Price at 9.0% on his career and McDonald at 8.8%

Eight starts is nowhere near enough to say that McDonald can be an ace or that he’s the next David Price. Still, he’s shown tremendous potential and has a minor league track record to back it up. The Pirates haven’t seen much in the way of starting pitching talent in a long time. It’s looking like James McDonald will be the first step for the Pirates in their quest to put together a playoff-quality starting rotation.

Meanwhile, Dotel has walked 5.6/9 as a Dodger before shuffling off into free agency, and right now, the #4 and #5 starters in the 2011 Dodger rotation appear to be Charlie Haeger and Orel Hershisher. Great trade.

After that post, Dotel was traded to Colorado for a player to be named. He didn’t even last two months as a Dodger. Great trade, indeed.

Jeff Weaver (D)
6.09 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 5.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, -0.8 WAR

In 2009, Jeff Weaver was a feel-good story, as a former Dodger who’d seen his career stall out only to return on a minor-league deal and offer value as a spot starter and bullpen arm.

That wasn’t enough to get him more than another non-roster invite for 2010, and it’s not looking great for a third go-round in 2011. That’s what tends to happen when your strikeout rate drops from 7.3 to 5.3, your walk rate increases from 3.8 to 4.1, and you’re constantly fighting injuries.

Weaver got off to a good enough start, allowing an earned run in just two of his first nine appearances. That was good enough to make him one of the more reliable relievers in the early going, but with a Joe Torre-run club, being a reliable bullpen arm is almost a curse:

I hate to ask, but I have to – particularly because I did on Twitter before it happened. Why, when you’re up 7 runs in a laugher of a game, did Joe Torre need to bring in Jeff Weaver in the 8th? Carlos Monasterios hadn’t pitched since Saturday, and it’s the perfect opportunity to allow him to eat up some low-pressure innings. But no, Torre had to go to Weaver for approximately the billionth time (okay, 9th), and Weaver made it through exactly one batter before straining what looked to be his hamstring. I get that managers don’t like Rule 5 picks, and prefer to avoid them at all costs, but if a 7-run lead in the 8th inning isn’t good enough, what is?

Weaver hit the DL for a few weeks, and was reasonably effective upon his return in May and June, allowing five earned runs in 18 innings. But things went downhill in July and August, where he had a 9.22 ERA in that time, culminating in a lousy 5 ER over 2 IP disaster against San Diego. That was the last we’d see of Weaver for weeks, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard a Dodger say this before:

Jeff Weaver was placed on the DL with left knee tendinitis, and – stop me if you’ve heard this before – had concealed the injury from coaches for about two weeks, which I’m sure had nothing to do with his allowing ten earned runs in his last five games.

When does that ever work? He returned in September, but was horrendous, particularly in allowing 6 ER in 1 IP against the Rockies on the 18th. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he picks up another NRI next year, but I have to think you can do better.

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Next! George Sherrill falls apart! Ramon Troncoso gets worked to death! And Travis Schlichting gets a shot! It’s relievers, part 4!

The Best Start of Clayton Kershaw’s Career…

…was also the 4th-most-valuable game any starting pitcher has had this year, based on WPA (Win Percentage Added):

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO Pit WPA RE24 aLI
1 Edwin Jackson 2010-06-25 TBR W 1-0 9.0 0 0 0 8 6 149 0.880 4.934 1.758
2 Roy Halladay 2010-05-29 FLA W 1-0 9.0 0 0 0 0 11 115 0.842 4.570 1.226
3 Mat Latos 2010-05-13 SFG W 1-0 9.0 1 0 0 0 6 106 0.841 4.661 1.348
4 Clayton Kershaw 2010-09-14 SFG W 1-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 4 111 0.832 4.661 1.338
5 Jake Peavy 2010-06-19 WSN W 1-0 9.0 3 0 0 2 7 107 0.825 4.440 1.809
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/15/2010.

In case you’re wondering why Kershaw ranks above “better” games like Dallas Braden‘s perfecto, it’s because WPA takes into account the game situation, so Kershaw’s performance with a razor-thin 1-0 lead was worth more than Braden holding down a 4-0 lead.

Last night’s outing tops his previous WPA score of 0.628, which he got by tossing 8 shutout innings against the Cardinals in July of 2009. Since allowing six runs in six innings against Washington on August 6, Kershaw’s torn off seven solid games in which he’s allowed 10 ER in 48.2 IP, striking out 48 against just 15 BB. The Dodger record in those games? Just 3-4, thanks to lousy offense, though last night’s one hit was certainly the worst.

And people say the Dodgers “don’t have an ace”…

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Just when you thought you couldn’t hate the James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) for Octavio Dotel deal any more, McDonald tosses out yet another quality start for the Pirates, this time going eight shutout innings in New York. Needless to say, the internet is all over it…

Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts:

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

It appears to be an outstanding trade by Neal Huntington, even at this early stage, given that it will not take any time to know what the Dodgers have in Octavio Dotel at this stage of his career. James McDonald has been very good, and Andrew Lambo has shown promise while playing around that nagging shoulder injury.

Jack Moore at Fangraphs:

McDonald’s peripheral numbers are actually quite similar to those of hard throwing left handed pitcher David Price of the Rays. Both have K/9 rates around 8.0 and walk rates around 3.5. McDonald has allowed fewer HRs this year in his small sample, but that’s unlikely to continue, as Price has a ground ball percentage in the mid-40s. McDonald’s fastball averages 92.5 MPH to Price’s 94.5, and Price’s arsenal contains a slider whereas McDonald relies on the curveball and changeup as his offspeed pitches. Both draw similar amounts of swinging strikes, with Price at 9.0% on his career and McDonald at 8.8%

Eight starts is nowhere near enough to say that McDonald can be an ace or that he’s the next David Price. Still, he’s shown tremendous potential and has a minor league track record to back it up. The Pirates haven’t seen much in the way of starting pitching talent in a long time. It’s looking like James McDonald will be the first step for the Pirates in their quest to put together a playoff-quality starting rotation.

Meanwhile, Dotel has walked 5.6/9 as a Dodger before shuffling off into free agency, and right now, the #4 and #5 starters in the 2011 Dodger rotation appear to be Charlie Haeger and Orel Hershisher. Great trade.

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Man, I never get tired of hearing that players have hidden injuries, only to see said injury get worse. And by “never get tired”, I of course mean, “hiding an injury just never ends well”. In this case, it’s Travis Schlichting

“I was just trying to fight through it, because my mechanics were bad at the beginning of the year, and I think that’s when it started. I was just forcing it, and it kind of never went away. It wasn’t affecting me in games, so I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.”

Conte was unsurprised to hear the pitcher had a problem that he hadn’t talked about.

“That’s sort of part of the game,” he said. “Our job, of course, is not to let it get that far, so we always appreciate it when a player tells us when he has something going on. But we understand when players don’t.”

Dotel For McDonald & Lambo: The Dodgers Just Got a Lot Older

As you’ve no doubt heard (and mourned about) by now, the Dodgers traded James McDonald and Andrew Lambo to the Pirates for reliever Octavio Dotel. This one really came out of nowhere, and I’ve having a hell of a hard time processing it.

Let’s start with the slight positive outlook here: Dotel could help the bullpen. I looked at him when scouting the reliever market a few weeks ago, and I didn’t hate the idea at the time:

Dotel has a little over $1m coming to him for the rest of the season and a $4.5m mutual option for 2011, but he’s been surprisingly effective for someone who’s been kicking around for so long. I know, the 4.89 ERA doesn’t seem like much, but that’s in large part due to a horrendous April (ER allowed in six games in a row). Since May 1, he’s saved 16 of 19 with a 2.81 ERA and a .184 batting average against, while striking out more than 10 per 9.

The perpetually rebuilding Pirates have All-Star Evan Meek and former Dodger Joel Hanrahan ready to take over in their bullpen, so you wouldn’t think they’d be dying to hold on to the 36-year-old Dotel all that badly.

I have to be honest, I don’t really hate the idea of tossing Dotel in for the late innings, assuming the price was reasonable.

You’ll note that last part – “assuming the price was reasonable” – but more on that in a second. Dotel was useful as a Pirate, and he’s got five straight scoreless outings in which he’s struck out six without a walk. He’s still striking out more than 10 per 9, and he won’t be asked to be the closer in Los Angeles, so if you’re asking me if the bullpen is better now than it was yesterday – yes, I think it is. Dotel along with Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, & Kenley Jansen (along with maybe Ronald Belisario) could be a pretty decent bullpen.

But the price seems out of whack. Dotel’s okay, but he’s not that good. McDonald was the two-time Dodger minor league pitcher of the year, and he doesn’t turn 26 until after the season. While his attempts at starting in the bigs haven’t been all that successful, he’s proven himself to be a viable arm out of the bullpen. In 48 career games out of the pen, he’s held opponents to a 2.71 ERA while striking out more than twice as many as he walked. Almost as importantly, he’s under team control until after 2015.

And then there’s Andrew Lambo, and let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, he was suspended for 50 games in the minors this year, but no, it wasn’t for steroids or PEDs. It was for marijuana, and while I’m certainly not standing behind his intelligence, let’s not pretend he was cheating or shooting up heroin, either.

There’s a lot to like about Lambo, and a lot to dislike as well. Baseball Prospectus said this about him in their 2010 annual:

This 2007 fourth-rounder came into the year considered to be the best pure hitter in the system thanks to a combination of bat speed and raw strength. He was also the system’s most advanced prospect for his age, reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old, and spending 2009 as the league’s fourth-youngest hitting prospect. Despite a hot start at Chattanooga (.321/.383/.548 in April), Lambo soon went Arctic, batting just .243/.295/.377 the rest of the way as his plate discipline suffered and his power failed to develop. His odd reverse platoon split persisted, as he batted just .241/.299/.388 against righties. Lacking in speed, athleticism, and defensive ability, Lambo will only go so far as his bat takes him, and right now, that appears to be back to Chattanooga.

It’s important to note that he doesn’t even turn 22 until a few weeks from now, and lines like “best pure hitter in the system thanks to a combination of bat speed and raw strength” are quite tasty. Before his suspension this year, he was off to a great start, hitting .342/.390/.566 at AA. He’s now down to .271/.325.420, but it requires a but more digging than that. He obviously started slowly in his return from that layoff, but he’s warming up, with hits in 9 of his last 10 games.

Maybe, as some have noted, the defense isn’t there, and if he’s forced to move to 1B that would obviously hurt his chances, and it’s hard to ignore his trouble staying away from the weed. Still, he’s a 21-year-old who’s shown success at AA, and when you pair him with a 25-year-old who’s shown success at the MLB level, and you trade them for a decent-but-not-great 36-year-old reliever, it’s not hard to see why the future for this team looks bleaker by the day.

ESPN’s Keith Law, by the way, agrees:

The Pirates get an absolute steal of a return on Octavio Dotel by getting two out-of-favor prospects from the Dodgers, a situation where if only one pans out they still see a significant gain.

James MacDonald has a very strong minor league track record despite a fringe-average fastball when he works as a starter, but has a plus changeup and an above-average slow curve that both can miss bats and allow him to work backwards. The Dodgers threw him right into the fire in 2009, he struggled (unsurprisingly), and they gave up on him, which is the Pirates’ good fortune.

Outfielder Andrew Lambo just came off a 50-game suspension for drug use — hey, it doesn’t make him a bad guy — and he’s an indifferent outfielder, but he’s got the potential for an above-average offensive profile. He is strong, with good feel for the bat but the plate discipline of a guy who hasn’t played much and was handled strangely before the suspension. There’s enough potential there given his age (21) and inexperience that the Pirates are right to want to gamble on him.

As for Dotel, he throws mostly fastballs and doesn’t have the plus command you want to see in a guy who’s coming with the same thing four pitches out of five. He’s a fine guy to have in your middle relief corps but no one for whom you want to give up two young players, even if you’ve already given up on them yourself.

Can’t argue with any of that.

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Here’s what really bothers me, though. In the last few days, the Dodgers have traded James McDonald, Blake DeWitt, Andrew Lambo, Lucas May, Kyle Smit, Elisaul Pimentel, and Brett Wallach.

They’ve acquired Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Scott Podsednik, and Octavio Dotel – basically, a decent but not vital starter, a lousy middle infielder, a mediocre outfielder, and a decent veteran reliever, and all over 30.

Now, most of the baseball community has spent an enormous amount of time lately laughing at the Diamondbacks and Astros for the seemingly meager hauls they pulled in for Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt. You’re telling me that some combination of the players the Dodgers just traded couldn’t have pulled in one of those guys? Alternatively, is there really anyone who wouldn’t have preferred Haren or Oswalt rather than the collection of mediocre, over-30 veterans they just pulled in?

Yet despite all the moves, the offense – the biggest problem – didn’t get improved, and arguably was made worse. That’s supposed to help propel the team to October how, exactly? Really, what a terrible day all around.

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Back to the Lilly deal for a second, this tweet from the Chicago Sun-Times isn’t going to make you feel better:

Lilly says not ”overly excited about it,” despite looking forward to battling for a playoff spot.

Nor will the fact that urbandictionary.com actually has a name for Theriot’s base-running exploits:

TOOTBLAN. Acronym for Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop. Baseball statistic invented for Ryan Theriot of the Chicago Cubs, for his penchant for ill-advised steal attempts and general lack of skill running bases.
Theriot’s current TOOTBLAN number is 19.

That was popularized by Cubs blog Wrigleyville23, who really ought to know about such things.

Kuroda & Kuo Add Up To Zero

Proof positive, I suppose, that you can shut down the Mets with your eyes closed.

You could argue that Hiroki Kuroda did his best to outshine Chad Billingsley‘s effort from Wednesday night. You could also argue that the Mets just came off of being embarrassed in Arizona, so they were hardly a worthy opponent. Kuroda, powered by a homer and a double from Matt Kemp, pitched at least eight shutout innings for the fourth time in his career, helping the Dodgers overcome another generally ineffective night from the offense.

I would have liked to have seen Kuroda start the 9th; while he was up to 112 pitches, he’d been breezing through and had spent just 11 pitches in the 8th. But shouldn’t pitch counts not be a concern anyway for Kuroda? He’s not a young arm coming up to be protected, like Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw; he’s a veteran used to high pitch counts, and he even survived the insane decision to let him come back in after that nearly three-hour rain delay in Cincinnati. Besides, his contract is up and it’s not like there’s any guarantee he’s coming back, so you push him as hard as you need to right now. Even hitting for him in the 8th didn’t add any value; Kuroda could have grounded weakly up the middle and then not run hard to first base just as well as Garret Anderson did.

In addition, the Mets started the 9th with two righties before lefty Ike Davis, and with Jonathan Broxton unavailable, Hong-Chih Kuo was the closer tonight. Obviously, Kuo has no problems with either side of the plate, but it does stand to reason that Kuroda could have faced the righties unless he got in trouble. It’s also absolutely terrifying that Kuo has been allowed to either pitch or warm three consecutive nights, and I’m not lying when I say I’m terrified for him each time he’s out there now. Remember when he wasn’t allowed to do that for even two nights in a row? Now he’s up to three, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say, there’s just no way that can end well. Now, let the legions of “Kuo should replace Broxton!” crazies come out.

It was the second time this season the Dodgers tossed back-to-back shutouts, following the dual 1-0 extra inning wins against Arizona to start June. Had Kuroda been able to complete the shutout, it would have been the first back-to-back complete game shutouts for the Dodgers since Pedro Astacio and Tom Candiotti in 1995, each of which came against the Mets.

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Dylan Hernandez lets us know that James McDonald is being sent to the bullpen after just one start, with Carlos Monasterios getting the nod on Saturday, which is a good idea because… hell, I have absolutely no idea. I said the other day that I prefer McDonald in the bullpen anyway, but McDonald wasn’t exactly terrible in his one start, and his five strikeouts were two more than Monasterios has been able to get in any appearance, start or relief, the entire season. Even if you don’t want McDonald, John Ely allowed three runs in seven innings in his first start for ABQ, and starting him on Saturday would have only put him at one extra day of rest off his usual schedule. The idea that Monasterios is a better choice to start than either McDonald or Ely… well, I just can’t get behind it.

At the very least, it’s the last time we’ll have to see him start, since we all know that by this time next week, the Dodgers will have traded Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, & Kenley Jansen for Paul Maholm & Octavio Dotel.

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I didn’t mention the other day that Jack Taschner had been recalled from ABQ, but if I had, I would have laughed at it. Taschner was so bad that he was DFA’d by the Pirates, of all teams, in June. The fun part is, not only was he not good this year, he’s never been any good (career 4.47 FIP and 4.82 BB/9), his velocity has dropped four years in a row (down to 88.8 MPH this year), and he wasn’t even any good in AAA after signing with the Dodgers (four home runs allowed in ten innings.) Yet he’s somehow a better choice than Kenley Jansen, or if you must have a lefty, Juan Perez (9.3 K/9, 3.19 ERA for the Isotopes)?

Anyway, his simple recall isn’t what set me off here, it’s this bit of news, also from  Hernandez:

Tashner taking over as lefty specialist

That’s without throwing a pitch for the club, by the way. But not only is a guy who cut dumped by Pittsburgh being given an important role, what’s even funnier is that he’s completely unqualified for it. Despite being a lefty, Taschner has no discernible platoon split. For his career, he’s been hit by righties at a .796 clip, and lefties at .778. That comes out to a .292/.361/.416 line, and that’s just not all that good.

Now you might say, “but MSTI, George Sherrill has been a train wreck, and Hong-Chih Kuo isn’t really a lefty specialist. The team’s hand has been forced.” To which I say, has it?

Sherrill’s line against righty hitters is almost unfathomably bad – .453/.531/.774. There’s just nothing that’s going to make that okay. However, for all his troubles, he’s still been pretty effective against lefties, holding them to .200/.327/.350. I’m not suggesting I feel all that comfortable with him in a big spot, but even in his disastrous season, that’s still quite better than Taschner’s done. As I said weeks ago, if he’s allowed to only face lefties, he just may be able to help you.

Besides, as Steve Dilbeck notes, Sherrill has been demoted to garbage time. That means that he’s likely to have to face more righties than otherwise, since you’re not playing matchups as much with big leads or deficits. And that’s going to help him get turned around how, exactly?

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Finally: I haven’t been touching on every single trade rumor, because 99% of them are stupid or painful, and because you can connect the dots to just about every player in the bigs anyway. (Besides, I like to do that in the offseason, when there’s not games to distract me every night.) Still, this note from AOL Fanhouse’s Ed Price really caught my eye:

#Rays said to be shopping BJ Upton. With Manny out, #Dodgers could use a bat, and Tampa has some interest in RHP James McDonald.

Let’s be clear and say that there’s no way this is going to happen; the Rays need a bat too, and if they trade Upton it’s going to be for someone who can help them right now like Jayson Werth. The Dodgers don’t have anyone like that (no, Manny doesn’t count), and since the Rays can’t seem to make room for Jeremy Hellickson, it’s unlikely that McDonald is going to be a huge draw. Still, just the thought of Upton patrolling center between Ethier and Kemp next year…