Your Obligatory Chad Gaudin Post

Since it won’t seem to go away, I suppose I’ll have to address the rumors about the Dodgers going after Yankees righty Chad Gaudin to be the 5th starter. We’ve heard this rumor floating around a few times in the last few days, mainly in reference to how the Yankees would still like to keep Jamie Hoffmann, even though they just returned him to the Dodgers. Since Gaudin was in a 4-way battle for Yankee 5th starter, and he seems to have lost that battle since he’s been put on waivers, outside observers think there’s a fit to be made since the Dodger rotation is apparently made entirely of duct tape and tissue paper. 

But is there, really?

Let me be clear, first: I don’t really care about losing Jamie Hoffmann. Sure, he’s a nice player and a fantastic outfielder, and you have to love a guy who’s really a hockey player. Having him around for depth is fine by me. But his ceiling is probably that of a 4th outfielder at best, and on a team with a rock-solid starting 3 ahead of him, better players at the same level next to him (Xavier Paul and maybe Jason Repko) and more talented players coming behind him (namely Andrew Lambo and Trayvon Robinson) it’s not like he’s got a real future as a Dodger. So if you trade him for a more useful part, even if it breaks my usual stance against trading prospects for mediocre veterans, I’m completely fine with that – especially if the Yankees pick up most of the $2.95m Gaudin is owed this year, which you’d have to think they would.

No, the question here is not “is it worth trading Hoffmann for Gaudin?” The question is really, “is Chad Gaudin a better option than the multiple 5th starter options the Dodgers already have?” That’s the part I’m not so sure about.

First, let’s look at Gaudin. He turns 27 tomorrow, and has spent parts of 7 big league seasons with 6 different teams. He was horrible for the Padres last year (4-10, 5.19 ERA) before being dealt to the Yankees and performing somewhat better, notching a 3.43 ERA in 11 games (6 starts). MSTI’s preferred Yankee blog River Ave Blues sums him up

In over 460 career innings in the American League, Gaudin has been the definition of league average. His 4.25 ERA equals a 101 ERA+, his .271 batting average against isn’t much worse than the .265-ish league average (basically one extra hit every 142 at-bats), and his 6.5 K/9 is right around the 6.8-ish average as well (one fewer strikeout every 30 IP). His walk rate (4.2 BB/9) is definitely high (~3.4 league average), but he mitigates it somewhat with a strong groundball rate (43.7%). There’s nothing sexy about league average, but it’s very valuable in the role he’s expected to fill.

Oddly enough – though in a much smaller sample size, I will admit – Gaudin’s been far worse in the National League. In 132.2 NL innings, his career ERA is 5.36, for a 72 ERA+. Plus, not that I’m going to put too much importance in just one game, but Gaudin has only pitched in Dodger Stadium once in his career, as a Padre on May 3, 2009. He allowed 6 runs in 5.2 innings, including allowing 4 hits in a row to lead off the game.

Over at FanGraphs, they’ve got projections from 4 of the most well-known systems – Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, and ZIPS. They variously predict him to pitch between 126-162 innings, with FIP (that’s Fielding-Independent Pitching, or ERA without caring about how good your defense is) between 4.24-4.58 and a K rate of about 7 per 9 innings, while walking 4 per 9 innings.

For a 5th starter, that’s not terrible. Yet it’s also not much different than a guy the Dodgers already have in Eric Stults, who’s projected to come in between 4.45-4.57 in FIP (and who’s a lefty with two MLB shutouts to his name), and then there’s also the question of how much promise you see in Charlie Haeger and Carlos Monasterios - two guys who defy projection systems, due to being a knuckleballer and a Rule 5 pick. In addition, while I won’t pretend I have a ton of faith in Ramon and Russ Ortiz, there are those who won’t be able to look past the terrific springs they’ve had as opposed to Gaudin’s lousy camp.

The point is, while Gaudin may be an acceptable 5th starter option, he’s hardly a clear improvement over the guys already in camp. On a team already facing roster issues on the pitching staff, that’s a big concern. The Dodgers have at least 3 pitching hopefuls – Stults, Haeger, & Monasterios - who will probably be lost if they’re not added to the team. That number may increase to 5 if the Ortizes refuse to go to the minors, as we believe they can. Adding Gaudin just makes that decision even tougher.

In a vacuum, Gaudin isn’t a terrible back-end starting choice. In a vacuum, trading a spare minor-league outfielder for a mediocrely decent starting pitcher is fine. But adding him would be just causing more of a roster crunch which would cause guys with hope like Monasterios or Haeger to be lost, without adding any real value over what the club already has. So thanks… but no thanks.

(Besides, look at his ridiculous beard here. What if he only shaved that off last year because he was on the Yankees? Does anyone really want to see that in Dodger blue? If 2010′s “The Beard” is a downgrade from Casey Blake’s glorious chin coverage to that atrocity, this year’s off to a rough start already.)

Jamie Hoffmann Returns From His Semester in NYC

And by “NYC”, I suppose I really just mean “Tampa”, don’t I? Via the wonderful world of Twitter we find out that OF Jamie Hoffmann, a Rule 5 pick by the Yankees, has cleared waivers and is on his way back to the Dodgers.

Not that this comes as any surprise, of course, since when he was lost in December I did note it in a post titled “Prediction: This is Not the Last We’ll See of Jamie Hoffmann“:

So, good for Hoffmann, I suppose, because he’ll get more of a shot to make the roster in New York than he would with the Dodgers in 2010. Kind of a confounding move from the Yankees, but five will get you ten that he gets offered back to the Dodgers at some point this year.

I’m guessing the .130/.259/.174 he put up in 11 spring games as a Yankee didn’t really help his case of sticking there. He’s got no shot of making the Dodgers, of course, as he’s yet another righty, but he’ll provide good depth as part of a decent AAA outfield with Xavier Paul and Jason Repko.

Prediction: This is Not the Last We’ll See of Jamie Hoffmann

Some completely out of nowhere news about today’s Rule 5 draft from the New York Post:

INDIANAPOLIS — Barring a last-second trade, the Yankees plan to take outfielder Jamie Hoffman from the Dodgers as the first pick in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, the Post has learned.

The Yankees obtained the pick earlier this week from the Nationals in exchange for Brian Bruney.

The Yanks are not often viewed as a team that can stash a player on the 25-man roster for an entire season. But for the price of $50,000, they will see if Hoffman can stick around as a reserve.

Can’t say I saw that coming. If you’re not familiar with the Rule 5 draft, minor leaguers who have been professionals for a certain number of years (varies based on age and when drafted) yet who aren’t on the 40-man roster are eligible. A player who gets selected must be kept on his new team’s active roster (or disabled list) all year, and cannot be sent to the minors. If they can’t keep him on the roster, his original team gets the chance to reclaim him.

Thanks to Hoffmann’s bizarre resigning after being DFA’d last year, he couldn’t be put back on the 40-man until May – still not sure why that was the case. Point being, now the Yankees have to keep him on their roster all season, or offer him back to the Dodgers – and that’s why we’re going to see him again.

Hey, Hoffmann’s a nice enough part. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder, which is fine. But he’s never really been anything like a top prospect. If you remember, he only got a shot in the bigs last year because Manny got suspended and both Xavier Paul (in the bigs) and Jason Repko (in the minors) got hurt.

At 25, there’s not a whole lot of projection left for him. What you see from Hoffmann is basically what you’re going to get, and that’s a nice defensive outfielder who can draw a walk, and doesn’t have a whole lot of power (a .401 SLG in your minor league career isn’t going to get you that far in the bigs).  What’s really confounding about this is that the Yankees already have two guys like that – Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner – and either way, New York isn’t exactly the kind of place where you can stash a guy on the end of your bench all season long.

So, good for Hoffmann, I suppose, because he’ll get more of a shot to make the roster in New York than he would with the Dodgers in 2010. Kind of a confounding move from the Yankees, but five will get you ten that he gets offered back to the Dodgers at some point this year.

At which point, the major question will be… can the Dodgers afford the $25,000 it would take to get him back?

Update: the more I think about this, the worse it looks for the Dodgers. They’re still carrying Jason Repko on the 40-man until he inevitably gets non-tendered, and while the terms of Hoffmann’s resigning meant he couldn’t be on the 40-man right now, he never should have been off in the first place. Here’s what I said when he re-signed:

I didn’t mention it at the time, but his being DFA’d never made sense in the first place – it absolutely should have been Jason Repko, who’s 4 years older than Hoffmann, is being outhit by him in AAA this year (.815 OPS to .800), wasn’t rated the best defensive outfielder in the system by Baseball America (as Hoffmann was) and is almost certainly going to be an ex-Dodger after the season.

For once, this isn’t about money – just horrible asset management.

Update 2: Hey, remember about 5 minutes ago in the first update when I said “they’re still carrying Jason Repko on the 40-man until he inevitably gets non-tendered”? Turns out it wasn’t so inevitable after all. Dylan Hernandez with the news:

The Dodgers will tender contracts to all of the arbitration-eligible players under their control, GM Ned Colletti said.

You can’t possibly think of enough of Repko to go to arbitration with him, right? What in the world does he offer that Xavier Paul or Hoffmann doesn’t?

MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Right Field

85toppsandreethierAndre Ethier (A for Amazing!)
(.272/.361/.508 31hr 106rbi)

You know, we always try to keep our views here pinned in the realm of reality. Just because Mark Loretta won our hearts with the clutch single in NLDS Game 2, we couldn’t overlook the previous 6 months of awfulness. It works both ways, too; just because Chad Billingsley fell off a cliff late in the year and lost everyone’s trust in him, we couldn’t forget how great he’d been in the first half and in previous years.

But when it comes to Andre Ethier, it’s pretty difficult to think just with your brain and not with your heart. It’s not that his numbers weren’t great, of course - he was was the first Dodger to hit 30 homers since Adrian Beltre in 2004, and finishing as the 5th highest RF in terms of VORP in baseball is nice too. That in itself is deserving of an A, which I’m happy to award him. That’s without even mentioning the enduring knowledge that all it took to acquire Ethier was the flaming remnants of Milton Bradley’s career. (Okay, and Antonio Perez too. You tell him thanks when you see him pumping your gas sometime.)

It’s just that, while we were all captivated by the flashy HR total and the amazing string of walkoff hits, there’s a few reasons why Ethier’s breakout 2009 might not be exactly what it seems. This is not to pick nits in what was a fantastic season, but these are points worth mentioning.

For example, believe it or not, his BA, OBP, and SLG all dropped ever so slightly, meaning that his OPS was actually 16 points lower than in 2008, with his percentage of line drives dropping from 26.6% to 20.5%, which is worrisome. Really, the main difference between his 2008 and 2009 was his percentage of fly balls, because even though he only slightly raised his homers per flyball rate in 2009 (14.1% to 15.4%), the fact that his percentage of fly balls hit overall jumped from 32.0% to 41.5% made for a lot more balls leaving the yard. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it clearly resulted in more homers, but when all of his other rates have dropped since 2008, it does put the idea of a “breakout” season into perspective.

There’s some other issues, as well – for example, he’s rapidly turning into a player who really ought to be platooned to keep him away from lefties. This year, Ethier destroyed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .960 OPS and 25 of his homers. Against lefties, he had just a .194 BA and a .629 OPS and only 6 homers. It’s actually been a pretty clear downward trend for him as far as a lefty/righty split goes:

2006: .842 vs RH, .846 vs LH
2007: .830 vs RH, .816 vs LH
2008: .953 vs RH, .692 vs LH
2009: .960 vs RH, .629 vs LH

As he continues to improve against righties, he’s quickly becoming unplayable against lefties, and the four years of stats clearly show there’s not any improvement happening here.

In addition, his defense has been declining as well, as FanGraphs dedicated an entire article to last week:

Ethier’s first two seasons suggested some defensive talent. Over his first 271 games (212 starts), Ethier compiled a +6.5 UZR in the outfield. Of course, this is not the only example of a UZR sample of this size showing a significant deviation from the following two seasons. However, we can ask: what changed?

First of all, let’s look at the biggest component of the statistic: range. Ethier showed fantastic range in 2007 after showing average range in 2006. His range fell off a cliff then in 2008 and 2009, at -6.6 and -6.9 runs, respectively.

Similarly, Ethier’s arm looked fantastic in 2006, at 6.8 runs in merely 92 DG (defensive games adjusted for attempts). He has not shown that skill since, and his arm dipped below -5 runs above average this season. It is possible that his arm was better suited to left field – his ARM in 154 DG is +4.1 in LF vs. -6.9 in 371 DG in RF.

It appears that we have two major outliers skewing his results from 2006 and 2007. Ethier’s +6.8 ARM rating may have been a product of both his time in left field as well as random variation in the statistic. Since his move to playing primarily right field in 2007, his arm has rated as nearly 10 runs below average, the ninth worst overall mark over the past three years.

I realize that this review has sounded overwhelmingly negative towards a player who provided the Dodgers with several of the most enduring 2009 memories, and I really didn’t mean it to come off that way. So he still gets his A, because this is just one of those situations where the heart (“OMG! 31 homers! Crazy walk-off hits! Give him an A! Give him 40 A’s!”) overrides the brain (“Horrible against lefties! Kind of a lousy outfielder! Somewhat declining stats from 2008!”)

Besides, despite the negatives, there’s no doubt that Ethier was an incredibly valuable player in 2009, and he could be even moreso in future years if used properly. For example, whenever Manny’s no longer a Dodger, Ethier should be moved to left field, rather than keep him in right and acquire another left fielder. In addition, he really should be kept away from as many left-handed pitchers as possible. Not to turn everything back to Juan Pierre, but this is yet another reason why you really need a different backup outfielder, because sitting Ethier against a lefty just to have Pierre there instead (with Matt Kemp in RF that night, of course), doesn’t really help you.

Still, the overriding image of Andre Ethier’s 2009 should be a positive one, most encapsulated by what is without a doubt my favorite picture used on any of these 1985 Topps cards. Well, until we get to Jason Schmidt, that is…

85toppsjamiehoffmannJamie Hoffmann (inc.)
(.182/.167/.409 1hr 7rbi)

Considering that Jamie Hoffmann started the year in AA and was somewhere around 8th on the Dodger outfield depth chart, just getting to the bigs should be seen as a pretty nice year for him, with his first big league homer a cherry on top.

Sure, it took a series of events unexpected (Manny’s suspension), unfortunate (Xavier Paul’s staph infection), and unavoidable (another Jason Repko injury) to get the former hockey player up with the big club, but hey, you take what you can get, right?

Besides, when your year includes your father breaking the news that you’ve been called up to a small-town Minnesota newspaper, and that father just so happens to be the lead sheriff in a high-profile case that made national news, and finally you end up getting DFA’d but then re-signed to an odd contract that prevents you from being on the 40-man until next May, well, you can at least say you’ve had an interesting season.

As far as actual baseball goes for Mr. Hoffmann, he didn’t do all that much with the Dodgers, collecting just 4 hits. However, he did hit well at AA (.952 OPS) and AAA (.815 OPS), in addition to his reputation as a superlative defensive outfielder, so we can expect to see him back sometime next year for a week or two when an extra body is needed. 

85toppsmitchjonesMitch Jones (inc.)
(.308/.400/.385 0hr 0rbi)

If you didn’t cheer for Mitch Jones this year, you have a black, black soul and a heart of stone. Don’t remember his heart-tugging story? Let me refresh you:

If the thought alone of having an all or nothing strikeout/homer machine doesn’t grab you, then tell me that his story isn’t worth rooting for him. He’s 31 years old, has been poking around the minors since as far back as 2000, and is still looking for his first major league appearance. While the jaded among you may say “uh, that’s because he sucks”, it goes further than that. This is from an ESPN story last season on career minor leaguers who may have missed their chance due to choosing not to take steroids:

What happened to Jones on May 19, 2006, alone ought to be worth a few mil in punitive damages. He was in Richmond when the Yankees called him up, emergency style. He raced to the airport, flew to LaGuardia, got in a cab, had to talk his way into Yankee Stadium, picked up his uniform, called his dad to tell him (“I’d always dreamed of the day I’d make that call,” Jones says), sat next to Sheffield in the dugout (oh, irony!) and … never got into the game.

Afterward, Joe Torre called him into his office and said, “Man, I hate to do this to you, but we’re sending you back down.” Jones was, naturally, crushed. But the worst part was still to come:

“I had to call my dad back.”

He hasn’t been up since.

Now Jones is in the Dodger organization, and guess who’s the Dodger manager? Torre.

Guess who’s still the Dodger manager? Joe Torre. I’m not usually one to put emotion ahead of winning games – how could I, with a soul as black as a steer’s tukus on a moonless night – but if Jones somehow has to be on yet another team with Torre and Joe doesn’t find a way to get him an at-bat here or there? I’ll have no problem with looking the other way while Mitch does what needs to be done.

Well, Jones finally did get that chance to hit – 15, even – and managed a .785 OPS in that short time, though without a homer.  That shouldn’t obscure the damage he did in the minors, either, as finished third in the PCL in OPS a won the Bauman award for most homers in MiLB – despite missing a month of time while in the bigs and passing through waivers.

Clearly, at 32, his time has just about passed. But if you look at the numbers he’s put up in the minors, how has some team not taken a shot on him as a part-time DH or power bat off the bench? I’d have taken him over Mark Loretta, that’s for sure. At least he got his at-bat.

Next! Randy Wolf’s career year! Clayton Kershaw’s raw talent! Hiroki Kuroda lined up for the swine flu, probably! A tale of two Chad Billingsleys! And how did Eric Stults make the cut?! It’s starting pitchers, part 1!

Welcome Back, Jamie Hoffmann

hoffmann.jpgJust days after being DFA’d to clear a spot on the 40 man roster, Jamie Hoffmann is back in the organization, and he couldn’t sound happier about it:

Hoffmann said that he is “very happy” with the contract that the Dodgers offered.

“They said that my being designated for assignment was only a business decision,” he said. “They are trying to win the World Series this season. They told me that they really have some plans for me – that was proven in their contract offer. They wanted me to stick around with the Dodgers.”

He said that he is not back on the 40-man major league roster now because that can’t happen until next May.

“That was part of the deal also,” Hoffmann said, “but hopefully I can get back on that 40-man roster as quick as possible.”

I didn’t mention it at the time, but his being DFA’d never made sense in the first place – it absolutely should have been Jason Repko, who’s 4 years older than Hoffmann, is being outhit by him in AAA this year (.815 OPS to .800), wasn’t rated the best defensive outfielder in the system by Baseball America (as Hoffmann was) and is almost certainly going to be an ex-Dodger after the season. Fortunately, it worked out in the end, but still – an odd decision.

*****

Hey, anyone want to start hitting? Ever? It’s really not a good sign when over the last 7 days, only James Loney & Ronnie Belliard are giving any production at all among your regulars.

*****

In other news, I am really really starting to feel for Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, because while he’s unquestionably got the best and most popular Dodger blog around – and, given that he’s an actual writer, one of the more thoughtful and well-written sports blogs you’ll find anywhere - I would hate it if the utter failure of the LA Times’ baseball reporters started to reflect poorly on his work, just by association, because we’ve got another good one today.

We’ve discussed the ridiculous platitudes of Bill Plaschke several times, but today it’s Kurt Streeter coming through with the complete misinformation. In the middle of his absolutely recycled and predictable “doom and gloom” column, we get this gem:

Besides, let’s just say Wolf runs easily through another stellar eight innings. How secure can anyone feel when the relievers take over for the ninth?

What’s a stronger word than “very” secure? “Amazingly” secure? “Phenomenally” secure? “Supercalifragilisticexpialidociousally” secure? Kurt, have you even been watching the Dodgers this year? The bullpen is the best in baseball, by nearly half a run. Jonathan Broxton’s striking out nearly 14 men per 9 innings and leads the NL in WXRL (relievers expected wins added) – by a lot. George Sherrill’s allowed one run in 17.1 innings since arriving. Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso have been breakout performers, and when healthy Hong-Chih Kuo might just be the most dominating lefty reliever in baseball. What more than you want?

It still drives me crazy that the general public will read such uninformed doofery and consider it to be fact, just because an “expert” in the paper wrote it.

Happy Labor Day, everyone who’s not Kurt Streeter.