Winter Meetings Day Two Rumors: White, MacDougal, and a Bat

Though all of our moaning about Aaron Harang and the rest of Ned Colletti’s inexplicable moves has been, uh, “fun”, I guess, there’s still a few more days of the winter meetings, and that means rumors.

Danny Knobler:

Dodgers’ Logan White interviewing for Astros GM job, sources say

No surprise here, especially since White interviewed for the same job back in 2007. The Astros are in a bizarre situation thanks to the late ownership change – I can’t remember a team ever having gone to the winter meetings without a general manager – and now that they’ve been spurned by Andrew Friedman, they’re casting their net far and wide. White deserves an interview and probably a shot somewhere, though we’ve been through this before so I’ll wait until we hear he’s getting a second interview.

Dylan Hernandez:

#Dodgers meeting with Mike MacDougal‘s agent tonight.

Well, of course they are. I’m sure we’d all like to be appalled by this, but, come on. We all knew there would be interest in bringing him back, so let’s relax. Until, you know, MacDougal gets a backloaded two-year deal as well.

Hernandez:

#Dodgers have talked to 4-5 teams about potential trades. Looking for a bat.

That’s potentially juicy, no? But where do you deal from? The two names that come up most often when thinking of trades tend to be Andre Ethier and James Loney, yet neither make sense here. You don’t deal Ethier if you’re looking for offense, and Loney would have just about no trade value. If you’re going to trade from depth… well, it’s hard to ignore that in the last week Colletti not only locked up a full five-man starting rotation for 2012, but for 2013 as well. (Which is even dumber than it already seemed when you look at some of the starters who could be available next winter, like Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, John Danks, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, James Shields, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, and more.) Since the Dodgers are deepest in young, righty starting pitching, and they’ve now blocked much of them for the next two years, it’s not hard to see a scenario where pitching prospects get moved for a bat. Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster, Chris Withrow, Garrett Gould, etc. – you’re on notice. (Before we panic, no one’s trading for an injured Rubby De La Rosa, and Zach Lee would be untouchable in all but the hugest deals.)

As for who that bat could be… well, it’d all but certainly have to be an outfielder. The recent signings of Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, and Adam Kennedy to go with Juan Uribe have filled up the infield – not that there’s really any second or third basemen worth trading for anyway – and there’s little question Loney will be returning. So it’d have to be an outfielder, one who could push Juan Rivera to the bench and Jerry Sands to the minors. The most popular name I heard on Twitter in response to this was Carlos Quentin, since the White Sox are clearly rebuilding based on their Sergio Santos trade today, which makes sense only if the Sox help with some of the ~$7m or so he’ll get in his final year of arbitration this year.

Who else? All suggestions welcome, though try to keep it realistic. (No, they’re not trading for Hanley Ramirez or Joey Votto.)

MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Relievers, Part 3

Mike MacDougal (B+)
2.05 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 6.5 K/9, 4.6 BB/9

Sentences I never thought I’d write: “Along with Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal was one of only two Dodger relievers to spend the entire 2011 season on the active roster.” Think about that for a second.

Like with Aaron Miles, when MacDougal was given a non-roster invite in January it hardly warranted much attention, since he hadn’t been a useful pitcher for years and he didn’t figure to make much of an impact with the big club. Yet thanks to a solid spring and a bullpen that was far more unsettled at the end of camp than the start of it, MacDougal broke camp with the club and stuck around all season. When it became clear that he might be coming north in March because people were putting far too much importance on five scoreless spring innings (to that point), I looked at what was realistic to expect from him:

Remember, this is a guy who over the last four seasons has pitched in 144 major league games, and has a K/BB rate of 99/95, while allowing more than a hit per inning, and his minor league numbers haven’t been much better. I’m not immune to the idea that guys can get healthy or fix a mechanical issue that brings improved results, but rarely does that happen at 34, and in this case, the nice ERA isn’t really justified.

“The nice ERA isn’t really justified” was a recurring theme throughout the season, as “MacDougal allows inherited runners to score without affecting his own ERA” became something of a running joke, as you can see by the large gap between his ERA and his FIP. Just as an example, here’s part of a recap of a randomly selected game from June, though know that this could (and did) apply to a whole lot of MacDougal appearances:

I’d like to take this opportunity to once again point out how silly ERA can be. Kershaw left the bases loaded, and while starting that mess is definitely on him, once he left the game he had absolutely no control over whether those runners score. If Elbert wiggles out of that mess, Kershaw allows three total earned runs, which doesn’t look so bad. Elbert (and MacDougal) couldn’t, and so Kershaw’s line looks like a disaster. MacDougal, by the way, faced three batters without retiring a single one. He wasn’t charged with any earned runs. Remember that when someone looks at MacDougal’s 2.14 ERA and tries to tell you he’s any good. Hooray, ERA!

Now again, like Miles, MacDougal gets a lot of credit for being a zero-risk scrap-heap pickup who made some contributions this year, even briefly being elevated to the role of main setup man in front of Javy Guerra when injuries took down Kenley Jansen and Blake Hawksworth. When a team brings in the usual collection of has-beens and never-weres over the winter, this is exactly the sort of “good enough, but not great” performance you’re hoping for. So good on MacDougal for that, because a 3.96 FIP for a minimum salary is eminently usable.

That doesn’t change the fact that he was clearly overrated by many because of that shiny, clearly faulty ERA, of course. He barely struck out more than he walked over the season, and he was constantly hurting other pitchers by letting their inherited runners to score. Never was this demonstrated more clearly than in one of Don Mattingly’s worst managerial decisions, bringing MacDougal into a 1-1 game in Milwaukee on August 16:

With the game tied at one in the bottom of the ninth, Hong-Chih Kuo started the frame off by walking Prince Fielder on six pitches. Kuo didn’t look good doing it, and with righties Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt following, Don Mattingly strode to the mound and called to the bullpen for his righty, which was absolutely the correct move.

Unfortunately, coming in wasn’t Javy Guerra, who hadn’t pitched since Friday and has allowed just one earned run in the last two months. It was Mike MacDougal, who threw 2/3 of an inning last night and is, you know, Mike MacDougal. I’ve defended Mattingly a lot this season, but much of this loss lies on him, as he fell victim to the same mistake that managers have been making for decades, which is saving their closer for a lead in a tie game on the road.

Or as I put it on Twitter at the time,

Whenever you can bring Mike MacDougal in to a tied game with a man on in the bottom of the 9th, you have to do it.

I bet I don’t have to tell you how that ended, right? MacDougal is a free agent, but I think we all believe the Dodgers will show interest in retaining him. Let’s hope that’s for less than $1m, or even better, another non-guaranteed deal.

Ramon Troncoso (D-)
6.75 ERA, 5.19 FIP, 5.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9

Geez, does anyone still remember 2009, when Troncoso was one of the more reliable non-elite relievers in the NL? That seems so long ago now. It’s easy to look back at 2010, when he pitched in 16 of the first 24 games, and conclude that Joe Torre ruined him like he did so many others, but that was a theory we investigated and largely discarded last season.

2011, Troncoso’s fourth season with the Dodgers, saw him have three different tours of duty with the big club, though his season numbers were ruined when he allowed 12 hits to just 17 batters in his first two appearances in April. He wasn’t seen again for a month, in which he had eight relatively good outings in May and June sandwiched around two disasters, and then spent all of July and August in the minors before returning in September to contribute five good outings and one nightmare.

As you can tell, Troncoso in 2011 was either hit or big, big miss. He’s under team control in 2012, but is out of options, meaning that he must break camp with the team (or be on the DL) or otherwise exposed to waivers before being sent down. It’s not altogether unlikely that we’ve seen the last of him as a Dodger.

Josh Lindblom (A-)
2.73 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Was it really over two years ago that Lindblom was a fast riser, nearly breaking camp with the club in 2009 after just nine MiLB games in 2008? Apparently it was. Lindblom went back to ABQ and was successful in a relief role, but then was sent back to AA Chattanooga in an attempt to convert him to starting. The results were mixed for the remainder of 2009, and then 2010 was an absolute disaster, putting up a 6.54 ERA and allowing 13.5 hits per nine, and granted that’s in ABQ, but still not good. The Dodgers finally gave up the ghost on “Josh Lindblom, Starter”, and allowed him to return to the bullpen in June, where he was solid to end 2010 back in AA and excellent in 34 games for the Lookouts to start this season – earning himself a recall on May 29 when Kenley Jansen made a trip to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Overall, the results were good. Lindblom got into 27 games across multiple stints with the team (generally going up and down as Jansen was available and not), and allowed more than one earned run just one time, which is solid. I remember saying to myself, about halfway through his tenure, that I liked him but that he didn’t miss enough bats, because over his first 13 games, he’d struck out just 9 in 16 innings. Over his final 14 outings, he whiffed 19 in 13.2, puncuated by striking out five of the six Diamondbacks he faced after replacing Clayton Kershaw following the ace’s ejection on September 14.

Looking ahead to 2012, Lindblom probably doesn’t have a job completely sown up out of camp, but with his 2011 performance and minimum cost salary, there’s no reason to think we won’t be seeing quite a bit of him.

******

Next! Kenley Jansen is unhittable! Hong-Chih Kuo falls apart! And oh good lord, I have to write something about Lance Cormier? It’s the final installment of relievers – part 4!

Dodgers Fail to Perfect “Win Without Offense” Strategy


With the game tied at one in the bottom of the ninth, Hong-Chih Kuo started the frame off by walking Prince Fielder on six pitches. Kuo didn’t look good doing it, and with righties Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt following, Don Mattingly strode to the mound and called to the bullpen for his righty, which was absolutely the correct move.

Unfortunately, coming in wasn’t Javy Guerra, who hadn’t pitched since Friday and has allowed just one earned run in the last two months. It was Mike MacDougal, who threw 2/3 of an inning last night and is, you know, Mike MacDougal. I’ve defended Mattingly a lot this season, but much of this loss lies on him, as he fell victim to the same mistake that managers have been making for decades, which is saving their closer for a lead in a tie game on the road.

Or as I put it on Twitter at the time,

Whenever you can bring Mike MacDougal in to a tied game with a man on in the bottom of the 9th, you have to do it.

Let’s be fair for a second, because Guerra is hardly a top-tier closer, and this isn’t as egregious as Clint Hurdle refusing to use Joel Hanrahan through 19 innings simply because he didn’t get the lead. But it’s still pretty bad. If you have a guy you’ve identified as “the closer”, and you use him to “save games”, well, sometimes there are other ways to save the game than to get the final outs with a lead. I’d think that making sure the home team doesn’t walk off with a win before you get a chance to hit again would count as saving the game, but there’s always the alternative of “letting one of your worst relievers lose the game while your better ones watch” is always an option too.

MacDougal immediately allowed a hard-hit single to McGehee, moving Fielder to second. Here’s the best part, though. The Brewers tried to help the Dodgers by giving them an out, as Betancourt attempted to sacrifice bunt. MacDougal refused the gift, walking him on four pitches. Now with the bases loaded, one of the few hitters in baseball more impotent than Betancourt came up, Mark Kotsay. One pitch later, Kotsay had lined the game-winning hit to center field, and the Brewers celebrated around Fielder at the plate. Few things in baseball are more reliable than Mike MacDougal blowing a game in the late innings, except perhaps the continued refusal of managers to deploy their bullpen assets at the right time. (Kuo came down with the loss, though, because this sport still keeps records the same way they did in 1891.)

Of course, this isn’t all on Mattingly and MacDougal, since the offense managed just one run on four singles against Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo and old friend Takashi Saito. That’s one run over the two games of this series, in case you haven’t been keeping track, and when that’s the kind of offense you’re putting up, it probably doesn’t matter if you’re throwing out Mike MacDougal or 1990-era Dennis Eckersley in the late innings.

But it’s cool, because the Brewers are only tossing out Zack Greinke tomorrow, so, good luck with that, Nathan Eovaldi.

All that being said, let’s not ignore the performance from Chad Billingsley, who got off to a rough start by allowing five baserunners in the first two innings (one, granted, on a Juan Rivera error), generally throwing a lot of pitches, and looking for all the world like he wouldn’t last beyond 3.2 innings. He then turned it around to retire nine in a row in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, ending up allowing just one run over seven innings. Coming off last week’s “99 pitches, no strikeouts, and unable to hold a 6-0 lead in 4.1 innings” disaster against the Phillies, being able to come back from an uneven start to keep the club in the game against a tough opponent was a pretty nice accomplishment.

On a side note, Trent Oeltjen pinch-hit for Billingsley in the top of the 8th, and not only did he draw a walk, he made me think, “hey! Trent Oeltjen is still on this team. Who knew?” Apparently, no one: Oeltjen hasn’t started since July 5, 35 Dodger games ago. Only twice in that time has he even managed to get in the field, and while I’m certainly not about to start any sort of “free Trent Oeltjen” campaign, you can imagine that a guy might get a little rusty sitting around like that.

******

So here’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while: Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner, who’s really becoming our go-to guy on the high minors, has a look at the Rule 5 eligible players the Dodgers will need to make decisions on this offseason. Most interesting there is the news that Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife, both acquired in the Trayvon Robinson deal, will not need to be placed on the 40-man roster. That’s contrary to what we heard at the time, but since Jackson spoke with both DeJon Watson and MLB itself, I think we can trust his reporting.

According to Jackson, the Dodgers have eight players who will need to either be added to the 40-man roster or exposed to the draft:

Most of the notable Rule 5-eligibles are at Double-A Chattanooga. They include left-hander Michael Antonini, third baseman Pedro Baez, catcher Gorman “Griff” Erickson, infielder Elian Herrera, right-hander Will Savage, outfielder Alfredo Silverio, first baseman-outfielder Scott Van Slyke and catcher Matt Wallach.

Much can change between now and the December draft, though I think it’s safe to say that Erickson, Silverio, Van Slyke, and Wallach are likely to be added. Antonini, Herrera, and Savage are roster filler, and can we please finally turn Baez into a pitcher already? This is a topic we’ll delve into with more detail after the season ends, but there’s clearly no shortage of 40-man roster spots to add any youngsters they need: with Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe each on the DL, 11 of the 13 offensive players currently on the active roster are something less than locks to be on next year’s roster.

2011 Midseason Grades: Pitching and Management

Thanks for all the feedback on yesterday’s hitting grades, and today we move on to pitching and management. Remember, the letter grades are just for fun, without a whole lot of thought or science behind them.

Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw (A+) (9-4, 3.03 ERA, 2.45 FIP)
Is A+ even high enough? I’m not sure it is, though we certainly expected great things from him. Think about this: his HR/9 rate and H/9 rate are unchanged from last year, but he’s managed to do that while lowering his walk rate (again!) and increasing his strikeout rate. He’s leading the league in whiffs, and he has two shutouts among his three complete games. He’s 23. He’s lefty. He’s an All-Star.

Don’t let anyone tell you that he’s progressing towards being an ace, or one day he could be one of the best. Clayton Kershaw is, right now, one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball. The scary part? He could still get better.

Chad Billingsley (B) (8-7, 3.87 ERA, 3.41 FIP)
Over at Baseball Prospectus this morning, Geoff Young of DuckSnorts offers the opinion that Billingsley “should be a star, but isn’t”. And that’s true. 26-year-old Billingsley is walking more and striking out less than 23-year-old Billingsley did in 2008. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he’s still a very valuable asset and the extension he signed over the winter was welcomed, but he’s also not going to be a Kershaw-level star like we’d once hoped he would be. Again, that’s not to get on Billingsley, it’s just seemingly who he’s going to be – a durable #2 or 3 type who will be consistently inconsistent (3 starts this year of at least 8 IP and 1 ER or less, 3 starts allowing 5 ER or more). That’s not a star, but it is a quality pitcher we should be happy to have.

Hiroki Kuroda (B) (6-10, 3.06 ERA, 3.73 FIP)
Only five pitchers have received less run support than Kuroda (shockingly, no other Dodger appears on the top 40 of that list), so let’s not pretend the poor win/loss record means absolutely anything at all. Conversely, the ERA is a little misleading as well, since he’s striking out fewer and walking more than he did in either 2009 or 2010, facts which are reflected in the higher FIP. Still, he’s been a solid member of this rotation… and probably the only Dodger with any real trade value at the deadline. I’ll be sorry to see him go, if he does.

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.

Rubby De La Rosa (A) (3-4, 3.74 ERA, 3.40 FIP)
Probably the most impressive of any of the rookies pushed ahead of their schedule this year, de la Rosa has shown immense talent while being forced to learn on-the-job. While his first few starts were dicey – good lord, the walks, and that one game that he nearly got bounced in the first inning was a heart-stopper – RDLR has shown marked improvement, even flirting with no-hitters in each of his last two outings. The talent is unquestioned, but the real concern now is limited his innings, since he’s quickly coming up on matching his previous high with more than two months remaining in the season. But if he’s limited and if someone like Kuroda is dealt… how do you finish out the season? John Ely? Dana Eveland? Yikes.

Jon Garland (D-) (1-5, 4.33 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Hey, remember when Garland was signed largely because he’d never been on the disabled list before? If you do, then you probably also remember him saying he couldn’t get multi-year deals because other teams didn’t like the looks of his medical reports. Garland gets a lousy grade not because of his performance (ignore the 1-5, a 4.59 FIP is in line with his usual season), but because he sells his durability as a skill. Clearly, that’s one item he forgot to pack for his second (and likely final) tour with the Dodgers. At least that large 2012 option won’t kick in.

John Ely (inc.) (0-1, 6.23 ERA, 5.61 FIP)
Remember Ely-mania last year? Seems so far away, doesn’t it?

Relief pitchers

Jonathan Broxton (MRI) (1-2, 7 saves, 5.68 ERA, 5.56 FIP)
I have absolutely no idea how to grade Jonathan Broxton. Was he good this year? No, of course he wasn’t, and for many people that justifies their opinion that at around midseason 2010, he somehow lost his heart / mind / balls / toes / earlobes / whatever. The fact that he somehow managed to even close out seven games earlier this year is somewhat misleading, because he rarely did so smoothly; conversely, it’s difficult to blame him entirely for the big blown save in Florida because the Dodgers would have won if Jamey Carroll had merely fielded a simple ground ball.

I’d say the answer lies in the fact that he’s been on the disabled list for over two months due to a right elbow injury, with no estimated return date. We never saw the healthy Broxton this year, just as I felt we never saw a healthy Broxton in the second half of last year. The lesson, as always? Joe Torre cannot be trusted with relievers. You hate to say it about a guy who is only 27, but Torre may just have ruined Broxton’s career. Thanks for stopping by, Joe!

Hong-Chih Kuo (-) (0-0, 8.71 ERA, 4.12 FIP)
Take everything I said about Broxton above and multiply it by 100 for Kuo, because the anxiety issue he’s been fighting for years makes it impossible to really judge his on-field performance. Since returning, he’s at least managed to limit the walks (6/2 K/BB in 5.2 IP), though the results (five runs, four earned) haven’t all been there yet. The fact that he even returned as quickly as he did should count as a win.

Kenley Jansen (B+) (1-1, 4.40 ERA, 3.15 FIP)
I bet a lot of people will be surprised by this grade for Jansen. “But his ERA is 4.40, rabble rabble rabble!”, they’ll yell. That’s true, it is. That number is also heavily inflated by two poor outings – allowing 5 earned runs to Atlanta on April 19 in a game that the Dodgers were already losing in, and allowing 3 earned runs on May 23 in Houston, a game which preceded his stint on the DL with right shoulder inflammation by less than a week. Since returning from injury on June 18, he’s been nearly untouchable, striking out 13 while allowing just two singles in 9.2 innings. While the walks remain a problem, he’s actually striking out more per nine than he did in 2010, and you might remember that even last year’s rate was on the verge of being historic. The question for me is, why is he stuck in middle relief and garbage time rather than in higher leverage situations?

Matt Guerrier (C-) (3-3, 3.10 ERA, 4.44 FIP)
Boy, who would have thought that handing out an expensive multi-year deal to a non-elite middle reliever wouldn’t have worked out well? Besides everyone, that is. Guerrier actually hasn’t been that bad, but that’s sort of the point: players who get $12m over three years should be able to do better than “hasn’t been that bad”. Though he’s striking out slightly more than he did as a Twin, he’s allowing both more walks and hits than he did in either of the last two years, despite moving to the easier league. He’ll be 33 in less than a month. It’s not a good trend.

Mike MacDougal (C+) (0-1, 1.67 ERA, 3.74 FIP)
2003 All-Star MacDougal has done an excellent job of reviving his career after several years bouncing between the bigs and AAA. MacDougal, who made the 2003 All-Star team as a member of the Royals, has just a 1.74 ERA, emerging as a leader of the injury-plagued Dodger bullpen. The former All-Star has allowed only six earned runs to score, putting him in contention for 9th inning responsibilities. All-Star.

(I can’t do it. MacDougal has allowed approximately 982 of the 48 inherited runners he’s received* to score. For nearly the entire season, he’d walked as many as he’d struck out, before finally giving himself some distance in recent days. He’s not a good pitcher, but like Aaron Miles, we expected nothing, so the small contributions he’s made get him some minor credit. *note: numbers may be fabricated.)

Number of Ortizii: 0 (A++++)
Say what you will about this club, at least they’re not employing anyone named Ortiz who was last useful 6-8 years ago, much less multiple players like that.

Javy Guerra (B+) (1-0, 4 saves, 2.33 ERA, 4.01 FIP)
Guerra, like MacDougal all those years ago, is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t overrate saves. For a guy who walked 6.8/9 in the minors last year and was forced to the bigs simply because of injuries, he’s been fine. He’s keeping the ball in the yard, he’s cut down on the control issues, and he’s even managed to steal a few saves while serving as the last-ditch closer. As far as debuts go, his has been a successful one. Let’s just not go overboard in anointing him as the man in the 9th inning, because he hasn’t been that good – 13 K in 19.1 IP doesn’t thrill me – and in each of his last two saves, he loaded the bases before getting out of the jam. That’s not the kind of tightrope you can walk for very long.

Blake Hawksworth (B) (2-2, 3.00 WHIP, 4.12 FIP)
“Isn’t Ryan Theriot“, and that alone gets him a boost. Actually, I joke, but it’s sort of true: when healthy, Hawksworth has been a perfectly acceptable and average reliever, doing a decent job of keeping runners off the bases (WHIP of 1.000), and striking out more than double as he’s walked. Considering that Theriot is doing his usual “I’m not a very good baseball player, but I am short and white, and that counts for something, right?” routine in St. Louis, even just getting that moderate level of contribution in exchange is a big win.

Scott Elbert (B-) (0-1, 5.25 ERA, 2.54 FIP)
I know there’s been a lot of turnover in the bullpen this year, but Elbert is one of those guys where I constantly have to check if he’s still on the team or down in ABQ. I suppose that’s partically because he’s pitched just twice in the last two weeks, and partially because he’s rarely in for more than 2-3 batters at a time. As for his performance, he’s a bit of an oddity in that you’d expect a power lefty to be hell on lefty hitters, but he’s actually rocking a reverse split: lefties (.701 OPS) are actually doing more damage than righties (.561 OPS) against him. Overall, I guess you can say he’s been “acceptable”, in that he’s finally gained a foothold in the majors, but hasn’t exactly made us think he’s going to be a difference maker.

Then again, considering his mysterious disappearance at this time last year, even that is a massive step forward.

Ramon Troncoso (D) (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 4.92 FIP)
I know it’s popular to blame Torre for Troncoso’s downturn as well, and maybe that’s part of it, but I do remember writing a post last year that outlined how he had larger issues than overuse. Whatever it is, he’s barely a major league quality pitcher right now… which probably explains why he’s not in the major leagues. That’s what’ll happen when you aren’t striking anyone out and giving up an absurd amount of hits, though I’ll allow that since he was never a strikeout guy, pitching in front of a defense that does no favors probably doesn’t help.

Ronald Belisario (MIA)
Ha, no. There’s about as good of a chance that he pitches for the Dodgers again as there is that you’ll see Orel Hershiser or Don Drysdale out there.

Josh Lindblom (B+) (0-0, 1.69 ERA, 3.43 FIP)
Nearly two years after we first thought we might see him, Lindblom finally got the call this year, and so far, so good. It’s hard to make judgements based on just eight games, but he’s yet to allow more than one earned run in an appearance, and for now, that’s good enough.

Lance Cormier (dFa) (0-1, 9.88 ERA, 6.84 FIP)
I’m still convinced the only reason Cormier wasn’t DFA’d a week or two earlier than he eventually was (on May 24, when Rubby De La Rosa came up) is because he had a charity event for tornado victims set up at the stadium on May 15, and it would have been poor form to cut a guy just before or after that. I also like that we can say “nah, he wasn’t as bad as his ERA, look at his FIP” and while that’s true, even his FIP says he was awful.

Vicente Padilla (inc.) (0-0, 4.15 ERA, 2.61 FIP)
I sure do feel like we’ve talked about Padilla a lot this year for a guy who piched just 8.2 innings. First he was signed to a somewhat confusing 6th starter/longman/Broxton insurance role, in a move for depth I actually really liked. Then he required surgery for a forearm injury in the spring, preventing him from taking Garland’s rotation spot to start the year. He returned exceptionally quickly from that, taking over for the injured Broxton to nab three saves of varying quality in late April and early May, leading many to proclaim him the next big thing… until he returned to the DL with a recurrence of the arm injury. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because he was supposedly hours away from being activated in June before a neck injury flared up, leading to more surgery and probably the end of his season. Got all that? Phew.

Management

Don Mattingly (B+)
It may sound odd to praise a rookie manager when we weren’t fans of his hiring in the first place and when the club he’s leading is on pace for its worst finish in decades, but I don’t see how you pin much of this mess on Mattingly. He’s proven himself to be far more than a Joe Torre clone, in particular showing a nice willingness to be creative with his bullpen. It hasn’t been perfect, as some of his Navarro-related pinch-hitting escapades still burn, and he likes bunting more than I’d prefer, but he was handed a subpar roster that had its infield and bullpen totally destroyed by injuries, all as fans stayed away thanks to the off-field mess. It would be an impossible situation for any manager, and though the final record won’t be good, Mattingly has been a pleasant surprise, managing to keep the team playing hard through it all. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up shouldering more of the blame than is needed when all is said and done.

Davey Mutha-F’ing-Lopes (A+^100)
I don’t usually grade the base coaches. Matt Kemp doesn’t usually lead the league in WAR. There you go.

Ned Colletti (F+)
Let’s quickly review all of the contracts handed out last winter by Colletti that were for at least $1m, shall we? Uribe, massive bust. Lilly, missing fewer bats than ever. Guerrier, adequate but overpaid and having one of the lesser years of his career. Garland and Padilla, both injured multiple times and likely out for the year. Barajas, crappier than usual and hurt. Thames, ineffective and injured. Navarro, hitting .183. To be fair, Kuroda has been very good, but it’s hard to say that without caveating that he clearly took a huge paycut to stay in LA.

There’s been a few positives – signing Billingsley was great, the no-risk NRI of Miles worked out, and trading Ryan Theriot for Hawksworth was a good move if you try to forget that it was necessitated by acquiring Theriot in the first place – and you want to be sensitive to the fact that the ownership mess has really put him in a bad position. But overall? Not good, Ned. Not good.

******

Tomorrow, the final review of the series: me.

On What To Expect From Mike MacDougal

Hey, I like Mike MacDougal just fine. He’s carved himself out a nice little career, pitching in parts of ten seasons and being paid roughly $8m to do so. With heat in the mid-90s, he’s had a few seasons that were pretty good (2003, 2006), and a few seasons that were slightly less-than-good (uh, all of the rest). He even made himself an All-Star team in that 2003 season, thus earning him the legal right to forever be known as “All-Star Mike MacDougal“, assuming that no one takes the time to see that the ’03 Royals rotation was led by luminaries like Darrell May, Chris George, and Runelvys Hernandez.

Since he left the Royals midway through 2006 via trade, he’s bounced around from team to team, spending time in Chicago, Charlotte, Jupiter (that’d be Marlins spring camp), Harrisburg, Syracuse, Washington, Memphis, and St. Louis. He carries around the usual tale of spring redemption - though I have to admit, “I used a neti pot to clear up a sinus infection that left me weak” is a new one on me – and he’ll be 34 this year. According to his baseball-reference similarity score, the list of relievers who he most resembles through age 33 reads like a who’s who of “hey, that guy existed!” – Doug Henry, Rudy Seanez, and Scott Proctor among them.

This is all fine, though. He’s still a live arm, and this is exactly the type of guy you bring in to camp on a non-roster invite, hoping to strike gold - if by “gold” you mean, “I hope one of those 20 jokers can give me a few league-average innings.” Thanks to the injury to Vicente Padilla, the less-than-impressive springs by Scott Elbert & Ron Mahay, and the stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-this-before disappearance of Ronald Belisario, MacDougal stands a pretty fair chance of breaking camp with the big club.

That’s fine too, because every team has one of those guys at the bottom of the pen, and those spots are so fungible that the likelihood of MacDougal lasting past May is probably pretty slim, anyway. Here’s what worries me, though, and while I’m picking on Jon Heyman here, he’s not the only one:

#dodgers think theyve fixed the talented but perpetually underachieving Mike MacDougal (0.00 ERA so far this spring)

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know how I feel about ERA as an indicator of pitching value. You probably also know that I think it’s even more useless for relievers, because of small samples, and because it often depends so much on inherited runners. Take those two factors and mash them in a blender with “he’s pitched just five spring training innings, generally late in games against minor leaguers at that” and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how meaningful his 0.00 ERA really is.

Remember, this is a guy who over the last four seasons has pitched in 144 major league games, and has a K/BB rate of 99/95, while allowing more than a hit per inning, and his minor league numbers haven’t been much better. I’m not immune to the idea that guys can get healthy or fix a mechanical issue that brings improved results, but rarely does that happen at 34, and in this case, the nice ERA isn’t really justified. I’ll let my Twitter friends, all three of whom are BP writers, explain:

Kevin Goldstein:

5.1 IP, 4 BB, 2 K #stillbroke

Michael Jong:

Trusting ERA for RP is already dumb as it is. Spring, in 5 IP is downright criminal.

Jay Jaffe:

 the Zombie Ortiz Brothers say hi

Jay nails it there, because don’t forget that it was just one year ago that Ramon and Russ Ortiz weaseled their way onto the roster because they had nice spring ERAs of 0.96 and 2.50, despite years of mediocrity. How’d that work out?

Hey, I’d like nothing more than for MacDougal to come out and succeed. It’d be great for him and for the team. Let’s just not act as though five relatively meaningless spring innings are more important than four sustained years of poor performance, okay?

******

Casey Blake may need to start the season on the disabled list, claims Don Mattingly. If so, that’d slide Juan Uribe to 3B, and open up the possibility that my worst-case scenario of Aaron Miles starting at 2B on Opening Day (remember, he’s a switch-hitter, and the Giants will start righty Tim Lincecum) is one step closer towards coming true. Not that I think it will – Jamey Carroll is the more likely choice, handedness aside. But Carroll is battling a sore finger that has cost him some time, so…