In Defense of Blake DeWitt

I don’t really believe this is going to happen, but…

To create room on the roster for Furcal, an infielder will have to go.  The obvious move is to designate Nick Green for assignment, but Torre noted the club has two choices: Green, or optioning Blake DeWitt.  When asked if it would be tough to send down the club’s opening day second baseman, Torre said, “It’s always tough to be sent down,” but also said a decision has not yet been made. (via TBLA)

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

I’m not even going to bother explaining why Nick Green is useless. I’ve done so many, many times, and while I won’t pretend that nine plate appearances is a substantial sample size, it’s also not like he’s done anything to distinguish himself with the one single he’s accumulated. If this happens, the issue here wouldn’t even be “DeWitt or Green”, as they’re making it sound.

No, the issue would be “Blake DeWitt vs. overvaluing Jamey Carroll“. As you probably remember, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Carroll signing this offseason. Yet, even I’ll admit that Carroll’s been a nice surprise, playing nearly every single inning at shortstop since Furcal went down in the first place. As expected, he’s provided little range and zero power, but he’s been solid on the balls he can get to, and his .377 OBP overall is nice. Besides that, he’s really stepped it up since he took over the job, with a .396 OBP in the 25 games that Furcal has missed.

Coming from an emergency backup, Carroll’s been all you could expect, and considering what a disaster shortstop was in 2008 when Furcal was down, he’s really done nicely. I approve. Yet, let’s not confuse this with Carroll being a plus player, or someone who ought to be a starter, because he’s not. If DeWitt did go down, the team would essentially be saying that they prefer Carroll in the lineup everyday rather than DeWitt, since Carroll would presumably slide over to be the starting 2B.

DeWitt may still be waiting for his first home run, but that’s really the only blemish on his season so far. His 106 OPS+ means he’s been an above-average hitter this year, as compared to Carroll’s below-average 88 OPS+, and DeWitt has also really started to heat up. Since the calendar turned to May, he’s got a .288/.333/.492 line, with nine extra-base hits (as compared to Carroll’s three in the entire season). That’s an .825 OPS, which is fine by me.

On defense, he’s clearly been a work in progress, but he’s improving there too. Obviously, defensive stats are more prone to small sample size worries than anything else, but even all of the accepted metrics have him at near average or just slightly below it, which is also better than Carroll’s marks.

Again, I don’t think this will happen, and I’m fine with Carroll’s play thus far. But if the unthinkable occurs – if DeWitt is sent down just as he’s heating up, in order to play Carroll more and hold onto Green – it would be a massive mistake. Personally, I’m fine with just DFA’ing Green when Furcal returns, because I consider him to be of no value whatsoever, but knowing how the Dodgers roll, it’ll probably be a Haeger-esque phantom DL stint. As if anyone would really claim him on waivers, anyway.

******

In far sadder news, Jose Lima has apparently died of a heart attack today in Los Angeles. Lima was a Dodger for only one of his thirteen seasons, but that didn’t stop him from earning a place in team history. After a 13-5 2004 season which he described as “Lima Time” and had his wife become a minor internet celebrity thanks to her infamous picture while he sang the national anthem, he tossed a complete game shutout at the Cardinals in the NLDS – the first playoff game the Dodgers had won since 1988, and the only won they’d win until 2008. After his one season in LA, he had a horrible 2005 in Kansas City, a short stint with the Mets in 2006, and that was the end of his career. He played in Korea and independent ball in Canada and California trying to get back – that is, when he wasn’t popping up in bizarre Deadspin stories about his ex-wife trying to track him down.

An email from the Dodgers included the news that he’d actually been at the game on Friday night, and received a standing ovation from the crowd when introduced (the picture at right). RIP, Lima Time.

It’s Like They Just Never Learn

It’s not official yet, but Dylan Hernandez is reporting that Rafael Furcal will indeed be headed to the disabled list thanks to his strained left hamstring. This is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. What’s far more disheartening is that Hernandez also claims that Nick Green will be called up from AAA to take his place, rather than Chin-Lung Hu.

Somehow, I’ve actually written about “Green vs. Hu” several times, initially when the first rumors about Green arriving came early last December:

If you don’t know much about Green, that’s because you shouldn’t. This is a guy who is 31 and has played for five teams in parts of five seasons, almost entirely as a backup. In 2009, he was pressed into service as Boston’s starting shortstop for nearly half the season thanks to a multitude of injuries, and responded with a pretty bad .236/.303/.366 line. That’s not even a case of a guy being exposed due to too much playing time; that mirrors exactly his career line of .239/.307/.352. Even in over 3000 PA appearances in the minors, his OBP is just .324. “Getting on base” is clearly not Nick Green’s strength, no matter where he plays.

“But hey,” you might say. “He’s a shortstop, so if he really can’t hit, he must be a whiz with the glove, right?” You’d say that, and you’d be wrong. For his entire career, he’s a whopping 0.6 fielding runs above average. That’s not horrible, but nor is it an asset.

So please, enlighten me. When you’re trying to come up with backup infielders, paying Nick Green more than you’d have to pay Chin-Lung Hu to be 5 years older, a far inferior fielder, and a likely inferior batter (Hu at least has a .342 OBP in the minors, and at his age still has time to improve) makes sense in what way exactly?

Then when he was actually signed in January and it sounded like he’d make the club, I was still not all that happy about it:

Now I will grant that it’s a minor-league deal, so the money is negligible and the commitment is zero. But Rosenthal paints it as though he will be the backup shortstop, without even mentioning the possibility of Hu. So someone please explain this math problem to me:

Hu is a better fielder than Green.

Hu is younger than Green.

Hu is healthier than Green.

Hu is likely at least as good of a hitter, if not better, than Green.

Hu has at least a slight chance of upside, while Green has none.

Therefore, Green > Hu. Of course it does.

So what’s changed since then? The correct answer is “well, it’s only a month into the season, so unless Green’s already put up 20 homers while Hu broke his leg, that’s not nearly enough time to be more important than the last several years of established history”. But we all know it doesn’t work like that, because if it did we wouldn’t have seen any Ortizii on this squad.

In spring training – and yes, I know that these stats don’t mean much, but don’t pretend they don’t often decide jobs – Hu had a line of .281/.324/.281. Obviously there’s no power there, so it’s not stellar… but it’s also streets ahead of Green’s .139/.324/.167. After camp broke, neither one has been hitting very well in the first month at ABQ - Hu at .227/.261/.242, and Green at .219/.242/.438.

So I can’t pretend that Hu is forcing his way back into the bigs, and it’s quite possible that he’ll never be an acceptable major league hitter. But that’s sort of it, isn’t it? Assuming that Furcal returns from the DL on May 14 when he’s eligible, you’re just looking for a shortstop fill-in/bench infielder for the next 10 games or so. You don’t need or expect any sort of offensive contribution; you just need someone who can play a better shortstop than Jamey Carroll. Now, there should be no question – none, to the point where I don’t even need to break out the stats to back it up - that Hu is a superior defender to Green. But not only that, he outhit him in the spring, and he’s got a better (if still pretty lousy) OBP so far in AAA.

Sometimes you wonder why this team is floundering… and sometimes you wonder if the list of poor decisions should be updated on a daily basis.

Here’s Why I’m Not Concerned By Russ Ortiz Making the Team

Though it wasn’t really a surprise at this point, Joe Torre seems to have confirmed that the last spot on the 25-man roster is going to be filled by undead retread Russ Ortiz - and one might think that I’d approach this with fire and brimstone.

After all, the few times in which I’ve had the pleasure of discussing Mr. Ortiz on this blog haven’t been exactly friendly. To wit:

March 16:

Russ Ortiz. I know that he’s not allowed a walk or a run in 5 innings, and I do not care. I refuse to live in a world where Russ Ortiz – Russ Ortiz! – can win a rotation spot on a team with playoff dreams. Since his last decent season in 2004, his MLB line is 10-28 with a 6.56 ERA. He is, quite possibly, the worst pitcher in baseball, and he’s about to be 36. No amount of spring training niceties should be able to undo that. Odds: 0.0000001%

If you’re wondering why I’m giving slightly more hope to one busted R.Ortiz over another, it’s because Ramon has thrown nearly twice the innings Russ has in camp – and because I’ll be the first to admit I have an irrational hatred of Russ Ortiz. The Giants and D-Backs connections, the huge contract, the total flameout, the age – I don’t want any part of it.

January 20:

Troy from West Virginia has some strong thoughts on the Russ Ortiz signing (along with a wicked beard). Hey, I can’t say I disagree with him; Ortiz is abysmal and has been completely cooked for years. Troy is probably on his way to jail, and if the things in that article are true, then his future is well deserved. Still, when a man has that much facing him and he’s still bothered by a minor-league invite to Russ Ortiz… well, it probably means you shouldn’t have signed Russ Ortiz.

But I’m going to toss you a curveball here and say that this decision doesn’t bother me as much as you’d think it would, for two reasons.

First of all, the choice here was between Ortiz and Nick Green. That means that a vote against Ortiz was a vote for Green, and that’s hardly a much more appealing option, since I haven’t been much friendlier to Green than I have been to Ortiz. As I said on Twitter yesterday, if the choice is between these two guys, I’d rather just root for a 24-man roster. While I’d like to say that this spot could have been used far better by protecting Eric Stults, keeping Chin-Lung Hu, or picking up Hank Blalock, I have to admit those ships had sailed (almost literally in Stults’ case.) So the last spot on the roster was going to be a wasted one no matter what, and in that sense I was prepared for this decision.

Secondly, this is very temporary. Hong-Chih Kuo traveled to Pittsburgh with the team, is reportedly “feeling good”, and is eligible to be activated from the DL as soon as Saturday. Ronald Belisario can stay on the restricted list through April 25, but if he proves himself worthy, the club obviously won’t wait that long to activate him. The point is, the Dodgers will soon need at least one, and possibly two, roster spots for pitchers. I’m not exactly sure where that second one is going to come from just yet (possibly a phantom DL stint for George Sherrill if he can’t work himself out, especially if Kuo is ready to replace him as a lefty option?) but Ortiz is almost certainly going to be the odd man out once either of them are ready. Just because he’s on the roster on April 5 doesn’t guarantee that he’s still going to be there on April 15.

At least, that’s the shred of hope I’m clinging to.

Death Match: Nick Green vs. Chin-Lung Hu

Okay, maybe “death match” is a bit strong when you’re talking about a battle between a 30+ never-was and a light-hitting glovesman for a backup infield job, but still. According to this pair of tweets from Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers have signed Nick Green…

Source: IF Nick Green signs minor-league deal with Dodgers. Coming off back surgery

Jamey Carroll not a SS. Green would be primary backup to Furcal. Slightly behind schedule due to surgery.

We first heard about interest in Nick Green over a month ago, and even though it was just a rumor, I responded anyway, since the Hot Stove has been lukewarm at best. I was, to put it mildly, not impressed:

If you don’t know much about Green, that’s because you shouldn’t. This is a guy who is 31 and has played for five teams in parts of five seasons, almost entirely as a backup. In 2009, he was pressed into service as Boston’s starting shortstop for nearly half the season thanks to a multitude of injuries, and responded with a pretty bad .236/.303/.366 line. That’s not even a case of a guy being exposed due to too much playing time; that mirrors exactly his career line of .239/.307/.352. Even in over 3000 PA appearances in the minors, his OBP is just .324. “Getting on base” is clearly not Nick Green’s strength, no matter where he plays.

“But hey,” you might say. “He’s a shortstop, so if he really can’t hit, he must be a whiz with the glove, right?” You’d say that, and you’d be wrong. For his entire career, he’s a whopping 0.6 fielding runs above average. That’s not horrible, but nor is it an asset.

So please, enlighten me. When you’re trying to come up with backup infielders, paying Nick Green more than you’d have to pay Chin-Lung Hu to be 5 years older, a far inferior fielder, and a likely inferior batter (Hu at least has a .342 OBP in the minors, and at his age still has time to improve) makes sense in what way exactly?

I usually don’t paste so much from old posts, but every thing I said there still rings true today. But you know what makes it even better? That’s three paragraphs about how Nick Green is a lousy ballplayer and a bad idea, and that was before I heard that he had back surgery this offseason. Back surgery, which he is behind schedule in recovering from

Now I will grant that it’s a minor-league deal, so the money is negligible and the commitment is zero. But Rosenthal paints it as though he will be the backup shortstop, without even mentioning the possibility of Hu. So someone please explain this math problem to me:

Hu is a better fielder than Green.

Hu is younger than Green.

Hu is healthier than Green.

Hu is likely at least as good of a hitter, if not better, than Green.

Hu has at least a slight chance of upside, while Green has none.

Therefore, Green > Hu. Of course it does.

Nick Green Is Not the Answer

(Note #1: yes, I know these are just rumors. I don’t want to have to write that on every blog post. But what’s the point of having a blog dedicated to one team if I can’t comment on each little rumor that comes down?)

(Note #2: there’s going to be a ton of Dodger-related rumors coming out over the next few days as the winter meetings reign. I won’t be writing up ALL of them here, but they will all get mentioned on the MSTI Twitter. Follow today!

Unless the question is, “I’ll take over-30, poor-hitting, mediocre-fielding backup infielders for $800,000, Alex!” From the Twitter of Yahoo’s Tim Brown:

Dodgers met with agent for infielder Nick Green, exploring backup possibilities.

I hope that means they’re exploring possibilities for backup infielder, and not backup possibilities to not getting Nick Green, because I assume that would be some sort of amputee situation.

If you don’t know much about Green, that’s because you shouldn’t. This is a guy who is 31 and has played for five teams in parts of five seasons, almost entirely as a backup. In 2009, he was pressed into service as Boston’s starting shortstop for nearly half the season thanks to a multitude of injuries, and responded with a pretty bad .236/.303/.366 line. That’s not even a case of a guy being exposed due to too much playing time; that mirrors exactly his career line of .239/.307/.352. Even in over 3000 PA appearances in the minors, his OBP is just .324. “Getting on base” is clearly not Nick Green’s strength, no matter where he plays.

“But hey,” you might say. “He’s a shortstop, so if he really can’t hit, he must be a whiz with the glove, right?” You’d say that, and you’d be wrong. For his entire career, he’s a whopping 0.6 fielding runs above average. That’s not horrible, but nor is it an asset.

So please, enlighten me. When you’re trying to come up with backup infielders, paying Nick Green more than you’d have to pay Chin-Lung Hu to be 5 years older, a far inferior fielder, and a likely inferior batter (Hu at least has a .342 OBP in the minors, and at his age still has time to improve) makes sense in what way exactly?