MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Second Base

85toppsorlandohudsonOrlando Hudson (B-)
(.283/.357/.417 9hr 62rbi)

It’s one thing to get off to a hot start, and it’s quite another to introduce yourself to your new team by hitting for the cycle in the home opener, isn’t it? Despite the fact that I was so fervently against giving Arizona a first round pick to sign him in the offseason, even I had to give him props when he hit .332/.407/.469 through the first two months of the season.

But there was a big problem with that outstanding start to his Dodger career, and it’s that his amazing first impression seemed to color everyone’s impression of him for the rest of the season. I started getting worried about him as far back as July, when I was doing our mid-season reviews and giving him credit for his nice first half. In the same review, I pointed out:

So why just the B grade? Because while Hudson may have made an enormous first impression (come on, a cycle in your first home game for your new team? Who does that?) I think it may have obscured just how horrible he’s been over the second half of the first half. (Shut up, that’s a thing.)

Apr. 6 – May 13: 35 games, .348/.429/.539
May 14 – Jul. 10: 49 games, .237/.300/.320

For some reason baseball-reference hasn’t updated to include yesterday’s games yet, so I am missing his 2-homer outburst in that latter section, but still: the difference is glaring. You’d like to think that was the start of something, because at some point he’s going to need to turn this around, or all of the good feelings of April are going to dissipate.

Hudson picked it up some from his horrible June stretch, but an OPS that had been over .900 in May still fell to as low as .768 in September. With Ronnie Belliard’s contributions upon arriving, it was absolutely the right decision to bench Hudson for him.  So what we ended up with was a year that was average overall (104 OPS+, exactly in line with his previous years), but was put up by two completely different players. But hey, at least he cost a first round pick! Let’s hope that can be recouped by offering him arbitration, especially since in regards to any possibility of a return next year, I’d say this quote from Baseball Prospectus about sums it up:

Second baseman Orlando Hudson, stung by being benched in favor of Ronnie Belliard in the playoffs, has no desire to re-sign with the Dodgers as a free agent.

Fine by me, because he was good, but not great. Thanks for the season, Orlando, especially for being a complete professional about being benched (Hudson has always had a fantastic reputation in that sense), and best of luck in your non-Dodger future. But mostly, best of luck to the Dodgers in terms of recouping the draft picks and getting more bang out of second base next year.

85toppsronniebelliardRonnie Belliard (A)
(.351/.398/.636 5hr 17rbi)

It’s tempting to compare Belliard to the last late-season veteran import from Washington, Marlon Anderson, but what Anderson did was so far out of whack that it’s hard to compare anything to that. Still, Belliard was fantastic upon his arrival in LA – especially compared to the less-than-enthusiastic welcome I gave him: 

Well… I guess? I suppose this is related to Ken Gurnick’s report that the Dodgers were looking for a run-producing bat off the bench, but I’m not exactly sure that this qualifies. 

Still, I am proud that I was able to point how hot he’d been in Washington out:

Though Belliard’s had a few roughly league-average seasons, he’s hitting a brutal .247/.297/.376 this season, almost exclusively as a second baseman and pinch-hitter. To be fair, since his OPS cratered at .459 (!!) on July 1, Belliard’s hit a nice .323/.380/.475 in 35 games (20 starts).

Which is basically the line that he was able to produce in LA, just with even more added power. Joe Torre got a lot of heat for starting Belliard over Hudson in the playoffs, but when one guy is so hot and the other is so cold – and there’s not a huge difference between them anyway – you can’t be faulted for that.

For next year, I’m not really dying to have Belliard back – his performance in LA is hardly sustainable – but it wouldn’t surprise me all that much if he won people over with his hot September.

85toppstonyabreuTony Abreu (so long!)
(.250/.455/.250 0hr 1rbi)

Ugh. This one is going to kill me. Well, gee, let’s see. You’ve got a giant hole at second base opening up after the season. You’ve got a talented young player who’s finally overcome injuries and is dominating at AAA, and even has already had a taste of the majors, to boot.

And… you trade that young player to a division rival just so you can get 6 decent starts that you probably didn’t really need, especially when Jon Garland didn’t even appear in the playoffs.

Look, Abreu may not be a superstar, though there’s something to be said about a middle infielder who has a .916 OPS in AAA in 2007, misses all of 2008, and then returns to be even better with a .999 AAA OPS. (Yes, I know Vegas and Albuquerque inflate offensive stats somewhat – still, those are good numbers.) For 6 relatively meaningless starts of Garland, you’ve just handed this player to the Diamondbacks.  I hated the trade from Day 1, saying:

Look, if it’s Abreu, I’m going to be really unhappy. He’s a 24-year-old with a .991 OPS in AAA this year, and looks to finally have put his career back on track after two years of injuries. With Orlando Hudson headed back into free agency this offseason, I was strongly in favor of letting him walk and giving Abreu a crack at the second base job. Now – again, if it’s him – the Dodgers have just handed a division rival an excellent prospect for 5 mediocre starts of Jon Garland?  

Survey says… We’ll of course have more to say on this once we know who the player is going back to Arizona. Right now, the feeling is more “worried” with a good chance of “horrified“. 

Yep. “Horrified” is about right. What an awful move. Then again, with all we’ve learned about the issues in the owners’ box, this might be another instance of Colletti’s hands being tied by cheap management. The D-Backs took on all of Garland’s remaining salary for the chance to get back a better prospect, just like how the Indians did for Casey Blake to get Carlos Santana. Please, why won’t they sell?

Next: Casey Blake’s beard! Mark Loretta’s corpse! Blake DeWitt’s frequent flyer miles! It’s third base!

NLDS Game 2: Electric Boogaloo

The official blog gives us the news that the lineup is going to be exactly the same today as it was yesterday.

I can already hear the complaining. “How can you keep Ronnie Belliard in over Orlando Hudson? Belliard botched the pop in the first inning, allowing a run to score! Belliard struck out twice against a mediocre version of Chris Carpenter! FREE ORLANDO HUDSON! BOOO! BOOO!”

broxtonshakesmartin.jpgTo which I say: shush. As I’ve been saying for a while, you have to start Belliard in this game. You can claim small sample size all you want, but there’s got to be something to Belliard having an 1.110 OPS in 11 at-bats against Adam Wainwright, while Orlando Hudson has just a .200 mark in 10 at-bats. In what’s become almost a second base time-share, Belliard always had to start this game.

Now, if you want to say that Hudson should have started Game 1 because neither could have been expected to do much against Carpenter and at least you’d get Hudson’s superior defense, I wouldn’t have argued that. I’d just ask you to remember that Belliard did get on base three times yesterday, and helped start a crucial double-play to short-circuit what could have been a big Cardinal rally in the first inning.

Besides, if this game comes down to the miniscule difference right now between Hudson and Belliard, we’re all in big trouble anyway. No, tonight is all about Clayton Kershaw on the main stage, blowing away Redbirds left and right. Hopefully, anyway.

Don’t forget to join us over at the MSTI Facebook page tonight!

What the What?

belliardhits.jpgLineups for Game 1 of the NLDS are in: (hat tip Dodger Thoughts)

Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, LF
Manny Ramirez, LF
James Loney, 1B
Casey Blake, 3B
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Randy Wolf, P

Wait, Belliard over Orlando Hudson? They had basically shared the job for the month of September, so on the surface that shouldn’t be all that surprising. But what is surprising is that you absolutely have to start Belliard in Game 2 against Adam Wainwright, just based on what I wrote in my “reasons to be happy to face the Cardinals” post a few days ago:

3) The Dodgers have a great history of hitting Adam Wainwright.

Six Dodgers have had eleven or more at-bats in their careers against Wainwright, and five have had great success – and the one who hasn’t is Brad Ausmus, who won’t be facing him anyway.

dodgersstatsvswainwright.jpgLook at those OPS numbers! What will be really interesting will be the second base decision in that game; as you can see, Ron Belliard has done very well against Wainwright, but Orlando Hudson, who would have been next on this list, has just one hit in ten at-bats against him. 

There’s no way you don’t start Belliard against Wainwright in Game 2; not only has he hit him in the (admittedly small sample size) past, but Hudson has had terrible luck against him. That being the case, are you really going to start Belliard the first two games and relegate Hudson to a full-fledged bench player? Neither one can hit Chris Carpenter a lick (combined 1 single in 14 tries), so there’s no sense in playing the numbers there.

I suppose this also means the Dodgers are confident in Belliard’s hamstring, despite his missing a week and getting just one at-bat in the season finale. Or maybe it was just the fact that Hudson ended the season on a 1-13 tear that caused them to make that call. So I’m okay with this, as long as Belliard starts in Game 2 as well.

In other news, a bit of a surprise comes with Vicente Padilla being named the Game 3 starter over Chad Billingsley, with Billingsley going in Game 4. You’d think I’d be mad about this - the veteran retread picked up for free getting the nod over the talented young star who I’ve advocated for.

But you know what? I’m not. Billingsley still gets a start – this isn’t Padilla and Jon Garland over Billingsley – and Padilla was so dominant against the Rockies on Sunday that it’s hard to not want to see that again. Besides, Padilla’s had great success against these Cardinals, allowing just one homer in 73 plate appearances (and that to Troy Glaus, who might not even play) and has been especially crushing to Mark DeRosa, who’s hitting just .182 in 24 shots against Padilla.

So I get it. And I don’t mind it that much. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that Vicente Padilla is the Game 3 starter in the NLDS. Not Chad Billingsley. Not Hiroki Kuroda. Vicente Padilla. Face=melt.

God, I love the playoffs.

I Told You That Game Would Be Interesting!

Sure, they lost, in a particularly ugly fashion. But it really doesn’t matter. So much happened!


billingsleyvsnats.jpgWelcome back, Chad Billingsley
!

Yes, he hung a breaking ball to Ryan Zimmerman that ended up in the left field bullpen for a three run homer that tainted his night. Yes, there’s a bit of a worry that he imploded again in the 5th or 6th inning. But you know what? I’m taking this as a win, a big win. 4 walks is of course not a great thing, but taking a no-hitter (with 9 K’s!) into the 6th inning? Uh, yeah. I’ll take that just about any day, thanks.

Look, if Billingsley’s only an effective pitcher for 5 innings, that’s a problem going forth in his career. But for this season? With the Dodgers bullpen as effective as it is, that’s just fine for the playoffs. Let others cling to some antiquated notion that a starter must be some sort of horse who collects 26 of his 27 outs by himself; if Billingsley starts a Game 3 or 4 and leaves after 5 or 6 effective innings to turn the game over to the likes of Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton, I am more than okay with that.

It’s unfortunate that Billingsley is probably going to look back on this night and think of the homer (to Ryan Zimmerman, of all people – that’s hardly something to be ashamed of, as it was his 31st of the year) but with how badly he’s struggled, this is definitely something to build on.

ERA can be as stupid as wins sometimes!

One earned run here or there doesn’t usually make for a big deal, but when you’re George Sherrill and you enter the game with a 0.40 ERA, it sure does. Sherrill’s ERA nearly doubled to 0.77 because of some awful Dodger defense – none of which went down as errors, so the run was earned.

With the scored tied in the 8th, Sherrill entered and gave up one hit, one easy flyout to left-center that Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez let drop in between them, and then, with one out, a perfect double play ball up the middle… that Orlando Hudson threw wide of first, allowing the run to score.

In the books, that’s one run on two hits and a fielder’s choice. Funny how that doesn’t reflect two lousy defensive plays that victimized Sherrill.

When will Orlando Hudson get his wrist replaced with adamantium?

I watched this game in a bar in New York City’s Sullivan Square (yeah, you can imagine their reaction when I asked for the Dodgers/Nationals game), and when I saw Hudson crumple to the ground grabbing his twice-injured wrist, I couldn’t believe it. “Three years in a row!!”, I yelled incredulously. While the replay didn’t look that bad – by which I mean, in my completely non-medical opinion, I couldn’t see an obvious break or injury – the fact is, the man’s wrist is made of paper mache. We’ll have to wait to see how bad it is, but good lord. Speaking of which… 

Hey, anyone still think Ronnie Belliard’s hurting the team?

Two more hits and a walk? Check.

Much more neccessary now that Hudson may miss some time? Check.

Go ahead, FanGraphs. Bash him now.

This Isn’t Even Fair

Hey, don’t get me wrong – I’m enjoying watching the Dodgers beat up on the hapless Nats right now as much as the next guy. As I write this, the Dodgers have just put up a seven-spot in the third to take a 8-2 lead against Livan “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” Hernandez. With the struggles we’ve seen from the offense lately, it’s a fantastic sign going into the final stretch of the season and October.

livansucks.jpgThe thing is… look, I’m not trying to be a downer here. But it’s Livan Hernandez. This is a guy who was outright cut by the Mets last month, and considering the Mets’ rotation right now consists, I believe, of Mike Pelfrey, Nelson Figueroa, Sid Fernandez, Omar Minaya’s nephew, and one of the Olsen twins, it’s saying a lot to think they told him, “thanks… but no thanks.”

Seriously, look at the recent track record of this guy – a 5.47 ERA for the Mets this year. 8.03 in 8 games for Colorado last year, and 5.48 in 23 games for the Twins to start 2008. He hasn’t even been a league-average pitcher since scraping by with a 3.98 ERA for these same Nationals in 2005, yet somehow he keeps getting work. And he’s not even a lefty! Even just take his history against the Dodger lineup – a .311/.357/.432 career line against, and since it’s over 466 plate appearances, that’s no small sample size. (Though somehow Juan Pierre still checks in with just .629 OPS and a 9/3 K/BB ratio).

Or look at his pitch stats for tonight’s game, because all he was throwing was 86-87 MPH fastballs. Because somehow that’s going to be good enough to get by. And surprise, surprise, the overweight guy who got cut by the Mets, and who’s listed at 34 but is probably much older, and who hasn’t been effective in years got crushed against a team he’s had no success against. Shocking!

So yeah, it’s an enjoyable night. Let’s just keep in mind who it came against. And good lord, look at his gut in that picture above.

***
Oh no, Ronnie Belliard started at second base again tonight and is 2-3 with a walk and an RBI! Sure is making the team worse, isn’t he?