MSTI.com’s 2007 In Review: Third Base

Third base? Hoo boy, did I draw the short straw.

Oh, and just so we’re clear what we’re dealing with at this position, here:

Dodger Third Basemen, 2005-07 (3 seasons since Beltre left):hotcorner.jpg
1. Mike Edwards
2. Oscar Robles
3. Antonio Perez
4. Olmedo Saenz
5. Nori Nakamura
6. Jose Valentin
7. Willy Aybar
8. Cesar Izturis
9. Wilson Betemit
10. Bill Mueller
11. Julio Lugo
12. Ramon Martinez
13. Joel Guzman
14. Wilson Valdez
15. Tony Abreu
16. Shea Hillenbrand
17. Nomar Garciaparra
18. Andy LaRoche

These are not the All-Stars you are looking for.

Lightning round!

Nomar Garciaparra (C)
(in 159 AB as 3B: .302/.349/.447 6hr 21rbi)

2007 Recap: Vin did a really good job explaining just how bad Nomar was on the whole this year, so I won’t reiterate all of what he said. Rather, I’ll just focus on his time at 3B.. and I’m shocked to report that he wasn’t completely awful. Part of it was he was simply benefiting the club by not nomar_iymgkjnc_1.jpgblocking His Holyness Pope Loney IV anymore, but the numbers above? Not completely bad. Unfortunately for him, it was completely overshadowed by his mind-blowingly bad numbers at 1B. (I hear he was outslugged for most of the year by Juan Pierre? Vin? What?)

2008 Outlook: Gracefully walks away from the game to devote more time to his family, after fulfilling his dream of playing for his childhood team. Oh, we gave him a two year deal? Scratch that.

2008 Outlook: Opens the season as the starting 3B, hits .280/.280/.280 for 3 solid months, while Griddle keeps Andy LaRoche nailed to the bench. Misses 5 weeks with a hangnail and a yeast infection, while LaRoche crushes ball after ball. Returns to claim starting 3B job anyway. Which will at least have the silver lining of allowing me to constantly use this picture, which I love more than life itself.

Wilson Betemit (C-)
(.231/.359/.474 10hr 26rbi w/Dodgers)

2007 Recap: Oh, Meat. Things just didn’t turn out for us like we’d hoped. You are an enigma, covered in a question, wrapped in a burrito, smothered in secret sauce. Remember back in July, when we said you should be the starting 3B? (Side note: love that this blog has now been going long enough that I can reference my own posts from the past). Why did you toy with us so? First it was the 6 hits and .125 average as the starting 3B in April. Then it was the .725 SLG in May, by meat.jpgwhich point you’d lost your job to Andy LaRoche. Then there was the sudden spurt of being the world’s greatest pinch hitter (3 HR and a 1.102 OPS). All the while, you tantalized us with your quality OBP (.359), impressive power (.454 SLG), and surprisingly solid defense, while simultaneously frustrating us and infurating the common fan with your inability to keep your batting average over .230. And then you were gone; traded away for Scott Proctor, just in time to have the rest of the 3B corps get hurt and force us into watching Shea Hillenbrand for a month.

Oh, Meat. What could have been, if only you could have just gotten a few extra singles each month to appease the masses’ thirst for batting average.

2008 Outlook: Pfft, who cares. He’s a Yankee. He’s dead to us now.

Tony Abreu (B+)
(.279/.301/.404 2hr 17rbi)

2007 Recap: That’s right, Abreu actually started twice as many games at 3B as he did at 2B, thanks to the revolving door of tears at the hot corner. Remember what your thoughts were on Abreu before 2007? No, you don’t. Because you didn’t have any, until he completely dominated Spring Training. Then again, so did Larry Bigbie, and who remembers him at all? Abreu crushedph_473234.jpg the Grapefruit league with a .566 SLG (!), forcing his way into the infield picture, and might have actually made the opening day roster if not for a shoulder injury at the end of camp. You know what? He made up in May, and was actually pretty damned good, especially for a 22-year-old who wasn’t considered in our top tier of prospects and was continually jerked around in the bigs in terms of playing time and being out of position.

Sure, he was at times brutal at third base. A .947 fielding % sure isn’t good. However, I can’t even kill him too much for that, because I can’t find any record of him ever having played 3B in a professional game before 2007, just 2B and SS. At his natural position of 2B, he was excellent defensively, not making a single miscue all year – which makes him defensively somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 suns hotter than Jeff Kent.

2008 Outlook: Well, this is going to depend almost entirely on what Porn Stache decides. If he retires, I don’t neccessarily have a problem with letting Abreu and Chin-Lung Hu fight it out for 2B, knowing that either way we’ll have a fantastic young defender with a bit of offensive juice. If Kent comes back, as I assume is likely, then we’ve got ourselves a pretty damned good middle infield backup/defensive substitute.

Andy LaRoche (inc.)
(.226/.365/.312 1hr 10rbi)

2007 Recap: Only got 93 at-bats, so he just sneaks in under the “incomplete” banner here, plus he retains his rookie eligibility for next year. Sort of hard to judge Andy, I think. He was practically the starting 3B for most of May and didn’t really hit much (6 singles and 2 doubles in 38 at-bats), but he showed a remarkable patience at the plate (15 walks, getting him a ph_451188.jpgphenomenal .436 OBP). Most rookies come up eager to impress and hack away. But LaRoche’s advanced mastery of the strike zone earned him… a trip right back to Vegas until September. Where, by the way, his .988 OPS said, “what’s up.” He didn’t really hit all that much when he came back, either – as late as Sept. 19, he was hitting .193. But when the wheels finally came off the season, he actually got a real chance to play. From Sept. 20, he started all but one game the rest of the season, and you know what? Signs of improvement. 10 hits in 36 at-bats, 1st major league home run – though the strikeouts were a little worrisome. Also, “a bad back” isn’t exactly a great diagnosis for someone his age, so it’s certainly something to keep an eye out for.

I think a lot of it is Dodger fans have been unbelievably spoiled by the almost immediate success of Martin, Loney, Broxton, etc etc. So when LaRoche “struggled”, by comparison, he looked bad. 93 at-bats is really enough to judge one of our highest-rated prospects? Uh, I think not.

2008 Recap: Either A) traded as part of a deal for a real 3B; B) sitting behind Nomar or stuck back in Vegas; or C) playing every day for the Dodgers. I’ll rank my choices as C, A, me struck by lightning, me in a three-way with Mike Tyson and Secretariat, B.

Shea Hillenbrand (inc.)
(.243/.257/.343 1hr 9rbi w/Dodgers)

2007 Recap: Well, here’s an interesting one. Hillenbrand was given way too much money to sign with the Angels, and delivered so well on his contract that they flat-out cut him in June, thanks to a phenomenal 61 OPS+. He catches on with San Diego’s AAA affiliate, and was so good that they.. flat-out cut him in August. You’d think that’s the death knell for an over-30 player’s career,shea.jpg right? Not when the 2007 Dodgers are involved! Thanks to Nomar, Abreu, and LaRoche all going on the DL and Betemit getting traded to the Bronx, Hillenbrand was miraculously made the starting third baseman of a team in the middle of a pennant push. And to the surprise of no one, he was terrible! The stats quoted above are Dodgers-only, and they add up to an OPS+ of.. 52! Which can also be read as “even worse than the stats that caused the Angels to eat his contract and cut him” or “52% as good as the rest of the National League.” Seriously. He was half as good as average. Half. He played nearly every day from Aug. 13 to Sept. 1… and amusingly, got the grand total of one at-bat from Sept. 9 on.

On the other hand, if you’d told me near the end of August that the Dodgers clubhouse would devolve into selfish infighting and absurd controversy and that Shea Hillenbrand wasn’t prominently involved? Well, let’s just say I’d owe you a Coke.

2008 Outlook: 2008? I could care less if Shea Hillenbrand is running a child porn cocaine arson dogfighting ring or sailing the high seas as a pirate, as long as he’s nowhere near being employed by the Dodgers.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Rosie O'Donnell to appear in Penthouse

George W. Bush, president-for-life.
Shea Hillenbrand, Dodgers starting third baseman.

We’re through the looking glass here, people. Black is up. East is day. And good old Shea is playing every day.

In case you haven’t heard, yesterday’s befuddling move to send down Delwyn Young and recall Shea Hillenbrand makes a bit more sense now that Nomar’s been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left calf, that according to the official Dodgers’ blog, has “been bothering him for a while”.

Now, much as I dislike Shea Hillenbrand on and off the field, it’s hard to complain that we’re stuck with him after a ridiculous run of injuries to Tony Abreu, Andy LaRoche, and Nomar has destroyed our third base depth.

But here’s what’s bothering me; the part of that quote that says “for a while”. What exactly does “a while” mean. Because if it’s 1 nomar.jpgsecond earlier than the moment Wilson Betemit was traded on July 31, then I’ve got a serious bone to pick with Ned Colletti here. I’m on the record as saying I didn’t mind the trade at the time – though I did think Meat was worth more – because I thought we had a surplus at 3B and a dire need in the ‘pen. But if Nomar’s injury was a known quantity to the team at that point? Then trading Meat for Scott Proctor is bordering on negligence.

Meanwhile, Nomar continues to screw us. When we’re knee-deep in young, talented third basemen? Nomar stays healthy as can be, so he can continue to play, block them, and suck the life out of the offense. When we’re losing guys at the hot corner left and right? Now Nomar comes up lame.

Thanks, beautiful.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

I Used to Bullseye Hillenbrands in My T-16 Back Home

darth2bvader.jpgI realize, I do, that the site has been overtly negative lately, which is not quite how I want things to be around here. It’d be nice to be able to be a lot more objective, but I’m sure most Dodger fans realize that the recent down times have made that hard.

But then, things like this happen. As Vin (uh, the real one) just mentioned on the game broadcast, Delwyn Young has been optioned down to Las Vegas.. and Shea Hillenbrand has been brought up.

I’m having a really hard time finding the right words for this – even snarky words. I explained the other day how I thought that Hillenbrand was a failure both as a ballplayer and a person, so I needn’t rehash that. I was resigned to the fact that he was going to make it up when the rosters expanded.. but why now?

I suppose the company line will be “to add depth at the corners”. With LaRoche and Abreu both out of commision, I can understand that we may be a little short-handed here. But, bad as Nomar’s been, we all know he’s going to play just about every day. If the Wrong Ramon Martinez has to play once a week, so be it. If Nomar gets hurt, then fine – it’s emergency time and you call up Hitlerbrand.

But right now? To have another too-old mediocre corner infielder to add to the collection with Nomar, Big Sexy, and Mark Sweeney? Don’t forget, Shea’s already been cut twice this year – once by the Angels despite being paid $6.5 million, and once by the Padres because he was OPS’ing .347 in the PCL. Yes. This will turn the season around.

What’s more, it’s not like there’s no detriment by adding him to the roster. Because, you know – we couldn’t have used Delwyn Young right now. With the whole offense being stagnant; with Luis Gonzalez continuing his quick spiral towards death and Matt Kemp in the midst of major struggles, why would we want to bother with the kid who’s crushed the minors (career SLG: .514) and who hit .500 in his short time up?

Why would we want to give a kid who went 4 for 4 in his only start, you know, another start? No, far better that we teach him and the other young players that success is immaterial in the face of washed-up veteran mediocrity.

And yes, I know Vin (uh, the fake one) has used the Vader picture before on this blog. But nothing else sums up the feelings here right now as accurately.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

The Department of Pointless Signings

The Dodgers signed Shea Hillenbrand to a minor-league deal today because.. uh.. ah, hell – you got me. t1_shea_us.jpg

It’s because the Dodgers really need another over-30 first baseman.
Well, they already have Big Sexy (who, by the way, survived the axe today – DJ Houlton was sent down). And just yesterday they acquired 37-year-old Mark Sweeney. Not to mention Nomar’s still an option. I know Andy LaRoche’s injury issues aren’t exactly making the team confident that he can contribute soon, but what exactly causes a team to need to go out and get Sweeney and Hillenbrand on back to back days?

It’s because Shea Hillenbrand is a good major league hitter.
Well… no. The Angels thought so much of him this year that after giving him $6.5 million dollars, they dumped him on June 27th after 197 unremarkable at bats in which he put up a .600 OPS (!) with 3 home runs. The Padres gave him a shot, and he sure paid off – a .347 OPS. In AAA. That’s OPS. In the minors. I know it was over a small sample size, but still – OPS’ing .347 in the PCL? That says to me “ready for the big leagues” in the same sense that I feel Helen Keller is ready to play drums for Metallica.

It’s because Shea Hillenbrand is a really nice guy.
Uh, wow. Because if you follow baseball, you may remember the time he ever so eloquently told Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, “trade me now, fag.” Or the time his own manager challenged him to a fistfight after he wrote “this ship is sinking” on the clubhouse bulletin board. Yeah. He sounds like a barrel of laughs.

I know – it’s a minor league deal, and there’s a great chance he continues to stink it up in the PCL and never wears the Blue. I guess I just don’t see any point to this. We don’t need him, he can’t play, and he’s a jackass. That sounds like the trifecta in my book.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg