Hello, Brendan Harris (& Clint Robinson); So Long, Skip Schumaker

BYE SKIP!

BYE SKIP!

More comings and goings to pass along today, as is typical for this time of the year.

**Welcome, Brendan Harris, I guess. (waves hand) This is not the backup infielder you are looking for. But he might just be the one you’ll get, since the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract that comes with an invite to major league camp. Harris, 33, has a career line of .256/.314/.381 in parts of eight seasons, though only one of those eight seasons has come in the last three years — he didn’t see big league time in 2011 or 2012. In 2013, he got into 44 games with the Angels, was DFA’d in July, spent a month in the Yankees organization, got cut, and spent the final few weeks in Triple-A with Texas. (He was also once Nick Punto‘s double play partner in Minnesota.)

He can’t hit, obviously; after a decent 2007 as a starting middle infielder for Tampa, he’s got a cumulative line of .246/.303/.359 in 1,180 plate appearances. He can play all four infield spots, but none particularly well, in case you’re wondering if he’s just a good glove who can play all over and… well, Albuquerque needs players too, you know. You’ve got to field a team, right? Did we begrudge them the services of Rusty Ryal and Brian Barden? Of course not. Now, let’s just hope that’s all it is.

**Albuquerque finds a first baseman. Clint Robinson, 29 in February, also receives a spring training invite. Robinson has smashed in the minors, putting up a .301/.378/.506 line with Kansas City & Toronto, but he seems to have peaked: after a 1.035 OPS in Double-A in 2010, it’s been .932, then .845, then .733. He’ll probably be hilarious in Albuquerque, crushing huge dingers, but he’s a poor first baseman and has only four major league plate appearances.

**Nice having you, Kelvin De La Cruz. You don’t know him, and you shouldn’t, really. He never appeared for the Dodgers, and has never appeared in the bigs at all, though he was intriguingly good for the Isotopes last year. Somehow, he’s turned that into a major league deal with Baltimore. Good for him, I think.

**So long, Skip Schu– wait, what? When I reviewed Skip Schumaker‘s season earlier this month, I said “I wonder if the days of him getting guaranteed major league deals are over.” Well, he did get a major league deal from Cincinnati… for two years. Two!!

Poor Red Reporter:

I gotta be honest. There is a lot to hate about this deal. Money numbers aren’t available yet, but this is yet another two-year deal for a crappy replacement-level player. Off the top of my head, I count Willy Taveras, Mike Lincoln, Miguel Cairo (that one actually worked pretty well), Jack Hannahan, Ryan Ludwick, and now Skipper. That’s a lot of guaranteed years for a lot of roster filler.

To his credit, Skipper Doodle has a career OBP of .344. But he hasn’t topped that number since 2009, which was coincidentally the last time he was at all useful. Since then, he has been worth a grand total of -0.3 bWAR. That gets you a multi-year deal and the collective derision of literally hundreds of internet-bound bloggerati-types like me.

Dude really makes his bones by being defensively versatile. He plays second base and all three outfield positions, but none of them well or even average. So there’s that, too.

My Sum-of-All-Fears-24-Jack-Ryan-Jack Bauer Doomsday worst-case scenario take on this is that Skippy is probably going to play a good bit of 2B next year after they trade Brandon Phillips. I mean, Skippy is a fairly decent if not really useful bench player, but if he is starting it is a big, big problem.

So to sum it up, it’s too many years for a replacement player who would be halfway decent in a Jack Hannahan kinda role but will probably be asked to do much more.

I am not impressed.

2013 Dodgers in Review #7: 2B/OF Skip Schumaker

90topps_skipschumaker.263/.332/.332 356pa 2hr .301 wOBA -1.0 fWAR D

2013 in brief: Combined the expected mediocre offense with defense that was merely bad in the outfield and excruciating at second base, resulting in a below-replacement season.

2014 status: Free agent. May have to settle for a non-roster invite somewhere, hopefully not with the Dodgers.

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Unfortunately, we ran into a small bit of website trouble last December, and when I got things fixed a few days of posts had been lost. One of those was the post where I broke the news that Skip Schumaker had been acquired from St. Louis for minor league shortstop Jake Lemmerman, which is unfortunate, because that was a particular high point for me.

It was also a high point for Schumaker’s hopefully completed tenure with the Dodgers, because, it wasn’t great. He was expected to be a somewhat interesting bench piece, providing depth in the outfield as well as using a decent platoon split to pair with Mark Ellis at second. In theory, that’s a unique and fascinating role.

But while Schumaker got all the playing time you’d expect him to — more, really — the value never came with it. It didn’t help that he started off the season in an awful slump, not pulling his batting average above .200 until May 21, and the platoon split never really showed up. Sure, we complained that Ellis hit only .265/.319/.325 against righties, but Schumaker managed only .265/.338/.333, which is only ever so slightly better.

Schumaker paired that with some truly, truly terrible defense at second, a huge step down from Ellis. You know as well as I do that single-year defensive metrics aren’t infallible, but I’m also not going to pretend that the fact that he was ranked as the worst defensive 2B in baseball doesn’t pass the sniff test.

As the season went on, Schumaker saw less time at second (only eight starts over the last two months) and more in the outfield as injuries mounted, though his defense was sub-par out there as well. He did manage to heat up over the summer, though, hitting .341/.412/.484 in July & August (which, when looking at his season line, should tell you how rough his first two months were) and in his spare time, led the major leagues in ERA, twice entering in blowouts to throw a scoreless inning:

But of course, after hitting .204/.246/.241 in September, we were faced with a very uncomfortable proposition: with Matt Kemp suddenly out for the year, and Andre Ethier hobbled by an ankle injury, the Dodgers had no choice but to go with Schumaker in center field in the playoffs.

That went about as well as you’d expect. Schumaker started all four games of the NLDS, hitting only .231/.313/.231. That motivated the team to try to get by with Ethier in the NLCS, while Schumaker started Game 2 and pinch-hit in three others, going 0-6.

Schumaker turns 34 in February, and while I’m sure he’d love to return, I’m hoping the Dodgers can find a way to upgrade. He’ll be a free agent, and I wonder if the days of him getting guaranteed major league deals are over.

******

Next! You thought it was going to be Hanley Ramirez, didn’t you? You’ll have to get through Dee Gordon first!

Skip Schumaker & Elliot Johnson: Which Worst is Worse?

johnson_elliot

We’ve been talking a lot about Skip Schumaker potentially playing center field in the NLDS for obvious reasons, but the Dodgers aren’t the only team with a big trouble spot at a particular position. With tonight’s news that the Braves are likely to leave Dan Uggla — who is atrocious — off the roster, that means they’re really going to go with Elliot Johnson as their starting second baseman.

Other than being deemed slightly less awful than Uggla, there’s not a lot going for Johnson here. He wasn’t drafted out of high school, then signed with the Rays in 2002 — and if you can think of another example of an undrafted high schooler actually signing with a pro team rather than going to college, please let me know — then spent parts of 10 seasons in the Rays organization, getting a cup of coffee in 2008, losing his spot on the 40-man, but seeing some more serious playing time in 2011-12. In 200 games as a Ray, he hit .223/.283/.338. That… is terrible.

But it’s also nothing compared to his 2013. DFA’d in February, he was sent to Kansas City in February as the player to be named later in the James Shields / Wil Myers deal, then hit so wonderfully in 79 games – .179/.218/.241 — that the Royals DFA’d him as well in August. When Atlanta picked him up, Craig Calcaterra titled his NBC post “The Braves claim Elliot Johnson on waivers for some reason,” and now, here he is, starting at second base in the playoffs.

Johnson can field, sort of, and he can run reasonably well, successfully stealing 22 bags in 24 chances this year, but he just can’t hit, not with a .218/.273/.319 line after more than 800 plate appearances. Is that black hole worse than the center field hole the Dodgers are about to have? For all the angst we’re dealing with in center, the Braves have a pretty serious issue of their own.

I’m not sure which is worse, but I do know this — when Johnson was picked up by Kansas City, Royals Review writer Craig Brown described him thusly:

He doesn’t walk, has some speed and is adequately defensively. Most important, though… He’s a gamer. A dirt dog. Against all odds, he scrapped, battled, dare I say gritted, his way though his professional career.

Oh. Well, maybe they’re dead even then.

Skip Schumaker, Starting Playoff Center Fielder?

schumaker_2013-06-1I should preface this by saying that no, I don’t really think Skip Schumaker is going to end up starting in center field in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday. My guess is that unless Matt Kemp is completely unable to walk, he’ll force his way into the lineup no matter how sore his ankle is, especially since it sounds more “concerning” than it is “serious”.

But we should know by now that Kemp’s health absolutely cannot be counted on, and Andre Ethier seems more likely to be left off the roster entirely than to be in the starting lineup thanks to his own injury concerns, and Yasiel Puig is not only a hilarious adventure in center, but may have a sore foot of his own after fouling a ball off his foot… and suddenly you realize that it’s not all that hard to envision a scenario where the Dodgers have to go with Schumaker in center field to start the playoffs.

If so, then you sort of hope the Dodgers play St. Louis (with their all-righty starting rotation) than Atlanta (which has lefty Mike Minor likely to start Game 1 and may use Paul Maholm as well), because Schumaker’s platoon splits are well-known. Defensively, the metrics peg him as a below-average outfielder, but he’s also an atrocious second baseman, so anything that keeps him out of the infield is probably a good thing.

Anyway, this is all premature, because if I were to put money on it, I’d expect Kemp to go in the playoffs no matter what. But Schumaker started in center last night and is likely to do so again today — unless Nick Buss gets a final look — and we’re far, far too close to the idea of him being the man in October than I imagine any of us are comfortable with.

Get well soon, Matt. You too, Andre. Quick.

Dodgers 4, Reds 1: When Everything Goes Your Way

schumaker_2013-07-27

Over the All-Star break, I gave Hyun-jin Ryu a ton of credit for being a consistently reliable member of the starting rotation, while at the same time worrying about what his second half would look like. After all his velocity was dropping, his performance had begun to slip a bit, and giving up four earned runs and 11 baserunners in 5.1 innings in his first start of the second half on Monday didn’t help. (Not that anyone noticed, since the Dodgers scored 14 runs to get him the win.)

I’m still not sure what Ryu is going to bring us over the final two months, but I do know that if only for tonight, he absolutely could not have been better. Ryu struck out nine — realize that he’d struck out nine over his three previous starts for the entire month of July — over seven outstanding innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. His night was spoiled only momentarily by allowing a solo homer to Jay Bruce in the second inning, but that was basically it; Ryu left after the seventh having retired 13 in a row. (Including quality relief from Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez, & Kenley Jansen, Dodger pitching retired the final 19 Reds.)

Now, the way things have been going lately we’d probably be all “okay Ryu was fine but dinger this and dinger that” because this offense has generally been absurd. (Absurd in a good way, not in a “the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs against the Cubs in the 8th inning and scored zero runs in a 0-0 game before former Giant Nate Schierholtz hits a homer off of Sergio Romo” sort of way, which, delicious.)

But despite the fact that Bronson Arroyo wasn’t exactly sharp, that’s not how things went tonight. In the first inning the Dodgers had two walks, a stolen base, and a double, yet the team managed just one run. That’s how it stayed until the fifth when Skip Schumaker stepped up — that’s him floating around the bases up above — and absolutely destroyed a ball to dead center field, scoring two. We should really take note of that, because there was nothing cheap about it. It’s not easy to hit a ball out there, and Schumaker got all of it.

Two innings later, Schumaker doubled to center, this time off Alfredo Simon, and came in to score the final run of the game, more than enough to push the Dodgers to seven games over .500. (Despite several stupid baserunning mistakes. We’re not going to talk about that right now.)

So let’s recap: the Dodgers win again, this time finding offense from a bench player and a great starting outing from their third (arguably fourth) best pitcher. The Giants are losing in an excruciating manner. The Diamondbacks got blown out 12-3 by San Diego, pushing the Dodgers to 1.5 games up. The Phillies got crushed 10-0 by Detroit, which helps for those still holding out hope they’ll see Cliff Lee or Chase Utley.

Wow, things just could not be going better right now, could they? I’m terrified. Excited! But terrified.