Your Worst Nightmare

Like I could avoid using this picture. (via)

This has been a pretty productive offseason for the Dodgers, I think. We all liked the Dan Haren signing, we all accepted that Juan Uribe was the best option at third base, I’ve seen few complaints about J.P. Howell or Brian Wilson or Jamey Wright, and while Chris Perez is easily on the bottom of that list, it’s difficult to complain too much about a one-year deal for a few million guaranteed dollars.

All in all, it’s been a productive winter, with the exception of a lack of a backup infielder. And since the market there is so, so barren, that can mean only one thing: It’s the perfect opportunity to do something dumb. What kind of dumb? This counts:

For the record, I have absolutely no information or indication that the Dodgers are in on Betancourt. This is purely me seeing a tweet and having the wheels start turning, nothing more, and we should probably be honest that whether it’s Justin Turner or Alexi Casilla or Omar Quintanilla, we’re going to be underwhelmed by whomever comes in for the job — even if it’s just sticking with Dee Gordon.

Still, “four or five teams in” — and “more expected” (!) — from a reporter who has cornered the industry in terms of scoops on terrible or unknown players means that Betancourt is going to have a job next year, and that alone is unthinkable. In over 4,200 plate appearances over nine seasons, he’s been worth… -0.7 WAR. He can’t hit — .261/.285/.388 — and he can’t field (-74 DRS at shortstop). He’d be the perfect example of a replacement player, except for the fact that he never seems to get replaced. Really, I’m not sure that enough attention has been paid to the fact that he started 46 games for Milwaukee last year… at first base.

And yet, teams appear to be competing for him, because… well, this is one of those cases where our usual analytics don’t matter. I don’t need to recite stats, because they’re all terrible. Yet for some reason he keeps getting work, and when you look at a Ned Colletti-run team that needs a flexible backup infielder and has yet to do anything to infuriate us this offseason…

Again, I have no evidence the Dodgers are one of those teams. But would it really surprise you? Prepare yourselves.

Dodgers of the Decade: Closer

1%! Paul Quantrill edges out Guillermo Mota by 1%! That’s just three votes.

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)
3B: Adrian Beltre (80%)
SS: Rafael Furcal (87%)
LF: Gary Sheffield (62%)
CF: Matt Kemp (94%)
RF: Shawn Green (79%)
LH starter: Clayton Kershaw (56%)
RH starter: Kevin Brown (42%)
LH reliever: Hong-Chih Kuo (57%)
RH reliever: Paul Quantrill (33%)

Well, here’s where the real fun begins, as we choose the last player for our All-Decade team. The Dodgers have had four outstanding closers in the 2000s, and the latter three are in some ways historically good. How can you even choose? Also, Yhency Brazoban!

Did you know that 28 different pitchers recorded a save for the Dodgers in the last ten years? With apologies to Alan Mills, Jesse Orosco, and Steve Schmoll, here’s the five guys who managed at least 20 total saves.

Closer

Eric Gagne (293 games, 2000-06)
Dodger stats: 24-20, 161 saves, 3.34 ERA, 121 ERA+, .650 OPS against
WAR: 10.6

Takashi Saito (180 games, 2006-08)
Dodger stats: 12-7, 81 saves, 1.95 ERA, 226 ERA+, .511 OPS against
WAR: 8.2

Jonathan Broxton (133 games, 2005-09)
Dodger stats: 19-12, 55 saves, 2.92 ERA, 146 ERA+, .591 OPS against
WAR: 6.1

Jeff Shaw (117 games, 2000-01)
Dodger stats: 6-9, 70 saves, 3.89 ERA, 106 ERA+, .710 OPS against
WAR: 1.5

Yhency Brazoban (116 games, 2004-08)
Dodger stats: 10-12, 21 saves, 4.70 ERA, 88 ERA+, .778 OPS against
WAR: -0.8

Top three seasons
4.3 WAR Gagne, 2003
3.7 WAR Saito, 2007
3.2 WAR Gagne, 2002

Now that’s a tough choice. Gagne obviously had what may have been the most dominating stretch by a closer in history, but we also are pretty sure how exactly he was able to pull that off. Saito came out of nowhere and only lasted just more than two years as the closer, but it’s hard to ignore how dominating he was. And Broxton currently holds the Dodger record in K/9. Imagine if Gagne had been healthy in 2006? You could have had all three of them in the same bullpen.

Chew on this one through the weekend, friends, as MSTI is out of town.

With the game on the line, who’s your man of the decade?

[polldaddy poll=2454465]

MSTI.com’s 2008 in Review: Secondary Relievers

Yeesh. This is the review I was dreading, partially because there’s only so much you can write about guys who threw about six innings for the club this year, but partially because it’s a little worrisome to think that our readers might not really want to read an entire post on the dregs of the bullpen. That said, if we didn’t do it this way, we’d have had 11 relievers all bunched together in one post. On we go! No grades here, because they all fall under the “incomplete” heading.

87toppsbrianfalkenborgBrian Falkenborg
(2-2, 6.17 ERA, 1.286 WHIP)
Nothing sums up “Brian Falkenborg” more than the fact that when I did an AP image search for him, of the first eight results I got, one was the picture you see in the card, one was a shot of him fist bumping his San Diego catcher… and six were pictures that he wasn’t even in, but were tagged with his name because they were of other teams celebrating with a caption that inevitably ended “…with the game-winning hit off reliever Brian Falkenborg.”

Actually, for a guy who only pitched 11.2 innings (and somehow picked up 4 decisions in that time) in his second go-round in LA, we sure did talk about him a lot. To be fair, most of our problems with the Brian Falkenborg era weren’t with Falkenborg himself; we all know he’s just not very good, and it came as a surprise to no one that when he got a chance he didn’t really do much to change our minds. No, our problems were mostly with Ned Colletti and Joe Torre for even allowing Falkenborg to be on the roster in the first place. I mean, this is the very first mention of Falkenborg I could find on this blog:

On the other hand, they called up Brian Falkenborg, who already failed in one try with the Dodgers (7.53 ERA in 14.3 innings back in 2004) and has never really had any success in the bigs (5.74 ERA in parts of 5 seasons), while bypassing Mike Koplove, who’s got 222 MLB games of 120 ERA+ work under his belt. I’m sure that makes sense somehow… somewhere… in some reality.

From day one, I didn’t see why he was here, and according to the second post he shows up in (“But thanks to the bullpen blowing his lead tonight – and yes, Brian Falkenborg, even though two of those three runs got charged to Kershaw, it was you who gave up that three run bomb – Kershaw has now gone almost 11 months since his last professional win,”) it’s clear that his already lousy statistics should have been even worse.

I don’t really mean to make this all quotes from previous posts, but they really serve to illustrate the failure of the decision-making regarding Falkenborg all too well, because here’s the third post he was in:

Bringing in the guy who’s somewhere around 16th on the organizational pitching depth chart into a high-pressure situation despite having so many better options around. Brian Falkenborg? Really? The guy who’s been a failure at every MLB stop in his career, with a 5.74 ERA in parts of 5 seasons for 4 teams entering this year? The guy who gave up a 3 run homer in his 5 pitches his last time out? The guy who I said never should have been called up in the first place?

To put it as simply as possible, Joe Torre thought Brian Falkenborg was a better option to prevent the tying run from scoring than Joe Beimel. Falkenborg’s ERA of 3.60 in triple A was three and a half times higher than Beimel’s been able to do in the big leagues – yet somehow, he’s the superior choice here. To the surprise of absolutely no one except for Joe Torre (hell, I bet even Mrs. Falkenborg was covering her eyes when Joe walked out to the mound and raised his right arm), Falkenborg self-immolated on the mound. Sure, he got Aurilia to strike out, but then he gave up a game-tying single to Fred Lewis, walked Ray Durham, and then – because just letting them tie wasn’t good enough – allowed Randy Winn to drive in the go-ahead run.

You can blame Falkenborg here for not getting the job done. But really, there’s no way he ought to have been placed in that situation anyway. He’s the last man on the staff. He ought to be pulling mop-up duty, at best. How he gets put into a high-pressure situation that ultimately decided the game is completely beyond me.

And it’s that last paragraph there really shows the problem here. It’s not Falkenborg failing to get the job done that’s the problem here; he’s a fringe major leaguer at best precisely because he doesn’t get the job done. The problem is that instead of using him as the last man out of the pen or as a mop-up guy, Joe Torre inexplicably kept inserting him into high-pressure situations, in which no one should have expected good results.  The best part was, this kept happening for as long as Falkenborg was here (this post from weeks after the previous one):

What you don’t do is bring in veteran retread Brian Falkenborg ahead of all of these guys. Can we finally give up on the ”Falkenborg is a good pitcher” train that some people seem to be on? We’ve been pretty unhappy with him since day one (see here and here) and we’ve actually gotten some grief over it, and I just can’t understand why. Is it his 4.91 ERA coming into the game (that’s now 5.56 after it, by the way)? Is it his history of being unable to stick at the major league level? Even if you can justify him being on the team ahead of some guys we have in the minors (that’s a tough sell for me), I don’t see how anyone can say he’s any better than the last man out of the pen. Look, if we get to the 14th inning and it’s him or letting Russell Martin take the mound, that’s fine – if he gets hammered, what else could you have done? But there’s just no reason you let him pitch before every single other one of your rested and effective pitchers.

To no one’s surprise but Joe Torre’s, Falkenborg let the team down by allowing three of the four men he faced to reach base. Yeah, Joe Beimel hit Rick Ankiel to force the run in, and that was a pretty terrible job by Beimel (although he did rebound to get the next two outs with no further damage). But it’s a situation that never should have happened in the first place.

I suppose this is really more of a discussion for Torre’s review, and we’ll get there. Anyway, the point remains: Brian Falkenborg is a lousy pitcher, and lousy pitchers don’t magically improve when put into high pressure situations. Lousy pitchers DO get DFA’d, as Falkenborg eventually was. Let’s hope that after 2004 and 2008, we don’t have to suffer through this a third time in 2012.

87toppsjamesmcdonaldJames McDonald
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.000 WHIP)
Now we’re talking! After about 1000 words on Brian Falkenborg, it’s time for some real talent, and James McDonald has more than a little of it. Quite a 12 months for Mr. McDonald, I’d say. It was just about this time last year that he was being named the 2007 Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and he spent most of 2008 excelling at AA and AAA, in between having to see his name in constant trade rumors for CC Sabathia, among others.

So after that, coming up to get a quick cup of coffee is a pretty good cap to the year of the local product from Long Beach, right? All the better that it was a positive experience, notching six scoreless innings over four games. Hooray! A good end to a good year. Work hard in the winter, James, and maybe we’ll let you compete for a spot next spring.

Wait, what? We put him on the NLCS roster? And brought him in against the deadly lineup of the Phillies in the Little League field known as Citizens Bank Park? With the bases loaded? Against Pat Burrell? Well, geez, Joe. What an unfair thing to ask the kid to do. He’s going to get abused, and now you’ve ruined a prospect for good. THANKS, JOE. Except…

One amazingly huge bright point, if not so much for this postseason as for next year and beyond: James McDonald. The kid – he’s still only 23, although Clayton Kershaw has skewed our perception of “kid” a little – was a last-minute addition to the playoff roster after getting all of six September innings in four games. Almost exclusively a starter in the minors, even his relief appearances for the Dodgers came with him entering the game at the start of an inning. But tonight, having not pitched in two weeks, he comes in as the fourth pitcher of the third inning of NLCS Game 2… with the bases loaded, Phillies fans going nuts, and slugger Burrell at the plate in Philly’s bandbox park. Recipe for disaster, right? But no! McDonald strikes out Burrell, and proceeds to go three more scoreless innings, striking out four others and giving up just two hits. What an absolutely phenomenal effort by this kid, and he’s really thrown his hat into the ring for a starting rotation gig next year – he’s unscored upon in 8.1 MLB innings.

Really, I hate to base anything on three innings, but that performance was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen all year. Talk about being set up for failure; if he’d given up a grand slam, who could have blamed him? Yet not only did he get out of that situation, he went three more scoreless innings in an unbelievable pressure situation in the hardest pitching park around. Can’t say enough about the kid – that was phenomenal.

I think there’s a bit of a misconception about McDonald among Dodger fans, simply because we haven’t been hearing about him as long as we have Clayton Kershaw. I’m not suggesting that McDonald is as good as Kershaw is, but we tend to forget that McDonald is 4 years older than Kershaw is. It’s not time to let him cool his heels in AAA next year, it’s time to see what the kid’s got. Judging by what we saw in October, I’d say he’s got plenty.

87toppsscottelbertScott Elbert
(0-1, 12.00 ERA, 2.167 WHIP)
I tell you what, after the procession of veteran stiffs like Falkenborg, Sturtze, and the disappearance of Jason Schmidt, I just cannot get enough young talented pitchers. Now, Scott Elbert’s stat line up there looks pretty rotten, but you’ve got to keep two things in mind before judging it. First of all, when you only get into ten games, having one of those be a “giving up 4 runs while getting 0 outs” debacle as happened to him on Sept. 17 in Pittsburgh is really going to inflate those stats. There was a lot of good in there as well – I’ll take a 22-year-old lefty who strikes out 8 in 6 innings any day.

The second reason to cut Elbert a break here is that he’s pitched so little over the last two years. A shoulder injury cut short his 2007 campaign after just three games, and missing your entire age-20 season isn’t exactly the way to get the experience you need. Despite all that, the former starter came back as a reliever to dominate AA-ball in 2008 (2.40 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) and get called up to the Blue.

After missing so much time and having a bit of a rocky start to his MLB career, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see Elbert start out in AAA Las V.. uh.. Albuquerque next year to get some more innings in. By the way, thanks guys. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a Simpsons joke as the AAA team, but having to spell Albuquerque instead of Las Vegas every time? Killer.

87toppsyhencybrazobanYhency Brazoban
(0-0, 6.00 ERA, 2.333 WHIP)
Hey, anyone remember Yhency Brazoban? Last seen fighting with Andruw Jones over the last Big Mac? Remember that time he was our closer of the future and set a Dodgers rookie record for saves (since broken by Takashi Saito)? No? With how little we’ve seen of him over the last three years, it’s really easy to forget just how long he’s been on this team. What’s more shocking? That he was aquired so long ago that it was to bring Jeff Weaver to town to start his Dodger career, or that it was the deal that sent Kevin Brown east? How’s about this: Brazoban made his major league debut against Pittsburgh on August 5, 2004. Other players in Dodger blue that day? Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, David Ross, and Jose Hernandez.

The thing about Brazoban is… he hasn’t been any good since those last two months of 2004. The 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings, I liked. The 5.33 ERA in 74 games the next year? Not so much, and 21 saves be damned. Sure, he’s managed to pitch in each of the last five years, but I’m hardly impressed by the 5, 4, and 2 games he’s thrown in the last three years either, sandwiched around injuries and fatness. You want 2008? He made it into 10 AAA games and put up a 2.40. “Not bad,” you say. Yeah. That’s a 2.40 WHIP, which is brutally awful, and helped him compile that 10.80 ERA.

He’s arbitration eligible this year. Sounds like a prime candidate for non-tendering to me. Ghame over!

87toppstanyonsturtzeTanyon Sturtze
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.857 WHIP)
See that face Tanyon Sturtze is making over there in his picture? Yeah, that’s about the face I made every time I had to think about Tanyon Sturtze as a Dodger this year. It’s the kind of face that roughly says ”Oh no, I just ate Taco Bell, why did I eat Taco Bell, I know better than to eat Taco Bell, where’sabathroom where’sabathroom where’sabathroom.” That’s right, Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness: unafraid to make the occasional poop joke since 2007. I don’t want to put undue importance on a guy who pitched all of 2.2 innings this year, but just like with Falkenborg, it was an example of bizarre roster decisions by the management group. Let’s see…

Did we like seeing Sturtze come up?

Sturtze is 37 years old, and he actually had to start his 2008 at Jacksonville this year, which is an experience I can’t even imagine for a non-rehabbing pitcher of that age. Look, we all know why he’s here; he’s another one of Joe Torre’s unexplained relief pitcher mancrushes, despite the fact that he was never even very good for the Yankees. In his 3 seasons in New York (2004-06), he was reliably below average, posting ERA’s of 5.47, 4.73, and finally 7.59 in 18 games in 2006 before being shown the door. Sturtze hasn’t been even league average since 2001, and suffered through a brutal 4-18 campaign for the 2002 Devil Rays. Last year, he didn’t even get to taste the majors. He somehow spent time at four different levels of the Atlanta system and put up a glowing 9.53 ERA. He’s at least been better than that this year with a 4.70 ERA at Jacksonville and a 4.13 at Las Vegas, but it’s like that’s very good either. Why him to be the 42nd Dodger we see this year rather than, say, Matt Riley, who’s outperforming him in AAA by a good margin? Why not Mike Myers, who had a 166 ERA+ in 55 games for the Yankees last year and is outperforming Sturtze in the minors this year?

It seems we did not. Did we like seeing Sturtze stick over Stults?

That said, I have to ask: why was Stults sent down rather than Tanyon Sturtze? Neither had gotten into a game since they were recalled on the same day last week – Sturtze, in fact, still hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2006. Stults has been outperforming Sturtze in the minors this season, but that’s almost irrelevant since Stults has had major league success this season – have we already forgotten his completely dominating complete game shutout of the White Sox earlier this year? In 6 starts, he had a 3.18 ERA, which is good for a 139 ERA+.

Not only that, now that Kershaw and Maddux are both in the rotation and both unlikely to go deep into games (for different reasons), the club could certainly use an effective multi-inning guy like Stults, rather than a busted veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs in over 2 years (and hasn’t pitched effectively in the bigs in 7 years!)

That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. Did we like keeping Sturtze over picking up another pitcher on waivers?

No, I don’t care about the Twins, and yes, the Dodgers bullpen has been excellent thus far. But the post got me to thinking – should the Blue have tried to go after Reyes? Excellent pen or not, he only has to be better than the weakest link, and when you’ve got Tanyon Sturtze on the payroll, that’s not a tough hurdle to clear. Using Gleeman’s own statistic of xFIP (basically a fancy way of predicting a pitcher’s expected runs allowed per 9 innings, independent of defense), maybe they should have: While Reyes has a xFIP of 4.33, Sturtze is at a truly awful 9.28. However, this doesn’t really mean that the Blue should have acquired Reyes; it just further proves what we’ve been saying all along – that Sturtze doesn’t belong in the big leagues at this point. Would Al Reyes be a better option for a roster spot right now? Sure he would. But so would Eric Stults, Mike Myers, Mike Koplove (once he gets back from Beijing), Matt Riley, and probably James McDonald, too. So that’s only half of the AAA Las Vegas team that’d be preferable – plus even AA lefty Scott Elbert. Passing on Reyes doesn’t really bother me; keeping an inferior option when you’ve got several better ones on the farm does.

And thus, God willing, ends any mention of Worcester’s Own Tanyon Sturtze on this blog or any other.

Finally, one more review. He’s not a reliever, but it was brought to my attention that I neglected to include Jason Schmidt in the starting pitching reviews. To which I say, he didn’t make an appearance in 2008, and I didn’t review Don Drysdale or Mickey Hatcher either. But if we must…

87toppsjasonschmidtJason Schmidt
(0-0, – ERA, – WHIP)
Sorry, this is the only picture I could find of Jason Schmidt as a Dodger. Happy?

 

(Tasteless? Oh, you better believe it. But come on. You laughed, just a bit. You know you did.)

 

(hat tip, Sons of Steve Garvey for the Dodger casket.)

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

MSTI’s First Half Review: Pitching

After dissecting the mess that is the offense, on to much happier subjects: the pitching. With some exceptions, the pitching has been excellent so far, carrying this team where the offense has let it down.

Remember, the grades reflect the performance of the player compared to what reasonably could have been expected of them at the beginning of the year. Less than 10 IP gets you an “incomplete”.

Starters
Chad Billingsley (9-8, 3.25) (A)
Ace. Not “going to be an ace”. Not “potential to be an ace.” Ace. I mean, he’s third in all of baseball in strikeouts behind only two other certified aces, C.C. Sabathia and Tim Lincecum, despite having 21 and 13 fewer IP, respectively. His 3.25 ERA is 11th in the NL, and that’s even though he had a 5.20 ERA in April due to his being jerked around in his first three appearances around rain delays and relief stints. (Relive that terror here.) He still needs to work on keeping the pitch count down and getting deeper into games, but just in case you forgot: he’s 23 years old and he’s already one of the best pitchers in baseball. Enjoy watching this kid for the next ten years.

Derek Lowe (7-8, 3.45) (B+)
Death, taxes, and Derek Lowe, right? Look at Lowe’s WHIPs in his 4 years in LA: 1.252, 1.266, 1.269, 1.226. Look at his ERAs: 3.61, 3.63, 3.88, 3.85. The man has become a model of consistency – although thanks to the Dodgers’ lousy offensive attack, he’s on pace for this third losing season out of four. This year, though, Lowe actually made it interesting, sandwiching excellent months of April (2.88) and June (2.81) around a brutal May (6.11). Yet he still ends up almost exactly where he’s always been. Say what you will about Paul DePodesta, but the deal he signed Lowe to ended up being an absolute steal.

Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.42) (A)
It’s appropriate that Kuroda comes after Lowe, because while Kuroda’s been surprisingly good, he’s also been amazingly inconsistent. I think we’re all thrilled with the 128 ERA+ from a unknown Japanese import, but who’d have imagined how he’d come by it? In just his last 6 outings, he’s had two complete game shutouts (first by a Dodger since Lowe in 2005) plus another 7 shutout inning effort – but also two 6-run games in which he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning. On the plus side, both of those stinkers came before his short stint on the DL, and he’s been nails ever since.

This man needs a better nickname. I’ve seen “Rusty” and “Hero” floating around, but I’m not sure how I feel about either.

Brad Penny (5-9, 5.88) (F)
Ugh. The supposed “ace” coming into the season – he did start the All-Star Game last year – has been on the DL since June 17, and he was probably hurt for quite a while before that. On June 1, I put forth the idea that Penny had a very good April and a lousy May, so it wasn’t time to panic based on one bad month. Of course, it only got worse and then he went on the DL. Fortunately, the starting depth has been excellent, because there’s not too many teams who can weather the loss of their opening day starter and improve, but it does sort of muddy his future. He’s still got that team option for $8.75 next year which I still feel you simply have to pick up (as long as he can return and show any sort of effectiveness), but it’s hardly a given anymore.

Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 4.42) (B-)
A really hard grade to assign for the kid. In a vacuum, he was only a pretty average major league pitcher (99 ERA+). On the other hand, he’s just 20 years old, so to achieve even that was pretty impressive. Basically, Kershaw came out and did exactly what you’d expect he would have: obvious flashes of brilliance, a little wildness and inconsistency, and difficulty working deep into games due to high pitch counts. Still, I hope the experience did him well; he probably was able to learn a lot about what it takes to succeed in the bigs, and when he returns – as he almost certainly will later this season – hopefully he’ll have taken a step forward. That said, it was the right decision to send him down.

Eric Stults (2-2, 2.67) (A+)
2006: 1-0, 5.60 ERA in 6 games (2 starts)
2007: 1-4, 5.82 ERA in 12 games (5 starts)

MSTI on Stults, March 5, 2008:

Eric Stults, I guess? Actually, I haven’t heard word one about him being in the mix this spring at all, so I’m not even sure if he’s being considered. Even so, his career MLB record of 2 wins and a 5.75 ERA is hardly the stuff legends, or even league-average pitchers, are made of.

Well, let the legend begin. Seriously, if someone told you the “Dodgers will have 3 complete game shutouts at the break” and you guessed “Two by Kuroda and one by Stults” you’d be in a psychiatric hospital right now. And it’s not just been that one dominating game against the ChiSox; even in his last start, after giving up 3 runs in the first inning to the Marlins, he completely shut them down for the next 5 innings. I have no illusions that Stults has stumbled upon the secret grave of Cy Young, but he’s been more than effective and one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Keep it up, Stultsy.

Swingmen
Chan Ho Park (4-2, 2.63) (A+)
MSTI, March 5, 2008, discussing starting rotation depth:

Chan Ho Park, that’s right, the Chan Ho Park. How’d his 2007 go? Not bad, just a brutal 6-14, 5.99 ERA campaign. In the minor leagues. I’m not even brave enough to do the calculations to see what that would have equated to in the bigs.

Oh well. At least I can take comfort in the fact that there’s no one on the planet – come on, not even Mrs. Park – who saw this coming. Chan Ho Park hasn’t had an ERA under 4.81 or an ERA+ within sniffing distance of league average since… wait for it.. 2001, his last season in LA. In the intervening six seasons, he ranged from bad (3 seasons in Texas with ERA’s over 5) to hurt (just 7 games in 2003) to completely irrelevant (just one game in the bigs last year, for the Mets, in which he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings). Yet back in LA, where he was above league average in 5 of his 6 full seasons.. he’s been amazing. A 166 ERA+? A 2.16 ERA in 5 starts? This isn’t just a rebirth for Park. This might be the best season of his career. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Hong-Chih Kuo (3-1, 1.69) (A+)
Previously known for 4 elbow surgeries, a curious affinity for beating up on the Mets, and flipping his bat after hitting a homer against said Mets, Hong-Chih Kuo has become what no one expected he ever could be: a reliable, effective major league pitcher. Forget “effective”. He’s been dominating at times, with a 1.69 ERA, and he’s been absolute murder on lefthanded batters, who strike out against him nearly half of the time. But for some bizarre reason, Torre insists on bringing him in when the Dodgers are behind; a majority of his batters faced have been in “low leverage” situations. Because when you’ve got a guy who’s mowing people down, you definitely want him to come in for mop-up situations. Of course.

Esteban Loiaza (1-2, 5.63) (F)
Although I suppose, he really should have gotten a “DFA” as a grade. But hey, at least for the $8 million or so the Dodgers paid him, he gave them 2 wins in 8 starts over the last two seasons before being unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Did he really pitch 24 innings for the Dodgers this year? I mean, I know he did, but doesn’t that seem like it was about 40 years ago?

Bullpen
Takashi Saito (3-3, 2.18, 17 of 20 saves) (A-)
I write this review with a lot of trepidation, as the results of Saito’s right elbow MRI are still unknown. But when a 38-year-old pitcher says that his throwing arm hurts too much to brush his teeth with it, that’s not exactly what’s known around the industry as a “good sign”. I hate to say it, but there’s a part of me that’s afraid we’ve seen the last of him.

As for this year, there’s been some sentiment around the Internets that he’s lost it, and I for the life of me just can’t see why. He’s really had two lousy games all season, and his ERA+ is still a fantastic 201. Is it because he’s not as dominating as last year, when he had a better season than future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera has ever had? Sure, he hasn’t, but he’s still been a pretty damned effective closer, and if he’s DL’d or worse, there’s no question this team’s in trouble without him.

Jonathan Broxton (2-2, 3.40) (B-)
Amazing that Broxton’s still only 24, isn’t it? Seems like he’s been here forever, and this is his 4th season in the bigs. It’s been a weird season for the Bull; he’s still been effective, but not as good as he’s been over the last two years. He’s also had a few disaster games (6 runs in 1/3 IP to lose vs. Houston, and 3 runs in 1/3 IP to blow a game in New York).

I guess we’re going to find out a lot more about him pretty quickly, though; with Saito likely hitting the DL, we’re going to get our first look at Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers Closer.

Joe Beimel (3-0, 1.61) (A)
You know what they say about middle relievers; they’re so up-and-down from year to year that it’s a mistake to ever depend on them. Except for the third year in a row, Joe Beimel’s been incredibly reliable out of the Dodgers bullpen. His ERA is a little deceiving; while he’s clearly doing a good job of not letting guys score, his WHIP is from 1.29 to 1.42 this year. Still, 5 earned runs at the All-Star break is pretty impressive.

Besides, how many middle relievers get their own crazy dedicated fans?

Scott Proctor (1-0, 6.82) (F)
Booooooooooooooooooo. Booooooooooooooooo! He was terrible, I mean, truly awful, before going down with a bum arm, which sort of makes me think this post I made after Torre was hired (RIP Scott Proctor, 1977-2008) was pretty accurate. Maybe all those years of abuse from Torre in New York finally caught up to him?

Cory Wade (0-1, 2.56) (A+)
Along with Park, Kuo, and Stults, the Dodgers have been the lucky recipient of several massive pitching surprises this year, and Wade certainly fits the bill. I mean, really: Cory Wade? This is what is so simultaneously great and frustrating about baseball – you can never predict things like this. Wade got called up from AA Jacksonville to be the last man out of the pen and has been so good that he’s become a pretty important piece. A 171 ERA+ and a 1.009 WHIP will do that for you. But still. Cory Wade. Good for him.

Ramon Troncoso (0-1, 4.91) (C-)
Snooze. I have to say, I nearly forgot Troncoso was even on the roster. I mean really, what can you say about Ramon Troncoso? He’s only gotten into 13 games, and he’s been predictably mediocre. In fact, he’s only gotten into two games this month, so it seems like Joe Torre may have forgotten he existed too. Oddly enough, for a right-handed pitcher, he’s way more effective against lefties (.451 OPS) than righties (.917 OPS).

Brian Falkenborg (1-2, 6.43) (incomplete)
It’s amazing how much discussion we’ve had around here for a guy who’s only pitched seven innings. Of course, when you’re a career quad-A pitcher who racked up 2 losses in those 7 innings because Joe Torre insists on putting you into high-pressure situations, you’re going to get some things written about you, and they’re not going to be all that good. Look, for all the vitriol about him, I don’t really have a problem with Falkenborg’s existence so much as I do Joe Torre’s usage of him, and that’s really something that Falkenborg has no control over. So Joe, if you want to use him, that’s fine, but can’t you just give him the Hong-Chih Kuo Memorial “Pitcher Who Only Comes In When the Dodgers Are Losing” scholarship?

Yhency Brazoban (0-0, 6.00) (incomplete)
Remember when we actually called this guy “Ghame Over”? What a year for Yhency. Actually, what a career. This is somehow the fifth straight season in which he’s been on the Dodgers, except that he’s only made it into 11 games between 2006-08. After coming back from arm surgery, he showed up to camp, well, let’s just say, “hefty.” He was pretty good in the minors and made it back up to the bigs on May 9th, but in the 16 days he was up, he only got into two games, giving up two runs in three innings. Now back in the minors, he’s once again been hurt and is carrying a 12.37 ERA in 8 games at Vegas. I still can’t believe this guy was once our closer and the heir to the Gagne Throne.

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