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Wasted Movement

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers


Happy post Easter hangover to you. I thought I’d write a short article since the whole 140 character thing doesn’t really work all the time. In general I seem to get a lot of followers who follow anything with the word “Dodger” in the name (“Tax Dodger”? Reserved for the Commander in Chief, I guess). Once I tweet a few cynical (honest) comments, they quickly unfollow. Such is life.

Anyway, I thought I’d comment on the topic everyone is talking about – Rich Hill’s 2nd DL stint in as many starts. How is this a surprise to anyone? Andrew Friedman, trying to save face, is making the rounds, saying he’s not worried. No, front offices love when their expensive new toys end up chronically injured. Who are you trying to fool, Andy? Sure, you might feel you have “depth” (I call ’em semi warm bodies), but it couldn’t have been in the plans to have your #2 behind Clayton Kershaw saying it would take a “medical miracle” to get him on the mound again. And now talk of his going to the pen to save the boo boo finger? Really, you signed a 37 year old pitcher to a $48M deal with the intention of him being just another bullpen guy, next to your AAAA retreads? Sorry, not buying that.

I know the beat writers and local radio guys won’t question the genius of the front office as they don’t dare lose access to the clubhouse – and the free meals. I on the other hand have nothing to lose. I write what is very apparent – hardly genius at all. It just so happens in today’s world, if you exhibit a decent amount of common sense, you look intelligent. Who woulda thunk?

As I have tweeted many times, all you have to do is go to this blog and comb through the old articles and see my take on everything Dodgers. All the injuries discussed in advance, all the bad deals commented on as they were made, the mediocre or worse players the Moneyball minded acquire, debunked early on. Again, it’s not being super smart, it’s using basic intelligence. And yes, just having seen a lot of baseball in my life. It’s the same thing Saber guys (I don’t think women are stupid enough to be Saber) dislike traditional minded scouting and managing for. It’s too simple. You watch, you gauge it on lots and lots of similar circumstances (100+ years of MLB, pretty much) and you can therefore make semi logical assumptions. One might call it “data”, but I hear that term has been trademarked.

Here we are 13 games into the 2017 season and the Dodgers are in third place, 1 game over .500. The fans, as always, are up and down like the temperature. If they beat the Padres, whose entire payroll is less than what Kershaw makes alone, they talk shit and boast, gearing up for the World Series appearance. If they lose to a better Western foe, they panic.

The season is long and I will go on a limb and say the type of front office work the Friedman/Zaidi and assorted Dream Team collection of overpaid executives are doing could work as well in 2017 as it did in 2016. I think I figured it out, though, like a bad detective show, my answer was right in front of me the whole time.

While I think the West should certainly be better than it was last year (Giants will wake up, Rox seem improved and only getting better, Arizona perhaps better under their new Moneyball-type front office), I can see the Dodgers making the playoffs. Before you get too excited, I can also see them missing the playoffs. Somewhere between winning the West, getting the wild card and losing out in the playoff round robin, is where they will be. I am not one to predict outcomes of divisions so much as a lot of things happen.

I will say that unless changes are made (and why would they be?), it’s unlikely the Dodgers, as constructed now, will advance to the World Series, should they get anywhere near. My reason is I look at tonight’s tragic lineup and I just don’t see where $230M was spent. Any given night the lineup, starter and/or bullpen participants might be aged journeymen or AAAA castoffs. Friedman calls it “depth” – Paul DePodesta didn’t even call it that, but maybe he should have. His roster was the same littering of nobodies and never weres.

With Hill having recurring blister problems, it makes me wonder why Friedman would take a chance on him again. Last July, Friedman waited till the 11th hour before the trade deadline to move three prospects for Hill and Josh Reddick, who apparently Friedman didn’t realize hadn’t done anything since May. Ok, I’ll make excuses and say Friedman thought he could wait everyone out and find lightning in a bottle – after all, Moneyball centerfold Billy Beane snatched Hill up during the off-season after seeing him throw a few good games in unimportant late season starts for Boston. If Hill was good enough for Beane…

Hill, of course, came over hurt, spent a long time on the DL and then made some useful starts in September and October for the Dodgers. But facts are facts and Hill was an aging player, not long out of independent league ball (like Scott Kazmir, who Friedman admitted was a poor signing just a year before as he shopped him this winter, with no takers). But with the free-agent and trade markets thin (the time to shop was the winter before when names like Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, J.A. Happ, etc. were available), Friedman doubled down on Hill. After all, he just dealt three prospects to get him, so to walk away empty handed, and still have a gaping hole in the rotation, seemed unacceptable, even to him. So as is his custom, an identical $48M deal went to Hill – like it had to Brandon McCarthy and then Kazmir. I guess that’s the cap where a Moneyballer feels comfortable “wasting” on starting pitching.

I would say $48M is an ok figure, if you got something out of it. So far, the amount is cursed for Friedman and his little troll Zaidi – all three of the guys acquired have trouble staying healthy. In case you wondered, 3 x 48M = $144M, which is a lot of money and should mean something more capable for your rotation than what Friedman’s guys have shown – at least so far (this being written on April 17, 2017, for historical purposes).

My biggest problem with Friedman and his building of a roster isn’t necessarily the players he selects – ok, it’s a large part about that – but what the ultimate toll it takes on the team in general. As I’ve said before, a rotation is not just the quality of your 5 starters (not 16 starters, as Friedman would have you believe), though that should be top of mind, but it’s the innings. I understand the game is changing and either change with it or die but I can’t believe it’s optimal to have 16 guys tossing 3-5 innings commonly, as opposed to 5-6 guys capable of going 6-8 more frequently.

I know it’s ancient history, but I vividly remember Dodger teams with an ace, 2 or 3 very good pitchers and then 1-2 either called “innings eaters” or perhaps 1 of those and a kid, hoping to stick in the rotation. It wasn’t long ago that Friedman so hated this that he chased Dan Haren out of town, paying his salary to go to Miami. Really, how is Haren at any point much different than Hill, McCarthy or Kazmir? I guess you could argue, he was healthier.

Innings are important because it’s something you can hang your hat on. You can assume your starting pitcher is not only capable of going deeper into games, but taking the ball every 5th day without drama. You don’t need to call a collection of junk, and terrible contracts, “depth”. Your depth is your minor league system, as it always has been and is for every team in the major leagues. If you have 4-5 credible starters who are likely to stay healthy, you can make a phone call should someone get hurt. That “data” is based on 100+ years of the game’s history. Trite, boring, but honest and true.

I think like DePodesta, the Moneyball way Friedman and Zaidi play is merely about looking more clever and smarter than your average baseball guy – folks like myself included. Naive? Giggle inducing ideas such as going with known commodities, staying away from continually injured players – absurd! It’s far more fun to tinker like a very bored fantasy baseball general manager and make things happen. Oh, in the end it could work but all the “wasted movement” isn’t beneficial to anyone. When your new $48M contract is already looking vomit-inducing and you are talking about putting this #2 starter into your bullpen, it’s not good. Not on this Earth, not on any world.

Like I said, it’s possible the Dodgers can win the West – who knows if the Giants, Rox and Diamondbacks might stumble? Plus, the Dodgers have spent a lot more than anyone else, not only in the West, or the National League, or MLB, but in professional sports. That “depth” allows you at least a chance to win, even if your front office is run by overzealous micro-managers with too much time on their hands.

On the other hand, this Moneyball style always proves to address the regular season. Remember, before these guys arrived, the Dodgers were doing well in that respect. More often than not the Dodgers are near the top of the division, even when mere mortals are calling the shots. Moneyball is usually employed when a team does not have the financial wherewithal to compete any other way. It’s odd when it’s employed with deep pockets and a monster payroll.

The team tinkers and scratches to get to the post-season, celebrates this accomplishment but doesn’t win. Don’t feel too bad for Friedman, no Moneyball team ever wins. Or hasn’t yet. It’s because, in the paraphrased words of Billy Beane, the post-season is too unpredictable, the “data” doesn’t work there. Luck is involved, he says. No, I don’t think that’s quite true.

While maybe “data” can predict X number of runs an ever-changing lineup should produce, and how many runs an ever-changing rotation should allow, it doesn’t account for quality. Quantity, oh sure, plenty of that. Proudly Friedman sycophants will point to how quantity is as important as quality. This is said to praise the “depth” – which is actually just less talented players than what otherwise could be assembled. More means more, to them. But in the post-season, Billy Beane might say it’s harder to predict and luck, whereas I would say it’s quality. Here the quantity means less, and that’s why Freidman’s subpar independent league and career minor league players have problems.

It’s not genius to discover independent league and career minor leaguers – why, they’re right there in independent leagues and minor leagues all across the country. It’s not genius to pluck them from obscurity and then sign them to contracts of their dreams. It’s curious, weird even and clogs your roster full of guys that more than likely are not going to hold up and win in October.

It’s early – just the middle of April – but we are seeing the “depth” put to use as the players were never capable in the first place. While anyone can get hurt at any time and certainly bad breaks happen, it is not dumb luck when it happens to players who have a track record (data!) of this happening to them. Only Friedman and his people didn’t understand Hill would be hurt. As his players fall like dominoes, Friedman and his followers say, “Who could have known?” Well, we all knew and continue to scratch our heads in astonishment.

I think the appeal here is painting themselves into a corner and trying to get out. Houdini did it to show his superiority and fantasy baseball managers do it when they are bored out of their minds. Make dumb moves, drop better players, constantly swap our anyone with a pulse and hope it works. If it does, you can puff out your chest and claim superiority. Again, it’s “wasted movement” and unnecessary.

It’s an outdated way of thinking, sure, but would it be so terrible to have a rotation with at least 3-4 very solid guys you had a pretty safe expectation for making it through the season unscathed? Would it be ludicrous to assume your bullpen could be 3-4 men deep? Even 2 deep? Would it be insane to think if you had a payroll larger than anyone else’s your roster would likely have more great players than other teams?

All out of touch, old school ways of thinking, I realize. What do I know? I’m just a guy who has watched a lot of baseball for a lot of years. I sometimes write baseball articles, all archived here, with dates, and I seem to somehow do a remarkable job calling a lot of the “unforeseen events” that befall Friedman and his think tank, before they happen. I don’t call it “data” – just common sense and reasonable intelligence. Enjoy the ride and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have the Pepto-Bismol and Prilosec at your side; nothing is easy in a Friedman universe.

Wasted movement.

  1. Steamed Gravy
    April 22, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    This. Thanks for highlighting again what needed to be said about the Dodgers brain-trust; and quite tactfully too, although I wouldn’t have been as kind to (pardon my French) fuckin’ Friedman and fuckin’ Farhan.

    It’s mainly these two Moneyballess a-holes (don’t know how Alex Anthopoulos, Josh Byrnes and whichever other countless cooks in the kitchen figures into the decision-making) that are 100% accountable for the Dodgers’ current craptastic situation. Jaysis, even though it’s not their intention, Friedman and Farhan are just as bad as their FO counterparts from earlier years, Kevin Malone and Paul Depodesta.

    Despite the FO screwups, sure, the Dodgers can still contend in the NL West, but they won’t be as fortunate as they were last year, with the second-half collapse of the Giants. Then again, who knows, with Bumgarner going down…

    • Freudy
      April 23, 2017 at 2:24 am

      They definitely caught a break with SF, but… Arizona, under new management, and Colorado, a team definitely on the rise, are not going to sleepwalk like they did last year – at least they aren’t early on. With Giants reeling, that bodes well for the Dodgers, but as we’ve seen – the rotation, outside of Kersh, is a hot mess, with Urias being rushed up next week. The pen is very average, except for Kenley and while everyone was slapping themselves on the back last week, we saw what could happen last night. I think the pitching overall is a problem, they still can’t hit lefthanders for shit and they have no speed. I know Moneyball loathes stealing bases, but station to station and wait for homers is no offensive strategy. The Moneyball FO sucks and I’m not even sure what some of the execs do – I suspect many are just collecting fat checks. At least with the attendance dropping, maybe something will happen if the team fails to advance this year. We can hope.

  2. Fredo
    June 10, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    What has happened to the postings here?

    • Freudy
      June 12, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Hi – should write something. I haven’t felt inspired as nothing much has changed. With a very high payroll and Kershaw, the team is competitive. We all knew that would be the case. Many of the concerns the past few years still exist. The division, as I said all off-season and spring, is improved. The Giants took a crap but the Rox and Snakes are both awake, good and not going to take the year off like 2016. Giants likely should wake up at some point too, or could. So, addressing things like a rotation that goes 4 innings many nights and settling on more set lineups would seem smart moves. Since the team is run the way it is, with Tampa and Oakland mindset, I don’t imagine anything different will occur.

      I read one article how the Dodgers may address starting pitching since their starters are either hurt or could be. That has been the case since these arms were signed, so not sure why it’s a new revelation to anyone. Kershaw is a horse but one who has had back issues. If he goes down, it’s bad news. Wood has been amazing but he’s Wood. I’d sell high on him or at least know at some point reality will set in. Hill is as brittle as we imagined. Ryu a warrior but not what he was. Maeda must be hurt as he hasn’t been the same guy since last August and McCarthy is finally earning some of that $48M but he’s also still McCarthy. A reliable starter would be a good thing but Friedman doesn’t seem to think pitching is all that important.

      Anyway, same old, same old. Hopefully fans are happy and recall 30 years is a long time to wait. Winning the West with a high payroll should not be good enough.

  3. Jungeey
    June 11, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Is there nothing newer than this?

  4. Fredo
    June 15, 2017 at 4:42 am

    You don’t like any of the moves the team has made? The Taylor acqisition? Barnes and Hernandez for Dee Gordon? Grant Dayton? Toles? Developing Bellinger/Seager/Verdugo/Peters?

    • Freudy
      June 16, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      You can read what I wrote to dd. Maybe you are dd – wouldn’t be the first time someone created many usernames online. 🙂

      Most of the prospects fans love came from Ned Colletti and Logan White, not this front office. That includes Seager, Bellinger, Urias, etc. Check my twitter – several posts down there is an article I posted last Oct about how this team is still Ned Colletti’s team. The Friedman parts are mostly $48M bombs and minor league journeymen he adds – some, as you note, work, some do not. If you want to judge a front office by AAAA players they find and not trades and bad free agent signings they make, you have your own measure of success than I do. Life is beautiful, we can agree to disagree and still think what we want. No need to keep coming back, I don’t write columns very frequently and you clearly disagree. Follow someone you are more in line with – your doctor will applaud you for your wonderful blood pressure. Have a great summer, dd, I mean, Fredo.

  5. dd
    June 15, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    I think you’re only seeing the rotten fruit on the healthy tree. Every team only has their starters go 6. You mention McCarthy and Hill, but don’t mention the acquisitions of Taylor, Hernandez, Barnes, Dayton, and Utley.

    Even the prospects and players given up have been seemingly well thought out. Dee Gordon? Frankie Montas? Holmes?

    • Freudy
      June 16, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      I think you’re forgetting my last article was around Easter. Taylor wasn’t on the team then. I don’t hold the same reverence to role players in general as you do. If you want to make a list of all the moves Friedman has made and decide if they were good or bad, the bad far outweighs the good. Since you like the moves, you must be a Sabermetrics fan so there’s no reason to read my articles as you will only be frustrated. My goal is not to frustrate those who are blissful. If you look at the point of my articles, dating back to about 2009 or so, I believe – is to give long-suffering Dodgers fans a place to talk it out. That was the point of twitter as well, but as you probably are aware, the internet is full of bad hombres and bullying, so not a fun avenue to discuss baseball. Trolls everywhere, maybe you are one or know one. So feel free not to agree and not read further. I don’t want to upset you. I’m a longtime fan (about as many decades as you can count on your hand) and since the team has been mostly floating along or worse since after the 1981 championship (1988 was an anomaly), I don’t see reason to jump up and down when a $230M team wins the division but fails to bring home a championship. No need to reply, have an amazing summer and enjoy.

  6. Badger the Olde
    June 16, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    YES. Let us vent here. There are plenty of places to enjoy the Friedman fans celebrate one another

    • Freudy
      June 16, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      Well, it’s not an accident my stuff tends to be complaining. The site and twitter were designed for long suffering fans to vent. LA Times, local radio, the announcers, the Saber dorks all cheer and blow smoke up the Dodgers and their owners collective asses. As you say, not a lot of voices on the other side. Some who were, quickly switched to bandwagoning – then when the season ends and another opportunity is blown, they write their “I knew it all along” posts.

      I don’t mince words. If I see something I like, I say it. If I see incompetence, I say it. As I was saying the other day, while I’m not sure of the kids drafted this week, many seem to be K machines or have other issues, I am definitely similar to Moneyballers in that I’ve always been a supporter of drafting college talent. imo, you get guys more fully developed, closer to being ready to contribute and the big school experience is akin to minor league seasoning. No brainer for me. Especially if you need a reliever right away, draft a big college slugger, etc. So I agree on that. My critique is they need to stop looking at Vanderbilt so heavily – SoCal is a baseball hot bed and they should be all over UCLA, USC, Fullerton, CSUN, etc. Lots of great kids right here and would love to play in their own home town.

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I think the stupid internet is big enough for different opinions. Anyone who doesn’t like mine has a right to their opinion, just avoid my part of the web. I won’t miss them, they shouldn’t miss me.

  7. Badger the Olde
    June 18, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Is Fredo dd or is dd Fredo?

    Doesn’t matter, they (he? she?) shouldn’t be back.

    Write something though, we need it.

    • badger3
      June 20, 2017 at 3:44 am

      I ask again – who are you Badger?

      And, why did my last inquiry disappear?

      • Freudy
        June 20, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        Not sure what you’re talking about. Feel free not to stop by anymore if you have problems with content that isn’t being updated anyway. Life is too short, brother.

  8. Badger the Olde
    June 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Who are you Badger3?

    How long can the team rely on Maeda, Ryu, Wood, Hill and McCarthy is going to define this season. I think.

    At least they only need 3 of those 5 if they are going to have Stewart and Kershaw as reliable arms.

    • Freudy
      June 24, 2017 at 12:09 am

      How would I know who Badger3 is?


      I think it’s premature to get excited – haven’t we seen this before? The difference is now the division isn’t a cakewalk. Rox, as I said before the season started, are much improved and look very much the real deal. AZ was a crapshoot but looks like their new front office is getting the most out of them – I like the combo of Greinke/Ray more than Kershaw/Hill – even though Wood, now, is the #2 (oof).

      Nice to see McCarthy contribute finally. Not a believer in Maeda at this point, Ryu or the cast of thousands coming and going. Now it appears Urias might be hurt (wonder who warned about that?).

      Nice to be playing well, and the Dodgers are, but a few years ago they won something like 50 out of 60 and didn’t bring home a title, so I wouldn’t start doing a dance just yet. Quite possible they don’t even win the West.

      imo the best teams are Houston, Rox and Yankees, but I guess that’s why they play 162. If Houston adds Quintana, or some other big starter, as they’ve been talking about for 6 months, they look like the favorite to me. Deep team and farm – and to think, stupid Bud Selig pushed them into the AL purgatory not many years ago.

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