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Wasted Movement

April 18, 2017 52 comments

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.

Dodgers Trade Deadline Reboot – as of July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Comments off

Mat-Latos-USA-Today-2

Hello, TV-less Dodgers fans throughout the Southland. A little, premature, post-trade talk since that’s what baseball fans do this time of year. Random thoughts, if you will. And on with our program…

A couple quick points:

– Overall I like what Andrew Friedman and his team of numbers crunchers did. I like what they did simply because the price wasn’t great (outside of our future short-term and long-term big bat, Hector Olivera, going to Atlanta – not to mention $30M or so for having him sit in the minors since signing). There were no familiar names dealt and major league players coming back the blue’s way. Of course, one could say the haul wasn’t that great either (no David Price, no Johnny Cueto, no Cole Hamels), save for Jose Peraza, the young middle infield prospect formerly of the Braves. Peraza is curious as… well, I’ll get to that later. Anyway, not bad, not bad at all.

– On the flip side of that, all of the moves only served to address deficiencies that never should have been left alone this long. Again, my many, many comments about the winter shopping and lack of quality, reliability and depth in the rotation and pen have been partially/largely addressed, but why did it take until August’s eve to happen? Shouldn’t a reliable pitching staff have always been part of a team rebuilt on defense? Boggles the mind.

– There’s the new outlook, assuming Alex Wood or Mat Latos isn’t quickly flipped for Rangers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, as is the latest buzz. I think 1-5 the Dodgers are in fine shape now since mostly they have a 1-5, and not a 1-2 or 1-3 + rotating AAAA junk. If the playoffs started today, I’d be fine with Brett Anderson being the #3 (the way he’s pitching now, and as long as he doesn’t break down as is his custom), and think that 1-2 + Anderson is as good as anything out there they might face. I also like the addition of Jim Johnson, who isn’t outstanding, but adds a good back of the pen option to bridge to Kenley Jansen. Again, why didn’t all these rocket scientists get a strong bullpen wins championships before the tail end of July?

– As good as the belated address of pitching is, I have been watching curiously a tepid and inconsistent offense flounder. Let’s be real – the Dodgers have trouble facing good teams, and they have real trouble facing good pitchers. In October, that’s what you face. If the Dodgers struggle against Oakland, how can they do well against St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington and even Pittsburgh? The Dodgers have interesting parts, but while I look at Toronto’s left side of the infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, I wince at the combo of Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins. Outside of Andre Ethier, the outfield doesn’t supply that much consistent offense either. Of course things can start firing on all cylinders, Corey Seager could come riding in on a white horse to save the day, or maybe there’s another trade coming, but I don’t like the station-to-station, pray for the three-run home run approach the team lives on. I blame Mark McGwire whose hitting expertise isn’t much, and Donnie’s unimaginative approach – not to mention Andrew Friedman’s mandate no one move on the bases. I think, and thought, the Dodgers are a small ball team, yet they play long ball. It’s not working and will not work in October. If this year’s team is ousted in the first round, I hope a housecleaning comes and Donnie and his coaches are sent packing. Donnie’s expertise is apparently dealing with massive egos. Nowadays there is only one – Yasiel Puig. i.e. Donnie’s greatest skill is not worth keeping – find a manager, and coaches, who can get more out of this team. Not that the current player personnel will be back in 2016 anyway.

– The Ned bashing by idiots on social media is sad and misguided. I know it became trendy to bash Ned Colletti but the truth is, he field competitive teams even while working under a penny pinching white collar thief. It’s funny how folks give data-driven Friedman and team blind kudos for any move they make (every failed minor leaguer is a hero in the eyes of “DodgerFam” for some inexplicable reason – reality check… AAAA “prospects” are available for nothing because no one wants them, not because Friedman is a genius for finding them) while taking the opportunity to slam Ned, who is no longer doing anything anyway. If Ned did indeed suck (he didn’t), who cares? He’s no longer a decision maker anyway. Besides, last year Ned was Stan Kasten’s human target. Ned did not make boneheaded moves in 2014, Kasten did. But more, as I said, Ned was at worst, competent. He would not, for example, have left a rotation up in the air and pen paper thin. Ned always found ways to add decent players that he could afford within the constraints of the then-reasonable budget. If Ned were given endless resources like Kevin Malone was back in the day, or Friedman and friends are now, he would not have left the pitching staff in such disarray. Also, if he went out and had the chance to build the back of the rotation, he would not have opted for 4 years of Brandon McCarthy. Of course there’s no way to prove this, but take my word for it. In other words, stop slamming Ned. He’s not the enemy; he’s not even making decisions. Bash a GM on a team that’s actually making mistakes currently, or more, be realistic about what Friedman and team have done this first year in charge. I would say it’s not markedly better than last year’s team, save for addition by subtraction of ego maniacs Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.

Last points…

– I noted Peraza’s acquisition earlier, who I think, along with Wood, are the more interesting parts acquired in yesterday’s deals. I’m not sure what will become of the Dodgers infield the last 60 days of this year, or next year, but perhaps the plan is Peraza moving back to shortstop and Seager to third, and resigning Howie Kendrick or finding another second baseman (or shortstop, if Peraza plays second). Peraza seems like a very exciting young player and was labeled the Braves #1 prospect, and already is being called the Dodgers #4. I think the idea of a good average hitter who has speed is exciting. Hmm, kind of reminds me of a watered down Dee somebody or other. At any rate, that’s my point. If Friedman didn’t value Dee, now a 2-time all-star who can run like the wind, and has kept his current roster from stealing or even apparently taking extra bases, why Peraza? If Peraza is told not to run, he’s a decent average hitter with little power and then no speed game. It just seems like an odd Friedman addition, unless the point is adding another sexy prospect he can later deal.

– The Olivera thing is of course the most curious part of the trade whirlwind since he was looked at all year as the offensive shot in the arm the Dodgers desperately needed. We were told reliable, clutch, defensive whiz Juan Uribe was needless since Olivera would be playing third soon anyhow. Then Olivera is dealt and the logjam at third is now utility men Justin Turner and Alberto Callaspo, plus lead glove Alex Guerrero. I don’t know, makes you wonder. I guess they can move Seager over, since many say he’s tall and should play third anyhow, but that’s no given. The kid will be adjusting to big league hitting and suddenly asked to crash course learn third base? Perhaps the answer is trading troublemaker Puig and getting a good third baseman in return. Who knows? I just question what the plan is but am not necessarily complaining. I always questioned giving $70M to a 30 year old Cuban who never played in the bigs and always was hurt. His short tenure in blue ($30M, must be nice!) was one sprinkled with the injuries one could only envision for years to come. It may be a good riddance, but it does make me wonder where the “pure hitter” the Dodgers were so looking forward to might be coming from. Seager? Maybe, but it could have been Seager + another bat, now it’s left to a young kid to save the day. Well, unless some of the treading water guys suddenly perk up.

That’s all for now. It’s too early to say as by the time you read this, the Dodgers might have added some other parts and dealt the names noted here. This is as of July 30th, 2015 and having not watched all season – I can’t do that, due to Guggenheim’s idiotic TV deal – but following, from afar. Like a baseball stalker, I’ve become. Glimpsing through the window at what could be and probably never was.

I hope all of you are well and are more honest with yourself. You bleed blue, but let’s face it, the AL is stacked, the good NL teams are too, and the Dodgers do not perform well against good teams and good pitching. They have 50+ games to turn the tide or it will be an off-season gutting, I hope.