Monday, September 15, 2008

Holy Fracking Shit!

Juan Pierre hits a -- you heard it right -- real, honest-to-god Home Run in Pittsburgh. His first as a Dodger and the 13th of his career.

You could knock me over with a wet paper sandwich bag.

Congrats, Juan! Your reward will be two months with no posts at the Outwatch.

This reward will be granted retroactively, of course.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Picking Scapegoats

Everyone knows the primary purpose of this blog is to blame everything that happens to the Dodgers on Juan Pierre.

OK, that's not true. The purpose of this blog is to point out that Juan Pierre is an overvalued player and should not be played or paid as much as he is. It just happens to be that when one spends all their time looking at the Dodger club through those particular goggles, it often ends up sounding like we blame everything on poor Pierre. Well, maybe Humma does, but I don't. As Humma has not deigned to post since opening day, we'll just leave him out of this for now.

I also don't blame everything on Ned Colletti. I found several of his trades truly baffling. Lugo? Navarro (now all-star Navarro) for a bag of balls? Loaiza? But none of those were team killers. Here is what has been team killing (or at least wounding): Jones, Schmidt, Furcal injured for most of their contracts (or, as in the case of Jones, playing as if they were horribly injured). I don't care how much money McCourt has, with 50 million a year tossed away it is amazing we have even a .500 ball club. The funny thing is, assuming Ned did his due diligence regarding injuries, I agreed with all three of those signings. Furcal, when healthy, is great. Both Jones and Schmidt were premier players signed to very short term contracts. It is difficult to fault Colletti for not predicting the future better. I wish Ned had pushed his managers harder to play the younger players, but generally I still find his term at GM mediocre with a healthy does of unluck. Of course one colossal Kemp/LaRoche trade blunder will probably change all that, but until he does it, I can't hate Ned because he might do something so dumb.

No. Clearly we need a good scapegoat in these Pierre-less days. I pick Mark Sweeney.

Mark Sweeney so far this year batted .094/.181/.125. Thats an OPS+ of -18. Clearly, horrifically awful numbers. Makes Andruw Jones (version 2008) look like an MVP. Now wait a minute, someone is probably huffing (You know you were huffing. Breath. There you go. Nice and easy.), he may have been titanically, super-awfuleese with cheese on top, but for only 64 at bats. How much impact could he possible have had?

True, 64 at bats, but he hit them over the course of 60 games. That is a very high game-to-atbat ratio. Recall that he was our premier pinch hitter. The guy we always brought in to hit in the highest leverage situations possible. Late and close? Runners in scoring position? Mark Sweeney was the guy at bat. And striking out a third of the time. Getting a hit less than one time in 10.

As I am generally screwing around I am not going to go back and figure out the number of men he actually left in scoring position. He did manage 3 RBIs on 6 hits and 1 SF. If Sweeney could have just hit .250, getting 10 more hits with an accompanying increase in power, he could have probably driven in 5-7 more runs, most in the late innings of the closest games. How many 1-run games did the Dodgers lose?

As of today we are tied for first. So tell me honestly that Sweeney being that bad had a negligible impact.

OK. Clearly Sweeney is the not the reason we are not in sole possession of first. And this was one of those things that was not anybody's fault. Sweeney has been a great pinch hitter his entire career. It took some time to figure out something was really wrong and not just a fluke. Can't blame Torre for that. Did he play injured and hide it, hurting his team? Maybe.

I just wanted to point out that the generally overlooked go-to pinch hitter can have an effect on their team beyond just the small number of at bats they represent, exactly because they end up always being used in the highest leverage situations. Not on the scale of an injury to your starting shortstop, but probably has a much greater effect than what utility infielders you carry on the bench.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Juan Pierre Injured

As much as we here at the OutWatch would like to see Pierre benched, no one deserves to be injured. Pierre will be out four to six weeks with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. We wish Pierre a rapid recovery. We also wish Delwyn Young a chance to show what he can do. But enough about that for now.

By the way, that now makes 10 players on the Dodgers' DL. We are six games under .500, but still in 2nd place and only 3.5 back of the Diamondbacks. Go NL West! The pitching just seems to get better and better, so we just need to get some hitters hitting. So hit already! (I am looking at you Jeff Kent...)

For obvious reasons there may be fewer total posts or at least rants about non-Pierre topics, for I'd say about a month and a half.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just Some Numbers

Here are some bad numbers from Juan Pierre:

.280/.332/.323/.655 ; OPS+ = 72 ; EqA = .251

That OBP and SLG are just painful. Consider again this is our starting LEFT FIELDER and it really makes you sigh.

Here are some decent numbers:
29 SB, CS 7, for a 81% success rate

His success rate has taken a little dip, but he still above his career rates. He was caught stealing just 5 games ago. With numbers this small (7 CS) one has to be careful not to make too much of minor variations caused by just how recently he was last caught. Base stealing still looks very solid for Pierre and I would not be surprised to see him finish with a very respectable 85% success rate. It does not, however, even begin to make up for his terrible OPS.

Here is a less numbery tidbit:

Juan has not taken a walk since June 5, losing 20 points off his patience which puts him right back near his career averages. His ability to take walks, which had persisted for two straight months is apparently over. With his power (such as it ever was) completely gone that does not leave Juan with much to offer.

But what choice do we have, I hear you cry?
Delwyn Young:
.286/.333/.414/.747 ; OPS+ 94 ; EqA =.262
Not quite achieving replacement player, but still nearly 100 points of OPS more than Pierre. And this is with extremely irregular playing time for a young (excuse the pun) player who needs it. His career numbers (WARNING, very small number stats) indicate even more potential.

One last set of numbers:


The Dodgers record since Juan became a regular starter on May 1. Clearly it is ludicrous to blame all of that on one player. Penny has sucked, several key players have gone through significant slumps, Hu and Berroa are mere shadows of Furcal, etc. But come one. Look through the list of losses. Would 3-4 more HR and a similar number of doubles have won some more games? Recall even with all the awfulness, we are still only 4 games back of Arizona.

Think about that number.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hey. Ho. He's Got To Go.

I will say one good thing about JP. He is not the reason the Dodgers went 1 and 6 on their most recent road trip. Almost the entire offense sleepwalked through that one.

Having gotten that out of the way, here is what Juan did do on the trip:
7 for 27, a .259 average (meh). He had one double and four walks, giving him a slugging of .296 (awful) and an on-base % of .355 (ok, actually, considering his avg). He also stole three bases without getting caught.

So nothing horrible. Just Juan being Juan. He is still stealing bases at an effective clip (~85%) and his patience remains at a career high. Two months in and Juan is still working walks at a pace he has never before matched. Unfortunately either it is a zero sum game for Juan or age is taking its toll, as his slugging continues its strongly downward trend. Considering he was a 1-2 home run a year hitter at his best, this downward plunge is definitely pushing him near wiffle bat territory. Adding 30 points of patience while losing 50 points of power is not a recipe for a successful baseball player.

Obviously all caveats for only a third of season should be applied, but Juan appears to be on the way to the worst OPS of his career, not a comforting sign for a team that still owes 3 more years of contract.

Let's give Delwyn Young a real shot. His present 32 at bat total (2008) really tells us nothing. Maybe he will fizzle, but it has got to be better than waiting to trade him away in late July...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

10 Hits, 1 Run, 1 Long, Loud Sigh

The Dodgers have temporarily gotten the Andruw Jones monkey off there back, so now all he is costing us is large gobs of McCourt's money. One thing I can say for Colletti, he does not seem to mind wasting someone else's money.

Exhibit A: Esteban Loaiza, who was picked up in some desperate attempt to shore up our pitching at the end of last year. Billy Beane was anxious to dump him. Perhaps that should have given Ned pause, but it did not. Well, the Dodgers have finally accepted that they might have gotten a lemon, which came as a surprise to just about no one who was asked whether the deal was a good one before it was made. Which was also no one. Anyway, ignoring my convoluted logic (or lack there of), Loaiza has now been designated for assignment. So... What would you have done with 7 million more dollars? I would have gotten a bitchin' solid gold Yoda statue.

18 Carat He Is.

Where was I? Oh yes. We are experiencing an Andruw intermission, which puts the Outwatch back on solid and familiar footing. Juan Pierre is playing every day and it is a travesty.

Right now there is double-duty pressure keeping Juan in the line-up. Dodgers needs a third outfielder and Dodgers need lead-off man. We all hope and pray to the God Who Looks Over Damaged Back Muscles that he take pity on us all and return Furcal to the line-up, which will remove the lead-off issue and stop us from writing another "Juan is actually, despite his speed, a bad lead-off hitter" article.

As to the third outfielder position... Torre seems perfectly willing to leave in Kemp in Center Field, where he seems to be doing well. In fact, he might actually be a good center fielder. He doesn't always read the ball off the bat well, but he is fast as hell and has a gun for an arm. So Pierre is playing a lot of left field. One of the biggest available power positions given daily to a man who hasn't hit a home run in two years.

That ain't right. It just ain't. I would go so far as to say it isn't right and now you know I am serious, because my grammar improved (no worries, true believers, it won't hold). So I would like to put it on the table right here, right now:

Juan should be replaced in left by Delwyn Young. There. I said it. And if you don't like him, how about LaRoche who is eating AAA pitchers alive and spitting out their bones. Dewitt has usurped the 3rd base position, so LaRoche is needing a place to play. If we are to keep letting Kent limp along (likely for another month at least), left field is the best place to put him.

I am not greedy. We can start with Juan just sitting out against lefties. We'll see how the platooning goes and move on from there.

See? I am being reasonable. Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I am angry.

[Cue swelling music; JimBilly4 with a thumb raised on a dusty, lonely highway; superimpose growling jade behemoth over JimBilly4's boyish good lucks; fade music; fade to black; one distant, haunting man-roar echoes over remaining credits; commercial for soap detergent]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Losing At Bats

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but this blog is all about beating the bench Pierre drum, so I guess it's HISS-POP-BOOM-BOOM-PIERRE GOT NO POWER-HISS-BOOM, skip-skip-skip...

For the onomatopoeiacally challenged, this is what you get when painfully mix a metaphor and instead of going back and refining your prose, you instead charge ever forward like a runaway freight train into a china shop.

Or something like that.

OK, to the point: Andruw Jones may soon go on the DL, his very own knee so frustrated at his ineptitude and the accompanying $36 million-induced Dodger paralysis that it sprang loose some cartilage. So the Pierre/Ethier problem will likely settle down from a roiling boil into a steady throb of daily Pierre-dom. If we can get Furcal back into the lead-off spot I will be further soothed. Also soothing: Juan's nearly 90% stolen base success rate and his continued ability to actually take a walk.

This sort of kills the original point of my post, but I have already shown a disturbing lack of self control (or self respect for that matter) and I see no reason to stop now just because the facts on the ground are now against me. Insert Iraq War Joke here.

Juan has been regularly starting since basically May 1. Over the 17 games played so far this month Juan has amassed 75 plate appearances, which can be compared to 65 for Matt Kemp, 49 for Andruw Jones, and 47 for Andre Ethier.

That's right, Juan has managed nearly 30 more PAs than Andre Ethier. Now Ethier is not a lead-off hitter (although he does ok in the #2 slot), so you wouldn't expect him to get as many as Pierre. And even a young player could probably use a day off every couple of weeks, keeping them sharp. Matt Kemp played 16 of those 17 games and he has nearly 20 PAs more than Ethier. If Ethier were to lose playing time to Juan at this rate over the course of an entire season, we are talking 200 lost plate appearances.

I don't want to get into EqA and OPS+ again this week: the numbers haven't really changed. Instead think of it this way: Using Ethier this way will cost us 5 HRs, 5 doubles, and 25 total bases (looking Ethier's rates vs. Juan's rates). That could easily be the difference in wining 3-4 more games. Joe Torre, please stop giving away Ethier's at bats to Juan Pierre. It is a criminal act, punishable by seven years hard labor doing Farmer John's commercials. Oh that reminds me:

Eastern most in quality, Western most in flavor.

Now I still believe Matt Kemp should be our CF of the future and it is criminal to waste a LF position on someone who will hit 0 home runs, but if both Ethier and Kemp are in the line-up my level of disgruntlement goes way down.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back To Square One

I could also have entitled this, "As Goes Furcal...", but I used that one last week. At least Martin continued to play. Furcal's absence has pushed Pierre into the line-up as the team requires a "table setter". With the terrible Andruw Jones (Batting .170 with OPS+ of 42) still sucking up large numbers of at bats, it is Ethier who has been relegated to the bench.

Yes, that is the same Ethier who went 3 for 5 on Sunday (including a double), and is batting .306 with a 119 OPS+. Let's use Ethier in a sentence. "Ethier continues to be the best hitting outfielder on the Dodgers; why the fuck would you sit him?"

I know, a questionable use of the ";". May the vengeful spirits of Funk and Wagnalls pass over my home this grammar-eve.

It stands to reason that if you lose Furcal, who was in the top 10 in most offensive categories, the team might suffer a bit of a let down. But this obsessive need for a true lead-off hitter, despite Pierre being a mediocre lead-off hitter at best, has driven us right back to where we were before spring training began. It is a little frustrating.

But Pierre had a hot bat, I hear someone say? Maybe he did. Let's look at the last week's homestand: 3 for 21, a sparkling 0.142 average with 0 extra base hits. I am so glad we gave him the most at bats every game. Small sample size, I hear one joker shout out from the back of the room. Absolutely true, but no smaller a sample than that used for his hot streak, which was really all of 5 games. That is the inherent flaw in "playing the hot bat." Is the player really seeing the ball well or is he just really lucky?

I will admit it is not all bad news with Pierre. He took 3 walks last week as well, for an OBP of .250 -- which is horrible -- but .110 higher than his batting average. He is continuing to show increased patience, which really is making him more valuable. Unfortunately that increased patience has been negated by his drop in power (slugging .326, 50 points below his already anemic career avg), which has gone from bad to "Seriously, I'd swear this guy is using a nerf bat." He also stole another 4 bases without getting caught. In fact, Pierre has only been caught once this year, and that was way back on April 2nd. He has a 93% success rate, which is definitely elite. He could pinch run for me anytime.

So what we need is either a healthy Furcal or the common sense to realize that speed at the top of the lineup is not worth keeping Ethier out of the lineup altogether. Both would be nice. And if Andruw could start hitting bombs, I would appreciate that as well.

At least the D-backs have been stinking it up of late as well.

Monday, May 5, 2008

As Goes Martin...

Yesterday the resurgent Russell Martin went 0 for 4 at Coors Field and the Dodgers hot streak finally came to an end. He is only one bat, but he sure seems integral to the Dodger win machine. In the interest of moderating over-exuberance, it should also be noted that the 8 game win streak included 5 games against the Rockies, so what we might be really looking at is a Rockies sucking streak. The next week should tell.

The Dodgers seem to be winning because they are firing on almost all cylinders. The notable exception of course being the downright awful Andruw Jones. As feared this has gotten Pierre a lot more playing time. In Pierre's defense, he has answered the bell. He is batting .324 with an OPS+ of 103. That's better than average. He has stolen 9 out of 10 bases, a sweet 90% clip, which has driven his EqA up to .290, which is well... actually pretty good. Perhaps most impressively his OBP is .395, a full 71 points higher than his batting average (his career patience is .047). Considering his complete lack of power, that is probably as good as it gets.

Of course anyone can get hot. Juan only has 68 at bats. This being the Outwatch, we will be keeping a close eye on Mr. Pierre. If this is really a 2004 version of Pierre time will tell. The embittered pessimist in me thinks it is more likely that the 2005-2007 version is here to stay. My biggest concern is that Juan's resurgence is leading to comments from Torre saying that the reason [for sitting Andruw Jones] was to give a start to Andre Ethier, who is hitting .305 but having trouble finding playing time.

Let's recap the latest in OPS+.
Ethier 121
Kemp 116
Pierre 102
Jones 39

Ethier remains the most valuable offensive outfielder so far this year. In fact, only Furcal has been a clearly more valuable offensive force (several basically tie Ethier, including Kemp and Martin) on the Dodgers. As impressive as Juan has been this past few weeks, let us recall he is impressive for Juan Pierre . If Jones were the Jones we all expected to see (career OPS+ 112) it would be no contest, but he is not. If someone is having trouble finding playing time, it should really be Jones. You can't "go with the hot hand" and play Jones 6 out of 7 games. It's ludicrous.

Now all that being said, trying to win games and get a potentially hyper-valuable tool (Jones) back into playing order is a tall order. That is a painful balancing act for which Torre gets paid the big bucks. I just don't want management being lulled back into pre-2008 season thinking. Ethier is not the #4 outfielder. Juan is. From the starting gun on the opening day of spring training (They use guns, right? Hmph. Well they should) Ethier has easily been the #1 outfielder on this team.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Definitely An Improvement

What A Difference a Week Makes, Huh? Although watching Russell Martin playing 3rd base was a bit discombobulating. One more win puts them back to .500, a result I would be fairly happy with considering all the chaos of the spring training, china trip, new players, new manager, and injuries...

But this is the Juan Pierre Outwatch. As Humma is asleep at the wheel (probably actually asleep in a huddle next to the crib of his very little girl), it falls upon me to push onward.

So far with Torre, Pierre has been denied a regular starting position. Instead the Dodgers are basically using a four man rotating outfield, although Juan has been more often the odd man out. Let's see how these guys are doing. In alphabetical order:

Andre Ethier:
.305/.386/.463, 2 HR, 14 SO, 122 OPS+ ; 1 of 1 SB
Andruw Jones:
.159/.266/.256, 1 HR, 29 SO, 38 OPS+ ; 0 SB
Matt Kemp:
.295/.317/.474, 2 HR, 23 SO, 104 OPS+ ; 1 of 2 SB
Juan Pierre:
.250/.328/.288, 0 HR, 2 SO, 64 OPS+ ; 6 of 7 SB

Ethier I'll keep short and sweet. He is producing as advertised, basically a solid .850 OPS guy. Obviously quite valuable.

Matt Kemp is having a bit of trouble with his OBP, although he has raised it about 20 points in the past week (patience, Matt, patience). His power is also starting to come online. I feel fairly confident that this .800 OPS level is something Kemp can be relied on to achieve. The open question is whether he can kick it up to the next level and keep it there, becoming one of the game's elite players, something he has shown flashes of. He is only 23, in theory still several years away from his prime. Let's give him another 500 major league at bats and see what we have.

Juan Pierre is off to a tepid start, even for him. Probably partially a result of not playing every day. His patience has actually been not so bad. I don't know how much is a result of any conscious change in style and how much could just be because of where he ends up in the batting order nowadays (8th batters traditionally get more walks because of the easy out, the pitcher, batting behind them). He is still stealing bases well when he gets on and not striking out much, but his lack of power is not going to change.

Andruw Jones has just been flat out terrible. It looked like he was starting to hit the ball better about a week or so ago, but he still looks clueless at the plate. I don't subscribe to the notion that a strikeout is significantly worse than a lazy fly or a ground out. They can, however, be a symptom of a greater problem. Twenty-nine times out of 94 opportunites, Andruw has flailed uselessly at the ball. He has been walking at a good clip, but in his case I suspect he is actually afraid to swing at the ball. And if you look at his average, maybe he should be. Worse of all, he has only a single Home Run. This from a man who has averaged 33 per year over his entire career (hasn't hit less than 26 since 1998). Right now he is on pace to hit something like 7 HRs. Low average, low power hitters should probably not get 18 million a year, no matter how good they are with the glove.

So that leaves us with the current dilemma: The way Jones amd Pierre are playing, it seems criminal to take at bats away from Ethier and Kemp for anything other than resting them. At their age and positions, that should really only be like once every two weeks.

Center field is a black hole for the Dodgers, sucking in expensive "veteran" talent that was either over-hyped in the first place or coming apart at the seams in front of our eyes. With nearly 30 million a year invested, the Dodgers are not going to put Kemp in center and play Ethier and Delwyn Young. They just won't. If Jones can't get it together, which just is really hard to believe, Pierre is going to find his way back into the every day line-up.

Juan being an everyday player is anathema to this blog's very existence. But if Jones can't find his gear, I may find it very hard to rail too hard against the decision to play him instead of Jones.

I give you until June 1, Jones. Find your swing or may Juan Pierre have mercy on your soul.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I was busy this weekend, so didn't manage to catch the games...

Lucky me.

The Dodger Offense, tepid to begin with, has now become ice cold. If things continue at this pace we will have to start describing their temperature in single units of Kelvin.

If science isn't your thing, trust me, that's cold.

Being 25th in runs scored across the entire major league explains that putrid record. With a team OPS more in the middle of the pack (around 14th) and solid pitching (7th in ERA), we can hope that this is partly bad luck. There have been some positive signs. Jones finally got a home run. Martin has now hit a couple. Furcal is so on fire he has gone through multiple sets of singed pants.

My hope is that they can rally and finish April at .500. They had a screwed up spring training and several key injuries and it now seems quite clear that not everyone was ready for the year to start.

Still, if they keep losing games 6-1 and 4-1, it will be difficult to get up a decent anti-Pierre head of steam. His weak 1 for 5 yesterday wasn't particularly helpful, but he is not the only cylinder misfiring.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Andruw Jones SuckWatch

Forty at bats is too early to panic, but I am now officially concerned that Andruw Jones traded the 'E' in his first name to Satan in exchange for exactly ten years of great baseball skills. Damned Monkey Paw!

(Yes, I mixed devil deals with evil simian talismans. My mind is a freely flowing medium.)

Jones is hitting .100/.217/.125 for an OPS+ of -8. So far on the season he has one piddly extra base hit, a double. If he wasn't still capable of getting walks at a decent clip he would be an even darker, deeper hole in the Dodger line-up. If he keeps swinging the bat like he left his eyes in his other uniform, I don't think he will be able to keep even that up for much longer.

For someone with his resume you got to give/allow a lot more rope, but I think we have to at least consider the possibility that Andruw Jones, often discussed as a possible Hall of Famer, could be done at age 31. Very hard to believe, which is why I supported his signing, but I think we need to at least make room in our mind for the possibility. He did drop 150 points of OPS last season, not exactly a minor statistical blip. I am sure he will be given until the end of April to turn it around. If he can show a little more life than batting .100, I am sure he will get another 100 ABs or so to bounce back, visit a psychiatrist/optometrist/nutritionist, whatever.

I just pray that he does. Otherwise I may be forced to demand that Juan Pierre start over Andruw Jones and at this late date that might just melt all my synapses.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Empty Outfield

Let me preface this by noting that, yes, we are only six games into the season and that yes, Cain, Peavy, and Chris Young make a rather nasty threesome to have faced in half your games so far this year. There is clearly no need to panic.

But come on.

This whole off-season was about whether or not Ethier was our 3rd or 4th outfielder. It turns out he might be our only outfielder.

All other Dodger outfielders: Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre are a combined 6 for 49 with 2 walks, 1 double, and 14 strike outs. That is an atrocious .122/.157/.143 line, or 300 OPS. 300. That is like scoring a 400 on your combined SAT, demonstrating that you were capable of getting your own name right.

I should also note that Russell Martin has not exactly been on fire, 2 for 21, but he at least has 5 walks and has shown some signs of life in the most recent series. Plus, who are you going to start ahead of him? Bennett? He will come around.

No, the outfield is the place to worry. What if Andruw's performance last year was not just an off year, but in fact the start of a precipitous decline? He will get a chance to put it together, but 32 million/2 years is a lot to pay for a guy hitting under .250 with a ton of strike outs and rapidly deteriorating power.

Clearly Kemp can hit, but if he keeps slumping this hard, might Pierre not find his way back into the starting line-up? Right now Pierre is even more awful (.091 avg), but you know he will get his hits down, get some luck, and get his average into the upper 200s. You can't work your way out of a slump if Swifty gets all your at bats...

And since this is the Outwatch, let me note that so far Juan Pierre has had 11 ABs and 11 Outs to go with them. Thanks to a caught stealing, Juan has yet to produce a non-out at bat.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Getting it done

This is Humma, returning from a burst aneurysm -- he sat who?! -- to say that yesterday's finish meets with my approval. Scoring from second on an infield single by Delwyn "Pee-Wee" Young? Yes, we approve heartily.

Having a healthy Furcal on the team might just be the best thing we have going -- and as someone who has drunk deeply at the cooler of Kemp-Loney-Martin-Ethier-DeWitt-Billingsley-Broxton manlove, that is a great compliment indeed.

What I was happy to see last night was the patient Dodgers -- the Dodgers who worked Matt Cain to the tune of 113 pitches. Even Pierre got into the act, working a count full. It didn't work itself into runs -- though I was convinced that it would happen in the fateful 6th, it didn't -- it is still the right approach. And it DID eventually pay off against the weak, weak Giant bullpen. Keep it up, friends.

In other news, today's lineup meets with the Humma Kavula seal of approval:

Rafael Furcal, SS
Russell Martin, C
Andre Ethier, LF
Jeff Kent, 2B
Andruw Jones, CF
James Loney, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Blake DeWitt, 3B
Chad Billingsley, P

Best possible lineup under the circumstances. Not a weak spot 1-7, and even the eight-spot has been holding his own so far.

Bring your brooms, lads.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ap &bull o &bull plec &bull tic

adjective informal

1) overcome with anger; extremely indignant
: Humma was apoplectic with rage at the decision.

2) dated relating to or denoting apoplexy (stroke)
: Pierre's start over Matt Kemp led Kavula to
become apoplectic. He now faces a long, slow recovery.

early 17th cent.: from French apoplectique or late Latin
apoplecticus, "to be astounded by a poor managerial decision
to the point of mouth froth" (Also see: TRAVESTY)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ethier Starts

Well kids, it looks like the OutWatch will be off to a slow start
this year, with Pierre starting the season benched in favor of Andre Ethier, as reported by the official Dodger mouthpiece. Seems being the best offensive player in spring training while Pierre finished sub-.200 sealed the deal for Torre. For now at least.

The good news is the Dodgers kicked the crap out of the Giants. The bad news is Andre went 0 for 4. A pop-up, two ground outs and a line out, in that order. So it might have just been a little nerves/pressure as his contact improved with the day. Could also be he does not hit Zito well. Fortunately Kent and Furcal do.

Martin also went 0 for 4, but somehow I don't think his position is very precarious. Pierre did not play at all, so his consecutive games streak, such as it was, comes to an end. I would hope Torre did that on purpose as well. No more of that nonsense to contend with.

Boy, those Giants are going to be a bad team. Their opening day line-up had a grand total of 78 HRs last year. If you remove Rowand, 51 HRs. Only Rowand has a lifetime OPS over 800 (.806) and most of these guys are on the downward (some steeply downward) swing of their careers [median age 33]. People say they at least have good pitching, but I don't know.

Matt Cain is the best 7-16 pitcher in baseball, but Zito is at best merely solid. Then you have Lincecum and Correia, who are two good-looking pitchers, but both are raw as hell and either one could implode completely. They don't appear to have a 5th starter at the moment, with Noah Lowry (another potential "solid" starter) recovering from arm surgery. But for the sake of argument, let's say this group can get you to the 7th inning in decent shape. The bullpen looks quite shakey, with more question marks than the riddler's underpants.

I would not be surprised to see this team lose 100 games, especially against what I think will be stiff NL West competition. So I guess what I am saying here, is let's see how the Dodgers do when they have to play against a team besides the Pleasant Acres Home For Retiring Mediocre Ball Players.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello and Salutations

I had been waiting for a brief break in the flurry of postings marking the return of Humma to blogdom. He recruited me to write some extra blogs to fill in because he was only going to be able to post sporadically this year. Perhaps his definition of sporadic and mine are different, some sort of Websters vs. American Heritage sort of thing.

Actually if I am being honest with you, and let me assure you I seldom will be, another reason I waited until today was that the blogspot invitation was swallowed by my junk email sorter. Apparently Mac email doesn't believe Humma Kavula is a real person.

I am hoping one of the signatures of my entries will be decidedly less venom accompanying my Pierre cogitations. On the basic question of who should start, Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier, I am in firm agreement with Humma. Absolutely Ethier should start while Pierre rides the pine, but I try not to let hyperbole run amok with my emotions. Pierre is not worthless. Nor is he the worst outfielder playing baseball.

For instance, let me revisit something I talked about in the comments at the very end of the last season. Juan Pierre had the lowest OPS of any batting title qualified outfielder last season, at .685. This is not good, but not entirely fair for two reasons:

First, only 20 center fielders qualified out of 30 teams, so there were a lot of center fielders running around all year that probably should be included. If we just take all those with 300 PA, Juan is 32nd of of 37, the worst being poor Jerry Owens of the Chicago White Sox (.636). Again, not good, but not the absolute worst.

Second, OPS does not take into account speed. While speed is often over-rated, it is not worthless either. We can use EqA instead, a stat which does include stolen bases and also has the advantage of being normalized for league difficulty. Juan's EqA in 2007 was .248, below the league average of .260 (by definition). Out of the 20 batting qualified CFs, that puts him tied for 16th. Out of the 37 players with 300 PA, Juan
ranks 26th. Again not fantastic, but instead of the worst player at his position, you can see he is actually in the 3rd quartile. Maybe not someone you pay 9 million a year, but not the millstone dragging us into the depths either.

So bottom line, Juan has no power but makes up for it a little bit by stealing a lot of bases. He doesn't walk enough, but I strongly suspect that has a lot to do with his extreme deficit in power: If the worst he can do to me is hit a single, I am not going to tip toe around the strike zone. His defense is a similar story: Weak throwing arm partly made up for by his good range. All and all I rate him a mediocre center fielder. Andruw Jones should be a big step up in both defense and offense (although last year he was awful, EqA=.251), so playing him over Pierre is a no brainer.

All great and good. We got Jones so Pierre should go play center field for one of those 5-10 teams for which he really would be an improvement. Except this is where I get off the reasonable train and onto the Kavula Rant Express. We are being told Pierre is going to play left field.

One of the top offensive positions on the field.

The typical >300 PA left fielder has an OPS of .813 and an EqA of .271 (compared to CF OPS=.747 and EqA=.255). No batting qualified LF (or RF for that matter) has an OPS or EqA as low as Pierre. While I can find a handful of terrible LFs (about 5 out of 35) with lower EqAs than Pierre, it is unquestionable that Pierre would be well below the offensive output the typical left fielder brings to the table. This truly would be a terrible decision, especially when we have Ethier (2007: EqA=.269 OPS=0.802) as a better option. And, oh yeah, Ethier was 25 years old last year, so he might have some upswing left. Pierre is likely on his way down.

To summarize: Last year I grumbled about a mediocre center fielder. This year I will scream every time he starts in left field.

I return you to your regularly scheduled Humma.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In which Humma Comes Up With a Most Unfortunate Explanation for Why the Dodgers Might Start Juan Pierre Over Andre Ethier

More from the dog trainer:

Ethier's competition for the job, veteran Juan Pierre, is batting .188 with a .253 on-base percentage after reaching base only once in his last 12 at-bats. But Pierre has an established track record, having averaged more than 200 hits, 95 runs and 57 stolen bases over the last five seasons.

But Ethier, 25, has more power, a better arm and will drive in more runs, tools that would make him more valuable off the bench. And that fact, ironically, could wind up costing him the starting job.

"They bring different things to the table," Torre said. "Obviously, Pierre is that guy who's going to put the ball in play. He's going to be a threat on the basepaths."

So let me get this straight. The guys with more power and better arms who drive in more runs and -- though you didn't say this, I'll point it out -- get on base more often belong on the bench, rather than the starting lineup, because they provide valuable tools late in the game?

I don't know where that reasoning came from -- if it's something that this writer is making up or if the Dodgers are feeding it to him -- but let me be the latest among many to say:

This. Makes. No. Sense. You do not put your better players on the bench in place of worse players. The lamest fantasy baseball owner knows that.

You know, maybe I've put my finger on something here. Maybe the Dodgers think they're playing fantasy baseball in a five by five league. "Sure, we've got Kemp, who can steal. And Furcal. And Martin is fast for a catcher. But where else are our steals going to come from? I've got enough homers, with Jones and Kemp and Loney and Martin; I'll seat Ethier, and Pierre will rack up the steals. And just look at that batting average! Eat our dust, Sabez's Sluggerz!!!!!11!!"

Memo to the Dodgers: Although Juan Pierre is a very good fantasy baseball player... when it comes to the real thing, it turns out, not so much.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Hot Hand

Today's Dog Trainer:

But contracts are not likely to sway Torre's decision in picking a starter
in left field where Juan Pierre, in the second year of a five-year, $44-million
contract, is battling Andre Ethier, who will earn $424,000 this season.

Both players will make the team but it's becoming more and more likely that
Ethier, who is batting .344 and is tied for the lead among National League
players with five spring homers, could start over Pierre, who is hitting .188
with a .253 on-base percentage.

The idea that Ethier will start is good news. Good news? Great news -- the news we've been waiting over a year to hear.

But scratch the surface and this is actually a little troubling. For example, the next paragraph is this:

"You're going to play the players that you think are going to best serve you
that day," Torre said.

This begs the question: will Torre play the hot hand in left field all season long?

Playing the hot hand can sometimes have benefits. We all remember Marlon Anderson. It is possible that Ethier was a better player than Anderson in September 2006, but Anderson was so hot that it's difficult for me to argue that the decision was wrong*.

(*Note that I say that it's merely possible that Ethier was a better player that month. That might not be true. Ethier was a rookie and showed signs of fatigue. He had also been riding an inflated batting average all season long and may have been returning to earth. At that particular moment in time, without even considering the fact that Anderson was so hot, it's possible that Anderson was the better ballplayer. Add in his serious hotness -- he played the best month of baseball in his life -- and starting Anderson makes a lot of sense.)

The problem with playing the hot hand is that it is sometimes code, a thinly-veiled excuse, to play a lesser player over a better one. Even if the lesser player is producing at the moment, you don't know what the better player would be producing while riding the bench.

More troubling, it's sometimes difficult to tell when the hot streak is over. Sure, a guy might be hot now, but when do you take him out of the lineup? After one 0-for-4 day? Two one-for-five days? That can happen to anybody and in fact happens to everybody. It doesn't necessarily mean anything. That's baseball.

The fact that Ethier may be getting the job because he's the hot hand right now is ridiculous. Juan Pierre, for all his faults, is not a .188 hitter. Andre Ethier should get the job not because he is hot but because he is a better player than Pierre. The idea that as soon as Ethier is not so hot, Pierre will be starting -- which Torre might be implying in his quote -- is an anathema.

Taking this one step further... and in fact one step too far...

Because it's fun and because I'm feeling particularly obnoxious today, I think I'll make up a ridiculously unlikely scenario. Let's say that Pierre has a streak where he gets hot for, say, 10 games -- let's say he bats .400 over that stretch -- and then follows with 10 games in which he goes 1-for-5 over half and 2-for-5 over the other half. Now he has a 20-game hit streak, meaning people are starting to pay attention, and he's batting .350 over that stretch, which is good enough for him to keep starting.... Now here's the ridiculous part -- let's say that every single day for the next 37 games he goes 1-for-5. He now has broken DiMaggio's record.... and over that 57-game stretch, including the hot streak, he's batting .218.

See what playing the hot hand gets you? A cherished record, broken by a .218 hitter. Is that what you want?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Better than Ever

The great thing about humankind is our ability to make ourselves ever better. This, right now, is the greatest moment in human history so far, and the next one will be even better. As a race, human beings have a distinct, unique ability to learn from the past, correct our mistakes, and move forward into an ever-better future. The great irony is that many, many people feel this is a world that has passed them by. They yearn to return to an earlier age, one that was not as good as the age we live in now.

Which brings us to Juan Pierre.

I have taken my share -- and my bride's share, and my spawn's share, and the guy down the street's share -- of easy shots at Pierre, but on one level, I sympathize with the guy. In an earlier age, he would have been lauded as one of the best players in baseball. He works hard and arrives early every day. He hits .300. He gets 200 hits a year. He steals bases, seemingly at will. He runs out every bunt, every grounder, every popup. One measure of predicting his future gives him about a 1-in-3 shot at reaching 3,000 hits, which would put him in the Hall of Fame.

The problem for Pierre is that the tireless march of time has passed him by. Not only has the average player gotten better, but with what we now know about how runs are scored and games are won, we know that Pierre is not a good baseball player. Stolen bases don't count for as much as we thought. Hitting .300 is great, but not if you rarely walk, as Pierre does. Hitting for power, which Pierre also rarely does, is also important. Today's batter contributes so much more to scoring runs than a batter a generation ago, and Pierre can't compete with that. Juan Pierre, like Howard the Duck, is trapped in a world he never made.

With four outfielders competing for three positions, Dodger fans stand now on the edge of a great precipice as the 2008 Dodgers try to decide what kind of team they're going to be. The three best outfielders on the team are Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Juan Pierre, the fourth-best outfielder on the team, maybe, should be benched, or, if possible, traded. And yet, it may happen that Pierre will become the team's regular left fielder. This would be wrong. It is a call to action.

Last year, this blog attempted to spread the word about Pierre by counting each and every out that the man made. Real life, unfortunately, got in the way. It is very difficult to keep up with such a task. So, this year, the reborn OutWatch returns to you, but modified in two ways.

First, the OutWatch will no longer track each and every out made by Pierre. Instead, it will become a watchdog of sorts for the outfield situation, reminding all Dodger fans that any plate appearance that Pierre takes from Andre Ethier, or, heaven forfend, Matt Kemp, is a wasted plate appearance, regardless of the outcome. Posting may be irregular, and we thank you in advance for your patience with that. We will try to make it up to you with keen insight that you can't get elsewhere.

Second, it is clear that this is a job that I can't do alone. With that in mind, you will see posts from the very talented and much calmer JimBilly4, as soon as I get around to figuring out how to make him an author here. JimBilly4 is a very good and funny writer and a lifelong Dodger fan. I know you will treat him with the same respect, warmth, and invitations for unspeakable things that he can do with his mother that you have given to me.

Thanks again to you all, and here's to the Dodgers figuring it out to much success in 2008.