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.