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.

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