Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blog talk

Ben Westrup at the humorously named I Hate Matt Berry blog has posted a few comments regarding my latest anti-Ned Colletti column.

I do agree that we overpaid for Juan Pierre, who might be overtaken by Andre Ethier as the starting leftfielder, and Jason Schmidt, but I have to disagree with his other opinions.

The Juan Pierre disaster deserves more than a laconic "we overpaid" comment. He steals bases on a 70-75% clip: wow. He had a lifetime OPS in the low .700s ... for an outfielder! Not a slick fielding second baseman or a dependable catcher -- an outfielder! He had about 10 career home runs. He was approaching the wrong side of 30. He never walks, and he leads the league in batting outs year after year. This is the guy you want to lock down for five years as your center fielder? I'm not even going to talk about what a disaster he is in terms of fielding.

As for Jason Schmidt ... this isn't hindsight talking. Every Dodger fan I knew was stunned that Schmidt was handed that large of a multi-year deal. It's not as though he was a "break-down" candidate. He had already broken down!

Colletti signed Rafael Furcal for three years/$39 million, which is a lot of money, but Furcal was one of the Dodgers best players in his first season with the team, hitting .300/15/63/37. It's likely that Furcal could have repeated those numbers in 2007, but a spring training collision with teammate Jason Repko left him with an ankle sprain that hindered him throughout the year. Now that he's healthy, Furcal should be one of the top ten shortstops in the league.

Furcal at $13 million per was a waste of money. Consider that Tejada signed for about the same amount, and he had far more home runs, is far more durable, and has a better OBP and slugging percentage. What does Furcal do best? Supposedly, steal bases. Well, he stole 37 the year before last, but he was caught 13 times. That's 74%. He's below the Mendoza Line, at which players should actually stop stealing bases. And that's not a fluke, as his career percentage is only about 77%. He has a career OPS of about .750. Tejada: .820. $13 million could have been better spent elsewhere.

Nomar Garciaparra has little to no value now, but he was the Comeback Player of the Year in his first year with the Dodgers, hitting .303/20/93 in 2006. Garciaparra is just taking up space now that James Loney is ready to take over at first, but he was one of the team's better offensive players in 2006.

I would argue that perhaps the most important job of a general manager is to be able to intelligently forecast future events. A myopic salamander would have realized that Nomar was not a good signing for more than one year. Garciaparra would have received a guaranteed multi-year contract from no other team. He blocked Loney for a year. Sure, he received a meaningless Comeback Player of the Year award for 2006, but that doesn't mean he's a good bet going forward. Even in 2006, he only played in 122 games and accumulated his stats at 1B and 3B. Twenty home runs from your corner infield positions isn't anything to get excited about.

I liked that the Dodgers were able to get Luis Gonzalez for 2007; he was a decent insurance policy in case Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier faltered. Gonzalez's 15 HR were actually tied for third on the power deficient team. It was just a one-year deal, so Gonzalez allowed the Dodgers to bring their young outfielders along slowly without blocking them long term.

Gonzalez blocked better OFs and cost too much. And one of the big reasons that the team was power deficient is that it wasted money on Rafael Furcal and both money and playing time on Nomar Garciparra.

Derek Lowe has been the Dodger's most consistent starting pitcher over the last three years; he's pitched nearly 200 innings every year that he's been on the team, and he's averaged 13 wins with an ERA between 3.61 and 3.88. I don't see how you can go wrong with having a rotation stalwart like that on our team.

Derek Lowe is a fine pitcher. The Dodgers are paying him a lot of money. More than anyone else would. Which is not a good way to allocate resources for less than premier players. The reason they have a hole at third base is because they didn't have the money they wasted elsewhere to go and trade for a Miguel Cabrera or maybe sign an Alex Rodriguez.

Another word on Lowe: My original article is somewhat vague as to whether Colletti is responsible for the signing (I just said he found the salary to be "fair"). In my original draft, I blamed Colletti, then couldn't recall when the Dodgers picked up Lowe. I was too lazy to go check so I just made the language more ambiguous. We've got some sharp eyed readers!

By the way, the Andruw Jones signing has convinced me that Colletti has learned nothing from his past mistakes. Nothing. You sign that guy for one year guaranteed, or you don't sign him at all.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't sweat Ben Westrup too much (not that you were sweating --- you seemed more incredulous than anything). He's not exactly a model of thoroughness and consistency. Take, for example, his recap of Harden's performance: He tries to play quant stat geek with his analysis of Harden's strike-rate, but completely botches the game decision in his headline,
"Rich Harden looks strong in no-decision" even though he immediately links to another headline that gets it right, "Rich Harden pitched well in his first start of the season, receiving win in a 5-1 game over Boston." Forest-trees issue, perhaps.

(Not to pile on or get too nitpicky, but Velez has 14 steals.)

Ben Westrup said...

Yeah that was my bad, when I first read the Oak/Bos game recap, for some reason my eyes played tricks on me. I corrected it in the body of my post, but failed to correct the title. Thanks for pointing that out.

And you're right, I guess that mistake invalidates everything else I had to say about Harden.

As for Velez, I was going by what ESPN had for his spring training stats. They now have him at 10 steals for the spring, while I do see that has him at 14. From now on I'll go by what MLB says.

Ben Westrup said...

Mike -

I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

At least we can both agree that the Dodgers have not been one of the best run teams in MLB lately. That's probably been true since the O'Malleys sold the team.

I just feel that it was better to sign some veterans in order to bring along their younger guys slowly. They did over pay for those guys, and gave Nomar too many years, but I don't think the development of Loney and Kemp was hurt by not being handed full time positions last year.

At least it's a new season, and hopefully Pierre will be traded or at least buried on the bench.

Go Dodgers.

Johnny Rico said...

Dear Anonymous detective who piles on extraneous, nitpicky details which are prefaced by the phrase "not to pile on or get nitpicky"... If you are going to needlessly claim that someone is inconsistent and not thorough in their analysis, at least critique something a bit more substantive than a typo in a title. Where is your blog? I would love to see a link to it so I can post similarly enlightening comments about it.

Anonymous said...

Juan Rich -- you're right. I was being a cranky ass. I'm not putting myself out there like Ihateberry or anyone else. My bad.

Anonymous said...

All the aforementioned veteran signings, notwithstanding Lowe, were shrewd choices made by an obviously enlightened GM.

Kudos Ned, you snagged all my old, injury-riddled sleepers one round before I could get them.


P.S. Thanks for letting Zito drop all the way to me!


Mike Bock said...

Nodnas Nacnud! My nemesis!