Taking early stock of the Isotopes

While Mike is on vacation/files/includes/,.css he asked me to offer up some thoughts about the Albuquerque Isotopes and how what amounts to the Dodgers’ reserve team is shaping up as the season begins. The ‘Topes have only been home for a total of eight days so far this season — they begin their fourth road series of the year tonight at New Orleans (Marlins) — so this is all a very/files/includes/,.css very preliminary analysis of the 25 players I have observed.

Catchers Tim Federowicz and Josh Bard

FedEx is the man on the spot/files/includes/,.css the lone Isotope ranked by Baseball America in the Dodgers’ top 10 prospects. While plenty of fans are still smarting about last year’s trade that sent Trayvon Robinson packing and brought Fed and two pitchers to the organization/files/includes/,.css so far the young backstop is showing promise. “He’s been a lot better this year/files/includes/,.css he’s a lot more patient/files/includes/,.css” manager Lorenzo Bundy said of Fed’s hitting (.292/.365/.477). The swing-first/files/includes/,.css pull-everything mentality from last season is all but gone. Defensively he has looked sharp/files/includes/,.css making strong throws to second/files/includes/,.css blocking the plate well and doing a good job of working with the pitching staff. As for Bard/files/includes/,.css as the Isotopes’ oldest player (34/files/includes/,.css which makes him the only player on the team older than me … yikes)/files/includes/,.css he has not played much/files/includes/,.css but he has played well/files/includes/,.css batting .385 (10-for-26). “Obviously/files/includes/,.css Josh with his experience … it’s like having an extra coach floating around here/files/includes/,.css” Bundy said. “He takes the leadership role. He knows his role on this club and he’s ready at any time.”

First baseman Jeff Baisley

Jeff Baisley has been a good presence in the lineup. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes.)

The veteran slugger has played well so far/files/includes/,.css batting .313/.390/.531 with three homers and a team-leading 16 RBI. Though primarily a third baseman with Salt Lake (Angels) last season/files/includes/,.css he has handled first base well defensively and it clearly has not had an impact on his hitting. Personality-wise/files/includes/,.css he keeps it serious on the field and keeps it loose during batting practice and in the clubhouse. Though he is viewed as a leader/files/includes/,.css Baisley said he has not had to overly assert himself so far. He certainly continues the recent tradition of high-character veterans the Dodgers like to have in Albuquerque.

Second baseman Alex Castellanos

Though currently on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring (return date unknown)/files/includes/,.css the converted outfielder has been solid so far at the plate (.366/.477/.746)/files/includes/,.css while overcoming the defensive obstacles that come with returning to his old position. The big issue for Castellanos offensively lies with his ability to overcome his aggressive/files/includes/,.css swing-first mentality. In the field/files/includes/,.css throwing has been the biggest challenge/files/includes/,.css but after a week spent with Dodgers special instructors Juan Castro and Jody Reed (laugh about their hitting/files/includes/,.css but both were good in the field)/files/includes/,.css Castellanos seems to be adapting quickly. Just calm down on the early promotion possibilities; Castellanos himself said he needs close to a full season playing every day at second base before he is ready for MLB.

Shortstop Luis Cruz

The wily veteran has been on “Cruz Control” since he arrived/files/includes/,.css smacking the ball around (.328/.343/.500) while making some sharp plays in the field. He is another veteran who keeps it loose; his imitation of teammate Trent Oeltjen‘s Australian accent is a sight to behold.

Third baseman Josh Fields

Nicknamed “QB” for obvious reasons/files/includes/,.css the former Oklahoma State football standout has gotten off to a quiet start (.289/.375/.526) when compared to his teammates. Nonetheless/files/includes/,.css he has been a solid contributor. This is no sign of the dreaded “jaded ex-big-leaguer stuck at Triple-A” disease that sometimes afflicts players. Much like Cruz/files/includes/,.css he seemed to be riding high off his strong spring that nearly saw him make the big-league roster. He has been a positive influence/files/includes/,.css playing good defense with (no surprise here) a very strong arm.

Utility man Elian Herrera

The versatile Elian Herrera has been a sparkplug atop the lineup. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Bundy said the Isotopes’ turnaround/files/includes/,.css from a 2-6 road trip to their current record of 11-9/files/includes/,.css has been thanks in part to the ultra-versatile Herrera. A pure contact hitter (.340/.357/.566)/files/includes/,.css he is Albuquerque’s fastest player and has done well out of the leadoff spot. Defensively/files/includes/,.css he has looked especially sharp at second base and third base/files/includes/,.css while also seeing time at shortstop and the outfield. He would strictly be a bench player at the next level/files/includes/,.css but with Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy not getting any younger/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers could do worse.

Reserve infielders Joe Becker and Lance Zawadzki

Becker is a favorite of Bundy’s especially with his ability to deliver big hits in the clutch/files/includes/,.css often as a pinch hitter. He is also a capable defender at second/files/includes/,.css though he lacks the arm for third and has not played much shortstop. Zawadzki joined the team from extended spring on the last day of the homestand. While I have yet to see him play for the Isotopes/files/includes/,.css he was a solid defender and a streaky hitter last season with Omaha (Royals).

Outfielders Scott Van Slyke/files/includes/,.css Jerry Sands/files/includes/,.css Trent Oeltjen/files/includes/,.css Matt Angle

Van Slyke/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers’ No. 21 prospect/files/includes/,.css has been the hitting star out of this group (.364/.437/.610). He has fared well defensively in both outfield corners/files/includes/,.css with a strong arm and more mobility than you would expect from someone who is listed at 6-5/files/includes/,.css 250. He made one start at first base during the homestand/files/includes/,.css looking a little out of practice there/files/includes/,.css so hold off on the “he can replace Loney” talk. Oh/files/includes/,.css and I will sit him down to talk about his life growing up around baseball with his father. His stories are hilarious. Sands’ struggles at the plate (.192/.310/.315) have been well-documented so far. Oeltjen has played all three outfield spots/files/includes/,.css serving more as a fourth outfielder than anything else. As such/files/includes/,.css his hitting (.250/.328/.350) has yet to get into a groove with such sporadic playing time. Angle has been the lost one of the bunch/files/includes/,.css looking all out of sorts at the plate (.146/.255/.268) and now finding himself on the DL with a strained hamstring.

Starting pitchers Michael Antonini/files/includes/,.css John Ely/files/includes/,.css Stephen Fife/files/includes/,.css Fernando Nieve/files/includes/,.css Mike Parisi

John Ely has pitched well at home/files/includes/,.css not so well on the road. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Before his call-up to the big leagues/files/includes/,.css Antonini made one start in Albuquerque he would like to forget (3.1 IP/files/includes/,.css 7 H/files/includes/,.css 7 R/files/includes/,.css 6 ER/files/includes/,.css 2 BB/files/includes/,.css 3 HR allowed). Like many young pitchers/files/includes/,.css the 26-year-old lefty learned the hard way you have to keep the ball down in Albuquerque if you want to have a prayer of succeeding here. He certainly throws a lot of strikes/files/includes/,.css but he left too many up in that game. Despite being back for his third season with the Isotopes/files/includes/,.css Ely has remained upbeat and continues to work hard. He has been a completely different pitcher at home (13 IP/files/includes/,.css 4 ER) than on the road (7.1 IP/files/includes/,.css 11 ER). Fife has just plain struggled wherever he has pitched this year (1-2/files/includes/,.css 9.92 ERA). The big righty is a finesse pitcher and so far the PCL is chewing him up. Nieve went from horrible at Omaha (1.2 IP/files/includes/,.css 11 H/files/includes/,.css 9 ER) to solid at home (6 IP/files/includes/,.css 7 H/files/includes/,.css 3 ER) to then getting ejected in the third inning of his third start for hitting a batter. It has been a very bizarre season for the former Astro and Met/files/includes/,.css who throws hard but does not strike a lot of people out (8 total in 10.1 IP). Parisi has been the most consistent and effective starter to date. It should come as no surprise/files/includes/,.css since there always seems to be one veteran who puts together a solid campaign in ABQ (e.g. Dana Eveland last year).

Right-handed relievers Josh Wall/files/includes/,.css Ramon Troncoso/files/includes/,.css Will Savage/files/includes/,.css Francisco Felix

Wall has looked sharp while sharing closing duties. He throws in the mid-90s and looks like another potentially solid addition to LA’s young bullpen down the line. There is still some wildness (4 walks in 8.1 IP) that needs to be smoothed out. Troncoso has looked like a man determined to get back to the big leagues (1.08 ERA in 8.1 IP)/files/includes/,.css while Savage has been lights out (4-0/files/includes/,.css 2.41) in the long relief/spot starter role/files/includes/,.css keeping the ball down and utilizing his cutter/files/includes/,.css fastball and curveball to their fullest extent. Felix/files/includes/,.css well/files/includes/,.css somebody has to take it on the chin/files/includes/,.css and so far he is doing just that (10.13 ERA in 13.1 IP). As the Dodger bullpen fluctuates/files/includes/,.css his head would seem to be the first on the chopping block down here.

Left-handed relievers Brent Leach/files/includes/,.css Wil Ledezma/files/includes/,.css Derrick Loop/files/includes/,.css Scott Rice/files/includes/,.css Cole St. Clair

Rice has been the star of the southpaw collective/files/includes/,.css sharing the team lead with four saves. He is at his most effective not when he is getting strikeouts/files/includes/,.css but rather when is able to get hitters to try and pounce on strikes/files/includes/,.css causing them to ground out and pop up early in the count. Leach (0-1/files/includes/,.css 6.57) has /files/includes/alternate.cssd between looking good and taking it on the chin; personality-wise he has not changed from his year in Japan/files/includes/,.css remaining the same funny/files/includes/,.css witty southerner who graced the clubhouse in 2009-10. St. Clair has been similar to Leach in terms of pitching/files/includes/,.css looking good one outing and struggling to throw strikes the next. Poor Ledezma was walloped in his first two home appearances (10 runs total)/files/includes/,.css but has since settled down and regained his confidence. Loop has yet to appear in a game in Albuquerque.


This is a better team than it looked after losing six of eight on the opening road trip. The Isotopes pulled off their first four-game sweep since 2009 when they took Iowa apart. As long as the pitching stays at least somewhat consistent/files/includes/,.css the lineup is more than capable of scoring enough runs. What looked like a pack of spot starters/files/includes/,.css middle relievers and bench players actually has some players with enough talent (Van Slyke/files/includes/,.css Castellanos/files/includes/,.css Federowicz/files/includes/,.css in particular) to help the Dodgers out in the future. Rice and Wall can be both be part of a big-league bullpen/files/includes/,.css as well. This team may lack the star power when Gordon/files/includes/,.css Sands (the good version) and Robinson were here last year/files/includes/,.css but it is still a fun bunch to watch.

As always/files/includes/,.css you can find all the ‘Topes news and notes you can handle here and you can now follow me on Twitter as @TopesWriter for quick updates/files/includes/,.css anecdotes/files/includes/,.css breaking news and even some play-by-play during home games.

— Chris Jackson

Kiko Calero’s a Minor League Signing I Can Get Behind

You probably remember the string of non-roster invites and minor league signings over the winter/files/includes/,.css most of which caused me nausea. John Koronka? Nick Green? Angel Berroa? It’s not that there was any guaranteed money tied up in these guys/files/includes/,.css so the invites couldn’t be that disappointing/files/includes/,.css it’s just that most of them were never any good in the first place/files/includes/,.css so it seemed like a waste of time. Or worse/files/includes/,.css Garret Anderson.

Today/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers signed another mid-30s veteran to a minor league deal/files/includes/,.css reliever Kiko Calero. The difference is/files/includes/,.css Calero’s actually worth investing an AAA roster spot in. Over his seven-year career spent with St. Louis/files/includes/,.css Oakland/files/includes/,.css and Florida/files/includes/,.css he’s struck out more than a man per inning (9.6/9) with a 1.196 WHIP and a 3.24 ERA. The fact that his career FIP is nearly identical – 3.29 – shows that he’s done that without a ton of luck/files/includes/,.css and that he’s performed just about how you’d expect.

Even better/files/includes/,.css unlike the other guys who hadn’t been good for many years if ever at all/files/includes/,.css Calero had one of his best seasons in 2009 for the Marlins/files/includes/,.css striking out 10.4 men per 9 with a sparkling 1.95 ERA in a career-high 60 innings. Now/files/includes/,.css he wasn’t quite that good/files/includes/,.css since his BABIP was an unsustainably low .259/files/includes/,.css leading to a more reasonable but still excellent 2.56 FIP.

“So/files/includes/,.css” you’re probably asking/files/includes/,.css “if he’s that good/files/includes/,.css why was he a free agent willing to take a minor league deal this offseason?” Well/files/includes/,.css quite simply/files/includes/,.css it’s because he’s had a history of shoulder injuries/files/includes/,.css causing teams to be wary of investing in him – not that it stopped him from succeeding last year. He signed a minor league deal with the Mets/files/includes/,.css and the results weren’t pretty – a 10.59 ERA/files/includes/,.css though still striking out nearly a batter per inning/files/includes/,.css before being released last month.

The Mets/files/includes/,.css as we all know/files/includes/,.css are desperate for pitching/files/includes/,.css and if they didn’t think there was anything here worth salvaging/files/includes/,.css it’s probably not a good sign. That said/files/includes/,.css this is the perfect kind of player to be signing to a minor league deal; one who’s been successful both throughout his career and as recently as last year. If he goes to ABQ and he’s cooked/files/includes/,.css well/files/includes/,.css no harm done. But if he’s anything like the pitcher he was just last season/files/includes/,.css you might have a find/files/includes/,.css with the only investing being whatever pennies a pro-rated AAA contract is for half the season/files/includes/,.css or one session with a Russian mystic. Well done.


In the same dodgers.com article which noted the signing of Calero/files/includes/,.css Ken Gurnick notes that Calero will be taking the roster spot of Brent Leach/files/includes/,.css who has been sent back to AA to try to convert into a starting pitcher. I’m not sure if it’s a great idea or not/files/includes/,.css but Gurnick notes “the club believes with his four-pitch repertoire he might be able to make the switch”/files/includes/,.css so it’s worth noting.

MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Relievers/files/includes/,.css Part 3

Finally! This is the last player review segment of the year/files/includes/,.css and while I won’t pretend this one is the most interesting grouping of players you’ll read about all year/files/includes/,.css this whole series served its purpose. It allowed me to get some thoughts down on each player this year/files/includes/,.css and almost as importantly/files/includes/,.css helped fill some space between the end of the season and the start of the Hot Stove.

85toppscorywadeCory Wade (F)
(2-3/files/includes/,.css 5.53/files/includes/,.css 1.373 WHIP)

See Cory Wade in his picture over there? He looks sad. Sure/files/includes/,.css that’s a picture from 2008 (you can tell because of the 50th anniversary patch on his right arm)/files/includes/,.css but maybe he just looks sad because he knows that his 2009 will in no way reflect his excellent 2008.

Really/files/includes/,.css Wade’s 2009 stands as glaring proof of two truisms: 1) that except for the best of the best/files/includes/,.css reliever performances are incredibly volatile year-to-year/files/includes/,.css and 2) Joe Torre tends to crush his new favorite toy like he’s Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Thus/files/includes/,.css Wade’s problems were pretty clear this year. He couldn’t stay healthy (two trips to the DL for a right shoulder that bothered him even in 2008) and he wasn’t very good even when he was available (huge increases in BB/9 and WHIP/files/includes/,.css huge decrease in K/9). That being the case/files/includes/,.css part of his problems is that he was never as good as he seemed in 2008 – a .227 BABIP is completely unsustainable and was a large part of why the ERA that looked so good (2.27) was nowhere near what FIP said he should have been (3.78). This year/files/includes/,.css his luck completely changed/files/includes/,.css since the huge increase in BABIP to .294 helped turn an already lousy FIP (4.40) into a much worse ERA (5.57).

You have to wonder how much of the blame for his injuries should be heaped on Torre/files/includes/,.css because we tend to forget how much Wade was worked in 2008. Even in April/files/includes/,.css Kensai and I were both ringing the bell on this/files/includes/,.css as I said at the time

Wade’s pitched in four games this season/files/includes/,.css and has been great in three of them (three scoreless outings of an inning apiece/files/includes/,.css allowing two hits) and awful in one (three hits and two runs in 1/3 of an inning). The poor outing was the only one that came on a back-to-back appearance/files/includes/,.css and since this is apparently the same shoulder issue that bothered him last season and in spring/files/includes/,.css you have to wonder: should we be treating him as the right-handed Hong-Chih Kuo? I’d rather live with an effective Wade who’s not available as often as everyone else than no Wade at all. Some guys just aren’t built for the constant workload/files/includes/,.css and you have to wonder if Wade falls under that category.

Wade/files/includes/,.css of course/files/includes/,.css never did come close to regaining his form for the rest of the year/files/includes/,.css and even worse/files/includes/,.css was horrible in the minors – allowing 17 ER in 22.2 AAA innings. He’ll still just be 26 when Opening Day comes/files/includes/,.css so his time has hardly passed. But he’ll likely have to prove his health in the minors again before he gets another shot at what looks to be a pretty loaded big league bullpen crew.

85toppsbrentleachBrent Leach (?)
(2-0/files/includes/,.css 5.75/files/includes/,.css 1.377)

Brent Leach is a left-handed pitcher who appeared in 38 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball.

Okay/files/includes/,.css I was tempted to just go with the Wikipedia-esque description and leave it at that/files/includes/,.css because I seriously have no recollection of Brent Leach doing anything meaningful for the Dodgers this year. Did he really get into 38 games? Jesus. My top memory of Leach is mainly the firestorm Kensai unwittingly set off by discussing his wife’s hilarious blog (which I can’t seem to find the link to anymore).

As for his pitching/files/includes/,.css he got the call from Chattanooga because he was dominating down there (1 ER and 17 K in 13 IP). Before you get too excited about that/files/includes/,.css remember that this was AA and he turns 27/files/includes/,.css well/files/includes/,.css today. (Happy Birthday!) Once he got to the bigs the strikeout rate was nice (8.4/9) but the homer rate much less so (1.3/9) and the walk rate was pretty bad (5.31/9).

Actually/files/includes/,.css he looks to have had control issues his entire career – only in 2008/files/includes/,.css as a 25-year-old in High-A ball/files/includes/,.css has he ever really been able to keep it below a walk every other inning. Still/files/includes/,.css some lefties are known to develop late/files/includes/,.css and he appears to have the stuff to miss bats/files/includes/,.css so if he can ever get a handle on that control/files/includes/,.css he might actually have a future in a bullpen to be named later.

85toppswillohmanWill Ohman (F)
(1-0/files/includes/,.css 5.84/files/includes/,.css 1.622 WHIP)

Oh/files/includes/,.css Will Ohman. I had such high hopes for you. I actually had first brought him up way back in October 2008/files/includes/,.css before any rumors had attached him to the Dodgers/files/includes/,.css in my 2009 plan:

Ohman’s a 31-year old lefty reliever and Pepperdine alum who’s made it into at least 56 games in each of the last four seasons with the Cubs and Braves/files/includes/,.css with ERA+ marks of 151/files/includes/,.css 112/files/includes/,.css 94/files/includes/,.css and 112. Plus/files/includes/,.css he’s absolutely murder on lefties (.571 OPS against in 2008)/files/includes/,.css which makes him unlike Beimel (who’s actually harder on righties) and Kuo (who kills everyone/files/includes/,.css but isn’t really a situational kind of guy).

So when he became another victim of the lousy free agent market and signed with the Dodgers late in spring training/files/includes/,.css I was thrilled (and had only mentioned it about eleven times in March during the whole song-and-dance).

But there were worries from the beginning. Having missed most of spring training/files/includes/,.css Ohman was behind in his conditioning and was hit hard almost immediately. In 21 games over the first two months/files/includes/,.css he got shelled/files/includes/,.css somehow allowing a .609 SLG and .979 OPS in that time. On May 29/files/includes/,.css he went on the DL with a sore shoulder/files/includes/,.css experienced pain in his elbow during the rehab/files/includes/,.css and finally ended up having shoulder surgery in September. So clearly/files/includes/,.css that didn’t work out/files/includes/,.css and his 2010 option was obviously declined.

Still/files/includes/,.css I’m sad it didn’t work out. He had high socks/files/includes/,.css which rule in their own right/files/includes/,.css but he was also one of the funniest players the Dodgers have ever had. You know it’s good when sportswriters are breaking their own rules by cheering for him/files/includes/,.css but also check out these two videos:



So long/files/includes/,.css Will.

85toppsclaudiovargasClaudio Vargas (C)
(0-0/files/includes/,.css 1.64/files/includes/,.css 1.000 WHIP)

Sometimes you sign a mediocre veteran to a minimum salary contract/files/includes/,.css and you hope for the next Chan Ho Park or Jeff Weaver.  Sometimes you get a nice surprise like that… and sometimes you get a guy who gets this written about him in spring training

I had a whole section on Claudio Vargas written out/files/includes/,.css mostly about how unlike Milton/files/includes/,.css Estes/files/includes/,.css and Weaver/files/includes/,.css he was given a major-league contract rather than just a spring training invite. But all that’s out the window after Monday/files/includes/,.css because Claudio Vargas has committed the unthinkable: he allowed a home run to our favorite fat sack of crap/files/includes/,.css Andruw Jones. That alone should disqualify him – and if it doesn’t/files/includes/,.css the three other homers he’s allowed in just 8.1 innings so far ought to. Odds: Andruw Jones’ weight times a hundred-to-1

…before being put on the 60-day DL with arm troubles/files/includes/,.css missing the first three months of the season. So to say Claudio Vargas was an afterthought is putting it lightly.

But then something crazy happened; when Vargas returned in July/files/includes/,.css he was good. Really good. In 11 innings over 8 relief outings/files/includes/,.css he allowed just 2 ER/files/includes/,.css struck out 10/files/includes/,.css and held opponents to a puny .184/.279/.263 (.542 OPS) line. Sure/files/includes/,.css it was only 11 innings/files/includes/,.css and nothing in his history suggested he could keep that up – I get that. Still/files/includes/,.css with the depleted Dodger staff at the time/files/includes/,.css any contributions were welcome.

So what happened? The Dodgers traded him for a 29-year-old backup catcher hitting .249 on Milwaukee’s AA team/files/includes/,.css Vinny Rottino. This didn’t make sense to me at the time

Believe it or not/files/includes/,.css Vargas has actually been pretty good for the Dodgers since coming off the DL. 11 innings isn’t much of a sample size/files/includes/,.css but he’s allowed only 11 baserunners and 2 runs in that time/files/includes/,.css with a nice 10/4 K/BB ratio. I’m hardly crushed that he’s gone/files/includes/,.css but did we really need Vinny Rottino? He’s 29 with all of 18 MLB games under his belt/files/includes/,.css and he’s so highly thought of that he’s being sent to AA. You almost feel bad for the guy/files/includes/,.css being a Wisconsin native and all/files/includes/,.css now being shipped out to Chattanooga.

No/files/includes/,.css what this feels like is a way to clear out a roster spot for George Sherrill/files/includes/,.css but there were better ways to do that. DFA Jason Schmidt/files/includes/,.css for one/files/includes/,.css and no/files/includes/,.css I don’t care that he’s tonight’s starter. Send down James McDonald or Scott Elbert/files/includes/,.css if you must/files/includes/,.css because you know that either one would be right back up in a week.

Vargas wasn’t great/files/includes/,.css but he was at least useful/files/includes/,.css while Vinny Rottino looks unlikely to ever play a single game as a Dodger. I hate to act as though I’m all worked up over losing Claudio Vargas/files/includes/,.css of all people/files/includes/,.css but this move just makes no sense at all.

…and it doesn’t make any more sense now. Vargas went to Milwaukee and continued to excel (1.78 ERA/files/includes/,.css .530 OPS against)/files/includes/,.css Rottino went to Chattanooga/files/includes/,.css never to be heard from/files/includes/,.css and I still can’t find a good reason for any of it.

85toppstravisschlichtingTravis Schlichting (inc.)
(0-0/files/includes/,.css 3.38/files/includes/,.css 2.250 WHIP)

Signs that your newest reliever may not have been a top prospect: when MSTI’s first mention of him was pointing out that his Wikipedia page showed him as a third baseman for the Devil Rays. (Actually/files/includes/,.css it still does. Doesn’t anyone want to go fix that?)

Schlichting actually had a pretty nice minor league season (in 29.1 IP across 3 levels/files/includes/,.css he allowed just 3 earned runs)/files/includes/,.css but the less said about his major league stint the better. He got into 2 June games/files/includes/,.css managing to walk 5 and allow a Ryan Howard homer in first major league at-bat. So/files/includes/,.css yikes.

Still/files/includes/,.css those minor league numbers are nice/files/includes/,.css and it’s important to remember that he’s only been a pitcher since 2007/files/includes/,.css having turned himself around from being a failed third baseman. He’ll likely start 2010 in the minors/files/includes/,.css but don’t be surprised to see him back in the bigs – and maybe even do well enough to get himself a real Wikipedia picture.


So that’s it! We’re done with reviews. I suppose I should probably write something up for Joe Torre as well/files/includes/,.css and I probably will at some point.  Damn it/files/includes/,.css why isn’t there VORM for managers?

MSTI’s First Half In Review: Pitching

So/files/includes/,.css today is the second Tuesday of July and the day after the Home Run Derby.  That means it’s time for a historic tradition that we see every year…

MSTI’s First Half Pitching Review! 

Today/files/includes/,.css we’ll go through all of the pitching fun/files/includes/,.css so let’s get started… 

The Starters: 

Chad Billingsley = A   
billingsleyvsmets.jpg(9-4/files/includes/,.css 3.14 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.23 WHIP) 

Chad Billingsley has been/files/includes/,.css simply/files/includes/,.css one of the best pitchers in baseball/files/includes/,.css this year.  As I wrote in May… 

Still/files/includes/,.css though/files/includes/,.css
Billingsley has been incredible this year and only continues to improve
and he’s still barely 24 years old.  It’s not enough to say anymore
that he’s going to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He already
IS and can stand toe to toe with almost anyone.  What’s also been
impressive is that even during the games that Billingsley hasn’t had
his best stuff he has managed to pull through.

That’s pretty much held up.  Granted/files/includes/,.css Billingsley has gradually slipped each month/files/includes/,.css going from a 3.76 ERA in June to a couple of poor starts so far this month/files/includes/,.css but his first half numbers have been awfully impressive/files/includes/,.css with his 3.14 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.23 WHIP/files/includes/,.css and his 1.23 pLI actually leads all pitchers in MLB.  The control is still a bit murky/files/includes/,.css ranking 2nd in walks/files/includes/,.css behind teammate Clayton Kershaw.  Nonetheless/files/includes/,.css Chad made his first All-Star appearance this year and I’m sure it will be the first of many/files/includes/,.css as he continues to improve and solidify his place as one of the games best pitchers. 

Randy Wolf = A   
(4-3/files/includes/,.css 3.45/files/includes/,.css 1.17 WHIP)

I was a bit leary of signing Wolf the second time around.  While his first stint in L.A. tends to be thought of with good memories/files/includes/,.css he was still pretty much the definition of average/files/includes/,.css putting up a 97 ERA+/files/includes/,.css and a 4.73 ERA/files/includes/,.css and his year was cut short due to injuries.  After going to SD last year/files/includes/,.css he couldn’t really last well inside Petco Park/files/includes/,.css before finishing up the year in Houston where he turned it around.  Injuries have played a big part of Wolf’s career and one of the concerns was whether he’d remain healthy.  After all/files/includes/,.css outside of last year/files/includes/,.css he hasn’t put together a healthy season since 2003.  Well/files/includes/,.css so far he has been quite healthy (tied for first/files/includes/,.css along with Billingsley/files/includes/,.css in the NL in starts) and not only that/files/includes/,.css but he’s off to one of the best starts of his career.  Wolf so far is putting up a 3.45 ERA/files/includes/,.css with a good 1.16 WHIP/files/includes/,.css and a VORP of 23.5/files/includes/,.css third amongst Dodgers pitchers.  His peripherals aren’t too bad/files/includes/,.css either: his H/9 of 7.9/files/includes/,.css his BB/9 of 2.6 are the best for Wolf since 2003 and he also leads all Dodgers in the CTUNW stat (changing their uniform number weekly). 

Wolf has played a vital role this year for the Dodgers and has helped/files/includes/,.css at least thus far/files/includes/,.css in eliminating any concerns we had about starting pitching going into the year. 

Oh yeah/files/includes/,.css another thing: we beat the whole “wins for pitchers aren’t significant” for pitchers thing to death around here/files/includes/,.css so why not again?  Anyways/files/includes/,.css Wolf in 2007 only pitched until July for the Dodgers.  Again/files/includes/,.css he was essentially league average/files/includes/,.css but he had a 9-6 record.  So far this year?  4-3/files/includes/,.css despite a 122 ERA+. 

Clayton Kershaw = B+/A- 
Sandy Kershaw.jpg(7-5/files/includes/,.css 3.16 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.27 WHIP)

So/files/includes/,.css I’m struggling to decide what to give him/files/includes/,.css and this grade is pretty much where I’m at.  Either way/files/includes/,.css what else can you say about the kid?  If he were putting up merely league average numbers at this stage/files/includes/,.css I think we’d be alright with it/files/includes/,.css but he’s not just doing that.  After struggling out of the gate/files/includes/,.css Kershaw has been simply great/files/includes/,.css going from a 7.29 ERA in April/files/includes/,.css down to a 2.57 ERA in May/files/includes/,.css 2.36 in June/files/includes/,.css and through the first three starts starts of July/files/includes/,.css 0.53.  While the 0.53 July ERA is definitely a small sample size/files/includes/,.css it has helped illustrate his continuous growth.  What’s also surprising is that he actually has the best VORP amongst Dodgers pitchers/files/includes/,.css edging out Chad Billingsley 26.7 to 26.1 and also puts him 12th amongst all NL pitchers.  Now Kershaw hasn’t necessarily perfect/files/includes/,.css either; while his 8.9 K/9 ratio is quite good/files/includes/,.css he does lead the league in walks and still carries some control issues which boosts his pitch count and therefore limits his innings.  However/files/includes/,.css at merely 21 years of age/files/includes/,.css he has shown to be not just someone who can just simply fit in the big leagues/files/includes/,.css but someone who can learn to adjust and also can carry a great deal of success (133 ERA+!)/files/includes/,.css as well/files/includes/,.css and certainly someone who will play a huge role in the second half. 

Well done/files/includes/,.css Clayton! 

Hiroki Kuroda = C- 
(3-5/files/includes/,.css 4.67 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.15 WHIP) 

In ways/files/includes/,.css it’s hard not to give the Hiroki Pokey Man an incomplete/files/includes/,.css given that he missed a lot of time.  But in his starts this year/files/includes/,.css he’s been going back and forth between solid starts to sometimes the downright awful which/files/includes/,.css in all honesty/files/includes/,.css isn’t too much different from 2008.  However/files/includes/,.css he hasn’t been back that long/files/includes/,.css so I will cut him a little slack. 

The Spot Starters: 

Eric Stults = C- 
(4-2/files/includes/,.css 4.80 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.58 WHIP) 

Eric Stults for a few years now has been the perfect guy to give you the spot start that you need and he’ll usually be pretty effective/files/includes/,.css provided that you don’t use him for too long.  It’s pretty much been the same story/files/includes/,.css this year.  In his 9 starts (I’m actually surprised he’s started that many/files/includes/,.css when I think about it)/files/includes/,.css he’s had about 6 good ones and 3 bad ones/files/includes/,.css which translates to a 4.80 ERA/files/includes/,.css or an 87 ERA+.  Not stellar numbers in the least/files/includes/,.css but about what you’d expect from Stults: an average pitcher at best who/files/includes/,.css in Stults case/files/includes/,.css throws in his obligatory complete game shutout each year.  Kinda funny/files/includes/,.css by the way… this year/files/includes/,.css Stults is the only Dodger pitcher with a complete game. 

Eric Milton = C 
(2-1/files/includes/,.css 3.80 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.52 WHIP) 

Can’t say that the thought of Eric Milton starting games for the Dodgers is something that put a smile on my face/files/includes/,.css but in his 5 starts for the team/files/includes/,.css he did respectable enough/files/includes/,.css going 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.  The WHIP wasn’t particularly good 1.52/files/includes/,.css but he didn’t necessarily embarrass himself this year/files/includes/,.css either.  Unfortunately for Milton/files/includes/,.css he was DL’d in late June and might have season ending back surgery.  But he had 5 games with the team and didn’t do terribly… can’t really ask for too much more than that.  

Jeff Weaver = A+ 
weaveraward.jpg(5-3/files/includes/,.css 3.48 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.57 WHIP)   

The title of this year’s Chan Ho Park goes to Jeff Weaver.  When he signed a minor league deal going into Spring Training/files/includes/,.css I didn’t really think anything of it and/files/includes/,.css to be honest/files/includes/,.css I certainly didn’t see him making the team.  But not only did he manage to do that/files/includes/,.css but he also managed to become a key member.  He has done everything asked of him and has done it well/files/includes/,.css whether coming up with the key spot start or pitching valuable innings in the bullpen/files/includes/,.css or just going out there and beating his kid brother when he needed to.  Now has some of it been smoke and mirrors?  Sure/files/includes/,.css his WHIP of 1.57 isn’t particularly good at all/files/includes/,.css and his FIP is actually 4.13/files/includes/,.css but somehow he’s getting the job done/files/includes/,.css so I’ll take it/files/includes/,.css right now.  2009 has been good for Stoner and hopefully/files/includes/,.css unlike Chan Ho last year/files/includes/,.css he can finish 2009 just as strong. 

James McDonald = D-     
(2-1/files/includes/,.css 4.71 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.50 WHIP) 

Yeah/files/includes/,.css remember him?  James McDonald came on to the scene last year for the Dodgers/files/includes/,.css pitching a mere 6 scoreless innings/files/includes/,.css which was nice/files/includes/,.css but where he really helped make an impression was during the NLCS/files/includes/,.css where he came in and put in some big innings for the Dodgers.  Eventually/files/includes/,.css he won out the 5th spot in the rotation this year and proceeded to promptly suck/files/includes/,.css getting 4 starts and putting up an 8.78 ERA and walking 14 to his 6 strikeouts.  That was enough for Joe Torre and after being demoted to the bullpen afterwards/files/includes/,.css he was shortly then sent back to Albuquerque where he was actually quite good/files/includes/,.css putting up a 3.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 30.1 innings/files/includes/,.css while seemingly fixing some of
his previous control issues (14 BB and 40 K’s) and putting up a nice 11.9 K/9 ratio.  Since being recalled to the Dodgers on June 19th/files/includes/,.css he hasn’t appeared in too many games/files/includes/,.css but in the games he’s appeared in he hasn’t embarrassed himself either/files/includes/,.css giving up 1 ER in his 10 innings.  Small sample size/files/includes/,.css yes/files/includes/,.css but hopefully McDonald can continue to turn it around and show more of the form he did in 2008.  The talent is definitely there. 

The Bullpen:

Jonathan Broxton = A+ 
brox.jpg(6-0/files/includes/,.css 3.10 ERA/files/includes/,.css 0.93 WHIP) 

It’s been a good year for Jonathan
Broxton.  He stepped into the closers role and has transitioned
seamlessly/files/includes/,.css got elected to his first All-Star game/files/includes/,.css and after a 24 year
pregnancy/files/includes/,.css finally gave birth to his first child/files/includes/,.css a beautiful baby

O.K./files/includes/,.css that was wrong.  But/files/includes/,.css still/files/includes/,.css Broxton has been
awfully good/files/includes/,.css this year/files/includes/,.css and one of the best in baseball.  His ERA is
3.14/files/includes/,.css though that’s taken a big hit these days/files/includes/,.css as 5 of his 14 ER’s total this year
have come from his past two appearances alone/files/includes/,.css which seem to have
stemmed from a toe injury that has kept him out since last week.  His
WHIP is 0.94 and his 2.63 WPA ranks him 4th amongst all active relief
pitchers/files/includes/,.css while his K/9 ratio has bumped from 11.5 in 2009 to 14.4 in
2009/files/includes/,.css thus far.  In addition/files/includes/,.css he has saved 20 of his 22 saves and/files/includes/,.css for
the most part/files/includes/,.css in convincing fashion.  Provided that his toe doesn’t
become something serious/files/includes/,.css once again/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers continue their string
of truly great closers.  

Ramon Troncoso = A+ 
(3-0/files/includes/,.css 1.75 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.27 WHIP) 

Last year/files/includes/,.css the Big Tronny got a C grade.  From last year: 

Still/files/includes/,.css Troncoso was another rookie inserted into the bullpen in 2008/files/includes/,.css
although not quite the story Cory Wade was.  But/files/includes/,.css nonetheless/files/includes/,.css Troncoso
didn’t Falkenborg himself either/files/includes/,.css going from a less than stellar 4.91
ERA in the first half to a respectable 3.81 in the second half/files/includes/,.css sparked
by a good August where he sported a good 2.57 ERA.  His ERA+ was 100
even and that about sums it up; average and servicable for the role he
played throughout the season.  For a person in his rookie year/files/includes/,.css not
bad; here’s to an improvement in 2009

Well/files/includes/,.css he improved and improved greatly.  Trancoso has been incredible this year putting up a 1.75 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP and a mere 240 ERA+ in his appearances this year/files/includes/,.css including ranking 4th in VORP amongst all Dodgers pitchers and his 2.83 WPA ranks 1st amongst all active relievers in baseball.  Troncoso isn’t one who necessarily grabs the headlines/files/includes/,.css but he’s been incredibly important to the team this year and a key aspect of the success of the bullpen.  I definitely didn’t see his 2009 coming/files/includes/,.css but well done.  

Ronald Belisario = A+ 
Belisario.jpg(1-3/files/includes/,.css 2.42 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.18 WHIP) 

Belisario is generally one of those guys
you see on the transaction list during Spring Training that you
generally overlook/files/includes/,.css given the amount of Spring Training invites that
tend to happen and usually don’t pan out.  But he did enough to get a
shot with the big club and not only did he do that/files/includes/,.css but he has become
one of the best arms out of the bullpen.  In his 48.1 innings/files/includes/,.css he has
put up a 2.42 ERA/files/includes/,.css with a nice 1.18 WHIP and 173 ERA+ and out of all
the pitchers on the team/files/includes/,.css he has the 5th best VORP at 14.5. 
Unfortunately/files/includes/,.css due to elbow stiffness/files/includes/,.css he has been placed on the DL/files/includes/,.css
although the reports about it show it isn’t something too serious and
hopefully he can come back and continue to be effective.  But a spring
training invite to one of the best relievers on the team?  Well… 

I’ll drink to that!  And so will Ronald!

Guillermo Mota = First Half Of First Half =

Second Half Of First Half = A+
(3-2/files/includes/,.css 3.51 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.20 WHIP)      

Yeah/files/includes/,.css it was time to pull out the ol’ Andruw grade and it was certainly applicable to Mota for the first half of the first half (shut up/files/includes/,.css it exists!).  Mota has literally gone from one extreme to the
next/files/includes/,.css hence the two different grades/files/includes/,.css as it feels like I’m grading two different people.  I hated the signing when it happened and for quite a while he
gave me good reason to/files/includes/,.css putting up ERA’s of 7.71 and 6.65 in April and
May.  After Brad Ausmus apparently discovered a flaw in Mota’s
delivery/files/includes/,.css Mota found the fountain of youth/files/includes/,.css or at least another
syringe/files/includes/,.css and put up a 0.56 ERA in June and has only given up 1 ER in
his last 22 appearances/files/includes/,.css which goes back to his implosion in Florida in
May.  He’s gone from arguably one of the worst relief pitchers in
baseball to one of the best and he has to be commended on that. 
Hopefully he can keep it up and continue to give the Dodgers a much
needed boost in the bullpen.

Brent Leach = B 
(2-0/files/includes/,.css 4.26 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.05 WHIP)  

Leach has pretty much become the LOOGY of the
team and he’s done relatively decent.  His 98 ERA+ puts him essentially
average/files/includes/,.css though his 1.05 WHIP has been pretty nice/files/includes/,.css but he’s been for
the most part dependable more times than not.    

Cory Wade = F
(2-3/files/includes/,.css 5.53 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.37 WHIP)   

So/files/includes/,.css what the hell happened to Cory Wade/files/includes/,.css this year?  In 2008/files/includes/,.css he was the most dependable reliever we had and was definitely one of the great stories of 2008 for the Dodgers.  Last year I wrote this: 

In 55 appearances this year/files/includes/,.css which translates into 71.3 innings/files/includes/,.css Wade
put up a good 2.27 ERA with an even better WHIP of 0.92.  The great
thing about Wade this season is that/files/includes/,.css as the season went on/files/includes/,.css he got
better.  Throughout the first half/files/includes/,.css his ERA was 2.56/files/includes/,.css and topped that
with a 1.93 ERA in the second half/files/includes/,.css spurred by great months in August
(2.16 ERA) and September (1.08 ERA).  In fact/files/includes/,.css that’s what was so
impressive about him/files/includes/,.css this year.  I don’t remember a period where he
ever really truly sucked and went all Proctor on us.  The worst month
he had in 2008 was July/files/includes/,.css where he had a 3.52 ERA and gave up 6 ER in 15
IP.  Not great/files/includes/,.css but not horrific.  He was also arguably our best
reliever in 2008 ranking second in VORP only to Hong Chih Kuo with

This year?  Not so good/files/includes/,.css putting up a 5.27 ERA in his 27 appearances and has made a visit to the DL with some arm troubles.  Hopefully his usage in 2008 hasn’t had an effect on him in 2009.  His star has definitely fallen/files/includes/,.css but hopefully he can come back and rebound. 

Will Ohman = D-
(1-0/files/includes/,.css 5.84 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.62 WHIP)   

Signed at the tail end of Spring Training to
be Troy from West Virginia’s new BFF/files/includes/,.css or just Joe Beimel’s replacement/files/includes/,.css
Ohman has failed to impress to the point where/files/includes/,.css when you heard the name “Ohman!” you shouted back “Ohcrap!”  In his 21 appearances/files/includes/,.css he put up a 5.84
ERA/files/includes/,.css with a 1.62 WHIP.  Having a BB/9 ratio of 5.8 didn’t help either.  To
be fair to Ohman/files/includes/,.css though/files/includes/,.css he didn’t really get much of a Spring
Training as he didn’t have a job until the end of the Spring Training/files/includes/,.css
and he hasn’t pitched in a while (late May)/files/includes/,.css being on the DL with
apparently a sore shoulder.  Still/files/includes/,.css though/files/includes/,.css he had enough appearances/files/includes/,.css
and appearances of sucktitude at that/files/includes/,.css to warrant the D-.  Though bonus
points for doing a killer Harry Caray impression and being an all
around funny guy. 

The Incompletes: 

Hong-Chih Kuo = Inc. 
Thumbnail image for kuofrombullpen.jpg(1-0/files/includes/,.css 6.75 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.69 WHIP) 

While Hong-Chih Kuo is just unbelievable when he’s on/files/includes/,.css in fact/files/includes/,.css he won MLB’s Set Up Man Of The Year Award last year/files/includes/,.css there’s always the potential for his arm to fall off at any point.  He’s had two Tommy John surgeries (and four arm surgeries total) and he’s had some arm troubles this year already which put him on the DL at the end of April.  He’s yet to return/files/includes/,.css but in the 5.1 innings he threw/files/includes/,.css it wasn’t particularly something to write home about.  Something was definitely wrong/files/includes/,.css originally with reports coming out that perhaps Kuo was suffering from a lack of confidence and now the arm troubles.  The talent is certainly there for Kuo to continue to be effective.  The health/files/includes/,.css though/files/includes/,.css might be another story.  We shall see…  

Travis Schlichting/files/includes/,.css Claudio Vargas/files/includes/,.css and Scott Elbert = Inc.
(0-0/files/includes/,.css 3.38 ERA/files/includes/,.css 2.25 WHIP)/files/includes/,.css (0-0/files/includes/,.css 0.00 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.00 WHIP)/files/includes/,.css (1-0/files/includes/,.css 5.00 ERA/files/includes/,.css 1.33 WHIP)  

So/files/includes/,.css I’m going to combine these two and give them the same grade/files/includes/,.css which is an incomplete.  For Schlichting/files/includes/,.css he got a brief cup of coffee early in the year and only threw a whopping 2.2 innings.  Granted/files/includes/,.css he gave up a HR and 5 BB’s to go with 2 K’s/files/includes/,.css but/files/includes/,.css again/files/includes/,.css not much at all you can derive from 2.2 innings.  Vargas barely came into action this month after being out due to injury and/files/includes/,.css while I wasn’t a fan of the signing when it happened/files/includes/,.css perhaps he can serve as the mop up man.  In regards to Elbert/files/includes/,.css it’s also awfully hard to gauge anything meaningful.  Only four appearances this year/files/includes/,.css with three of them coming in April and the next one just coming in July. 

That about does it for the pitching.  Tune in tomorrow when MSTI finishes our first half reviews by going through the coaching staff and the overall review! 

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg