30 May 2007

Little Did We Know

by Joshua Worley

The Dodgers are alone in first place, again. I hope we don't look back on this day later in the season and say, "Remember all the way back to the end of May, when we were still in first place? That was the high point of the season, before the pitching collapsed and we tumbled below 0.500, below the Padres, Snakes, even the Giants. Little did we know ..."

Most days of the season have the potential to be looked back on as either the true high or low point of the season, depending on what happens after. There are often likelihoods that the current trends will continue, to be sure, but no guarantees. Present success or failure may be reversed. I'm sure every Yankee fan is hoping that months from now they can look on yesterday as the low point of the season. It's a strange way of making the current awful moment seem remote and unreal, to imagine a future from which the present appears outlandish and wrong. "Really, we were tied for last, 14.5 games back of the Red Sux? Seems so strange, now that we're in first place. I know it happened, but it seems a lifetime ago ..."

Did Brad Penny have an inkling when he started the All-Star game last year that this would be the high point of the year for him? When he was getting shelled in relief in a playoff game after being booted from the postseason rotation did he ever look back at the time when he was a top-5 pitcher in the NL and think, "Little did I know ..."

For Hendrickson, this year, the date was 2 May. He had given up only 1 home run and struck out more than 25% of batters faced. That was the high point of his season, maybe of his career. Since then, he's given up 6 home runs and is on the edge of losing his place in the starting rotation.

There was no sign that Penny would collapse in the second half of last year, while there was ample evidence to tell us Hendrickson would tumble from his great first month. Sometimes we can have a pretty good idea that we've reached the high point, and other times we couldn't have any way of knowing. Enjoy the good times while they last, even as you hope that they will last.

That's not the end of it, though. It's not enough that the Dodgers merly hope that they haven't already reached the high point of the season. How do the Dodgers guard against having to four months from now say, "Little did we know ... "? The Dodgers have no superstars. They are a team built on depth, but for that depth to mean anything they have to use it when necessary. Depth isn't just for injuries. To guard against a premature high point to the season, they have to be willing to play young players in place of veterans who aren't getting the job done. They're already doing this with the pitching staff. It remains to be seen if they will do it with the outfield and first base should current trends continue.

1 comment:

Griffster said...

I have a feeling that Nomar at first is the nearest thing we have to "written in stone" at this point. I need to go check Loney's numbers again, but it is also possible that Loney is only a slightly better version of Nomar - maybe one with a higher average, but also one without power. If Loney had a tad more power ( that one 9-RBI effort in Coors Field doesn't count ) or a tad more versatility ( could be stashed in the outfield to spell somebody from time to time ) he would probably be on the 25-man in the place of one of our three third basemen right now. Even Saenz may be perceived to be more versatile than Loney at this point, since Saenz can play some third base, and moves well for his size.

The whole Loney situation is sad. Nomar is sitting on a no-trade clause, so he is not going anywhere. Like Pierre, he needs to hit a whole heap of singles to be valuable - and as a 1B he needs to hit them in every other at bat, almost. Nomar is "slugging" .385 this year, which is about what his average needs to be for him to have any positive value over Loney. He has 10 doubles and a HR to go with his 44 singles. That's not 1B standard.

As for the outfield ... Gonzalez remains the best outfielder we have, even with Pierre's freakish extra base hit game. Ethier is a bit disappointing, too, though he is obviously not the one everybody glares at. He's the only outfield-quality arm, and he moves well too.

The team needs power and I wonder if our minor leaguers can really provide that at this point. Kemp is our one possibility, and if he is completely healthy and have learnt to lay off a slider away his .315 .371 .531 line needs to come join us here in major league land.