23 May 2007

The Third Man

by Joshua Worley

06 May --- LaRoche
07 May --- LaRoche
08 May --- LaRoche
09 May --- LaRoche
10 May --- Betemit
11 May --- LaRoche
12 May --- LaRoche
13 May --- Betemit
14 May --- Betemit
15 May --- LaRoche
16 May --- LaRoche
18 May --- LaRoche
19 May --- Betemit
20 May --- Betemit
21 May --- LaRoche
22 May --- Abreu!!!

Andy LaRoche has started 10 of 16 games since his callup. I believe prospects need to play at least 2/3 of the time, to get experience and a chance to prove themselves, so this is right on the edge of being acceptable. But now that there is a third man at third, it seems likely that LaRoche's playing time will dwindle to half the time or less.

Grady Little has said that the Dodgers may go with all three players at third base, and that LaRoche might see some action in the outfield. If LaRoche plays in the outfield, it might be to give Luis Gonzalez a day off, but most likely it would be in place of Andre Ethier. Now Ethier is struggling, and not hitting at a level acceptable for a corner outfielder, but I don't think he should be benched when he's out-OPSing the man next to him by over 100 points. And even if we just accept that Pierre is untouchable, I don't think Ethier should be benched for anyone but an established 0.850 OPS outfielder ( which the Dodgers don't have ) or an A-level outfield prospect. The only person currently in the Dodger organization whom I would play ahead of Ethier in the outfield would be Matt Kemp, and by rights he should get his shot at the expense of Pierre, not Ethier.

Tony Abreu is playing out of position at third base; why compound the problem by playing another player, LaRoche, out of position? It doesn't make sense. None of this makes sense. Why is there a third man at third?

I understand why the Dodgers sent down Kuo and are going with only 11 pitchers. I've never thought they needed to carry 12 pitchers. I hate 12-man staffs; if a bullpen is managed properly you don't need to shorten the pinch hitting bench. And I do think Grady does a good job managing the 'pen overall. But why call up Abreu, of all people? The answer is a month of batting average, apparently.

If there is a movement to give Nomar some days off, then far better to call up Loney than to play Abreu at second and Kent at first. If there is a movement to give Ethier some days off, then far better to call up Matt Kemp than to play Abreu at third and LaRoche in the outfield. If there is a movement to demonstrate to young players that only what they've done for us lately matters, then Bravo! this is a wonderful decision.

Let's be clear about what lately is. In the case of LaRoche, it's 10 games; 30 at bats. He only has 7 hits in those at bats, and for that failing he is now one of three at third. If just two more hits had fallen in, he would be batting 0.300 and he might not be viewed as a sort of dud right now, ready to give way to the newest flavor of the moment. In the case of Abreu, Loney, and Kemp, lately is two months. Never mind what they've done in previous years; for a month and a half in 2007 Abreu is batting better, likely based largely on luck, so he is the third man, and Kemp and Loney are the forgotten men.

The Dodgers are either going to try squeezing 3 prospects into one lineup spot, or 4 into two lineup spots if LaRoche begins to play in favor of Ethier occasionally. This is not acceptable, especially when Garciaparra and Pierre continue to get free passes for their horrible play. If the standard is to be "what have you done for me lately?", then why are they still playing every day?

The answer is that the Dodgers aren't yet following the golden rule of building a good baseball team:

Don't give higher paid veterans any preferential treatment in the battle for playing time.

I'm going to keep saying this until it is the Dodger motto.


Xeifrank said...

I am willing to give this some time to see where the chips may fall. The move by itself does not make a whole lot of sense. Let's give it a week to see if there is anything else going on.
vr, Xei

Joshua Worley said...

Part of me hopes that something else is going on ... but then I worry about what that something else might be!