04 July 2007

Fenris Fallout

by Joshua Worley

I'm not a fan of high scoring games. I enjoy a scarcity of runs. All the elements of baseball that lead to runs, both gross, such as home runs, and subtle, such as stolen bases, matter more when runs are scarce. Home runs are best when they really matter, when they are true explosions within the landscape of a game. The threat of a home run with a slugger at the bat can create spectacular tension, expectation or dread, but only if that home run would truly alter the game. Stolen bases aren't just an afterthought, a poor risk, in a low scoring game. One of the finest pleasures of baseball is the duel between a pitcher and a canny speedster. Low scoring games are more likely to be close; high scoring games have a way of turning into blowouts.

Last night's game began as a high scoring game, and ended as a fine pitching duel. Twelve runs were scored in the first three innings; one run was scored in the last 5 and a half. But it takes awhile to realize that the high scoring part is over, and the pitching duel has begun. While Houlton and Villarreal were pitching it still seemed that the final score might be 11-8, so a home run hit then, while nice, wouldn't have seemed game changing. It's a psychological thing, completely illogical. After it was so easy to score runs for three innings, I'm supposed to suddenly believe that a single run might prove the difference in the game? But of course that is what happened.

I had planned to write a few sentences of fret and worry about Wolf's outing last night, and some of his poor outings of late, but subsequent events have made this moot. Wolf has an inflamed shoulder and will likely go on the DL. He will certainly miss his start this Sunday. I guess it's not a stretch to think that Wolf's injury will add momentum to Ned's drive to trade for a starting pitcher.

I don't believe that Colletti will trade Matt Kemp at this point. I think Ned is more than willing to trade prospects when they are out of sight and out of favor. Kemp is neither. He's immediately useful and still on track to become a star.

Andrew LaRoche is out of sight, and for all I know out of favor, at least relative to guys like Kemp and Loney. Wilson Betemit is still a strike out machine who is batting 0.200, so he may still be slightly out of favor. That he's also a patient and devastating power hitter who is getting unlucky on his batting average on balls in play may not matter. Betemit's also a little bit out of sight in the sense that the third base job is still Nomar's. Betemit's playing time at the major league level isn't much better than LaRoche's playing time at the major league level, sadly.

Long-term the Dodgers don't have room for both of LaRoche and Betemit. Right now they don't really have room for either of them, sadly. If the Dodgers got something worthwhile back, I wouldn't be horrified at a trade of Betemit or LaRoche. A Hendrickson-level pitcher is not worthwhile, though. And there is no urgency to trade either one of the third-basemen. The trouble I have with Ned's trades of prospects so far isn't his choice of which ones to trade away, but that he gets so little in return. It's almost as if getting rid of the player is as important as getting something good back. I have this suspicion that Ned was looking for any move to just get rid of Navarro, Guzman, and Jackson, as if the presences of these fallen prospects in the Dodger system was somehow shameful. This explanation is a reach, I know, but how else to explain the trades with Tampa Bay that were so clearly reaches themselves? It's as if Ned let his own pessimism about those players define their market value.

I just hope Ned isn't too desperate for a starter after Wolf's injury, and that he realizes the true value of Wilson Betemit and Andrew LaRoche.

update: Something I didn't realize until I read the latest Dodger Thoughts post was that Wolf has had this shoulder pain for a month. This is not surprising at all when you look at Wolf's stats. In May he pitched 30.1 innings and gave up just 5 runs with 35 strikeouts. In June he pitched 33.2 innings with 23 runs given up and only 22 strikeouts.

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