10 April 2009

Pitchers at the Plate: Game 5 Unfair Loss Shares

The game was decided when the moundmen took their turns at the plate. James McDonald took his turn first, in the top of the second, when his night seemed as promising as the Dodger season ahead. He had pitched a perfect first and took his place in the box with two men on base and a run already in. It was not a moment that called for heroics, not from a rookie pitcher, but instead the humble execution of simple, workmanlike task. Get the runners over on a bunt, or strike out trying. Instead McDonald swung at a 3-1 pitch and grounded into a double play to end the inning and deprive Furcal of an at bat with two men on. Maybe McDonald missed the sign. Maybe they thought he could surprise the Snakes on what would surely be a fastball down the middle to avoid the walk on 3-1. Maybe one could make a case for not bunting in that situation, even. But it was a moment when the Dodger offense lost a chance to take control of the game. And it would be unfair, but also true, to say that it was a failure for McDonald.

I am sure the failure of the double play ball was not rattling around in McDonald's head when he started walking the house in the bottom of the third. Maybe the home run he allowed to known strikeout artist Chris Young was a factor, but I doubt that too. Maybe he's just a young pitcher who lost the zone. Whatever it was, it started with the second battle of pitchers. When Garland came to the plate, it was as a 6-6 ex-American league pitcher, a strikeout in waiting. And McDonald lost him.

McDonald lost something else when he walked Garland. I'm not quite sure that I could put a name to exactly what it was --- it could be his confidence, or his mechanics, or his concentration, or something else --- but it was clear watching him pitch that he was trying to get something back and just not succeeding. The game slipped away with each pitch out of the strike zone. He tried, he tried, with a few strikes here and there, too few, never enough, until the end, when at the last the hammer fell, predictably enough, on a strike, a pitch that sat up for Conor Jackson to rip into right field.

I hate it. I was so in favor of McDonald making the starting rotation, and I'm still in favor of him staying in the rotation, and I still believe he can be a big part of Dodger success this season. So I hate it, but his fingerprints and DNA are all over this loss. At the plate, and especially on the mound. He's going to take two loss shares for this one.

The Dodger offense might have struck earlier than it did, and harder when it finally did. The representative for the not-quite good enough players tonight is Andre Ethier. He was hitless, and failed in his chance to tie the game or get the Dodgers one hit closer in the top of the eighth inning. His worst moment probably came in the first inning, when the Dodgers first rally chance of the game was wasted when Ethier watched strike three go by without ever lifting the bat off of his shoulder. So it seemed for the Dodgers as a team in this game.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

McDonald -- 2
Ethier -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Snakes )

Garland -- 1
Young -- 1
Jackson -- 1

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