07 January 2009

Relief from Manny angst in the form of reliever rumors

Allegedly and reportedly and backed by various unnamed sources and indications, the Dodgers are now a major player in the reliever market.

I am in favor of a strong bullpen even beyond its value in helping a team win games. When the Dodgers lose a game after blowing a late lead I sometimes have trouble sleeping, so a strong bullpen is good for my restfulness and peace of mind. So as long as they were as good as advertised I would love to see the Dodgers add some combination of Cruz, Hoffman, Reyes, and Mota. No, wait, that's wrong, it should only be the first three. Though to be safe it should just be the first two. Or maybe just Cruz. And then I wonder if I've picked the best of the four.

If only I knew how good they would be. This is the lament of every general manager as well, or at least it should be. Especially with relievers. The GM who signs a reliever is buying a pair of dice based on the fact that some other guy was rolling a lot of sevens with them. But that's not quite fair: relievers aren't quite as random as dice rolls. Some of the rumored four are better bets than the others, certainly.

Mota coming back as a Dodger reliever scares me. I don't remember him fondly either. His performance with the Dodgers was good, but I judge him a punk based on his run-ins with Piazza while a Dodger, and I judge him a cheater based on his performance enhancement suspension after he left the Dodgers. I judge him a shaky reliever based on his numbers the last few years. His ERA has been near 5 the last three years. Why? He's still striking out almost a batter an inning, and his ratio of strikeouts to walks is nearly 2:1, so maybe it's just bad luck, unless --- let me digress here for a moment. The very worst thing a relief pitcher can do is give up lots of home runs. Some would say, no it's the walks, but for me it's home runs. As evidence I present game four of last year's NLCS. Shane crybaby Victorino. Matt washed-up Stairs. I rest my case. It's home runs. Unemployment to relievers who give up lots of homeruns! Mota gives up lots of home runs. Lots and lots. Over the last three years 26 of them, in about 170 innings. Some people can live with that, but I can't. Not from a punk cheater reliever.

Reyes coming back to the Dodgers would surprise me. I guess it would be incarnation number four of Fernando in LA, with Antonio Osuna and the 97-98 version of Dennys Reyes being incarnations two and three. Reyes' last three years were with the Twins, and overall he was a good pitcher. Reyes was nearly unhittable in 2006, with an ERA less than 1, great strikeout and walk numbers, and only 3 home runs allowed. He was also good in 2008. But in 2007 he walked as many as he struck out and was probably lucky to have an ERA of just less than 4. He was awful in 2005 with the Padres, with the same weakness as in 2007: too many walks. He's due for another heavy walk season in 2009, except that no reliever is ever due for anything. I'd call him a coin flip to be either good or middling, but I don't want to mix dice and coin metaphors in the same post.

Cruz has been great ever since the Snakes abandoned the Cruz as starter experiment of 2006. He's struck out more than a batter an inning the last two years and is 10-1 during that span. That 10-1 mark probably doesn't really mean much but it sure looks good, doesn't it? That one loss was to the Red Sox in 2007. So as long as Torre doesn't pitch Cruz against the Sox when the Dodgers face them in the World Series I think this signing would work out. Get it done, Ned!

Trevor Hoffman is the famous one of the bunch. He's also really old. I remember how delightful it was to no longer fear Hoffman last year. But he wasn't all that bad, not by the numbers. I think Broxton can close no problem but I won't mind if he goes back to the eighth inning. Depth is the key. Since Hoffman will likely add to the quality arms in the Dodger 'pen, I'm all in favor of signing him.

I don't know how much money the Dodgers will eventually spend on the 'pen, and I really don't know how much adding some of these relievers would help the Dodgers next year. Signing relievers is probably the easiest way for a GM to make observers think the club is improved. But when the games are actually played my guess is as good as any GM's guess when it comes to how the relievers will actually perform. Now there is a scary thought.