30 April 2009

Stults Stalls: Game 22 Unfair Loss Shares

Eric Stults has made 18 starts in his major league career. Here are his innings pitched in each start, in descending order.

9.0 7.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.2 4.2 4.1 4.0 4.0 3.2 2.2

That nine inning game was a shut out of the White Sox. His start yesterday was the shortest of his career, and probably the worst as well.

Stults just doesn't go deep into games. You know going in that you'll need at least 4 relief innings. Every pitcher will have some short outings, but Stults makes a habit of it. That's why he's a fringe fifth starter.

A lot of Stults' 5 inning starts are actually pretty good, just in terms of runs allowed. His first three starts this year were 5 or 5.1 innings, and he allowed a total of 6 runs in those games. The Dodgers won all three games. But there was a 4 inning tax on the bullpen in each game. That's a problem when you have another man in the rotation who doesn't go deep into games either. But I don't think the Dodger rotation will feature both Stults and McDonald for much longer. A few weeks from now it might not feature either.

McDonald really should return to the 'pen at some point to help keep his pitches thrown down this season, though one perspective is that he's done a fine job of that on his own by not lasting long into games. I don't know what should or will happen to Stults. His career ERA as a starter is 4.55, and the Dodger record in games he starts is 10-8. He may be a fringe fifth starter, but I'd argue that he's been an effective one. He's a good pitcher to have around.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Stults -- 2
Ethier -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Giants )

Lincecum -- 1
Renteria -- 1
Molina -- 1

29 April 2009

Relief Scenarios of the Dodgers 5-3 Victory Over the Giants

Billingsley hits in the eighth inning and pitches all nine innings.

I don't think anyone thought this would happen, or planned for it to happen. When Torre let Billingsley hit, it was almost certainly with the idea that he would pitch one more inning and that's it. I'm okay with that, if Billingsley can pitch one more inning. Torre thought he could, and I did too. It turns out we were both wrong.

Billinsgley hits in the eighth inning and pitches the eighth. Broxton gets the save in the ninth.

This is what Torre thought and hoped would happen when he let Billingsley hit, I'm sure. Three things: he didn't really trust any reliever except Broxton with the game on the line, he thought Billingsley had another inning in him, and he didn't want to have Broxton go two full innings.

Billingsley hits in the eighth inning and falters and has to come out in the bottom of the eighth. Broxton comes in in the eighth, gets out of the jam, and goes on to record a 5 out save.

This was Torre's revised plan. Now I'm wondering, if he's willing to go with Broxton in the eighth with one out, why not use him right from the start? It's not that I'm opposed to bringing Broxton with runners on ( better him than any other reliever ), but isn't it maybe even harder on the arm to get two outs with runners on first and second than to get three outs with no one on? It seems like it would be harder with so much less room for error.

But I understand why Torre did it this way. He wanted to get away with using Broxton for only one inning if he could, so he gambled that Billingsley could get through one more. He lost.

Mota pitches at any time in the game.

I think Torre really wanted to avoid this. I know I did. Colletti made that mistake, and it is done. I think it's time to start looking for a replacement for Mota. Every other reliever has some promise, and shouldn't be given up on yet. But Mota is awful and what reason is there to think he'll improve?

The eighth inning turns into a complete mess with both Billingsley and Broxton struggling and the Dodgers barely get out alive. Ohman gets the save in the ninth.

That's what happened. No one planned it that way. Maybe Ohman should have started the eighth, with Broxton to back him up if he got into trouble. In hindsight this sure seems like the best plan.

Broxton pitches the eighth and retired the heart of the Giant order. Ohman gets the save in the ninth against the tail of the Giant order.

Maybe that is what should have happened. The eighth inning figured to be the tough inning all along, even without Billingsley's struggles. Let Broxton get those tough hitters, and maybe he would have without starting with men on base, and let Ohman get the easier part of the lineup.

Game 21 Unfair Win Shares

Rafael Furcal had a fascinating at bat in the top of the eighth inning. With the count 1-2 he watched a pitch come in that was just low. It was so close, to the point where it would have been natural to see the umpire rise up after that pitch and figuratively punch Furcal out. But he didn't. How did Furcal know he could take that pitch? Did he get lucky, frozen by uncertainty on the pitch and bailed out when it was just low? Or did he know, based on all his practice and experience, based on his remarkable ability to see the pitch clearly in that splintered-second of decision time ( to swing or not ) that it was likely to be just out of the zone?

He was even better on the next pitch, because it looked like a strike halfway home, and then dropped well out of the strike zone by the time it crossed the plate. Only the spin gave it away, perhaps, and I must assume Furcal saw that, for why else would he not swing at that? The count was full after that pitch, and it seemed Furcal had taken control of the at bat. It seemed certain that he would get on base, start a rally, and let Manny finally come up with a runner on base. And then he struck out on ball four.

So Furcal had to be perfect in his pitch recognition to get on base in that at bat, and he wasn't. It's really hard to be perfect in something so hard, that calls for such quick decisions. The amazing thing about Manny is that he nearly is perfect in pitch recognition, in seeing what is a strike and what isn't before the ball crosses the plate. It's such a joy to watch Manny bat because he so rarely swings at garbage. He seems precise and confident at the plate, like a master gem-cutter. He was completely perfect yesterday, a diamond on the diamond, with two walks when he didn't hit the ball, and three deep doubles when he did. He never did come up with runner on base in the game, since Furcal and Hudson had a single walk between them in 10 plate appearances, so he was the rally starter instead, the virtual leadoff hitter who sparked the Dodgers to victory.

Ethier also had a fine game, going 2-4 with an intentional walk including the go-ahead double in the ninth. The Dodger outfield had 7 of the Dodgers' 9 hits and 4 of their 9 walks last night. While Martin and Furcal struggle, and Loney deals with a power outage, it is mostly the Dodger outfield hitting the team to success.

I have two of the unfair win shares going to Manny and Ethier, and then four candidates for the last one. Matt Kemp was also 2-4 with a walk, but he also had a horrible caught stealing just ahead of one of Loney's walks in the sixth inning. That right there probably cost the Dodgers at least one run, so he's out of the running. Will Ohman felt like a miracle when he came in to pitch the ninth inning, with a routine 1-2-3 dismissal of the top of the Giants' order, a welcome game-sealing relief from the crazy stress of the sixth, seventh, and especially eighth innings. But I don't know if that's enough. Is he more deserving than Billingsley, who battled and kept the Dodgers in the game when he didn't have his best stuff? It would have been a lot worse for Billingsley though if he hadn't been bailed out by luck and some good defensive play. Though it is true that he was also burned early by some poor defensive play by Furcal.

I'll give it to Loney, with apologies to Billingsley and Ohman. He was on base 4 out of 5 times, with two runs driven in, and some nice work on starting the line drive double play. I'm not at all sure of this choice. This was one of those games where there were so many heroes, and so many potential goats if the game had turned out to be a loss, so many wasted chances, so many moments when the game seemed on the line. Crazily enough the best clutch performance of the game might have belonged to Jon Broxton, when he pitched to Eugenio "Honest Abe"* Velez after having already walked in the tying run in the eighth inning. It was clear that Broxton just didn't have his usual command, but he was able to bear down and get the strike out, when another walk would give away the lead and a hit would have blown the game open.

It's worth asking if Broxton should have been in the game at that point, in that situation, and my short answer to that is maybe, but it's complicated, and involves Torre and Billingsley and Broxton and Ohman and Mota and Colletti and probably some tortured analogies and metaphors so it will have to wait for a later post that I may or not make later today.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Manny -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Loney -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Molina -- 1
Lewis -- 1
Howry -- 1

* -- If you imagine Eugenio Velez with a stove-pipe hat and slightly different skin color he looks exactly like Abraham Lincoln. Really.

28 April 2009

Belisario the Bard: Game 20 Unfair Loss Shares

Early on, I had Wolf, Ethier, and Kemp pegged for the unfair loss shares. That was very early, when the first inning shenanigans seemed like the entire game.

I guess I had no business thinking the game was surely lost because of a mere three run deficit, but I did. Anyone remotely familiar with this team can tell you that it's foolish to think they can't rally from three runs down, and of course they later proved that they can. So, it wasn't reason that guided me when I mentally gave up on the game.

It was anger that had me reaching for the unfair loss shares early. I didn't care who was really at fault between Kemp and Ethier when they collided and let the ball drop, but I was willing to let it go if the Dodgers followed that up with some fine play. They didn't. Kemp goofed on the next batted ball, a liner over his outstretched glove. A putrid route to the ball on a tough chance. I was willing to let that go if Wolf sucked it up and finished off the inning. Because, you know, even if Kemp should have caught that ball it was still well hit. But Wolf didn't. It just kept coming. When Kemp got on in the top of the second, and Ethier came up, it seemed as if the crash twins would have an early redemption. They didn't. Ethier grounded into a double play. Kemp would later ground into one of his own to end the Dodgers' four run rally. It was as if he was bringing the darkness of the early innings back right then.

Wolf is spared. Ethier and Kemp are not. Taking Wolf's place in the anti-podium to accept the last unfair loss share is the enigmatic Belisario.

I don't get this guy. Is he a performance artist? His pitches are things of beauty, the expression of the art in his soul, but this is tragic, because it is in his soul to show the human condition, to show failure, the folly of striving, the inevitability of death, and above all, to show --- absurdity! He almost became legendary when Aurilia hit his dribbler up the first base line. Just an inch less and Belisario's tumbling, clown-like, desperate scoop of the ball toward home plate would have hit Aurilia in the head. He would have joined Duaner Sanchez and his amazing flying glove in the hall of Dodger clownery.

Death was symbolized by the tying of the game. Belisario wanted to show us how hard we strive to defeat it, even when there is no hope. Fred Lewis will score, no matter what else is done, just as the grim reaper will always come for us. The only question is, do we accept it with grace, or do we tumble around like a jackass and nearly brain someone with a baseball? Deep questions. Belisario is truly a modern day baseball bard.

And what does Belisario's subsequent wild pitch symbolize, in his piece of performance art? Nothing, I think. Sometimes a wild pitch is just a wild pitch. His performance was over, and he had just reverted to being a reliever who fails in the clutch moments.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Belisario -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Giants )

Renteria -- 1
Zito -- 1
Wilson -- 1

27 April 2009

Game 19 Unfair Loss Shares

Mota got his first strikeout of the year. That's about the only good thing that happened yesterday.

Kershaw threw too many pitches out of the strike zone. Too many walks, too many fat first pitches, too many hitter's counts. I hope he can get back on track at home.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 3

Unfair Win Shares ( Rockies )

Marquis -- 1
Spilborghs -- 1
Barmes -- 1

25 April 2009

That's Crazy: Game 18 Unfair Win Shares

A four inning save in Coors field? A four inning save with a one run lead in Coors field? That's crazy.

A one inning save with a three run lead in Coors field is hard enough. A one inning save with a one run lead there is hard even for an elite pitcher like Broxton. But to pitch four innings like that? Troncoso just put up a top 5 pitching performance for the Dodgers so far this year, which puts him in some pretty good company.

Maybe it's easier once you've got into a groove at Coors. It's not like Troncoso came into the ninth inning cold, with the pressure of the moment suddenly upon him. By then it was routine. Excellence had become habit. Man up, man down. He faced one over the minimum all four innings. I'd like to think he didn't even know what inning it was. He just did his job until they wouldn't give him the ball anymore.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Troncoso -- 2
Martin -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Jimenez -- 2
Tulowitzki -- 1

Someone Had To Win: Game 17 Unfair Win Shares

The Dodgers had 20 batters reach safely last night, and only scored 6 runs. Matt Kemp by himself left 9 runners on base. It was a frustrating offensive game.

But you know what? The Rockies blew some chances too. They had 19 batters reach safely, and scored just 5 runs. 19 base runners. That's a lot. Nine of them came on base hits, and that's acceptable from the Dodger pitching staff in Coors field. It's the other ten who were the problem, who normally would sink a visiting team in Coors. Eight walks, one hit batter, one error by James Lon --- er, by Hudson. That's way too many free passes of one sort or the other.

One of the walks was given up by Jon Broxton, his first of the year. Maybe he was tired, though you wouldn't have known he was tired by his fastball speed. And he got the two strikeouts when he really needed them. That's amazing, really. It's a one run lead in Coors field, and Broxton had a long outing the previous night ( with a flight in between ) and the defense let him down on the first batter, and still he shut the door. I don't think I could have been too upset with Broxton if he had blown the save, or even given up the loss. I was preparing myself for that when there were two on in the ninth. Broxton would have been shielded from an unfair loss share --- those were slated for Kuo and Kemp if the worst happened. But Broxton is something special.

I still think Kuo is a good pitcher. I'm not sure what to make of his eighth inning last night. It is Coors field after all. I guess it's clear he's still not quite right. I'd still rather see Kuo than Mota or Ohman in most cases. But --- I think if it's a matter of getting Kuo confident again he probably shouldn't pitch in Coors field again unless they have no other choice. But can it really just be a confidence issue?

Stults and Belisario saved Troncoso for tonight's game, when he will likely be needed in long relief of McDonald. That's some fine work from Stults and Belisario, the hidden benefit of their 3 runs allowed over 7 innings. Belisario especially was the surprise hero of last night's game, keeping the Dodgers tied when their offense went to sleep in the middle-late innings. That's worthy of an unfair win share. He carried the Dodgers before the Ausmus-sparked resurgence in the late innings. Ausmus would not get an unfair win share just for his go-ahead hit, but since he also started the eighth inning rally I can't deny him. ( Ausmus getting an unfair win share seals the fate of Street and Corpas, because whenever Brad Ausmus somehow gets an unfair win share the pitchers repsonsible must be punished. )

There are several candidates for the third Dodger unfair win share. Manny had a very good game, and Ethier was maybe a shade better. Loney was great with the bat, but his whiff on Furcal's throw eliminates him. I really can't decide between Ethier and Broxton. I guess it has to be Broxton, since what he did was so impressive when you look at the context.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ausmus -- 1
Belisario -- 1
Broxton -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Stewart -- 1
Street -- 1
Corpas -- 1

24 April 2009

Game 16 Unfair Win Shares

What is the value of defense?

What is the value of defense when you're there on the mound, staring down the batter? There's a man on second, and the lead is a slim 1-0, with no guarantee of future runs for your side. There's no room for error. A hit and the game is tied, and not only that, but suddenly it's a rally, and who knows how many more score. There's still only one out. That man on second is fast. No room for error. And yet, you know that even if you make a great pitch that hitter might still hit it well. You can't strike out everyone. You are the ace, the master of his craft who has paid his dues and become one of the best pitchers in baseball, and yet still you can't strike out everyone. The count is 3-1. There's no room for error.

Then you make that pitch, and the batter swings and connects, and you realize that you've made that error you didn't have room for. That ball is hit well: it's going to be a hit, a run will score, and then --- and then Matt Kemp makes a diving catch. It turns out you did have room for error. That is the value of defense.

I didn't see the game, so I don't really know how good Matt Kemp's catch in the third was. Charley Steiner said it was really good, and I will have to trust him. Even if I had seen it, I wouldn't necessarily know how good the catch is, because I can't see his jump on the ball when it comes off the bat, and I probably won't notice a poor route taken to a ball unless it's really obviously poor. There's more to playing good defense than diving around.

Hudson also made some fine defensive plays, including stopping a sharp grounder on his knees and starting a double play. Both Hudson and Kemp were on base twice, so both are in the running for an unfair win share. Strong defense is something I want to reward in the unfair win shares.

However, yesterday's broom snapper win was all about the pitching. The Dodgers' two best pitchers slammed the door on the Astros all game, with a little help from luck and the defense of their friends. It was nice to bypass the wobbly arms of the 'pen, at least for one day. And only one day. They'll be needed in Denver.

The unfair loss shares go to the three hitters who Broxton retired in the ninth. That is pretty unfair, to penalize a hitter for making an out against Broxton, but they were also a collective 1-9 before the ninth inning.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Billingsley -- 2
Broxton -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Astros )

Berkman -- 1
Lee -- 1
Erstad -- 1

23 April 2009

Game 15 Unfair Loss Shares

In a way, Wolf outpitched Oswalt. Though both starters gave up 4 runs, Wolf went 7 innings, while Oswalt went 6. So the Dodgers had three innings to score off of Astro relievers, while the Astros just had two innings ( if needed ). If the Dodger bullpen is a team strength, then you would have to like the Dodger's chances to win the game in these circumstances.

Maybe it's not a team strength. It wasn't last night, when the Astros won the battle of the 'pens. The Dodger 'pen has not been awful overall, not with an ERA of 3.66, but the list of bullpen pitchers you can really trust when you get down to it has one name on it: Broxton.

Troncoso has been pretty good so far, too, but he hasn't really been tested yet, and I can't really trust him yet. Both Ohman and Elbert have allowed two home runs in limited work. Elbert might amount to something if he's given a chance, but I would be surprised if Ohman lasts all season with the Dodgers. Kuo has the potential to be a good one, but wildness is making him into another headache. All four of these guys are in the "hold your breath when they come in" category.

Fortunately the Dodgers only have one truly and unmistakably awful reliever so far, and that is Mota, with 6 walks and no strikeouts in 5 innings. Signing him was just an awful move by Colletti, in the same category as the Pierre signing because the upside just wasn't there. It was wasted money the moment the contract was signed.

And then there is Belisario. His numbers look pretty good. He's pitched the most innings of any Dodger reliever, and has more than a strikeout per inning with not many walks. So why don't I trust him? Well, the Dodgers have twice brought him in with a one run lead and both times he coughed up the lead. His fastball has been compared to a 95 mph bowling ball by scouts, but so far in the crucial frames he's thrown gutter balls.

I wonder why Broxton couldn't have been brought in for the eighth inning, with the Astros best hitters coming up. He's the closer, so he's the ninth inning guy, but he's also the best reliever and the only one you can really trust, so he should be the crucial inning guy, right? And the eighth was the crucial inning. That was apparent even before Belisario gave up two runs. But that's not the way things are done.

Belisario gets one of the unfair loss shares, and he probably deserves a second one. But the loser's anti-podium ( a sort of fancy pit, really ) is too crowded for him to double up. Kemp is there with his broken hitting streak and failure to score a runner from third with one out in the seventh inning. The last place must go to either Hudson or Furcal for their mostly inept rally-starting efforts yesterday. Both were 1-5 and both failed to set the table for Manny in the ninth but Furcal gets it because he also committed an error.

Oh yeah, and I'll be damned if I'm going to give that punk IRod an unfair win share for merely hitting a stupid little ground ball up the middle, even if it did drive in the winning run. Berkman and Pence or more deserving offensive heroes, and Hawkins also deserves recognition for keeping Manny from batting in the ninth with a slim one run lead ( just imagine how relieved Astro fans must have been that Manny didn't come up ) and for not jumping around like a Valverdean jackass after he struck out Hudson.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Belisario -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Furcal -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Astros )

Berkman -- 1
Pence -- 1
Hawkins -- 1

22 April 2009

Game 14 Unfair Loss Shares

What's wrong with Kershaw? What's wrong with Kershaw? What's wrong with Kershaw? Oh my God what's wrong with Kershaw?

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can hand out the heartbreak hardware to the Dodger players who made that melancholy loss last evening possible.

First, to Clayton Kershaw, goes a single unfair loss share, for failing to adjust to the rigors of road pitching, for laying down such a crappy bunt, and for allowing Lee to hit a home run up into Pujols-off-of-Lidge-land.

Second, to James Loney, goes a single unfair loss share, for going 0-5, for striking out on a horrible pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and for having only a 0.283 slugging percentage on the year. Pretty soon I'll be in favor of starting Juan Pierre at first base. His slugging percentage is above 0.300!

Third, to Russell Nathan Coltrane "J." Martin, goes a single unfair loss share, even though he was 2-4 in his first 4 plate appearances. He earned his share with a single at bat in the ninth inning, which was a strikeout, and caused several unpleasant events to occur, events so unpleasant they outweigh any good he did earlier in the game. The strikeout ended the game. The strikeout allowed Jose Valverde to engage in some Carlos Perez-like histrionics. The strikeout sent Martin's slugging percentage down to 0.326 for the year. The strikeout prevented Matt Kemp from coming to the plate.

Fourth, to Joe Torre, goes a single pointy-haired loss share, for batting Matt Kemp so low in the lineup. Matt Kemp is Torre's best hitter right now, and probably his second or third best over the course of a year, and yet he is batting seventh most of the time, including last night. Matt Kemp missed coming up in the ninth inning with the game on the line because he was batting seventh. Instead slug-less wonders Martin and Loney came up and ended the game. When Kemp tripled in the fourth inning, Ortiz only had to hit Blake on purpose, er, I mean accidentally, and then use the pitcher as an escape hatch. Kemp is one of the fastest Dodgers, and one of those most likely to get himself to second or third, and so he should not bat where a pitcher will so often be asked to drive him in. Lineup construction will not make a bad team good or a good team bad, but it can occasionally change the outcome of a game. Torre needs to get it right.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 1
J. Martin -- 1
Loney -- 1

Pointy-Haired Loss Share ( Dodgers )

Torre -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Astros )

Matsui -- 1
Lee -- 1
Tejada -- 1

20 April 2009

Game 13 Unfair Win Shares

When Will Ohman came up to bat during Saturday's Dodger game this past weekend, I noticed his bat. I thought it looked strange. Sort of ugly, fascinatingly ugly, like one of those fused mosaic kittens that results when two early stage embryos merge. "I wonder whose bat that is?" I said to my wife. My theory was that it was probably some outcast utility bat that they made relief pitchers use.

"No player is going to want this bats used by a relief pitcher," I confidently asserted. "He would be afraid of the pitcher breaking the bat, or of bad luck rubbing off onto the bat." I know things about baseball, you see. That's why I'm qualified to award unfair win shares.

Of course, it turns out that bat that Ohman went on to get a hit with was Manny's bat. That I was wrong about whose bat does not surprise me at all. What does surprise me is that I have never noticed how ugly Manny's bats were before. How many times have I watched Manny bat? His at bats are mandatory viewing, after all. You don't leave the room when he strides to the plate. And yet it's the one time when Manny's bat is being used by someone else that I fixate on it.

Yesterday's win was a laugher, which is a happy coincidence, because it happens that this very morning the physical form of a laugher share can be revealed! It is bobble-belly of Tommy Lasorda, dressed as a blue Dodger clown. There is a pull string in the back which, when pulled, will cause the tiny plastic Tommy to let out a tremendous belly laugh. If you pull the string enough times, the tiny plastic Tommy will instead launch into a profanity enhanced tirade about Dave Kingman.

Now, the moment when yesterday's 14-2 Dodger victory over the Rockies because a laugher is obvious --- when reliever Scott Elbert ripped a double --- with Manny's bat! So who gets the laugher share? Is it Elbert, who actually hit the absurd double? But it was Manny's magical ugly bat that gave him the power to do that, so maybe Manny should get the laugher share. But what about Martin? He has something to do with this too, for many witnesses have described a brief dugout ceremony in which there was a "laying of hands" upon the bat. Martin's hands, that is. Was he giving power to the bat, or feeding off it, like some sort of Canadian vampire batter?

Maybe the ugly bat deserves the laugher share. This is a tempting solution, but since the bat can't hold up the tiny plastic bobble-belly Tommy in triumph this just won't do. The laugher share will be shared equally by Martin, Manny, and Elbert. They can all hold it aloft together, brothers in laughter. As for who ultimately gets possession of the physical laugher share from this game, I think that will have to be settled by a tontine between Martin, Manny, and Elbert.

Oh yeah, and Matt Kemp did pretty good yesterday too. Whatever.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 2
Hudson -- 1

Laugher Share ( Dodgers )

J. Martin -- 1/3
Manny -- 1/3
Elbert -- 1/3

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Jiminez -- 2
Belisle -- 1

19 April 2009

Game 12 Unfair Win Shares

Who can you trust in this 'pen? Broxton. Maybe that's all. But relievers are like that. Torre cycled them in an out pretty quickly, and the damage was limited.

Manny hit two home runs, and assisted one of Ethier's two. Manny also had two misadventures in the outfield. So it goes with him. I'll take him, outfield pratfalls and all. And I'll take this team, bullpen shenanigans and all.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Manny -- 1
Ethier -- 1
Billingsley -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Cook -- 2
Atkins -- 1

17 April 2009

Broxton Brings Serenity, Excitement: Game 11 Unfair Win Shares

I never got frustrated by all the runners the Dodgers left in scoring position through the first six innings. Normally I would. But the Dodgers entered on a five game winning streak, and more importantly, I know this is a good team. This is a deep team with a varied and unpredictable offensive attack. That is the difference that brings serenity. You can't count them out when they are down only three.

I think De La Rosa made a lot of good pitches when he had to. I don't think the Dodger hitters who failed with runners in scoring position had a whole lot to work with. Sometimes a guy just beats you. Sometimes a guy makes the most ridiculous overthrow I've ever seen in my life and then still beats you. It would have served him right to give up some runs after that sailing, complacent throw on Wolf's weak comebacker, but baseball is a game where things often get served wrong instead. Bloopers are hits, liners are outs. Pierre makes 10 million, Ethier makes 3 million. It happens.

Wolf was better than De La Rosa. Wolf pitched like a guy who means it when he claims to be the Dodgers second starter. ( Probably he doesn't claim this, but that's technically the position in the rotation he's in. ) There was that first inning, and then there were 5 frames of Kershaw-ball. That's a great recovery. Wolf got the win last time around and doesn't this time, but this was the better pitched game. I say that, and yet last start I awarded him 2 unfair win shares and this time he's not getting a single one. Well, they are unfair. And the first inning does count. And there is the matter of the man whose name they whisper in fear: Broxton.

But first, a diversion, so that Broxton gets the final word. Furcal will get the only spare unfair win share, for his stellar defensive play and for starting the seventh inning rally. Defense and rally starting win ballgames. Those are two of the three things that baseball is all about. The third is clutch pitching.

The Rockies didn't have clutch pitching. That's why Embree and Belisle will get some unfair loss shares. And Iannetta too, who struck out three times, the last time with the bases loaded, when his teammates needed him to do better. But the man whose name they only whisper in fear stood in his way: Broxton.

I have very little to say about what Broxton did. If you saw it, you know. Even the umpire seemed intimidated: his tiny strike zone for Kuo inexplicably seemed to expand for Broxton, especially on strike two to Tulowitzki. If you saw it, and were rooting for the Dodgers, it was the best part of the night. It should have been. The tying run was at third, and the go-ahead run, the heartbreaking run, was at second, 127 feet from home. It might as well have been a thousand feet. Broxton stood in his way.

Kuo brought the frustration that I had avoided all night, through every aborted Dodger rally. Broxton brought back serenity, and also excitement, all at once. That's an amazing feat. He gets one unfair win share for each.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Broxton -- 2
Furcal -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Belisle -- 1
Embry -- 1
Iannetta -- 1

Game 10 Unfair Win Shares

It's really hard to find any standout performances from Dodgers in last night's game, which is really strange because they won fairly easily 7-2.

No player had more than one hit. No pitcher had a dominant outing. Stults went only 5 innings and allowed 8 baserunners with just 2 strikeouts --- it is either a testament to his scrappiness or the Giants' ineptitude that he only allowed 2 runs. I like Stults as a starter but if he pitched this way against a good offensive team he'd probably be shelled. McDonald maybe had the best day for a Dodger pitcher, and he allowed three hard ground balls in his inning and also failed against another opposing pitcher by allowing a hit to Zito.

The Dodgers really did have a strange day offensively. Furcal hit a home run but then went out in his next four at bats. Hudson was on base three times but didn't figure in any of the scoring. Ethier and Martin were both hitless, yet both were on base twice with a walk and a hit by pitch. Mientkiewicz broke the game open with his double but then hurt himself with his absurd belly flop into second. Kemp had a gift triple ( should have been a single with an error ) and scored twice, but --- well there really is no but, except that this performance seems kind of ordinary to be getting an unfair win share.

Well, in a weak field, Kemp gets one. So does Hudson, who helped extend both the first and second innings, which perhaps meant that Zito ran out of gas a little sooner. And the last goes to Mientkiewicz, and that is probably the last one he ever gets since I don't expect to see him back with the Dodgers anytime soon. Pity. ( I won't miss having to cut and paste his name, though. )

The Giants offer me a lot of crappy performances to choose from. I'm really tempted to give Zito two unfair loss shares, but one will do for him. The Giants didn't have to let all three guys he walked score in the sixth. I'm also tempted to give one to Fred Lewis for his silly misplay of Kemp's sinking liner and Burris for trying to score on the grounder to Furcal, but both of these men had pretty good days with the bat, so they are spared. It will be Winn who was 0-5 and Molina who served as Stults' escape hatch out of tough innings multiple times who round out the Giants' terrible trio.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Hudson -- 1
Mientkiewicz -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Zito -- 1
Winn -- 1
Molina -- 1

16 April 2009

13 Karat Kershaw: Game 9 Unfair Win Shares

For much of the game it seemed that many of the Dodgers were trying for unfair loss shares, with only Kershaw's amazing performance keeping them out of danger. Then when Kuo and Belisario blew the lead, it seemed as though the entire team reversed course and strove to pull the team to victory. And they did. The hitters in the 2 through 7 spots in the lineup all contributed to the two late-inning rallies that secured the victory for the Dodgers.

The first inning was almost Kershaw's secret undoing. Not the top of the first, but the bottom of the first. If the Dodgers could have fully taken advantage of Cain's early lack of command and scored multiple runs, the lead when Kershaw left the game would not have been so precarious. It's easy to blame Kuo and Belisario, and believe it that I do, but there were many shaky performances involved in the Dodgers nearly giving away such a splendidly pitched game.

Furcal and Kemp were the goats of the first inning, bookend outs that need not have been. I think the stolen base is a very iffy proposition with the hitters that come up behind Furcal: they are good enough so that there is no need to play for one run. Realize too that a stolen base does not contribute in any way to a multi-run inning unless it scotches a potential double play ball. I think Furcal should limit his stolen base attempts to situations when there are two outs, or he is really sure he will make it. Hudson and Manny are not notorious double play men, not anything like Loney and Martin are. There is no urgency to run so early in the inning. When Furcal tried his steal in the first, the reward was small, and never realized, and the cost was steep, nearly the game, but fortunately that was never realized either.

Cain's last pitch of the first inning cut down and away. Kemp needs to lay off of it. I remember watching that pitch, realizing it was headed out of the zone, and for a moment thinking that he wasn't going to swing, until he did. It really seemed like a late swing to me, a last-moment reaction. I wonder how close he came to not swinging. Probably it was a tough pitch to take. But when the bases are loaded with two outs you can't chase that stuff. If Kemp was beaten in the zone I wouldn't be so hard on him. Same if he put the ball in play and made an out that way.

Kemp's game after the first inning strikeout was great, including a sliding catch and throw to double Aurilia off first. I'm with Aurilia on his complaint, though. The umpire really should make a clearer indication that Kemp caught the ball. But Kemp's finest moment came in the eighth when he was again in a situation where he really shouldn't strike out, and he didn't. That was my favorite hit of the night. Kemp might be in line for an unfair win share if he had started the game better.

Hudson gets the lone offensive unfair win share for the Dodger win last night. He scored in the first inning and set up the game winning ninth inning rally with his leadoff hit. Martin comes close, because he was right in the middle of that eighth inning rally, but he lost it when hit the almost-a-double-play grounder in the ninth. Loney might have received one if he had driven in the winning run with a hit. Maybe he should get one anyway, but I really want to give Kershaw two. With that performance a star was born. The promise of dominant games like last night was why I made sure to see Kershaw's first start in person. The Dodgers may have cost him a win last night, but I won't let them cost him his deserved unfair win shares!

For the Giants the unfair loss shares will go to Lewis, who struck out four times, Howry, who was involved in both the eighth and ninth inning Dodger rallies, and Wilson, who might have fared better if Molina could have handled the throw to the plate on Martin's grounder more cleanly. This is kind of rough on Wilson, since he was brought in with no outs and bases loaded, a nearly impossible situation. But he walked in the winning run, and that will always get you the unfair loss share. Let that be a warning to you, Dodger pitchers.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 2
Hudson -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Lewis -- 1
Howry -- 1
Wilson -- 1

15 April 2009

Microscopic Sample Size NL West Notes

The Dodgers have the best run differential in baseball, at +19, mostly thanks to their two 11 run games.

The Padres are in first place in large part because they have out-homered the opposition 8-3 in eight games. Though the Padres are likely to rank near the bottom of the league in offense when the season is over, it's not the 8 home runs they've hit so far that is uncharacteristic. They did hit nearly a home run per game last year. It's the 3 home runs allowed that is out of whack, and representative of a trend that is unlikely to continue.

Now might be a good time to mention that the Dodgers have out-homered the opposition 7-2. Uh, same warning applies.

Justin Upton has started only 6 of 9 games for the Snakes so far this season, including today's game. He's batting below 0.100 so far. Upton is the young player on a young Snakes team whose potential I fear the most, but very early in the season something just isn't right with him.

In other Serpentine news, Garland has been knocked out of his start today with 7 earned runs allowed after looking so good against the Dodgers in his first start.

Earned runs allowed by Giant starters in their first seven games: 3,4,1,4,5,4,7. That "1" was a seven inning gem pitched by Matt Cain, who faces the Dodgers tonight. The other four Giant starters have a collective ERA of about 9.

The Rockies, bizarrely, had a scheduled off-day yesterday and have another one tomorrow. How often is a team scheduled to play only one game in three days in the middle of the season without the all-star break figuring into it?

14 April 2009

14230: Game 8 Unfair Win Shares

I knew there was a chance the moment I heard Steiner's voice rise in excitement with the words "right field corner". It would have been more fun to see Hudson triple to complete the cycle on TV, and even more fun to be at Dodger Stadium for it. But I'll take it.

Hudson's cycle came with little margin for error. His single came on an infield dribbler where he beat the throw by a step. His home run was a looping long fly that just cleared the short fence in left field. On his double two different fielders had trouble picking up the ball in the gap, but I don't think they would have had a chance of getting him at second in any case. And the triple, at the end, was close, a throw, slide, tag --- a moment to wonder, then safe! --- and the cycle was completed. When Hudson's day was done he had completed an elegant cycle, which includes exactly one out, single, double, triple and home run. No excess. Just one of everything.

Hudson gets at least one unfair win share, that is a given. Heck, if a guy become the first Dodger to hit for the cycle since 1970, doesn't he deserve all three? But that's not going to happen. There were too many other stars in the blowout 11-1 win.

Here are the top Dodger Win Probability Added (WPA) scores from yesterday's game according to fangraphs:

Hudson -- 0.221
Ethier -- 0.131
Furcal -- 0.123
Billingsley -- 0.037
Kemp -- 0.032

No surprise at the top of the list. But Furcal, who was just 1-5, is nearly even with Ethier and his two home runs. That's because Furcal's one hit ( a single ) gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead, which pushed the Dodgers win percentage for the game to near 90%. All the stuff that came after that wasn't worth a whole lot in WPA.

I'm really astonished to see Billingsley come out so low on the list, just a hair ahead of Kemp who was clearly not a star yesterday. Part of that comes from his -0.047 batting WPA, even though he was 1 for 2. To me Billingsley's dominant 11 strikeout seven inning performance is an essential part of the story of yesterday's game. That 0.037 seems absurdly low, but that's the objective number. Whatever. This is what unfair win shares are for. Billingsley's great performance was the other half of the opening day laugher and he gets an unfair win share for it.

And Hudson will get the last one, for a total of two. A man who hits for the cycle can't get any fewer, I think. So Ethier and his two home runs are left with nothing except the near worthless laugher win share that I will award him.

On the Giants side, Randy Johnson stands alone. He gets the first clean sweep of unfair shares in a game this season. Three for the Big Unit!

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Hudson -- 2
Billingsley -- 1

Laugher Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Ethier -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Giants )

Johnson -- 3

12 April 2009

Game 7 Unfair Win Shares

If the beginning of the season was the World Series, the Dodgers would now have won, 4 games to 3. Start the parade!

Randy Wolf was the story of the game. For the average baseball fan, the headline of the game was the freaky fourth out run in the second inning, driven in by Randy Wolf's hard luck liner to Haren. For a Dodger fan with an eye on the big picture, the headline of the game was the preservation of the Dodger 'pen, made possible by Randy Wolf's strong seven innings. For a Snakes fan intent on early season revenge for the Dodgers surge at the expense of Webb and Haren late last season, the headline of the game was the Dodgers beating an ace again, behind Randy Wolf's one run allowed on two hits.

Wolf started out a little shaky, with three base runners allowed in the first two innings, but thereafter he settled in with five perfect innings as he couldn't miss with his curveball. My only pause over this performance is to wonder how often he'll have such wonderful control of his offspeed stuff, and if that's the only way he can pitch an effective game anymore. It doesn't seem as if his fastball could carry him at this point in his career. Perhaps that's looking for trouble where there shouldn't be any, though.

Wolf would likely be in line for two unfair win shares even if he didn't drive in the freaky fun run but that definitely puts him over the top in his case for the two-fer. Wolf is not the only one who gets a share for that play. The Dodgers only added that run because Torre knew the rules and appealed to the umpires, so he gets a managerial thumbs up in the form of a pointy-haired win share. This kind of share is named after the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert comic strip, and though in this case it is a win share, it will usually be a loss share since managers are daft more often than not, just like Dilbert's boss.

The last unfair win share is the toughest to decide. The Dodger offense didn't really do much during the game, so perhaps it should be a clean sweep for the pitchers. Kuo has a strong case, because he came in with no outs and the tying run on first and preserved the lead, but the angst he caused on the way there tells against him. If I'm going to give an unfair win share to a set-up man I'd like to not fear for the lead at any point during the performance. Kuo blew it when he blew the two strike count to Lopez and allowed a single.

Broxton had a routine save, but it was only routine because Kemp made a nice catch in center field to secure the second out. Kemp was the real Dodger hero after Wolf took his bow, a late inning defensive replacement (!) who also drove in the insurance run with a double. The Bison gets an unlikely unfair win share after not even getting the start.

For the Snakes, Haren's performance was just too good for him to get an unfair loss share. Conor Jackson will get one for looking lost both at the plate ( 0-4 ) and in the field, Lopez will get a really unfair one for being understandably lazy and allowing his momentum to take him past second into a tag of Pierre that allowed Ethier to score the delayed run, and Chris Young gets one for ending the Snake threat in the eighth inning.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Wolf -- 2
Kemp -- 1

Pointy-Haired Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Torre -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Lopez -- 1
Young -- 1
Jackson -- 1

11 April 2009

The Laugher: Game 6 Unfair Win Shares

The game only became a laugher for me in the top of the eighth inning. The edge was long gone from the game, and my wife and I were in and out of the house, doing things in the back yard as the daylight failed. I happened to come in and see Orlando Hudson's double to drive in two, and I shouted the news out to my wife, along with the suggestion that she come in to watch Manny bat. It was to be the capper to a game, perhaps, a nice celebration of the Dodgers first blowout win of the year.

So she comes into the house, happy over the double, anticipating watching Manny one more time, and --- Juan Pierre comes up to the plate.

Of course it should have been obvious that this is what would happen, and it's certainly the correct move to make. But in that moment it was quite a surprise. My wife said something to the effect of, "it's not Manny, it's little Juan Pierre!" with all the indignation she could muster. That was the moment when the easy mirth of a game well in hand reached the brim and laughter spilled over.

It was fun to watch him bat, with the game on the line. I want to root for Pierre, of course, and I don't relish lobbying against him getting playing time, and --- well, none of that really matters anymore. We watched him slap a few balls foul, then finally poke one into right field and secure the eleventh run for the Dodgers. Pierre won't get an unfair win share for that, be he will get a laugher share, which is almost as good, since it's rarer, so rare that it didn't exist before I wrote this sentence.

Stults became the new Dodger number one starter, or at least he took that slot in the rotation, and his results were nearly in line with what we'd like from the ace starter. The scarcity of runs allowed were there, the battling mentality was there, he even had a strikeout per inning --- only the innings pitched were lacking. So it is with all the Dodger starters so far. At least the 'pen innings today were stress-free ones. For that we can thank the Dodger offense finally breaking out and reaching its potential.

The Dodgers should score in double digits or close at least once a week, which should win the game no matter how the starter pitches unless he has a Tomko-twin performance. It looked like another tough offensive game early, but Hudson knocked the first brick loose with his home run in the fourth inning, Martin blasted a wide hole with his two-run double, and the rest of the Dodgers eventually poured through the breach to seal the win.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

J. Martin -- 1
Hudson -- 1
Stults -- 1

Laugher Shares ( Dodgers )

Pierre -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Petit -- 1
Buckner -- 1
Upton -- 1

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

Game 4 Unfair Loss Shares

It would have to be 40 games before we started to panic about Manny, right? It would be really daft to get worked up about four games, especially four games in Petco. And his OBP is actually near 0.400 right now --- the trouble is that is slugging is down in Juan Pierre territory near 0.350.

Still, it would have been nice if Manny could have done more in the series. That might have saved the Dodgers from a split that feels a bit like a series loss. At least Manny could have hit a fly ball in the ninth when the tying run was on third.

If Manny is in Juan Pierre territory ( with the slugging ) then Russell J. Martin is in Andruw Jones territory. His OPS so far is 0.410. And he's grounded into two double plays.

It's time to move on from Petco, and the series.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Dodgers )

Manny -- 1
J. Martin -- 1
Wade -- 1

Unfair Win Shares ( Padres )

L. Rodriguez -- 1
Bell -- 1
A. Gonzales -- 1

09 April 2009

Nick Adenhart

One of the beauties of baseball is that the inexplicable and unfair things that happen on the field are transitory. We can press reset after the injustices and bad bounces of each game and start anew. In the immediate aftermath of last night's Angel game it would have seemed that Nick Adenhart was the victim of bad luck. After pitching 6 scoreless innings and leaving with a 4-0 lead he watched his teammates allow the A's to score 6 runs. Adenhart lost the second win of his career and the Angels lost the game. But this is baseball, and the injustice of that lost win would not endure, because he would make many more starts, when things might be different.

But there won't any more starts. Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver late last night, as I am sure anyone reading this knows. We are off the field now, where there is no reset, no new game.

There are on average nearly 50 people killed in drunk driving accidents in the United States every day.

The death of Nick Adenhart is sad, and incomprehensible, and tragic. Is it any more tragic than the other 50 drunk driving deaths each day that pass by largely unnoticed? Is Nick Adenhart's death more tragic than the deaths of Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson, also killed in the crash?

There is really no way to answer this question, except to say that today we do take notice. Nick Adenhart's death is a reminder of all the others who are killed whose names we never know.

Game 3 Unfair Win Shares

If the trio of Wade, Kuo and Broxton were one guy, he'd have an unfair win share right now. I suppose I could break one in three parts, and give one to each. An unfair win share share --- but they don't come in fractions. That's one of the rules. It's going to be a tough rule on relievers, who tend to pitch just an inning at a time, but that's okay because relievers are just failed starters anyway.

It must delight a manager to have a set guy for each of the late innings, and then to have a lead going into those late innings, and have each man in turn do his assigned job. The best laid plans have worked perfectly. Wade in the seventh, Kuo in the eighth, Broxton in the ninth. I wonder how many times we'll see that this season?

They are all very good pitchers, but they also had a lot of help, of course. They were in Petco, against a fairly weak lineup, with a three run lead to work with. That's three ways a mistake can be forgiven. Let's say a batter hits a deep ball in the air. The batter is probably not too good, so he may not have enough power to get the ball out of the park. And if he does have enough power on that swing, the dimensions and air and voodoo of Petco may keep it in anyway. And then even if the ball does go out, it's now a two run lead instead of a three run lead. That makes pitching a lot easier.

The Padres got a double off of Wade but that was all they did in the late innings. They never even pretended to threaten to come back, which makes it harder to pin-point the Padres offensive players who deserve the unfair loss shares. But the motto of unfair loss shares is that deserving has nothing to do with it, so that's okay. Unfair loss shares might benefit from a lesson from the most arbitrary and unfair award out there, the gold glove. The rule of gold gloves is when in doubt, go with what you know. I know Kevin Kouzmanoff. He's already a regular in the unfair shares ledger. And to be fair the man did not disappoint last night ( unless you're a Padres fan ). He was 0-4 with two strikeouts and three men left on base. I'll play a tiny violin for his lineout to center, and then award him the first unfair loss share.

Once the first unfair loss share is awarded the rest are easy. Naming Kouzmanoff for the first one is like having that first cup of coffee in the morning. Clarity follows. Jody Gerut failed to set the table in three at bats with the bases empty, and he failed to clear the table when he came up with the bases loaded. Okay, so it was an RBI ground out, but that don't impress me much. Plus Jody is kind of a girl's name. He gets the second. Then Mujica gets the last one for giving up three runs to the Dodgers. What, did you think the Outback guy would get one?

Both Hudson and Furcal went 2-5 for the Dodgers last night and scored three runs between them. That was some pretty good table setting, and they certainly helped the Dodgers win. Using the unfair tiebreaker that Furcal scored two runs to Hudson's one, Furcal gets the unfair win share. Also this is kind of a make-up call for giving Furcal an unfair loss share instead of Hudson last night. Unfair shares are all about shady practices like repeat winners and make-up calls and the star system.

Speaking of the star system, here's your first unfair win share of the season, Manny. Try not to let it get as dirty as your helmet.

Billinsgley gets the last one for his solid start, leaving the three bullpen guys begging.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Manny -- 1
Furcal -- 1
Billingsley -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Padres )

Kouz -- 1
Mujica -- 1
Gerut -- 1

Kouzmanoff's unfair share win-loss record is now 1-3.

07 April 2009

Game 2 Unfair Loss Shares

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to start the fourth starter is game 2. Not that the order of rotation matters much, but it meant Wolf was up against Chris Young, who can still bring it when healthy. Wolf couldn't keep up.

Wolf actually exceeded my expectations early on. He never seemed sharp to me, and when Kouzmanoff came up with the bases loaded in the third and a chance for redemption I thought he'd get it. Even when the count went to 1-2 I didn't think Wolf had what it took to overpower him. Maybe hit a corner and get a called strike, I thought. But he blew him away. Wolf just didn't have enough of those canine moments in him, and it all came apart in the sixth. There but for the grace of Kemp and moxie of Wade would have gone Kuroda in the previous game's sixth inning as well. Wolf wasn't saved by his teammates, and so gets the unfair loss share, and I don't think it's unfair at all. He earned it.

It would have helped Wolf if Ethier could have caught Kouzmanoff's triple in the second ( I think he should have ) and if the offense had produced more for him. Ethier was also in the middle of the offensive drought, going 0-4. He gets the second unfair loss share.

The last good chance the Dodgers had at the game came when Manny came up with two on and two outs in the seventh. He popped up. The second to last chance the Dodgers had came a batter earlier, when Orlando Hudson struck out. In a way Manny's is the greater failure, because his came last, when there were no more outs to burn, and he is the star, the uber-batter, the one who is the one, the Manny being Manny, the blue heartbeat of the new Dodgers, so we also expect more of him. But Manny also doubled earlier in the game and scored a run, while Hudson had nary a hit ( just a walk in the fifth ). So Hudson --- wait a minute --- what about that walk? He did steal second after that, so he put himself into the same position that Manny was in after his double. Is it Hudson's fault that the hitters after him ( including Manny ) couldn't drive him in? But does that matter? Aren't unfair loss shares about not being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or something? Luck is a factor in this!

Maybe the last one belongs to neither Manny nor Hudson. There is someone else who made four outs ( three on strikeouts ) including a strikeout to end the game when a homerun ( unlikely to be sure in Petco ) would have tied it. Your lone walk can't save you, Furcal. You get the last unfair loss share.

Headley drove in two, Kouzmanoff scored two, and Young only allowed two, so they get the unfair win shares for the formerly hapless and suddenly hap-full Padres. Happy bastards, all three of them.

Dodgers unfair loss shares:

Ethier -- 1
Hudson -- 1
Wolf -- 1

Padres unfair win shares:

Young -- 1
Kouz -- 1
Headley -- 1

Kouzmanoff is still down 1-2 in his unfair share win-loss record. Maybe by the end of the series he can be down 1-5 or so. I think he has some more bases loaded outs in him.

The Unfair Win Shares Manifesto

Unfair Win Shares are unfair in the same way that baseball is unfair. A baseball game may be subtle and nuanced, with a hundred different small moments and confrontations building toward the conclusion, but when that conclusion comes and the players and crowd disperses, the answer is harsh and binary. You win or you lose. That is horribly unfair. This is the way of nearly all sports, I suppose, but it seems especially poignant in a sport that is famously a game of inches and small moments. Baseball is the opposite of a sausage --- we want to see how it is made --- therein lies the delight --- while the finished product, the shiny W or the leaden L, is a coarse and vacant thing. Yes, even the W --- seeing the score of Dodgers 11, Padres 10 means little without knowing the story of where those numbers came from. The joy of the win is real, yes, but for me it is the joy of a story well told, and the joy of stories yet to come, we hope, in October.

It is crass and unfair, then, to sift three unfair win shares from the story of the effort to win a game --- shares that will be awarded, like championship boxing belts, to players from the winning side. It is cruel and shortsighted to also deny any award to a valiant effort in a losing cause. But it is so --- there are no unfair win shares in a loss. The losers are mute in Valhalla.

Unfair win shares are subjective. That is terribly unfair. They do not turn on any particular numbers, on no impersonal, unbiased and precise formula. Instead they are flavored by context, and bias, and luck. The story of a baseball game is subjective too --- there are things we do not know, could not know, that might alter the received narrative of the game, might change the apparent heroes and villains of the game. We who follow the games do the best with what we see and hear, and this is how it will be with the unfair win shares I write about.

Unfair win shares are not in any way the measure of players. That is what VORP and EQA and real win shares developed by Bill James are for. Unfair win shares are curious and contradictory things --- a statistic derived from a subjective interpretation of 162 individual stories. They answer the question of who did the right thing in the right place in the right time the most often. There is little value is the numbers we may end up with, but perhaps, in the search for those numbers, there is value.

06 April 2009

Opening Day Unfair Win Shares

Tomorrow will bring the Unfair Win Shares Manifesto. Today brings the first three unfair win shares awarded to Dodger players.

James Loney is a natural candidate for an unfair win share, since he drove in the runs that would put the Dodgers ahead for good. I am swayed against his case by his out at second on the throw to the plate. Runs against Peavy are hard to come by, in general, and outs must not be given away, especially with a dangerous hitter on deck who would be coming up with two runners on. Loney's out at second, while understandable, also matters. I would like for players ( such as Matt Kemp ) to not be buried for baserunning blunders, but I would also like for the all too common out at second on the throw home to not be forgiven so easily. Or maybe forgiven, but not forgotten. Not just shrugged off as if the RBIs are all that matter.

This is too harsh, though. I also remember how Ethier and Manny came up empty before Loney, and how Loney was the only reason the Dodgers even put up the two runs. His single changed the game early. Out at second or not, he has to get an unfair win share.

Kuroda gave up one run through 5.2 innings. That is a worthy effort, and an unfair win share seems indicated for him. To be sure Peavy was in many ways the better pitcher today --- Peavy pitched more innings, and totaled 8 strikeouts to Kuroda's 2. That Peavy gave up more runs is probably mostly a function of the much tougher lineup he faced. But all this is irrelevant since Peavy pitched for the losing team. I am not even sure if Peavy's sometimes nasty stuff and decent performance in terms of runs allowed can even save him from an unfair loss share --- that will come later, though.

Kuroda also benefited from the work of Cory Wade relieving him, and Kemp's diving catch in the field. Without Kemp's diving catch Kuroda is in trouble earlier in the sixth, with fewer than two outs, and at least one run likely scores. Without Wade's strong effort to close out Kouz to end the inning Kuroda might have given up two or three extra runs --- the Dodgers might have lost the game --- and Kuroda might be looking at an unfair loss share instead. It's just too close, his performance too ordinary. The game was saved when Wade got the comebacker. That's how it felt. So Wade gets the second unfair win share, and Kemp gets the third and last, for his great catch in center and his prodigious home run to center.

The losers must be recognized as well, but there isn't much reason to dwell too long on them. It isn't quite fair, but Peavy does get an unfair loss share. After all the runs were allowed on his watch, and he had that error and all. Wade's unfair win share comes at the expense of Kouzmanoff getting an unfair loss share. And I'm afraid Kouz is going to double up and take two unfair loss shares for the game, the second for going hitless in all his other at bats, and leaving two runners stranded in the eighth when he could have tied the game. You could make a case for Blanco but I guarantee you no Padre fan is complaining about him right now. It's all Kouz. If I was a Padre fan I might even feel like giving him all three unfair loss shares, but that would be a bit too unfair.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 1
Kemp -- 1
Wade -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Padres )

Peavy -- 1
Kouzmanoff -- 2

Opening Hour Live Blog

I'm radio only for the first hour, so I thought I would "live-blog" the opening hour of the season.

4:03 One minute into my first radio broadcast of the year and I am already tired of Steiner. Okay, no, that's not true. Steiner's okay, mostly, I guess. But I still miss Ross Porter.

4:06 Vinny is ready but the Padres aren't. I think when your team is predicted to lose 100 games you don't get to have an elaborate introduction to the team on opening day. Just go out there, put your head down, and lose the game to the Dodgers.

4:09 First pitch. If these times are off, blame my computer.

4:10 Orlando Hudson singles off the first pitch he sees. Impatient fool! You have to work the count. Manny coming up with runners on first and second.

4:12 Two singles, two fly outs. The Dodgers may be on the verge of throwing away a golden opportunity, but Peavy doesn't sound like he's got great stuff out there so far. Maybe Martin can save this inning, but even if not there is reason to be optimistic.

4:15 Every Dodger fan is thinking back to the same moment as Loney comes up with the bases loaded.

4:17 I don't know how to feel right now. The inning-ending RBI base-hit out stretching is always strange. From either side. I guess there's really nothing else reasonable to be but happy.

4:21 Cool, Eckstein sacrifices. Vinny is blaming Bud Black but I'd like to think that was all Eck. The man was born to get the runner over. Give him his due.

4:22 If Bud Black is really serious about playing some small ball he'll have Giles squeeze here.

4:29 Golden Boy Matt Kemp batting!

4:29 What a quick letdown that was as Kemp strikes out. Is that Peavy regaining his form, or Kemp showing is lack of form? Maybe I should relax. It's just one at bat. But one at bat is all Kemp is likely to get while the one hour live blog lasts ... what a disaster!

4:35 Vinny tells the great story about then Padre owner Ray Kroc ripping the Padres over the PA system on opening day 35 years ago. It's a fun story and all, but if he had any guts he would have gone down to the locker room and said it to his players' faces. I would love it if Frank McCourt tried that. Well, no I wouldn't, because that would mean the Dodgers sucked. Maybe he can rip is parking attendants for not getting people parked fast enough.

4:37 Kuroda, like Peavy, restores order in the second. Or maybe it was just the bottom of the Padre lineup sucking. I think even Hendrickson could handle this lineup. Instead as an Oriole he gets to face the Rays, Sox and Yanks all year. Sounds like fun on the bun, Hendrickson.

4:44 Vinny whiffs on his first chance to say "dueces wild" this season. Peavy whiffs on his chance to whiff Manny and instead walks him.

4:48 Ethier singles in Manny and is not thrown out at second. See, Loney? See! I have unalloyed joy now, instead of joy mixed with annoyance at baserunning blunders. My head is not filled with emotional chaos right now. I like this a lot better.

4:50 My wife just emailed me with the news that little Cesar Izturis hit a homerun against the Yankees! That just made my day. I hope the Dodgers can make it for me again by winning. Then Michigan State can make it again for good measure. And Jack Bauer too --- the more day-makings the merrier!

4:51 Ethier thrown out stealing. Well, nice try, but Loney's out at second is still more annoying. But if you make an error in the next half inning then you can pull ahead of him.

4:54 I hate to admit this but I just tuned out Vinny's story about someone not speaking English. Even Vinny nods, you might say. No? Yeah, I guess that was me nodding. Off.

4:57 A non-Ecksteinian batter sacrifices a man over for the Padres.

5:01 I'm headed home with Eckstein on deck, so that ends the live blog. I'm all broken up about missing his at bat, but I'm sure I'll read about his exciting bunt and scrappy dash toward first tomorrow.


When I think about what predictions I would make for the season, my first thought is to say that I just don't know what will happen. How can I say anything when I am nearly certain to be wrong?

Joe Morgan used to refuse to make predictions in his chats, and the authors of Fire Joe Morgan would take him to task for this dereliction of duty. Making predictions was supposed to be a part of his job, I suppose. I always felt just a little sympathy for Little Joe, because saying you don't know what will happen really is the most accurate answer. Even if it's also an annoying answer, and perfectly obvious. We love predictions even though we know they are wrong. So make them already!

Sometimes we go back and check predictions but this is never a serious exercise with consequences for being wrong. Usually predictions are just forgotten, especially the ones that turn out wrong. The appeal of predictions is that they capture the feeling of the present moment. I predict that the Dodgers will make the playoffs. This is less a statement about a future state of the Dodgers and more a statement about how I perceive the team now, how I feel about the team now. When I watch the opening day game this afternoon I will be watching a good team play a terrible team. Though perhaps the Padres aren't terrible with Peavy on the mound. But after today ...

Predictions let us pick out the favorites from the underdogs. Predictions fill the void of all the 0-0 records at the beginning of the season. Any game I watch it helps me to know what kind of game it is --- David v. Goliath, or Clash of the Titans, or Battle of the Bottomfeeders. When the Cubs take the field today they take the field as a team already in first place, even though they are tied with everyone else at 0-0. This is a good team --- according to most predictions. I don't think so, though. No, thinking has little to do with this. I don't feel so. It's the feeling of powerful memory, mostly. Memory of the hapless Cubs from the playoffs last year. I was there when they fell to the broom last year. It's that memory, and also Fukudome, who I don't think even played in the game I was at. He was terrible last year, and why would that change? And Soriano, who is like milk about to turn sour. When the speed begins to go, and the strikeout start coming a little more often, suddenly you have an 0.300 OBP hole at the top of your lineup.

Do the Dodgers have players who could suddenly turn sour on them? The Dodgers are young, mostly, so it's not a huge worry. But there's always Manny. I worry about his health, a little, but a lot of other people worry about his head. I think this is nonsense. What argument is there that Manny is going to be a problem? It happened before, yes. But there still needs to be a reason for it to happen again. I don't see that reason out there. Some say he'll be upset with his contract soon enough. But Manny controls his current contract, and his next one. There's nothing for him to get out of, no club-option years weighing him down. He's in the best city on earth for his personality. Manny's head will be fine. That's my third prediction. And last. It's time to play ball.

01 April 2009

Lost Spring

This is a my April Fool's joke. A post on the blog that never gets new posts any more.

It's been a lost spring training for Dodgerama. That's all I can say. My wife and I have bought a house, and between moving and unpacking and getting the massive garden ready there just hasn't been time to write about the Dodgers' spring training adventures. This is not any great loss, I will admit. Dodger Thoughts and the rest of the Dodger blogs have Spring Training scoped out from every angle.

I've seen one Dodger game this spring. Part of one. It was bonus coverage on Prime Ticket using the Fox Sports NW feed, so I didn't even get a Dodger announcer. But I saw Manny hit his so far only home run of spring, and I got to see Kershaw mowing down Mariner batters, so I picked the right few innings to see Dodger action, I guess. The only way it could have been better is if Kemp hit a triple or something.

I've never been able to get into spring training. You know how the final innings of a blowout game have no edge to them? Every inning of spring training is like that. Spring training is like All-Star game snub controversies. You know how those things go --- people act like it matters and have fun with it but then forget it like it never happened the day after the All-Star game. The truth is no one ever refers to anything that happened in spring training once the regular season starts.

Do you believe that? It's not true, even though I want it to be true. Make a top ten list of memorable Dodger events from 1986 and Pedro Geurerro's disastrous spring training slide has to be on it. I don't think Kershaw's "public enemy number one" strike three curve ball looking last spring would crack a 2008 top ten, but it sure was memorable. People have noted that the first signs of Andruw awfulness to come were evident in spring training last year. So --- I guess I am forced to admit that spring training really does matter, at least a little bit. Yeah, I have missed something, even if I'd like to tell a different story about what's gone on the last few weeks.