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A Mixed Bag at the Halfway Point, Part I: The Bad

A little good, and a little bad. That's about what it boils down to. I realize that this can be said about just about anything, and it seems like a bit of a cop-out for reflections at mid-season. But I'm not talking about the season being nondescript, or with nothing special or notable happening. I'm talking about a mix of significant thing, movers in both directions.

Bad Pitching

And plenty of it. Odalis Perez and Jae Seo present the biggest disappointments of the first half. They were supposed to make up two-fifths of the starting rotation. Now Seo is gone (in a trade that sent him to Tampa Bay) and Perez is mired in an absolutely awful season. Perez appeared to be an average big league starter coming into the season. While that's not optimal for a third starter, it's not devastating, either. Unfortunately, we actually got this:

Odalis Perez         ERA: 6.84       WHIP: 1.82

I know that there are more sophisticated statistics that more clearly analyze a pitcher's performance (check out Baseball Prospectus for more details), but you don't need a very high resolution picture to see that that is ugly. I think that it's fair to say that the difference between first place and fourth place (where the Dodgers now reside) is Odalis' underachievement. Despite this, Perez may be a better bet than most to fix what's wrong with the rotation (more later).

Seo was more of an unknown, and now we know that he gives up lots of homers. Thanks for the information, Jae. His acquisition seemed sensible: trade a reliever who showed sudden improvement (usually a fleeting thing among relievers, given the small number of innings they pitch in a year) for a marginal starting pitcher. I liked the trade for the possible upside. We witnessed the dark side of "possible upside" with this one:

Jae Seo         ERA: 5.78       HR/9 Innings: 1.88 (that's a lot)

The bullpen has had its culprits as well. In a less well received trade, Colletti acquired Danys Baez. By "less well received" I mean that the online community (which tends to analyze things more thoroughly than the media) didn't particularly like trading prospects Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany for the closer and his sidekick Lance Carter. Carter was largely considered "replacement level" by Sabermetricians, which basically made him worthless. Some thought that Baez' $4 million salary would have been better used to sign Luke Hochevar, who was the first overall pick in this year's draft, and the Dodger's first pick last year.

There was no shortage of joy over this signing in the media, as the common wisdom was that the Dodgers needed a "proven closer" in case Gagne wasn't ready. While that was partly true and they certainly needed someone to step up in the bullpen, the definition of a proven closer seems to center around the notion of collecting saves. The problem with this metric is that saves are mainly a byproduct of how the manager uses a reliever, rather than that reliever's effectiveness. Specifically, saves are the result of a pitcher pitching in ninth with the lead--a small one. An average pitcher can earn a lot of saves if put into that position often enough. It's similar to getting RBI while batting fourth. Anyway, the press and the television announcing crew seemed to really like this deal.

So how did Baez work out? He's...O.K. His ERA (4.20) and WHIP (1.30) are OK, but he's certainly not a star out of the bullpen. I wish him well, but I don't think the Dodgers will be signing him to a long-term contract. He certainly wasn't the worst. That would be a three-way battle between Lance Carter, Franquelis Osoria, and Tim Hamulack.

Carter       ERA: 8.49     WHIP: 2.14     Innings Pitched: 11 2/3
Osoria       ERA: 7.13     WHIP: 2.04     Innings Pitched: 17 2/3
Hamulack     ERA: 6.57     WHIP: 1.66     Innings Pitched: 24 2/3

Carters numbers are the worst, but the others make up for it in volume. Hamulack may have done the most damage. But Carter looked absolutely lost out there.

Bad Hitting (Not So Much)

In the hitting department there were just a couple of downers. Mainly, it was Rafael Furcal. In a somewhat surprising move, Colletti signed Rafael Furcal to a big free agency deal. My guess is that it was driven by the desire to provide the team with a classic leadoff hitter. Furcal hits well and runs the bases well, and his defense, while erratic, is probably about equal to that of Izturis (though not nearly as beautiful to watch), and there is little doubt that he is far, far better with the bat. Usually. He's had a tough start to the season, OPSing only .670 so far, and stealing 17 of 24 (71%). Guzman didn't do particularly well (.559 OPS) in a brief (23 plate appearances) stint, but I don't think many of us expected him to contribute this year. Other than that, the hitters have done quite well.

It Could Be Worse

The silver lining to this bad stuff is that the underachievers are likely to stop underachieving. Odalis Perez and Rafael Furcal, especially, ought to be better in the second half. I would have no problem seeing Odalis on a regular basis if he'd be willing to go down to AAA Las Vegas for a bit just to make sure he has things sorted out. After all, he's been a pretty good pitcher over the years. And as far as Furcal goes, I think that Little is right to stick with him on a daily basis. He's shown signs of improving (and regressed), and you can't get out of a slump on the bench. Plus, Izturis isn't going to add a lot with his bat. If we all start referring to him as "gritty" his trade value might go up, though.