Seeing the struggles of Brad Penny in the second half brought to mind how we really need a full seasons worth of numbers to evaluate a player. To highlight how much our perceptions can be altered by a hot start, I'm stealing an idea from Baseball Prospectus' James Click and running the season backwards. Events that are occurring in the present day happen back in April, and vice versa.
Here are some stories from the first half of this backwards season.
After putting up a 5.59 ERA in his first ten starts, Brad Penny is sent to the bullpen. SI.com's John Heyman is reporting that Ned Colletti is desperately searching for anyone to take on Penny's contract. It's rumored that the Royals are willing to take a chance on him, if the Dodgers pay most of his contract, and throw in some fringe prospects.
In Joe Sheehan's "Looking Back At The First Half" column, he mentions: "While Ryan Howard is unquestionably the first half NL MVP with his staggering 1.304 OPS, you can't overlook the Dodger's Rafael Furcal. His .985 OPS leads all shortstops by at least 50 points, and his incredible defense may bring Furcal closer to Howard than it may first appear."
After holding an eight game lead in the NL west in the first half, the Dodgers lose 13 out of 14 heading into the All Star break to fall two games back of the Padres. ESPN.com's main page features a picture of Kenny Lofton looking really, really sad.
Dodgers.com attempts to get J.D. Drew voted into the All Star game, noting that his .902 OPS leads all NL right fielders. Drew finishes 15th in the voting, between Jeromy Burnitz and Juan Encarnacion.
The Milton Bradley for Andre Ethier trade is labeled a disaster after Bradley hits .300/.381/.472 in the first half to lead Oakland to the best record in baseball and earning himself an All Star nomination. Meanwhile, Ethier is never heard from again in 2006 after starting his career with a .054/.140/.054 line in 37 at bats. Bill Plaschke notes how the Dodgers epic tumble out of first would have never happened if we still had Bradley's fire.
On a similar note, raw prospect Matt Kemp struggles in his rushed appearance to the bigs, hitting only .138 in his brief cup of coffee. Kemp is sent back to AA, where he earns Southern League Player of the Year accolades.
Jeff Kent's contract extension appears to be a brilliant idea. While he was snubbed from the All Star team due to Ray Durham's .992 OPS, Kent is still hitting .307/.383/.497. Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver marvels over how Kent is able to defy his age, putting up near career performances at 37 and 38.
There are murmurs about Nomar Gaciaparra contemplating retirement after 2006 as he struggles through injuries and posts a meager .215/.276/.376 average in the first half. As July rolls around, the majority of the Dodgers at bats at first are going to Olmedo Saenz and James Loney. Jackass blogger Andrew Grant writes "gee, Hee Seop Choi could have done that, and he's on the DL. Well played, Ned."