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Gonna Party Like It's 2005

Some days you just don't want to get out of bed. One day after we learned about the maladies afflicting Brad Penny and Jason Schmidt, we learn about three more Dodgers, Rafael Furcal, Jason Repko and Hong-Chih Kuo go down with injuries. On the bright side, Repko and Kuo's injuries wont hurt the Dodgers much at the outset of the season. Larry Bigbie can easily replace Repko and Kuo looked to be on the fast track to the minor leagues.

On the other hand, the only position that the Dodgers don't have an easy fix for is shortstop. While Furcal is only expected to miss a week, I'm taking my usual "I'll believe it when I see it" stance on Dodger injuries. Furcal's game is based around speed, and I can't see him going from crutches to 100% by opening day.

If Furcal does need to be replaced, there are several things the Dodgers could do to replace him, none of them are all that appealing. Here's how the possibilities break down, using PECOTA projections and some guess work.

Case one: Ramon Martinez replaces Rafael Furcal.

The simplest thing the Dodgers can do. While Martinez is a very weak hitter, he's better than Wilson Valdez, the only other player on the 40 man roster that is a natural shortstop. This leaves the Dodgers with a no hit shortstop that is average defensively, with no other changes to the lineup. I'll refer to this as the base case.

Case two: Wilson Betemit replaces Furcal at short, Andy La Roche plays third.

While Betemit backed up Furcal in Atlanta, he's supposedly too big now to play the position effectively. However, it might be worth leaving a butcher in at short to get La Roche into the lineup instead of Martinez. For the sake of argument, let's say Betemit is hopeless at short, and puts up an 85 rate2. This means that over 100 games, a team with Betemit at short would allow 15 more runs than a team with an average short stop. As a comparison, Kenny Lofton had a 93 rate2 last year, so 85 is clearly well below hopeless. If Furcal were out 20 games, the Dodgers would allow three additional runs to Betemit's glove alone.

Does La Roche's bat make up the difference? To find out, we'll use the stat Marginal Lineup Value Rate, which measures how many more runs a team consisting entirely of average hitters would score with that player in the lineup. Martinez's projected MLVr is -.138, while La Roche has a projected MLVr of .097. This means that a team gains .235 runs every game La Roche is in the lineup instead of Martinez. Over that same 20 game span, the Dodgers would score 4.7 extra runs, so this case makes the Dodgers 1.7 runs better than the base case, a good deal more if Betemit is even a below average shortstop.

Case three: Betemit goes to short, Nomar Garciaparra goes to third, James Loney plays first.

Can Nomar still play third base effectively? Anything is possible, but I'm not too enthusiastic about the possibility. While I don't know enough about Andy La Roche's defense to make any comparisons in the last case, there is a long track record of Nomar's defense, so we can work from there. Last year, advanced defensive statistics were all over the board on Nomar, putting him anywhere from terrible to the upper echelons of the league.

Since I don't like rate2 very much as a predictive stat, I'll split the difference between the other defensive systems and say that he is an above average defensive first baseman. If Nomar were to move to third base, it would require shifting two places up the defensive spectrum, and that simply doesn't happen. Since his glove doesn't play extraordinarily well at first, combined with the effects of aging, Nomar's third base play could look a lot like is work at short over the last few years: very bad. Since La Roche and Betemit seem to be average third basemen, the Dodgers have a drop off in defense at two positions instead of one.

Because James Loney projects to be worth .19 runs worse with the bat than LaRoche per game, he would need to put up a rate2 around the 125 level to balance out the loss of defense at third and the loss of the bat at first. This is near impossible, so it's hard to argue that this even that much of an improvement over just starting Martinez.

How well the Dodgers are able to handle the loss of Furcal depends a lot on Betemit's ability to field his position. If he's as bad as I projected him to be, the Dodgers are effectively trading Furcal's bat and glove for Ramon Martinez's, which would cost the about a win over the course of a month. However, if Betemit can simply be a below average shortstop, the Dodgers would barely notice Furcal's absence over the course of a couple months.

In other news

Some old friend updates out of the Devil Rays camp. Hee Seop Choi was reassigned to the minor leagues is the latest round of cuts by the Rays. Choi hit .158/.261/.158  in 19 at bats this Spring. While the Rays said he had a serious shot at the job, I'm not sure I believe them after he only received 19 at bats.

Edwin Jackson is doing his best to revive his career. After pitching 10 innings of 1.80 ERA ball, he's in contention with J.P. Howell for the Devil Rays fifth starter job.