Since there's not all that much for me to analyze at the beginning of the season, and I hate doing game recaps, I've decided to fill some space on this blog by rerunning some old classics. Our first one comes from November 11th, 1993.
I would like to say I was surprised to see this happen, but I'm not. The writing was simply on the wall all season long. All season long I've run one mantra into the ground "start Pedro, start Pedro, start Pedro", and despite the general mediocrity displayed by Pedro Astacio, Ramon Martinez and Orel Hershieser, it never happened, except for a couple throwaway starts at the end of the season. Sure, they had decent ERAs but their peripherals were all uninspiring. When you combine their veteran presence with their miraculous health, Pedro's two starts this month were the only starts our rotation missed; I guess it's not surprising that he never got a chance.
With the entire rotation coming back next year, I figured it would be more of the same in 1994, but I guess it's too late for that. Pedro Martinez was just traded away for Expos second baseman Delino DeShields. Plain and simple, you do not trade away 20 year olds who thrive in Albuquerque. Not only did Pedro thrive, he was utterly dominant out of the bullpen this year, striking out over 10 per nine. Sure, he had some control issues, but he's 21. It's worth giving a man who has shown the ability to dominate big leaguers a chance, size be damned. Imagine this rotation: Pedro, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio and Rick Gorecki. Three aces with two solid pitchers following them. In two years we could have that, an outfield with Todd Hollandsworth and Raul Mondesi, and Piazza behind the plate. While we still have a very solid core without Pedro, he was the one that truly could have shined if Fred Claire would just take this rebuilding process seriously.
On the bright side, at least we traded for something potentially good, instead of say, getting stuck with the rapidly declining Ryne Sandberg. DeShields could be a very good leadoff hitter, and he's just entering his peak. His plate discipline took a huge jump this year, jumping from an isolated patience of .067 in 1992 to .096 this year. If you combine his ability to reach base at a .370-.390 clip with his 81% stolen base percentage, you have the rare scrappy guy that could actually be an asset to the team.
More importantly, DeShields turns what should have been a dead spot in the Dodgers lineup into one that is above league average. I've already complained several times about the whole Jody Reed debacle. But without Reed, the Dodgers had a hole that needed to be filled, and Rafael Bournigal is not going to cut it. Free agency might have been a place to look, but when Jeff Treadway looks like one of the better options, pickings are slim. Delino DeShields is far better than any thing that we could have acquired in free agency, second basemen who have .380 on base percentages are few and far between.
However, DeShields has several warning signs that could make this signing go south. First is the fact that his power is already declining, even at age 24. In his first full season, he had a .094 isolated power. The next year, this slightly increased to .098, then to .104, but this year it went back down to .077, allowing him to pull off the old "on base higher than slugging" trick with his high walk rate. This is dangerously low, and moving to Dodger Stadium isn't going to help. While Olympic Stadium is one of the best parks in the majors at denying home runs, I don't think that affected DeShields all that much, given the impressive two bombs he hit last year. Moving to Dodger Stadium, which suppresses doubles and triples more than any other park, could take away what little power DeShields has.
Secondly, his defense is terrible. In the first three years of his career, DeShields had rate2s of 93, 85, and 90. While that took a huge jump to 108 this year, that could simply be a glitch in the system. The way rate2 is calculated, that might mean that he just got more balls hit towards him this year. I'm putting far more faith in the terrible numbers
The biggest problem is that DeShields doesn't really fit with the Dodgers current lineup. They already have a leadoff hitter who can take a walk while displaying absolutely no power, Brett Butler. Do we really need another guy like this in the lineup, especially when then Dodgers have such obvious issues with power? While Raul Mondesi should be an improvement on Eric Davis he showed absolutely no plate discipline in Albuquerque this year ( .312/.358./.529) and is a .217 isolated power in that launching pad even worth getting excited about? Billy Ashley could be good, but he also has no discipline, and he struck out once every 2.67 at bats. Ashley could easily hit something like .220/.260/.400 if we gave him a job, and that would make him pretty much the worst player in baseball. How about our gaping hole at first base? We've given Eric Karros two seasons at first, and he's rewarded us with an average line of .252/.296/.417, an OPS 123 points lower than the average NL first baseman, but because he hits dingers, his job isn't in jeopardy. The Dodgers need a stick, desperately, and while a second baseman who hits .280/.370/.345 would be really helpful to some teams, it doesn't help the fundamental flaws this team has. I know this sounds blasphemous, but someone like Robbie Thompson would be a lot more helpful to this team than DeShields. Thank god for Mike, or this team would be hopeless.
In the end, we traded a guy that could be our number one starter in a couple years for a more expensive player that doesn't fix any of this team's glaring holes. Best case scenario, Tommy is right, Pedro gets hurt, and the Dodgers have an above average second baseman. Worst case scenario...I don't really want to think about it.