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Padilla's Start: Lack of an Ace or Just a Poor Choice?

Browsing the game stories from the three main beat writers following the Dodgers after today's debacle, I can't help but sense a theme.

From Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:

For the Dodgers, the vast promise of a new season was quickly replaced by the sobering truth that they had Vicente Padilla starting for them on opening day.

From Tony Jackson of ESPN LA:

There was bad starting pitching that underscored the team's lack of a true ace: Vicente Padilla, apparently the best manager Joe Torre could come up with for an Opening Day starter, was torched for seven earned runs and didn't make it through the fifth inning.

From Ken Gurnick of

Padilla, manager Joe Torre's unexpected choice from a rotation with no established ace, served up a pair of homers to Garrett Jones and was charged with seven runs on six hits and three walks.

Emphasis mine. Just as two months of stellar pitching shouldn't have outweighed nearly six years of mediocrity in evaluating Padilla this winter, he should not be condemned for one bad -- OK, putrid -- start.  The Dodgers only had two starts last season with a Game Score worse than Padilla's 22 today.  Padilla is going to give you a few of these starts every year, but he'll also break off a few gems, too, and in the end he'll probably end up with an ERA in the mid 4.00s.  Nobody ever said it wouldn't be a bumpy ride.

But starting Vicente Padilla on opening day doesn't necessarily mean the Dodgers don't have an ace.  It just means manager Joe Torre made a bad choice.  The choice wasn't bad because of Padilla's performance today, either; it was bad because Padilla is pretty clearly the fourth best starter at best on the club, behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda.  With tomorrow's off day, there is plenty of time to dwell on today's bad game, but there is also a silver lining: the Dodgers have their best three pitchers starting the next three games, so there's plenty to look forward to in the short term, as well as the long term.

There was one other excerpt from Hernandez that caught my eye:

"There were two teams on the field and one of us had to lose," Padilla said. "It so happened to be us. It so happened to be me. I can't control that."

Again, emphasis mine.  I'm willing to cut Padilla some slack here, because (a) I wasn't there for the entire conversation, and (b) at the time he left the game, Padilla had only given up four runs (but left the bases loaded for Ramon Ortiz, who allowed all three inherited runners to score).  However, allowing 11 baserunners (six hits, including two homers, three walks, and two hit batsmen) while only getting 13 outs seems like something that might fall under Padilla's control.

Some other news and notes from opening day:

  • The Dodgers allowed a hit of three runs batted in or more just 11 times in the regular season in 2009 (though they allowed four to the Phillies in the NLCS), but allowed two such hits today: Ryan Church's three-run double in the fifth, and Ryan Doumit's three-run jack in the eighth.
  • The Dodgers allowed 11 runs just three times last season, and never more than that.  One of the three games was the Dodgers' final game in Pittsburgh, meaning in the last two Dodger road games against the Pirates the Dodgers have given up 22 runs (thanks to Humma Kavula for this note)
  • Ramon Troncoso will rejoin the club in time for Wednesday's game, after being with his wife for the birth of their daugher Isabella.
  • The Dodgers are off tomorrow, but Ronald Belisario is scheduled to throw to live hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday, per Jackson.
  • Jackson also brought the news that Nick Green agreed to go to Albuquerque, but also has another escape clause -- on May 15 -- that allows Green to become a free agent if he isn't added to the active roster.
  • The Pirate blog Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke? was mentioned in an interesting story by Pittsburgh station KDKA on Pirate fans wearing jerseys and shirts of departed players.
  • Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts listed the most career hits by any player ever to wear a Dodger uniform, including Garret Anderson, holding onto 14th place with his 2,502 career knocks.  But of course, I was reeled in hook, line, and sinker with the top name on the list.
  • I have updated the payroll worksheet, and the opening day Dodger payroll is $94,928,659.
  • The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the division remains at 163 over the Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks.