Thursday, September 16, 2004

Dodgers pitching woes should net Tracy Manager Of The Year Award

As a Dodger fan I love the fact the Dodgers are still atop the West. I hate the fact it is still a very real possibility that they don't even make the playoffs (even though no one ever talks about them as a "wild card" contender). Both the Cubs and the Giants are hot right now & I could see a scenario in which both of them overtake the Dodgers at the wire.That being said/qualified I was on the Dodgers home page today and the "poll question" they ask is; Which of the following Dodgers would be your game 1 starter in the playoffs:

1. Jeff Weaver
2. Kaz Ishii
3. Odalis Perez
4. Jose Lima
5. Another Dodger

Umm......Can I phone a friend, use a lifeline, anything? I know Weaver and Lima are having good years, but a game 1 starter in the playoffs....ughh. If this is not proof enough Jim Tracy should be Manager of the year, I don’t know what is. Let’s just throw out some numbers here:

Jeff Weaver’s career ERA is 4.59 in 952 innings. He averages 2.58 walks per 9 innings & just over a hit per inning. Meanwhile he is not a big strikeout pitcher and has a career record 12 game sunder .500.

Kaz Ishii just had an MRI on his back (which came out ok, but scary nonetheless). In his 456 career innings he’s posted a 4.30 ERA. He averages a whopping 5.84 walks per 9 IP and an amazing 1.51 WHIP (Hits plus Walks divided by IP). He is 12 games over .500 in his career but I think you can attribute that more to his inconsistent pitching than anything else.

Odalis Perez is having the best year ERA wise among the Dodger starters. He’s posted a respectable 3.407 ERA in this campaign. With a career ERA of 4.24 in 607 inning and a won loss record of 44-42, you don’t exactly get the feeling of warm fuzzies every time he takes the mound. Especially when you consider he is 0-1 with a 5.850 ERA in 20 innings over his last four starts as we come down the stretch.

Jose Lima has been the biggest surprise in the Dodgers rotation this year. As we come down the stretch he’s 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA over his last 20 innings (3 starts). That being said though, This guys ERA in the past 4 seasons starting with the year 2000 has been 6.65, 5.54, 7.77 & 4.91…and that’s not a small sampling….that’s over 500 innings across those 4 seasons. In fact, in 1211 career innings coming into this year, his career ERA was 5.13. The key to his success has been his control. He’s walked less than 2 per 9 IP. He’s having his second best year of his 12 year career in WHIP at 1.215. Still, is this the guy you want to throw out there in game 1? The guy is averaging 4.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and by the time the playoffs role around will have pitched more innings this year since 2000.

Then there is Hideo Nomo. Talk about a disastrous season. When this guy returned to the Dodgers in 2002 he was reborn. He pitched over 200 innings in both 2002 & 2003 and posted ERA’s of 3.39 and 3.09 respectively. He had always been a great strikeout guy, averaging over 1 per inning, but even in his successful seasons of 2002 & 2003 that number fell to just over seven per nine IP. Maybe that was the first sign of things to come. This season he’s averaging just 5.68 per nine IP and his WHIP has skyrocketed to 1.68. He was considered a disappointment in Milwaukee, Detroit and Boston in 1999, 2000 & 2001 when his ERA hovered around 4.50…so what does that say about him this year with an ERA of 7.71?

Wilson Alvarez, the old man in this very Veteran rotation, has been horrible as we wind down on 2004. over his last 5 appearances, including two starts, he’s looking at a 8.486 ERA in 11 1/3 IP. For the season he’s at a respectable 4.238…which is ok but he too will have pitched more innings come playoff time than he’s thrown since 1999.

Last but not least there’s Brad Penny…the Dodgers “Ace of the Staff.” He’s scheduled to throw one more simulated game on Friday, then possibly make a start next week. With just over two weeks before the playoffs I’m not so sure I want a guy who hasn’t thrown in months to be the top of the rotation guy in the team’s first playoff game in over 10 years. Not to mention Penny himself has a career ERA of 4.01 in 790 IP. In fact, going into this season his ERA had only been under 4.10 in one of his four Major League seasons.

So there are your options in the playoffs. Whose it gonna be? If I had to guess, the four man rotation in round 1 will be Weaver, Perez, Lima, Penny with Ishii, & Alvarez coming out of the pen. Nomo either gets left off the playoff roster all together or gets the long relief role. Assuming the Giants win the Wild card, as it stands today, they would travel to St. Louis and the Dodgers would face off against the Braves. By virtue of current record, the Braves would get home field in the series. Of course should Chicago beat out San Francisco for the Wild Card or san Francisco catches the Dodgers and the Dodgers win the Wild Card, they would travel to St. Louis in what I would predict to be the quickest series of the playoffs. The Cards hitters would absolutely crush Dodger pitching, just as they did last week in a three game sweep.

Regardless of the playoff scenario, the possibility with 16 games to go the Dodgers will win the NL West with these arms should be reason enough to hoist Jim Tracy high in the air & toast the town of LA LA Land.