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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
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'Can't Be Worse' Is No Answer
2005-05-26 15:05
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

"Try him - he can't be worse than Scott Erickson," goes the mantra with regard to Dodger starting pitching candidates.

This argument, of course, is mostly true. It's mostly besides the point as well.

Don't frame your argument for a new starting pitcher as "he can't be worse." Tell us how much better is he likely to be.

Scott Erickson has an ERA of about 7.50. If, instead of Erickson, the Dodgers employ a pitcher with an ERA of more than 5.00, it helps the Dodgers about as much as an expired coupon. An ERA of 5.00 means that you're then asking the offense to produce six runs or more to win. That's asking too much.

The "can't be worse" way of thinking wastes time and distracts us from real solutions.

If you can make a case that Edwin Jackson, or Duaner Sanchez, or Derek Thompson, or Chad Billingsley, or Pat Mahomes would have an ERA of 4.50 or less as a starter - that he would allow roughly three runs over six innings before turning the game over to the bullpen - then by all means, make that case. Jackson, for example, had a 3.70 ERA at Jacksonville before his original major league callup, which went rather well. Pick your elixir, if you see fit: Thompson has an ERA of 3.89 at Jacksonville with an opponents' batting average of .283, teammate Jonathan Broxton has an ERA of 3.99 with an opponents' batting average of .229. Thompson's strikeout numbers are a little better.

Or, even though his strikeout totals are poor, make the case that Mahomes' 2.91 ERA at Las Vegas is too good not to be explored. Or make the case that Las Vegas is killing Jackson's career, and that calling him up, however poor his numbers are, is the best thing the Dodgers could do for him and for themselves.

And by the way, you might not want to give up on Wilson Alvarez as a spot starter. Unlike Erickson, he has a track record over the past two years of bouncing back from poor starts.

Whatever you do, make the case for excellence, or at least something good. If Paul DePodesta picked a player because "he couldn't be worse than what we've got," you'd have his hide, and rightfully so. And if you can't make a good case for anyone, then say unequivocally that we have to go outside the organization.

The Dodgers shouldn't waste time. Let's pick the best possible guy now.

Comments (55)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-05-26 15:34:27
1.   Bob Timmermann
Alvarez must hate SBCPacBell Park. In 6 games, he's thrown 11 innings and has an ERA of 12.27

The Giants bat .408 off of him there.

His career ERA at Dodger Stadium is 2.07

2005-05-26 15:42:15
2.   Bob Timmermann
The Dodgers have three options for the #5 starter:
Run
Hide
or Die
2005-05-26 15:42:33
3.   db1022
I'm having a hard time understanding Erickson's continuing presence on the roster, especially now that he's been officially demoted from the rotation (or has he, with the injury to Perez?). Is there anything in the near future that would accelerate his release - maybe Dessens returning?
2005-05-26 15:48:46
4.   Steve
I can't agree with this. I know you know, because of the thread on Primer, that young pitchers can benefit from early struggles at the major league level. Maddux came up, but Glavine is an excellent example as well. In fact, the list is probably too numerous to mention. Anyway, Duaner's pitched, what, 100 innings? And he's 26. Scott Erickson is 52. Four of the five guys you've listed would benefit to one degree or another from the experience of starting their major league careers in 2006 with a running start. Not to mention organizations like the Angels and Braves, not necessarily known as the dregs of the Major Leagues, who appear to consistently bring up legitimate guys out of their system who give value-added.

And if I sound like I'm giving up on 2005, that's because I am. There's no reason to go outside the organization, because the cost of fixing 2005 will impact us for the next decade. DePo gambled that he could buy the kids another year and stay competitive. DePo lost. No reason to throw good money after bad.

How could anyone ever do what you're asking them to do anyway? How do you predict what a AA guy like Derek Thompson would do given a start against the D-Backs next week? Rob was giving us the game Erwin Santana was going to pitch -- they sent him out against the White Sox and he threw a complete game shutout. Perhaps I'm descending hell-bent into Plaschke-ism, but it appears we have to admit that there are things that we can't know until they actually happen.

Perhaps we should go with our placeholders and finish 73-89. Or we should launch ourselves into the unknown to try to save the season. This is why we have a GM. But those are the choices.

2005-05-26 15:55:13
5.   Jon Weisman
I think you misunderstood me, Steve, though I tried to be clear. I'm not saying don't try an in-house solution. I'm not saying go outside the organization. I'm saying that whatever you do, make the best possible pick. I'm not asking people to know the future - I'm just asking for more than "he can't be worse."
2005-05-26 15:55:26
6.   molokai
Can't understand the concept of giving up in May. This is not a rebuilding team. Kent did not sign a two year deal to be part of a rebuild. We did not spend all that money on Lowe/Perez for a rebuild year. This is not a great team but it is a team that should compete for the Western title. So what if it isn't going to be easy. This should be a fun summer with a lot of meaningfull games to be played in September. Right now we suck but unless your 13 years old you should know that teams have slumps, even good teams.
2005-05-26 15:57:23
7.   ElysianPark62
All right, here's my case to give Sanchez a go. He has a 2.28 ERA with hitters batting .222 against him. Although I would like to see better K/9 numbers (currently just over 6 per 9 innings), that's not bad.

He throws in the 90's and is capable of K'ing a guy when needed. This starting staff has not been doing that enough. He's allowed 20 hits in 23 IP, but I would like to see fewer walks. As a result, his WHIP is 1.31.

How likely is he to succeed? I don't know! But he shouldn't be thrown to the scrap heap, as some people seem to suggest because he's overvalued. I don't believe that at all.

I agree with Steve in #4. I am not willing to mortgage the future and certainly not for the likes of Lilly and Millwood. That is ridiculous.

2005-05-26 15:58:24
8.   Formerly R
Wow. We just got in so much trouble.

I think posters are resorting to the "(blank) can't be worse" argument because a compelling case can't be made for anyone. It's come down to guesswork. Sure, we're using as much reason as we can but, honestly, what kind of compelling case can you make for any of the options?

Saying Alvarez has a history of bouncing back from poor starts is a good start but who out there finds that compelling, especially when we're looking at a pitch limit of 65?

2005-05-26 15:58:29
9.   Jon Weisman
In other words, among the candidates at hand, some should look better than the others. Who looks the best? That's all. And if none look any good at all, is there a reasonable deal we can make?

You really think nothing can be done to keep the Dodgers in the 2005 race without trashing the future of the franchise?

2005-05-26 15:58:53
10.   Jeromy
Steve, the season's not over. Every team in the NL West has flaws. The Dodgers just went through a very, very rough part of the schedule with St. Louis, Atlanta, Florida, and Anaheim. Scuffling against the Giants isn't making anyone feel good, but I feel the Dodgers can compete with anyone in the division. It is a marathon, not a sprint. If Kent and Drew get back in the groove, the offense will improve. I'm not saying that I'm not worried about the 5th starter spot, but Jon's right, the Dodgers just need to make a solid decision on who will occupy that spot in the rotation and go from there.
2005-05-26 16:00:15
11.   Fearing Blue
To close off a discussion on the previous thread. After plotting everything in Excel, it looks like the Dodgers Runs Scored and Runs Allowed follow a normal curve pretty well. Thus, I would expect there's nothing fishy going on and our record should follow the Pythagorean formula pretty closely.
2005-05-26 16:02:22
12.   Formerly R
7's arguments work for me. Let the kid with the dreads, the goggles, and too-long pants have a go at it.
2005-05-26 16:06:33
13.   Fearing Blue
I like Houlton's chances at roughly a 4.50 ERA as a starter (BP projects 4.71), even though he's been getting spanked in a relief role. I have a hard time seeing that he could be this bad of a pitcher and have pitched so well last year. Additionally, even through his struggles, he's still striking people out. And, come on, he can't be any worse than Erickson ;).
2005-05-26 16:07:04
14.   Steve
BUT NOT EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE IS 14TH IN ERA!

Forgive my advocacy here, but this team, as created, is not "slumping" and can not compete. We cannot compete with a two-man pitching staff. Think whatever you want about Perez and Weaver. But Weaver's done. And Perez is toasty warm. Alvarez was not exactly looking like Koufax before yesterday, and I can't even believe anyone sees anything in Carrara anymore.

Bottom Line: If it was so easy to be 14th in the NL in ERA, everyone would be doing it. The only way out without gutting the franchise is actually pulling the kids up and seeing if they can save us. They probably wouldn't, and I'm not saying they would. But that would be the only reason one wouldn't give up at this point.

2005-05-26 16:07:19
15.   Jon Weisman
Alvarez's pitch-count limit wasn't forever - it was because it was his first start.

He has started 37 games for the Dodgers and has an ERA of 4.45, counting last night. (His ERA as a reliever in that time is 2.51.) So Alvarez is borderline.

2005-05-26 16:11:30
16.   Jon Weisman
Steve - why do you say Weaver is done?

I see three possible scenarios.

1) he's hurt, which implies that he'll improve with some DL time.

2) he's slumping, which implies that he'll improve over time, period.

3) he's done.

You might be right, but why are you so sure it's No. 3?

2005-05-26 16:11:56
17.   Fearing Blue
#15: Tracy has said he's only comfortable using Alvarez two starts at a time, which makes him an ideal fill-in for Perez, but not someone who could solve our 5th starter problem.

I'll throw my hat in with either Sanchez or Houlton for Saturday. But, now that I've done that, we're likely to get Carlyle instead.

2005-05-26 16:12:09
18.   db1022
I think Alvarez and Dessens make an intriguing pair, if and when Elmer ever returns. Alvarez is a guy that can usually give you a quality 4 or 5, and Dessens' career splits, for whatever reason, are much better as a reliever than a starter. If Alvarez can give you 4, and Dessens can give you 2 or 3...
2005-05-26 16:15:07
19.   db1022
#16 - Weaver started last year very similarly as this (maybe not as pronounced, but as has been mentioned several times, Tracy has done him no favors this year).

Although I find it difficult to fathom, it is possible that Weaver turns things around. Maybe it requires hitting the DL and missing 4 or 5 starts to rest his shoulder.

2005-05-26 16:15:07
20.   Mark
"Let's pick the best possible guy now."

ERIC GAGNE

2005-05-26 16:16:11
21.   Jon Weisman
18 - I actually like this kind of thinking. I think planning on taking an endurance-challenged starter out early - having that long reliever ready to go mid-game as a second starter - is smart thinking.
2005-05-26 16:17:41
22.   Steve
Eric Gagne, indeed. We don't need a closer anymore.

If Weaver needs to go on the DL, then put him on the DL. As it is, he's not on the DL. Ergo, he is done. Weaver at 100% ain't exactly Walter Johnson. Weaver at whatever percent he is now is Scott Erickson's younger brother.

2005-05-26 16:19:15
23.   ElysianPark62
The arguments about Alvarez are probably moot anyway, since Tracy has made it abundantly clear he prefers him in the bullpen. Alvarez will get some starts this year, but he won't be there in the long run. And that is the problem--where does that guy come from?

Alvarez's ERA as a starter, as Jon noted as 4.45, is not superb, but it's also inflated by several bad starts. They are not the norm for him. I'm recalling a few starts against ATL and PHI last year where he was purely embarrassing, even worse than last night.

Overall in his LA tenure, he has given them a lot of very good starts and many other pretty good ones, which that ERA tends to mask. He just can't be counted on as a long-term solution.

2005-05-26 16:23:16
24.   ElysianPark62
I had the same question about Weaver being "done." If he really is hurt, then put him on the DL and don't hurt the team by continually trotting him out there. Having him at 70 or 80% is not doing the team any favors. Give him some time so he can be 100%.

We all know what happened with Nomo until July when it was painfully clear from spring training that he needed to be on the DL.

2005-05-26 16:25:04
25.   Icaros
If Jim Colborn hadn't been brought back this season (as was rumoured for awhile), how many people would be blaming the pitching staff's so far lousy performance on him being gone?

I know some writers for the LA Times who would've jumped on that wagon.

2005-05-26 16:25:43
26.   Mark
Personally, I don't think Weaver is hurt. I think he's in a funk.

(Of course, there is the darker, more sinister option 4 to the list above, where Weaver is no longer juicing to get that extra 4-5 mph on the gun)

2005-05-26 16:34:30
27.   Bob Timmermann
Was Weaver "done" when he threw his gems at San Francisco and at home against San Diego in April.

And he had a bad start in between those two games.

At just what point did Weaver become "done"?

2005-05-26 16:37:08
28.   Berkeley Doug
I can't believe all this defeatism I've been reading in DT lately. There are still over 100 games left in the season and the men in blue are only 4 games out of 1st place. Teams go through winning streaks and losing streaks and over the course of the long season everything balances out. I think even with their current roster, if the Dodgers play up to their potential they can compete with any of the other teams in the NL West. It doesn't mean that there aren't some holes to fill, but that is why you pull players from the minors or make a few trades and the Dodgers still have cash to spend and the prospects to trade to improve their team. It may have been distressing to see the recent performances against STL, ATL, and FLA, but to quote Depo in the story in the Times over the weekend, "We have to beat the teams outside our division in October, not necessarily every time we play them in May. We get another crack at each of those teams in the regular season." Just my two cents.

As far as 5th starter until Perez is back, from everything I've read in the earlier posts I would be in favor of giving Houlton or Sanchez a chance because their recent track records are better than Erickson's (they couldn't possibly be worse ;-))

2005-05-26 16:38:31
29.   Xeifrank
Over/Under on Brad Penny has been set at 6 2/3 IPs. Please feel free to place your virtual bets.

I'll see you around the 3rd inning, hopefully it won't be 5-0 Giants when I turn the TV on.

vr

Xei

2005-05-26 16:40:01
30.   db1022
28 - getting smoked by the Angels and Giants will do that to you. Especially after getting crushed by the NL elite the 10 days before.

Not good times for the Dodgers. I was hoping a solid week against the NL West would reinvigorate this team, but so far they've looked real flat.

2005-05-26 16:41:25
31.   Berkeley Doug
Over. Penny pitches a complete game two hit gem, backed up with sole home runs by Kent and Werth. While rounding the bases Kent starts shouting at Bonds in the dugout and Bonds comes after him and re-injures his knee.
2005-05-26 16:43:34
32.   Mark
Under.
2005-05-26 16:45:22
33.   the OZ
Over.

And Kent will get a hit.

And Gagne will get a save.

2005-05-26 16:45:25
34.   heato
Over. Penny pitches a solid seven. Brazoban gives everyone a scare in the eighth. Gagne strikes out two and gets the save.
2005-05-26 16:47:29
35.   Nick Iyengar
Guys, I think Edwin Jackson is the best answer for the #5 spot in the rotation, for several reasons, not all of which have anything to do with how he would actually perform in the immediate future.

1. LV is a brutal place to pitch. Languishing there has to be hurting his confidence; if he is part of the long-term plan, why let him get shelled and wreck mental makeup? Of course, he might get shelled in LA too, but until we give him a chance, we'll never know. Another thing that probably is hurting is confidence is simply knowing that guys like Scott Erickson are somehow sticking with the big club while he is stuck in AAA.

2. He's young, he has a live arm, and he can strike guys out. In other words, he's the exact opposite of Scott Erickson. Additionally, neither Dessens nor Alvarez fits the above description. To me, this is an obvious positive to having EJ in the rotation.

3. We've seen spells of competence from Jackon in the past -- anyone remember him outdueling Randy Johnson in his ML debut? Jackson's career ERA is 5.01 in about 46 ML innings. We know this is much, much better than Erickson can do. Granted, it's not anything to write home about. Anyway, given that Erickson, Alvarez, and Dessens (when he gets back) are all injury-prone to some degree, why not put in Jackson, who at least doesn't bring in the same health concerns as that elder trio?

Maybe Tracy could set up a kind of platoon in the 5 spot. Let Jackson face teams that do worse against RHP and let Alvarez face teams that do worse against LHP...or something like that.

2005-05-26 16:47:38
36.   ElysianPark62
#31--LOL! Bonds also drags his son with him out there to garner sympathy.

Re: #30, the Dodgers got smoked in only one game each of those two series. Both of those other losses were by two runs. One or two key hits could've meant a win.

2005-05-26 16:47:46
37.   Berkeley Doug
#29 - Be prepared for 5-0 LA by the 3rd.
2005-05-26 16:52:01
38.   db1022
#35 (3) I think that's the problem with Edwin - that seems to be the ONLY time that people can remember him succeeding since that day.

And he had a forearm injury all of last year, so he's an injury risk in that "career threatening" way, not the "hurt oneself getting out of bed in the morning" way like the old farts you mention.

2005-05-26 16:55:17
39.   Humma Kavula
Is it too late to take the under?

Under.

2005-05-26 16:58:33
40.   db1022
#36 - Guess it just feels that way when you lose the first two of a series. Very discouraging. And not getting to the Giants bullpen that first game, after getting Schmidt out. Jeff Fassero! I mean, come ON! It's JEFF FASSERO. I could hit that guy.
2005-05-26 16:58:55
41.   Nick Iyengar
38: Jackson had a good season in 2003 for the short time he was up, compiling an ERA of 2.45 in 22 IP. So he had a few good starts, not just one.

Good point about the forearm, I hadn't thought of that, but I do believe he's 100% this year. The "getting out of bed injuries" aren't just one-start injuries, though. Look at Dessens. And I can easily imagine a situation in which Alvarez or Erickson comes down a with an ostensibly minor injury, but takes forever to come back. Old farts take longer than young people to recover from injuries.

I think if you look at our basket of unknowns (jackson, alvarez, erickson, dessens, houlton, minor leaguers) Jackson brings the most to the table in terms of actual performance and long-term benefit.

2005-05-26 17:08:13
42.   Louis in SF
Jon's post is a great jumping off point, but sadly the answers are very sketchy. My reason for wanting to try and promote Jackson is because he has had some success in the majors and while it is difficult to prove confidence levels, if he is not a better risk/reward than some of are other options.
2005-05-26 17:10:56
43.   FirstMohican
Assuming you want to win THIS season, I say #18 has the best idea. If that doesn't work, start Houlton. If THAT doesn't work and we're STILL in a position to win the west and possibly succeed in the playoffs, trade.

If we're out of the division race unload both The Weaves and Penny for prospects and start to develop any young arms that are ready. Maybe see what Duaner can do as a starter. If Jackson has got his control back, bring him in, etc.

2005-05-26 17:13:16
44.   scareduck
Molokai/6: Can't understand the concept of giving up in May. This is not a rebuilding team.

No, it's just playing like one.

2005-05-26 17:17:04
45.   LAT
Steve,

You will be happy to hear that yesterday's Sports Weekly, in the "Buzz" section, reports that Tracey's job may be in jeopardy.

2005-05-26 17:19:40
46.   FirstMohican
Assume we're close to the deadline with SP questions, we'll need a true #1 starter, not another 3 or 4. Who's really available? Assuming only non-contenders with Vets who have expensive/expiring contracts are going to deal to you:

Clemens? Not coming to LA, LA wont pay that salary.

Halladay? I guess it's possible, if the Dodgers want to pay that much money. But that's probably Toronto's version of RJ, they're only $ producer, the only reason fans come. Not very likely, although DePo and JP might work something out I guess.

Livan? Montreal wouldn't trade him last year, why would Washington trade him this year?

Anyone on the Cubs? I suppose, but why're you going to solve an injury prone rotation problem with an injury prone pitcher.

Oswalt? Bonderman? Am I missing anyone?

2005-05-26 17:26:08
47.   FirstMohican
I guess I talked about getting a number 1, but then brainstormed about any avail. pitcher... feel free to point that out condescendingly...
2005-05-26 17:45:19
48.   db1022
Kevin Brown could be available :)
2005-05-26 17:51:26
49.   molokai
Yeah, we are playing crappy but when I look at this team the starting lineup should compete and score plenty of runs. I refuse to believe that our pitching is this bad. Steve may be right but I doubt it. It is May 26th and I refuse to panic. I liked this team on April 1st and now that our starting lineup is back minus Valentin I think we'll get going. If Depo can't cobble together a 4th/5th starter from what we currently have/minors/trade that will give us a chance to win then he's not doing his job.
2005-05-26 17:55:54
50.   GoBears
49: Amen.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-05-26 18:22:47
51.   Sam DC
Lot a good thinking here, and the threads probably dead anyhow, but my two cents says why wouldn't you bring Mahomes up and give him a shot? He seems to be the best performing at LV. I gather his current numbers don't square with his long career, but maybe he's figured something out and stands ready to be this years Alvarez/Lima (Scott Erickson having declined the role).

No real right answer here, but make me king for a day and that's what I'd do.

2005-05-26 18:24:26
52.   LAT
I like # 18 as well. The problem is that means ED can only pitch on days that WA starts. This effectively removes another arm from the bullpen and puts more pressure on the rest of the staff on the four days WA and ED don't pitch. If the rest of the bullpen is up to it, great, but I'm not sure they are.

As for Jackson, I say bring him up. One of the problems with Erickson is the he has only won one game. I would rather have an inconsistent Jackson or Ishi type who on most days is horrible but is or occasionally awesome (See Nomo today). At least you get a W on that occasional day.

2005-05-26 19:13:43
53.   Steve
If Weaver is hurt, then why would Jim Tracy make him throw 120 pitches? One has to either conclude that Weaver isn't hurt, or Tracy is an idiot. Either conclusion is ok by me. Although the former forces you to conclude that Weaver is done.

The early April starts appear to be flukes.

I'll take the under.

2005-05-26 23:02:17
54.   Brian Y
Well I guess we will get to see how Derek Thompson fares on Saturday after all.
2005-05-27 01:01:17
55.   Dodgerkid
Why are we bringing up Derek Thompson and not Eric Stults? Stults has comparable strike out totals, much less walks, allowed only 4 homers, and isn't a health risk like Thompson. Thompson has a dead man's knee!

I also say we should trade Gagne while he's worth something. There are fewer and fewer GMs who are obsessed with closers, and we need another starter. The fans will balk, but we will make the playoffs. We did it with Lo Duca, we can do it again.

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