We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Dodgers Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
1) Jonathan Broxton’s home and away splits, respectively — in 45 innings, 0.40 ERA, 73 Ks and a .095 BAA; in 31 innings, 5.81 ERA, 41 Ks and a .252 BAA. Statistical anomaly or reason for concern?
Statistical anomaly, but somewhat troubling. It’s no secret that Dodger Stadium is friendlier to pitchers than hitters; a large amount of other Dodgers show similar (though not always as large) splits. For a closer, the emotional boost of jogging in from the bullpen with 50,000 fans chanting for you as your chosen generic hard rock song recorded between 1968-1992 plays probably has a bit to do with it too. Part of why those splits look so large is because Broxton is just unhittable at Dodger Stadium. In 2009 at home, he gave up two earned runs and had a 73/9 K/BB ratio, or more than 8 times as many K as BB. It’s easy to look bad on the road when you’re being measured against insane standards like that. That doesn’t change the fact that a 5.81 ERA is ugly, of course, but it’s also important to keep in mind that ERA is very misleading for relievers because of the small sample size.
2) Last year Chad Billingsley was my preseason Cy Young. Man, does that look bad now. Please tell me I’m not falling for the old-banana-in-the-tailpipe by predicting a bounce back. What kind of year do you see from him?
I’m as big of a Billingsley supporter as anyone, but picking him over Tim Lincecum? Even I can’t back that up. I have to say, though, that I’ve never seen such unwarranted panic over the struggles of a young player as I saw over Billingsley’s tough second half last year. You’ve got a 24-year-old former 1st round draft pick who’d been outstanding for three years in a row, leading to his first All-Star selection, and a few tough starts cause media members and casual fans to call for his trade or release? It’s absolutely insane, especially because it was never as bad as it seemed. You know how many times he gave up more than 4 ER in the last two months of the season, when everyone was freaking out? Zero. In his last two starts of the season, he went into the sixth inning with a no-hitter and a one-hitter, before faltering in that frame both times.
So yeah, I still see a lot to like here, especially because his late-season issues in 2009 aren’t a total mystery. Billingsley fractured his leg slipping on ice in the winter before 2009, requiring surgery and curtailing his conditioning. Then he strained both hamstrings during the season, leading to a subtle but noticeable change in his mechanics. With a full offseason and a just a bit of luck in the health department, I see big things for Billingsley in 2010. Or he’ll completely implode and I’ll look like an ass. Whichever.
3) The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles pitchers are always good for fantasy because of their weak hitting division and home stadium. Give me the rotation, as you see it.
Clayton Kershaw, Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, and then pick a name out of a hat. Maybe it’s out-of-options soft-tossing lefty Eric Stults, who seems good for one amazingly dominating shutout a year before getting hurt or fading out. Perhaps it’s two-time Dodger Minor League Pitcher of the Year James McDonald, who won the #5 job out of camp last year before failing miserably, being demoted, and reinventing himself in the second half as an effective big-league reliever. Or former top pick Scott Elbert, a lefty who’s overcome arm injuries and probably has the most talent of anyone in this competition, but hasn’t yet proven it in the bigs. Or knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, picked up for nothing who became an AAA All-Star and contributed a few quality starts in the bigs last summer. Or 2008 second-round pick Josh Lindblom, a darling of last year’s spring training. Or this year’s annual participant in the Jeff Weaver/Chan Ho Park/Aaron Sele veteran scrapheap awards (please don’t be Russ Ortiz, please don’t be Russ Ortiz).
The point is, there’s no shortage of decent options for that job, and the smart money is that you’ll see several of them at some point. Joe Torre has shown very little patience in his back-end starters, and with possible injury concerns with the top guys there should be plenty of opportunity. The early advantage probably goes to Stults, just because he has no more options and has shown a little success already.
4) After Manny Ramirez returned from his suspension for testing positive for a female fertility drug, he didn’t look like the same player. Do you think his inability to get pregnant weighed on his psyche and he can now return to pre-menopausal levels of hitting? Or do you think Manny will be lucky to hit .285 and 25 homers?
I think there’s a lot of angles to the Manny story. Rumors of his demise are pretty exaggerated; for all of the complaints you heard about his failings last year he still put up an OPS that would have been top-10 in MLB if he’d played enough to qualify. I also think that in the rush to damn him for cheating, not nearly enough attention was paid to the 95 MPH fastball he took off his hand in mid-July. If you look at the segments of his season (helpfully laid out here) you can see that he was just as good as ever in the two weeks after he returned from suspension, before he got hit. For about a month after that, he was lousy. Once his hand presumably healed, his OBP and SLG came right back up to usual for the rest of the season. You didn’t hear much about that because A) it didn’t fit into the convenient story the media liked to run with and B) because his batting average was just .241, and the casual fan doesn’t get how meaningless that is.
With the injury behind him and a ton of motivation (both to repair his damaged reputation and to play for his next contract, presumably as an AL DH) I think you’ll see a very good year from Manny in 2010. I’d hesitate before saying you’ll see “vintage Manny,” though – don’t forget, he will be 38 years old, which probably has more of an effect than any drugs he may have stopped taking.
5) Do you take the over/under/push on:
One – The number of Manny in-game pee breaks. Under.
Two – The number of flinches by Rihanna when Matt Kemp gets up to hit. Under.
Three – The number of mid-inning reliever changes by Torre. Over. Way over.
Four – The amount of times Russ Martin weakly grounds out. Over isn’t even strong enough here. Not only is he a master of this, now he’s got Juan Pierre’s quota to make up for.
Five – The number of outfield signs that read, “I Go Ethier Way.“ Push.