Mailbag #26: Shields Regrets, Cubans Sliding, and Batting Orders

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Ed: Isn’t it time for at least a little criticism of Friedman? Like why didn’t he jump on Shields when he was available for a four-year deal at less than $20 mill/per? I know you are all madly in love with everything he and his team have done, but wouldn’t Colletti have had more starting pitching depth than Friedman et al. have provided us?

Well, on that last part first: Have you already forgotten that last year, Ned Colletti had to go out and get Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia because his depth was Paul Maholm? Or that the year before, they had to go pick up DFA’d Edinson Volquez in August? Or that the year before, it was Joe Blanton? Ned Colletti’s strength wasn’t exactly “great starting pitching depth.” Meanwhile, Friedman dug up Mike Bolsinger, who’s been surprisingly good, and even though Joe Wieland‘s debut was rough, he still seems like a nice piece to have on-hand.

As for Shields: Right now, would it be nice if the Dodgers had him? Sure. Absolutely. But a few things, there:

  • Please, please, don’t be fooled by Shields’ 6-0 record, because it comes with a 4.40 FIP and terrible home run issues
  • Another reminder that Shields was just as likely to blow out his elbow as Brandon McCarthy was
  • Shields and McCarthy were extremely similar pitchers in 2014, and McCarthy is younger and cost less
  • Signing Shields would have cost the Dodgers the No. 24 pick in next week’s draft.
  • Shields didn’t sign until Feb. 11, reportedly because he felt he could find the $100m+ deal that never arrived. Had the Dodgers signed him earlier in the winter, it probably costs a lot more than he got. Had they waited for the price to drop and counted on him to be there, they maybe they miss out on the other options, still don’t get him, and land in real trouble.

Now, all that being said, the choice doesn’t look great now, because the 2015 Dodgers would be better off with Shields than without him. But I don’t like to change opinions based on hindsight that couldn’t have been known at the time. It’d be one thing if we were all screaming for the Dodgers to go with Shields at the time and they hadn’t. We weren’t, most of us. That it hasn’t worked out well doesn’t mean that we should pretend we thought otherwise.

Besides, the team now is not the team that will go into the final third of the season. Whether it’s Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija or Mike Leake or Matt Garza or Scott Kazmir or any number of other players, help will be coming.

Bobby: I’m glad that the baseball gods finally heard my prayers and Juan Uribe‘s useless corpse was traded away. Can we now start a petition to get Rollins out of the 2 hole and replaced with Turner? Rollins has no on-base ability or speed anymore and Turner is a great situational hitter (which Donny baseball loves). Then the top 6 hitters in our lineup could put up 800+ OPS each with good batting averages (except Joc but he can at least take a walk) and that’s excluding Grandal and Puig. Rollins should be batting 8th except when Ellis is catching. And do more mailbags – they’re more fun and informative than reading about our 5/6th reliever’s release point….

There’s a little bit of right here wrapped in so much wrong. (Uribe’s time was over, but he’d been one of baseball’s best third basemen the last two years, and you might be in the wrong place if you think we’re not going to dig as deeply into things as we can.) And of course, I don’t care in the least about batting average, nor should anyone.

So right here, I had written a whole thing on Saturday about how we all agreed that Jimmy Rollins shoudn’t be hitting second, and that Andre Ethier / Justin Turner should be forming an interesting platoon there. And then before this could get published this morning, Don Mattingly goes and actually does it, pushing Rollins to eighth. Not that having Alberto Callapso there on Sunday was an improvement, but at least it shows willingness to move with Rollins. (Not that it mattered; they were still shut down on Sunday, and were getting rolled on Saturday before Yasmani Grandal‘s homer. Batting order doesn’t matter!)

Of course, when Yasiel Puig returns, that should be where he goes. Either way, it shouldn’t be Rollins.

Chuck: Always has wrong line up. Lead off hitting .236, 2nd Rollins .196. Can’t that Dumas understand that those 2 spots r more often. Had Hendricks batting third a joke. Comes up with rips strikes out or ground ball.Kershaw grooves to many.

Ivan: When will Lee get a serious look at steeping into the rotation that is sporting Bolsinger (Woo!) and Frias? Does it take another injury (please not Anderson…or Grienke…or Kershaw) to get him a call up? I have to solve math? Whaaaat! Carry the 1, drop the 2…

Sure sounds like he’s going to get his shot on Tuesday as part of the double-header in Colorado, though it’s not yet certain that it won’t be Wieland. “Congrats, kid, you’re finally going to the big leagues. Enjoy Coors Field.” So, that should be fun.

Seriously, though, I’ve been seeing variations on this question for a while, and the answer is simple: Lee hasn’t been one of the five best options to start. Is there any reason to bump Bolsinger for him? No. Has there been reason to dump Carlos Frias for him? No. That’s not to say that can’t change soon; either one of those guys could head south. But as much as fans want to see Lee, the fact that he was a first-round pick who got a big signing bonus is completely irrelevant. He’s not yet shown himself to be one of the five best starting options.

Jake: For all the hand-wringing (besides you guys, that is) over Kershaw’s “slow start,” I’m not really seeing any chatter about Greinke’s over-performance. He’s obviously a stud, and big name player to boot, but as you guys have noted his velo is down. I’m also looking at 3.08/3.46 FIP/xFIP compared to his 1.52 ERA, driven by lower K/9 (7.8), low BABIP (.220) and ridiculous LOB% (90.6%). Is he doing something different this year to outperform those peripherals, or is a regression coming – and how hard?

So that’s a good question. Greinke has a 1.48 ERA right now, and he’s not going to keep up that 1.48 ERA. He’s got a .220 BABIP, and he won’t keep up a .220 BABIP. So yes, he’ll not be as good in the remaining four months as he’s been in the first four, nearly by definition. Interestingly, all three projection systems on FanGraphs see the exact same rest-of-season performance from him:

  • ZiPS: 3.13
  • Steamer: 3.12
  • Depth charts: 3.12

This is the difference between “regression” and “disaster.” Will he be as good? No. Will he suddenly be terrible? Of course not. Even the seemingly-dire K/9 drop — from 9.21 to 7.79 — isn’t as bad as it seems, because by the far-superior K%, it’s gone from only 25.2 to 22.7. Unless something comes up again with his elbow, there’s not much to see here.

Matt: We need to ensure that Hector Olivera is being taught to slide when he’s at Camelback Ranch. Our current Cubans seem to have issues in this department (see: Puig, Yasiel and Guerrero, Alex).

Obligatory “Puig trainwreck slide from his first week in the bigs” GIF:


Those are obviously cherry-picked, but it’s an interesting point. Puig (who injured his hip last year on an awkward slide) and Guerrero have both looked brutal trying to do it. Whether that’s a cultural thing or just a “sample size of these two guys” thing, I don’t know. It sure would be nice if they could learn to improve, lest one of them finally injure themselves seriously.

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