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Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Jones For Gagné: Braves 5, Dodgers 1

Gagné just can't be used in non-save situations. I know it; you know it; Tracy probably knows it, but putting him back on the horse so soon after his rehab stint, especially considering he hasn't pitched in a game all year -- well, I suppose you could excuse it under the "needing to get him work" aegis, but why in a tight game? Two runs the Dodgers could have recovered from. Five, no. It's a sad day when you wish Yhency were back on the mound -- free Ghame Over!

Did Mondesi have to homer after nailing Bradley at third? He was always more promise than payoff; his trade to Toronto happened just around the time I started paying attention to the Dodgers again. I still remember him from his aborted stint as an Angel last year, and frankly I'm glad he's on the perennially unimportant, Sisyphean Braves. The endless torture of getting knocked out in the playoffs and never making the World Series seems somehow a fitting final tour for a guy whose potential has almost certainly scurried away from him.

Even though Mike Hampton left early, the Dodgers had nothing to do with it, unfortunately; the hitting, such as there was of it, consisted of J.D. Drew (2, 1 RBI), Repko, and Bradley. Simply a brutal night for the offense.

OP survived, more or less; his three earned runs in six innings qualified as a "quality start", but at the "bad quality" end of that scale, 6 K's notwithstanding. He's scuffling, and like Mondesi, his best years may be behind him. Here's his important peripherals; note how they're diving:

Odalis Perez K/9, K/BB rate stats chart

Tom Meagher's earlier analysis of OP and his subsequent evaluation of OP and Lowe in conjunction with the defense indicated both were likely going to be okay signings provided Dodger defense worked out as expected. It has not, as Rich Lederer recently pointed out on Dodger Thoughts. It's probably still a mite too early to assign blame for OP's early season struggles, but of the rotation regulars, he's one of the lesser problems.

The greater problem -- no, strike that, greatest problem -- will stride the mound tomorrow, of course, in the guise of Scott Erickson. I wanted to draw some attention to this Blue Think Tank piece regarding Mr. Lisa. His WHIP is currently hovering at 1.71, his second-best year in the last four (he didn't pitch in 2001). Believe it or not, he actually nailed the real problem he's having when he stupidly vented about the defense behind him. Yes, that defense is the fifth worst in the league, as Rich pointed out in Jon's recent chat with him. There's room for improvement. But he must show it tomorrow.

Update: I should have mentioned that a stiff shoulder limited OP's fastballs to the low 80's. Yesterday he said in Mark Thoma's wrapup that it wasn't "a long-term concern". Well, damned if the Times puts a slightly different spin on it, saying the Dodgers "might have lost" OP. Overreaction? Perhaps. OP himself says he doesn't think it's a problem.


You may know it, but I don't know it. What I do know is that once the home team is trailing going into the ninth inning, there will be no save forthe home team to get, period. Given that, given that you've got Gagne chomping at the bit to pitch, why wouldn't you use him? At best, he keeps you in the game. At worst - you get the kinks out, get his feet wet.
1) In non-save situations, he exhibits a pattern of losing the game, or inflaming an already bad situation.

2) Gagné was fresh from a rehab stint.

3) He was put in to face guys who have historically hit him well.

I just don't think there was much of an excuse here. The Dodgers were going to face Danny Kolb, with two blown saves in eleven opportunities. That's enough of a chance that leaving Gagné in to let the Jones "brothers" blow the game wide open was unjustified. It's another flaw for Fire Jim Tracy to pillory, and justifiably so.
That pattern for pitching poorly in non-save situations is just a correlation and is overblown. People remember when he allows runs in non-save situations but not when he doesn't.
I agree with Jon!
I have to agree that this "pitch Gagne in only save situations" is exactly the wrong way to think about it. You want to pitch him with a three-run lead in the ninth, but not with the score tied in the ninth? That's just plain wrong, IMO. Tie games are high leverage situations, and you should pitch your best pitchers in that situation. A Save is a terrible metric to use when deciding when to pitch a pitcher.

I also agree that the difference between his performance in save and non-save situations is hardly statistically significant.

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