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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kershaw, Pshaw, The Offense Is The Thing: Dodgers 9, Mets 5

Clayton Kershaw didn't make it out of the fourth without giving up all but one of the Mets' runs. It's true, he didn't let things get ten-earned-runs-and-left-with-the-bases-loaded bad, something his successor on the mound might know a little bit about (yes, Chan Ho has done that twice in his career). I can't tell you how annoyed I was to watch him load the bags on three consecutive walks in the third, and then to watch him re-load the bases in the fourth following two hits and a walk — well, that's just waiting for something really, truly bad to happen.

Wouldn't you just know it but here's Chan Ho to face David Wright, a guy who has pwned Dodger pitching to the tune of .415/.488/.642 for his career. Park actually weaseled his way out of that jam by getting Wright to ground out to short to end the frame, and what's more, he managed to face down old foe Fernando Tatis and hold him to a single. (Yes, that Fernando Tatis, the same one who set a major league record against Park by hitting two grand slams in the same inning on April 23, 1999 as a Cardinal.)

I kid. Actually, Park did a great job in long relief, giving up only one earned run. He walked as many as he struck out, though — three each — so I have no idea how much longer the magic dust that's keeping him operational is going to last. Maybe it's just that he knows all the good places in K-town that carry the really spicy kimchee, but he seems to be useful, something he basically hasn't been since he left the Dodgers.

Moreover, the offense actually gave him a win for his troubles. I listened to this game up until the start of the Angels game, which took me about to Blake DeWitt's leadoff single in the seventh, and his subsequent erasure by Luis Maza's GIDP. Maza ended the night 0-for-4, and he's another character whose flight time in the majors is likely to be measured in double-digit games and maybe, very, very soon, at-bats. Since becoming an effective regular on May 25, Maza has an undistinguished (and admittedly small-sample-sized) .235/.278/.412 line prior to this game. The world is not kind to 28-year-old rookies, and while it's generally been assumed that the one guy who will go down once Andy LaRoche gets his big callup is Mark Sweeney (something MSTI mentioned in a rare game recap), it does occur to me that despite the fact that Sweeney has two hits for each month he's been with the team this year, he is also a vetruhn. As such, he has a chance — not a certainty, as Esteban Loiaza could tell you — of retaining his job, especially since the kid has some plenty of option years left.

Be that as it may, what I missed was the Mets putting up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, but the Dodgers engaging the kind of late-inning heroics they had seemingly forgotten, with Juan Pierre actually sparking a rally and scoring from first on Matt Kemp's ensuing double. Thereafter, it was Singles Night as the Dodgers attack pretty much whittled away at reliever Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis, Schoeneweis politely uncorking a scoring wild pitch so as not to make all the Dodgers' scoring dull for the away crowd watching at home.

Takashi Saito pitched a scoreless but not unblemished ninth (a walk and a hit batter, ouch), but what I really wanted to discuss here in closing was whether Clayton Kershaw really belongs in the majors at all. I had my doubts before his promotion, and I still do, amplified by this poor outing. Could it have been worse? Yes. Should they have called him up this early? I'm increasingly inclined to "no". Jon at 277 asked me to "Show us a pattern instead of an isolated example." In due time, I think; that will take some research, and I don't quite have the database built for that yet, and I'm not quite certain how. One fertile source for such hasty promotions, though, would have to be the 1990's and 2000's Kansas City Royals, though that's from memory of some of their harebrained promotions; I recall them promoting guys from single-A ball with almost no justification, finding out shortly thereafter that wasn't such a good idea after all, and then sending the guy down later. I pass along Tom Meagher's post at 305 as being somewhat closer to my own views but not quite there yet. (I'm getting very close to the "your Las Vegas affiliate exists for a reason, use it" stage, myself.)

I think my stance was/is basically this:

1. The idea of Edwin Jackson that is generally invoked seems not to match up with how he had actually performed.

2. Jackson and Kershaw are not particularly similar. That both of them are Dodgers invites a comparison that, while not meaningless, needs to be counterbalanced by hundreds of other comparisons to help out in the big picture.

3. Jackson and Kershaw are not wholly dissimilar, especially if you are just talking about their AA stints.

4. Many parties seem to think Dodger pitchers should be protected from Vegas. There are two primary issues, as I see it. The first is whether putting up poor numbers hurts a pitcher's development. If it does, then I think that bad coaching is responsible; if your development system can't overcome that flaw, then you should flat out fund a AAA affiliate at sea level. The second is whether breaking balls in particular would take such a hit that the pitcher's development would be stinted [stunted? — RLM]. I don't really have the resources to study the latter at the present time, but I have my doubts that any of the involved parties have themselves.

5. AAA seems like it would have been a more appropriate stop for a pitcher like Keshaw in general, but the talent is probably good enough that the aggressive promotion is justifiable. If he were playing in AA, AAA, or MLB today, I don't think any of us could say that the decision was obviously wrong or suboptimal.

6. Kuo is probably, at this point, a more effective major league starting pitcher than Kershaw. Even with a 4-5 inning cap, I think he's a good option. Cutting Sweeney/Tiffee to bring up an extra arm so Kuo can get some 4-5 inning starts makes an awful lot of sense to me. I would probably have a hard cap of 27 batters faced for Kuo, and could see tighter caps as reasonable based on legitimate medical analysis.

Anyway, a good win against an opponent they could stand to beat. Not that the Mets were setting the division on fire; see the curiously hot 32-24 Phillies, who recently took the division lead from the previously streaking Marlins, on their own three-game slump of late. No; the Dodgers and Mets are both hovering at .500, with this game taking the Dodgers one game over it, and the Mets one game under.

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Couldn't agree more that Kershaw shouldn't have been called up when he was. It's one thing if the rotation was in shambles due to injury and poor performance, but the only guy who's been truly BAD (Penny) isn't going to be losing his spot to anyone, and between Penny/Lowe/Kuroda/Billingsley (the latter two of which have been excellent lately) holding down the top 4, Kuo/Park both being surprisingly effective tag-teaming at #5 and the imminent return of Schmidt we're facing a rotation roster crunch anyway.

It's not like Kershaw couldn't have used the extra seasoning, so while I'm excited to see him I just don't get the timing on this.

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