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Friday, August 22, 2008

Take One For The Team, Greg: Phillies 8, Dodgers 1

For some reason, I completely blanked on outside reaction to the Maddux trade. That's too bad, because BP's Christina Kahrl has a pretty fair read, as usual. The point, of course, is that "adding Maddux also lessons [sic] the likelihood that LA is going to have to worry about too many [disaster starts] in the remaining stretch of season."
Now, Maddux had given the Pads 13 quality starts in 26, a mixed bag certainly, about what you can get by with from a fourth or fifth starter. Can he continue to perform around that level, and around a level that can get the Dodgers past the Snakes and into the playoffs? As much as Maddux's ability to make things work out should be a matter of legend, I have a few nagging concerns. Maddux is something of a ground-ball pitcher this year (1.5 ground-ball outs for every fly), so while you might think that means that leaving Petco in his past might not hurt him all that much, he's derived a huge benefit from pitching in San Diego this season, allowing 3.3 runs per nine at home for the Pads against 6.4 everywhere else. Everything goes up for him on the road in terms of his rates, even his strikeouts, but risking a few more direct challenges of hitters because he's working in less forgiving environments than Petco means more hard-hit balls heading towards the gaps or over the fence, and more extra-base hits.

It's also a bit of a dodgy proposition that the Dodgers' infield defense can pick him up. Even if the Pads and Dodgers rank just about the same in terms of Defensive Efficiency, keep in mind that the Dodgers aren't really the team that compiled those numbers, not any more. They don't have Raffy Furcal or Chin-Lung Hu at short, they have Nomar Garciaparra. They don't have light-footed Blake DeWitt at third, they have the more leaden Casey Blake. They have Manny being Manny in left, in a market that doesn't have legions waiting to make every conceivable excuse for more basic ineptitude. They have Jeff Kent at the keystone; add that to Nomar, and that's the very definition of creaky double-play combos. Maddux had been getting a slightly better performance from his supporting cast afield than your average Pad pitcher, with his players getting outs on 70.9 percent of all balls in play, where Pads in general were getting 69.8 percent; if he winds up getting the less than 69.9 percent performance the Dodgers probably can't continue to achieve with their current alignment, how's that supposed to work out with a pitcher who needs his defense to help him out on 80 percent of all plate appearances against him?

In other words, the Dodgers as currently constructed are about the worst team that Maddux could go to. A Russell Martin error allowed Greg Dobbs to reach second after he arrived at first on a bunt single to third (I would have loved to have seen what Casey Blake did with that); he eventually scored, but from reading the play-by-play, it doesn't appear, this time, like the defense was what let down the Dodgers, at least not overly so.

Maddux' sudden road problems will be slightly amplified by the team's schedule. From here on out, his appearances from are weighted toward away games:

Date   Team
============
8/27   @ WSN
8/31   @ ARI
9/6   vs ARI
9/12   @ COL
9/17   @ PIT
9/23  vs SDP
9/28  vs SFG

Washington and Pittsburgh, in theory, should be containable, but Maddux's April 18 road game against Arizona was a disaster similar to today's, giving up nine earned runs albeit sticking around for seven innings. We shall see about the other two.

As to the game itself, most of the scoring came on a pair of home runs, Ryan Howard's two-run shot in the fourth and Chris Coste's three-run jack in the sixth. Aside from a first-inning solo homer by Andre Ethier, the team didn't do a whole lot, with no Dodger batter reaching third outside of Ethier.

Yahoo boxMLB.com recap

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