Monday, February 1, 2010

Fisking a fisking.

How meta. ESPN's Rob Neyer evaluates the 2010 CAIRO projections (more here), which have the Dodgers winning the NL West with 87 victories, followed by the Rockies and D'Backs with 86 and 84, respectively:
[T]hat 87 does tell us something worth knowing. I mean, if you're interested in this sort of thing. What's not really useful is the notion that (for example) the Diamondbacks are going to finish in third place, three games behind the Dodgers and two behind the Rockies. When you add up the +/-6's for those three teams, a three-game difference between them simply doesn't mean anything. When you find three teams so close and have to pick one, it's time to drill into the stuff automated projections don't consider. Which team has the wherewithal to trade prospects for veteran help in July? Which team is run by men of high intelligence and quick actions?
When I was very young, the G.I. Joe cartoon guy informed me that "knowing is half the battle." I disagree. Knowing is much closer to the entire battle, and the lion's share of knowing is asking the right questions. As usual, Rob does.

The "+/-6" Rob refers to is the "inherent uncertainty" in all the current projection systems. The point of the projections isn't really to tell us what will happen, but what is likely to happen. And Rob's angle is that the computer models, while amazing in their own rights, have a hard time dealing with certain events which might occur between today and the final pitch of the 2010 regular season.

Rob specifically mentions two such additional considerations, and I'm sure he wouldn't object to my inclusion of a third.

Which team has the wherewithal to trade prospects for veteran help in July?

This is a tricky question. As evidenced by budding stars Carlos Santana and Josh Bell, the Dodgers clearly have the prospects to deal. Wait, that's not right. Let me try that again:

As evidenced by Casey Blake and George Sherrill, the Dodgers are clearly willing to deal good prospects for players on the wrong side of the aging curve. But "wherewithal" can also mean financial resources, and short of a Santana-Blake deal, the Dodgers don't figure to be able to add players with even moderate price tags. Though one might think resolving the ownership issue prior to the trading deadline--which is very likely--would help the club's financial flexibility, all indications from the team are that this offseason's corner-cutting is unrelated to the divorce.

So while the Dodgers might have prospects to deal--particularly in the form of power arms at the lower levels--the club isn't cash-flowing too well and Ned Colletti might be (cross your fingers!) reluctant to gut the system for some veteran help.

Which team is run by men of high intelligence and quick actions?

I know Rob meant no slight, but my guess is many Dodger fans would suggest that Kim Ng the most capable executive in the organization. In any case, the key word in this question is "and." The Dodgers front office seems capable of making decisions quickly enough. Deals come together with this group. As to the "men of high intelligence" part. Well...Santana-Blake. Jason Schmidt. Andruw Jones. Juan Pierre. Randy Wolf's non-offer for arbitration. 

I have few doubts that Colletti and the rest are supremely intelligent people; it's simply hard to get where they are by being dumb. But this isn't an objective game. General managers must be highly intelligent compared to their peers. This is where things get troubling.

Which teams will get the most games out of their projected starting lineup and rotation?

I'm cheating a little here. The projection systems do factor in durability and the likelihood of injury. But this is such an important issue that it deserves treatment. The bottom line is if the Dodgers' top three hitters (the outfielders) play 450 games and top three starters (Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda) make 90 starts, September will matter. If one of those six goes down early, though, whatever margin for error the Dodgers had disappears.

It's at that point that Rob's questions are so relevant. If the Dodgers hit rough seas mid-voyage, is the organization capable of patching holes? As it stands, this roster is paper-thin. With any injury to one of those all-important outfielders, Reed Johnson and Jason Repko will fight for everyday at-bats. If an infielder goes down, we're looking at Jamey Carroll, Blake DeWitt, or Ronnie Belliard, depending on how the competition for second base goes.

And if a starting pitcher goes's late at night and I have to sleep soon. Best not to think about that. The bottom line is that this club is not built with any respectable degree of redundancy. In a best-case scenario, the team's been less than truthful with us, and as soon as the ownership issue is resolved, the money will be there for Colletti and pals to address problem spots.

That's where we're at. We're hoping our team's been lying. Because if not, one injury to a key piece could make all the difference. Healthy and on-track developmentally, the Dodgers would run away with the division. But the beautiful grind of the baseball season is rarely so kind to six players at once, especially when two are over 34 and two others are young pitchers. The best organizations in baseball are built to tolerate bumps in the road. Entering 2010, the Dodgers are not one of the best organizations in baseball.

Be safe, Matt Kemp.

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