We’re Talking Emotions? Reflections on Yesterday’s Loss and the 2010 Season

From this game.

The one thing that bothers me the most in baseball (and in general, really) is when fans attempt to decipher a player’s performance based on his emotions. It’s not that the player isn’t suffering some mental block that prevents him from playing at a normal level, it’s that fans, and particularly ones who don’t talk to players or know anything about them personally, project emotions onto them.

Broxton blew a lead. True.
Broxton blew a lead against the Phillies for the fifth time in three years. True.
Broxton can’t handle pitching against the Phillies. Possibly true.

Regardless of whether or not it’s true, Broxton sucked last night because he lost his control. To make matters worse, the ump was giving him a tight zone.

Broxton's Strikezone plot Aug. 12, 2010

Broxton's Strikezone plot Aug. 12, 2010

We’ve seen this a few times this season and it happens most often when he’s either had too much rest or too little. Broxton had four days rest before this appearance–five days I’d say is too much rest for him–but it doesn’t really matter.

Broxton's rest chart, up to Aug. 12, 2010

Broxton's rest chart, up to Aug. 12, 2010

You can view his career days rest splits here.

The sample size is negligible here, but it’s obvious the more rest he gets, the worse he gets. Not that that’s a bad thing, but ideally you want him in the game every 2-3 days and you see the numbers start to fall off a cliff after a few more days.

This isn’t true for Broxton, but for almost all relief pitchers. Maybe the universal maxim to this is if you’re gonna use any reliever that’s had 4+ days rest, you’re gonna want to use him in a low leverage situation.

So back to Broxton. Broxton was originally put in for a lower-leverage situation that he made a high leverage one. Probably would’ve been smart to remove him after the second walk. He just had no control, even if his pitches were OK. His slider and his fastball had their normal movement, but he couldn’t throw the fastball for strikes.

So guess what happened. The Phillies sat on the fastball and waited for the slider. One got a hit by pitch, two worked a walk, one got on base because of a silly error and one hit a huge double to win it. It was bullshit.

I give credit to Joe Torre for going up to Broxton and saying “trust your stuff” or whatever he said. On the flipside, you gotta know when your pitcher has it or doesn’t have it and Brox definitely didn’t have it. It’s tough to know who to bring in in that situation, but Carlos Monasterios on a day’s rest would’ve likely been fine. The biggest problem was the use of most of the bullpen before Broxton came in. There weren’t many options.

The thing about placing emotions on Broxton is it could be the opposite. The Phillies own Broxton. Plain and simple. What if it’s not Broxton’s fault that the Phillies have some magical powers against him? What if lmao, can’t keep that up. Believing you know something about emotions of a ballplayer is dumb, period. Stop thinking you know something you don’t.

Back to the rest of the game, the Dodgers had this one locked up, it seemed: 9-2 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th inning. Matt Kemp had an awesome day. Heck, the whole offense did. It was nice to see the whole line-up get hits.

Ronald Belisario was put in on 2 days rest and was unlucky and terrible. I can’t blame Torre for removing him when he did because most of the hits he gave up were weak as hell. Two singles through the infield and a soft line drive to centerfield before giving up a big double to Ben Francisco. Frankly, with the Dodgers’ middle infielders and their range, I’m amazed they got two through the CF hole. Kenley Jansen and George Sherrill cleaned up a bit of his mess, but didn’t do an exactly great job.

Now this was the part that was crucial to me, but this wouldn’t be brought up if the Dodgers won the game: Torre pinch hit Jay Gibbons for George Sherrill. Torre does this sometimes when he shouldn’t and I think this was one of those times. This wasn’t a bad spot for a pinch hit decision, since Sherrill was gonna lead off the inning (and Gibbons got a hit, so a few more runs would’ve been cool), and heck, Joe’s got Jon Broxton warming up. But I think it would’ve been more valuable to start the inning off with Sherrill, who just closed out two Phillies after a disastrous bottom of the 8th, and then brought in Broxton should the situation call for it. The Dodgers had a four-run lead, remember. Another couple of runs wouldn’t have mattered much, since having a four-run lead into the 9th is virtually bullet proof. I mean, if you’re gonna lose with a four-run lead, you’re gonna lose period.

Gibbons ended up singling, but Podsednik grounded into a double play. Oddly, the pinch hitter did his job and the line-up batter didn’t.

All in all, none of these decisions were terrible, or even that bad. Broxton almost definitely should’ve been taken out. I feel for Broxton’s development, and especially in a year when it’s clear the Dodgers aren’t in contention, that Broxton might’ve benefited from staying in the game, had he been able to locate his fastball eventually. He does struggle with giving up a lot of runs in bad outings. But still,

So at what point do we stop and say to ourselves, “You know what? This team just isn’t that good?”

PECOTA predicted the Dodgers this season would be a .500 team and I argued against that. Regressions are regressions, but that’s ridiculous after the team only lost Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf. Subtracting both of their productions and adding replacement players would’ve put the Dodgers at about 94 wins. How could a possibly-94-win team lose 13 wins one season to the next? It just doesn’t add up.

But PECOTA was right. How about that.

If you’re looking for a scapegoat this season, stop. There is literally no one player, pitcher, hitter, manager, or front office personnel that’s to blame for the Dodgers’ season. Phil Gurnee of True Blue LA said it very well:

The biggest problem is that the core did not get better in 2010. Loney, Andre, Kemp [and] Martin simply did not produce enough this year to make up for our LF taking the year off. The argument by me has always been we can build around the core. I no longer believe that. When Blake DeWitt has the highest OPS since the All-Star game we have a problem.

Aside from the grim realist perspective, he’s got a point. No doubt the problem hasn’t been any one player, but the team itself. The young core had troubles on offense and defense. If Manny Ramirez doesn’t play for the rest of the year, he’ll have sat 101 games. The starting pitching, aside from Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw and sometimes Chad Billingsley, has had some struggles, no more than the troubled fifth starter spot and the horrible starts from Charlie Haeger, Vicente Padilla, Ramon Ortiz and other fill-ins. And then the bullpen … well, it’s been a wreck.

So yes. This team wasn’t as good as we hoped it would be. That’s what we take out of this loss. And now the front office has to think of ways to make the team better for the future.


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