Key stats: 60 games, .260/.336/.301 slash line, two errors at third base.
Seinfeld episode: “The Stranded” (season 3, episode 10)
Key quote: “All plans between men are tentative. If one man should suddenly have an
opportunity to pursue a woman, it’s like these two guys never met each other
ever in life. This is the male code. And it doesn’t matter how important the
arrangements are, I mean, most of the time when they scrub a space shuttle
mission it’s because one of the astronauts met someone on his way to the launch
Greinke finished second and Kershaw third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Joc Pederson got one third-place vote for NL Rookie of the Year, and Don Mattingly got one third-place vote for NL Manager of the Year. Thirty ballots are cast in each race.
I listed Greinke third on my MVP ballot, which I explained here. A spreadsheet of all 30 MVP ballots, along with the final tally for each candidate, is here.
A two-word text message was all it took Thursday for a high-ranking Dodgers official to shoot down rumors that Gabe Kapler has been offered the manager’s job.
If Kapler does get the job, it will come as little surprise. The first-year director of player development been viewed for some time now as the top internal candidate to replace Don Mattingly, even before Mattingly and the Dodgers agreed to part ways last month. Kapler did not respond to a text message seeking comment.
Amid reports that Bud Black is joining the Angels’ front office, Kapler and Dave Roberts are the two remaining managerial candidates. Roberts reportedly interviewed well — so well that he got a second interview this week. The Padres’ bench coach last season, Roberts has never managed at the major-league level. Neither has Kapler.
Barring a late surprise, one of the two men will be introduced before the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 6. It’s believed that won’t happen until Monday at the earliest.
From where we sit today, it’s fair to call Bolsinger the fourth-best starting pitcher on the most expensive team in baseball history. He was paid at or close to the MLB minimum ($507,500). Let that sink in for a moment. It’s hard to understate how impressive this is: for the Dodgers to identify and trade for Bolsinger, who did little to distinguish himself in nine starts as a 26-year-old rookie with the Diamondbacks in 2014, and for Bolsinger to rise to the challenge of being a regular major league starter for the first time.
So, why wasn’t Bolsinger even a remote consideration for the Dodgers’ playoff roster come October? The answer lies where narrative and numbers and one of my favorite Seinfeld quotes of all-time — “it’s not you, it’s me” — collide.
Bolsinger was 5-3 with a 2.83 earned-run average when the Dodgers traded for Mat Latos and Alex Wood on July 30. His traditional stats were stellar, but Bolsinger had a chronic inability to pitch deep into games and a short track record of success. He was averaging 5 ⅔ innings per start and wasn’t fooling anyone the third time through the batting order. That’s a large reason why eight of his first 16 starts (at the time of the trade) ended in a no-decision.
Advanced stats allow us to analyze the decision a step further.
Bolsinger did something that analytics people call “outperform his FIP.” FIP (fielding independent pitching, which tries to separate a pitcher’s performance from the ballpark and defense around him) rated Bolsinger as a below-average pitcher in 2015. ERA — which measures the actual earned runs a pitcher allows — rated him more favorably. He finished with a 3.91 FIP and a 3.62 ERA.
FIP is something sabermetrics folks call a “predictive stat.” If it’s higher than a pitcher’s ERA, the prediction is that the pitcher’s ERA will rise. There was also the unsexy nature of Bolsinger’s stuff. He has a mid-80s fastball, a good curve and an 80-mph slider — one of the slowest in baseball this year and statistically his best pitch. Whether you believe in the validity of these reasons or not, the Dodgers had reasons to believe Bolsinger might regress.
In fact, he did regress quite a bit. After trading for Latos and Wood, the Dodgers sent Bolsinger to Triple-A to continue to stay sharp. When he returned in September, Bolsinger made five more starts. He didn’t last into the sixth inning in any of the five games, and saw his ERA spike from 2.83 to 3.62.
It would be convenient to say that FIP predicted Bolsinger’s poor September, but I don’t believe that was the case. He told me after a particularly bad start in San Francisco that being sent to Triple-A had affected his confidence. It wasn’t the same in September, even if his repertoire was. By then, Brett Anderson had locked up the NLDS Game 3 start in New York, and the Dodgers preferred Wood over Bolsinger as the emergency long reliever. (Game 3 was, in fact, an emergency.) Bolsinger was never a serious consideration for the playoff roster.
If the confidence of taking the ball every fifth day was all it took for Bolsinger to be effective, it makes you wonder why the Dodgers booted him from their rotation in the first place.
Maybe Seinfeld has something to say about that.
It wasn’t so much that Bolsinger didn’t deserve to stay in the rotation beyond July. It’s that the front office needed a couple insurance starters, and that insurance came in the form of two pitchers who they felt would be better than Bolsinger: Wood and Latos. It’s not you, Mike. It’s FIP.
It just so happened that Latos tanked. Wood didn’t tank, but he was a different pitcher at Dodger Stadium (.185 opponents’ batting average, 2.41 ERA) than he was on the road (.297, 6.14), albeit in small sample sizes.
Incidentally, Latos had the largest positive differential between FIP and ERA of any pitcher in 2015 — 3.46 compared to 4.92, a difference of 1.46. The predictive power of FIP was of no help to the Dodgers or to Latos.
Or to Bolsinger, who must now rediscover his reservoir of confidence after being unceremoniously dumped from the Dodgers’ rotation in 2015.