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talkingheads

I get really tired of all these ESPN “analysts” who don’t seem to know anything about any teams outside of the two eastern divisions. Do they even watch west coast games at all? Are they already asleep on the East Coast by the time the West Coast teams play?

What’s been really annoying about the ESPN guys this week, is how they are pretty much all saying that the Dodgers’ recent struggles since the All-Star break are due to the starting rotation and the bullpen, when in fact the pitching has been rock solid and it’s actually the offense that has been struggling.

For example, in his latest article on the ESPN.com “Baseball Tonight Clubhouse” page, Steve Phillips says the following:

They have been struggling as of late because of their starting pitching. Injuries to Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda have impacted the staff. The wear and tear on their bullpen over the first half of the season also started to take a little bit of a toll in recent weeks.

Now I hear you saying, “Wait a minute, this is Steve Phillips we are talking about here. He’s well known for knowing nothing well.”

But the problem is that it’s not just Steve Philips. Even Buster Olney, who supposedly has a background as a real journalist, has no idea what he is talking about on this issue either. In his most recent chat Olney is asked why the Dodgers are struggling and he answers:

I think the Dodgers are underperforming, for sure, but they’ve also seen their bullpen erode and their starting pitching (which was thin to begin with) fray.

Later somebody calls him on his bullshit, and he only exacerbates the situation in this exchange:

Mike (Lake Forest)

I keep hearing people, including you, saying how the Dodgers bullpen and starting pitching have been a problem. Do you people watch the games before you comment on them? The Dodgers problem has been that they are not scoring runs. They keep losing 3-1 or 4-2. They are very rarely giving up more than 4 runs.

Buster Olney

Mike: So if what you’re saying is accurate, why did Torre change closers the other day?

It’s really as if Olney doesn’t pay any attention to the Dodgers at all and is just making shit up. Because if he had watched the game he is referring to (in which Torre used Broxton in the 8th and Sherrill in the 9th), or even if he had just read the freakin’ AP game recap, he would have known that Torre did not “change closers” at all, but rather pitched Broxton in the eighth because the heart of the Cubs lineup was coming up, and thus that Torre actually had *more* faith in Broxton, not less.

But the more important issue here is that the Dodgers pitching staff has in no way been the problem since the All-Star break.

While it’s true that the Dodgers have gone a mediocre 18-19 since the break, the pitching staff has actually had a significantly better ERA since the All-Star break than before the break, at 3.41 after the break compared to 3.58 before.

And while it’s true that Billingsley and Kuroda have missed starts, their spots have been more than adequately filled by Jeff Weaver and Charlie Haeger.

To say the Dodgers starting staff “was thin to begin” with is also ridiculous. The Dodgers have one of the deeper staffs in baseball, having got good to great performances from no less than 8 starters: Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Kuroda, Weaver, Eric Milton, Eric Stults, and Haeger. The only starter who has been truly bad is Jason Schmidt, but the Dodgers had so much depth they could easily afford to shelve him. In fact, the Dodgers have the third best starting pitcher team ERA in all of baseball this year at 3.66, behind only the otherworldly starting staffs of the Giants and Cardinals.

And no, signing Vicente Padilla is not a sign that the Dodgers are thing on starting pitching. It is a sign that Ned Colletti is an idiot, because the Dodgers still have plenty of other, better options like Weaver, Stults, James McDonald and Scott Elbert.

To anyone who has actually been paying any attention to the Dodgers, it is obvious that the problem since the break has been the offense, because whether the team wins or loses, the final score is almost always something like 2-0 or 2-1.  And sure enough, even the most cursory look at the stats freely available on ESPN’s own site shows that whereas the pitching staff’s ERA has improved since the break, the teams OPS has declined from .766 with a .354 OBP before the break, to .741 with an execrable .336 OBP since.

Alternatively we could take 30 seconds to look up the fact that the Dodgers runs scored per game has fallen precipitously since the All-Star break from a robust 5.03 runs before the break to a middling 4.32 runs since the break. But apparently that would be too hard and it would be easier just to make stuff up and shoot down participants in your live chat as if they were the idiots with no facts.

Really, what is the point of even watching ESPN anymore if these talking heads whose sole job is to sit around and watch baseball games and analyze them can’t even be bothered to watch the games (even though it’s their job), or to at the very least look up basic stats like team ERA or runs scored? Or at the even least-er, make their interns go do it for them?

Sure, there are exceptions like Rob Neyer and Keith Law, but otherwise it’s getting to the point where the average baseball blogger knows far more about far more players and far more teams than these guys who get paid to do this stuff, even though most bloggers have actual real jobs too.

Update: One day after I posted this, John Kruk and Peter Gammons joined the chorus, going on the ESPN.com “Baseball Tonight Minute” to blame the Dodgers pitching for their woes, with Kruk saying “Their starting pitching is a concern – it’s been a concern all year… knowing that they had no depth in that rotation, and now it’s starting to show.” And then Gammons chimes in that “the Dodgers have got to get their bullpen straightened out.”

7 Responses to “ESPN analysts are obviously just mailing it in for any teams other than the Red Sox and Yankees”

  1. Alejandro A. Leal says:

    But remember, bloggers do it in their underwear, so instinctively, they have an edge.

  2. I watched the NESN version of the White Sox-Red Sox game. The Red Sox announcer said Carlos Quentin had been healthy all year. Um, no, thanks for playing. They are in their own little protective bubble on the east coast. . .

  3. I watch MLB network – it isn’t perfect, but the guys actually disagree with each other (instead of echoing the already pointless points), and since they are on TV 6 hours/night – they are forced to watch the games.

    The other cool thing they do – when they do a game summary, they tend to let the local announcers take the call – instead of the BOOYA-tastic Baseball Tonight version.

  4. I’m not convinced the talking heads are getting worse. I think maybe the bloggers (and the fans) are getting smarter, and more able to call them on their BS.

  5. to be fair to steve phillips, he has no idea what he’s talking about when he talks about east coast teams, either.

  6. Totally agree…I’m irritated everytime my team has a game on ESPN cause I have to listen to those boneheads. To their credit, while the Dodgers bullpen has been fantastic in giving up relatively few runs…the runs they give up seem to be game deciders recently.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    “Are they already asleep on the East Coast by the time the West Coast teams play?”

    Got it in one.

    And actually Nick, if I can play editor/SEO expert for a minute, you’re totally playing into their hands by titling the post about the Sox and Yanks, while 90% of your post is actually about the Dodgers’ problems. You should have put the word “Dodgers” in the title somewhere, no?

    I’m sure I’d have more points to make but it’s 7:45 on the West Coast and hence, my bed time.

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