Yesterday, I was looking at the lineups for the Padres-Dodgers game, and I was annoyed that “M. Stairs, LF” appeared in the fifth slot of the order.
The case for Stairs being on the roster isn’t very strong–it basically boils down to “the guy accepts pinch-hitting, he’s a nice guy, and it’s better that he gets the PH role rather than a young player whose development would be hindered by the low ABs.”
Mike Baxter is better than Stairs in pretty much every way, and at 25, he’s not exactly a “hot prospect” who would see his future prospects damaged by being in the bigs. I’m sure he just wants to be in the bigs. I much rather would have Baxter around than Stairs.
The fact that Stairs was playing the field and batting in a key lineup spot was an…interesting decision on the part of Bud Black. Not something I’d do with Chris Denorfia around. Hell, I’d run Oscar Salazar out there before Stairs.
Still, my momentary anger at Stairs’ situation immediately subsided when I scrolled further down and saw the Dodgers were pitching Ramon Ortiz.
At that point, I just started laughing.
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Ramon freakin’ Ortiz?
The guy has a career 4.93 ERA and 5.08 FIP. He’s struck out 5.58 batters per nine over his career, and allowed a horrific 1.44 HR/9.
He throws a high-80’s fastball on a flat plane with zero deception and doesn’t have a decent pitch to combat lefties.
I said to myself, “I don’t care what Matt Stairs is doing. The Padres are gonna win this one easy.”
And they did. Ortiz was every bit as bad as you’d expect (5 ER in 3 1/3 IP with 3 BB, 1 K, 8 H). He let Will Venable get to a homer short of the cycle by the fourth inning. No disrespect to Venable, but he was batting .223 coming in, after all.
The Dodgers collectively had seven innings pitched yesterday by Ortiz, Jeff Weaver, and Carlos Monasterios. They had Garret Anderson, who is basically Stairs without plate discipline or power, come off the bench.
And you know what? Despite all of that, the Dodgers…aren’t half bad. Hell, the Padres couldn’t afford to lose to them last night, or else they’d be tied.
The other team close to the Padres, the Giants, ran three pitchers yesterday: Todd Wellemeyer, Denny Bautista, and Brandon Medders.
My point in all of this is that almost every team, no matter their school of thought, strength, or weakness, makes some questionable decisions. Yeah, Matt Stairs plays the field every so often, and he’s not much at the plate anymore, and Mike Baxter is a better player, but I haven’t seen a Padres game all year where I looked at San Diego’s starting pitcher and went “Yep, this one’s a loss.” The bullpen is overflowing with talent too.
So when the Padres do something a bit on the questionable side, that doesn’t mean certain doom. It’s not Jed Hoyer and Bud Black against 29 other GM and manager lineup-and-roster-optimizing robots. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, for example, swap out Stairs for Baxter, but it does mean that one issue may be comparatively small/easy to deal with compared to those of the Padres’ opponents.
And as long as the Dodgers start Ortiz and the Giants start Wellemeyer, that will be the case.
And hey, Stairs singled, walked, and stole a base yesterday. What did Ortiz and Wellemeyer do? Oh, that’s right…they lost.