There are distinct flaws with an all-analytics approach to building a baseball team. If you’ve read the book “Moneyball” — excellent read, by the way — the point of the book was to make a team that couldn’t afford so-called five-tool players competitive with the teams that can.
Hence, my primary problem with the Los Angeles Dodgers with Andrew Friedman. They can afford the five-tool guys, and yet they’ve overdosed on analytics and let elite players that could increase their chances at world titles slip away.
Analytics isn’t always wrong, though. As such, catcher A.J. Ellis was expendable. Absolutely.
Dodgers fans bemoaned the catcher’s departure for Philadelphia on Thursday, sent in a trade for catcher Carlos Ruiz.
As a side note, that move triggered other interesting little roster shuffles. The Dodgers couldn’t go a game without a backup catcher, so for one day Shawn Zarraga was promoted. In order to accommodate that move, outfielder Scott Van Slyke’s season was ended. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
Now, that’s a lot of lives impacted for bringing in a backup catcher to replace another backup catcher. And Ellis was also one of those “clubhouse guys” you read about. The guy who doesn’t put up great on-field results but man, his teammates love him to death and you want harmony over a long season. Heck, three days before the trade, Ellis joined teammate Rob Segedin to welcome the outfielder’s child into the world. I challenge you not to smile after clicking that link.
But this move presented itself and it had to be made. I may not understand everything the Dodgers front office does, but they have committed themselves to roster depth over five-tool players. In the instance starting catcher Yasmani Grandal gets injured, Ruiz is a far better hitter than Ellis. Currently, Ellis isn’t even hitting .200.
And the Dodgers need all the hitters they can get. Their starting pitching is in tatters and last night they didn’t even land a single base hit until they were down to their final out. Scoring one run in two games is no way to hold onto first place.
Their has been some speculation that once-in-a-generation-elite pitcher Clayton Kershaw will miss his pal Ellis enough to opt out of his contract after the 2018 season due to Ellis leaving. That’s highly doubtful. If Kershaw leaves, it’s because the Dodgers front office has continued to bring in substandard players on this idiotic prideful quest to prove you can win titles with minimum-wage talent.
But they weren’t wrong on this one. Ellis is a feel-good story. Ruiz is an insurance policy.
And insurance makes you feel pretty damn good when you need it most.