Torre Makes His Team Worse

If you haven’t been following the Dodgers of late, there’s an interesting development down in LA – Joe Torre has decided to give a significant chunk of the playing time at second base to Ronnie Belliard, sending Orlando Hudson to the bench in the process.

With most personnel decisions in baseball, there’s a gray area where a legitimate point could be argued for either side. This is not one of those scenarios. Belliard is half the player Hudson is, at best, and if Torre is actually contemplating swapping the two out as his team heads into the postseason, then the man should have his sanity questioned.

Hudson is a known quantity, and a productive one at that. His .342 wOBA so far this season is basically a dead even match for his .339 career mark. He’s a good contact hitter with some gap power and draws a fair share of walks, making him an above average hitter overall. UZR thinks his defense has been in decline, but still thinks he’s around average with the glove.

The total package makes Hudson a slightly better than average player – he’s been worth +2.2 and +3.3 wins in each of the last five years. He’s consistently a quality asset, and certainly the kind of guy you can win a world title with as your second baseman.

Belliard simply is an inferior player to Hudson. His entire production bump since the trade to LA is a function of a 25% HR/FB rate that has allowed him to slug .589 in 18 games. If you think that’s sustainable, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Belliard is a swing-at-anything hack without the contact or power to make that kind of approach work. In 204 plate appearances before the Nationals shipped him to LA, he posted a .297 wOBA.

He’s not a defensive wizard. He doesn’t run well. He’s not as good of a hitter. The only thing Belliard can outdo Hudson in would be some kind of eating competition.

When October rolls around, Torre better have Hudson installed back at second base and Belliard on the bench where he belongs. Any other alignment will be a blow to the Dodgers chance of winning a World Series.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

So what if Belliard is performing over his head….sometimes players perform over their heads, and if Belliard is hitting right now, it would be pretty hard to argue that Torre is making the team worse.

14 years ago
Reply to  R M

He has performed over his head. It would be really stupid to bet that he will continue to perform over his head. That’s what “performing over your head” means.

14 years ago

Should one “Make hay while the sunshines”, or persist in one’s orthodoxy?

14 years ago

@sunzeneise: If the sun is shining then I can reasonably assume that it will continue shining for a while. If I roll three sixes in a row with a six-sided dice can I reasonably assume it will roll another six next? (hint: No, it has the same chance to roll a six as it always had). Players are not as predictable as the sun.

14 years ago

@Chris . . . . It not the shinning of the sun. it’s the making of the hay.

Matt Harms
14 years ago
Reply to  R M

Are all of you people coming here thanks to the Yahoo link? As Dave notes later on, you don’t start players hoping they constinue to sustain un-sustainable numbers. Belliard has been lucky, not good.

Managers need to construct rosters with players that offer the highest probability of success. Crossing your fingers and hoping for blind luck is entirely the opposite.