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Just Octavio Being Octavio

In case you missed it, the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers played a late night thriller on the west coast. Huroki Kuroda put together a strong start, with seven strikeouts against only one walk, allowing two earned runs in seven innings. His Rockies counterpart, Jason Hammel, worked his way around four walks and four hits to allow only two runs in six innings, striking out four along the way. The bullpens, including freshly-demoted Dodgers setup man, Jonathan Broxton, kept things scoreless until extra innings. Joe Torre, going for the win at home, went with his new closer, Octavio Dotel, to start out the 10th, hoping that a scoreless top half would be enough of an opportunity for the Dodgers.

Dotel was certainly looking to improve on his first attempt to save a game with the Dodgers, where it took all of two batters faced for Dotel to blow the save. In one sense, Dotel did improve. This time, it took four batters, including two walks, a stolen base, and two wild pitches for Dotel to bring in the game winning run for the opposing team.

To be fair, Dotel is usually a serviceable reliever. He has crazy stuff, even at 36, and he’s a mortal lock to strike out a batter per inning – he struck out two of the first three batters he faced last night. His FIP this season, however, is only 4.12 and his ZiPS projection is only around 3.70, mainly because he just has no idea where the ball is going. Dotel has a career walk rate of 4.06 and a projected walk rate of 4.20. He can be prone to outings like last night’s, in which the control is just completely missing, and even though that can bring the strikeouts, it’s also going to bring the walks, and subsequently, the runs.

The Dodgers have two relievers that are capable of striking out just as many batters as Dotel while walking far fewer in their bullpen already. One is, of course, Broxton, who has a far superior ground ball rate to go along with a walk rate about one batter lower per nine innings. The other is Hong-Chih Kuo, who has an 11.1 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 this season, the best walk rate of the trio. Kuo likely won’t keep the ball inside the park like he has so far this season, but he has comparable strikeout abilities to Dotel to go with superior control and a superior ability to draw ground balls.

Ned Coletti and Joe Torre are living in a world where James McDonald (20 K, 4 BB, 0 HR in 17.2 IP with Pittsburgh) and Andrew Lambo are an acceptable price to add a middling reliever to a team six games out of the playoffs and then turn him into the relief ace over two superior pitchers. The Dodgers are now 12 games out of the NL West lead and 8 games out of the Wild Card. I don’t know what the Dodgers’ endgame was with Octavio Dotel, but there’s no doubt that Coletti and the Los Angeles front office missed big on this one.