2012 Dodgers in Review #31: SP Nathan Eovaldi

November 28, 2012 at 10:06 am | Posted in 2012 in Review, Nathan Eovaldi | Leave a comment

(w/ LA) 56.1IP 4.15 ERA 4.11 FIP 5.43 K/9 3.20 BB/9 0.5 WAR C+

2012 in brief: Flashed talent in 10 starts while replacing injured Ted Lilly before being shipped to Miami in July for Hanley Ramirez.

2013 status: Expected to hold a spot in the Marlins rotation.

******

At the start of the season, we knew we’d see Nathan Eovaldi at some point. We just didn’t know when. Despite making six decent starts for the Dodgers in 2011, he had no shot to make an Opening Day rotation which was already full, but he had moved ahead of John Ely and others to become the clear next in line, and with 60% of the rotation being older and prone to injury, his chance would come soon enough.

That chance came in late May, when Ted Lilly‘s shoulder sent him to the disabled list. (I’m ignoring here a brief callup in April in which Eovaldi was in uniform but did not pitch.) I liked Eovaldi just fine, but I know not everyone agreed with me when I said that I didn’t see him as any kind of a future star:

As for Eovaldi, I like him well enough, but I’ve never been as high on him as others, and if Lilly is expected to be out for a long period of time I do think it makes sense to find a more permanent replacement than to rely on Eovaldi to be a savior. There’s been a few updated scouting reports on Eovaldi recently – here’s a good one – and most paint him as a two-pitch pitcher who may have trouble succeeding as a starter unless he can make improvements on at least one other pitch. That, plus his less-than-dominant strikeout numbers against Double-A competition, have lead many to figure that his future may be in the bullpen.

We thought Eovaldi’s stay would be short, but as Lilly’s shoulder trouble proved far more serious than anticipated and rumored interest in Roy Oswalt & John Lannan never materialized, Eovaldi stayed in the rotation for nearly two months. As you’d expect, he was up-and-down, though effective more often than not. His first game doesn’t look like anything special, though it’s worth noting that after allowing a two-run Ryan Braun dinger in the first inning, he pitched 6.2 scoreless. In his third start, he was very good, pitching six scoreless innings in Seattle, but it barely mattered: the Dodgers were no-hit by Kevin Millwood and friends.

Actually, that was a recurring theme of Eovaldi’s season, since he had the misfortune to spend most of his time as a Dodger in the midst of that awful June malaise. The Dodgers lost each of his first seven starts, scoring a total of four runs in that time, so it was hard to blame him when he ended the month at 0-5.

Still, Eovaldi wasn’t entirely blameless. On June 25, he went into San Francisco:

Entering tonight’s game, Nathan Eovaldi‘s sparking 2.35 ERA was backed up by only a 3.77 FIP and a 4.24 xFIP, so it shouldn’t be that surprising there was a clunker coming. Still, I don’t think any of us saw that being a mess like “eight runs and ten hits in five innings”, especially against a Giants offense with little more firepower than what the Dodgers have. I suppose Eovaldi should be commended for even making it through five after giving up seven of those runs in the first two innings; then again, when your team offers no run support whatsoever, against Barry Zito no less, how much does it matter if you’re allowing one run or eight?

A week later, he went into New York and gave up five earned runs in 5.1 innings, not generating a single strikeout. He rebounded somewhat in three July starts, even striking out seven Mets in 4.1 innings on July 22 in what would be in his final start. Three days later, he was gone:

This is in no way a trade without a substantial amount of risk, which we’ll get to in a second, but my first impression is that I really, really like taking the chance here. We’ve been over so many times how impossible it was going to be to find a bat in this market, particularly one who can play third base and isn’t able to walk at the end of the season, and to be able to do that and get a decent lefty bullpen arm without having to give up your top prospects is just phenomenal.

That’s not to say that I dislike Eovaldi, of course, because I don’t. Obviously, forget his useless 2-8 career record, because he’s been an able fill-in at age 22, mixing in some good games along with some disasters, as you’d expect a non-elite pitcher of his age to do. Overall, he’s been about league-average, and there’s absolutely value in that, more than it sounds like; the Dodgers will miss him. But as you probably know, I’ve often felt his future lies in the bullpen due to concerns over his out pitches and strikeout ability, and the Dodgers have a ton of depth in the “decent-to-good young starter” department, from Zach Lee to Allen Webster to Chris Reed and on and on and on. I’ll miss Eovaldi, but if you’re trading a young player, trading from depth is absolutely the right way to do it.

Eovaldi made 12 starts for Miami and basically pitched exactly the same way as he had for the Dodgers, mixing great outings (eight shutout innings against Atlanta on September 18) with disasters (six earned runs in two innings in Atlanta on August 2), but generally still not missing enough bats. As I said when the trade was made, he was an adequate fill-in while needed, but not at all someone I’m going to cry over trading.

******

Next up! Josh Beckett escapes Boston!

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