Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Here Comes the Sun
2005-10-30 05:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Today the dice say we're going to look at Sun-Woo Kim, but first, a few words on the Dodgers' firing of general manager Paul DePodesta. According to owner Frank McCourt this move is an attempt to restore order to a franchise that's been largely in disarray the past few seasons, but it's likely that it will only set off another volley of power struggles. The timing is peculiar, too. McCourt let DePodesta fire Jim Tracy, a good manager, because the two had ideological differences. If you're going to fire DePo anyway, why not try to keep Tracy? The other alarming thing is that venerated Dodger relic Tommy Lasorda has apparently recaptured the owner's ear. Lasorda doesn't want to come out of retirement to serve as manager or GM, but he does apparently want to choose who will fill those positions, from which no good can come. If Tommy gets the next Los Angeles management team their jobs, it only stands to reason that he will expect them to always take his advice as well. McCourt and only McCourt should make the decision -- as he seemingly did with DePodesta, only to dramatically flip-flop.

Paul DePodesta only ran the Dodgers for two years. One of those years, they won a division title. This year, they managed to stay in contention (sort of) with an injury-ridden team that had only Jeff Kent, Oscar Robles, and eighteen guys named "Jason." OK, it shouldn't come as any surprise that J.D. Drew, DePodesta's big offseason signing, got hurt. But can you really criticize the man for declining to pay Adrian Beltre $64 million to be less valuable than So Taguchi? Or for trading notorious first-half player Paul Lo Duca for much-needed starting pitching? Whatever you want to make of DePodesta's big league moves, you can't judge a GM's overall impact in just two years. You can't make a judgement on any of the guys DePo drafted in that short a time. For what it's worth, the farm system's overall ranking from Baseball America went up from 14th in Dan Evans' last year (2003) to 2nd last preseason.

But if the Dodgers want to fire their young, dynamic guys and bring in retreads (Lasorda wants Pat Gillick and Bobby Valentine), that's their business. The Angels, who have been better run for a while and now also spend more money, will continue eroding their fanbase. Hey, it took Kenny Williams a few years to figure out what he wanted to do and get the guys he needed to do it. How long will the Dodgers get before Gillick "retires" again, then tries to run the franchise from the shadows as he attempted in Seattle? This all comes as great news for the Rockies, as a divisional rival with a glorious history, superior resources, and better-looking uniforms has basically defused itself for the rest of the decade. Right on.

Okay then. Sun-Woo "Sunny" Kim was picked up off waivers from Washington in August and was pressed into starting duty immediately for the makeup doubleheader against Florida August 8th. Kim had been pretty bad for the Nationals predominantly in a middle relief role but as soon as he got to Colorado his ERA began to trend downwards. How about that? Pretty much all of his stats improved upon joining the Rockies, including K/9 (6.41 from 5.22) and opponents' OPS (.728 from .853). I don't think this indicates that Kim possesses Reverse Coors ability so much as he just prefers starting to relieving. Thanks to injuries and Jamey Wright's sublime Jamey Wright-ness, Kim got to start for most of the balance of the season. He stayed good, peaking with a complete-game shutout win over the Giants at Coors on 9/24.

Kim, now 28, was signed out of South Korea by Boston in 1997. The Red Sox traded him to Montreal for Cliff Floyd in 2002, and he moved with the Expos when they became the Nationals. There's no accounting for why Sunny found pitcher-friendly RFK Stadium not to his liking (although public questionings from the cantankerous Frank Robinson likely did not help matters along) and acclimated so well to Coors, but now that he's here let's enjoy it. He's still in his arbitration period and should be a cheap, and therefore very appealing, rotation option for the Rockies. He's better than Mike Esposito, in any case.

The prospect guides aren't real excited about Kim' raw stuff, although he does mix a bunch of pitches (fastball, curve, slider, change) and must be doing something right as his strikeout rate is consistently decent. If there's one red flag in Kim's career, it's the inconsistent usage pattern, which could be either the problem or a symptom. He's likely to get a crack at a fourth starter spot with the 2006 Rockies, assuming he doesn't utterly crater in spring training. There are worse options, and for a team working on a budget such as Colorado's you have to be both creative and lucky to win. It didn't cost them anything to pick up Kim beyond the price of a waiver claim, and he'll make so little that they won't hesitate to let him go as easily as they brought him on. Kim isn't going to work super-deep into games regularly, but he's not afraid of Coors and he has a clean injury history. His dicey record as a middle reliever decreases his flexbility, but let's hope that's a bridge we won't have to cross.

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