Heart and Soul Update

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
December 28, 2007

On July 30th of 2004, The Florida Marlins traded Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi, and Bill Murphy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Juan Encarnacion, Paul Lo Duca, and Guillermo Mota.  The move was widely criticized in the baseball world.  "Why would the contending Dodgers give up the heart and soul of their team?" critics asked, referring mostly to Lo Duca, but also to Mota.

Baseball Evolution wouldn't exist for another few months yet, but Scott, Asher, and I were all unanimous in our condemnation of this popular sentiment.  We fell in love with Choi when he was with the Cubs and knew that Penny had perhaps the best stuff in baseball.  We also weren't sure whether Encarnacion's career OBP was over .300 at the time, understood that Lo Duca had a history of second half collapses, and figured that even though Mota was pitching well, that bullpen success was often fleeting, and that the Dodgers still had a pretty dandy bullpen without him.  During one of our many marathon all-you-can-eat sushi, all-you-can-talk baseball outings, we decided to mockingly refer to Lo Duca and Mota only as "Heart" and "Soul" from then on.

In the short term, the truth lied somewhere between conventional wisdom and Baseball Evolution analysis.  The Dodgers by no means lost their firm grasp of the NL West title because of this trade, but their winning percentage fell from .588 pre-trade to .550 post-trade, and they lost to the Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs.  Similarly, Encarnacion, Heart, and Soul failed to propel the Fish to the promised land as experts expected, but they did improve from a .505 winning percentage pre-trade to a .525 mark afterwards.

Individual performances almost unanimously disappointed for the remainder of that season, however.  Choi, who had a 132 OPS+ with the Marlins, hit just .161 in limited action with the Dodgers.  Brad Penny suffered an injury in his third start with the Dodgers and missed the remainder of the season.  Meanwhile in Florida, Encarnacion began walking at an astonishing rate (for him), but sacrificed his already-modest power stroke in the process.  Heart experienced a 105 point dip in his OPS, which was right in line with his career splits (yup, we might have simply named the Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award the Heart Award).   Poor Soul saw his 2.14 Dodger ERA go to hell after a 4.81 stint in Florida that included four blown saves in seven opportunities. 

Of course, it turns out that Mota had sold his soul to the devil, so we shouldn't have been so surprised to see his ERA go where it did.  He had tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance at the end of 2006, causing him to miss the first 50 games of the 2007 season.  The Mets grew so disenchanted with Mota that they traded him with a big bag o' cash to the Brewers for catcher Johnny Estrada, whom they promptly non-tendered.  This Soul that the 2004 Dodgers supposedly couldn't do without had become so rotten that the Mets had to pay another team to take him off their hands.

Then with this month's Mitchell report, we had a Heart attack.  Paul LoDuca's name was littered throughout the report.  Not only did Lo Duca allegedly order many shipments of HGH for himself, but he helped several teammates - including Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, and Matt Herges - acquire the hormone, according to that report. From a transcript of Dodgers Baseball Operations Department Meetings, dated Oct. 21-24, 2004, the report cites the following on the Dodgers' desire to trade their Heart:

Steroids arenít being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. Thatís his makeup. Comes to play. Last year of contract, playing for '05.

If true, this would certainly explain why Heart never seemed to play with as much Heart in the second half of seasons; instead of pumping chemically enhanced blood, he would often pump the normal junk.  The Mitchell report does indicate that Lo Duca made an order for more HGH in August of 2004, but the benefits of that usage likely aren't as great during the season as during an offseason workout regimen.

Give some credit to Juan Encarnacion here.  While other players tried to get more out of their bodies than nature intended, he was content to get less out of his than his body frame and potential would suggest.  Seriously, though, Encarnacion had a career year with the Marlins in 2005.  If the Dodgers regret anything about that trade, it's that they didn't have Encarnacion anchoring their injury-riddled joke of an outfield in 2005.  If Lo Duca is Heart and Mota is Soul, then perhaps Encarnacion is Body?  Hmmm.  Better to lose your Heart and your Soul than your Body?  That's not what we want to teach the youngsters.

As for the Dodgers' future return on their investment, Hee Seop Choi played well in a platoon role in 2005, then disappeared from the face of the Earth.  As for Brad Penny, he would have productive years in both the 2005 and 2006 campaigns before breaking out in 2007.  He finished third in the NL Cy Young voting by going 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA.  Having signed an extension in June of 2005, Penny looks like one of the best financial deals in baseball right now.  The Dodgers paid him $7.75 million last year, and will pay him under $18 million over the next two seasons, assuming that the club indeed wishes to exercise its 2009 option.

So the next time you hear a bunch of experts talk about a trade in sentimental terms like Heart and Soul, go ahead and take that as a red flag.  These supposed experts may not know what in the heck they are talking about.  For that matter, go ahead and apply the same logic to the experts that are dubbing Brandon Webb and Dan Haren the best pitching duo in baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks the favorites to represent the National League in the 2008 World Series.  Paul Lo Duca is Heart, Guillermo Mota is Soul, and Dan Haren could very well be this year's Heart and Soul all by himself.  That would not bode well for the defending 2007 NL West Champions.

Career Stats after June 30, 2004, courtesy of Baseball Musings' Day-by-Day Database:

Heart AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS GDP
Totals 1588 198 458 91 4 23 191 96 124 11 4 55
.288 .332 .394 .726 73.33 69.04
Totals 58 9 11 5 215 2/3 207 124 119 28 84 186
ERA Win Pct. K per 9 BB per 9 HR per 9 K/BB
4.97 .450 7.8 3.5 1.17 2.21
Body AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS GDP
Totals 1506 197 418 81 10 47 221 106 266 16 13 33
.278 .329 .438 .768 55.17 32.04
Totals 98 40 24 0 584 596 252 241 47 174 411
ERA Win Pct. K per 9 BB per 9 HR per 9 K/BB
3.71 .625 6.3 2.7 .72 2.36

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.