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33 1/3: Dodgers at the One-Third Point
2004-06-07 16:07
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

No, it's not time for Classic LP Review. Rather, 33 1/3 is the percentage of their regular season that the Dodgers have completed. Here's a review of the team and a look ahead.

Starting Lineup (8)
PA OBP SLG OPS EQA
135 .383 .432 .816 .316 Dave Roberts
210 .405 .487 .892 .308 Paul Lo Duca
224 .335 .561 .896 .303 Adrian Beltre
157 .387 .437 .824 .295 Alex Cora
215 .367 .450 .818 .288 Milton Bradley
235 .351 .398 .749 .270 Cesar Izturis
228 .329 .391 .720 .262 Shawn Green
210 .271 .411 .682 .235 Juan Encarnacion
1614 .330 .447 .777 .--- Total

Taking in account park factors, the Dodger offense is surprisingly fourth in the major leagues in EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus. Stealing 18 bases while being caught only once gives Roberts, who has three doubles this season, the equivalent of 20 - and the top EQA in the lineup. Staying fresh? Lo Duca has caught 73 percent of Dodger innings, compared to 74 percent in 2003 and 81 percent in 2002. Beltre has hit 28 home runs in his past four months of baseball. Cora is two walks away from matching his 2003 total. Bradley and Green have become singles hitters - combined they have one homer and eight doubles since May 9. Green's numbers are well behind those of Fred McGriff through two months last year. Izturis has reached base in all but four games that he has batted in this season. By comparison, Encarnacion has failed to reach in 18 games this year, though he has 11 hits in his last 26 at-bats.

Bench (8)
PA OBP SLG OPS EQA
83 .446 .583 1.029 .351 Jose Hernandez
10 .300 .667 .967 .324 Joe Thurston
33 .333 .536 .839 .304 Olmedo Saenz
07 .286 .667 .952 .301 Jayson Werth
91 .308 .440 .748 .262 Jason Grabowski
56 .286 .235 .521 .190 Robin Ventura
60 .217 .304 .520 .180 Dave Ross
03 .000 .000 .000 .000 Chin-Feng Chen
343 .324 .422 .746 .--- Total

The non-roster invitees, Hernandez and Saenz, have made the difference for what has overall been a strong Dodger bench. Ross and Ventura are disappointments, though who's to say that the good duo and the bad duo won't switch places in the next 54 games. Grabowski has been solid, particularly as a starter. At 6-foot-5, with a home run as his only hit in six at-bats, Werth looks like the second coming of Billy Ashley. Here's hoping for more.

Starting Pitchers (5)
Inn. ERA K/9 #P/IP
05.0 1.80 5.4 19.2 Edwin Jackson
78.7 3.20 6.2 14.9 Odalis Perez
64.3 3.64 4.5 16.7 Kazuhisa Ishii
76.1 4.24 7.7 16.2 Jeff Weaver
41.2 7.13 4.3 17.9 Hideo Nomo
266. 4.20 5.9 16.1 Total

Strikeouts per nine innings are down for all of the starting pitchers from 2003 except for Weaver, who has been the fifth-unluckiest pitcher in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus. For Ishii (8.6) and Nomo (7.3), they're down cataclysmically. As I wrote a year ago, Ishii survives because he allows such a low slugging percentage (.345 in 2004), but opponents are slugging a gargantuan .583 against Nomo. Perez hasn't allowed more than four runs in any start this year, while Weaver hasn't since April. If Jackson can work more efficiently with his pitch counts, his current stay in Las Vegas should be his last unless baseball moves the Expos there.

Swingmen (2)
Inn. ERA K/9 #P/IP
44.3 3.25 7.9 15.0 Wilson Alvarez
40.0 3.83 5.9 15.8 Jose Lima
84.3 3.52 6.9 15.3 Total

Though the lack of confidence Alvarez has in his own body is perplexing given that he's in the same locker room with Nomo and Dreifort, we'll have to bid farewell to his 4.05 starter ERA and settle for his 2.04 reliever ERA. Lima has struck out 16 in his past 21 2/3 innings, all without allowing an earned run, since allowing two runners he inherited from Nomo to score. While you can't expect that to continue all year, he is certainly capable of good streaks.

Relievers (7)
Inn. ERA K/9 ARP
02.0 0.00 4.5 1.1 Rodney Myers
33.0 1.91 7.9 7.6 Guillermo Mota
23.3 1.93 12.3 8.1 Eric Gagne
26.0 2.08 6.6 6.1 Duaner Sanchez
14.7 3.07 8.6 0.0 Tom Martin
24.3 4.81 9.6 1.0 Darren Dreifort
14.3 7.53 6.9 neg Brian Falkenborg
138. 3.14 8.6 24.1 Total

ARP is Adjusted Runs Prevented, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. ARP takes into account both runners a reliever inherits and those he leaves behind. By this metric, the Dodgers have the No. 2 bullpen in baseball behind the Padres - without Paul Shuey. As you can see, while highlighting the outstanding contributions of Gagne, Mota and Sanchez, it puts Dreifort, Martin and Falkenborg in their place - not that any of those players can't improve. In the past 30 days, Gagne has pitched only 4 1/3 non-blowout innings! He has pitched 7 1/3 innings total in that time. Cycles come and go, but Dodger manager Jim Tracy can certainly afford to step up the bullpen usage and get Gagne in before the ninth inning.

Looking Ahead
Even if Nomo doesn't make a recovery this season, the Dodgers probably have the pitching depth to cover for him. But if Green and Encarnacion remain the two poorest hitters in the starting lineup come July, what do they do? As much as any other question for any team in the division, Tracy and general manager Paul DePodesta's need and/or ability to answer this will determine whether the Dodgers, now on pace to win 90 games, can conquer the mild, mild National League West.

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