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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
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Don't Walk Over LaRoche's Walks
2007-05-19 08:56
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

As more people have become aware of Andy LaRoche's preternatural walking ability since arriving in the major leagues, more people have written it off under the assumption that pitchers are working around him to get to the pitcher's spot.

So what's the explanation for LaRoche walking more often than any other No. 8 hitter in the National League?

Not only is LaRoche walking at a far greater rate than any other NL penultimate hitter, he is one walk away from being tied for the league lead in No. 8 walks - regardless of plate appearances.

Take away LaRoche's four intentional walks, and he'd still have five walks in 19 plate appearances at No. 8 - and three walks in nine plate appearances as a No. 6 hitter. The guy's a rookie who was batting .235 in AAA - with 11 walks in a little more than 100 plate appearances. Is there a reason opposing pitchers would be more careful with him than any other No. 8 hitter? Why doesn't Andre Ethier, usually batting No. 7, have more than 10 walks in 138 plate appearances?

It's not as if LaRoche's ability to walk came out of nowhere. LaRoche walked 66 times in about 500 plate appearances in the minor leagues last year. That doesn't make him Ted Williams, but it counts for something.

In addition, the No. 9 hitter isn't always a Dodger pitcher - sometimes, it's Olmedo Saenz or red-hot pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit. Overall, Dodger No. 9 hitters are fifth in the NL in OPS and OBP, so there isn't much more reason to pitch around the team's No. 8 hitters than any other team's.

So let's not be in such a hurry to write off La Roche's walks. Yes, batting slot has played some part, and he won't maintain a .488 on-base percentage for the season, but the walks are something legitimate to tout. After all, he could be chasing bad pitches rather than taking those jogs to first.

Comments (97)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-05-19 09:47:49
1.   PlayTwo
Jon, you shoulda been a lawyer.
2007-05-19 09:58:13
2.   tethier
I live on the east coast so I don't get to see Dodger games very often. I was however, able to see the 3 recent games against Atlanta. From what I saw, it does appear that LaRoche has a good eye and some plate discipline. So I agree with Jon's thesis.

With that in mind, I would answer "Yes" to the question: "Is there a reason opposing pitchers would be more careful with him than any other No. 8 hitter?" LaRoche is miscast as a #8 batter. It appears that the only reason he bats 8th is that he's the new guy. It's a seniority thing.

Having to bat LaRoche 8th is a nice problem to have. The usual suspects for batting 8th, cather or shortstop, are obviously not viable #8 batters on this team.

2007-05-19 10:01:06
3.   hotblackdesiato
My thought re: the walks is that I wish depo were still GM so I could have some confidence that his superiors appreciate all the free bases he's been taking. A .259 batting average and no homeruns looks a lot different than a 124 OPS+.
2007-05-19 10:02:30
4.   Icaros
Last year's #8 is the team's best hitter this season, but that's only good enough to move him up to #6.

Maybe next year Andy can be #7 and Matt Kemp will get his turn at #8!

2007-05-19 10:40:45
5.   blue22
4 - Which could put Russell at #5; at this rate he'll be in his natural #2 slot sometime next decade...dare to dream!
2007-05-19 10:48:55
6.   gpellamjr
5 I wonder if #2 will be natural for him in 4 years or so. Do you think he'll become more of a power hitter? How many homeruns do you think he will be good for at his peak?
2007-05-19 10:54:20
7.   Bob Timmermann
I again ask: did hominids in the Olduvai Gorge adapt better because they batted second in the lineup?
2007-05-19 11:07:14
8.   tethier
I think Martin will have more power and be good for 15-20 homeruns a year. It still doesn't rule him out of batting #2. It's just that on recent Dodger teams, 20 homeruns made you a "power hitter."

I always thought Drew would have been a good #2 hitter last year. Wouldn't it be nice that when Martin can be moved to #2 in the lineup to have 3-4-5 hitters, like Kemp, Ethier, Loney and LaRoche, hitting 20-30 homeruns?

Understand, I believe that Martin should be batting second this year.

2007-05-19 11:07:36
9.   blue22
7 - Carl Everett thinks that's crazy talk.
2007-05-19 11:18:16
10.   Andrew Shimmin
Shaikin hits the big time, over at FJM. Does Occam's razor prove that the L.A. Times Sports Page is one giant dare to see who can get featured over there the most?
2007-05-19 11:19:34
11.   blue22
8 - I'd be happy to have Loney and Martin getting 15 per year while being able to maintain their patience and contact rates. Anything more than that, and I'd worry they'd be changing their approach too much.
2007-05-19 11:33:41
12.   Eric Enders
11 A lot of hitters are able to develop home run power without changing their approach. It's mostly a matter of getting stronger, so that doubles become home runs instead. Martin and Loney both hit a lot of doubles.
2007-05-19 11:36:52
13.   D4P
It's mostly a matter of getting stronger, so that doubles become home runs instead

Juan Pierre lifts weights. I guess that turns his dribblers in front of the plate into grounders that make it all the way to the outfield, if not stopped first by infielders.

2007-05-19 11:41:32
14.   Eric Enders
LaRoche has improved his walk rate for 4 years running now:

2003: 5.0% of plate appearances
2004: 9.0%
2005: 9.7%
2006: 13.2%
2007: 15.5%

Looks to me like a guy who has been learning plate discipline.

2007-05-19 11:43:28
15.   Eric Enders
13 With The Player it apparently has the effect of making his pop flies actually reach the outfielders instead of dropping in front of them.
2007-05-19 11:54:02
16.   tethier
14 - it's good to see that he's going in the right direction. The Dodgers have a lot of free-swingers. Good plate discipline was one of Drew's qualities. As good as Furcal is, and this is nitpicking, it seems as though he could walk a little more. The other lead-off hitter, well, I think he did draw a walk last night.
2007-05-19 12:01:17
17.   Eric Enders
Statistically, anyway, Juan Pierre looks for all the world like a guy who is trying to hit too many home runs. When you try to hit homers the two things that are likely to increase are your strikeout rate and the percentage of balls you hit in the air. Here are the number of Pierre's plate appearances in which he has either struck out, or hit the ball in the air somewhere:

2004: 44.1%
2005: 45.7%
2006: 45.7%
2007: 53.8%

That's a big part of the explanation for why he's even worse this year than he usually is. He's robbing himself of the chance for some infield hits and whatnot.

2007-05-19 12:10:00
18.   D4P
Here are The Player's G/F ratios:

3.03
2.77
3.15
2.67
2.34
2.46
2.26
2007: 1.64

2007-05-19 12:11:03
19.   JoeyP
10--That article is great:

Yet, if you base the early returns on the standings, the investments are paying off. The Angels are in first place with Matthews, the Dodgers are in first place with Pierre, and isn't that the point?

"Bad news -- I fed that paragraph into the Wrong Machine, (expecting a perfect nine, obviously), and the Wrong Machine just started shaking back and forth and smoke came out and it exploded.

Let us use the logic of this piece of writing to form some other conclusions:

1. In 2003 the Detroit Pistons drafted Darko Milicic instead of Bosh, Carmelo, or D-Wade, and won the 2004 championship, so it was a good idea to draft Darko Milicic.

2. In 2006 four top Italian soccer clubs were investigated for match-fixing in one of the biggest scandals in European sports history, and Italy won the World Cup that year, so it was a good idea to get involved in match fixing.

3. James Dean got into a car wreck and died and he's still really famous, so it's a good idea to get into car wrecks."

I like the 3rd example the best.

2007-05-19 12:16:29
20.   blue22
17 - The good news is that would seem to be a fixable problem. He needs to settle down a little bit, but the opportunity to improve is there.
2007-05-19 12:24:33
21.   Linkmeister
7 C'mon, Bob, Lucy was female; she wouldn't have been allowed to play. Title IX is a 20th century invention.
2007-05-19 12:30:39
22.   Eric Enders
21 Lucy is the most famous kick holder in football history!
2007-05-19 12:31:10
23.   trainwreck
Totally agree with Jon. I always thought LaRoche deserved a lot of credit for getting those walks. Can't put it all on being in the number 8 hole, because I do not think most of our hitters would be getting the same number of walks if they hit eighth.
2007-05-19 12:33:48
24.   Eric Enders
In the same vein, Betemit should get credit for all his walks this year too, although most of them have come in the 8-hole. Like LaRoche, at least he's been taking the bad pitches instead of flailing away at them (as opposed to a certain first baseman who shall remain nameless, but whose first name is Ramon spelled backwards).
2007-05-19 12:35:44
25.   Bob Timmermann
Yellow alert for the cycle in Boston for Mike Lowell.
2007-05-19 12:37:34
26.   Eric Enders
What is yellow again? I've never been able to get the scoring system straight.
2007-05-19 12:39:15
27.   D4P
I suggest we stop using colors for the alerts and just use the appropriate hit (e.g. "Single alert", "Double alert", etc.)
2007-05-19 12:40:58
28.   Bob Timmermann
Yellow = needs a triple or home run
Orange = needs a double
Red = needs a single

I see that D4P is not applying for a job with Homeland Security.

Lowell singled in his fifth at bat in the seventh and likely won't bat, but I have not given the order to stand down yet.

2007-05-19 12:45:13
29.   D4P
I see that D4P is not applying for a job with Homeland Security

I've never understood why the terror alert would ever go up in color intensity if it were true (as we've been told) that we're "safer" now than we used to be.

But don't mind me.

2007-05-19 12:52:39
30.   Marty
From Gurnick:

ANAHEIM -- The Internet message boards are buzzing about the Dodgers stepping up efforts to trade for a third baseman like Troy Glaus or Mike Lowell or Scott Rolen or everybody's favorite choice, Miguel Cabrera.

2007-05-19 12:56:25
31.   Greg Brock
30 I'm just pretending the first three names aren't on that list.

Miguel Cabrera...Yay my favorite sexay fatty slugger!

2007-05-19 13:00:02
32.   D4P
31
One of the names on that list only needs a trip for the cycle. THE CYCLE!
2007-05-19 13:00:56
33.   D4P
"trip" is shorthand for "triple". It saves two letters. TWO LETTERS!
2007-05-19 13:02:06
34.   gpellamjr
29 Ask Alberto Gonzalez, we're kinda safer, kinda not.

Hey, it's more than five years now since the last attack, you liberal North Carolina Hollywood elite.!

2007-05-19 13:08:48
35.   Hallux Valgus
from the OC Register:
"You know how they drag (rake) the infield between innings?" Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly said, joking. "One day when we were in Florida, they dragged the infield whilewe were hitting."

So, with no base runners visiting, things can get a little lonely in that coaching box?

"There have been days," Donnelly said, "when they could have put a pile of rocks out there."

~feel free to draw your own conclusions as to whether or not a pile of rocks > Rich Donnelly

2007-05-19 13:17:31
36.   Andrew Shimmin
The Yankees lose another pitcher.
2007-05-19 13:19:44
37.   Curtis Lowe
36 - I know a team with a surplus of pitching that needs a bat!
2007-05-19 13:41:58
38.   Andrew Shimmin
Why, all of a sudden, are there two commercials featuring men in bath tubs talking to their wives and children? Is there some boom in men having baths? And do they really do it with the door open, and happy to have company?
2007-05-19 13:44:24
39.   D4P
Can we stand down yet on the Lowell cycle alert? My feet are getting tired...
2007-05-19 13:45:09
40.   D4P
And do they really do it with the door open, and happy to have company

"Are you looking at my bum? You bum looker! You cheeky monkey!"

2007-05-19 13:51:00
41.   gpellamjr
40 Another fine example of why I align myself strictly with the Shimmin faction.
2007-05-19 13:55:19
42.   Bumsrap
7 I (Bob) again ask: did hominids in the Olduvai Gorge adapt better because they batted second in the lineup?

Thought that question was worth repeating.

2007-05-19 13:56:17
43.   Bob Timmermann
39
Sorry, I had taken a nap.
2007-05-19 13:56:27
44.   D4P
41
Come on, G: don't you like to do drawrings?
2007-05-19 13:57:32
45.   D4P
Sorry, I had taken a nap

So had my feet.

2007-05-19 14:00:45
46.   Andrew Shimmin
Injury Update: Rasner's index finger, on his pitching hand, is fractured.
2007-05-19 14:03:29
47.   Bob Timmermann
42
The history of human evolution is rife with cases of certain groups being able to adapt because they could do the little things, like kill the bear behind the runner.

I believe one of the finches that Darwin studied on the Galapagos took over its niche in its ecosystem because, as Darwin said, "that finch just wanted it more."

2007-05-19 14:03:32
48.   Bumsrap
I have been thinking that LaRoche might be one of the few #8 hitters that has power and that combined with pitchers not sure yet how to pitch to him, creats walk opportunities for somebody that can lay off non-strikes.

For me, too many times he misses big when he swings and misses.

2007-05-19 14:04:53
49.   LA Native
19

I'd have to say that in the case of the Angels they have greatly benefited from Matthews. He has hit 6 homers and played great defense. He may not be worth $10M a year, but he is playing more like he did last year than he did for the 7 years before that.

As for Pierre, there is no way you can make the argument the Dodgers are in first place because of him.

I am wondering what I have a better chance of seeing in my lifetime. Kemp return to starting in Center Field or the organ music return to Dodger Stadium.

2007-05-19 14:06:31
50.   Bob Timmermann
49
Juan Pierre is far less likely to be suspended for flunking a drug test than Gary Matthews. Or be indicted by a grand jury.

You can judge for yourself if that's a good or bad thing.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-05-19 14:09:19
51.   Bumsrap
47
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: Just introducing good institutions to poor countries and expect those countries to achieve the per capita GNP similar to first world countries ignores history. Good institutions have appeared in countries with geographic advantages and not randomly. We must understand the role geography has played if we hope now to produce good institutions quickly in countries lacking them.

Today's first world countries are ones that were powerful centers thousands of years ago or were repopulated by peoples from those centers and food production was at the heart of their success.

2007-05-19 14:11:28
52.   Bumsrap
50 - But in the end, both teams are in first place.
2007-05-19 14:12:43
53.   D4P
But in the end, both teams are in first place

Ergo no players are hurting their respective teams, and neither team could theoretically be any better.

2007-05-19 14:16:05
54.   Andrew Shimmin
Tough, tough day to be a Yankee fan. Wright gets his second home run of the day off the webbing of Damon's mitt.
2007-05-19 14:18:17
55.   LAT
The Yankees have a 3B I would be happy to have.
2007-05-19 14:19:07
56.   Honoluludodger
One of the thing I like about Colletti is that he seems to cut his losses on obvious mistakes. Is it just my wishful thinking, or does anyone think that Ned will trade The Player this summer?
2007-05-19 14:19:37
57.   D4P
Tough, tough day to be a Yankee fan

Cue: "Hearts and Flowers"

2007-05-19 14:22:27
58.   PlayTwo
51. Failing to share the Small Pox vaccine played a role.
2007-05-19 14:26:14
59.   Bob Timmermann
58
I'm just saying you can't judge the fossil record on stats alone. You have to look at intangibles. For example, some groups were good influences in the cave and would always get up early to do extra hunting and gathering. They wore their animal hides right and didn't try to show up the other caves.
2007-05-19 14:26:54
60.   Eric Enders
56 Not likely to happen because The Player is not all that far off from his usual numbers right now, and will probably be moving a bit closer to them as the year goes on. In order to cut your losses on a mistake you have to realize it's a mistake to begin with. Colletti looked at The Player's past performance and thought he would actually help the team. No reason to think that opinion will change because the current performance isn't different enough. This isn't a Baez-implodes situation.
2007-05-19 14:29:25
61.   Andrew Shimmin
To date, the only FA Colletti signed that he ended up trading was Sandy Alomar.
2007-05-19 14:47:42
62.   Honoluludodger
60,61 I need to read these things and accept the truth. With respect to The Player, I think that I am still in the denial stage. I still can't believe I will be watching him for 5 years. Many of you have moved on to the acceptance stage. Despite all the anger that was on this board when he was originally signed, I was not prepared for just how mediocre The Player really is. I am seeking couseling for this affliction. Once I have conquered it and accepted The Player, I will also try to accept our contact hitting first baseman who always swings at the first pitch. I will refer to him as The Swinger.

Thank you for your patience and support.

2007-05-19 15:07:17
63.   gpellamjr
62 There's no reason to go through the stages. I don't see any reason to get over anger. We should pummel this dead horse. We need to arouse such ire against Colletti that he is forced to start making sense, or McCourt is forced to fire him.
2007-05-19 15:12:28
64.   gpellamjr
I've said it before, but if I knew more about baseball and the internet and basic human communication, I would fire up www.firenedcolletti.com. Hm, maybe it would sound more threatening if it were -.org. As it is, I'm just waiting for some smarter person to do it, so I can visit regularly and occasionally criticize that person's grammar.
2007-05-19 15:16:25
65.   goofus
My dream: Oposing batter hits a pop fly into short right-center field, Nomar, Pierre, and Martinez (subbing for Kent) all chase it and run into a tremendus collision, all three players ending up with career ending injuries.... Kemp, Loney, and Abreu are called up and we run away fromthe division and win the World Series. Then I wake up.
2007-05-19 15:17:28
66.   D4P
www.firenedcolletti.com has The Ninja written all over it.
2007-05-19 15:19:28
67.   k0b3
thinkin about how Colletti is startin to gain some criticism for signing worthless pierre and gonzo...sports franchises in southern california have a huge problem with GM's...
2007-05-19 15:19:53
68.   JoeyP
Street Sense loses by a nose.
2007-05-19 15:21:11
69.   Honoluludodger
63,64 Thank you. That was very liberating. I was starting to think that there was something wrong with me that I cannot get beyond the anger. I have been in a 40 year relationship with the Dodgers. It is the most successful love affair that I have had in my life. Even though we are in first place, I watch The Player and it as though Ned has given the Dodgers, the love of my life, a social disease. That is why I think I may need counseling so that I may learn to live happily while watching The Player. Then if the Swinger would just take a few pitches, my love life would be saved.
2007-05-19 15:22:20
70.   Bob Timmermann
Alternatively, Curlin wins by a nose.
2007-05-19 15:24:44
71.   D4P
Who brought up the rear?
2007-05-19 15:26:48
72.   Dodgers49
62. I still can't believe I will be watching him for 5 years.

I rather doubt that you will. However, it's your expectation that Ned will trade him this summer after handing him a five year $44 million contract that doesn't make sense to me. That's just not going to happen. My own expectation is that we will have to suffer through at least two years of The Player.

2007-05-19 15:29:16
73.   Honoluludodger
72. It is not an expectation. Merely, a dream. A glorious dream.
2007-05-19 15:33:17
74.   Honoluludodger
65. That is also a beautiful dream. Losing The Player and The Swinger in one injury. Insurance presumably pays off their ridiculous contracts. Loney and Kemp play their rightful positions. That too would be glorious.
2007-05-19 15:36:27
75.   Bob Timmermann
71
I don't have the full results chart yet:

But the top four were: Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun, and CP West

2007-05-19 15:45:05
76.   Curtis Lowe
TJ Offers some sound advice on Loney today.
He basicly says that promoting him right now would be a good idea and wouldn't really be that hard to do.

cough Saenez Cough

2007-05-19 15:52:15
77.   gpellamjr
76 But isn't Seanez our 4th catcher?
2007-05-19 15:56:17
78.   Sammy Maudlin
Loney isn't playing today for Las Vegas . Houlton has pitched 5 shut out innings so far .
2007-05-19 15:57:30
79.   JoeyP
If Pierre were to get hurt, I think the Dodgers most ideal lineup could be set up:

SS- Furcal
C- Martin
2b- Kent
RF- Kemp
1b- Nomar
CF- Ethier
3b- LaRoche
LF- Gonzo

Of course, Little would never bat Gonzo 8th and I doubt Ethier will be allowed to play CF.

And Pierre will never get injured.

2007-05-19 16:03:08
80.   Bob Timmermann
Today's lineup:
Furcal, SS

Pierre, CF

Nomar, 1B

Kent, 2B

Gonzalez, LF

Martin, DH

Betemit, 3B

Ethier, RF

Lieberthal, C

2007-05-19 16:04:44
81.   Curtis Lowe
80 - :( I was hoping to see Loney in there. Stupid Tony Jackson making remember that kid and instilling false hope.
2007-05-19 16:05:02
82.   Doctor
I like the call of DHing Martin, Liberthal isn't that much of a down grade from Betemit or Olmedo and it give Russ the night off behind the plate.

Today has to be better than yesterday.

2007-05-19 16:07:58
83.   Indiana Jon
I understand when everyone talks about replacing Pierre with Kemp in CF. That's a no brainer. Kemp may be our best outfielder. My question is why do people think Loney would be an improvement over Nomar? I just don't see it at this point in their careers. Combining AAA and ML stats from last year, Nomar walks at just as high of a rate as Loney. Does anyone really think we would get a .303 average and 20 home runs out of Loney in his first full year? Please explain this to me. Having said this, I do think Loney should be on the team to play games when Nomar sits, pinch hit, and maybe even an occasional start in the outfield.
2007-05-19 16:10:23
84.   tethier
I like the idea of Martin DHing too. I predict a big night by Betemit. Hitting in front of Ethier will help him.
2007-05-19 16:33:46
85.   Honoluludodger
83. The Swinger is on pace to hit 4 home runs this season. Loney would easily hit more than 4 home runs. Don't get me wrong. I think that The Swinger will hit more than 4 home runs too, and I really do appreciate the many good things he does for the team, I am just a little battered right now by The Player/Swinger Combo. Watching The Player swing or bunt out followed immedately by The Swinger automatically chasing the first pitch, has taken a toll on me. Loney's discipline at the plate would be a welcome respite from The Player/Swinger Combo.
2007-05-19 16:37:10
86.   Chiron Brown
47 There is a lizard in the Galapagos that lives on lava rock where there is no food. It has learned to go into the ocean to gnaw algae off underwater rocks. But the water is so cold that the lizard can only stay in the sea for an hour before it will freeze to death. It does this many times every day just to survive. Talk about scrappy. I think it's called a grepko.
Of course, the tortoise is the heart and soul of the Galapagos.
2007-05-19 16:39:30
87.   Indiana Jon
85
Loney is on pace to hit less than 4 homeruns, in a hitter's park, in a hitter's league, in AAA.

Nomar's impatience may actually be helping the team in one area. His lack of taking pitches doesn't allow Pierre to run as often, which is a good thing, since his success rates are below what would help the team, right?

2007-05-19 16:44:03
88.   goofus
83 I think Loney saves at least one run a game over Nomar defensively. Nomar is hurt by being short, and he is hurt by his inexperience at First. Loney would play off the bag more, get to some grounders that are now going through, and relieve the pressure a bit on Jeff Kent.
2007-05-19 16:46:22
89.   Bluebleeder87
80

Nice move on the part of management to give Martin the DH role today, as somebody on Inside The Dodgers mentioned half rest day for Martin.

2007-05-19 16:46:41
90.   Honoluludodger
87. Excellent point. So the Swinger may actually be protecting us from further pain from The Player. Fine, I will not get so upset if The Swinger chases the first pitch when The Player is on base. But what is The Swinger's excuse for the 70 percent of the time that he bats when The Player is not on base and, nevertheless, The Swinger chases the first pitch?
2007-05-19 16:46:41
91.   Indiana Jon
88
Just guessing here, but to save one run a game over Nomar, Loney would have to be the best fielding 1B ever. That might not even do it. Anyone have any stats that show this comparison?
2007-05-19 16:47:02
92.   Jon Weisman
NPUT. GTOUT. HAND.
2007-05-19 16:52:25
93.   Honoluludodger
92. I do not understand.
2007-05-19 16:55:23
94.   goofus
[92, 93] Nor do I. I guess you need a couple of college degrees to make sense here.
2007-05-19 17:15:09
95.   Andrew Shimmin
New Post Up Top.

Game Thread Open Up Top?

Have A Nice Day?

2007-05-19 17:27:34
96.   Honoluludodger
95. Thanks
2007-05-19 21:23:20
97.   JoeyP
87--i actually agree with you on the Loney/Nomar deal. I dont think Loney would be an upgrade over Nomar at this point. The only upside to playing Loney now woudl be to develop him for the future, but I dont think Loney has a future at 1b with the Dodgers. I just dont see the power developing enough for him to man that position.

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