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How Much Better Is St. Louis?
2004-09-03 10:42
by Jon Weisman

Are you wondering if the Dodgers can beat the high-flying St. Louis Cardinals? Me too. Of course, anybody can beat anybody - but you know what I mean.

Look out below, because I'm put my grubby hands on VORP to try to answer the question. Even worse, I'm going to use VORPr as well.

For those who don't want to be bothered with these New Age stats, please enjoy this comic interlude from The Kids in the Hall, then skip down below to the three *** stars.

VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) is the Baseball Prospectus statistic that takes a player's raw numbers and determines the runs that player contributes above what the average minimum-wage replacement would produce.

VORPr (Value Over Replacement Player rate) takes the above stat and divides it by the number of games played. It makes it more like a batting average or on-base percentage statistic - what you can expect from a player within a given game, as opposed to a season.

Using VORPr, I've compared the batting orders of the Dodgers and their opponents this weekend, the Cardinals. The findings? Even with Milton Bradley, Jayson Werth and Dave Ross in the lineup, as opposed to players like Hee Seop Choi or Brent Mayne that might well play in their place, the difference between the two offenses is like that between moose and squirrel.

No. 1 Player: Jim Edmonds, CF .669 vs. Adrian Beltre, 3B .611. St. Louis leads by .058.
No. 2 Player: Albert Pujols, 1B .626 vs. Steve Finley, CF .468. St. Louis leads by .158.
No. 3 Player: Scott Rolen, 3B .557 vs. Shawn Green, 1B .217. St. Louis leads by .340.
No. 4 Player: Larry Walker, RF .529 vs. Milton Bradley, RF .214. St. Louis leads by .315.
No. 5 Player: Edgar Renteria, SS .237 vs. Jayson Werth, LF .214. St. Louis leads by .025.
No. 6 Player: Tony Womack, 2B .237 vs. Alex Cora, 2B .207. St. Louis leads by .030.
No. 7 Player: Reggie Sanders, LF .197 vs. Cesar Izturis, SS .195. St. Louis leads by .002.
No. 8 Player: Mike Matheny, C -.038 vs. Dave Ross, C -.121. St. Louis leads by .083.
Total: St. Louis 3.014 vs. Los Angeles 2.005. St. Louis leads by 1.009 runs per game.

Not to go into this much detail with the reserves, but the Dodgers make up a tiny bit of ground with their bench, led by Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz. But still, the Cardinal offense ... sheesh. I'm sure I'm oversimplifying here, but it's as if the Cardinal offense takes the field with a 1-0 lead over the Dodgers in every game.

As for pitchers, Baseball Prospectus doesn't offer VORPr, but it does offer VORP. So in the following comparison, I'm going to take the VORP for the pitchers in this weekend's series and divide it per nine innings pitched.

Friday: Matt Morris .699 VORP/9 IP vs. Jose Lima 1.469 VORP/9 IP

Saturday: Jason Marquis 2.100 VORP/9 IP vs. Kazuhisa Ishii 1.026 VORP/9 IP

Sunday: Woody Williams 1.447 VORP/9 IP vs. Jeff Weaver 1.951 VORP/9 IP

Despite reports of the great surge in Cardinal pitching, the Dodgers look stronger on the mound in two of the three games, thanks in part to No. 5 starter Morris appearing tonight. Without going into detail about the bullpens, the Dodgers appear to come out ahead there as well.

*** (Here are the three stars.)
St. Louis has been winning games with such regularity that humility is justifiably hard to maintain, as Brian Gunn writes on Redbird Nation. The difference between the Dodgers and the Cardinals, obviously, is less than the difference between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks - but it's hard not to feel intimidated by a team with a .669 winning percentage and ferocious offense. Any single victory this coming weekend for Los Angeles still will be like gravy.

But maybe the Dodgers will get a taste.

Friday's Game

Saturday's Game

Sunday's Game

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