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The Dodger Thoughts Postseason Guide
2004-10-04 09:23
by Jon Weisman

Are the Dodgers the least respected of baseball's 2004 playoff teams? Sound familiar?

The odds are against them, but if the Dodgers surivive and advance, it won't be because of miracles – it will be because the good things that they can legitimately do some of the time, they do enough of the time.

And okay, maybe one miracle.


Cesar Izturis, SS.330.381.710.254
Jayson Werth, LF.338.486.825.282
Steve Finley, CF.333.491.825.272
Adrian Beltre, 3B.388.6291.017.333
Shawn Green, 1B.352.459.811.281
Milton Bradley, RF.363.424.786.275
Alex Cora, 2B.364.380.745.267
Brent Mayne, C.314263.577.208

EQA courtesy of Baseball Prospectus: .260 is average.

The offense has been in a serious slump – and with few exceptions, it's not because they've been hitting line drives and getting robbed. On the other hand, the offense carried the team in the Dodgers' 21-7 July and when the pitching faltered in early September. When they’re patient, they’re productive. Most of the lineup is capable of working a walk, but they have to give it a chance. Defensively, they are solid at all eight positions and exceptional at at least three. Statistics don't capture the impact of the defense except when you see how the starting pitching survives without striking batters out. ...The hyped flowering on offense of Izturis only brings him to adequacy, but his defense is breathtaking. ... Werth strikes out once every 3.4 at-bats, but hits often and hard enough to be dangerous. ... In 57 games, Finley finished fifth on the Dodgers with 13 homers. Goes through serious on-base droughts, but always a threat. ...Beltre finished the season in an 0-for-15 slump but was named National League Player of the Month for September. ... Green improved his OPS from .734 before the All-Star Game to .933 after, with 18 homers. ... Bradley tied Green for the team lead in walks, but softening bat dropped him from the No. 3 spot in the order. ...Cora, of all players, finished with more home runs (10) than doubles (9), but floats on defensive air as well. ... Mayne managed to go without a single extra-base hit in 47 games with the Dodgers.


Robin Ventura, IF.337.362.699.251
Olmedo Saenz, IF.352.505.856.294
Jose Hernandez, IF-OF.370.540.910.305
Jason Grabowski, 1B-OF.297.382.678.237
Dave Ross, C.286.308.593.193
*Antonio Perez, IF.286.308.593.228
*Hee Seop Choi, 1B.372.453.825.289
*Tom Wilson, C.273.200.473.000

*Might not be on postseason roster

Although this group is a dramatic improvement over the 2003 bench, production has come mainly from three players. … With mediocre numbers but great moments in 2004, Ventura gave the theory of clutch a good name. ... Saenz (1.057 OPS) and Hernandez (1.010 OPS) crushed left-handed pitching, hitting 17 home runs in a combined 191 at-bats. The defense suffers some when they play, however. ...Grabowski had five hits and six walks after August 1. ...The season of Ross fell apart because he OPSed .420 against lefties. His game-winning home run last week against Colorado, like four of his five this season, was against a righty. ...Perez followed a 20-20 season in the minors with some key September at-bats. ... Choi hit nine home runs in April, okay? Nine! The guy is not garbage. ... Wilson is worth the price of admission just for his batting stance.

Starting Rotation

Odalis Perez, LHP196 1/35.93.25
Jeff Weaver, RHP2206.34.01
Jose Lima, RHP170 1/34.94.07
*Kazuhisa Ishii, LHP1675.24.69

*Might not be on postseason roster

The starters rarely shut anyone out and rely on the defense to get them out of jams. But they tend to keep the ball over the plate and work efficiently. ...The strikeout rate for Perez dropped this year, but rallied in September to 6.8 per nine innings. ...Despite almost identical statistics in every other major category, Weaver had an ERA almost a run higher on the road in 2004. ...Lima allowed 16 home runs at Dodger Stadium, but only 19 other runs there. …Ishii, if he is on the postseason roster, will only pitch in an emergency. He walks 5.1 batters per nine innings, but he usually escapes except when he's allowing home runs too.

Eric Gagne, RHP82 1/312.52.19
Yhency Brazoban, RHP32 2/37.42.48
Giovanni Carrara, RHP53 2/38.02.18
Duaner Sanchez, RHP805.03.38
Wilson Alvarez, LHP120 2/37.64.03
Mike Venafro, LHP96.04.00
*Elmer Dessens, RHP1005.44.50

*Might not be on postseason roster

When rested, the bullpen is capable of taking over a game from the fifth inning on. ... As illustrated Friday, Gagne is every bit as good as he was in 2002. Opponents OPSed .503 off him. ... Brazoban allowed four of his nine runs this season in one inning at San Francisco on September 25. ... After striking out four batters per nine innings with Seattle, Carrara has doubled that figure during his return to the Dodgers. ... Sanchez had a strong September, with a 1.69 ERA and 19 baserunners in allowed in 16 innings. … Left-handed batters (.912 OPS) actually hit Alvarez harder than righties (.603). Like many Dodger pitchers, Alvarez keeps the ball near the plate, but will give up home runs as a result … The brief period that Venafro was effective against left-handed batters has ended. Carrara has done the best against lefties of the Dodger relievers. … Dessens doesn't shut teams down, but can offer you some innings and give you time for a comeback.

Jim Tracy seems to look better to those outside of Los Angeles than those who watch him every day. Almost once a game, he makes a decision that sends a healthy (or unhealthy) amount of Dodger fans into an uproar. Yet Tracy has averaged 89 victories in his four seasons despite tremendous roster fluctuation, including black holes in some spots. Whatever you give him, he cobbles together a winner. You don't rally for victory 53 times in one season without the manager making many of the right decisions when it counts.

The comeback victories are no accident. Despite the absence of Guillermo Mota, the Dodger bullpen can outpitch almost any other in baseball, despite what Buster Olney has to say. The key to beating the Dodgers is burying them. If their starting pitching can get into the sixth inning, there is no opponent they can't beat. Even St. Louis learned that lesson in September. The Dodger hitting and pitching have been alternating good and bad for the past two months. If they start performing well together simultaneously, as they did in July, the Dodgers can certainly win 11 of their next 19 games. The Cardinal starting pitching, after all, has its own problems. But if it doesn't come together, a sweep at the hands of St. Louis is certainly possible.

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