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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Defense-Dependent Pitching
2005-04-11 08:40
by Jon Weisman

Here's a first-week oddity for you. The Dodgers have scored 40 percent more runs than their opponents while being outslugged:

Dodgers: 42 runs, .354 on-base percentage, .435 slugging percentage
Opponents: 30 runs, .349 on-base percentage, .478 slugging percentage

The Dodgers are second in the National League in runs, but eighth in the league in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). Dodger pitching is 13th out of 16 teams in opponents' slugging percentage.

Also noteworthy is that Dodger pitching so far is last in the league in strikeouts per nine innings.

Though the Dodger team ERA is 4.50, has two statistics that indicate the pitching staff has been spared even worse damage. The Dodgers' ERC (or "component ERA," a new stat for me, defined by ESPN as "a pitcher's ERA based on the hits and walks he allowed, rather than actual runs.") is 5.45, and their DIPS ERA (defense-independent ERA, assuming a constant rate of batting average on balls in play) is 5.98.

Interestingly, the segment of the Dodger pitching staff that has been the luckiest - or most fielding dependent - has been the starters:

Dodger relievers: ERC 7.18, DIPS 6.11, ERA 6.41
Dodger starters: ERC 4.49, DIPS 5.90, ERA 3.41

The relievers have been awful, and it has shown. The starters have arguably been mediocre, without it showing.

No one who watched Saturday's game at Arizona needs to be told that the Dodgers survived thanks to some great defensive plays; no one who watched the entire Arizona series needs to be told that any one of the three games could have had a different result, and that the Dodgers could have headed home anywhere from 5-1 to 2-4.

Some Dodger starting pitchers have had their share of misfortune. Thanks in large part to facing Jason Schmidt in one game and a line drive off his arm in the other, Derek Lowe has pitched in both Dodger losses. On the other hand, Lowe's 3.18 ERA is probably better than he deserves - he's pitched 11 1/3 innings while allowing 16 baserunners, including three walks, a hit batter and two home runs. (Six runs have scored against him, though two of those runs have been unearned.)

The first-week Dodger offense, with its extremes from J.D. Drew to Jeff Kent, has been a story unto itself. But the subtext of the opening six games might be how the Dodger defense has prevented enough runs from scoring to put the team in first place. Most encouraging about this for the Dodgers is that to some extent, the defense is capable of doing that much and more throughout the season. We might easily look back in October to find that Cesar Izturis and Jose Valentin had their worst fielding weeks of the season right at the start. But perhaps even more than we realize, the Dodgers need their pitching staff to get healthy and stay healthy - if not get better and stay better.

Update: I'm a little worried I mucked up my conclusion, so I'm going to add this comment (#7) I made below. Not very elegant of me, but in the interest of being more accurate ...

I guess what hope is clear, though, is that my overall point was not to bash the Dodger pitching, which is clearly in flux, but to praise the defense. A lot is going to be asked of the defense this year, and so far - hype about Valentin's Opening Day notwithstanding - it appears to be delivering.

Comments (56)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-04-11 10:46:51
1.   Linkmeister
It's funny how stereotypes get embedded; for forty years the Dodgers have meant "pitching" to me, just as the Yankees have meant "longball," probably since 1927. When there have been periods when the pitching's been weak but the offense has been good, the team just hasn't felt "right" to me. I don't know if that says more about me than about the Dodgers. This year, if the pitchers get healthy, I'll feel pretty good about them.
2005-04-11 10:49:36
2.   Dr Love
There are some bad defensive teams with good ERCs and good defenisve teams with bad ERCs in that. But that's to be expected with 6 games played and with a stat that sounds like it was created by Buster Olney.
2005-04-11 11:08:52
3.   scanderbeg
"if not get better and stay better."

I think you meant stay healthy, Jon.

Other than Scott Erickson's start, the Dodgers have to be very happy with the performances of the starting rotation thus far. They must be completely relieved that x-rays turned out negative on Derek Lowe's arm.

Jeff Kent has had an impressive defesive start to his season. He covers more ground than I had expected, and he has worked well with Izturis. Cesar is still getting used to the other 3 infielders around him, so I only expect better things from him. Valentin looked slightly more comfortable at third base on Sunday.

2005-04-11 11:24:14
4.   Jon Weisman
I said "stay healthy" right before what you excerpted, Scanderbeg. Then I added the possibility that even the healthy pitchers will need to do better.

Call Erickson an anomaly all you want, but his slot in the rotation is a concern - not just because of his one start, but because of the track record he brings from the past few years. Maybe he'll turn into Alvarez/Lima, but we don't know that.

2005-04-11 11:25:50
5.   Sushirabbit
I for one am impressed. Perhaps it because I was so worried about the changes that I had real low expectations. The two things that stick out to me are 1) how bad Choi looked and 2) JD Drew can't go on like this for very long.

Add the young and un-tested bullpen and no Gagne and Penny, and (to me) things look pretty good. I like how Tracy is trying everything and giving people a chance to prove themselves. I'd like to see Choi succeed, but last night was the first time he looked like he was even capable of getting wood on the ball.

I can't believe people didn't/don't know how good Kent was. It's not like he's been hidden somewhere. I, too, have to like him just for the image of stranglin' Bonds. I always prefer the quiet get it done types to the flashy ones. (I think he'd be wasted at first).

I'm in the mustache club T Mo, I might even grow one. Hahahaha. I'm not sure I can see Izzie growing one, though.

2005-04-11 11:28:14
6.   Sushirabbit
Does Depo have any history in dealing with the Twins? Perhaps we can offer them something for a really good reliever.

To me the the Twins and the Dodgers are more alike than the A's and Dodgers. Pretty deep farms...

2005-04-11 11:29:29
7.   Jon Weisman
I guess what hope is clear, though, is that my overall point was not to bash the Dodger pitching, which is clearly in flux, but to praise the defense. A lot is going to be asked of the defense this year, and so far - hype about Valentin's Opening Day notwithstanding - it appears to be delivering.
2005-04-11 11:33:12
8.   DodgerJoe
After going 4-2 in the first six, I couldn't be more pleased, especially with the state of the pitching staff.

The offense looks good now that there are no automatic outs in the 7-8-9 spots. Once Drew comes around, watch out.

I think that the only place the Dodgers can go is up, like you said Jon, if the pitching staffs gets and stays healthy.

I think key injuries are the only thing that may stand in the way of a great season. The team really showed my something with the comeback wins.

2005-04-11 11:38:14
9.   chumsferd
Nice article, Jon. You are totally right about the 2-4 to 5-1.

I think it's a little too early to be looking at stats, but you bring up an interesting point. DIPS is the best predictor of future performance for pitchers, but it's easy to get caught up in the stats and forget that the whole goal is to prevent runs. The whole point of having a good defense is that you can allow fewer than your DIPS (or component ERA.)

You know, I think Depo's rep as a stats guy is a bit overblown. I think he does care about things like clubhouse presence, etc. I think it's no coincidence that Finley was brought in for his experience during the stretch run. I don't think it's a coincidence that Valentin is a great clubhouse guy and very clutchy and Kent seems like a grinder to me.

If you think about it, it's amazing we are 4-2 to in the following sense:
1. our best reliever is injured.
2. our (arguably) best starter is injured.
3. our best everyday player was 0-the season until yesterday.
4. Alvarez, our best lefty reliever/spot starter is injured.

2005-04-11 11:39:15
10.   Jon T
Jon: I agree - there have been lapses, but the defense, as I think most of the commenters here have thought all along - is certainly not going to be as bad as the mainstream media wanted us to believe it was going to be.

IMHO, given the fast starts by Kent & Valentin at the plate and the slow starts by Choi & Drew, I think we can count on an offense this year that is going to be consistently very good. As you say, the defense is already showing how good it is, and I wounldn't expect it to fall of any - in fact, maybe it even gets better as Valentin gets used to 3B and Izzy gets back in his groove. The pitching has been really shaky, but I'd guess it won't be this bad all year - our starters are better than they're pitching, and most of the regular bullpen is on the DL. This team is going to be scary once the bullpen comes back and the starters start doing what they're capable of.

Hope I didn't just jinx the entire year...

2005-04-11 11:48:47
11.   Spageticus
Speaking not at all of Derek Lowe's elbow, he just accepted his World Series ring (no problem) wearing a red sox jersey (problem). All I've heard since he's been receiving Dodgers' checks is how much he misses boston. When I read his interviews, everything is cliche and humdrum until somebody mentions boston and it sounds like he just perks up with fond memories. I can understand enjoying the place you spent the best years of your career (so far) but at least pretend to have a little love for your new team. He's been at fenway longer than he was at the bob last night, smiling like a schoolgirl at a New Kids concert.
2005-04-11 11:49:46
12.   Rich Lederer
Re comment #2, I think ERC is a good stat. Component ERA and DIPS ERA are both better measures of pitching performance than actual ERA.

As far as Valentin's defense goes, maybe I've contributed to the hype but it is what it is. Small sample size, yes. But there are offsetting small sample size debits and credits when it comes to the Dodgers first week of play.

2005-04-11 12:27:47
13.   Bob Timmermann
Not wishing to be a shill here, but there are Opening Day tickets still available.

I've only been able to see three games in their entirety. The last two in SF and the last one in AZ.

I was surprised at:
1) Kent's hands and arm
2) Choi's unsteadiness
3) Valentin's seeming overeagerness
4) Izturis not being all there mentally in the field, but being possessed by alien while at bat.

2005-04-11 12:27:56
14.   bigcpa
Now that the defense is under the microscope I'm anxious to see their Defensive Efficiency. My rough math has them with 131 outs on 184 balls in play for a .712 Def. Efficiency. Last year was best in MLB at .715. Would be cool if that holds up. 6 errors don't mean a whole lot against 131 outs.
2005-04-11 12:57:03
15.   Colorado Blue

In regards to your third item:

"3. our best everyday player was 0-the season until yesterday."

I believe that is arguable as well... to lay that moniker solely on Drew sells the other candidates short. Besides, if Drew were the definitive best player, then I would be a lot more pessimistic about the Dodgers chances this year.

Sorry, I'm not trying to nit-pick here, but I wanted to point it out because I think everything else you said in that post was spot-on and so much the better that the Dodgers have many potential best players.

2005-04-11 13:03:17
16.   Colorado Blue
BTW: I believe Choi is severely pressing right now... with the other guys in the lineup producing, some of the pressure will inevitably ease and I expect him to find a groove. I'm not sure he's a 25 / 100 guy, but I'll bet dollars-to-donuts he does better than DePo's expectations (15 / 40).
2005-04-11 13:04:02
17.   Colorado Blue
BTW: I believe Choi is severely pressing right now... with the other guys in the lineup producing, some of the pressure will inevitably ease and I expect him to find a groove. I'm not sure he's a 25 / 100 guy, but I'll bet dollars-to-donuts he does better than DePo's expectations (15 / 40).
2005-04-11 13:05:25
18.   Colorado Blue
Oh geez, the dreaded double-post... actually I did it on purpose for emphasis.
2005-04-11 13:09:35
19.   fernandomania
I don't think there's any question that Drew's our best everyday player...if he plays every day. Who's better than Drew at 100%? Not Kent, not Bradley, not Choi, Werth, Izturis, Phillips, nor Valetin.
2005-04-11 13:14:27
20.   Jonny6
So does anyone think that Tracy can go the entire season without repeating a lineup for the position players? So far he's had six different lineups for six different games, and it's a safe bet that the trend will continue. Ordinarily I would be getting frustrated with "Platoon Master" Tracy, but I think this season it may be a serviceable (and somewhat necessary) strategy.

Of the eight slots in the field, you've got to figure that only Izturis, Drew, Kent, and Bradley plan on playing every day. So Tracy has a lot of leeway with the other 4 spots, and we could see a mind boggling number of different configurations by the time this season is done. At this point, no one knows if it will work, but I think with this years squad you can at least platoon without upsetting your players and having a bunch of disgruntled guys on the bench.

Pleasant surprises so far this season:
Kent's defense
the Phillips acquisition

"Ominous" signs from the first 6 games:
Choi's complete ineptitude
the bullpen (wasn't this our biggest strength just a few months ago?)

Early season observation on the MLB in general:
The team that wins is the one with the bullpen that sucks less. From looking at games around the league, I don't think I have ever seen more pathetic relief pitching in my life. If I see many more late inning meltdowns, I am going to start plotting my comeback. Does any team out there need a 34 year old lefty reliever? I had a mean fastball back in the day, but was never too good with that control aspect. I also can throw a wicked knucklecurve in wiffle ball, and I'm willing to work on my control if I can get a guaranteed contract.

2005-04-11 13:39:16
21.   MSarg29
I agree the bullpens are awful. I probably sound like a party pooper but as excited as I was about our victories, those relievers we teed off on were just terrible.

I dont think I remember a true swing and miss guy in the group we faced outside of Benitez.

2005-04-11 13:54:55
22.   LAT
I was at the BOB Sat and Sun. One of the most pleasant surprises for me was Jason Phillips. This guy makes solid contact and plays hard. You can see it even when he's backing up a routine play at first. I have to confess initially I did not like this deal because of last years batting average. In response, lot's of you said he was "unlucky." I thought you can't be unlucky for an entire season--but maybe you can. Huge upgrade from Ross. Depo gets credit here.

I don't know if TV picks it up, but Choi looks more out of it now than he did last year. Even D'Back fans sitting around me commented how bad he looks. This is not like Drew who is making contact and will come out of it. This kid is lost. I am not, never have been, a fan of Choi but being I was wrong about Phillips I will reserve harsh judgment.

2005-04-11 13:59:56
23.   Bob Timmermann
The Padres bullpen did a good job today. Eaton for 6 innings, then Linebrink, Otsuka, and Hoffman for 1 inning each and 1-0 Padres victory over the Cubs.
2005-04-11 14:13:03
24.   Colorado Blue
"I don't think there's any question that Drew's our best everyday player...if he plays every day. Who's better than Drew at 100%?"

Yes it is conditional, thus questionable.

2005-04-11 14:26:21
25.   Jim Hitchcock
Be honest, Colorado Blue...your double post was
due to the fact that you have feeling in your fingers...
2005-04-11 14:32:53
26.   ElysianPark62
Re: Derek Lowe, he commented on an ESPN telecast in ST that the biggest difference between Red Sox and Dodgers is that the Red Sox have more fans. Hmmmmm, did he take a survey? What does he base that on?

I was also at the BOB (Sunday), and that sixth inning was just terrible. Bases loaded, no one out, and Choi K's. Then Bradley hits into a DP. Not only that, Choi immediately swung a few times after the D-Backs had switched pitchers. Bad AB.

Choi only seems to hit the ball hard when he sends it foul. He did that a few times yesterday. When he manages to hit it fair, it's a pop-up or weak fly out to LF.

Perhaps Nakamura's presence will spur Choi along, a la Beltre with Ventura, Houston, etc., arriving. I think a big part of Choi's problem is his head, not just mechanics.

Choi should be kept on a short leash, but because DePodesta has to justify his acquisition of him and just loves him, I'm afraid Choi will be given wat too much rope. They must not let Nakamura leave.

2005-04-11 14:58:28
27.   LAT
Although Lowe's comments about the Sox having more fans may be correct, how does he know? He hasn't even pitched in DS yet.
2005-04-11 15:01:15
28.   Dodgerkid
I am doing a complete 180 on Kent, who is a fabulous defender. I will never again repeat anything the mainstream media says in terms of player analysis. Ever. Our pitching is just awful, but even though are offense is only slightly above average according to the stats above, I think the reason for its success is the terrible pitching we have faced so far. Now I really fear the Padres.
2005-04-11 15:14:53
29.   Spageticus
"Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts, who have since moved on to others teams, returned to receive their rings. Pedro Martinez did not.
Lowe remembered standing next to Jason Varitek, the Red Sox captain.
"I said, 'You're lucky. You get to play here the next four years. There really is nothing like it,"' Lowe recalled."
The Associated Press

Ouch. Slap in the face.

2005-04-11 15:19:17
30.   Jon Weisman
Given how briefly Lowe has been in Los Angeles, I think that's less of a slap in the face then just a really unsavvy comment to make from a public relations standpoint.

In other words, to me, it's less about it being a slap in the face than about allowing ppeople in Los Angeles to think that they have been slapped in the face. That make sense?

2005-04-11 15:24:01
31.   Dodgerkid
That's an interesting quote. He's also been quoted as saying the rivalry between us and SF is not strong. He's also been quoted as saying the Red Sox betrayed him, and said bad things about him behind his back. Basically he's probably just a jackass.
2005-04-11 15:25:13
32.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
Re: Lowe and the BoSox. I think Dodger fans get a bad rap, but having lived in New England a fair bit, I think it's really true that "There really is nothing like it." There are of course plenty of dedicated Dodger fans, but the Red Sox form a huge part of New England's regional identity in a way that just isn't true of the Dodgers. A lot of it has to do with the fact that New England has always had a healthy sense of its own regional (perhaps even ingrown to the ungenerous) identity, there hasn't been an NL team in Boston for ages, and the franchise's famously grim history. Even in New Haven, which straddles the border between BoSox and Yank country, I constantly see Red Sox gear in a way that isn't true in the part of LA I'm from--the west San Gabriel valley. I actually think that the brand of fanship can be downright unhealthy, but I can see how a player would feel it at something like a ring ceremony.

All I want Lowe is to pitch well for the Dodgers. If he does that, I'll forgive him for missing the BoSox team that broke the curse.

Besides, we've got two true-blue Dodgers who grew up on Vin and rooted for the Blue in Kent and Bradley. And I'm crossing my fingers that Chuck Tiffany will soon be a premiere Dodger home-grown in every way.


2005-04-11 15:29:13
33.   alex 7
agreed, I've only been to Dodger Stadium, not Fenway, but would find it hard to argue that their rivalry with the Yankees isn't more intense than ours with the Dodgers. Genuine dislike of players over there. Fighting, press insults, etc. Here, it seems just a little more laid back until it gets to September.
2005-04-11 15:34:41
34.   Spageticus
Don't get me wrong, I don't truly believe Boston Lowe is trying to slap us in the face, but surely he must realize that is the affect it could and is having. As a member of the red sox, he can't take for granted that what he says is read and taken to heart by thousands of people. His favored rivalry is based primarily on that fact.

His teammates may not care, and his owner may well agree with him, but it is disheartening to hear all of this when he was supposed to be a salve for us fans after the injury of losing so much of last year's team. I just wish he'd keep his feelings to himself on this matter and RA RA the Dodgers.

2005-04-11 15:49:13
35.   Jim Hitchcock
If I felt I needed bombastic boosterism to increase my enjoyment of my team, I'd pay more attention to Tommy Lasorda.

Could care less what Lowe says in an unguarded moment...all I want from him is credible performance and heart.

2005-04-11 15:53:53
36.   Dodgerkid
I lived in Boston for four years, 1997-2001, and the love of the Red Sox has only been these last few years. I was there before Pedro came, and people could care less. This was even after the creation of NESN. After Pedro came it became big, but even still the average Bostonian always felt the team had no chance every year. Many of the people in Boston are college students, many from NYC, and so it was not uncommon to see a Yankees uniform or hat in the city. So this idea that Bostonians are crazy for the Red Sox is only somewhat true. The celebrations for the first Patriot win sure looked bigger, I think there were even riots.
2005-04-11 15:55:16
37.   Langhorne
Hmmm, ERC seems like a totally pointless stat to me. Since the object of the game is to score runs all that really matters is how many runs a pitcher allows. I don't care if he gives up twenty hits a game if he doesn't give up any runs he's a great pitcher. Or a very lucky one. Either way I want him on the mound. ERC might be a measure of hitability and/or control but the best pitchers get better with men on base. And the bottom line is,"How many runs did the other team score?" I'm curious how Gagne's ERC would look the last couple of years. It seems he gave up a hit or walk or two in an inning as often as going 1-2-3. He still managed to close it out most of the time.
2005-04-11 16:02:59
38.   Spageticus
I wouldn't say I'm crestfallen over Lowe's comments. I respect what he accomplished in boston. I think it smacks (just a little) of disrespect to fans who have had to deal with an over abundance of criticism over the past six months. The Dodgers get it from ESPN, San Francisco, even our own media. It leaves a bitter taste to hear one of our own even unintentionally knock our fan base, our team and our rivalry. No big deal, just a trend I've noticed since he signed. I still screamed when he got hit and I'll still scream when he makes his first start in home whites.
2005-04-11 16:04:58
39.   Jon Weisman
"I don't care if he gives up twenty hits a game if he doesn't give up any runs he's a great pitcher. Or a very lucky one. Either way I want him on the mound."

Unless you believe that luck is a tangible asset pitchers possess, there is a vast difference between these two options. And what stats like ERC attempt to do is show you whether you have a great pitcher or a lucky one.

"The best pitchers get better with men on base."

I don't know if this is true or not. In any case, I'd say that the best pitchers don't let men on base in the first place.

"I'm curious how Gagne's ERC would look the last couple of years. It seems he gave up a hit or walk or two in an inning as often as going 1-2-3."

Certainly true, given that no pitcher is perfect all the time. Gagne has allowed 193 hits plus walks in his past 247 innings. This is exceptional, and actually makes the case for a stat like ERC.

2005-04-11 16:06:29
40.   Jon Weisman
Sorry, that's 203, not 193, for Gagne.
2005-04-11 16:25:16
41.   Langhorne
Fan loyalty and intensity falls into the the same category as team chemistry. It's largely created by winning. I was at Fenway last June. It's a great place to see a game. But as soon as it stated raining half the people left. The Red Sox were losing badly which may also contribute to people leaving early. But Red Sox tickets are hard to come by so I was surprised people didn't stay. They sell out every game but they have 20,000 fewer seats than Dodger Stadium.
The persistant chants of 'Yankees Suck' (they were playing the Padres) and the T-shirts expressing the same sentiment were odd, bordering on insane. It seems there's a percentage of Red Sox fans that go to games simply to express their dislike of New York. It'll be interesting to see if this inferiority complex continues if Boston can beat the Yankees consistantly for a while. I don't think they can nor do I think it would change if they could. I find that funny because I think Boston is a much nicer city than New York and I'm from New York originally. I think it's like the L.A.-San Diego rivalry, they hate us and we are marginally aware or their existence.
2005-04-11 16:53:29
42.   corey
What's the difference between ERC and WHIP? Different ways of saying the same thing? Sounds to me like the stat-heads got bored. Or it's another feeble attempt by ESPN to understand how numbers work.

The real question is, how many productive outs have the Dodgers made? pfffffffft.

2005-04-11 16:55:57
43.   Langhorne
Jon, how does Gagne make the case for ERC? Because he's the exception? I imagine his ERC is much worse than his ERA. I think a lot of pitchers "bare down" with runners on. Just like an outfielder is less likely to go all out for a ball with a ten run lead as he would with the bases loaded and two out in the 9th. I would say that the pitcher who gives up 20 hits and no runs is much more focused with runners on than with the bases empty. This would bother me a little but, ulcers aside, if he doesn't give up runs I'll take him. What I don't understand is why ERC is a better measure of a pitcher than ERA. I would assume that in most cases the two support each other but, as with Gagne, the bottom line is runs allowed not hits allowed.
2005-04-11 17:00:48
44.   timely2base
There are a few ways to look at Jon's breakdown. 1) be somewhat happy that the defense is doing some good things (though aside from some Milton Bradley gems, I don't think there's much room to argue they've really done anything special to save any runs, 2) the Dodgers were very, very lucky this first week, and 3) numbers from one week won't really tell us very much.

I definitely lean toward 2 and 3.

Look at the first six games as a playoff series. We've all heard the line that over the course of a 162-game season, the behavior (statistically) of a team and it's members is predictable with a relatively good degree of reliabilty. But once you get into a 5 or 7 game playoff at the end of the season, all bets are off because luck has a more extreme effect in short number of games.

We got lucky these first 6 games. I don't mean the wins are entirely based on luck. We did hit. We did make some big plays and big pitches at big times. But if you take the numbers Jon presents here and you project them over the course of a season, we will not be winning games at 2-1 clip.

We can suggest, as Jon did, that Cesar and Valentin may have had abnormal weeks defensively and they will even out...but it's just as likely (perhaps more so) that they had abnormal weeks offensively and will balance out.

The positive in all this for me? The Dodgers took 4 of 6 from division rivals on the road when they probably should have come home 2-4 or 3-3. We did have a certain amount of luck on our side, and that luck is important when you end up beating out another team for a playoff spot by one game. It makes differences in seasons.

Hopefully, those numbers turn around some (and if they don't, expect changes...I guarantee Depo is not looking at our W-L record right now for signs of success). I expect they will. I expect Drew to be at least as productive as he was last year. I expect Kent to continue to thrive this year. Cesar will have an improved offensive season. Choi will contribute. My concerns are more with which Derek Lowe will we get this season and can Penny come back (and even if he can, will he fulfill his potential). If Lowe and Penny can't put together strong seasons, there is not enough luck in Lasorda's belly to get this team to the post-season.

2005-04-11 17:13:29
45.   Jon Weisman
Langhorne, I don't think I'm going to convince you, but the point is just that good pitchers tend to allow fewer baserunners. You keep talking about this hypothetical pitcher who allows tons of baserunners but no runs, but these types of pitchers are very rare.

If a pitcher is allowing heaps of baserunners, even if he has a low ERA, it's more likely that he won't be able to sustain that low ERA. Sure, pitchers will bear down with runners on base. But good pitchers will keep runners from getting on base in the first place. The kind of pitcher you're describing as a good pitcher is Kaz Ishii, who did a tightrope act, sometimes successful, sometimes not, most of the time he pitched here.

Gagne is not an exception at all. You say "I imagine his ERC is much worse than his ERA," but I don't know why you say that. In any case, even if it were worse, it would not change the value of the ERC stat. It would more likely raise the possibility that Gagne has been even better than his ERA has shown.

2005-04-11 17:16:19
46.   Steve
#44, you forgot option 4). "Oodles" of chemistry. Who says you can't measure it?
2005-04-11 17:17:14
47.   Steve
By the way, so the sarcasm doesn't shadow the point, I thought #44 was spot on.
2005-04-11 17:17:24
48.   Jon Weisman
In other words, when I said Gagne was "exceptional" in #39, I meant he was exceptional in a good way, not in a bad way.
2005-04-11 17:28:18
49.   Jon Weisman
Timely might be correct with #2 and #3, but I question in #1 the remark, "I don't think there's much room to argue they've really done anything special to save any runs."

Forget about extrapolating the first-week stats to predict the season. Looking at the first week, there's plenty of evidence that based on balls in play, the Dodgers allowed fewer runs than one might have expected. This was either good luck or good defense. You can certainly argue it was luck, but there's plenty of room to argue that it was defense. I don't know how you can rule that out.

If you need anecdotal evidence to go with stats, along with Bradley, look at the strong play of Jeff Kent in the field.

2005-04-11 17:33:17
50.   scanderbeg
Regarding #3, I definitely do not consider Erickson an anomoly. Though I am silently hoping that he will emerge as the reclamation success story that Alvarez/Lima/Nomo were, I am not blindly faithful in it. He is only one of the plethora of well-known question marks that the 2005 Dodgers have.

Has anyone else been satisfied as to the production of Jason Phillips thus far? I do not expect much of anything from him offensively, so what he has done the first week has been a pleasant surprise. I know I differ from DePo in my expectations of him, so I hope for continued offensive production.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-04-11 17:58:40
51.   Jerry
#43, your pitcher doesn't exist. What do all the great pitchers (Clemens, Johnson, Pedro, etc.) have in common? They strike out a lot of people and keep their walk totals down; i.e. they keep runners off the basepaths
2005-04-11 18:00:32
52.   Jon Ericson
It's important to note the difference between forcasting stats like ERC and discriptive stats like ERA and W-L record. Since ERC factors out some of the luck that is reflected in ERA, it is likely to be a better predictor of future performance than ERA itself. But looking back at who had the best performance and did the most to help the team, ERA is a better choice.
2005-04-11 19:37:23
53.   Langhorne
The pitcher I described was an exageration meant to make a point. The point being that runs mean everything, baserunners mean nothing until they become runs. Obviously, the fewer baserunners the fewer chances for runs. I just think there's a point at which stats become superfluous. (Switching to Tracy mode) Am I saying I'd rather have a pitcher that allows baserunners to one that doesn't? No, I'm not saying that. I'd rather have a pitcher that doesn't allow runs and how many baserunners they allow doesn't matter at all. Baserunners allowed may be an indicator of potential runs but ERA tells how many actually crossed the plate. I'm quite willing to admit that I don't fully understand how ERC is figured. I couldn't find anything on ESPN other than what Jon quoted. I'd be grateful for a more thorough explaination. I might be incorrect in this assessment but if you have two pitchers with identical ERA's and one (X) has allowed twice as many baserunners you are saying the pitcher who has allowed fewer baserunners (Y) is the better pitcher. I'm saying that although I might feel a bit safer with (X) the potential for runs is not the same thing as runs and the only base that matters is home. It might matter if you are choosing whether you want (X) or (Y) on your team, I don't think it says anything about who's a better pitcher since the object is to prevent runs and in that (X) and (Y) are equal.
2005-04-11 20:14:43
54.   Jon Weisman
Yes. While it's true that X and Y have been equal if the runs allowed are equal, I'll take pitcher Y over X every time for the future (assuming they have the same age, health history, etc..
2005-04-11 20:15:06
55.   Steve
I agree with Jon too. Somewhere along the line between defense and luck, we went 4-2. Certainly Milton Bradley saved the one game, in any event. We're just proving how hard it is to measure defense, and how silly the media sounds making grand pronouncements about it.
2005-04-11 22:30:18
56.   timely2base
We're just talking about balls put in play here. You could interpret the numbers as meaning that the balls were hit at people for the most part and for the most part they fielded their positions. That could very well be because they are good defensive players who positioned themselves correctly and reacted quickly and instinctively enough to make some plays look easy, and make a few plays that others wouldn't have made. Or it could just mean that the Dodgers were fortunate this week and balls found the fielders. Over the course of the season, I imagine DIPS to be a more telling stat, but over a 6 game span, it could be largely affected by balls happening to be hit at people instead of finding the gap. Hard to say, but anecdotal evidence certainly does help here, probably more than any stats could tell us about such a short span.

In any case, whatever the numbers for the first week, I think concerns over the defense raised by LA media were obviously overdone. Kent's a good second baseman, yet somehow he has been portrayed as not just worse than Cora, but well below average. That's nonsense. Valentin at third...we'll see on that one. He's certainly not going to average one boot per game all season. Our fielding will be fine and hopefully will be considered at least "good". Our offense will do enough. I'm still following these early games concerned about the pitching.

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