2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Los Angeles Dodgers

How ’bout them Dodgers.  A proud franchise with a lot of history.  I need more cliches. 
The #16 stop on our long strange trip around the majors.  (It occurs to me that I’ll never finish these by Opening Day… I’m not sure what to do about that.)
Record: 82-80, 4th in NL West
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 81.83 wins (735 runs scored,  727 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Rockin’ the Ravine (if you say so…)
More Dodgers Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status
Trade Rumors
Overview: And somehow they were first in attendance in the NL.  The Dodgers were just an awful offensive team last year, but had a good pitching staff.  And that equals a .500 team.
What went right: Brad Penny was the best pitcher in the NL whose name was not Jake Peavy in 2007.  And I have no idea how that happened.  To take a look at his component stats, he doesn’t bear the marks of a world beater.  He’s not a strikeout guy, and had a K/BB ratio of 1.85.  His BABIP was around league average.  He didn’t give up many home runs, mostly for the fact that 49% of the balls hit off him stayed on the ground.  He just didn’t give up many runs, period.  In fact, his “secret” was that 76.7% of the runners who reached base against him didn’t cross the plate, a stat in which he finished 7th in the Bigs.  I’ve never seen anyone investigate whether this statistic is consistent across the years or if it’s a flukey stat like BABIP.  I just checked (2003-2006, min 50 IP).  Intra-class correlation is .263.  Kinda flimsy.
An interesting question: who was the best ninth inning reliever in baseball last year?  Answer: Takashi Saito.  K/BB = 6.  Outstanding, especially when the K part of that is in excess of 12 per nine innings.  Too bad he’s 37 and spent most of his career in Japan where no one got to see him.
What went wrong: The glaring “what went wrong” for the Dodgers was the downfall of Nomar Garciaparra.  He’s gone from a guy whom my friend Omar used to have a poster of in his room (true story… sorry Omar) to Mia Hamm’s husband.  Garciaparra rated just barely above replacement level third baseman last year.  It’s hard to say that someone is washed up at the age of 33, but Garciaparra might be on his way to being a utility infielder.  Cover up his resurgent 2006 season for a moment.  You’ll see a nice gentle slope downward.  Every year, he hits more balls into the ground.  Every year, his ISO goes down.  It’s a shame for a guy who ten years ago was part of the axis of shortstop (ARod-Jeter-Nomar).  Sic transit gloriam mundi.
It’s not nice to pile on someone and kick them when they’re down, but… what the heck were the Dodgers thinking in spending $44 million dollars for every Sabermetrician’s favorite punching bag Juan Pierre?  (Tom Tango, over at his site is running a poll on how much more playing time Pierre will actually get in his career.)  The Dodgers even signed his shortstop clone Rafael Furcal.  Both put up on-base percentages in the .330s and throughout the entire year, both were consistently hit in the 1 and 2 holes in the lineup.  But they’re fast!  Do the Dodgers actually know that they messed up?  Big time?
Yeah, that about sums it up: The Dodgers’ hitters were 2nd to last in the NL in both doubles and HR.  Jeff Kent led the team with 20 HR.  That’s not really advanced statistical analysis, but some things in baseball are obvious even to the naked eye.
A fellow Russell!: I’m always partial to gentlemen named Russell.  And the Dodgers’ Russell Martin gets my vote.  A catcher who steals bases?  Someone call Jason Kendall!  The one thing that worries me is that Martin started 143 games at catcher last year.  That’s a really big workload for a catcher.  Martin hits almost half of his balls into the ground, and ground ball hitters either need to be fast or lucky.  Luck is a fickle lady and catchers’ legs take a pounding.  Unless Martin develops some extra power that we don’t know about (and he’s 24 so it could happen…), this isn’t going to last.  Dodgers fans, enjoy it now.
On Jonathan Broxton: Amazing cutter.  32 holds, 2 saves, and 6 blown saves for a close lead protection rate of 85%.  A lot of times when relief pitchers have a good year, when you check their luck indicators, they turn out to have just caught a few good breaks.  Broxton’s BABIP was above league average (which suggests if anything else, he was unlucky.)  HR/FB were a touch above average (again, unlucky).  His strikeout numbers are amazing and his OPS against last year was .616.  Not only is Broxton for real, he’s probably going to get even better in the next few years both due to growing up a bit and in the fact that his luck is more likely than not to improve.
Outlook: Martin, Loney, Ethier, and Kemp are the new faces of the franchise, but it’s going to take a few years to wash off the old face of the franchise.  A lot of the early-season press in L.A., I assume, will focus on Joe Torre and how he will mold this team.  From a Sabermetrician’s point of view, the biggest test for Torre will be whether or not he has the guts to bench Juan Pierre, or at the very least banish him to the #8 hole.  Torre was fond of hitting Derek Jeter in the #2 hole in the lineup in New York and never saw it as a place to put a below average hitter.  I admire that.  I wonder if he’ll still have the strength in his convictions to do the same in L.A.  That right there will tell you a lot about which direction the Dodgers will head over the next few years.

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2 Responses to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Los Angeles Dodgers

  1. RollingWave says:

    Well Furcal at least had 4 seasons where he hit more HR than Pierre’s entire career (wow that’s sad) though he’s drop off last year to half Pierre career HR level is distrubing.
    On the bright side the Dodger have a pretty good SS prospect in Chin Lung Hu. though Hu isn’t exactly a good OBP guy either. he’s essentially the same type of guy as Furcal that may or may not hit for a bit more power (he did crack 16 dinger and 40 double 7 triple across 3 level including the majors this year … that’s pretty good though part of it was in home run Vegas ) but most likely won’t walk either and not as speedy but might be an even better glove .
    Still though, Hu is a guy that even a moron manager would be less inclined to put at leadoff, so even if his overall effectiveness is around the same as Furcal if he bats 8th he might do the team more good.

  2. dan says:

    I should add that Furcal had major ankle problems lastyear from day 1. He hurt his ankle in spring training, came back too soon, and it never healed. He was on my fantasy team, so I was pretty pissed when they had constant notes about him not being able to swing properly without putting weight on his leg. Notice his stolen bases also dropped because of it.

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