Dodgers Outfield Can Easily Support Four Regulars — with Quasi-Proof!

Matt Kemp recently voiced his distaste for being a potential fourth outfielder. He’s presently dealing with ankle issues, but I think most would agree that when he’s healthy he has the talent of one of the best outfielders in the league. He’s certainly wasted as a bench player, or a late-game defensive specialist, or a guy you put in when the other guy has a hangover. But Los Angeles is paying four outfielders something like a quarter of a billion dollars, so someone has to stomach this demeaning role.

OR DOES SOMEONE?!

In short, no. A study of all the outfielders to make a plate appearance in the last decade demonstrates that teams get 2389 PA for their outfielders, on average. The player with the fourth-most plate appearances got on average 304 of those PA, a mere 12.7 percent. That would indeed be a pitiful use of Matt Kemp, but again that’s just the average. A few teams have demonstrated a better balance of playing time, none more so than the 2007 Yankees. Let’s take a look at their example.

First, it helps that those Yankees got 2668 PA from their outfielders, well above the average, leaving more pie for everyone. That’s no problem; the 2014 Dodgers should have a powerful offense that generates more batting chances than the average offense does. In fact, last year’s Dodgers got 2524 PA from their outfielders, and they were a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of run scoring. We should expect at least that many PA from this year’s outfielders, given that injuries last year gave insane playing time to inferior players. Take a look: 10 Dodgers suited up in the outfield last year. That’s a sign something went wrong.

13dodgers

This year, health permitting, the Dodgers can mimic the 2007 Yankees and give 95 percent of their PA to their top four guys. Those Yankees were not only healthy and top-heavy, they were incredibly even.

07yanks

Their top four guys each got at least 23 percent of total outfield PAs, leaving just 4 percent for the scrubs and replacement players at the very end of the bench. If you apply those ratios to last year’s Dodgers (2524 PA), then the consensus top four guys each get at least 580 PA, which is plenty, just shy of a typical starters’ amount.

That is of course just one possibility for 2014, one that treats the four Dodgers outfielders equally. If you subscribe to the idea that Andre Ethier is just a platoon player at this point, you could subtract say 150 PA from his total and spread those around among Kemp, Puig and Crawford. At that point Ethier becomes a $15 million part-time player, but he’s still getting a sizable part, and that’s the luxury of having the highest payroll.

Advertisements

The NLCS Dodgers and Robert Andino, and Other Game 3 Notes

Your NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, so far in the NLCS:
85 PA, 14 H, 0 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 7 BB, 24 K

Your Seattle Mariners utility infielder Robert Andino, in 2013:
85 PA, 14 H, 0 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 27 K

Hell’s bells, Trudy!

It’s that bad!

And it gets worse!

Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier might not play, giving eight to ten plate appearances to Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. Oh, and Cardinals ace slash playoff dynamo Adam Wainwright will start Game 3 in LA tonight. Ahem:

Source: Notgraphs

That curveball has been a playoff pestilence since 2006. Click for schadenfreude.

***

We’ve covered the Dodgers bench before. A collection of hypothetical Replacement Players would have performed ever-so-slightly better. Los Angeles paid for premium talent around the field, but filled their bench lazily, with creaky veterans. This roster is ill-equipped for injury and facing injury at the second-worst possible time.

A series of ESPN hot zones will help us visualize why the Dodgers are in trouble tonight. All of them show the batter’s batting average over the last two years against right-handed pitchers. (These can be found on each player’s ESPN page.)

puntozonemap

hanleyzonemapschumakerzonemapethierzonemap

 

You can be sure that, aside from the gains in batting average, Hanley and Ethier would also provide much more power potential than their backups. I don’t want to overdo it with the zone maps, so you can look for yourself at ESPN. It checks out.

***

Here’s one for fun. Mark Ellis isn’t a bench player, and actually he’s been a serviceable starter this year. He is in many ways a throwback second baseman, with quick hands, a good glove, solid contact rates and not a lot of power. And since Donnie Baseball is a throwback manager, he likes to bat Ellis second, so he can make productive outs and execute the hit-and-run. This is the folly of team baseball. Managers like Mattingly overvalue guys who make outs that, in some contexts, advance baserunners, all because it’s easy to point to that and say, “Aha, a consolation for out-making! All guys make outs, but this guy sacrificed himself for the team.”

markelliszonemap

 

That of course flies in the face of everything we now know about lineup optimization. Perhaps tactical errors like this need to be made in the limelight of the postseason for progress to be made. High-profile mistakes will raise discussion and get an owner’s attention.

***

Hyun-Jin Ryu probably won’t operate with much wiggle room tonight. The 26-year-old “rookie” lefty is a traditional four-pitch pitcher, with a fastball, slider, curve and change. His curveball doesn’t move like Wainwright’s, but that’s like saying he can’t run like Rickey. It’s still a good curveball, and a damn good fourth pitch.

Source: Fangraphs

Ryu’s best weapon might be his changeup. He throws it more than any pitch except the fastball, and for the season it surrendered only three extra-base hits (all home runs, strangely). Looking at just this season, Ryu’s change compares favorably to Wainwright’s curve.

  • Ryu Change: 3 XBH, .168 BAA, .213 SLG, .195 BABIP (Count: 724)
  • Wainwright Curve: 9 XBH, ,172 BAA, .226 SLG, .297 BABIP (Count: 1018)

Against the righty-heavy Cardinals lineup, Ryu’s changeup must be as extraordinary as it has been so far in his young career.