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July 7, 2005

Prospectus Notebook

Thursday Edition

by Baseball Prospectus

Los Angeles Dodgers: At this point, the Dodgers have so many injuries that they are probably willing to consider having their players exposed to extreme radiation if that means getting them back on the field faster. The Dodgers have now seen players at every position outside of first and second base land on the Disabled List, and that list will narrow to one if Jeff Kent needs time to recover from a recent hamstring injury.

All of these injuries have sapped the Dodger faithful's hope of a second consecutive playoff run. Entering Wednesday's action, the Dodgers remained within striking distance of the front-running San Diego Padres, sitting just five games back in second place. However, a closer look reveals that the NL West is actually a tight-knit group. Only 9.1 (adjusted) losses separate the Padres from the last place Rockies, according to BP's Adjusted Standings. Tuesday night, the Dodgers finished their 6-1 loss in Colorado with the following lineup:


Pos   Player           Lifetime WARP3
C     Jason Phillips   7.3
1B    Olmedo Saenz     9.8
2B    Antonio Perez    2.5
3B    Mike Edwards      .9
SS    Oscar Robles     N/A
LF    Ching-Fen Chen   -.1
CF    Jason Repko      N/A
RF    Jayson Werth     5.3

      Total           25.7

This is not a lineup that inspires great confidence. In losing Kent, Milton Bradley, Cesar Izturis, J.D. Drew, and Jose Valentin, the Dodgers have lost approximately 200 WARP3. That is a lot of production to have to replace in their lineup, and that doesn't even account for the injuries of Paul Bako, Ricky Ledee, or injuries the club has endured on the pitching side of the ledger.

To compound this problem, the Dodgers have few alternatives waiting in the wings. Japanese import Norihiro Nakamura is not currently on the 40-man roster, so his inclusion would warrant a roster move, which becomes necessarily trickier with so many players on the 15-day DL. Prospects Willy Aybar and Delwyn Young are enjoying good seasons and certainly could warrant a promotion. The Dodgers are counting on guys like Aybar and Young to make contributions in the future, but they are not likely to save the 2005 campaign. According to the Postseason Odds report, the boys in Blue only have a thirteen percent chance to reach the playoffs at this point, which is not an encouraging sign, especially for a team expected to contend in a Bonds-less NL West.

Dodgers fans must hope that Kent won't miss too much time and help keep the Dodger boat afloat. If he does miss some time, given the aforementioned tight pack in the NL West, the Dodgers stand a good chance of slipping past the Rockies into last place, rather than competing for another division crown.

--Paul Swydan

Milwaukee Brewers: By now, we were supposed to be watching the Indians' exciting middle infield tandem of Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips. Peralta is having a solid season with Cleveland (hitting .291/.351/.507), but Phillips has stalled, barely being adequate at AAA Buffalo (currently hitting .258/.318/.409). The title of most exciting young middle-infield tandem has since been regifted to Milwaukee, though perhaps a bit prematurely.

  • Rickie Weeks was called up on June 10 after Junior Spivey was traded to Washington, and he's done his part to justify his place in BP's 2005 Top 50 Prospects list. This ranking was a significant downgrade from the year before, when he was the #9 prospect, largely due to concerns about the graduation from relatively weak college competition. So far this season, he's done his best to make that downgrade look most unwise.

    Since being promoted, he's hit .271/.374/.471 with three doubles, a triple, and four home runs, good for a .292 EqA (seventh in the majors among major league second basemen). He already ranks ninth on his team in VORP with 7.5, and his VORPr of .331 is tied with Ryan Freel for fourth among all ML second basemen. Lest we think he's caught lightning in a bottle since being promoted, his pre-callup 2005 minor league line of .320/.435/.655 should set us straight.

    If that looks like a lot of power, it is. Weeks had nine triples at AAA Nashville before his promotion. A straight ISO computation of SLG-AVG on his 2005 minor league line gives us an impressive score of .335 (home run leader Andruw Jones has a score of .313 by this measure). Since triples generally mean "speed" and not "power," including them in SLG can be misleading. PECOTA remedies that in its projections, treating all triples as doubles. When we do the same, his 2005 minor league ISO drops to .290; still quite good, and far less misleading about his potential home run power.

  • Now contrast Weeks' success with the failure of infield mate J.J. Hardy. Hardy made the team out of spring training, though not because of any overly impressive recent performance at the plate; his 2004 was ruined by a labrum injury, and our preseaon Team Health Report cautiously gave him a yellow light. Concerns over his injury dropped him from BP's #20 prospect in 2004 to an Honorable Mention in this year's list. When healthy, he had just 101 ABs last year, hitting .277/.330/.495.

    We shouldn't make too much of spring training statistics, but Hardy's line of .235/.274/.412 would be downright Bondsian compared to the .185/.286/.270 (.203 EqA) line he's put up so far this season. Of the 230 major league players with more than 200 PAs so far, his SLG is better than only one: Tony Womack. No wonder Hardy is the 28th most-valuable HACKING MASS player this year.

    Though he's struggled with many facets of his game so far, one thing he seemingly hasn't struggled with is his plate discipline. At first glance, his 27/21 BB/K rate is certainly inspiring. Anytime you have more walks than strikeouts, it's a very good sign; well, most of the time it is.

    But Hardy has spent most of his time hitting eighth, and so we have to address the invisible asterisk next to his walk total. For one, five have been intentional, so his ratio is really 22/21. It's also not clear from just the numbers how many of those have been "intentional unintentional walks" that so many eighth-place hitters get just because there's a pitcher on deck. Thus, his strike zone control isn't as superb as we might think. The only season Hardy really controlled the strike zone was his 2003 AA season at Huntsville, when he hit .279/.368/.428. Even with that season, he's a .277/.335/.402 career hitter, hardly the type that we'd recognize as being "choosy."

--John Erhardt

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