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April 7, 2006

Prospectus Notebook

Dodgers, Giants

by Baseball Prospectus

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics

With news of Eric Gagne's impending third elbow surgery now being made public, it appears that the Dodgers are picking up right where they left off at the end of last year. Already starting the season with Nomar Garciaparra and Kenny Lofton on the disabled list, the Dodgers have had additional injury concerns so far with Jeff Kent, Olmedo Saenz, and Rafael Furcal as well. Will Carroll has some news on the injury itself today, and Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts shares some insight, as well.

According to BP's Mike Groopman, who tracks DL information, the Dodgers had the following injury-related stats for 2005:

Days Lost to DL: 1357
Dollars Lost to DL: $36,695,101.85
% Payroll Lost to DL: 45.29%
(these figures include Darren Dreifort)

Days Lost to DL: 1173
Dollars Lost to DL: $23,746,953.70
% Payroll Lost to DL: 29.31%
(these figures do not include Dreifort)

The Dodgers ultimately finished the season third in total days lost to the DL (behind Washington and Seattle) and first in salary lost to the DL. And despite the incessant claims that the undoing of the Dodgers was due to Paul DePodesta's laptop or the team's failure to lead the National League in Gentlemanly Conduct, these bazillion injuries quite literally crippled this team's chances of competing in a rather lackluster division.

As mere laypeople, though, it's difficult for us to grasp just how much money $36 million is. Sure, we can look at the eight-digit dollar value and be impressed by the sheer heft of it, but it's just not being put into terms that we can comprehend, other than "big." But now that the books have been closed on 2005, and since the first week of the season looks all-too-familiar to Dodger fans, it's worth putting this information into proper perspective.

Given that the Dodgers lost $36,695,101.85 to the DL last season, and given that there are four quarters in each dollar, it's safe to say that the Dodgers lost the equivalent of 146,780,407 quarters to the disabled list. Assuming that a load of wash costs $1.25 for the washing machine and $1.00 for the dryer, the Dodgers could have done 16,175,600 full loads of laundry with the money they lost.

Let's assume the following for the purposes of this exercise: that there are as many available machines as there are loads, that it takes 20 minutes for a load of wash to complete, and that it takes 40 minutes for a load to dry--it's likely that the Dodgers could afford super dryers that will help us avoid "fancy math.") The Dodgers could have done 72 loads of wash and 72 loads in the dryer--minus two loads in the dryer on the first day that will get started at 11:40 pm and midnight, which get credited to the second 24-hour period, since they end after midnight. Thereafter, the Dodgers could manage 72 loads in the dryer per 24-hour period. This means that they would spend $90 on washing and $72 on drying every 24 hours (total: $160), and would run out of money after doing 229,344 straight days of laundry. This is roughly equal to 627 years.

So the Dodgers lost so much money in 2005 to injury that they could have done laundry all day, every day, for more than half a millennium.

We can also think spatially about the amount of money the Dodgers lost, again relying on the quarter as our primary unit of measurement. A quarter is about an inch in diameter (it's actually 24.26 mm, and an inch is technically 25.4 mm, but we can afford to be general here). This means we can estimate that 12 quarters in a row, all touching each other, will create a row of quarters one foot long. So if we again take the 146,780,407 quarters that make up $36,695,101.85, we can lay them all down one-by-one, creating a trail that would stretch for 12,231,701 feet. Expressed in miles, the trail would be 2316 miles long. This is roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Cleveland.

This season, the Dodgers are well on their way to ensuring that trail will be extended all the way to Boston, another 640 miles East of Cleveland. This would require an additional $10,137,600 to be placed on the DL. With the high-priced Gagne set to earn $10 million by himself this season, the Dodgers are well on their way to creating a coast-to-coast trail of quarters made entirely from money lost to the DL.

--John Erhardt

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Spring Training featured two primary positional battles at backup catcher and fifth outfielder for the San Francisco Giants. In each case management chose the oldest candidate possible, but the decisions made were reasonably in line with both the short-term and long-term interests of the team.

  • The easiest decision of Spring Training for the team was picking Jason Ellison over Todd Linden for the fifth outfielder spot. Linden, as you may recall, had a monster year in Triple-A in 2005 (.321/.437/.682). His .682 slugging rate led all of minor league baseball and his 30 home runs were good enough to place him 2nd in the PCL, despite playing in just 95 games (his playing time was so low because of repeated call-ups to the San Francisco squad). The problem, of course, was that Linden couldn't hit when he got to the majors (.216/.280/.333 in 186 plate appearances), and this is now the third year in a row that Linden has faltered at the highest level (career MLB line: .207/.274/.311). Ellison isn't much to write home about, of course. His 1.200 OPS in April was nice but shocking. The .243/.297/.322 line the rest of the way makes more sense.

    But Ellison can play a decent CF, Linden still has an option remaining, and the difference in their Spring Training numbers was too big to ignore. Linden was passable with a .305/.403/.373 line (two doubles and a triple in 18 hits) but Ellison smacked the ball to the tune of a .403/.493/.613 line. Even in a small sample size the decision makes sense, especially when sending Linden to Triple-A means he can get a full load of at-bats to prepare for the 2007 season, when he'll truly be needed.

  • After trading Yorvit Torrealba at the deadline last year, the Giants put themselves into a little bit of a bind in terms of backup catchers. They tapped Yamid Haad to backup Mike Matheny, but only after minor-league veteran Eliezer Alfonzo was hit with a substance abuse suspension at Double-A Norwich. Haad and Alfonzo were both candidates for the job this year, along with veteran Todd Greene and Justin Knoedler, the kid some in the organization hope will be the catcher of the future. Knoedler is an outstanding defender, but his bat leaves a lot to be desired, so the decision to get him at-bats in Double-A is perfectly sensible.

    Haad took himself out of the running with his play at the end of last year (.071/.156/.107) and in Spring Training (.083/.077/.083), so the real battle was between Alfonzo and Greene. Both are going to have trouble putting up a decent on-base percentage, but each has some serious pop in their bat. With Ironman Matheny taking most of the playing time behind the dish, even a bad backup can't hurt the team too severely.

    The final decision to take Greene over Alfonzo makes sense because of the likelihood that each player can help the team in 2006 and beyond. Alfonzo's breakout in 2005 was a bit surprising. His first season in the minor leagues was way back in 1996, and he entered 2005 as a 26 year old in the High-A California league. Described another way: Alfonzo was such a non-prospect entering the 2005 season that he had never once been placed on a 40-man roster.

    This meant two things to Giants management. First, Alfonzo's breakout year is highly suspect. Some time in Triple-A Fresno might be prudent to see if the minor-league veteran is really capable of handling advanced pitching. Second, having never been on a 40-man roster before, Alfonzo also has lots of options remaining. As a 27 year-old this year he's got a bit of life left in him, and the team would be wise to figure out whether he's worth anything. On the other hand, Greene is a known quantity, and he doesn't much help the team in Triple-A. He best serves the team as a hard-swinging backup on the bench, and that's exactly where the Giants placed him.

--Tom Gorman

Related Content:  Dodgers,  Year Of The Injury

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