Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Dodge(r)ball: A Not-So-Underdog Story: The Dodgers are 13-2 so far in July. Nevertheless, they are in a heated race in the NL West. Their current record of 52-38 leaves them two-and-a-half games ahead of the Giants and three-and-a-half ahead of the Padres. The Dodgers have more prospects further along in development than their competitors, though, and with a key trade or two may be able to lock things up. Prospects currently at Triple-A Las Vegas who could be moved include:

    • Koyie Hill, catcher, batting .292/.349/.458;
    • Antonio Perez, shortstop/second baseman, batting .292/.387/.498;
    • Chin-Feng Chen, outfielder, batting .306/.372/.611.

    What the Dodgers need, of course, is starting pitching. “Starting pitching? But don’t they have holes at three of the four corners?”

    Adrian Beltre 3b .315 .357 .580 .347 .353 37.4
    Paul LoDuca c .308 .350 .452 .145 .205 21.2
    Alex Cora 2b .293 .374 .423 .131 .191 16.9
    Milton Bradley cf .285 .381 .441 .158 .178 21.7
    Cesar Izturis ss .293 .328 .361 -.032 .042 14.7
    Shawn Green 1b .262 .342 .417 .045 .021 15.0
    Juan Encarnacion rf .240 .292 .431 -.040 -.063 2.9
    Dave Roberts lf .258 .335 .362 -.043 -.076 10.6

    Why, yes, the Dodgers do indeed have power outages at first base, left field, and right field. But they do have some options in the outfield:

    Jayson Werth .306 .386 .611 .404 .387
    Jason Grabowski .239 .315 .427 .005 .027

    …and Jayson Werth is making a strong case that he should keep the starting job once Juan Encarnacion returns from the DL.

    That said, a moment of silence for Shawn Green‘s season would probably be respectful. Green has an ISO (slugging minus batting average) of .155 thus far, with an OBP of .342. That leaves him in the lower rungs of the National League for his position–we’re talking Shea Hillenbrand/J.T. Snow territory here. This is a player in decline (all years as a Dodger), and surely the front office has taken note:

    2000 27 .269 .367 .472
    2001 28 .297 .372 .598
    2002 29 285 .385 .558
    2003 30 .280 .355 .460
    2004 31 .262 .342 .417

    The Dodgers also could use a starting pitcher. Even if you assume Edwin Jackson can stick in the rotation (once he returns from the DL, that is), that still leaves Jose Lima in the rotation–since they are playing it safe with Wilson Alvarez. Both have been generous with the long ball, and Lima’s basic performance metrics lag significantly behind rotation workhorses Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver (we’ll save study of Kazuhisa Ishii‘s success despite low command for another time):

    GS IP H/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9 ERA
    Weaver 19 118.7 9.4 3.0 6.8 0.6 4.25
    Ishii 18 107.3 7.5 5.2 4.2 0.5 3.94
    Perez 16 106.3 7.8 2.0 6.5 0.9 2.96
    Lima 11 83.3 9.3 2.3 4.8 1.5 4.32
    Alvarez 7 66.7 7.4 2.0 7.6 1.4 3.51

  • Anchorman: The Legend of Odalis Perez Team ace Odalis Perez was part of the Gary Sheffield trade with the Braves before the 2002 season, where the Dodgers received Perez, Brian Jordan, and Andy Brown (Brown is now in Cleveland after the Milton Bradley trade). Of course, Sheffield had a monster year last year, and his a borderline HOF candidate, but who won this trade overall?

    Odalis Perez VORP with Dodgers
    2002 45.2
    2003 9.3
    2004 31.3 (to date)
    Subtotal: 85.8

    Brian Jordan VORP with Dodgers
    2002 24.2
    2003 16.5
    Subtotal: 40.7

    Gary Sheffield VORP with Braves:
    2002 46.5
    2003 79.3
    Subtotal: 125.8

    Dodger Total: 126.5 (to date)
    Braves Total: 125.8

Minnesota Twins

  • Fire of Unknown Origin: At this writing, the Twins are in fourth place in the AL Central, victims of their anemic offense, six games behind the White Sox, 60 fewer runs scored than the second-place Tigers and 80 fewer than the third-place Indians. Nothing has changed for the Twins since last month’s Triple Play…OK, you caught me: the runs scored are accurate, but the standings are courtesy of our Adjusted Standings report. The Twins are, in fact, only a half-game behind the White Sox, despite being swept at home by Chicago at the end of June and dropping three-of-four to the Tigers just before the All-Star break. How do they keep it up? It’s certainly not thanks to the offense (AL only, minimum 100 AB) and in particular that infield:

    Player Pos PMLVr Rank VORP Rank
    Mientkiewicz 1B -.124 20 2.7 16
    Jones RF -.044 17 5.5 15
    Rivas 2B -.032 12 6.5 12
    Guzman SS -.002 13 9.4 11
    Koskie 3B .054 13 11.8 11
    LeCroy DH .066 8 7.4 8
    Hunter CF .070 13 12.3 12
    Ford LF .100 9 21.8 5
    Stewart LF .115 6 10.3 10
    Mauer C .371 4 13.2 7

    (PMLVr = Positional MLV rate = runs/game contributed by a batter beyond what an average player at the same position would hit, in a team of otherwise league-average hitters.)

    • Doug Mientkiewicz has been absolutely brutal this year, with an isolated slugging of .120–the only starting 1B with less power is Darin Erstad (.113 ISO). (Class act but ineffective John Olerud would also have made this list if not for Bill Bavasi’s stumbling over recently.) Mientkiewicz hasn’t hit this poorly–.244/.332/.364–since 1999. This level of productivity is far below his PECOTA projection and he is currently on the DL; more on the Twins’ 1B situation follows.

    • Luis Rivas is batting .265 and has on-base percentage of .288; now that’s hacktastic! At least Rivas has a little bop in his bat, slugging .413, which is ahead of his mid-line PECOTA projection, and more than can be said for backup Nick Punto (.234/.329/.281). Before the season, the Twins were considering having former prospect and current utility man Mike Cuddyer spend some time at second. So far this year his bat hasn’t made this seem necessary; Cuddyer has batted .241/.305/.398. Still, it’s clear the Twins have a sucking sound at second.

    • Cristian Guzman…what to say…he’s had one year (2001) where he showed any power, and that year looks more and more like an outlier:

      1999 21 .267 .276
      2000 22 .299 .388
      2001 23 .337 .477
      2002 24 .292 .385
      2003 25 .311 .365
      2004 26 .307 .388

    • It’s a little unfair to group Corey Koskie with the previous three since he was on the DL with a strained sternum earlier this year and has had right hamstring problems since then. Yes, his batting average (.247) and on-base percentage (.333) are significantly off his usual pace, but part of his low ranking is due to surprising productivity from players like Brandon Inge, Chone Figgins, and David Newhan.

    • Honorable Mention goes to Jacque Jones, batting .259/.312/.435 this year. This is in the neighborhood of his 25th percentile PECOTA forecast and looks more like his platoon numbers against left-handed pitching.

  • Dominance and Submission: A large part of the Twins’ success is due to their bullpen, and in particular to the team’s lone All-Star, closer Joe Nathan, who seems to have picked up where he left off last year, despite moving from a pitcher-friendly park to the Metrodome:

    Year IP H/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9 K/BB WHIP ERA
    2003 79.0 5.8 3.8 9.5 0.8 2.51 1.06 2.96
    2004 39.7 5.9 3.9 10.7 0.5 2.76 1.06 1.13

    Nathan’s the fifth-best reliever in the AL and the eighth-best overall according to our reliever report (using Adjusted Runs Prevented). His ARP of 15.8 is slightly higher than that of their other positive contributors (Juan Rincon, Grant Balfour, Aaron Fultz, Matt Guerrier, and J.C. Romero) added together:

    Rincon 10.6
    Balfour 2.7
    Fultz 1.4
    Guerrier 0.5
    Romero 0.3
    TOTAL 15.5

    Of course, no conversation about dominant Twins pitchers is complete without checking in on BP favorite Johan Santana

    IP H/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9
    123.7 7.4 2.3 9.9 1.3

    June 2.39 5 37.2 21 5 6 46
    July 1.09 4 33 9 2 10 45

    Yes, he seems to have recovered from his slow start.

  • Transmaniacon M.C.: Doug Mientkiewicz’s DL trip, due to soreness in his left wrist, led the Twins to bring Justin Morneau up to the big club from Triple-A Rochester. Morneau has done nothing but hit in the minor leagues. If he can maintain his 50th percentile projection of .255/.321/.440, it would represent a substantial power upgrade at first base.

San Francisco Giants

  • Bactrian, Not Dromedary: The Giants are carried by their two All-Stars: pitcher Jason Schmidt and …er…one of their outfielders. We all know about Bonds–but how important is Schmidt to this team, really? Well, here’s their rotation:

    Schmidt 40.9
    Hermanson 10.9
    Williams 4.7
    Rueter 1.4
    Tomko – 1.7
    TOTAL 56.2

    Certainly among NL playoff contenders, the Giants are the most top-heavy. (Note that the entire Phillies rotation is struggling, of course.) It’s a little sad to see that the NL team the Giants most resemble in this regard is probably the (soon to be Big Unit-free?) Diamondbacks:

    Johnson 35.0
    Webb 6.9
    Dessens 0.4
    Sparks – 7.9
    Fossum – 8.9
    Daigle -10.1
    TOTAL 15.4

    We talked last month about how Brett Tomko and Kirk Rueter were both drags on this rotation; this continues to be true, and any talk of benching Dustin Hermanson in favor of these two must be considered lunacy:

    IP H/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9 ERA June July
    Rueter 110 11.0 3.1 3.0 0.9 4.99 4.50 5.40
    Tomko 94 10.7 3.2 4.3 0.8 4.98 4.76 4.61
    Hermanson 87 9.6 2.8 6.5 1.1 4.34 5.05 3.46

    Really the Giants could stand to replace both Rueter and Tomko. They have one possible home-grown solution in Noah Lowry, sent back down to Fresno earlier this month:

    ERA GS IP H/9 BB/9 K/9 HR/9
    AAA 4.18 13 71.0 8.9 3.2 7.5 1.1
    SFG 3.47 1 20.2 11.3 3.5 7.0 0.9

    Unfortunately for the Giants, there are a lot of tight playoff races going on, so the trade possibilities for starting pitchers look a little bleak; bleak enough, for example, that Ron Villone will seriously be auditioned. In addition, after trading several players in order to rent Sidney Ponson last year, the farm system is depleted and the Giants don’t have much to offer in return. Brian Sabean will have to be creative.

  • Barn Burning: Matt Herges gave up four runs in the ninth inning against Colorado on Sunday, including home runs to Jeromy Burnitz and Preston Wilson. This:

    • brought his season ERA to 5.86;
    • was his second blown save in July, bringing his season total to seven; and
    • was his second loss in July, bringing his season record to 4-4.

    It’s past time for the Giants to remove Herges from the closer role. However, the Giants have the second-worst bullpen in the NL and really only Felix Rodriguez looks like a possible in-house replacement.

  • The Also-Rans: So are there any Giant hitters other than Barry Bonds worth thinking about? Well…perhaps a couple.

    Barry Bonds .916 .871 75.6
    Ray Durham .139 .200 16.7
    Mike Tucker .109 .103 15.7
    A.J. Pierzynski .083 .161 15.0
    Marquis Grissom .072 .092 17.1

    • Ray Durham is fifth in PMLVr among regular second basemen in the NL:

      PMLVr VORP
      Marcus Giles .298 14.4
      Mark Loretta .294 37.8
      Todd Walker .255 22.7
      Jeff Kent .201 24.1
      Ray Durham .200 16.7

      However, he is hitting a tepid .224/.333/.429 in July, against primarily Colorado and Arizona pitching.

    • A.J. Pierzynski is also fifth among NL catchers:

      PMLVr VORP
      Johnny Estrada .315 27.0
      Charles Johnson .234 17.8
      Michael Barrett .215 19.3
      Paul LoDuca .205 21.2
      A.J. Pierzynski .161 15.0

      He has improved dramatically following a very cold .236/.267/.250 April.

    • Marquis Grissom is eighth among NL center fielders, following only Jim Edmonds, Jeromy Burnitz, Milton Bradley, Ken Griffey Jr., Craig Biggio (!), Steve Finley, and Andruw Jones in PMLVr…hm…no, that doesn’t look noteworthy…

    • …and Mike Tucker is tenth among right fielders, so we’ll just stop there.

    Indeed, it’s &1quot;Barry Bonds and some guys,” appearing in a ballpark near you.