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Where We Stand, Part One: Position Players

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The Lineup

Very, shall we say, interesting batting order from Gurnick's last mailbag. The numbers on the right are the 2007 ZIPS projections.

CF Juan Pierre* (.299/.342/.385, 3 HR)
C Russell Martin (.279/.359/.432, 14 HR)
SS Rafael Furcal (.286/.358/.431, 13 HR)
2B Jeff Kent (.272/.352/.473, 18 HR)
1B Nomar Garciaparra (.288/.354/.469, 14 HR)
LF Luis Gonzalez (.248/.342/.412, 14 HR)
3B Wilson Betemit (.262/.328/.451, 15 HR)
RF Andre Ethier  (.296/.366/.463, 16 HR)
*Projection with the Cubs, I'd expect a slight drop with the Dodgers

These predictions largely match up with my own. I think Nomar would have a slightly better slugging percentage and Ethier will be a little worse, but it averages out in the end. Overall, this looks like an average at best lineup. One of the reasons my offseason plan stayed unreleased was that I had a heart of the order consisting of Pat Burrell, Jeff Kent, and Craig Wilson. Since I thought this was a terrible middle of the lineup, I scrapped the plan. This lineup is much worse. It lacks any real source of power, and while no one but Betemit has a noticeably low on base percentage, Ethier is the only starter that is projected to have an on base percentage greater than .360. In 2006, Betemit was the only starter with an on base percentage below .360. What this means is the average Dodger starter is taking a 32 point hit in OPS, from .288/.362/.459 in 2006 to .279/.350/.439 in 2007.

A 32 point drop in OPS doesn't seem that huge, but by just glancing through team stats, it results in 50-100 fewer runs over the course of the season. The other sign of trouble could be the Dodgers OPSing 43 points higher with runners in scoring position in 2006, if the Dodgers lose their propensity for clutch hits, it would result in even fewer runs scored.

If these projections hold, and the Dodgers average in clutch situations evens out, the team will score around 700 to 750 runs in 2007. This would put them between 21st and 28th in runs scored according to 2006 numbers.

Fortunately, the Dodgers have their trump card, the farm system. On most teams, if a starter goes down, the team will get worse. Not true with the Dodgers. With the exception of Russell Martin, any Dodger that gets hurt will be immediately replaced by someone nearly as good, if not better. The only way that Ramon Martinez or Marlon Anderson ever gets a start is through a 2005esque series of injuries. The Dodgers projected runs look pretty awful, but they can only get better.

Defense

Scary. Very scary. While booting Kenny Lofton for Juan Pierre provides a boost to the outfield, exchanging JD Drew for Luis Gonzalez cancels it out. While the Dodger outfield is probably just below average defensively, Christina Kahrl from Baseball Prospectus wonders if this is the worst collection of outfield arms ever assembled. While the difference between the best and worst outfield arms in 2006 resulted in runners taking an extra base 12.4% more often, I'm not sure exactly what kind of effect this has on the bottom line. Still, you never want the phrase "worst ever" associated with any aspect of your team.

The right side of the infield isn't anything great either. Nomar's rated all over the map on defensive stats. So, I'll just call him above average. Jeff Kent, however, could be a problem. While rate2 loved him last year, Kent was only ahead of Jorge Cantu in zone rating, and he was 5th to last amongst regular second basemen in probabilistic model of range.

While I'm losing my faith in rate2 as a good measure of defense, it still measures the most important thing for a fielder, how many balls they actually stopped. Think of it like ERA. It's not the best measure of determining how good a pitcher really is, but in the end, it's all that really matters. If Jeff Kent was actually very effective at stopping balls last season despite limited range, things could get scary if he goes down to the level his other stats indicate. However, this is probably balanced out by Nomar's low rate2 and his better play-by-play stats.

The left side of the infield is the only part of the defense I'm comfortable with. Rafael Furcal rates average to above average in all defensive metrics and Wilson Betemit also appears to be solid.

The Dodgers weren't very effective at getting to balls in play in 2006, and it doesn't appear that they'll get any better in 2007

The Bench

Olmedo Saenz (.268/.339/.483)
Marlon Anderson (.273/.328/.441)
Jason Repko (.254/.305/.434)
Ramon Martinez (.259/.322/.331)
Mike Lieberthal (No Projection)

The Dodgers bench is less relevant than most since none of the Dodgers reserves will ever be forced into starting. Overall, there's not much wrong with it. Olmedo Saenz is one of the best lefty mashers in baseball, has the highest projected slugging percentage on the Dodgers, and hopefully he'll platoon with Wilson Betemit since Nomar is also right handed.

Jason Repko can pinch run, sort of play all three outfield positions, and hit the occasional homer.

Mike Lieberthal is a very good hitter for a backup catcher, though his inability to stay healthy over the last few years is a concern if Russell Martin is lost for any long period of time.

Ramon Martinez is pretty terrible, but he shouldn't ever play except as a defensive replacement so it's irrelevant.

The only issue I have is the lack of lefties off the bench. Marlon Anderson has only OPSed over .720 once since 2001, and that was due to his miracle September last year. ZIPS projects good things, but I have no idea where those numbers are coming from. I would have liked to see Craig Counsell instead of Ramon Martinez just to give the Dodgers some options. James Loney would fill the void nicely, but right now he looks like the odd man out. Oh well, can't win `em all. Overall, I like what I see here, especially considering the limited roles of these players.

Tune in next time for the far more positive review of the Dodger pitching staff