The Nickel: 7-1, The Season: 27-21
The Developing Theme:
Dominance. I guess they got tired of hanging around the .500 mark. Team OPS actually increased from the last nickel to .935. That's an all-star! Pair that with a team WHIP of 1.21, and the 7-1 tear seems unavoidable. That's two nickels--10% of a season--playing at this level. Sooner or later, someone will struggle, and the offense/pitching will return to earth. I just hope they take their time
Team WHIP skyrocketed from 1.16 in nickel 5 to 1.21 in nickel 6. The relievers actually outperformed the starters, except in ERA (3.00 for the relievers, 2.34 for the starters). The relievers had more K's per 9 innings (8.6 vs. 6.8 for the starters), fewer walks per 9 (1.3 vs. 1.6), and a lower WHIP (1.14 vs. 1.24).
The three top relievers, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, and Danys Baez, had WHIPS of 0.50, 0.57, and 0.86, respectively. Since they handled 65% of the innings of relief for the nickel, the outperformance by the bullpen is understandable. Those three were very useful in the nickel, and represent one of this team's strengths. Hopefully Eric Gagne will help keep some of the other relievers off of the mound soon. At the very least, he should knock Lance Carter off of the roster. Lance had a WHIP of 3.00 and an ERA of 13.50 for the nickel, in two innings of work. Relievers having a tough nickel include Carter, Tim Hamulack (1.67 WHIP), and Joe Beimel, who had a WHIP of 1.71, but managed to strike out 4 in 2 1/3 innings. That's really not that bad, but in a 7-1 run like the Dodgers just had, there's not much to complain about.
The only starter to struggle in the nickel was Brett Tomko, who had a couple of tough starts resulting in a WHIP of 1.97 and an ERA of 8.44. He still struck batters out to a tune of 7.6 per 9 innings, so it isn't panic time. The top starter? That would be fellow veteran Aaron Sele. Sele posted a WHIP of 0.85 in two starts. He's still not striking a lot of guys out (5.5 K/9), but he managed to eat up 13 innings in two quality starts. Thank you very much, Aaron. Derek Lowe (1.00 WHIP, 9 K/9 in one start) and Brad Penny (1.18 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 in two starts) also looked like front-of-the-rotation guys.
The hitting actually improved. It's hard to believe, but they went from an OPS of .898 in nickel 5 to .935 in nickel 6. Team chemistry? BALCO? I'm pretty sure it wasn't due to either of those. It seems to be a case of nobody slumping. Usually, some players are hot and some are cold. This nickel, everyone (except for Oscar Robles and Sandy Alomar, Jr., who combined for 8 of the team's 276 at-bats) was hot. Four hitters (Olmedo Saenz, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, and Andre Ethier) OPSed over 1.000, two more (Willy Aybar and Jose Cruz, Jr.) OPSed over .900, and four more (Kenny Lofton, Ramon Martinez, J.D. Drew, and Rafael Furcal) OPSed over .800, leaving poor Russell Martin out in the cold with a .793 OPS. But what do you expect, he's a catcher.