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A Balanced Attack

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These are the Dodgers leaders in OPS among players with at least 300 at bats:

J.D. Drew - .866
Nomar Garciaparra - .862
Jeff Kent - .860
Andre Ethier - .860
Rafael Furcal - .817

The Dodgers are tied for third with two other teams in players with OPSes over .800, behind only the Blue Jays and Yankees. They're tied for second with one other team in hitters OPSing over .850, behind only the Yankees. Of course, they're tied for last in hitter OPSing over .900 and beyond, with zero. The Dodgers just missed tying the Yankees for players over .800, with Russell Martin at .793.

On Saturday, I noted J.D. Drew's low linear weights total, and wondered if any team has a worse leading hitter (at least two teams do). Despite the lack of a stud hitter, the Dodgers are 4th in the NL in runs scored, barely behind the Mets, a team stacked with threats. How are they doing this? Balance. The worst hitters amongst the Dodger regulars are Wilson Betemit and Kenny Lofton, who have .753 and .751 OPSes respectively. September's power surge aside, the Dodgers have needed to get at least two base runners an inning to put any runs on the board. Since the Dodgers have no real holes at any point in their lineup, this is a feasible strategy. Barring some surprise moves in the offseason it looks like the 2007 Dodgers will have a similar construction: high average combined with little power. If the Dodgers ran a nearly identical offense out there next year, would their success be repeatable? Possibly, but there's not a lot of room for error. While the Dodgers lead the NL with a .274 batting average, they also are seeing a 10 point jump in average and a 35 point jump in OPS with runners in scoring position. If the Dodgers clutch hitting goes south next year, they could end up scoring far less runs. So sure, the Dodgers success is repeatable, but the Dodgers could just as easily hit exactly the same, yet score far less runs. A power hitter could help the Dodgers from relying too much on something that can very so much from year to year.

The lesson we can learn from the 2006 Dodger offense is that one player doesn't matter; it's the aggregate production of the team. The lack of one true stud can be made up for with solid production throughout the lineup.  So long as the Dodgers can continue to add solid players to the offense, they'll be fine. However, This could prove to be difficult as the fruits of our farm system join the team. If one or two of them have a bad start to their careers, they could end up taking the whole offense down with them. For a team like the Dodgers, having a guy that can carry the team could really help as the rookies get acclimated to the club. I'm very curious to see how Ned Colletti will handle this situation in the off-season.