Last night I received an E-Mail asking me to sum up how the Dodgers were doing in a paragraph or so. "No problem", I thought, "I'll just point out how few runs the Dodgers have scored, while highlighting the amazing pitch staff, and call it a day. Now let me just go see how badly the offense is doing and...wait, the Dodgers are 7th in the NL in runs scored? How can that be, this offense has been terrible? Maybe the rest of the league has been just as bad as the Dodgers this year, and I just haven't noticed." So, I took a look at how the Dodgers OPS at each position compares to the NL average this year.
Catcher: .798 (+.097)
1st Base: .753 (-.033)
2nd Base: .817 (+.056)
3rd Base: .613 (-.126)
Shortstop: .662 (-.083)
Left Field: .770 (-.078)
Center Field: .609 (-.123)
Right Field: .775 (+.036)
Just by glancing through these numbers, it's pretty clear that the Dodgers should have a below average offense. The only positions where the Dodgers are well above league average are catcher and second base, while they fall well short of average at four spots on the diamond. Why then, are the Dodgers in the middle of the pack in runs scored if the lineup isn't producing?
The answer is that they're getting lucky. Using Baseball Prospectus' equivalent runs formula; you can determine how many runs a team should score based on their equivalent average. Unlike OPS, EQA takes into account stolen bases, so the "speed on the base paths makes up for the bats" argument is invalid.
Coming into last night's game, the Dodgers had scored 170 runs. However, they only should have scored 160 runs based on how the team has been hitting. This 10 run gap makes the Dodgers the second luckiest team in baseball, tied with the Mariners and behind only the Giants. When you rank teams based on equivalent runs, the Dodgers drop from 7th in the NL to tied for 10th, mashed up with three other NL West teams with the abysmal offenses of the Cardinals, Pirates, and Nationals way behind the rest of the pack. This makes much more sense based on the numbers that we've seen the Dodgers put up this year.
So what does this mean? First is that we should just be happy with our good fortune. In the end, all that matters is runs scored, and despite the fact that the Dodgers offense has been lousy, they are still driving in runs. Eventually, Nomar, Furcal, LaRoche/Betemit, and even Juan Pierre will start hitting better, and I'll be slightly less concerned about the Dodgers fielding a team of banjo hitters. However, luck does have a way of evening itself out, so don't be surprised if an offensive surge by these players generates less runs than expected.
Right now, things are going the Dodgers way. They're scoring runs despite the fact they aren't hitting well, and when the offense doesn't score, they're getting picked up by some amazing performances by the pitching staff. Instinct tells me this is going to even out, and the Dodgers are destined to lose some 10-9 games where they strand 15 runners sometime in the near future. However, if the Dodgers go the entire season without paying the piper for their good fortunes in the early going, I certainly wouldn't mind.
This entry, posted yesterday morning by Viva El Birdos, the SBN Cardinals blog, makes last nights loss a bit more depressing.
The Dodgers actually have someone on pace to hit more than 20 home runs, at least until Wednesday. Right now, Jeff Kent is on pace to hit 20.76 home runs.