Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Catching up, getting ready for the second half

All apologies, gentle outwatchers. After being levelled by a cold during a cookout on July 4 -- and JimBilly4, you know that I will continue to blame your cute, infectious daughters -- I tried to soldier on, but had to make a few sacrifices due to health. The OutWatch was one of them. Fortunately, the All-Star break gives me time to catch up. Where was I?

Ah yes.

THURSDAY. The Dodgers lost this game, to the Braves, 8-6.

1. Grounded to second. #280.
2. Singled to left. Would score.
3. Tripled to center. Would not score. C'mon, Dodgers -- when Pierre does something good, you have to take advantage of it!
4. Flied to left. #281.
5. Grounded to second. #282.

FRIDAY. The Braves leave and the Dodgers get the Marlins... and lose, 6-5, in 10 innings.

1. Grounded to second. #283.
2. Grounded to short. #284.
3. Singled to right. It was an RBI, and he scored on Martin's homer.
4. Flied to right. #285.
5. Grounded into double play. #286 & #287.
6. Popped to short. #288.

SATURDAY. Marlins beat on Derek Lowe and Dodgers lose, 7-2.

1. Grounded to short. #289.
2. K, swinging. #290.
3. Singled to center. Stole 2nd.
4. Singled to right. Would score.
5. Grounded to second. #291.

SUNDAY. Desperate for a win, the Dodgers got one, beating up the Marlins 9-3.

1. Reached on bunt single. Scored on Martin's homer. Just think how awesome this team could be if Martin could be knocking in Pierre all the time... alas, only half that tandem is operating.
2. Singled to left. Would score.
3. Grounded into double play. #292 & 293.
4. Fielder's choice. #294.
5. Flied to center. #295.

Yeah, an OK series. 7-for-21 with a triple. Also responsible for 16 team outs in four games, including six in the 6-5 10-inning loss. Not saying that the loss can be pinned on Pierre -- Saito did blow that save -- but Pierre didn't help at all. 30 outs in 10 innings, right? One-fifth of the team's outs -- your center fielder, ladies and gentlemen.

Pace: 537 outs. Leading the majors! But Jimmy Rollins, it should be noted, has played one fewer game than Pierre has and is only 2 outs behind.

* * *

It's the second half. Time for an evaluation, and, if needed, a new start.

This is a great opportunity to look at Juan's stats for the year. He is batting .282/.311/.338, which is far off last year's horrid pace of .292/.330/.388, mostly in power. I do believe it's possible that Juan can pick up the pace hitting singles in the second half to bring his yearly OBP up 20 points... but ohh that slugging percentage. Juan used to hit doubles and triples somewhat regularly: 32 doubles and 13 triples last year. This year, those are down to 13 and 4, so far, putting him on pace for 23 and 7, a significant falloff.

So why are the Dodgers just one game out of first place? The Dodgers have been getting by based on great pitching. Their batting has improved somewhat in recent weeks -- thanks, I believe, without looking it up, to the performances of Kemp, Loney, and Martin. They rank 19th among all MLB teams in runs scored -- that's distinctly below average. On the other hand, their team ERA is fourth in all of baseball. It is unlikely that the pitching will get even better, since they're already near the top in the sport; in fact, I wonder if the pitching can continue to be as great as it was in the first half.

Clearly, the Dodgers will need every run they can get on offense; there is only so long that the team will be able to accommodate bats like Pierre's and Garciaparra's. If neither shows significant improvement in the next couple of weeks -- and really, I'm not holding my breath -- it's time for a major change.

It's frustrating to note that the Dodgers are not fielding the best team they can among the players available to them right now. The team would be better if Pierre sat in favor of Kemp and Ethier both playing every day. The team would be better if my former favorite player, Nomar Garciaparra, went on the DL and tried to figure out what was wrong with him in favor of Wilson Betemit -- yes, Betemit -- playing 3B every day. Otherwise, it just seems like the team is treading water.

Not that that's so bad -- treading water might be good enough to get to the playoffs... after all, the team is just one game out of first. Getting to the playoffs might be the goal, but I wonder if I really need to witness another 3-losses-and-out performance like last year (and has been the Dodgers' norm since the world championship in 1988).

In order to make the playoffs, and to make a splash when they get there, the Dodgers should bench Juan Pierre and play an outfield of Gonzalez, Kemp, and Ethier. Juan Pierre should be a pinch hitter/pinch runner.


jimbilly4 said...

That last Braves game drove me nuts, especially the failure to score the lead-off triple. However, we lost that game because our bullpen had been overused previously. Rightly or wrongly, Grittle left Penny in for an inning longer than he should have because of that.

Eye on the record: 537 outs will fall well short of 560, although Juan's out pace has climbed 17 outs since June 13. If he stays on this present pace (the last month) I think he still has a shot. Alternatively there is 2nd place all time, 545 outs. 537 would actually still be good enough for 4th all time.

Looking back at my very first comment (April 2), I predicted Juan would have to hit .266/.305 for
AVG/OBP to have a chance at the record. The OBP is dangerously close and he has been below it this year many times.

Juan is actually on pace for career lows in walks (27) and highs in sacrifices (22) and GDPs (11), further evidence that this is his worst year ever. On the plus side, he is only on pace for 16 CS against 62 SBs, easily his best year as a base stealer (80% rate). This improvement in base stealing may actually be what keeps him from this most unwanted outs record...

Humma Kavula said...

In re that last Braves game... you say that we lost because the bullpen had been overused, but that's kind of my point. We cannot count on the pitching to be as good as it's been so far, which is: just about perfect. It will falter, especially during these long stretches (another one about to come), especially in the second half. As those pitching failures come, it is imperative that the offense step up and provide more than it has so far, or this team will sink quickly. Sure, you can blame the bullpen or Little for this particular loss, but it's part of a growing trend about the pitching and there's something that can be done about it on the other end of the ledger: they could score more runs.

Pierre's SBs: I believe that his SB rate will fall off. He's been on a hot streak for the last couple of weeks that won't last.

As far as the record goes... it was always a longshot. Baseball is different now than it was when Moreno set the record: he was a shortstop at a time when shortstops weren't necessarily expected to hit well. Now, such unproductivity from any position -- including center field -- isn't tolerated. If Pierre falls off his current pace even a little bit, there will be loud noises from the commentariat to let Kemp try his hand in CF while Ethier mans RF... at least a couple of games a week.

That said, this is kind of like Michael Moore talking to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about whether the US is 37th in the world in health care or 39th... it misses the larger point. Why are the Dodgers, who have more resources than 2/3 of the teams in baseball, stuck with such a poor excuse for a center fielder when better options are already on the team? It drives me nuts.

You do deserve credit for your back-of-the-envelope figuring on what Juan would need to put up to set the record. At the time, I thought your numbers were too low -- that he could do better than that and still get there. Turns out you had an inside view to what Juan would do. Kuuuuuuudos.

I will also remind everyone that, barring massive improvement, Pierre will set the Dodger record for outs made, which is currently held by Maury Wills' 1962 MVP season.

jimbilly4 said...

One last note on the Braves game... I agree with everything you say about pitching, but I am not sure it applies to that game. The Dodgers scored 6 runs, which will win more games than not throughout the league. The Braves scored 8 runs. It is a rare, rare game that a team wins when it allows its opponent to score 8 runs.

Bad pitching lost that game, not bad hitting (Pierre stranding aside). It is the 5-2 losses that are more symptomatic of a problem.

Let's hope Juan has a monster 2nd half and makes this page look foolish. Maybe he will remember how to bunt.

Did you see the Dodger Talk mention of the best bunter in Dodger history? I say no more...