Fire Jim Tracy

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Friends, Old and New

I think almost everyone goes through at least one period in junior high or high school when they make the transition from an old set of friends to a new one. It can be a little awkward but before you know it, everyone's settled in and comfortable in their new shoes. This same sort of transition is a constant in baseball: the continuous wheeling and dealing means that fans are always welcoming new players and saying goodbye to departing ones. With the Dodgers, this fact of baseball life has taken on a dramatic tone, with Paul DePodesta's bold restructuring of the roster and the media's reaction to DePodesta new (to Dodger fans) approach. While DePodesta's moves have understandbly stirred up controversy and emotion in the media and fanbase, ultimately everyone cares about one thing: the team's success.

While the team's overall record may be the ultimate measure of DePodesta's performance, there are other ways to evaluate DePodesta's transactions. In what I hope will be a regular feature (probably on the new site's sidebar), I think a fun and meaningful way to gauge the effectiveness of DePodesta's moves would be to compare the 2005 stats of old and new Dodgers. More specifically, let's try to compare the performance of those players that have left Los Angeles since DePodesta started his job in mid-February 2004, and those that have come on board since then. Here are the two lists I came up with:

Hitters

Old Friends: Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca, Steve Finley, Juan Encarnacion, Alex Cora, Jose Hernandez, Dave Ross, Koyie Hill, Jolbert Cabrera, Dave Roberts, Tom Wilson, Bubba Trammell, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Romano

New Friends: J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent, Milton Bradley, Jayson Werth, Jose Valentin, Hee Seop Choi, Jason Phillips, Paul Bako, Norihiro Nakamura, Olmedo Saenz, Jason Grabowski, Antonio Perez, Ricky Ledee

Pitchers

Old Friends: Kaz Ishii, Jose Lima, Guillermo Mota, Tom Martin, Jason Frasor, Tanyon Sturtze, Steve Colyer, Scott Stewart

New Friends: Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Elmer Dessens, Scott Erickson, Kelly Wunsch, D.J. Houlton, Buddy Carlyle


Got that? A few clarifications: I included players like Sturtze and Frasor because they have played at the big-league level with their new teams, even though they never did so with the Dodgers. Also, I didn't count DePodesta resignings like Odalis Perez and Cesar Izturis because they were originally acquired under old regimes. Also, even though Milton Bradley and Jayson Werth aren't exactly "new friends," I counted them as such because they were acquired by DePodesta. I think this is everyone--if I have missed anyone, please post a comment and let me know. Also, if you think my rationale is flawed somehow, please speak up.

So how have the two groups compared in 2005?


Hitters

Old Friends: .271/.352/.407

New Friends: .322/.388/.539

Pitchers

Old Friends: 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 6.05 K/9, 1.73 K/BB

New Friends: 4.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.45 K/9, 2.33 K/BB


So, if the first week of the season were a reliable sample size (it's not), we could say that DePodesta's new batch of players have significantly outperformed the old batch in every category except strikeouts per nine innings. A couple of casual observations: 1) the old pitchers' numbers would be even worse if not for Sturtze's decent start in the Bronx (9.1 IP, 2.89 ERA) (Sturtze, by the way, was just flat-out released in 3/04); 2) Scott Erickson drags the new guys' numbers a bit, especially in the K categories (4.1 IP, 0 K).

Let's see how these two groups compare as the season goes on. Though it won't be the best indicator of DePodesta's success, I think it can help us better evaluate the new crop of players he's brought in--especially when Times writers drop names like Lo Duca and Cora in their Dodger critiques.

UPDATE: This is also going to be a regular feature, and it's substantially related to this subject, so I might as well lay it out right here.

How have the Dodgers evolved, statistically, since the Dan Evans days? Let's compare the team's hitting and pitching stats in four discrete stages: 1) the 2003 season, 2) pre-All-Star-break 2004; 3) post-All-Star-break 2004; 4) the 2005 season.

I chose the All-Star break (July 11) for 2004 because I wanted to evaluate the team's 2004 performance before and after The Trade (July 30). It's not a perfect split, but I couldn't find an easy way to determine the team's stats after July 30th. Post a comment and fill me in if you know a way to find this out.

Here are the numbers:

Hitting

2003: .243/.303/.368
2004: .268/.333/.418 (first half)
2004: .254/.330/.429 (second half)
2005: .282/.355/.457

Pitching

2003: 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.96 K/9, 2.45 K/BB
2004: 3.96 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.53 K/9, 1.94 K/BB (first half)
2004: 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.68 K/9, 2.18 K/BB (second half)
2005: 4.50 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.75 K/9, 1.65 K/BB


I'll save the substantive analysis for a later post when the 2005 sample size becomes meaningful. Those 2005 pitching numbers aren't pretty, though--keep saying prayers for Penny's safe and effective return.

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