31 May 2007

A LaRoche Lament

by Joshua Worley

Since Abreu was called up, here are the starters at third base:

22 May --- Abreu
23 May --- LaRoche
25 May --- Abreu
26 May --- Betemit ( Abreu at second base )
27 May --- LaRoche ( only two PA for Andy )
29 May --- Abreu
30 May --- Abreu

As I feared, the Dodgers have tried to jam three young players into one spot. The least deserving of the three has played the most, and the one with the highest ceiling has seen scant playing time. Only on one day have two of the three played at once. Since Abreu was called up, Abreu has 20 plate appearances to LaRoche's 7.

Of LaRoche and Abreu, who has shown the better plate discipline and contact skills in their brief stints at the big league level?

Player -- PA -- SO -- BB
LaRoche -- 52 -- 4 -- 15
Abreu -- 20 -- 3 -- 0

Things can change, but these samples, small though they be, create a stark contrast. LaRoche belongs in the big leagues far more than Abreu does, based on what they've done so far this year and what they've done previously. And yet who is likely to be sent down if Kuo is called up to make Saturday's start?

One objection to LaRoche's walks is that they've all come with him batting eighth in front of the pitcher. But this just isn't true. Here is a breakdown of his 15 walks:

4 --- intentional pass with pitcher up next and first base open
2 --- pitcher up next; first base open
2 --- pitcher up next; first base occupied
5 --- non-pitcher next; first base open
2 --- non-pitcher next; first base occupied

At least 9 of these walks are legit, including the situations when either a man is on first or a non-pitcher is up next. I would argue 10 of them are, since one of the walks with the pitcher coming up and first base open was actually a bases empty walk with one out which set up the sacrifice and then a possible RBI situation.

If we remove the 5 suspect walks, then LaRoche still has 10 walks in 47 plate appearances. That's terrific plate discipline. Why won't the Dodgers play LaRoche more?


Russ Martin is in a small slump. During his last four games he's 2-16 with a walk and 5 strikeouts. The reason I call it a slump, and not just a statistical fluctuation, is the strikeouts. Prior to these last 4 games he only had 6 strikeouts in the month of May, so he's nearly doubled his monthly total of strikeouts the last 4 games.

It still might be merely statistical fluctuation, I guess. I'm not advocating that he needs to sit tonight, or tomorrow. And he did have that home run last night, so it's not all bad for Martin at the bat. I'm just keeping an eye on his batting line: if he has a few more hitless, high strikeout games then it could be a sign of something wrong. In the meantime I hope he gets his normal rest this Sunday or Saturday, but not before then.

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