Which Dodger hitters are most likely to have a good game at the plate? Which are most likely to have a bad game? This isn't the same as asking which players have the best stats and worst stats, though we'd expect players with good stats to end up having more good games. We know Russell Martin is better than Juan Pierre, and yet Pierre has played some excellent games and Martin has played some bad games.
I took each Dodger with a significant number of multi-at-bat games and put their game logs into a spreadsheet where each game could be graded on an A-F scale. The grading scale was simple, based on times on base, with a bonus given for extra bases earned, such as from doubles, stolen bases, and home runs. Caught-stealings are taken out of times on base.
Here is the basic grading scale based on percentage of times reaching base by hit, walk, or hit by pitch:
F -- 0%
D -- 1%-25%
C -- 26%-50%
B -- 51%-75%
A -- 76%-100%
One grade boost for 1-2 extra bases
Two grade boost for 3+ extra bases
The only way to get an F is to never get on base, or perhaps to get on base once and then get caught stealing. Juan Pierre had a game where he never got on base by his own effort but had a stolen base to boost that game grade to a D. A game where a player gets only a walk or a single with no steals will be a D game. If a player reaches first base twice or has a double then it will likely be a C game. B games are something like 2-4 with a walk, or 2-5 with a double, or 1-4 with a home run.
If a player hits a home run in a game, he's guaranteed at least a B, because of the two grade boost for the 3 extra bases the home run provides, and the D grade guaranteed by getting on base once. If a player hits a home run and gets on base at least one other time he'll get an A. A player without power or speed will have a hard time picking up many A's, as he'll have to be nearly perfect in getting on base to get one.
It's a tough grading scale, which is appropriate, given that baseball is a tough game in which even the best players may have an O-fer. Here are the 12 Dodgers who have played the most and their grade distributions. Only games with at least two plate appearances are graded.
As expected, every hitter ( with a few sample-size exceptions ) will play a significant number of games at every grade level. A slightly better than average hitter, such as Jeff Kent, will have a nearly symmetric grade distribution. It appears to take a very good hitter indeed to earn more of the good grades than the bad grades, at least the way I've set up the grading scales.
How do the Dodgers hitters rank in percentage of games in which an A was earned?
Martin delivers a special game almost a quarter of the time. Loney and Kemp, though in far fewer games, are right there with him. At the other end, excellent games from Nomar and Abreu are rare and very unexpected. Even Pierre does significantly better than these two. Nomar seems to have no power or speed left, which accounts for his poor showing here.
How do the Dodger hitters rank in percentage of combined A or B level games?
Even the best hitters are going to have C, D or F games more than half the time. This just shows how truly awesome Kemp has been in limited playing time, with nearly half his games being excellent or very good. Loney and LaRoche also stand out here for me. Juan Pierre is down to last place.
How do the Dodger hitters rank in avoiding D or F level games? Part of being a good hitter is having those terrific games, but just as important is avoiding the awful games the drag down a team's offensive effort. A low percentage of D or F games and high ranking on this list are good.
Kemp is a juggernaut! After a third on the first list, he's had two first place finishes among Dodger hitters. Martin only has a bad game a third of the time. He really is the best. ( In a subjective, non-specific way. ) On the other hand, Nomar has a bad game more than half the time.
How do the Dodger hitters rank in avoiding F level games? This is essentially the same as asking how often they can avoid making an out every time up at the plate.
Loney has reached base at least once in every game in which he has at least two plate appearances. That sort of thing won't last, but it shows how good he's been so far. In this category Martin finally shows some weakness: he fails to reach base in 1 of 5 games. The reason Betemit has lost his third base job is his 1 in 3 games failing to reach base. Betemit is penalized severely by this grading method, though, since games with only one plate appearances don't count for anything. Kemp also finally shows some weakness, with almost a quarter of his limited games earning him an F.
These game grade distributions aren't a predictive tool at all. To answer the question of how a player is likely to do, you'll still want to start with the various batting percentages and also look at things like line drive rate and strikeout rate. These distributions are just another way, I hope a fun way, of seeing who has contributed offensively, and who hasn't.
Kent and Gonzalez are the only Dodgers to place in the top half of every list. These are the steady, mostly producing veterans. Martin, Kemp and Loney also all do very well, especially on the A and AB lists, showing again the promise and ability of these exciting young players. LaRoche finishes ahead of Abreu on all four lists, once again pointing out the absurdity of LaRoche being in AAA while Abreu plays on the big club. Do I even need to mention the showing of Pierre and Garciaparra? Nah. I'd rather look at Martin's numbers again.