14 September 2007

The Battle for Survival: Attack of the Snakes

At this moment it appears that the Dodgers can lose 5 more games the rest of the year and still have a good shot at making the playoffs. After they've lost 5 games, every game becomes a must-win. ( Scroll down to the What If section of this link. ) That's just 5 slip-ups allowed in 5 series remaining: one way of looking at it is that the Dodgers are allowed just one loss per series from now on. First up is three with the Snakes.

Eric James Byrnes -- LF, Vinny's favorite

age: 31
bats: right

0.296 -- 0.365 -- 0.485

Even the Snakes' best healthy hitter reflects their team weakness: low on base percentage. Not that 0.365 is bad, but when it leads the team --- that's bad. Orlando Hudson is at 0.376, but he's out for this series. The Snakes have the lowest team OBP in the major leagues, at 0.317. It just isn't right that they're in first place in the NL west. But so it goes. You have to win the games, and they've done so.

Byrnes has stolen 45 bases in 51 attempts. He leads the team in runs scored with 95. Keep him off the bases!

Stephen Oris Drew -- SS

age: 24
bats: left

0.229 -- 0.303 -- 0.362

His BABIP is 0.265; his line drive rate is 15.4%. The approximate rule is that a player's BABIP should be 12 points higher than his line drive rate. His is 11 points higher. So while his batting average might be a little better with average luck, it's mostly his own doing that it's so low. Lots of strikeouts and softly hit balls.

How soon can we declare Drew a bust? It is too soon now, I think. But if he's sporting this kind of line next year at this time, then yes I would call him a bust. I think he'll be better next year, though. But perhaps never as good as people thought he might be.

Chris Brandon Young -- CF

age: 24
bats: right

0.237 -- 0.294 -- 0.472

He did it! He reached 30 home runs, as I thought he would at the beginning of August. He only had 11 through the end of June, so it was never a sure thing. But he had 8 in July, 9 in August, and 2 so far this month. So, the power is there. But so are the strikeouts.

As with Drew, his low batting average can't be attributed to bad luck. His line drive rate is 14.2%; his BABIP is 0.258. Matt Kemp, another young, ultra-talented, strikeout prone hitter, has a line drive rate of 15.1%, with a BABIP of 0.403! Hmmmm ...

Even though Young has a sub-Pierre on-base percentage, his home runs make him dangerous. He's likely to be a very good player in a few years. I will be annoyed if he gets more votes than Loney in the rookie of the year voting, though. Young can't touch Loney's rate stats. I'm sure those 30 home runs will speak louder than Loney's +0.900 OPS, though.

Justin Irvin Upton -- RF

age: 20
bats: right

0.239 -- 0.297 -- 0.413

His numbers look very similar to Drew's. You know, bad. You can't really say Upton has provided much of a boost to the Snakes since his call-up.

But while Drew's numbers should make one wonder about his future, that's not the case at all with Upton. First of all, these are just a month of games, and second of all, he's only 20. He's going to plague the Dodgers for years to come, most likely.

Upton already has 3 triples.

Mark Andrew Reynolds -- 3B

age: 24
bats: right

0.268 -- 0.330 -- 0.473

I still don't believe that he's for real.

He broke in with a spectacular May, a 1.299 OPS kind of May, with home runs, RBIs, a few walks to keep the pitchers honest, and buckets of base hits. He struck out less than a fifth of the time that magnificent month. And then June comes and the bottom falls out of those buckets. In June he's striking out about a third of the time, and his OPS is a dreadful 0.519. July is better, but not by much. OPS is 0.631, though by then he was striking out even more, three-eighths of the time!

Now, if things had continued this way into August the Snakes would likely have started looking for another option at third base, and his line wouldn't look as decent as it does now. But he turned things around in August, with a 0.944 OPS. So, everything is great, right? Well, maybe not. Just as in July, he struck out three-eighths of the time in August. So Reynolds hasn't solved his strikeout problems yet. He obviously can be a dangerous hitter, but he's going to have trouble sustaining a good performance if he strikes out so much.

Second Base

Octavio Augie Ojeda -- switch -- 0.250 -- 0.313 -- 0.329
Emilio Jose Bonifacio -- switch -- 2 for 10

The Dodgers don't have to face Webb in this series. Instead of Orlando Hudson at second base it's these guys. There's really no excuse not to win at least two out of three this weekend.

First Base

Conor S. Jackson -- right -- 0.281 -- 0.364 -- 0.456
Anthony Christopher Clark -- switch -- 0.242 -- 0.289 -- 0.495

Jackson and Clark share time at first base. If only one of them could play at shortstop instead!


Christopher Ryan Snyder -- right -- 0.247 -- 0.333 -- 0.428
Miguel Angel Montero -- left -- 0.229 -- 0.291 -- 0.408

It's easy to forget with Martin playing everyday that for most teams it's normal to have two light hitting catchers who split the playing time.

Douglas P. Davis v Brad Penny

So Doug Davis has never allowed a run to the Dodgers, or at least none in the last three years. So what? He's never had to face James Loney. Last night my wife observed that Loney often looks like he's about to cry. Yeah, he is. Weeping for all those pitchers he's abusing. Loney's line drive rate and BABIP, by the way? 22.4% and 0.357. He's the real deal.

Doug Davis is a lefty, which is part of why Loney has never faced him, I guess. I hope Grady doesn't start Hillenbrand at first or something, or I will have to write a mean limerick about him. Does "him" refer to Grady or Hillenbrand? Both.

It's time to break through against Davis. With Penny pitching it's imperative that the Dodgers win this game. Davis walks a lot of batters and is no stranger to the home run; he's not unhittable.

Eisler Livan Hernandez v Derek Lowe

How is Lowe's hip? His groin? His hand? Have Broxton and Repko been sedated and tied up in a basement to prevent further injury to Lowe? Is the Cascada cued up and ready to go for Saturday's start? If he doesn't hear those lyrics as he's warming up on the mound before the first inning his sinker just isn't right. 'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling. And every time we kiss I swear I could fly ...

Lowe may give up some runs, but the Dodgers have to score more. Livan sucks. ERA is almost 5. His strikeout rate is worse than Maddux's, but unlike Maddux he walks a lot of batters. He's even given up 31 home runs! If the Dodgers don't win Saturday they don't deserve to go to the playoffs.

Edgar Gerardo Gonzalez v Esteban Loaiza

This is why I've been so adamant that the Dodgers have to win the first two games. Loaiza. Managed by Little. A deadly combination.

That said, I'm not sure Loaiza is any worse than Gonzalez. Gonzalez is another homer prone pitcher. You know, the Dodgers need to make sure all their big boppers start Sunday. Loney at first, Kemp and Ethier in the outfield, Betemit at third ... d'oh!

Well, at least they got a lights out reliever for Betemit ... d'oh!

Okay, at least they got someone whom Vinny can call "the doctor" for no good reason other than a rhyme ... whew. Finally a silver lining.

Anyway, I see no reason why the Dodgers can't sweep the Snakes, other than the fact that the Snakes are pure evil who want to devour all happiness from this world.

Oops, I'm ranting and incoherent. Better cue up the Cascada to calm myself down ...

Your arms are my castle, your heart is my sky.
They wipe away tears that I cry.

As long as all the snakes in that castle are killed, I won't have any tears.

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