Chad Billingsley Does it Backwards

Chad Billingsley, on the mound, struggled through a hot day in Cincinnati, needing 106 pitches to get through five innings. The Reds got to him almost immediately when Drew Stubbs homered on the second pitch of the game, and he allowed four more baserunners and two runs in the second. Billingsley was unable to get through any of his five innings without allowing a man to reach, and only once did he have an inning where at least two didn’t reach. (It should be noted that he essentially made it through the 4th inning cleanly, but an atrocious safe call at first on Stubbs’ bunt helped put the fourth run on the board.)

Usually, that’s a recipe for disaster, because I hardly need to remind you of all the times that Billingsley or other Dodger starters have gone deep into games, allowing zero or one runs, yet have nothing better to show for it than a loss or a no-decision. But not today, because the Dodger offense exploded, led by none other than… Chad Billingsley. Billingsley homered, doubled, and walked, driving in three. He’s now got four RBI on the season, which is one less than Jamey Carroll; I bring this up to illustrate how loony it is that anyone still bothers using RBI as any sort of indicator, when a pitcher can have almost as many as an infielder with over 200 plate appearances who we all regard as valuable. He could have had more; the Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth when James Loney, hitting 8th, drew his third walk of the day. It seemed clear at the time that Billingsley was done on the mound, but rather than allow him to hit, Don Mattingly chose to send up Ivan DeJesus, who grounded out to end the threat. Personally, I would have probably let Billingsley hit, even if you knew he wasn’t going to stay in to pitch, and saved DeJesus in case you needed him later.

John Ely followed with three-plus innings, allowing two runs while generally living on the edge, but was pulled in the ninth after he walked the leadoff man. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish it off himself, because despite the score he would have recorded a save thanks to the length of his outing. Ely would have been the seventh Dodger to record a save this year; the team (and NL) record is 11, set in 1941 and tied in 1946 & 1979. Josh Lindblom then walked & hit the first two batters he saw, loading the bases with no outs and allowing both the Reds to bring the tying run to the plate and me to reach for a defibrillator. With Dodger fans nationwide panicking after seeing how the Dodgers had come back in this very park the day before, he got Paul Janish to pop out and Chris Heisey to hit a sacrifice fly, scoring one. Drew Stubbs came to the plate with two hits under his belt, but Lindblom held the door with his first major league strikeout.

Oh, and Matt Kemp homered – again – and reached base five times. I’m already going to need to revise his march on the Dodger record books that I had earlier today, aren’t I?

******

Expect as many as three roster moves before tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, with Blake Hawksworth, Juan Uribe, and Marcus Thames all ready to return. My money is on Ely, DeJesus, and Jerry Sands heading out.

Matt Kemp In Position To Set Dodger Records


After yesterday‘s two homer, six RBI outburst, Matt Kemp is currently on pace for an absolutely ridiculous season. No, really; he’d end the year with a .318/.395/.576 line, 41 homers, 38 steals (8 times caught), and a 151/74 K/BB ratio. While it’s still early and there’s hardly any sort of guarantee that he reaches those totals, we’re beyond the silly season of two homers on Opening Day setting a pace of 324 for the year, and we have enough data to know that what we’re seeing from him is for real. (It’s at this point that I’ll happily remind that I spent most of last fall and winter predicting a huge breakout year from him, though I’ll admit this is even beyond what I’d hoped for.)

If Kemp continues this tear, these team records are within his reach:

* Best offensive season by a Dodger center fielder. For a team with the heritage of the Dodgers, they really haven’t had a ton of memorable center fielders. Other than Duke Snider, who has 7 of the top 14 seasons by OPS+, you have a few good years from Jimmy Wynn or an occasional standout year from a Pete Reiser or a Brett Butler. Kemp, playing in a tougher hitter’s park than Snider had in Ebbets Field, is just a hair out of the all-time lead.

Rk Player OPS+ Year Age G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Duke Snider 171 1954 27 149 679 120 199 40 130 84 96 .341 .423 .647 1.071
2 Matt Kemp 170 2011 26 59 248 36 69 15 46 27 55 .318 .395 .576 .971
3 Duke Snider 169 1955 28 148 653 126 166 42 136 104 87 .309 .418 .628 1.046
4 Duke Snider 165 1953 26 153 680 132 198 42 126 82 90 .336 .419 .627 1.046
5 Pete Reiser 163 1941 22 137 601 117 184 14 76 46 71 .343 .406 .558 .964
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2011.

You know what stands out the most to me in that list? The numbers in bold are stats that led the league, and Snider struck out more than anyone in 1954… with just 96. How times have changed.

* Most homers in a season, non-crazy-offensive-environment-of-early-2000s division. This is cheating just a bit, I admit, and Kemp isn’t going to reach Shawn Green‘s club record of 49. But take a look at the top five homer seasons in Dodger history, won’t you?

Rk Player HR Year Age PA R H RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Shawn Green 49 2001 28 701 121 184 125 72 107 .297 .372 .598 .970
2 Adrian Beltre 48 2004 25 657 104 200 121 53 87 .334 .388 .629 1.017
3 Gary Sheffield 43 2000 31 612 105 163 109 101 71 .325 .438 .643 1.081
4 Duke Snider 43 1956 29 652 112 158 101 99 101 .292 .399 .598 .997
5 Shawn Green 42 2002 29 685 110 166 114 93 112 .285 .385 .558 .944
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2011.

Call it a league diluted by expansion, call it PEDs, call it a juiced baseball, call it whatever you want, but it’s hard to ignore that in a franchise that’s been in existence for well over a century, four of the top five power years came in a five-season stretch in one of the most notorious offensive eras in baseball history. Besides, Beltre’s a fine player, but has only once ever even reached even 28 homers in any other season. That’s not to set those accomplishments aside – neither Green nor Beltre was ever really at the forefront of any real enhancing worries – but they were clearly playing a different game than Kemp is now, even though it was less than a decade ago. Besides them, Snider’s record of 43, which stood for 44 years, is within Kemp’s reach.

* Top five most valuable season in team history. Kemp’s bWAR is at 2.9 right now, and we’ve played 36.4% of the season. Extrapolate that over 162 games, and he’d be at ~7.9. That’d put him behind only Beltre’s 2004, Mike Piazza‘s 1997, and Wynn’s 1974.

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age PA H HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Adrian Beltre 10.1 2004 25 657 200 48 121 53 87 7 2 .334 .388 .629 1.017
2 Mike Piazza 9.3 1997 28 633 201 40 124 69 77 5 1 .362 .431 .638 1.070
3 Jim Wynn 8.6 1974 32 656 145 32 108 108 104 18 15 .271 .387 .497 .884
4 Pedro Guerrero 7.8 1985 29 581 156 33 87 83 68 12 4 .320 .422 .577 .999
5 Willie Davis 7.6 1964 24 652 180 12 77 22 59 42 13 .294 .316 .413 .729
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2011.

Good lord, look at Wynn’s K/BB rate that year. 104/108? Unreal.

* RBI by a Los Angeles Dodger, non-Tommy Davis-unreal-fluke-year-division. In 1962, 23-year-old Tommy Davis, playing mostly left field and third base, drove in 153 runs. Davis had a quality career in parts of 18 seasons, yet never once drove in 90 runs in any other season. How’d that happen? Davis’ career-high 230 hits certainly helped, though I’m guessing hitting behind Maury Wills (104 SB) and Jim Gilliam (.372 OBP) didn’t hurt his cause either. Fluke? Fluke. Kemp, on pace for 126, would have the second-highest mark of any LA Dodger.

Rk Player RBI Year Age Tm PA R H HR BB IBB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Tommy Davis 153 1962 23 LAD 711 120 230 27 33 6 65 .346 .374 .535 .910 *758/9
2 Shawn Green 125 2001 28 LAD 701 121 184 49 72 10 107 .297 .372 .598 .970 *9/83
3 Mike Piazza 124 1997 28 LAD 633 104 201 40 69 11 77 .362 .431 .638 1.070 *2/D
4 Adrian Beltre 121 2004 25 LAD 657 104 200 48 53 9 87 .334 .388 .629 1.017 *5/6
5 Frank Howard 119 1962 25 LAD 538 80 146 31 39 10 108 .296 .346 .560 .906 *9/7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2011.

(Yes, RBI are stupid. But don’t think that the media and a majority of fans wouldn’t make a big deal over a large RBI total.)

*****

Clearly, Kemp’s having a season for the ages, but it might be even better than that. One thing I couldn’t really check for was “best season by a guy surrounded by minor leaguers.” Beltre had Green, Jayson Werth, Milton Bradley, and Paul LoDuca around him in 2004. Snider had the classic “Boys of Summer” lineup on his side. Other than Andre Ethier and possibly Jamey Carroll, who does Kemp have? Not nearly enough, but in a season that is quickly slipping away, at least we have Matt Kemp.