Dodgers of the Decade: Right-Handed Starter

I have to say, I’m surprised that Clayton Kershaw won for top lefty starter. Sure, he was great last year, but was that limited body of work enough to make him the best starter of the entire decade? Still, the crowd has spoken, so onto the roster he goes…

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)
3B: Adrian Beltre (80%)
SS: Rafael Furcal (87%)
LF: Gary Sheffield (62%)
CF: Matt Kemp (94%)
RF: Shawn Green (79%)
LH starter: Clayton Kershaw (56%)

…and we move on to right-handed starters. There’s a lot of good options here. Do you go with Derek Lowe or Brad Penny, both very good for several years? Kevin Brown, probably the best of all but only during a short period? Chad Billingsley, who may the best of anyone named here when he’s done? Or just say “screw it, I’m voting for Darren Dreifort”? 

Right-Handed Starter

Derek Lowe (135 starts, 2005-08)
Dodger stats: 54-48, 3.59 ERA, 120 ERA+, .679 OPS against
WAR: 12.7

Brad Penny (115 starts, 2004-08)
Dodger stats: 46-33, 4.07 ERA, 106 ERA+, .741 OPS against
WAR: 10.1

Chad Billingsley (100 starts, 2006-09)
Dodger stats: 47-30, 3.55 ERA, 119 ERA+, .707 OPS against
WAR: 10.3

Kevin Brown (94 starts, 2000-03)
Dodger stats: 40-23, 2.76 ERA, 149 ERA+, .623 OPS against
WAR: 14.4

Hideo Nomo (85 starts, 2002-04)
Dodger stats: 36-30, 4.05 ERA, 97 ERA+, .734 OPS against
WAR: 3.3

Jeff Weaver (75 starts, 2004-05, 2009)
Dodger stats: 33-28, 4.04 ERA, 101 ERA+, .742 OPS against
WAR: 4.3

Chan Ho Park (74 starts, 2000-01, 2008)
Dodger stats: 37-25, 3.39 ERA, 123 ERA+, .681 OPS against
WAR: 9.9

Darren Dreifort (58 starts, 2000-04)
Dodger stats: 21-24, 4.41 ERA, 95 ERA+, .739 OPS against
WAR: 1.5

Hiroki Kuroda (51 starts, 2008-09)
Dodger stats: 17-17, 3.74 ERA, 109 ERA+, .665 OPS against
WAR: 5.4

Top three seasons
6.5 WAR Brown, 2000
5.9 WAR Penny, 2007
5.4 WAR Brown, 2003

Tough choices. It’s Jeff Weaver, right?

Who is your top righty starting pitcher?

[polldaddy poll=2442081]

In Which We Dump On the Phillies

“The Dodgers can’t win because they don’t have an ace,” we’ve been hearing for months.

“The Dodgers starting pitching is full of questions,” we read. (Seriously, Kruk? The Red Sox have zero holes? When they don’t know who their #3 starter is, and when you even point out in the same article that their middle relief has issues? ESPN: your home for idiocy.)

“The Dodgers have plenty of reasons to worry,” says Ken Rosenthal.

It’s as though this team doesn’t have the best record in the league anymore, right? And at 14-7 in September, they’re not struggling down the stretch. Yet everyone is convinced they’re going to be huge underdogs in the first round regardless of who they play.

Well, it’s looking more and more like that first-round opponent is going to be the Phillies, and they’re hardly without problems of their own. No disrespect to the Phillies, who’ve had a solid season and obviously bounced the the Dodgers in the NLCS on the way to a title last year, but this is not a team without their own faults. To wit:


lidgesweats.jpgRemember when Brad Lidge was the best closer in baseball? Yeah, me neither.

It’s never a good sign when Baseball Prospectus is doing articles on you that don’t just point out how bad you’ve been this season, but try to properly place you in the annals of historic awfulness. This is a guy who would have stood out on the 1962 Mets:

As the data in this article suggests, this is not merely a poorly closed season, but rather one of the worst two or three closed seasons in major league history, if not the worst-closed season ever. Only four closers since 1954 have been given the opportunity to save games while posting ERAs north of 6.00, a list on which Lidge currently sports the second-worst mark. There have also only been nine pitcher-seasons in the same span throughout which a reliever had the opportunity to save 30 or more games with a WXRL below -1.00 wins, a list that Lidge’s current -1.93 mark tops.

That article is a few weeks old, so the stats may have changed, but they’re certainly not getting better. He blew another save against the Marlins on Wednesday, prompting Jayson Stark to report:

But after Lidge’s latest blown-save nightmare Wednesday in Florida, one scout in attendance reported that Lidge “is pitching with little or no confidence or conviction.” And boy, is that the understatement of the millennium.

Of the 22 pitches he threw, only 12 were strikes. And of the six balls in the strike zone that the Marlins swung at, according to pitch FX, the four they put in play went: hit, line-drive out, hit, hit.

In other words, when he throws a strikes these days, it’s turned into batting practice. And every other pitch he throws is an attempt to trick the hitter into swinging at a pitch that isn’t a strike. I regret to report, however, that every team in the league has caught onto that.

Just remember that, impatient jackasses who whine whenever Jonathan Broxton is so brazen as to allow a baserunner.

Okay, so Lidge is toast. Where do the Phillies turn? If Broxton went down, George Sherrill could step right in, and beyond him there’s worse ideas than giving Belisario/Troncoso/Kuo a crack. Oh, right…

You wouldn’t believe who might have to step in for Lidge if I told you.

Former closer Brett Myers had missed most of the season with a hip injury, and had been expected to step in and help Lidge out – except he’s now sidelined with shoulder soreness. From the same Stark article, an explanation of other Phillies options:

So why haven’t the Phillies pulled the plug on Lidge? Because manager Charlie Manuel finally concluded this month that he had nowhere else to turn.

According to one friend of Manuel, the manager came to the conclusion that A) Ryan Madson isn’t ready to close, B) the rest of his bullpen is a M*A*S*H* unit and C) it’s not as if the ninth inning is the only inning the Phillies have to cover. So Manuel’s inclination was to leave Madson in his eighth-inning comfort zone and pray that Lidge figures it out.

So if not Madson or Myers, then who?

Wait for it….

wait for it…

Here’s the same scout’s surprising nomination for an emergency closer: Chan Ho Park, if his hamstring heals up: “Throws strikes. Handles pressure. And has stuff.”

Before he got hurt, Park had a 1.84 ERA over his last 34 appearances, with 44 strikeouts in 44 innings. But in 432 career trips to the old pitcher’s mound, he’s converted exactly two of them into saves.

Yes! Old friend Corpsey McPark. That’s really who you want to go into a 9th inning playoff situation with, isn’t it?

But wait, the Phillies still have some more issues to contend with!

The clock has struck midnight on Raul Ibanez.

“Hey, 33 homers and a .912 OPS? That’s pretty impressive, what’s there to complain about?”

Ah, but there’s much more to it. In much the same way I’ve been trying to explain that just because Orlando Hudson was great at the beginning of the year – and James Loney sucked for four months – doesn’t neccessarily mean that’s how they’ll be in October, Ibanez has been on an enormous downturn for two months now.

On July 20th, Ibanez hit his 25th homer in his 68th game of the year to help beat the Cubs 10-1, and on that day his line stood at .315/.374/.674 for a 1.048 OPS, his high-water mark, and he was the subject of numerous success-story articles.

Since then? Ibanez has played in 57 games and, well, let’s just say he hasn’t quite been the same: just 8 homers and a .227/.311/.419 (.730 OPS) line. Maybe he’s getting old, maybe he’s getting injured, who cares. The fact is, despite what his season long stats will say, he is not the same player now that he was in April. 

Just remember this when you read the inevitable slew of “Manny’s not the same player” stories, because his line since July 20th – remember, dealing with a bad hand much of that time – is .273/.387/.505, which may not be vintage Manny, but a .892 OPS is still 162 points higher than Ibanez. 

Their most dangerous hitter is an absolute joke against lefties – and the Dodgers will almost certainly lead off with Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw.

Ryan Howard is a beast, no doubt about it. This is his 4th year in a row topping 40 homers, and he leads the league in RBI while being 3rd in total bases and 5th in SLG. Even scarier, he’s no creation of cozy Citizens Bank Park, as his OPS on the road is actually 41 points higher, and he’s hit 26 homers on the road as compared to 16 at home.

The man simply eats fastballs for breakfast. Along with what I can only assume is a copious helping of eggs, sausage, bacon, and large animals.

So what’s the problem? Ah, yes. It’s that against fellow lefties, murderous Ryan Howard becomes one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, with a puny .197/.289/.352 line (.641 OPS) and only 6 homers.

howardwhiffs.jpgActually, I’m not exaggerating when I say that. He’s literally one of the worst hitters in baseball against lefties. Check it out – there’s 176 players in MLB this year with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Let’s look at the bottom 5 in OPS:

.612 Emilio Bonifacio  
.615 Yuniesky Betancourt
.625 Jason Kendall
.635 Edgar Renteria
.655 David Eckstein
.655 Kaz Matsui

Not a typo, friends. When Ryan Howard hits against lefties, he’s the 5th worst hitter in all of baseball. Ryan Howard is less dangerous than magical pixie elf David Eckstein, and he hits with a tiny candy cane!

Against Kershaw and Wolf, Howard has just 2 hits in 21 plate appearances. So go ahead, write all the articles you want about how James Loney is SO inferior to Howard. Against Kershaw & Wolf in the first two games, and with George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo in the pen, Howard’s a complete non-factor.

Their crappy veteran star shortstop is even worse than our crappy veteran star shortstop.

We’ve been complaining about Rafael Furcal’s mediocrity all year and begging Joe Torre to take him out of the leadoff spot; it was only a month ago where he was carrying a line of .253/.319/.344, a lousy .663 OPS. While he’s stayed off the DL, how much of an effect last year’s back surgery has had on him is anyone’s guess. Maybe he’s still feeling it, and maybe this is just what kind of player he is right now.

However, at least Furcal’s turning it around of late. In his last 24 games, he’s put up a scintillating .343/.405/.556 (.961 OPS), bumping his season OPS up to .714. If he’s really been working through his recovery all year, and only now is truly healthy, then this team might have a real weapon back on their hands – regardless of his season line.

But over in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins has been even worse. Since winning the 2007 NL MVP, Rollins’ OPS has dropped from .875 to .786 to .708, with a laughable .297 OBP. He had his own very nice hot streak in July, but has since sunk back to usual levels.

Put it this way: for most of the year, Rafael Furcal has been mediocre at best… and Jimmy Rollins has been worse. Now Furcal’s heating up, and Rollins is cooling off. Advantage: Dodgers.

*****

Again, none of this is to suggest that the series would be a pushover. Cliff Lee is of course superb, Cole Hamels is rounding back into 2008 form, and Chase Utley & Jayson Werth are dangerous weapons. It’s just to point out that the Dodgers aren’t the only team with serious questions.

***** 

I’m off to a wedding for the weekend, we’ll leave you in the capable hands of Vin. Enjoy watching 800 people in the stands at the Pirates games because of the G-20 and the team’s overwhelming – and historical – awfulness.

Stay Thirsty, My Friends

Hey, after a fun streak of 20 games in 21 days, including the longest homestand of the year, we’ve got a day off today. So take a breather, enjoy a baseball-free day, catch up on all that DVR’d pornography, and get ready to watch the boys head east to finally play some real competition in the defending champion Phillies, plus the completely nose-diving Marlins (6-14 in their last 20 games). With that in mind, let’s touch on a few outstanding topics…

* So long, Eric Milton?

Still trying to find out the details here, but from Baseball America‘s minor league transaction section:

Los Angeles Dodgers
Released:
RHP Miguel Ramirez, LHP Eric Milton, C Andrick Villalobos, 1B Chris Gibson

This is pretty surprising – Milton was holding AAA batters to a .641 OPS and had a 3.00 ERA, and it seemed almost like a given that he was going to get a shot with LA sooner or later. I believe his contract had an out if he wasn’t up with the big club by a certain date – have to check on that – but I’m kind of surprised that the Dodgers would just let him go instead of bringing him up over Brent Leach or Guillermo Mota.

* Hey, you may not like Ned Colletti, but it could be worse… much worse.

Via Dodger Thoughts, the Detroit News has a piece on the development of former Dodger prospect Edwin Jackson. It’s a nice read, and it’s good to see a former Blue phenom achieving success, but try to read this sentence without having your brain try to push its way out of your skull:

And in the waning days of August 2003, after Jacksonville’s season had ended and as Jackson packed for a trip to see family in Detroit, Bill Bavasi, then the Dodgers’ general manager, phoned a 19-year-old pitcher to tell him the short-handed Dodgers wanted him to start, the next weekend, at Colorado.

I don’t know if the reporter (Lynn Henning) incorrectly named the Dodgers GM (it was Dan Evans) or Bavasi’s position (in charge of player development) but really, it doesn’t matter – the words “Bill Bavasi” and “Dodgers general manager” should never, ever, ever, be in the same sentence.

* You can see his charisma from space. He’s a lover, not a fighter, but he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.

I’m a little late on this – both FireNedCollettiNow and SonsOfSteveGarvey have the story, complete with pictures, but the fact is that this whole “Casey Blake offended Brian Wilson” story is too ridiculous not to mention. (If you’ve missed it, basically Wilson does this goofy “X” symbol with his hands after each save, which Blake mocked in the dugout after yesterday’s game-tying extra inning home run, and now Wilson is offended because the symbol partially represents his faith and his late father.) As Kensai says, if Blake was knowingly mocking Wilson’s faith and family, then yeah – that’s not cool. But it sure seems as though Blake didn’t know that at all, and was just goofing on a stupid hand motion, which is unquestionably funny.

Besides, Wilson seems like a bit of a wingnut, even to some of his teammates:

I asked him about teammates dropping the X, including Omar Vizquel who does it every time. (Omar doesn’t know what it means. “I just like him because he’s crazy,” Vizquel said.)

Brian, maybe you should get over it. Oh, and it’s nice that you made the All-Star team and got 41 saves and all last year, but a 95 ERA+ and a 1.444 WHIP isn’t much to get worked up about. (Admittedly, he’s been much better this year.)

* Either fielding stats are still completely wonky, or we really do watch every game through blue-colored glasses. Or both.

I’ve always considered Andre Ethier to be a pretty decent right fielder, though I think in my heart I knew he was never as good as I thought he was. At second base, Orlando Hudson has looked great, though with a similar disclaimer in that it’s not all that hard to follow four years of Jeff Kent and look good. But man, does FanGraphs and their UZR rankings disagree with us…

The White Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, and Red Sox make up the bottom of the league. I’m just as surprised as you to see the Red Sox ranking low. So far Jason Bay (-8.2, the lowest in the majors amongst qualified players), Julio Lugo (-2.4), Mike Lowell (-2.3), and J.D. Drew (-2.2) are killing them. The team leader is Kevin Youkilis at 1.4 runs. As for the Dodgers, Orlando Hudson and Andre Ethier are sinking them. You hate to make assumptions based on these small of sample sizes for defense, but if it holds up over the long haul then it’s time to proclaim Hudson’s run as an excellent defender over.

The comments to their post are littered with suggestions that small sample size warnings apply even moreso to defensive ratings than offensive, but still: a big surprise to see that about Hudson.

Buster Olney, you’re too smart to be parroting the mainstream media line like this.

The absence of Ramirez has been acutely felt by the Dodgers, who are 1-3 since the outfielder was suspended.

Fact: the first of those losses was due to a total disaster by the bullpen, not because the offense “only” put up nine runs. The ’pen doesn’t implode like that, and you’re not complaining about the team being 2-2. Besides, as much as I hate to admit it… 

Credit where credit is due: Juan Pierre’s been outstanding.

Obviously, a .991 OPS isn’t going to stick for Juan. Nor is .891, .791, or .691, which he hasn’t even reached since 2006. But for as much as I bag on him around here, it’s only fair to give him credit when he’s doing well, and 9-16 with 2 walks and 0 K’s in the 4 games since Manny went down is pretty impressive. No, there’s no prayer of him keeping anything like this up, but you can’t point at left field in the post-Manny era as being an enormous black hole. Yet.

It’s the Guillermo Mota lightning round:

1) Why does no one care that Mota also got a 50-game ban for steroids? Hey, Bill Plaschke and Kurt Streeter: if you two jokers want to get up on your accusatory high horses about how the fans of Los Angeles are idiots because no one seems to be as upset as you two about Manny’s steroid test, maybe one of you could have ever once mentioned that the Dodgers currently employ one of the few players to go down for 50 games previously. So tell me, Bill, why aren’t you calling for Mota to be banned from baseball for life like you are for Manny? Is it because no one cares about Mota and writing about him won’t sell as many headlines for your dying industry? Nah, I’m sure it couldn’t be that. 

2) Why is Mota still on this team?

Let’s go back to my thoughts from when Mota was signed:

Let’s look at this fun “Gee, You Think Steroids Helped?” timeline:

2006, April-August: 6.21 ERA, 1.699 WHIP for Cleveland. Mota, your stats… woof.
2006, August 11: DFA’d by Cleveland.
2006, August 20: Acquired by the Mets.
2006, August-Septmber: 1.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP for the Mets.
2006, November 1: MLB announces a positive test from “sometime” during the 2006 season and hands down a suspension.

Gee. You think steroids helped?

At the moment, I don’t care whether Mota is hopped up on steroids, PCP, or Yoo-Hoo, because whatever he’s doing, it just isn’t working. After giving up 6 hits and 3 runs in just 2 innings to blow yesterday’s game in extra innings, his ERA now stands at 7.42 and he’s given up multiple runs in 5 of his 14 appearances. He’s 35, and his WHIP is 2.175. I don’t care about his contract – it’s over. Really, if the team ever gets down below 13 pitchers, he ought to be the man to go. Will he be? I doubt it. 

We’re coming to get you, Chan Ho!

Hey, remember when we said it was a big mistake for Chan Ho Park to leave the only team with which he’s found success to go to a hitter’s park in Philadelphia? Well, predictably, Park is 0-1 with a 6.67 ERA with the Phillies and is on the verge of being dropped from the rotation. So I’m hoping that the big offense of the Dodgers can help him with just that. Good series, though – after Clayton Kershaw vs. Park on Tuesday, you’ve got two old lefties in Randy Wolf and Jamie Moyer on Wednesday, and then a fantastic matchup of Chad Billingsley vs. Cole Hamels on Thursday afternoon.

Should be fun.

Chan Ho Park Has Not Learned His Lesson

87toppschanhopark.jpgOh, Chan Ho Park. What are we going to do with you? You would think that after parts of 15 seasons in the bigs, you would have figured out what everyone else has – that you’ve got a sickness, and not even cowbell is the cure. Once acquired, Giovanni Cararra Disorder simply cannot be eradicated. Named for the three-stint Dodger reliever who put up a 2.71 ERA in Chavez Ravine yet was sufficiently awful enough everywhere else to finish with a 4.69 career ERA, there is only one known cure for this debilitating disease: not leaving the Dodgers when you’ve proven conclusively that you will only be successful in Dodger blue.

Put another way, not doing this:

Righthander Chan Ho Park said in a press conference in Seoul today that he has agreed to a 1-year contract with the Phillies.

According to the Korea Times, Park, 35, will have a base salary of $2.5 million with incentives that could push the total package to $5 million.

There had been reports that the Phillies were close to coming to terms with Park to improve their bullpen. However, the pitcher said he opted for the Phillies in part because they viewed him as a starter.

“I was a little worried about the Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Phillies, which is hitter-friendly,” he said. “But as they considered me a starter, I signed with Philadelphia.”

Might want to get the women and children out of the room, because this is going to be a car wreck. Chan Ho, let’s take a quick look at your career and try to connect the dots. Park first appeared in the bigs with two short cups of coffee in 1994 and ’95 – and in case you’re wondering just how old Park is, the Braves lineup he faced in his first game included Deion Sanders and Terry Pendleton, while the Dodgers behind Park featured Brett Butler, Tim Wallach, and Billy Ashley. In 1996, he made it up for good as a reliever and a spot starter before becoming a full time starter in 1997, and between ’96-’98 he was very effective, with ERA+ scores over 100 each year.

parkkicksbelcher.jpgAfter a eventful but unproductive year in 1999 (come on, a dropkick of Tim Belcher and allowing two grand slams in the same inning to Fernando Tatis have to be entertaining enough to outweight a 82 ERA+, right?), Park bounced back in 2000 and ’01 with two of the best years of his career, winning 33 games and striking out over 200 in each season, along with ERA+ scores of 133 and 113. Before the 2002 season, he signed a 5 year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers, who probably should have known better.

At this point, I can’t blame Park. The Rangers offered him a ridiculous amount of money, and really,  what’s the point of coming to America if you can’t sell yourself to the highest bidder? Sure, maybe going to the launching pad that is the Texas homefield isn’t the greatest idea, but what the hell.

Of course, it’s all downhill from here. Park lasted just three and a half miserable injury-prone seasons in Texas, never once posting an ERA below 5.46. In mid-2005 he was dealt to the Padres, which should have immediately helped him – because how could you possibly have more of an upgrade as a pitcher than going from the worst AL park in Texas to the best NL park in San Diego? Yet, somehow Park’s ERA rose after the deal, and he wasn’t much better in 2006. In fact, he was so bad that in 2007, all he could manage was a minor league deal from the Mets. What’s more depressing? That a Mets squad so desperate for starters that they went through 10 besides Park wouldn’t give him another shot after he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings in his only start of the year? Or that even in AAA, he could only put up a 5.57 ERA? At 34 years of age, if that doesn’t signify that your career is done, I don’t know what does.

But, deciding to give it one more shot, he came back to where it all began, agreeing to a minor league deal with the Dodgers for 2008. Believe it or not, the healing powers of Chavez Ravine worked their magic (or maybe he just really likes smog, who knows) and Park was, well, good. Better than good, in fact, because as a multi-inning reliever and occasional 5th starter, Park proved to be an incredibly valuable member of the pen. Over the first four months of the season, Park’s monthly ERA’s were 3.00, 1.93, 2.70, and 2.12. Of course, he went completely off a cliff in August and September with ERA’s of 6.00 and 6.54, which is worrisome for a pitcher of his age, but still – four solid months is about five more than I ever expected from him. And as usual, Park loved LA (2.18) while getting hit hard on the road (4.50). This falls just in line with his career numbers, in which he’s got a 2.96 career ERA in nearly 700 innings at Dodger Stadium, but has been so bad everywhere else that his career ERA is 4.34 overall. 

All of which is a long way of explaining the very simple equation: Chan Ho Park as a Dodger = good. Chan Ho Park as anything else = awful. One would think that after so much proof over and over, that at this point of his career you wouldn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, right? That not only would you never voluntarily leave Dodger Stadium again, that you’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

And on top of all that, you go to Philadelphia of all places – didn’t we learn this lesson about flyball pitchers in bandboxes in Texas? Park’s only pitched 9 innings in the new Philly park, which I’ll admit isn’t much of a sample size, but even then it didn’t go well, allowing 12 hits and 5 earned runs.

Hey, I wish him the best of luck after how much he helped us out this year. But old pitcher + faded down the stretch + long history of failure when not a Dodger + worst pitching park in baseball can’t possibly end well, can it? Seems as though Phillies blogs The Good Phight and Beerleaguer are a bit worried as well.

That said, I look forward to him throwing a 2-hit shutout when the Phillies visit Los Angeles.

Then Again, Why Would You Ever Want to Leave Dodger Stadium?

When I wrote yesterday that it was hard to understand how the Dodgers could put together an 8-game losing streak and an 8-game winning streak back to back for seemingly no good reason, I neglected to notice that there may in fact be a good reason:

The Dodgers can’t win away from home.

It makes sense if you think about it, right? The entirety of the losing streak came on the road; the majority of the winning streak came at home. As soon as they hit the road last night, all of a sudden Cha Seung Baek (career ERA entering the game: 5.10) shuts them out over 7 innings, allowing only 3 runs. It’s pretty simple to see just by heading over to the MLB.com standings:

Fewest road wins, MLB 2008:
30. San Diego, 23
29. Atlanta, 24
28. Washington, 25
27. Seattle, 26
27. Pittsburgh, 26
25. Cincinnati, 27
24. Dodgers, 28
24. Kansas City, 28

The Royals, by the way, are 61-81, and no other team on that list is even within sniffing range of .500, much less the playoffs. Teams that have a better road record than LA include San Francisco, Baltimore, and Oakland, each of whom already have 78 losses or more.

The flip side to this is of course that the Dodgers have an excellent home record of 45-30, which is good for second in the NL behind Chicago and 6th in all of baseball. Unfortunately, if things stand as they are, the first round opponent of the Blue in the playoffs would be… Chicago, who would have home-field advantage as they’re going to finish with the best record in the National League.

So why is this? Oddly enough, the batting stats don’t really show much of a difference:

Dodgers offense @ home, 2008: .263/.328/.392 .720 OPS
Dodgers offense on road, 2008: .259/.327/.396 .723 OPS

Actually, forget “don’t really show much of a difference.” Those splits are creepily identical. However, the pitching splits… well… you might want to have the kids leave the room for this one, folks.

Dodgers pitching @ home, 2008: 2.93 ERA, .222/.283/.327 .610 OPS against
Dodgers pitching on road, 2008: 4.66 ERA, .282/.351/.433 .784 OPS against

Now, your first reaction is “it must be the pitching, because the hitters are pretty consistent no matter where they are, but the hurlers get killed on the road.” There’s definitely something to that, because a team with a pitching staff as good as the Blue have shouldn’t be giving up nearly 5 runs a game when they’re away from home, and we’ll get to that in a second. But the offense can’t get a pass on this entirely. Remember, Dodger Stadium is known as a park that is very friendly to pitchers (and this year, is ranked as the 2nd most friendly by one such rating, though I’m not entirely thrilled with ESPN’s methodology). What that means, though, is that the offense really is doing worse on the road than at home, because if you’re playing in a home park that depresses offense… having nearly identical stats on the road means that you are in fact performing worse on the road. If you were really performing exactly the same, the road stats would be higher due to not being depressed by Dodger Stadium.

Back to the pitching, though. That split between home/road goes way beyond park factors; it’s just too big. In fact, the .610 OPS against is the best home OPS of any pitching staff in the bigs. Again, the home park helps a bit, but not so much as to explain the fact that the .784 road OPS is the 20th best in the bigs. Why do the same pitchers perform so much worse away from home? Let’s check out some of the worst offenders:

Derek Lowe
Home: 2.45 ERA, .206 BA against
Away: 5.06 ERA, .311 BA against

Clayton Kershaw
Home: 3.27 ERA, .245 BA against
Away: 6.69 ERA, .312 BA against

Jonathan Broxton
Home: 2.73 ERA, .169 BA against
Away: 4.26 ERA, .273 BA against

Hiroki Kuroda
Home: 3.54 ERA, .231 BA against
Away: 4.42 ERA, .273 BA against

Chan Ho Park
Home: 1.65 ERA, .226 BA against
Away: 4.40 ERA, .288 BA against

Pretty striking, isn’t it? One notable missing name is Chad Billingsley… who’s awesome no matter where he pitches. Either way, though, if the Dodgers get into October, they’re certainly not going to be playing all their games in Los Angeles – so they better figure out what’s going on, and fix it. Pronto.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg