A tangible reason for the Dodgers’ success: defense

The Dodgers lead the majors this year in Ultimate Zone Rating, according to Fangraphs (via Baseball Musings), by a significant margin. Tony Gwynn Jr., Mark Ellis and James Loney lead the contributions.

* * *

At my Variety blog The Vote, I have a post about Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men” that, if you’ve seen the episode, you might find worth your time.

  • Anonymous

    I would say the entire defense has been good to excellent – even Gordon, while he’s made some sloppy and even bonehead plays, has also made some spectacular efforts and should improve with maturity.  M Ellis and Gwynn, though, won’t be seeing much playing time in the near future.

    • Anonymous

      Gordon has been below replacement level at defense.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, stats can be fun – and funny, too. I mean, I know Kemp was slowed for a bit in CF with the hammy and all, but I had to laugh seeing him down on the bottom of the list with his negative UZR. Small sample size yes – but him at the bottom of the list still a bit amusing.

    • http://twitter.com/cargill06 casey stewart

      Wait, what do you see that actually makes you think he’s a good defensive CF’er?  I love Kemp and all, but if you look at him defensively unbiased he takes horrible routes to balls and misplays a large number of fly balls.  He’s ranked at the bottom of CF in UZR for multiple years, he’s not a big league CF

      • Anonymous

        Tell the guys who gave him Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2011 that he’s not a “big league CF”.

      • Anonymous

        Kemp wouldn’t be the first player to get a Gold Glove for his offense, but I can think of 29 other teams that would be happy to have him in their outfield and, for most of them, center would be fine.

    • Anonymous

      I just want to make sure you understand, ASW, that it’s not small sample size and that all the claims casey made that were not opinions are true. I live in the East, not sure if I’ve ever seen Kemp live, don’t feel I can fairly judge routes on the computer screen etc. so I am skeptical about fielding stats. A few weeks ago, I was looking at UZR from a link Jon had. They had 2 or 3 LF’s that I think are terrible at the top as the best. I decided, not for the first time, that either I don’t know enough to judge fielding or these people are crazy.

      • Anonymous

        Wait, are you saying you agree that Kemp is “not a big league CF”? Look, I never claimed that Kemp was one of the best defensive CF in the game. I also know that GG awards are pretty much popularity contests – as evident by Ozzie Smith winning 15 in a row or whatever it was, when clearly towards the end of his career, there were much better defensive SS’s getting passed over in his favor. The GG voters seem to pick a guy, and stick to him, just because he won it the year before or are hugely popular players – Greg Maddux another example. On the other hand, I don’t see them giving GG’s to terrible defensive players either. To claim Kemp is “not a big league CF” shows a lack of baseball knowledge in particular, and a disconnect from reality in general, because as anyone can see, Kemp has been roaming CF for the Dodgers for several years now….

        • Anonymous

          you misread my comment. I said casey is correct in saying that Kemp had negative fielding stats last year,for example, in the so-called advanced fielding stats like UZR iirc certainly in some of them. I also said when I look at which players are considered good, often I think they are not good; but, I don’t know if it’s me or them that has it wrong. 
          I said nothing about Kemp’s fielding.
          Never would have written to you if you hadn’t attributed Kemp’s negative UZR in 2012 to small sample. 

          • Anonymous

            Gotcha, mike - The point I was making in the original comment was simply that some stats, when looking at only the stat itself and not the whole picture, are either misleading or simply too ”specialized” to hold much meaning. So many stats these days… does WAR also take into account a players defense at his position? If so, wouldn’t really matter how bad Kemps’ performance is rated in this UZR madness.

          • Anonymous

            On Basball-Reference last year Kemp tied for 3rd in MLB (first in the NL) in WAR. The breakdown of the components that went into that was 55 for hitting, 5 for baserunning, -2 for GIDP (average is set to 0) -5 for fielding, 2 for playing CF. 
            The highest WAR was Ben Zobrist. He got 29 for fielding 34 more than Kemp. Since Zobrist was mostly a 2nd base-man last year, I checked Mark Ellis. He got 11 for fielding with a high in 2008 of 23. These are,of course, all counting stats unlike batting average. Zobrist was 16th in AL MVP voting.
            Also beating Kemp was Jacoby Ellsbury who had +2 in GIDP and +7 in fielding beating Kemp by a total of 16 in these 2 categories.Kemp beat him by the same amount in the others but he beat Kemp in WAR by 0.2. I don’t know how WAR is calculated.

  • Anonymous

    Is it safe to say you’re recharged and re-inspired?  I know in theory blogging about the dodgers when they are doing well should be great.  Reality differs (in my opinion) in that it’s a bit boring.  Instead of looking for silver linings while acknowledging the teams failures; this team, despite the usual array of injuries and bunch of rag tag veterans with bigger roles than they should probably hold, continues to defy the odds, and well, that gets boring after awhile.  No angst.  No frustration.  No drama or “chemistry” issues showing up in the paper that are able to be dissected.

    Hopefully you adjust well to blogging about a consistently winning team for an extended period of time.  I’m pretty sure this team is going to the W.S.   To lose this blog before the promised land would in my opinion really, really, find universal type judgment severely wanting.   That the story won’t also be told by this blog, by you, totally inspired and enjoying.  Hopefully this year’s dodgers tale spill into your family and career.

    • Dave Alden

      I’ve wondering if a modified Tolstoy quote might explain Jon’s state of mind, “Winning teams are all alike; every losing team is losing in its own way.”  And it’s blogging about the that difference that offers a challenge.

      • Anonymous

        I recently read Anna Karenina while I was recovering from being sick – good one. I like the paraphrase.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    I wouldn’t say winning in and of itself has kept me from blogging – it was the posts after losses that were the first I let slide. 

    I’m also not sure how re-charged I am – just a post about a pizza place and two other one-paragraph posts. 
    What’s been going on in the past two weeks is complicated, but in part a function of just an incredibly busy period of time for me. I will say that it felt good just to confess Saturday that I wasn’t up to the task at this moment in time. 

    • Anonymous

      I can appreciate the pressure of deadlines and other complications of regular life, but adding a daily game thread might be a good idea.

      • Tycho

        A daily game thread would be much appreciated.   Jon, have you ever thought about asking LA Dodger historian Mark Langill for a post or two.  I’d love to get some perspective as a somewhat younger fan.

        A wished (involved) post would be some of the ideas that the boffins and engineers may be having about improving Dodger Stadium.  As always, thank you for the community you have created.  Dodger Thoughts is friendly, fun, educational, and sometimes even sublime.   

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    The Associated Press is overwrought. In its story about yesterday’s game, here’s the lead sentence:

    “The injury-riddled Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t missed a beat, thanks to a formidable bench that has more than compensated for recent injuries to regulars Matt Kemp , Mark Ellis , Juan Uribe and Juan Rivera .”
    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/gameflash/2012/05/27/41200_recap.html?sct=mlb_t2_a13#ixzz1wBkXMfKi

    Nobody in his right mind would call our bench “formidable.”

    • Anonymous

      I would say it has been formidable in their absence. Whether it will continue to be so is open to question. Of course, I would also argue that Uribe’s absence has contributed significantly to the team’s success.

  • foul tip

    Eovaldi’s promotion means the Dodgers will have 3 RH starters, at least for a while, instead of 3 lefties as has been the case all season.

    That got me wondering about pitchers who have pitched professionally with either hand .

    There seems to be one, Pat Venditte, currently with the Yankees at AAA. 

    Wiki link describes a scene from a game that probably delighted fans and some players, umpires not so much. 

    He went cat and mouse with a switch hitter several times.  Umps eventually told the batter he had to declare a side and stick to it.  Which gave Venditte the edge.  He struck out the batter.

    Wonder if the umps had discretion at that time to tell Venditte he had to declare first, giving the batter the edge?  Wiki says a rule was passed later, named after Venditte, in which switch-pitchers now are required to declare first.

    Item refers to video of this, which I didn’t search for.  Someone else might want to.

    Venditte throws overhanded as high as 94 from the right and has a curve and slider.  Lefty, he sits 85 sidearm and also throws a slider.  Article says he’s not considered a top MLB prospect due to his age and lack of  velocity.

    But there are quite a few pitchers who can’t hit 94…..so….?  At 85 lefty, that might be an issue.  If so, maybe he wouldn’t pitch lefty in the majors?  His minors numbers are good.  He’s been an All-Star.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Venditte

    Also, there seems to have been one ambidextrous pitcher to appear in a MLB game in the moden era.  In 1995,  very near season’s end, Greg A. Harris switched while completing a hitless inning, walking one.  He doesn’t appear to be in baseball any longer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Harris_%28pitcher,_born_1955%29

  • foul tip

    Vandy pulled off a rare triple steal v. Florida in the SEC tournament–

    http://deadspin.com/5913596/vanderbilt-pulled-off-the-rare-triple-steal

    • Anonymous

      I recall the Dodgers doing this with Maury Wills in the lead, and I think one of the other runners was Willie Davis, but I can’t remember the third. Might have been Gilliam.

  • foul tip
    • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

      I saw that lip-dub proposal video that’s linked there yesterday. It’s spectacular. Strongly recommend anyone who’s a romantic at heart watch it. Even if you’re not, think of the organization required to pull it off.

  • Anonymous

    Χέρε ης ωηατ Η βας αβλε το υνδερσταντ φρομ θε χαρτς.  Ιτ αππεαρς θάτ Λονευ χελπς θε Δοδγερς βιν μορε θαν Ματτινγλευ σεεμς το αππρεκιατε.

    • Anonymous

       Ditto.

    • foul tip

       It’s all Greek to me.

      • Anonymous

         Cómo si fuera chino…

  • Anonymous

    James McDonald pitched eight scoreless innings v. the Reds today, and now has an ERA of 2.20.

  • Anonymous

    On the whole, I think our defense has been very good to excellent for a number of years. We just haven’t been hitting as regularly as we have this year

  • KT

    Jon
     
    Sent you an e-mail to your variety account. Let me know what you think

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Thanks for the offer, but not necessary. 

  • Anonymous

    On Baseball-Reference last year Kemp tied for 3rd in MLB among position players (first in the NL) in WAR. The breakdown of the components that went into that was 55 for hitting, 5 for baserunning, -2 for GIDP (average is set to 0), -5 for fielding, 2 for playing CF. 
    The highest WAR was Ben Zobrist. He got 29 for fielding 34 more than Kemp. Since Zobrist was mostly a 2nd base-man last year, I checked Mark Ellis. He got 11 for fielding with a high in 2008 of 23. These are,of course, all counting stats unlike batting average. Zobrist was 16th in AL MVP voting.
    Also beating Kemp was Jacoby Ellsbury who had +2 in GIDP and +7 in fielding beating Kemp by a total of 16 in these 2 categories.Kemp beat him by the same amount in the others but he beat Kemp in WAR by 0.2. Ellsbery was 2nd in the AL MVP but the highest position player. I don’t know how WAR is calculated from these components.
    So far this season Kemp is negative in fielding, baserunning, and GIDP. In fact, he has -5 in fielding already matching his -5 of the whole season in 2011 and on a pace for -15. He had -37 in 2010

  • Anonymous

    Interesting stuff, mike – thanks for the info.
    Konerko still tearing it up for the White Sox all these years later.
    I couldn’t even remember how we lost him – had to look it up.
    Jeff Shaw, huh? Bummer.

    • Anonymous

       I never liked that trade. Jeff Shaw was grossly overrated.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    Yes defense is a big part of the game. It may not be far behind offense and pitching in its part in success. This is a reason to think before throwing guys like Loney under the bus (this is very different from fantasy ball)