Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Jose Hernandez

The top Dodger bench players of the 21st century


By Jon Weisman

Justin Turner is having a terrific season off the bench for the Dodgers, punctuated by his game-winning homer Thursday to beat the Padres.

He’s had me wondering who the top players off the bench for the Dodgers have been in recent years, so I put together the following chart of the best Dodger reserves from the 2000s (choosing names mainly from this list):

Bench players

Notes: I tried to avoid considering players who were meant to be starters but held back by injuries or late-season acquisitions who immediately became full-time players. Def is a Fangraphs statistic measuring defense.

For all the above numbers, the idea of who’s the best Dodger reserve of the 21st century is arguably a matter of taste.

  • Chad Kreuter has the highest Wins Above Replacement. Backing up Todd Hundley and forced into action for significant stretches, Kreuter had a great on-base percentage while also throwing out 19 of 40 attempted baserunners with one error.
  • His defense always unassailable, Alex Cora put together his finest offensive season in 2002.
  • With 425 plate appearances in 2009, Juan Pierre stretches the definition of bench player, but he did begin the season as the fourth outfielder before Manny Ramirez’s suspension.
  • Jose Hernandez in 2004 and Dave Hansen in 2000 were probably the Dodgers’ top pure offensive players off the bench this century before this season.
  • The back-to-back seasons from Olmedo Saenz in 2004-05 certainly make him a charmer.

Against that group, both Turner and Scott Van Slyke stand tall, and there’s an argument to be made that if you could pick only one infielder and one outfielder off the Dodger bench from the 21st century, it would be those two.

Is positional panic overblown?

Los Angeles Dodgers workout

By Jon Weisman

Many worry about potential uncertainty at second base for the Dodgers, and even team officials acknowledge that it’s a position that could be in flux in 2014.

It’s worth remembering, however, that one position won’t make or break the team.

Here’s a look at the offensive production the Dodgers received at every position (excluding pitcher) relative to the National League over the past 10 years, using the statistic sOPS+.

  • An sOPS+ of 100 indicates average production at the position.
  • Above 100 indicates above-average offense.
  • Below 100 indicates below average.

(Click each chart to enlarge.)

Positions chart - sOPS+

As you can see, even in playoff years, the Dodgers have had multiple positions with below-average production compared with the rest of the NL. In 2009, their best regular season in the past 10, the Dodgers had particularly disappointing offense from first base, where James Loney (.761 OPS) didn’t stack up against most of his peers.

In 2013, the Dodgers had a below-average sOPS+ at half their positions, and in 2004, they were underwater everywhere but second base (I bet you’ve forgotten how awesome Jose Hernandez was), third base and center field.

The numbers in the next chart indicate the Dodgers’ NL rank at a given position in a given year.

Positions chart - rank

In the Dodgers’ five playoff appearances over the past 10 seasons, their average rank in offense at a given position has been no worse than ninth in the NL. It helps to have across-the-board strength. Nevertheless, note that the Dodgers’ positional performance in 2008, when they won a weak NL West, was barely distinguishable from 2005, when they lost 91 games in an even weaker NL West.

It goes without saying that pitching and defense play enough of a role in a team’s fortunes that the offense at one position shouldn’t be a game changer, any more than greatness at one position will turn a losing team into a champion. (Hello, 2005 Jeff Kent.)

Obviously, the Dodgers want to be the best they can be at second base, whether it’s Dee Gordon, Alex Guerrero, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner or anybody else.  For that matter, there are other positions on the Dodgers that might not be offensive powerhouses. But you always need to keep the big picture in mind.

In any case, this is all on virtual paper anyway. Here’s one last chart — the primary starters for the Dodgers over the past 10 years, with the number of games each played at the position. More than a few times, you’d be hard-pressed to call anyone a regular. (Of course, we knew this already.)

Positions chart - players

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