Mailbag #10: Comebacks, A-Gon Vs. Shift, Puig’s Power, Giancarlo Dreaming

Jorge: “The Dodgers don’t seem to have many “comeback” wins and yet are still at the top of the National League. Is this something to be concerned about?”

The Dodgers have 18 comeback wins on the year, with their biggest being four runs. But I think you’re referring to the fact that they’re 0-45 when trailing after seven and 0-48 when trailing after eight. They’re also 1-46 when trailing after six.

Unsurprisingly though, teams rarely comeback due to a combination of lack of outs, blowout games, and facing the other team’s best relievers. So around the league, teams are 210-1413 (13%) trailing after six, 141-1486 (9%) trailing after seven, and 79-1575 (5%) when trailing after eight.

But the Dodgers are obviously rock bottom, so it’s a worthy question. Looking at their ‘Late & Close’ performance, their line is .233/.308/.377/.685 compared to .259/.328/.393/.721 line overall. That seems to indicate that they suck in the clutch, but due to leverage issues and facing superior pitchers, the whole league basically sucks more ‘Late & Close’, and the Dodgers are actually 4% better than average. That’s not to say that’s what they should strive for since it’s still worse than they should be doing given their overall batting line, but it’s fair to say that losing at the rate they’re losing when trailing is likely more coincidence than anything else.

I might be convinced that it’s a problem if they “deserved” to be losing so many games by being well below league-average in the clutch, but they’re at least deserving of the league-average rates of comebacks found above.

Kelly: “My impression is that use of the shift against Adrian Gonzalez this year is just killing him. Do the statistics bear this out, and what’s the answer?”

You appear to be right on it, actually.

Against the shift in 2013, Adrian Gonzalez posted a .232 BABIP, but without the shift, he posted a .328 BABIP. Through May of 2014, the trend continued. A-Gon had a BABIP of .233 against the shift, but a .417 BABIP without it on.

Not hard to see the trend there, right?

So what should he do? Bunt, probably.

I asked our pal Tom Tango if he had some numbers for the occasion and, not surprisingly, he did. He looked specifically at situations with the bases empty.

“If you are successful on a bunt with bases empty,” he wrote, “you add +.26 runs. If you are out, it’s -.16 runs. If you are successful 60% of the time, then you have added: .26 x .60 – .16 x .40 = +.092 … And that’s pretty much the limit to what an exceptional hitter can add (with the bases empty). Therefore, ANYONE who can bunt at least 60% of the time into an open field (with bases empty) should do it every single time.”

Of course, he has tried in the past, usually unsuccessfully. But if he put in the time to work on it, especially with his diminishing power, it’s well worth it for him to try for a cheap single.

Eric: “Any theories on what happened to Puig’s power? Is there reason to believe it could be permanent?”

I assume you mean his lack of a gaudy homer total this year.

I think the main problem is the thought that Yasiel Puig is a home-run hitter and not a line-drive hitter who happens to have godly wrist and hand strength. Actually, his swing is often flawed in terms of power, relying on said strength to generate bat speed instead of using his lower-half better.

Other than that, though? Nothing. Part of the reason for his lack of homers is because he doesn’t hit enough fly balls (33%), but that’s also why even when he’s struggling he’s able to keep his batting average afloat with ground-ball singles and infield singles.

To further reassure you, realize that in 2013 his average fly-ball distance was 290 feet. This year? It’s 293 feet. Furthermore, there’s only been 13 homers, sure, but he has 32 doubles and nine triples, many of which have hit near the base of the wall or off the wall. And he’s also had a bunch of deep fly balls to the track in opposing stadiums that would’ve been out in Dodger Stadium.

*BAT FLIP*

“Shit.”

So I’d say the primary issues with his home-run power are: 1) not being a fly-ball hitter 2) bad luck.

Haven’t been using Twitter enough for the mailbag, I think.

Anyway, among qualified relievers from 1988-2014, Kenley Jansen is second in FIP, third in xFIP, and 10th in ERA.

The guy ahead of him in FIP is Craig Kimbrel. The two guys ahead of him in xFIP are Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. The nine guys ahead of him in ERA all either have like 100 innings (Wade Davis, Alex Torres, Jean Machi, Brad Boxberger) or have already made All-Star teams (Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Mariano Rivera, Jonny VentersPedro Martinez).

So yeah, I feel confident that the second-best reliever in the league over the last five years is the best reliever (not even closer) to not make an All-Star team.

Jansen is good at throwing ball.

Royce: “How many bases would Usain Bolt steal?”

Sam Miller actually took at look at this for Baseball Prospectus.

Probably not as many as you think.

Eric: “How much trouble are the Dodgers in if they face a lefty-heavy starting pitching staff in the playoffs?”

Was gonna laugh at this question because the Dodgers mash left … wat.

So the Dodgers have a .732 OPS against righties and a .685 OPS against lefties this year, even with Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, and Scott Van Slyke on the team? Basically.

While Dee Gordon, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford are all expected to have a significant platoon splits, the rest of the lineup is supposed to mash lefties. Van Slyke has a 1.033 OPS against them this year and Hanley sits at a .934 OPS, so they’re doing their jobs, but Puig is down to .750 after 1.001 last year, and Kemp is at .712 after .948 for his career.

The good news is that a partial season of platoon splits is nowhere near enough to determine actual talent level, so you’d expect Puig and Kemp to hit lefties better in the long-run, which would do an awful lot to even out the platoon splits you’re concerned about.

Scott: “Why do aging stars (in this case, Hanley and Kemp) insist upon playing positions they can no longer play at a respectable MLB level? Why not just accept the easier position where you can perform better and focus more on your hitting?”

Ego.

And that’s not necesarily a knock on them either. You and I can wonder why they’re so stubborn, but when you’ve been the best at something most of your life, told you’re the best, and treated like you’re the best, it’s hard to reflect realistically on yourself.

Look at Matt Kemp: he’s a two-sport star in high school, he signs with the Dodgers after they beg/convince him, he becomes a top prospect, he get called up and sets the world on fire for a bit at 21, and as recently as two years ago, the same fans that are booing him now were chanting “M-V-P” every time he came to the plate.

“Now you want me to move? For Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke?”

I mean, I get it.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your thought process, and it’s on the clubhouse staff and front office to make those tough choices for the player, like they eventually did. But in terms of WHY they are so unwilling to reveal injury, move positions, or change mechanics?

Pride, ego, whatever. All of it makes you illogical, and I get why it happens.

Philip: “I’m reading Ken Rosenthal’s ‘Free Giancarlo Stanton‘ and wondering what it would take for the Dodgers to get him? Let’s pretend he hits the market this winter and the Dodgers have not moved anyone prominent. Would he be worth Pederson, Seager, Urias, and Ethier, for example? Feel free to play around with combinations for what is only a thought exercise at this point.”

Giancarlo Stanton hits free agency in 2017, so you’re buying two years of team control, but most importantly, two years to get a gigantic extension done.

Anyway, I went over this on Twitter before and would give a leg for him. I saw some balk at parting with Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias for Stanton, and I think those people are nuts. And yeah, this is coming from a guy who has a tendency to be too protective of prospects.

Sure, the mentioned trio might, MIGHT total more value than Stanton at some point in their careers — I like all three of them a lot, and that’s the risk you take — but we’re talking about a present-day, proven MVP candidate who is bombing gigantic homers in the sixth-hardest park to homer in. I love prospects and I love what their future may hold, but you’re not taking another Yasiel Puig (production-wise) in the corner of the outfield for three guys who have proven nothing so far? It’s like, come on.

Actually, my primary concern would be that the trio wouldn’t be enough. The Marlins want to win now and Seager/Urias might still be two years away, so I have to think the Cubs would put together a better package of young talent and also have the money to extend him. Perhaps the Red Sox and others I’m forgetting off the top of my head as well.

Honestly, given that he’s highly unlikely to leave Los Angeles until he’s in his mid-30s if the Dodgers trade for him, I’d be willing to give up just about anybody that doesn’t detract significantly from the team’s ability to win immediately.

This is just shameless rosterbating, but:

Dee Gordon – 2B
Yasiel Puig – CF
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
Giancarlo Stanton – LF
Matt Kemp – RF
Hanley Ramirez – 3B (*Ducks*)
Russell Martin – C (Ooh! Next mailbag!)
Erisbel Arruebarrena – SS (?)
Clayton Kershaw – P

Appealing Opening Day lineup, no? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t do about anything to watch Stanton hit the ball over the left field pavilion five times a year.

I hate thinking about this question because I picture Stanton as a Dodger bombing the ball and then weep when I realize it’s a pipe dream. The Marlins are probably a healthy Jose Fernandez from making the playoffs in 2014, so if they trade Stanton, it’ll probably be in 2016 right before he hits free agency.

But yeah, he’s worth it. And now that I’ve written this, he’ll lose both his legs and the three mentioned prospects will put up 100 WAR or something.

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Bob Hudgins: “I just signed up here and commented. I don’t see my second one. I’m getting weird replies. I don’t understand.”

Welcome to Dodgers Digest. I don’t understand either.

Randall Bombard: “Time for the MLB to create the MDL (Mentally Disabled List) so teams have a place to put those overpaid players who, while not physically injured, are obviously mentally not with the program and need to rehab. This would give teams a place to put these players for 15-60 days and bring up a minor leaguer who is interested in playing the game. Players on the MDL could then be assigned to play rehab games in the minor leagues to determine if they are prepared to bring back to the MLB. At least then fans will be able to watch a game with players that are excited to be on the field.”

DodgerFan1234: “Why does Mike Petriello make me ask the question “so what” after reading? I only say that because his articles are empty of any informative value.”

Of note, there was a suggestion to fire Mike Petriello in the mailbag as well. Neither Daniel Brim, Dustin Nosler, nor I have gotten a single request for our resignation.

JUST SAYING YOU GUYS

I’M DA REAL MVP

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David: “Maybe this is less of a mailbag question than it is a polite suggestion, or even a request. But I was wondering to myself whether you, Chad, Daniel, and Dustin ever see what one of you has written and then think to yourself, ‘Actually, that’s not how I feel at all!’

If two of you ever had polar opposite opinions on a topic of interest to your readers, maybe you could do a point/counterpoint piece similar to the ones that Marc Normandin and Grant Brisbee did over at the SB Nation main site about the Red Sox and Matt Kemp. It made for good reading. Anyways, great work on the site as always!”

We generally don’t disagree in broad terms, which is part of the reason we decided to join up. All our sites were basically saying vaguely similar things about the news.

That said, I do think we disagree on a less significant level, but there hasn’t been so large of a gap as to warrant the type of piece you suggest yet. I think Dustin and I disagree with Mike over the value of Jesmuel Valentin, for example, but I mean, is it that important to any of us? Not really.

I love the suggestion, but patience. An issue will pop-up eventually, but we’re not ESPN, we’re not gonna fabricate debate for the hell of it.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times