Statistics Are Stabilizing: Hitter Strikeout Rate

Reversing the strikeout trend

Reversing the strikeout trend

It’s pretty difficult to write the type of posts that I prefer to write this time of year. There’s only so many analysis-heavy posts that one can write while saying “this probably isn’t real because the sample size is too small.”

Statistics stabilize (meaning that what we’re seeing is more “true talent” than “random variance”) at different rates. This week, we crossed one of the first thresholds. Hitter strikeout rate takes about 60 plate appearances to stabilize. As of now, most of the healthy regulars are across that boundary (with the exception of Kemp, Crawford, and Turner). This is the first semblance of something real to look at, even if it’s only mildly predictive of a hitter’s final season total.

One thing that’s important to note before looking at individual players is that strikeout rate is up league-wide. Strikeout rate has been increasing steadily for years, but so far this season the average non-pitcher rate has taken a big jump. Last season, the league-wide strikeout rate was 19.3%. So far this season, it’s 20.3%. As Vin Scully said during last night’s broadcast, “today we have guys who strike out during the National Anthem.” A small uptick in a player’s strikeout rate would go along with this trend and wouldn’t be of much concern, but a large increase is still something to worry about.

Juan Uribe

Year PA K%
Career 5729 18.0%
2013 426 19.0%
2014 74 23.0%

Uribe has always been a free swinger, but this year he’s seen a 4% increase in strikeout rate. If his 1.3% walk rate (which needs another 46 plate appearances to stabilize) doesn’t rebound, he could be in trouble once his .415 BABIP regresses.

Dee Gordon

Year PA K%
Career 731 16.3%
2013 106 19.8%
2014 62 14.5%

Dee has seen the biggest reduction from last year of all of the Dodger regulars. With his skill set, it’s even more important that he puts the ball into play. A significant amount of this reduction is due to the fact that Gordon is being platooned. His career strikeout rates show the effect; he’s struck out 19.2% of the time against lefties and 15.1% of the time against right-handed pitchers. I’m still skeptical of his offense going forward, but the first “real” data that we have to look at is very positive.

Hanley Ramirez

Year PA K%
Career 4835 16.6%
2013 336 15.5%
2014 75 17.3%

Hanley’s strikeout rate is up by 1.8%, but the magnitude of the increase is similar to the increase that’s occurring around baseball. There isn’t much to be concerned about here.

Adrian Gonzalez

Year PA K%
Career 5750 17.5%
2013 641 15.3%
2014 79 24.1%

Gonzalez’ strikeout rate has increased significantly this season, though as long as he keeps a 157 wRC+ to go along with it there’s not a lot to worry about. Mike covered Adrian’s changing swing characteristics here. This is definitely something to keep an eye on, but so far current success outweighs the strikeout rate increase by itself.

Yasiel Puig

Year PA K%
2013 432 22.5%
2014 61 21.3%

So far this season, Puig’s overall offense has been pretty uninspiring. However, the only statistic that has enough plate appearances to be stable, strikeout rate, is showing positive things. A rate moving downwards while the league average has moved in the opposite direction is impressive. More impressive is his spike in walk rate, though he’s only halfway to the stabilization threshold there.

Andre Ethier

Year PA K%
Career 4598 17.1%
2013 426 19.0%
2014 62 22.6%

Ethier’s offense has been a complete mess this season (only a 69 wRC+ even after his home run yesterday). His strikeout rate jumping by that magnitude is concerning, especially since he’s getting more favorable platoon match-ups.

While some players are showing a nice rebound in strikeout rate, as a team the Dodgers’ rate is 4.7% higher than last year, an increase even sharper than the baseball-wide jump. Right now, they have the third highest non-pitcher strikeout rate behind the Astros and the Mets. It’s early enough in the season that there’s a chance it could rebound, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as the season moves forward.

Here’s What We’ve Learned About the 2014 Dodgers So Far

greinke_2014-02-27

Nothing, really. Not a damn thing. With the exception of some unexpected injuries, we’ve learned very little. The Dodgers have played 10 games, which is 6.1 percent of a 162-game season. But two of those games, even though the Dodgers won them both, barely seem like they counted. They happened half a world away, a week before spring training ended. They feel like glorified exhibitions. I barely even remember what happened, if for no other reason that I barely watched them in the middle of the night. If we set those aside, the Dodgers have played eight games out of a 160-game season. That’s five percent.

Now think about how little five percent represents.

It’s the first 21 seconds of “Hey Jude.” It’s the first six-and-a-quarter minutes of Star Wars. It’s America’s history up through the presidency of John Adams. John Adams died in 1826. It’s Vin Scully’s career before Jackie Robinson even retired. (I’m making that up, obviously, because there’s no way to know for sure how many games he’s done. He’s completed 64 seasons of Dodger baseball since his 1950 debut, but for the first decade of his career the season was only 154 games long, and for decades he’d miss games here and there due to other obligations, and in recent years he’s lost many games to national broadcasts and a reduced travel schedule, so I’m spitballing 64 years times an average of 130 games, five percent of which is 416 games.)

Five percent is a nickel, in terms of a dollar. A dollar is barely anything. A nickel is nothing. Five percent of a season is also nothing, and that fact that this five percent comes in the first week of April, as opposed to the third week of July or the second week of September, doesn’t really change that. Nothing that has happened so far should significantly change your perception of what these players are. Salvador Perez isn’t going to hit .458/.594/.625 all season for Kansas City. Chase Headley is probably not going to hit .125/.152/.125 all year for San Diego.

That means that there’s little reason, good or bad, to think about these Dodgers differently than you did 10 days ago. Luis Cruz once hit .414/.452/.690 over an eight-game stretch. Brandon League once faced 34 batters over eight games and allowed three hits and zero runs. At roughly the same time, Hanley Ramirez was hitting .167/.194/.267 over an eight-game stretch. You may not have noticed any of that happening at the time, but if you did, it didn’t — or shouldn’t, at least — have changed what those players were. It’s eight games. It’s five percent.

Now that doesn’t mean we have to totally ignore what we’re seeing, of course. The games still count. I’m thrilled that Dan Haren has looked so good, and though I don’t imagine he’ll be keeping up that 0.75 ERA, I’m encouraged. I’m very impressed by how dominant Chris Withrow has been; I don’t suddenly think he’s the best reliever in baseball. I like that Matt Kemp seems to be healthy; I like what we’ve seen from Dee Gordon, though it’s going to take a lot more than a week to make me a believer. I can’t ignore that Kenley Jansen has had a tough week; it doesn’t change that he very well might be the best reliever in baseball, or at least very close to it.

Two weeks ago, the Dodgers were the overwhelming favorites in the NL West. They’re on a 97-win pace. That the Giants have gotten off to a good start, and that Clayton Kershaw and A.J. Ellis and Brian Wilson have landed on the disabled list, have changed those odds slightly. Injuries are one thing you really can take away from a small sample, and each start given to Paul Maholm or whomever instead of Kershaw hurts. But I don’t think anyone would argue that the Dodgers aren’t still the favorites.

We have some directional knowledge, now. We have things to look out for, and starts both good and bad to keep an eye on. But what we don’t have is enough information to make real serious value judgements, and yes, I am talking to the guy on Twitter asking me when the Dodgers will dump Jansen to go with Withrow. If you didn’t think that a week ago, you shouldn’t now. If you did think that a week ago, seek help, immediately.

It’s five percent. We should keep that in mind, because small samples can play havoc on rationality. Well, except for the fact that that not-mascot is creepy as hell. You don’t need a larger sample size on that.

Dodgers 5, Padres 1: Dan Haren, offense good enough

haren_dan_4.2.14The Dodgers’ offense finally woke up a bit in a 5-1 win in San Diego on Wednesday night. They recorded the most hits (nine) in a game since March 23 in Australia (13).

Carl Crawford led off with a double, followed by a Yasiel Puig bunt up the first base line. The play was almost challenged by the Padres, but manager Bud Black thought better of it. Hanley Ramirez came through with a grounder down the left field line for a 2-run double. Ramirez came into the game in a 1-for-15 slump. Adrian Gonzalez followed it up with an RBI single off Padre starter Tyson Ross.

Haren retired the first nine batters he faced, just like Zack Greinke did the night before (was actually 10). Haren ran into a little trouble in the fourth inning, just like Greinke did. He allowed a run on two singles and a questionable catcher’s interference call. Haren came back to strike out Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable (favorable strike three call) to get out of the inning.

Haren’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

He threw 63 percent (58 of 92) of his pitches for strikes, but wasn’t sharp the entire night. However, it was good enough to help the Dodgers win their fourth game of the season.

Despite the offensive “outburst,” the Dodgers’ 3-4-5 hitters (Ramirez, Gonzalez and Andre Ethier) are a combined 8-for-55 (.145) through five games. That’s going to have to improve going forward — and it will. Also, the Dodgers should be getting Matt Kemp this weekend, so it will definitely change.

It was a pretty dull game otherwise. The Dodger bullpen threw three scoreless innings, with Chris Perez pitched the final frame without incident. I have a feeling it would have been him — not Kenley Jansen — regardless of the score. Jansen had a rough go of it last night and has pitched in three of the five Dodger games thus far.

Also, this was the 11th consecutive game in which the Dodgers have held the Padres to three or fewer runs in a game.

The Dodgers make the long trek back to Los Angeles and are rewarded with an off day on Thursday before starting their first series of the 2014 season against the Giants. Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the hill against Ryan Vogelsong.

Dodgers @ Padres, March 30, 2014: Grand Re-opening

petco_park_opener2013After a strange week, we’re back to baseball that actually counts, and it’s here to stay. The Dodgers re-open their 2014 campaign in San Diego tonight, and I have to say that the starting lineup looks pretty good against right-handed pitching. After all of the talk about Yasiel Puig leading off, he’s batting behind Carl Crawford tonight. The team also continues to be cautious with Dee Gordon, batting him eighth, which is absolutely the correct spot right now. The Dodgers are not scheduled to face any left-handed starters during the series against the Padres, so expect to see this lineup, or something similar, for the next few games. Of course, the real way to judge the lineup is in visual form.

Dodgers 
Padres
5:05pm PT
San Diego, CA
LF
Crawford
SS
Cabrera
RF
Puig
RF
Denorfia
SS
Ramirez
3B
Headley
1B
Gonzalez
2B
Gyorko
CF
Ethier
1B
Alonso
3B
Uribe
LF
Medica
C
Ellis
CF
Venable
2B
Gordon
C
Rivera
P
Ryu (L)
P
Cashner (R)

After some concerns about Hyun-jin Ryu‘s big toe, he will start for the Dodgers tonight. Ryu started out his 2014 season about as well as possibly could have, pitching five scoreless innings, striking out five batters and walking one. This is the second consecutive regular season game started by Ryu. Eric Stephen has some fun trivia about consecutive games started by the same pitcher here.

The opening day starter in San Diego’s injury-plagued rotation is Andrew Cashner. The right-handed pitccher had a good season last year after transitioning to a starter’s role for the first time. He allowed an ERA- of 86, FIP- of 93, and xFIP- of 96 in 175 innings. As a starter, he started pitching to contact, striking out just 6.58 batters per nine innings last season. If there’s anywhere he can get away with that style, it’s Petco Park. Cashner had an odd spring this year. He gave up 4 earned runs in 15-2/3 innings (good for a 2.30 ERA), but he gave up five un-earned runs on top of that.

Tonight’s game will be on ESPN, which has its benefits and drawbacks. Most fans can actually watch this game in the Los Angeles area, which wouldn’t be the case if the game was on SNLA. However, that means we also have to hear even more opinions on Puig. It’s also a landmark game for Major League Baseball; it is the first game with the new expanded replay rules in effect. We’ve seen some exhibition games with the new rules, but there seemed to be a lot of experimentation since the games didn’t count. The baseball world will watching to see if (and how) the new rules are put into effect.

If the Dodgers win tonight, they’ll have three wins before 27 major league teams have played, which wouldn’t be a bad place to be.

Here’s Your 25-Man Dodger Roster

jansen_dustinVia press release, the Dodgers announced their 25-man Opening Day roster. As we discussed yesterday, Clayton Kershaw‘s trip to the disabled list removed any remaining intrigue, since removing him and Jose Dominguez opened up two necessary spots.

For posterity, here it is:

Pitchers (12):

Zack Greinke
Dan Haren
J.P. Howell (L)
Kenley Jansen
Brandon League
Paul Maholm (L)
Chris Perez
Paco Rodriguez (L)
Hyun-jin Ryu (L)
Brian Wilson
Chris Withrow
Jamey Wright

Catchers (2):

Drew Butera
A.J. Ellis

Infielders (5):

Dee Gordon (L)
Adrian Gonzalez (L)
Hanley Ramirez
Justin Turner
Juan Uribe

Outfielders (5):

Mike Baxter (L)
Carl Crawford (L)
Andre Ethier (L)
Yasiel Puig
Scott Van Slyke

Infielder/Outfielder (1):

Chone Figgins (S)

Disabled List (6):

Josh Beckett, RHP (15-day, right thumb contusion, retroactive to March 19)
Chad Billingsley, RHP (15-day, right elbow surgery, retroactive to March 19)
Scott Elbert, LHP (60-day, left elbow surgery, retroactive to March 22)
Onelki Garcia, LHP (60-day, left elbow surgery, retroactive to March 22)
Matt Kemp, OF (15-day, right ankle surgery, retroactive to March 19)
Clayton Kershaw, LHP (Teres Major strain, retroactive to March 23)

I don’t know why it entertains me so that Figgins is listed separately, but it does. It really does.

Your First Chance To See Zach Lee At Dodger Stadium

80 stirrups!

80 stirrups!

I like Stephen Fife just fine. I do. Really! He’s turned himself into quite a useful depth starter to have around, the kind of guy you feel fine with throwing six or eight times a year, the kind of guy you never want to rely on, but know you’ll need. But… we know what he can do. We know what he is. And so when I heard that he’d be unable to start tonight due to illness, and that Zach Lee would go instead, I can’t say I was alllll that disappointed.

Angels
Dodgers 
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
RF
Calhoun
LF
Crawford
2B
Kendrick
RF
Puig
1B
Pujols
SS
Ramirez
CF
Hamilton
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Freese
CF
Ethier
DH
Ibanez
3B
Uribe
SS
Aybar
C
Ellis
C
Conger
SS
Gordon
LF
Schuck
P
Lee

Lee is still one of the team’s top prospects, and he hasn’t yet made his MLB debut yet. He hasn’t even pitched in a game at Dodger Stadium tonight, making tonight interesting. Or at least it would be, if anyone cared about the Freeway Series, and wasn’t dying for the season to get started already. (Lee, at least, gets to avoid Mike Trout. Can’t complain about that.)

Lee is backed by what is very clearly the Opening Day lineup, and the fact Dee Gordon is hitting eighth is a very good sign. It’s almost as good a sign as Adrian Gonzalez being back in there, showing that last night’s hit by pitch is nothing to worry about, and to continue the flow of good news, Clayton Kershaw played a game of catch that was termed as “a step forward,” leading to speculation that he’ll start Friday’s home opener, though Don Mattingly wouldn’t comment on that.

Again, the game is on both SNLA and FSW, and again, it’s meaningless spring training baseball. Tomorrow night, this series adjourns south to Anaheim for even more meaningless baseball, before the season finally gets rolling on Sunday night, when the Dodgers and Padres will have the baseball schedule to themselves.

Dodgers announce Australia roster, with a few surprises

Alex Guerrero's time on the 25-man roster will be short -- for now.

Alex Guerrero’s time on the 25-man roster will be short — for now. (By: Dustin Nosler)

About 30 minutes after the rosters were due, the Dodgers announced the 25 players who will be active for their 2-game series in Australia against the Diamondbacks.

Dodgers
Diamondbacks 
1:30 am PT
Sydney, Australia
RF
Puig
CF
Pollock
2B
Turner
2B
Hill
SS
Ramirez
1B
Goldschmidt
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Prado
LF
Van Slyke
LF
Trumbo
3B
Uribe
C
Montero
CF
Ethier
SS
Owings
C
Ellis
RF
Parra
P
Kershaw
P
Miley

The biggest surprise is Tim Federowicz getting option to the minor leagues in favor of Drew Butera. The only reason Federowicz was optioned is because he had options and Butera doesn’t. If the Dodgers don’t have to make a 40-man roster decision before they have to, then why would they? Odds are, Butera doesn’t see the field because A.J. Ellis will start both games down under.

I don’t think the Dodgers have to worry about teams lining up to claim Butera when he’s eventually designated for assignment (they’ll need the 40-man roster spot eventually), but they’re just delaying the inevitable.

Jose Dominguez, Seth Rosin and Chris Withrow also made the roster, solely because the Dodgers only brought three starting pitchers for the two games. Dominguez and Withrow will likely be optioned prior to the stateside opener, and the Dodgers will have to decide what to do with Rosin at that point. Odds are, Brandon League will remain on the disabled list longer so the Dodgers can keep Rosin around.

Alex Guerrero also made the cut, but like Dominguez, it’s a temporary move as he’ll be optioned to the minors after the Dodgers’ trip in favor of Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.

Here’s the full roster.

Pitchers
Jose Dominguez
J.P. Howell
Kenley Jansen
Clayton Kershaw
Paul Maholm
Chris Perez
Seth Rosin
Paco Rodriguez
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Brian Wilson
Chris Withrow
Jamey Wright

Catchers
Drew Butera
A.J. Ellis

Infielders
Chone Figgins
Dee Gordon
Alex Guerrero
Adrian Gonzalez
Hanley Ramirez
Justin Turner
Juan Uribe

Outfielders
Mike Baxter
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Scott Van Slyke

Disabled list
Josh Beckett
Chad Billingsley
Matt Kemp

Exemptions
Zack Greinke
Dan Haren
Brandon League

Paternity
Carl Crawford

Reassigned
Zach Lee
Joc Pederson
Miguel Rojas

=====

The pregame starts at 1 a.m. on SportsNet LA, and first pitch is scheduled for approximately 1:45 a.m. Pacific time. It can be seen on locally SNLA. It will also air on MLB Network and MLB TV outside the Los Angeles coverage area. Those in the LA area who don’t have SNLA can listen to the game on AM 570 Fox Sports LA.

The Only Dodger Lineup You’ll Ever Need

It’s weird to think that there’s real Dodger baseball that counts tonight. In my head, I know it does. I know the Dodgers will either be 1-0 or 0-1 after Clayton Kershaw faces Wade Miley, but it still doesn’t seem real. Maybe it’s because the game is being played in the middle of the night — about 45 minutes later than you think it will be, by the way —  or that most Dodger fans won’t be able to watch it even if they wanted to stay up, or that every other team is still sending out the usual collection of backups and minor leaguers into spring games in Florida and Arizona.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts. Chad will be by later with an actual game thread for those of you brave (?) enough to stay up and watch the game, thus reminding me for the 40th time how great it is to have someone based in Hawaii on staff. The point of this post isn’t really to wax about the opening, as it is, of the Dodger season.

It’s to share this GIF of tonight’s starting lineup, from our friend “akaTheConman,” which I believe is his real name. After watching this one billion times, I think my favorite part keeps changing. At first, it was “KERSHAW REMOVES HIS SUNGLASSES TO SHOW ANOTHER PAIR OF SUNGLASSES!”, but that quickly changed into Juan Uribe doing some sort of dance, then A.J. Ellis from what I believe to be Zoolander. Now? Now it’s Steamboat Adrian Gonzalez. Now and forever.

Bless you, Conman. You’re doing the lord’s work.

The Mark McGwire effect on Dodgers’ hitters

Mark McGwire is a really good hitting coach. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Mark McGwire is a really good hitting coach. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Even at their best, the Dodgers have never been known as an offensive juggernaut along the lines of the Cardinals, Rangers, Red Sox or Rockies. They’ve had some really good hitters to don the uniform, but they could never really pull it all together at the same time.

The 2014 Dodgers could be one of the team’s best offensive units in their history. The talent absolutely has a lot to do with a proclamation like that. Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez are all Top-10 players at their positions, while the their “secondary” guys include the likes of Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier (a hopefully healthy) Matt Kemp and a rejuvenated Juan Uribe. But how much credit should go to hitting coach Mark McGwire?

It might be too early to tell, as there is only one season of data available. But it would appear McGwire has the Dodger hitters heading in the right direction.

In 2011, also known as Kemp’s shoulda-been-MVP-season, the Dodgers ranked ninth in the National League in runs scored (644), sixth in batting average (.257), seventh in on-base percentage (.322) and 12th in slugging percentage.

In 2012, the Dodgers ranked 13th in the NL in runs scored (637), eighth in batting average (.252), ninth in OBP (.317) and a paltry 15th in slugging (.374).

Year 2011 NL Rank
2012 NL Rank
2013 NL Rank
Runs scored 9 13 7
Batting average 6 8 3
On-base percentage 7 9 3
Slugging percentage 12 15 6

Under McGwire’s watch last season, the Dodgers improved in every category. They were seventh in the NL in runs (649), third in average (.264) and OBP (.326) and sixth in slugging percentage (.396). They finished sixth in slugging percentage despite hitting just 138 home runs (10th in the NL). While the rate statistics wouldn’t be that impacted by Ramirez’s absence last season, the Dodgers still had to replace his elite bat with guys who weren’t as good (admittedly, Nick Punto played pretty well last year).

It could be coincidence, as it was the first year the core of the team was together, even if Ramirez missed a ton of time and Puig didn’t come up until June. But it is reasonable to suspect McGwire had something to do with the overall improvement of the team from an offensive standpoint.

When McGwire was somewhat surprisingly hired by the Cardinals prior to the 2011 season, he had an immediate impact on some of the individual players. Before McGwire, guys like Allen Craig, David Freese and Yadier Molina weren’t the hitters they are now. Craig is one of the most underrated right-handed hitters in the NL, Freese made a name for himself in the 2011 postseason before following it up with a solid 2012 campaign and Molina went from “good catcher” to “great catcher’ once he learned how to hit.

I isolated this trio when the Dodgers hired McGwire after the 2012 season.

“Craig was never a blue-chip prospect coming up through the Cardinals’ system. His bat was always going to be the thing that made or broke his career. McGwire’s guidance, coupled with opportunity, allowed Craig to post a .307/.354/.522 triple slash this season.

Freese was an afterthought at third base for the Cardinals. He was a light-hitting third baseman who got a late start in baseball. Since McGwire took over in 2010, his home runs per at-bat number has improved every season:

  • 2010: 60 AB/HR
  • 2011: 33.3 AB/HR
  • 2012: 25.1 AB/HR

Oh, and he has a shiny World Series MVP trophy and a career .345/.407/.645 triple slash in postseason play.

McGwire’s best job might have been what he did with Molina. Molina has never been questioned defensively. He is the best in the game. However, some wondered if his bat would ever catch up.

Through the 2010 season, Molina managed just a .268/.327/.361 triple slash. His next two seasons, he had a .310/.362/.484 triple slash. He’s gone from glove-only catcher to MVP candidate in two years. It’s an amazing transformation.”

Craig 2011-12 (97 games average)
.309/.357/.532, 141 OPS+

Craig 2013 (134 games)
.315/.373/.457, 131 OPS+

Freese 2011-12 (120 games average)
.295/.363/.457, 125 OPS+

Freese 2013 (138 games)
.262/.340/.381, 101 OPS+

Molina 2011-12 (138 games average)
.310/.362/.484, 131 OPS+

Molina 2013 (136 games)
.319/.359/.477, 131 OPS+

Only Freese saw a decline in production after McGwire left. That isn’t much of a coincidence, as Craig and Molina are much better hitters than Freese. Their overall team numbers didn’t change much after McGwire left, as the Cardinals’ offense was among the best in baseball, and has been for many years.

While Puig and Ramirez carried the Dodgers for a 50-game stretch, the Dodgers didn’t exactly get all-world performances from anyone else in 2013. Gonzalez was solid, Kemp showed flashes but got off to a terrible start and Crawford and Ethier were just OK.

One of the biggest improvements McGwire could be attributed to is that of Juan Uribe. A pariah for his first two seasons in Dodger Blue, Uribe developed into the team’s leader in WAR (albeit, a lot of that was his glove) and provided solid offense at third base.Uribe went from a .199/.262/.289 triple slash in 2011-12 to a respectable .278/.331/.438 triple slash last season. While his walk rate didn’t improve that much from 2011-12 to 2013 (6.3 percent to 7 percent), he seemed like he had a better idea of what he wanted to do at the plate.

We’ll see if McGwire can coach up some of the other guys in camp this year. Alex Guerrero immediately comes to mind, but he won’t get to work with McGwire much after he’s optioned to minor-league camp (not official, but we all know it’s coming). Dee Gordon is a guy who could benefit, but his own skill set might prohibit a big improvement. And if he can help Erisbel Arruebarrena clean up what initially looks like a really bad swing, then he deserves a raise. McGwire is, rightly, known as one of the best power hitters of all-time. But the guy knows hitting inside and out. He can’t teach these guys to have the plate discipline he did (career 17.2 percent walk rate), but he can teach them the fine points of hitting in hopes of improving the club.

If all goes well, this should be the best Dodgers’ offense in the last 15 years. If that comes to fruition, the Dodgers are going to be in awfully good shape.

Chone Figgins likely going to Australia & other notes

"He'll be on the plane."

“He’ll be on the plane, as of right now.” (By: Dustin Nosler)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Not much is happening early at Camelback Ranch this morning, as the players aren’t taking batting or fielding practice. They only just came out to stretch and play some catch.

Rockies
Dodgers
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
LF
Blackmon
RF
Puig
CF
Barnes
LF
Crawford
3B
Arenado
SS
Ramirez
RF
Cuddyer
1B
Gonzalez
1B
McBride
CF
Ethier
SS
Culberson
3B
Uribe
C
Pacheco
C
Ellis
LF
LeMahieu
2B
Gordon
P
Lyles
P
Ryu

Manager Don Mattingly had his daily morning press conference that offered little news. He did officially rule out Carl Crawford for the Australia trip because he the impending birth of his child. Mattingly also said Brandon League would likely stay behind (he’s throwing on the minor-league side today) and Matt Kemp will get the day off before returning to the minor-league side on Monday.

Mattingly said he’d have more information about the 30 players who are going to Australia after Sunday’s game.

“It’s really not going to be that big of a secret,” Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of getting through the game today.”

He said the Dodgers pretty much know who’s going, but he doesn’t want to announce a player is going only for something to happen between now and the time they get on the plane (midnight tonight) that prevents a player from going.

Mattingly also offered some insight as to what Kemp will do while the team is away for a week.

“As much as anything, just basically having spring training, more along the lines of above else where he’s getting his at-bats every day,” Mattingly said.

Chone Figgins hasn’t been great this spring, but he’s offered on-base ability and versatility, which sounds like it will be enough for him to make this club — at least, make the 30-man cut for Australia.

“I feel like his bat’s been OK, not necessarily have that many hits, but walked quite a bit,” Mattingly said. “His at-bats have been the kind of at-bats we like. He’s shown he can kinda play everywhere on the field. So there’s definitely value there with Figgy. We still feel like the body’s live he’s moving good, and he’s been running good. He’s had no issues … So, if we like what we see, we do feel like at-bats will get better and better.

“He’ll be on the plane, as of right now.”

Players not going to Australia

Carl Crawford
Josh Beckett
Chad Billingsley
Zack Greinke
Dan Haren
Matt Kemp
Brandon League (probably not)

The Australia roster will be more clear following the game. But expect guys like Justin Turner and Chone Figgins to be on the plane, as well as a pitcher to throw in the exhibition game. I’ve heard speculation it could be Zach Lee, which would make sense as the Dodgers are already down 3/5 of their starting rotation and need Paul Maholm to be the long man in case Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-jin Ryu falter.

The main goal for today is to get through the game healthy. Something that didn’t happen for Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks. He suffered damage to his UCL and won’t go to Australia. Wade Miley is replacing him and will start the first game.