Friday, February 6, 2015

My 2015 Top 100 Dodgers prospects

Oh, hi there. It's been awhile. I just concluded my Top 100 Dodgers' prospect series over at Dodgers Digest. Here's a link to every entry in the series.
I have also updated the sidebar with the new Top 10 (it links to the post at Dodgers Digest until we get the prospects page updated).

The Dodgers' farm system is as strong as it has been in years. It's considered a Top 10 system by most publications, as it has a lot of top-end talent and improved depth. So, head over to Dodgers Digest to check it out (and the supplemental pieces to follow).

Also, it'd be swell if the Dodgers signed Yoan Moncada so I could add him to the list.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Dodgers Digest

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Dodgers' front office shakes things up for the better

Well, next year's team is going to be a lot different from this year's. After the season ended, the Dodgers had a fairly long list of free agents and team options, none of whom they chose to pursue very hard.

Hanley Ramirez obviously, but also Jamey Wright, Roberto Hernandez, Chad Billingsley, Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Chris Perez, Scott Elbert and Stephen Fife all walked out the door without so much as a "Please don't go, we love you so." Furthermore Josh Beckett retired. All told, that's about $62 million or something cleared from the books. They did have to pay Billingsley $3 million to buy out his option. The one action they did take was to keep Darwin Barney.

And when I say they, of course, I'm talking about the brand new front office full of logical thinkers. I can't evaluate all the deals they didn't quite close. What if they offered a little more to Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek, Jon Lester? What if they managed to pull off rumored trades with Seattle, Baltimore, Texas, Chicago White Sox? Sometimes, the best decisions are the ones not to pursue an action too strongly, knowing better alternatives can be found. I'll give the benefit of the doubt there. Let's just take a look at the actions the have consummated (or almost consummated as several seem to be lingering in the neutral zone).

Winter Meetings

Heading into the winter meetings, the Dodgers have improved the team by 2.3 wins and spent $5.5 million. Good job so far, although, a lot of work to do before they'd satisfy ownership expectations of competing for a championship.

We still don't know what happened at those meetings (literally, not all the trades and signings haven't been finalized yet) but it seems they orchestrated something akin to Walter White on "Breaking Bad" ...


... having all those potential informants killed in their respective prisons within 2 minutes of each other.

Marlins deal

First announced deal is Dee Gordon (.320/.350 OBP/SLG projection with great speed and OK second base defense) and Dan Haren (4.20 ERA projection) and Miguel Rojas (.260/.260 OBP/SLG projection with great infield defense) for a bunch of guys you never heard of, but upon further inspection, are all good. Also, the Dodgers send $12.5 million to Miami. I'll count such transfers too. The Miami guys were
  • Andrew Heaney (4.20 ERA projection as SP but with bright future)
  • Chris Hatcher (3.30 ERA projection as RP)
  • Enrique (Kikè) Hernández (IF/OF utility player with .310/.380 OBP/SLG projection and decent glove at a handful of positions)
  • Austin Barnes (don't think he's a 2015 guy, but minor league C/2B (!) with great hitting numbers in AA)
They got Heaney because the Angels wanted him, but they could have actually stopped right there and kept Heaney as their No. 5 starter and filled in Guerrero/Barney/Turner at second base. That actually would have been an improved team, too. That team was about 1 win better at a marginal cost of $1.3 million.

Angels deal

The Dodgers turned around and flipped Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick (.330/.390 OBP/SLG projection with good second base defense). Kendrick costs a little money ($9.5 million) but is worth it. Even with the loss of Heaney, this year's team gets another 0.8 wins better for that $9 or $9.25 million.

Padres deal

I guess I heard of the Phillies deal first, but this one has to technically happen first as the Dodgers are again going to flip an acquired player immediately (an actually very tall and broad fellow named Eflin).  This remains unofficial as I write this (should be on Tuesday, though), but more or less it is giving the Padres: 
  • Matt Kemp (.340/.500 OBP/SLG projection but with bad right field defense)
  • Tim Federowicz (.250/.310 OBP/SLG projection with "eh" defense at catcher)
  • $6.4 million (and another $6.4 million each of the next few years)
and getting 
  • Yasmani Grandal (.340/.420 OBP / SLG with good catching defense all things considered)
  • That Elvish minor league pitcher 
  • Joe Wieland (4.60 ERA projection)
This trade does a lot of things for the Dodgers.  
  • It lets Puig move from center field (where he is not good) to right field (where he is good)
  • The above plus getting Kemp out of the outfield entirely turns the team's outfield defense from bad to good
  • It clears up center field for Joc Pederson (.330/.390 OBP/SLG projection with good baserunning and defense, and potential for growth well beyond that)
  • It clears a source of rumored "dysfunction" in Kemp
  • It moves A.J. Ellis s (.340/.340 OBP/SLG projection with eh defense at C) to a backup role
  • It gets Grandal at minimum wage, who is good now with potential to be very good
  • It clears a bunch of payroll this year and going forward
  • It gets a pitcher to flip in the next deal and some depth in Wieland (who also might grab some starts)
  • It makes us all a little (or possibly a lot) sad, even if you see the logic of all the above
All in all this makes the team an impressive 3.8 wins better while saving $14.1 million. 

Phillies Deal

After that, it seems like an almost an afterthought to get former MVP Jimmy Rollins (.320/.390 OBP/SLG projection with good shortstop defense and baserunning) for just the cost of Eflin and another minor-leaguer (Tom Windle). The Phillies even allegedly sending $3 million.

But this makes the team another impressive 2.1 wins better given the aforementioned black hole at shortstop that got even worse in the absence of Rojas, but does cost $7.85 million.

This trade is also not finalized, but as reported to date solves the Dodgers biggest outstanding problem, of not having a credible major-league shortstop for 2015 (assuming this guy's just keeping the spot warm until Corey Seager is ready next year).

McCarthy signing

The Dodgers did win one free agent, starter Brandon McCarthy (3.60 ERA projection).  McCarthy seems like a smart funny guy that's a thoughtful and effective pitcher. His shoulder is a constant concern, but 4 years / $48 millon is not going to get you anything better than this. The Dodgers needed somebody to start the 4th game of playoff series last year and didn't have one. Now they might. They have 4 good starters and a bunch of question marks now.  But that's a lot better than 3 good starters and a bunch of question marks. About a win better for that $12 million.

Winter Meetings summary

Add that all up and the Winter Meetings moves improved the Dodgers by 8.5 wins! They spent a marginal $16.2 million to do it. But their payroll still remains $40 million below last year and they could make another big move -- for example, a front-line starter like James Shields, Max Scherzer, or Cole Hamels. And if they can get somebody to pick up part of Andre Ethier's salary, they have that much more to spend as needed -- now or at the trading deadline.

Wrap-up of the offseason so far

Every single move has made the 2015 team better. Some of the moves have shed payroll while some have built it up, but every single move has made this year's team better while also laying a nice groundwork for depth and preserving the future (they even picked up a few decent prospects in addition to keeping all their really good ones).

All told, it's a 10.8-win improvement for $21.7 million, starting from the point after all the free agents left. The Dodgers as positioned are definitely looking like a team that should get well into the 90-win category. Compared to last year's team, they look about 8 or 9 wins better (not saying they'll win 103 games, injuries will happen and veterans are getting older and worser) at a savings of $43 million.

How did they do this? The pitching's a little better, the defense is way better and the depth is much stronger. The hitting is undoubtedly harmed, but I suspect scoring will rebound league-wide a bit next year. They may end up about the same. Last season, they scored 718 runs and allowed 617. I'm looking at something more like 700 scored and 550 allowed right now.

Not only did they get better at pitching and defense, they did it in a complementary way that could produce more than the sum of its parts. They have groundball pitchers and now their infield defense is good all around. They have strikeout pitchers with good control, and now they have a really good pitch framer behind the plate. And don't discount the depth. They've lengthened the whole roster and there should be a lot less time given to horrible players. It's impressive how every successive move pushes the line on this chart up (more Net Wins with every move). It's impressive how many wins were added. It's impressive the minimal cost paid per marginal win. It's impressive how this was done without mortgaging future. It's impressive how much deeper the team is and it's impressive how much stronger they look as a playoff threat in addition to this regular season analysis I've just done. Maybe there's something to this whole "logical thinking" I've been hearing so much about.

Photo credit: File photo

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dodgers' chances against Cardinals in NLDS look good, mathematically

The long regular season is over, and it went more or less as I expected (more on that in the winter). Of course, the details and the heat of the moment are fun to watch and why I'm a fan, but when you take a step back you see it all more or less evened out and the teams with the most talent are pretty much the ones still playing in October.

The Dodgers get the Cardinals in the first round and on paper, the Cardinals are not that scary. The Cardinals have a mystique about them though. They knocked the Dodgers out last year and they managed to win 90 games despite outscoring their opponent by only 16 runs over the course of the season. So, they have mojo, will to win, intangible grit, etc ...

Be that as it may, what they don't have is the talent of the Dodgers. I think the Dodgers have about a 68 percent chance of advancing to the NLCS.

How did I get to that number?  First off, let's look at the likely starting pitchers:

LA Starter
STL Starter

A simple model would take the Cardinals' starting pitchers' initial as the outcome and predict the Cardinals W-L-W-L-W.  I have a somewhat more numerical approach.

Let's first take a look at the ERA- (the lower the number, the better) of each pitcher and the average number of innings they went this year.  ERA- tells how many runs they allow relative to an average starter. This isn't the ERA- they put up in 2014 so much as an amalgam of ERA-, FIP-, and xFIP- that leads me to believe this is about how well they will perform in this series.


When the starter comes out, the Dodgers' bullpen has an ERA- of 105 and the Cardinals' 100.

But the Dodgers and Cardinals are not average offenses, so we need to take that into account. I'll use wRC+ as a measure of how much better than average each offense is:

wRC+ vs. L
wRC+ vs. R

I used the overall score vs. the bullpens and the handedness splits against the starters.
Finally, I added a defense effect and a park factor effect. The Cardinals saved about .185 runs per game compared to an average team while the Dodgers cost an extra .074 or so.  Dodger Stadium has a 96 park factor while Busch stadium has a 98.

So in the end, to get to how many runs each team is expected to score in each game, I take the NL average offense (3.95 runs/game) * wRC split * ERA- for the starters innings and *wRC * ERA- for the bullpen's innings.  Then add the defense runs and multiply the total by the park factor.

For example, in game 1, the Dodgers are expected to score 
((3.95 * ((1.12 * .75 * 7.1/8.5)  + (1.11 * 1 * 1.4/8.5))) -.185) * .96 = 3.2
while the Cardinals are expected to score
((3.95 * ((1.04 * .5 * 7.3/8.5)  + (.95 * 1.05 * 1.2/8.5))) +.074) * .96 = 2.3

Using the Pythagorean formula, 3.2^2 / (3.2^2 + 2.3^2) = 66% chance of the Dodgers winning game

1.  You might recall the Dodgers have won 20 of the last 21 Kershaw starts! But Wainwright is pretty good too. He even started the all-star game #neverforget.

We can do this for each game. I see the Dodgers as having the advantage actually in each game:

LA runs
STL runs

To determine the outcome of the series then is just a Markov chain process. The chance of the Dodgers winning game 1 & 2 is 66% * 59% = 39%. The chance of the Dodgers winning one and losing one is the chance they win the first and lose the second plus the chance they lose the first and win the second: 66% * 41% + 34% * 59% = 47%. And so on and so on, but 3 wins for either team ends the series.

In the end, we get to to the probability distribution of outcomes for the series from the Dodgers' point of view:


So the Dodgers chance of winning, logically, is that 21% + 23% + 23% = 68%.  The most likely outcome, technically, is a 3-1 series win for the Dodgers.  Anything could happen of course, and I can't wait for Friday. But luck favors the prepared.

Photo credit: Bryce Edwards, Flickr