Friday, January 31, 2014

Podcast: 'Dugout Blues' episode 68 - Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus

On this episode of "Dugout Blues," I interview Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus about the BP Top 101 and his Top 10 Dodgers' prospects.

Parks is BP's prospect guru, and was kind enough to give me 30 minutes of his time to indulge me about prospects.

First, we talk about Julio Urias' placement in the BP 101 (35). Then we touch on the others who made the BP 101 (Corey Seager, 44; Joc Pederson, 50; and Zach Lee, 84).

After, we go in-depth into the Dodgers' Top 10. I ask him some detailed questions and throw in my 2 cents, for whatever that's worth (probably less than 2 cents).

I close by asking him about the system overall, which continues to improve.

Baseball Prospectus' prospect coverage is unparalleled. Parks has done a fantastic job taking over for Kevin Goldstein and has put together some really good talent evaluators who can write a little bit.
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Look for new episodes of "Dugout Blues" every Wednesday. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and review us on iTunes. We want to make this the best podcast we can so we're always looking for suggestions and ways to improve.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer or certain topics/players you want to hear more about, feel free to email us ( or or send us messages on Twitter (@Dodger_Diamond or @FeelinKindaBlue). You can also "Like" the podcast on Facebook. We always welcome audience participation.

Image credit: Joe Martin

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Visualizing MLB team strengths for 2014, and the Dodgers appear strong

Because it's winter and I can't actually watch baseball, I've spent some time recently going through each team, trying to figure playing time at each position, and projecting every player's performance.

There's a lot to say about that exercise, but I want to start at a high level.  Given that rosters are unfinalized and I might continue to tweak my methodologies, I'm just interested right now in sharing this visualization I came up with to show which teams I think are strong and why.

First, I divided up the importance to winning 2014 MLB baseball games as 50 percent offense/50 percent defense. The offense I further broke down into 44 percent hitting, 6 percent running.

The defense I further broke down into 23 percent starting pitching, 15 percent relief pitching, 12 percent fielding.

You could quibble with those numbers of course, but that's roughly according to the variation in skill as translated to runs, that we observed in 2013 MLB teams. So, every team's pie chart below has the same size slices for each of those 5 categories.

What differs by team is how good they are at each area (based on the individual skill and playing time projections). I use a color scale to represent that. Blue is good (of course Blue is good, ask Tommy Lasorda), red is bad.  If you're red-blue color-blind, I sincerely apologize. Then, we can sum over (the team's skill in a component times that component's importance) to get an overall score for the team and make their pie that big.
  • Hitting is next to speed on the left-hand side to give you the offensive picture
  • Pitching is next to fielding on the right-hand side to give you the defensive picture
  • Speed is next to defense since they often go together
  • Starting pitching is next to relief pitching so you can see them together
  • Hitting is next to speed is next to defense so you can see the position player contribution
You can get a sense for the flavor of the team, and the strategy it is pursuing. Poor teams are trying to get by with speed, defense, and relief pitching (or, if they're fortunate enough to have developed young starting pitching, that).

Rich teams are spending their money on the big ticket items: hitting and starting pitching (Boston and Detroit care not for your speed or fielding). But teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay can compete by maintaining just an adequate hitting skill on top of their athleticism and young pitching. The Dodgers, of course, have taken an all-of-the-above approach. Their rotation has question marks, but the top is so strong, it carries.

We can also identify at a glance which divisions have all teams at least mediocre, vs. which divisions have some weak teams.  

Click images to embiggen

There are a few peculiarities in the charts, like the standings do not strictly follow the pie size. The projected standings come directly from translating skills and playing time to runs and WAR.

In the pie chart sizing, I am probably giving too much weight to hitting relative to how the current formulation of WAR applies to 2014 MLB, but I really felt offense and defense should balance out.

I'll update this before the season starts, with projected win totals "for the record."

Graphic credits: Cody Stumpo, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Podcast: 'Dugout Blues' episode 67 - Dodgers Digest, Kershaw, Figgins

On this episode of "Dugout Blues," Jared Massey (Dodger Diamond) and I have special guest co-host Daniel Brim in for a visit.

Because it's awesome, Brim and I talk about Dodgers Digest and how it all came together.

Clayton Kershaw contract extension was announced the day we posted the last episode, so the three of us give our hot take on.

Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees for a ridiculous amount of money -- a price the Dodgers were obviously (and intelligently) unwilling to meet.

We also touch on A.J. Burnett, who became a topic of discussion on Tuesday after announcing he would pitch in 2014. The #BurnettWatch is on. While he'd be a nice addition to the Dodgers, it's unlikely he'd sign with them.

The Dodgers signed Chone Figgins, and we're all in consensus: He's going to make the opening day roster.

We get to the Q&A, which was solid this week. After that, we tease my interview with Jason Parks, which will be posted as episode 68 on Friday.
Episode dedications
Jared, Dusitn and Daniel: Jeff Kubenka
We'll probably continue to record every other week, or as news warrants (Tanaka signs), during the winter. But spring training is quickly approaching (yay!).

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Look for new episodes of "Dugout Blues" every Wednesday. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and review us on iTunes. We want to make this the best podcast we can so we're always looking for suggestions and ways to improve.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer or certain topics/players you want to hear more about, feel free to email us ( or or send us messages on Twitter (@Dodger_Diamond or @FeelinKindaBlue). You can also "Like" the podcast on Facebook. We always welcome audience participation.

Image credit: Joe Martin

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dodgers could benefit from Chone Figgins' intent to give more effort

Chone Figgins apparently impressed the Dodgers enough in his workout/speech that they invited him to camp, and given the competition (Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers, Brendan Harris, Michael Young?), he has a good chance of making the team.

We all know Figgins was terrible with Seattle, but why exactly? And is there hope for a turnaround?

Figgins was a good, even borderline great, player in his 20s. You could count on him for about a .365 OBP, 45 stolen bases, good defense at third base and the ability to fill in around the diamond. That skillset was worth more than 20 WAR over his six years as a starter with the Angels (ages 25-31).

After surging to 7 WAR, and getting real MVP support in his walk year (2009), he signed a big contract with the Mariners ... and produced a -1 WAR over three miserable years there. Looking back at stories written back then, and the peripherals under his stats, it looks to me like:
  • They switched him to a full-time second base, moving him out of his comfort zone, changing his defense from a plus to a minus. Amazingly, this was to accommodate switching Jose Lopez from 2B to 3B, although he was better at 2B.
  • He got off to a bit of a slow start (.210 batting average his first two months, mostly bad luck)
  • His "power" played poorly in Safeco (0 triples and three home runs in 800 PA there lifetime)
  • The team was TERRIBLE (even bad as he was, the team still needed him to carry them)
  • The fans got on him
  • He started pressing, swinging at more bad pitches and making weak contact
  • He started doing even worse
  • Did I mention the team was terrible (101 then 95 then 87 losses)
  • He got frustrated
  • There was a visible lack of effort on the field
  • He got benched
  • He got in an actual fight was his manager
All this happened by July of his first year in Seattle. He's a professional; that's not supposed to happen, and I'm not trying to excuse him. He never got it going in Seattle, and his performance actually got worse in the second- and third year, before he was finally cut.

In 2011, he tore a hip labrum, played through it, and we saw what Figgins can offer a baseball team when you take his speed away (nothing).

In his last year (2012) they tried him in the outfield (despite being fast, he has unfathomably horrible range in the OF), his strikeout percentage had spiked to 25 percent, compared to his normal 15 percent. Pitchers saw he was out of sorts and not a threat. They were throwing him way more fastballs, way more strikes, and he was doing nothing.

Final line as a Mariner: .227/.302/.283

Without having been at his workout, we do get one tangible piece of information -- he can run a 6.5 60-yard dash. That's still very fast. If he were a prospect, that'd get him a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale. He probably used to be even faster, but that is still plus-plus speed. Of course, he is 36 now.

Fast switch-hitting, good-glove, slap hitters with a good eye don't have a lot of ways to get better as they age. He needs to maintain a complicated set of skills to be valuable and it's pretty reasonable to say age just got the best of him. Maybe that really is the case. But optimistically, I'll say this is a case where a fresh start in a familiar environment could be just what he needs, now that he has been humbled as much as a ballplayer can (cut by the Marlins!) and had a year to think about it.

The key things Figgins has to do to be successful at the plate are to maintain discipline and drive the ball (OK, that's kind of what everyone has to do). We already looked at his struggles in making solid contact, but what happens when he did hit a flyball? He has one of the shortest average flyball distances in the league -- around 250 feet -- but we do see a distinct dip in 2010 before getting more or less back to his normal.

(graph from

I'll go out on a limb and say he will be able to drive the ball enough, based on reports of his workout. So, let's just look at his stats and try to forecast what he might be able to offer in 2014.

Let's say his K-rate regresses back to 18 percent and he maintains his walk rate of 10 percent. The other 72 percent of the time, he'll hit a fair ball. Thanks to his speed and swing plane, he used to be a .340 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) kind of player with the Angels. The league hits about .300 on balls in play. His last two years with the Mariners he somehow managed to pull off a .220.
(graph from

He's still fast, so if his attitude is not getting in his way any more, I expect him to get back to BABIP better than .300. I see him providing a .255/.330/.325 triple slash in 2014. From a backup 3B/2B with speed and a good glove, that is worth a spot on this team.

Unless coaches spend significant time with him in the outfield, he should almost never play there, given the fact the Dodgers have five or six guys more likely to catch flyballs. It's arguable if he's more valuable than Gordon. We'll have to see what kind of defense Gordon can offer at 2B and CF.

Gordon is probably faster, but with less pop than Figgins -- not too many people could say both of those things. Sellers offers a better all-around glove, but a real gift for making outs at the plate. Harris hasn't been a competent hitter since President George H. W. Bush was in office, and for the sake of my blood pressure, I'm telling myself Young will retire.

So, we probably will see some Figgins this year. Everyone loves a good back-from-the-dead story. If Juan Uribe could do it last year, why not Figgins this year? He'll be getting a small paycheck, and his disappointments all happened somewhere else, so there's no resentment to battle and we can just hope to enjoy us some Figgy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NHL Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium a Rock 'n Rollin' success

The players lined up at center ice for the National Anthem.
I have been to Dodger Stadium many times in my life, but never have I been left in such awe by it as I was last night.

The NHL Stadium Series in Los Angeles was more Hollywood than Hollywood, making for a spectacular Saturday night.

From the moment, my dad, my uncle and I stepped out of the car, we could tell that this game was going to be like nothing we had ever experienced before. Orange and black jerseys were everywhere, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings rivalry in the air, with little to no Dodger Blue to be found.

The parking lot was buzzing with activity, as cars filed in from every direction, and people were roaming about the pregame festivities going on in a sectioned off area of the lot. We arrived at the stadium around 5 p.m., and decided to go check out these festivities, but the line to get in was seemingly endless, so we skipped out on this to explore the stadium instead.

As we walked up to the Loge entrance, we passed by the left field bullpen, which was fenced off due to the ongoing construction. A lot of work remains before that renovation is finished.

Inside, the lines to get anything from the concession or souvenir stands were crazy. We stood in line for 45 minutes to purchase some Stadium Series gear, but it was worth the wait.

The sightlines from our seats in Loge were perfect. As the above photo shows, we were in between third base and home plate, with a great view of all the action. I could not have asked for anything better.

I spent a lot of time just looking out at the field and marveling at all the activity going on. It was beautiful and glorious. Dodger Stadium was the perfect place for this event. The first ever outdoor NHL game in California. The stadium was sold out and the weather was fantastic. It only made sense that it was here.

The Hollywood/Los Angeles atmosphere was bit overdone, but is that not what Hollywood is best known for? Overdoing the special effects?

There were people playing beach volleyball in left field. There was a set of palm trees in center that were flanked by giant Kings and Ducks logos that shot off fireworks. Kids played street hockey in the infield.

KISS jammed on the concert stage in right field. They performed twice, once before the game and during the first intermission, which was cool and eccentric, but felt like a gimmick. They made sure to promote their Arena Football League team by asking fans to buy season tickets.

On a stage at home plate, Jordin Sparks performed the National Anthem and Five for Fighting played during the second intermission.

Vin Scully and Bob Miller introduce Wayne Gretzky.
Celebrities were abound, as were some Dodgers. I saw Brian Wilson walking around on the field before the game, while Yasiel Puig, Tommy Lasorda, and Fernando Valenzuela were shown on the jumbotron during the game.

However, the best moment of the night came when Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Bob Miller introduced NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.

Soon after, the game was underway, but not before Scully declared "It's time for...NHL hockey!"

The puck was dropped and it was not long before the Ducks scored the first goal on their way to a 3-0 shutout. The Kings had plenty of chances to score as they out shot the Ducks by 15, but as my uncle said, "It's about quality over quantity." Ducks' goaltender Jonas Hiller played a heck of a game.

I left Dodger Stadium last night with more than just a bag of souvenirs. I left with an experience that I will never forget. It is unknown if anything like this will ever happen again, although I would not bet against it, given the night's success. Regardless, the magic of this phenomenal event only added to the ever-growing legend that is Dodger Stadium.

Photo credits: Jason Drantch, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dodgers bring back Trayvon Robinson on minor-league deal

The Dodgers signed a familiar name to a minor league contract as Trayvon Robinson will reportedly return to the organization that drafted him and then traded him away.

Nothing is official, but Matt Eddy of Baseball America reported Friday Robinson is back in the fold as he attempts to work his way onto a major league roster once again after flaming out in Seattle. Robinson, who won't turn 27 until September, was a 10th-round selection in 2005 and sparked interest amongst Dodger faithful when he hit .293/.375/.563/.938 with a .400 wOBA and 26 homers in 100 games for Triple-A Albuquerque in 2011. Before he could finish the season, he was sent to the Mariners in a three-team deal.

I wasn't a fan of the deal at the time, as the Dodgers seemingly got little in return for a talented guy like Robinson who was just breaking out. Even if he amounted to nothing down the road, it seemed Ned Colletti had sold quite low. Stephen Fife and Tim Federowicz were the main pieces coming back, and while neither has become a key piece to the big league team Fife has been nice rotation depth and Federowicz is a cheap backup catcher with an excellent defensive reputation.

Robinson made a couple of highlight-reel catches but quickly faded into obscurity after failing to hit big league pitching. In more than 300 plate appearances between 2011-2012 Trayvon posted a sub-.300 OBP. He tried to catch on with the Orioles last season, but didn't show much in Double-A and Triple-A.

There's no risk in bringing Robinson in on a minor league deal and what will likely be a Spring Training invitation -- the Dodgers give those out like candy -- as continued poor performance would be met with his release or a permanent spot back in Albuquerque as depth.

In a perfect world, Robinson would hit like Peter Bourjos and play defense like a poor man's Bourjos, thus allowing him to be a fourth- or fifth outfielder in The Show; back up Matt Kemp as a true center fielder; and perhaps even allow for one of Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier to more easily be moved without worrying about depth.

In all likelihood, this is going to turn out to be nothing more than a feel-good story of a former Dodger prospect and Los Angeles native returning home for a second chance.

Photo Credit: Roger C. Hoover (rogerchoover), Flickr

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dodgers don't really need another starting pitcher with in-house options

All too predictably, one of the other teams overpaid for Masahiro Tanaka, and he took the money. The Dodgers did the right thing here, saying we’ll pay "X" number of dollars, but no more (where x is probably around six years, $120 million + $20 million release fee).

Given his fastball velocity (good, but not elite) and past workload, the Dodgers harbored substantial questions about how well Tanaka will do in the majors and for how long he will be able to pitch well. The Yankees are pretty likely to suffer the "Winner's Curse" in this auction. Read General Manager Ned Colletti say something smart.
"We had a value to the player and that's where we went. The value of a player involves a lot of factors -- needs, strengths and weaknesses. We put a certain value on the player and when it went beyond that, we knew we weren't going to get the player. We understand that's how the process works."
The Dodgers only had so much use for ho they viewed Tanaka. That translated to a large, but finite number. It’s great to hear rational thought coming from the front office. What does the newly rational Colletti think about adding another starter now?
"I think we're fine either way."
I find myself agreeing, which is a little bit scary given Ned’s track record.

After the first three spots in the rotation, the Dodgers are counting on some combination of Dan Haren, Josh Beckett and minor leaguers until June -- at which point they can count on Haren, Beckett, minor leaguers and Chad Billingsley. Haren finished strong last year, and the Dodgers think it's real. For today, let’s just say he’ll be at least OK and focus on the No. 5 starter.  If the Dodgers keep with the standard routine, they need about 30 starts if those top four stay healthy.

Given their respective injuries, I see about a 35 percent chance of Beckett contributing and an 85 percent chance for Billingsley (starting sometime between May and September). The second half of the season, though, is also when trades tend to happen and prospects tend to be ready. So, the Dodgers will have plenty of options in the second half: I’m looking at you Zach Lee and Ross Stripling (pictured). I don’t get the fuss about Chris Reed, as I doubt he’ll work out in the short-term.

If the Dodgers roll with Stephen Fife in the no-Beckett scenario, and he puts up the 4.50 ERA we expect from him, the Dodgers still probably win seven or eight of those first 15 games when the No. 5 starter is used. If they sign a Bronson Arroyo-type, we might get closer to a 4.10 ERA there, and probably still win eight of those games.

Admittedly, Arroyo will stay in longer and save the bullpen about 20-30 innings. Saving the bullpen actually decreases the chance of winning these games since the bullpen is generally better than him, but presumably increases the chance of winning games later in the year.  Being better than Fife, but not letting the bullpen take over in the sixth inning, it about balances out so the two options both have relatively the same expectation.

The problem with signing Arroyo or somebody like him is you cannot send him to the bullpen or the minors, or start him every other time if you decide you'd rather go a different route. With the four outfielder situation, you can rotate them all through and keep them relatively happy; veteran starting pitchers are not like that.

That's why the Dodgers were in pursuit of Tanaka. If the guy you get is a clear upgrade, then it's problem solved. Haren is the No. 5, while Beckett and Billingsley on "rehab assignment" until needed and ready. And critically, the postseason rotation becomes stronger. But if you sign a "meh" starter, all you've done is create drama. Poor Ted Lilly's panties are still in a bunch over the disrespect the Dodgers dealt him last year when he was in the situation of veteran starter on the roster, but one who was not really needed to start.

The Dodgers are right now so much better, talent-wise, than anybody else in the NL West. They should run away with the division unless things break really poorly for them. They can stand to throw out the "B" team 15 times this season, if everyone is healthy.

If they were really smart about it, they should be planning workloads, with the expectation of playing through October, for their top guys. Pull Clayton Kershaw early in a blowout, even if he's cruising; let lesser relievers get the 1-inning, 3-run saves, etc.

Many people in sports refuse to coast because they will regret it too much if it turns out they missed the playoffs by a small margin, or because they don't feel like they can "turn it on" and off. The way the Cardinals handled their young pitching last year was a nice example.

They didn't work any one guy as hard as they could because they knew the next best option was still OK and because they knew they had a good chance of wanting Michael Wacha, et al, to be at their strongest in September and October.

If the Dodgers want sign another starter, that's their prerogative -- but they don't exactly "need" one.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Broadcast team, assemble: Dodgers, TWC announce launch date, personalities

After being the worst-kept secret in baseball TV deals, the Dodgers and SportsNet LA today officially announced a launch date of Feb. 25.

The channel will only be available to Time Warner Cable customers at launch, but that will change in the next month as discussions are underway with other distributors.

This coincided with the Dodgers also announcing their new broadcast team for the channel, which has resulted in some shuffling of the cards.

To make it easy, here is a breakdown by broadcast format:



Vin Scully will return for his 65th season to call all Dodger home games and road games in California and Arizona.

The remaining road games will be called by Charley Steiner and Orel Hershiser. They will be joined by in-game reporter Alanna Rizzo.

Pre-game and post-game

The pre- and post-game coverage will be hosted by Rizzo. She will be joined by former Dodgers Nomar Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston, as well as Hershiser, when he is not calling games.


John Hartung will be the studio host for SportsNet LA's live studio shows.


Scully will be simulcast, as normal, for the first three innings of every game he calls.

For home- and road games called by Scully, the radio team will be Steiner and Rick Monday. For road games when Steiner is on TV, Monday and Garciaparra will be handling the radio duties.

An in-depth programming roster and additional on-air talent will be announced closer to SportNet LA's launch date. 

Overall, the Dodgers have already assembled a fantastic broadcast team for this season, which should have fans rejoicing when they watch SportsNet LA or tune in on radio.

Dodgers lose out on Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees, which isn't a bad thing

News broke early this morning that the Dodgers were outbid for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who signed a 7-year pact with the Yankees for $155 million. The $20 million dollar posting fee pushes the total to a whopping $175 million, which puts the Yankees over the $189 million luxury-tax mark for this season.

The deal includes an opt-out clause after the fourth year, along with a full no-trade clause.

The 25-year old went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The deal comes with a lot of risk for the Yankees, as Tanaka has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, but the Yankees must have felt confident in his ability to make the transition in order to make him the fifth-highest paid pitcher in MLB history.

The Yankees were much more desperate than the Dodgers for a front-of-the-rotation starter and the deal only makes Clayton Kershaw's 7-year, $215 million extension look even better.

The Dodgers reportedly made an offer of more $100 million for Tanaka, but were not going to break the bank for a pitcher who would slot in as the third- or fourth starter in the rotation.
Now, the Dodgers will look at much cheaper options for the back end of the rotation, such as free agent Bronson Arroyo. They may even again explore trading for Rays pitcher David Price, but that is doubtful to actually come to fruition. However, they certainly have the option of going into the season with the current staff that they have, which has Josh Beckett slotted in as the fifth starter, while Chad Billingsley continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.

Ultimately, Tanaka would have been a luxury for a Dodgers team that is already over the luxury tax threshold. With #TanakaWatch all wrapped up, General Manager Ned Colletti can now move on to filling the last remaining holes on the roster before the start of spring training.

Photo credit: Neier, Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dodgers could have statistical egde in Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes

Masahiro Tanaka reportedly has the choice of taking 6-year, $100-plus million contracts from the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Yankees, White Sox or Dodgers. The Diamondbacks might have gone to $120M and the Cubs might have gone to 7/$160M.

Tanaka has made some announcements about what he cares about beyond money.  He cares about pitching in a big market, winning now, being a legit star, a Japanese community in the city and being on the West Coast (which could be interpreted partly about being close to Japan, partly about being close to the entertainment industry for his wife). 

Out of that list, only the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will probably be any good next year (and with the Diamondbacks, Tanaka is actually what pushes them over the edge to probably being a playoff contender whereas the Dodgers are more robustly a good team and will still be so if a few things go wrong for them).

Only the Dodgers obviously are on the West Coast, although the Diamondbacks can be considered West-ish.  New York is a viable place to have an entertainment career obviously, as is Chicago.  Los Angeles has the largest Japanese population in the continental United States. New York has one-third the Japanese population of LA, and Chicago one-seventh. So, the Dodgers look pretty good here.

What about “being a star”?  Well, one way beyond being on a good team, making the playoffs, etc., that we can think about that statistically is via his traditional metrics.
What would his win-loss record and ERA be on each team? For each team, let’s think about the league (American League has designated hitter), park factor, quality of offensive support, defense and bullpen.

Park Factor
Run Support
White Sox

Behind the defense, bullpen and run support are actually my 2014 detailed projections. I’m still tweaking those a bit, but preliminarily, it works out something like the above. I thought about his winning percentage based on how league, park factor, defense and bullpen lead to each team's runs allowed in his starts vs. the team's run support level. I took his innings pitched per start down for the tougher environments and gave him less decisions for teams where the runs scored is close to the runs allowed.

If the money is even close, the rest of what the Dodgers’ situation offers completely dominates all his other options.

Photo credit: STB-1, Wikimedai Commons

Friday, January 17, 2014

Introducing Dodgers Digest, your new favorite website for everything Dodgers

Opportunities like this don't come along too often, and this is a project that can be the start of something great.

Beginning Monday, I'll be teaming up with Mike Petriello, Chad Moriyama and Daniel Brim to debut, Dodgers Digest, a website dedicated to everything Dodgers.

Our aim is to be the definitive source for Dodgers' information, analysis and thought-provoking opinions.

Feelin' Kinda Blue will remain in its current form, but I will be bringing aboard two regular contributors (to start and to be announced soon), as well as potentially some periodic contributors to this blog.

I'll be putting forth most of my writing efforts at Dodgers Digest (follow us on Twitter), but I'll be editing here.

I'm honored to be joining such great writing and analytic talent in Petriello, Moriyama and Brim. Petriello has operated Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness for six years and it's the best Dodger blog out there. Moriyama has changed the name of his site a couple times, but that hasn't stopped him from building a big following. Brim just started to blog at Blog to the Score, but the first few entries were so impressive that he was brought aboard as well.

And a big thanks to EephusBlue for putting up with our fickleness regarding the logos. We'd have nothing if it weren't for him.

We're beyond excited for what's in store. We have grandiose plans for this website. We're trying to model ourselves after River Avenue Blues, Crashburn Alley and Mets Blog -- for reference.

I hope you'll check us out.

I want to thank everyone who has spent any time reading this blog. It's gone from a passing hobby to something I've been able to brand a little bit in 4 1/2 years. I'm hoping the talent I bring aboard continue to carry it on.

Join us over at Dodgers Digest, but also stick around here for some exciting content from some new blood.

Image credit: EephusBlue, Paint the Corners

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clayton Kershaw's new contract should benefit him and the Dodgers long-term

Editor's note: This is a guest submission from Cody Stumpo. Find him on Twitter at the aptly named, @CodyStumpo.

Finally, Clayton Kershaw signed an extension to stay with the Dodgers. I was sincerely getting worried he simply did not want to be on the team. He had reportedly turned down a $300 million deal, and this has been dragging on for quite some time. His comments on the situation have been lukewarm, and "omigosh is he just not that into us?"

Well, that’s over with. He does want to be here, at least for another five years. He signed a 7-year, $215M contract with an opt out clause after the fifth year. He’ll be just 30 years old when he can opt out, but with maybe ~2,300 major league innings on his arm. For comparison, active players with 2,300 IP are A.J. Burnett, Roy Oswalt and Barry Zito. Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay just retired. In other words a lot of people that are about to retire.

Pitcher aging curves have a pretty short ramp while they’re learning how to pitch effectively.  Physically, they are getting worse from the minute they make their debut. Everyone just gets slower and more injury prone (recent performance-enhancing drug era notwithstanding). So, for a pitcher who has been in the league a few years, you can pretty much expect he’s just going to keep getting worse. Especially if they are already pitching well. If someone is talented but hasn’t put it all together yet, then you could still hold out hope for upside. With Kershaw, you don’t want to bet against the man, but there’s not a lot of room for improvement.

Evaluating his career as a full-time starter, we see an almost unrivaled stretch, one history will remember:


I include all the win above replacement metrics because they diverge quite a bit in his case. FanGraphs WAR is predicated on the idea that pitchers cannot control their batting average on balls in play, nor do they have the ability to dial it up and down depending on the situation. Every at-bat is treated in isolation, and only strikeouts, walks and home runs end up counting toward fWAR. Kershaw though, does induce poor contact. Every single year, and not by a little bit, his BABIP is lower than the league’s.

Typically it is .265 vs. the league’s .300. In a later post, I’ll try to understand why that is. You could say fWAR underrates him. RA9-WAR counts all the runs on his watch against him, and doesn’t try to remove luck or the effect of how much better or worse his fielders are than average. Dodger stadium suppresses runs and the Dodgers defense is actually pretty good lately, so RA9-WAR might overrate him. Baseball-Reference WAR is pretty intricate, and tries to take everything it can into account. It starts from the runs allowed and then tries to sort of normalize it for his park, his defense, etc.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what we might expect going forward:

$ / WAR
Net Value

What goes into this? While he will probably get a little worse year by year, he will still probably be really good. I tried to ding the innings pitched a little here and there for minor injuries too. The WAR figured here is a simple one, just how many earned runs did he save compared to a replacement pitcher, translated to wins. If you take the ERA estimate as an estimate of his skill, rather than his actual ERA once his skill gets mixed with luck and defense, then this is fair to do. Meanwhile, the price for a win (as measured by each year’s free agent contracts vs. the projections of those free agents) is increasing and possibly even accelerating. Conservatively, let’s just say it continues to go up by 5 percent per year.

The contract ends up being extremely fair by this analysis. The Expected Net Value to the Dodgers is about $10M over the first five years. Kershaw may not choose to opt out if everything unfolds as above, since the above projects the contract to be a slight negative asset to the Dodgers in the final two years, and the total contract would come in at $218M of value. However, all businesses care more about results this year than next year, and in baseball, that seems even more true -- certainly for teams that are aiming to compete now (a few teams are explicitly making the choice to rebuild and compete later). If we put any kind of discount rate on the yearly net asset values, then the huge expected 2014 benefit clearly makes this contract a big financial win for the Dodgers.

The reason teams are willing to pay for wins is mostly because revenue also goes up with wins. Dodger fans are probably going to show up in the same numbers if the team looks like it will win 94 games or 97 games the next few years. The marginal value of an extra win depends how many wins you expect to have, and is probably lower than league-average for the Dodgers right now.

But the whole business model of the ownership group is to prove to the fanbase beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Dodgers will compete for a championship every year. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t bring in fans. People don’t want to root for laundry. The depth of connection that comes from having continuity with their most valuable player is worth something. And the value to this particular franchise that has relied on historically great pitchers since arriving in this city of this particular historic player -- a fastball-curveball lefty with unimpeachable character -- that makes the deal a huge win for the Dodgers' bottom line.

On the field, the value of having literally the best pitcher in baseball is not what’s going to push the Dodgers into the playoffs. They’re probably there without him the next few years. But it very well could be what pushes them through the playoffs -- that makes the deal a huge win for the fans that have been waiting through a couple of decades of mediocrity, ridiculousness and disappointment.

Photo credit: kla4067, Flickr