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Saturday Rockpile: Walking On LA

One thing that the Dodgers recent moves have been doing has been to cut into the Rockies projected advantage over the rest of the division when it comes to getting on base. As new TrueBlueLA writer Eric Stephen points out, LA has been building some patience into their lineup, so it might be good to take an updated look at where the two teams are side by side in this regard.


From Stephen's post, here are the seven eighths of the Dodgers lineup with their Rockies counterparts as well as their one notable dream piece that's still floating in the FA market,

Signing Manny is the final piece to make the 2009 Dodgers a fully functional offense.  Hopefully one that will walk all over the rest of the NL West.

Well, let's see:

Actually, before we start, I want to add that park factors for drawing walks will skew these numbers a bit. Both Dodger Stadium and Coors Field suppress walks to a similar degree overall, but if you look at how those effects play out on a split level (available at First Inning) you'll note that almost all of Coors' suppression happens with left handed hitters, whereas LA's home park is more biased against right handers although not nearly to the degree that Coors hates patient lefties. So keep in mind that Russell Martin's advantage over Chris Iannetta in this department could be bigger than the raw numbers show, while Todd Helton's ability to draw the BB over James Loney is likewise more impressive than shown.


C - Russell Martin - Chris Iannetta


Catcher BB% O-Swing%
Martin 14.0 19.8
Iannetta 14.4 16.2


Even though Iannetta has the better eye, what actually gives Martin the advantage is another column that I probably should have included of contact made outside the strikezone. Martin connected on 60.9% of his swings outside the zone in 2008, while Iannetta only made contact 39.4% of the time. So while Martin was able to foul more pitches off to get another chance to draw a walk, Iannetta would wind up flailing for a K. These are two of the best catchers in the business at drawing a walk, it's very close but I think Martin has a tiny lead.


1B - James Loney - Todd Helton


First Base BB% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Loney 7.0 26.6 73.8
Helton 16.9 16.5 80.2


There's a decisive advantage for the Rockies here.


2B - Blark DeRetta - Cleff Barmer


Second Base BB% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Blake DeWitt 10.9 24.0 65.6
Mark Loretta 9.8 18.0 72.2
Clint Barmes 4.1 35.7 68.2
Jeff Baker 7.8 24.7 50.4


While the Dodgers have a clear advantage at second, keep in mind that DeWitt walked in more than 10% of his plate appearances for the first and only time in his professional career in 2008. He's probably not as patient as his totals with the Dodgers last season made him look. Loretta, on the other hand, seems to have been unlucky when it comes to his walk numbers, I'd look for a rebound in 2009. Neither will be close to as bad as Barmes in this category. Baker's got a similar problem to Iannetta in that his inability to make more contact when he chases is preventing him from drawing more walks. Decisive advantage to the Dodgers here, cancelling out Helton's lead at first.


3B - Casey Blake - Garrett Atkins


Third Base BB% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Blake 8.4 26.5 64.7
Atkins 6.1 19.1 63.8


These are the full season numbers, but Blake was significantly worse in all three columns with the Dodgers than he was with Cleveland last season. It's difficult to say why, although the park factors I mentioned up top may have had something to do with it. Meanwhile, Atkins' low walk percentage seems very unlucky given his peripheral discipline rates, as with Loretta, I'm expecting a big rebound in 2009. I'm going to call this one a draw to a slight lean for Atkins; my hunch is that due to park effects that Atkins will have a significantly better looking season in 2009, though.


SS - Rafael Furcal - Troy Tulowitzki


Shortstop BB% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Furcal 12.3 24.5 79.8
Tulowitzki 9.2 23.7 71.9


These two hitters show the value that being able to make contact on swings outside the zone can have in walk rates. I do think Furcal's 2008 numbers were a bit lucky in this department and expect a drop back. He still could have a slight advantage over Tulo, however. As with the right side of the infield, it looks like the left sides cancel each other out. 


LF - Manny Ramirez - Seth Smith


Left Fielder BB% O-Swing % O-Contact %
Ramirez 13.6 25.2 63.0
Smith 12.2 28.5 59.7


Ramirez's advantage over Smith in drawing walks comes entirely from fear, if it weren't for IBB's, Seth's numbers would look better. That' fear's not going to go away in 2009, though considering how Ramirez ran roughshod over the division in 2008, so advantage LA. 


CF - Matt Kemp - Ryan Spilborghs


Center Fielder BB% O-Swing% O-Contact %
Kemp 7.1 31.5 51.5
Spilborghs 14.0 17.1 54.7


LA's hoping Kemp takes further steps forward with his plate discipline, but there's a large advantage for the Rockies here.


RF - Andre Ethier - Brad Hawpe


Right Fielder BB% O-Swing% O-Contact%
Ethier 10.1 25.7 65.7
Hawpe 13.5 23.7 52.0


I think Ethier's a little better situated here with the park effects and that higher O-Contact percentage, even though Brad had the better 2008 walk numbers. I could see them reversing in 2009. Projections seem to disagree, however, and see Hawpe drawing a dozen or so more walks than Ethier next season.


Final conclusion? If the Dodgers wind up getting Manny to return, I don't know if the Rockies will retain their lead in plate discipline, but I can't say for sure that they lose it, either. I think the infields cancel each other out, so it comes to Martin vs Iannetta and the outfields. We have a clear advantage in center, with the corners being a more interesting mix that could go either way (Manny's plate discipline advantage over Smith isn't nearly as much as I thought it would be, and Hawpe projects well but doesn't look so good with deeper digging). Ian Stewart had a 10.1% BB rate in 2008 with some bad peripherals, but he also has a decent minor league track record of drawing walks over 10% of the time, so he should be an interesting wild card. Delwyn Young had similar success with bad underlying stats in 2008.


There is no competition in the discipline category from the other teams in the division for these two, so this will be an important battle for the Rockies to ultimately win if they want to finish ahead of the Dodgers in 2009.