Up Next: Los Angeles Dodgers

After reeling off eight consecutive wins against the Rockies and Marlins, the Dodgers finally dropped a one yesterday, 7-2 to Colorado. During their winning streak, the Dodgers scored 11 or more runs four different times, lighting up Mark Redman, Scott Olsen, Jeff Francis and Jorge de la Rosa.

Record

NL WEST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA Streak Last 10
Arizona 21 10 .677 - 12-5 9-5 179 125 Lost 1 6-4
LA Dodgers 17 14 .548 4 9-5 8-9 167 130 Lost 1 8-2
San Francisco 14 18 .438 7.5 8-8 6-10 106 145 Lost 1 5-5
Colorado 12 19 .387 9 5-8 7-11 134 169 Won 1 3-7

W L RS RA W1 L1 W2 L2 W3 L3
17. 14. 167 130 19.1 11.9 18.8 12.2 18.2 12.8

W1 and L1 are the expected wins and losses based on runs scored and runs allowed.
W2 and L2 are the expected wins and losses based on BP's equivalence runs scored and allowed.
W3 and L3 are similar to W2 and L2 but adjusted for strength of schedule.

The Dodgers have had a pretty mixed schedule in the early going, playing five games apiece against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, six against the Padres and a three-spot against the Braves. They have fattened up against the Marlins, Pirates and Reds, going 8-3 against those should-be also-rans (the Marlins continue to play well despite countless prognostications to the contrary). The Dodgers have played two more games than the Mets and have scored 32 more runs and allowed two fewer. They have actually underperformed their third-order Pythagorean record by about a game and their raw run differential by two games.

Starting Rotation

Player W L ERA IP H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 SNLVAR VORP
Brad Penny* 5 2 3.19 42.1 8.93 4.25 2.98 0.43 1.0 10.6
Derek Lowe 2 2 3.66 39.1 9.84 5.72 2.52 0.69 0.5 2.5
Chad Billingsley* 1 4 5.20 27.2 8.78 13.01 5.53 0.65 0.2 0.1
Hiroki Kuroda* 1 2 3.82 37.2 9.56 4.78 1.91 0.96 0.6 5.4
Esteban Loaiza 1 2 5.62 24.0 9.00 3.38 1.88 1.12 -0.1 0.2

* asterisks denote probable starters vs Mets
() parentheses denote negative numbers
italics denote left-handed pitchers

How can someone who throws 95-98 MPH strike out fewer than a batter every two innings? Brad Penny is off to another fine start, but his peripherals -- particularly his walk and strikeout rates -- leave plenty to be desired. Sure enough, his FIP (3.87) is more than two-thirds of a run higher than his ERA (3.19). His .287 BABIP is not dramatically low, but given a balance of luck he could expect his ERA to jump up a half-run or so. That doesn't mean it'll happen, but it means that he probably hasn't been pitching as well as his ERA might indicate.

Chad Billingsley has struck out more than thirteen batters per nine innings, but he has also walked more than five and his WHIP is more than 1.5. The dude throws heat, but it doesn't always go where he wants it to. The Mets have a pretty patient lineup so hopefully they'll be able to wait out his wildness and leverage hitters counts to rack up some runs.

Hiroki Kuroda, yet another Asian import on this Dodger team, seems to have good control but no put-away pitch. He pitches to contact and does a pretty good job of keeping the ball on the ground, which means we can count on at least a few Carlos Delgado double-plays.

WPA Top Two
Hong-Chih Kuo, 0.06 WPA
Brad Penny, -0.06 WPA

WPA Bottom Two
Chad Billingsley, -0.42 WPA
Esteban Loaiza, -0.39 WPA

Starting Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB SB CS EqA VORP NL Rank
Russell Martin C 133 .286 .429 .419 3 26 2 2 .310 8.0 4/31
*James Loney 1B 134 .275 .328 .417 3 10 1 3 .255 1.6 12/20
Jeff Kent 2B 102 .298 .343 .479 3 6 0 0 .279 6.8 6/31
#Rafael Furcal SS 150 .369 .453 .585 4 19 8 2 .357 25.1 1/23
*Blake Dewitt 3B 86 .293 .384 .400 0 10 1 0 .273 4.2 7/18
*Juan Pierre LF 78 .324 .395 .382 0 6 9 1 .285 5.2 9/29
Andruw Jones CF 113 .163 .274 .255 1 15 0 0 .185 (-6.3) 23/23
Matt Kemp RF 113 .324 .348 .495 2 5 7 1 .295 8.4 5/18

* asterisks denote left-handed batters
# pound signs denote switch-hitters
rankings are based on VORP for players with at least 100 PA

Overall a very strong lineup, with six of the eight regulars in the top half of the NL at their respective positions (by VORP) and five in the top third. One of the slackers is Andruw Jones, who has cost the Dodgers two-thirds of a win with his bat alone, relative to a replacement center fielder. His -6.3 VORP is the worst among 23 qualifying CFs.

Meanwhile, his former Brave teammate Rafael Furcal is third in the league in VORP, first among shortstops, and is getting on base better than 45% of the time. I don't normally dole out fantasy advice, but if you happen to own Furcal in your fantasy league I would go ahead and sell high as his .396 BABIP is laughably unsustainable. His 18.5% line drive rate would normally dictate a .305 BABIP, so Furcal has a rhino turd-sized plate of bad luck in his future.

Russell Martin remains one of the best offensive catchers in the league, and Jeff Kent still provides solid offense at the keystone despite advancing age and a litany of truck-washing-related ailments.

If you thought Furcal was the early-season prince of BABIP, allow me to present the case for Matt Kemp. The Dodgers' right fielder is off to a terrific start, hitting .324/.348/.495 in 113 plate appearances. He is also 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts. He also has a .438 BABIP, which is ridiculous. Strangely, his line drive rate is an astounding 31.2%, so his high BABIP may not be all smoke and mirrors. I don't really know what to think here because the league average BABIP is around .300 and the average LD% is around 18%. So, Kemp does appear to be legitimately hitting the crap out of the ball, but I have no idea how long he'll be able to keep it up.

WPA Top Two
Rafael Furcal, 0.88 WPA
Russell Martin, 0.59 WPA

WPA Bottom Two
Andruw Jones, -1.09 WPA
Mark Sweeney, -0.29 WPA

Bullpen

Player ERA IP H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WXRL VORP
Takashi Saito 2.03 13.1 7.43 9.45 3.38 0.68 0.202 4.2
Jonathan Broxton 2.08 13.0 5.54 11.77 4.15 0.00 0.991 5.0
Scott Proctor 5.28 15.1 8.22 8.22 4.11 1.76 0.112 (-0.5)
*Joe Beimel 0.82 11.0 9.00 6.55 3.27 0.00 0.547 5.8
*Hong-Chih Kuo 3.05 20.2 8.27 10.89 3.48 0.87 0.176 6.0
Chan Ho Park 2.84 19.0 9.47 2.84 4.74 1.89 0.600 5.9
Cory Wade 3.00 6.0 9.00 4.50 0.00 0.00 -0.063 (-1.1)

Another year, another terrific bullpen for the Dodgers. Takashi Saito remains one of the best closers in baseball, and Jonathan "Tubs" Broxton continues to be a formidable Mariano Rivera to Saito's John Wetteland. Hong-Chih Kuo has struck out almost eleven batters per nine innings so far, and he and Joe Beimel give the Dodgers plenty of lefty options coming out of the 'pen. Former Yankee Scott Proctor is also striking out a lot of batters, but he is also walking plenty and allowing homeruns left and right. I'm sure Joe Torre will have no problem overusing him just as he did in the Bronx.

I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't mention our old friend Chan Ho Park, back with the Dodgers and pitching effectively in relief. And by "pitching effectively" I really mean "somehow maintaining a sub-seven (let alone sub-three) ERA despite horrendous strikeout (2.84), walk (4.74) and homerun (1.89) rates. Unless he's the Korean David Copperfield you can count on his FIP bubble bursting any day now.

WPA Top Two
Jonathan Broxton, 0.86 WPA
Chan Ho Park, 0.51 WPA

WPA Bottom Two
Cory Wade, -0.18 WPA
Chad Billingsley, -0.17 WPA

Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB SB CS EqA VORP
Andre Ethier Bench1 122 .303 .388 .465 3 13 2 0 .300 7.7
Chin-lung Hu Bench2 36 .226 .333 .226 0 5 1 0 .238 (-0.5)
Delwyn Young Bench3 16 .400 .438 .400 0 1 0 0 .272 1.9
Gary Bennett Bench4 15 .143 .200 .143 0 1 0 0 -.071 (-1.9)
Mark Sweeney Bench5 27 .136 .296 .182 0 5 0 0 .143 (-1.2)

Andre Ethier gets a lot of starts, but there's really no reason he should ever ride the bench in favor of Juan Pierre. To Pierre's credit (you don't hear those words uttered very often), he has done a good job getting on base so far this year and actually has a respectable .385 EqA. The bad news is that his career EqA is almost 30 points lower at .256, so expect him to trade respectability for replaceability sooner rather than later.

Mark Sweeney is a career bench player who hasn't had a good season since 2005 when he hit .294/.395/.466 with the Padres. Gary Bennett is a backup catcher who appeared on last winter's Mitchell Report and later admitted that his HGH use was a "stupid decision", presumably because it didn't make him any better than a crummy backup catcher. Bennett was traded to the Mets in 2001 as half of a straight-up deal that sent Todd Pratt to the Phillies. Bennett went 1-for-1 in his only game with the Mets and remains among the franchise leaders with a career 2.000 OPS.

Delwyn Young is a utility guy with a very strong minor league track record and good success in extremely limited (as in 57 plate appearances limited) big league action. Chin-lung Hu is a puny Taiwanese shortstop who won the MVP of last season's All-Star Futures game. He hasn't done much to distinguish himself in 36 plate-apps this season, but with Furcal running third in the NL in VORP there is little reason to give Hu playing time.

Managerial Tendencies

Strategy # Times NL Rank
Pinch Hit 59 4/16
Stolen Base Attempts 41 2/16
Sacrifice Bunts 15 6/16

Joe Torre seems to be adapting well to the National League style of play, ranking near the top of the league in pinch hits, stolen base attempts and sacrifice bunts. No word on whether he avoids the wheel play or understands the utility of double-switching, but he has a strong enough bullpen to overcome -- as he did in New York -- much of his pedestrian tactical management ability.

Key Injuries

Nomar Garciaparra
Jason Schmidt
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