Dodgers ready to play Moneyball
Los Angeles is short on cash so GM Ned Colletti is embracing stats to find solutions
Advanced measurement techniques reveal who looked good in Arizona Fall League
On 11/11/11, a salute to the top 11 men to wear the No. 11 in the majors
The Dodgers and general manager Ned Colletti, with his three decades in baseball, have gone sabermetric. In September the Dodgers hired Alex Tamin, a graduate of Johns Hopkins and UCLA School of Law, as Director of Baseball Contracts, Research and Operations. That was a confirmation that Los Angeles is joining the "new school" franchises with a strong belief -- not just an obligatory nod -- that quantitative analysis plays an important role in building a winning team.
"We're becoming more numerically oriented," Colletti said. "We've always kept it as part of the mix, but there's so much more information now and its value is proven. It's not just theory any more. It's more of a foundation, along with scouting, as part of evaluation. For me it's 50-50.
"I'll never abandon scouting. I would never hire someone on the basis of a resume without knowing who they are. I always will have the scouts' view on how they perform, what kind of teammate they are . . . all the things that you can't get it off a piece of paper. But the other part, the statistical part, is more and more a part of the foundation."
Colletti, 56, replaced Paul DePodesta as Dodgers GM after the 2005 season. With his background with the Cubs and Giants, Colletti was regarded as an old-school antidote for DePodesta, the sabermetric-leaning executive who played a key role in the Moneyball approach by Oakland under Athletics GM Billy Beane.
Colletti will need every available tool to upgrade the Dodgers this winter as the club operates under an austerity program until owner Frank McCourt sells the team. The Dodgers' payroll is expected to be cut from its $98 million mark in 2011. While the club can pursue extensions for its own players, such as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw, the lack of increased revenues will keep Los Angeles out of the bidding for top-tier free agents for now. Without an identified buyer yet, the Dodgers face at least a three- or four-month window until some money shakes loose.
So Colletti will have to apply his increased sabermetric vision to improving this team around the edges. For example, Colletti re-signed righthanded hitter Juan Rivera ($4.5 million) because his quantitative analysis showed the Dodgers' lefthanded hitters posted a .566 OPS against lefthanded pitching. Only the Padres, Pirates and Nationals were worse in the NL. Rivera, who can play first base or the outfield, gives manager Don Mattingly an option against lefthanded pitching in place of either James Loney (.561 OPS vs. lefties) or Ethier (.563), who ranked 215 and 217 out of the 226 players who were given at least 100 plate appearances against lefties.
Trackman, the Danish company with the cutting-edge tracking tools, has brought its cool toys to the Arizona Fall League. Here are some highlights from its recent findings:
Top Average Velocity
1. Aroldis Chapman, Reds 94.8
2. Rob Scahill, Rockies 94.7
3. Chris Carpenter, Cubs 94.4
4. Casey Weathers, Rockies 93.9
The takeaway: The Rockies have two power arms who are not exactly young prospects in Scahill, 24, a starter who has pitched out of the bullpen in the AFL, and Weathers, 26, the former No. 1 pick. Chapman also threw the highest recorded pitch: 100.1 mph.
1. Cole St. Clair, Dodgers 7 feet, 3 inches
2. Brian Moran, Mariners 7 feet, 2 inches
3. Casey Crosby, Tigers 7 feet, 1 inch
Aroldis Chapman, Reds 7 feet, 1 inch
The takeaway: St. Clair and Moran are not hard throwers, but Crosby, a 6-foot-5 lefthanded starter, really gets a boost from his extension. His 94 mph average fastball looks like 96 to a hitter because of his extension.
Curveball Spin Rate
1. Collin McHugh, Mets 2,995 rpm
2. Casey Lambert, Orioles 2,780
3. Evan Crawford, Blue Jays 2,713
The takeaway: In the majors, a higher spin rate equates to more swinging strikes and a lower batting average against. McHugh's curveball is almost in Justin Verlander territory (3,004). McHugh, 24, an 18th-round pick in 2008, is 24-14 in the minors with a 3.48 ERA and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
1. Bryce Harper, Nationals 462 feet
2. Derek Norris, Nationals 448
Brandon Short, White Sox 448
The takeaway: Harper, 19, and Norris, 22, were teammates at Double-A Harrisburg. Norris, a catcher, is a career .249 hitter but with a .403 OBP and legit power. Harper has ridiculous power.
Hard Contact Percentage
1. Matthew Adams, Cardinals 12 of 14 86 percent
2. Wilfredo Tovar, Mets 18 of 22 82 percent
3. Nick Franklin, Mariners 17 of 26 65 percent
The takeaway: This is a cool measurement of how often a guy hits the ball hard, with hard defined as a ball with exit speed off the bat of 90 mph or greater. It means of the 14 times Adams has made contact, 12 of them were hit hard.
On the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the century, it's time to honor the All-11 baseball team: the 11 players and manager who best wore the number 11 at their respective positions.
Five Hall of Famers have worn 11 as their primary number: Carl Hubbell, Lefty Gomez, Luis Aparacio, Paul Waner and Sparky Anderson. A sixth, Barry Larkin, could join them in Cooperstown as soon as next summer. Five teams have retired the number: the Giants (Hubbell), White Sox (Aparicio), Pirates (Waner), Tigers (Anderson) and Angels (Jim Fregosi).
Among today's players, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and shortstop Jimmy Rollins have had the best careers wearing 11, but they don't make the cut here. And neither does third baseman Fernando Tatis, an 11 who wore his birthday on his back (Jan. 1) when he became the first player to smash two grand slams in one inning in 1999.
The good choices at shortstop and third base, in fact, are much more numerous for 11s than they are at catcher and first base, as you will see below. To make the All-11, a player had to wear 11 as his primary number and not partially in his career, as did someone such as Rogers Hornsby. So happy 11-11-11 to the All-11s.
C: Don Slaught
1B: Brad Hawpe
2B: Chuck Knoblauch
SS: Barry Larkin
3B: Doug DeCinces
OF: Gary Sheffield
OF: Paul Waner
OF: Dixie Walker
DH: Edgar Martinez
P: Carl Hubbell
Mgr: Sparky Anderson