Thursday, May 08, 2014

Saxon: Fielding Percentage Dooming Dodgers?

Interesting position from's Mark Saxon, who posits that it might be the Dodgers' fielding percentage which is keeping our record mediocre:

Aside from some iffy health in the rotation, what's holding the Dodgers back from reaching their potential? The hitting has been slow to come and the bullpen is only intermittently reliable, but the nagging worry for Mattingly, general manager Ned Colletti and the entire coaching staff is whether this team fields at a high enough level to reach its goal.

The Dodgers didn't make a single error or boneheaded play in the field Wednesday, but that made it an anomaly.

The Dodgers entered Wednesday with the worst fielding percentage (.976) in the National League, just ahead of the Nationals.

Mattingly said he and bench coach Tim Wallach worry that the team's shoddy play in the field has forced Rick Honeycutt's pitching staff to throw an extra 10 to 15 pitches a game, a whole other wrinkle to why this team's issues in the field could become a team problem, not an isolated one.

It could, of course, become the problem. Since 2003, only two teams, the 2012 San Francisco Giants and 2004 Boston Red Sox, have won a World Series with a fielding percentage in the bottom 10 in the majors. Of course, fielding percentage is a crude measure of a team's ability to catch and throw. An unturned double play, which doesn't show up as an error, could be the costliest play in a game. A ball that falls harmlessly in the outfield for a hit because an outfielder got a terrible jump can be the final straw in a pitcher's outing.

I'm not so sure. The delta between our starters' ERA (2.88, 5th in the majors) and the bullpen's ERA (3.88, 17th in the majors) can't be minimized. With five blown saves, it doesn't look all that bad; we're only tied for eighth in the majors. But it's the relievers' OBP that is killing us: a .342 OBP is 26th in the majors, and over 80 points worse than San Francisco (best bullpen OBP). So our opponents are getting on base frequently against our pen, and then we're making a lot of errors on top of that--which may correlate to why we lead the league in extra-inning games (eight). Which just gets our bullpen even more overused and tired. It's a death spiral!

So maybe errors have something to do with it, but I wouldn't disregard the bullpen's shaky start to the season.