How Will the Dodgers Score Runs in 2012?

In 2011, the Dodgers scored 644 runs, ninth in the National League. The offense was powered, of course, by Matt Kemp, who just missed the batting Triple Crown. The next most significant offensive contributions after Kemp came from veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, a somewhat-injured Andre Ethier, and a second-half surging James Loney. And that was pretty much it.

Carroll’s gone, having signed with the Minnesota Twins. Ethier and Loney are in the final year of their contracts. Kemp will continue to anchor the offense. Who else will get on base and score runs for the Dodgers in 2012?

This off-season, the Dodgers signed free agents Matt Treanor, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Juan Rivera, and Adam Kennedy. Rivera is the youngest of the bunch; he’ll be in his age-34 season in 2012. Treanor, Hairston and Kennedy will all be in their age 36-season. That’s a lot of players on the downside of their careers.

Let’s take a look at the 2012 Dodgers by position.

First base: Loney’s been the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman since 2008. In those four seasons, he’s been consistent offensively, with an average wOBA of .327 and an average wRC+ of 102. Consistent, yes. Effective? Not particularly, especially for a first baseman. The only National League first basemen with lower wOBA and wRC+ over the last four seasons are Jorge Cantu and Garrett Atkins, neither of whom plays in the majors anymore.

Second base: Jamey Carroll split duties with Aaron Miles at second base in 2011. Carroll ended the season with a wOBA of .321 and a wRC+ of 104. That was the fourth highest wRC+ on the team. Miles was dreadful, posting a .291 wOBA and an 83 wRC+.

The new second baseman, Mark Ellis, is a big downgrade offensively from Carroll. Ellis did battle injuries in 2010 and 2011, but his average wOBA over the last four seasons is .308.  He has a below-average walk rate and hits for no power at all.

Jerry Hairston will likely platoon at second, third and perhaps even short, and is better than Ellis at the plate, but only by so much. Hairston ended 2011 with a .323 wOBA and a 103 wRC+ in 376 plate appearances — his best season since 2008. The typically optimistic Bill James projections have Hairston with a .301 wOBA for 2012. Second base looks to be an offensive black hole for the Dodgers in 2012.

Shortstop: Carroll split time at shortstop with young Dee Gordon and the injured Rafael Furcal, before Furcal was traded to the Cardinals. Gordon looks to be getting most of the innings at short in 2012, with help from Juan Uribe and Justin Sellers. Gordon hits for average but has an abysmally low walk rate (3.0%) and almost no power. He’s fast and a threat to steal, so if he can inch his OBP up even slightly, he will create more scoring opportunities.

Third base: Uribe was hurt for much of 2011 and his offense suffered considerably as a result. After hitting 24 home runs for the San Francisco Giants in 2010, Uribe hit just 4 HRs for the Dodgers in 295 plate appearances. His .204 batting average was a career low.

Uribe’s season ended for good in early September when he had surgery for a sports hernia. The Dodgers need Uribe to bounce back in 2012 to something approaching his offensive output in 2009 and 2010 with the Giants. If not, they’ll be relying on Adam Kennedy. And as Eno Sarris noted a few weeks ago, Adam Kennedy relying on Kennedy for any sort of offensive output will leave you very disappointed.

Left field: I wrote about Juan Rivera right after he signed his two-year deal:

Rivera’s 2011 efforts at the plate continued a decline that had begun in 2010. His best seasons offensively were in 2006 and 2009 — both with the Angels — and separated by leg surgery that forced him to miss most of 2007. In 2006, his age-29 season, he posted a wOBA of .373 with an wRC+ of 125. In 2009, he had a wOBA of .348 and a wRC+ of 110.  But by 2010, Rivera’s wOBA had dropped to .314 with a wRC+ of 94. His final line in 2011 had his wOBA at .308 and his wRC+ at 96.

Tony Gwynn will be likely be the first outfielder off the bench, giving Rivera a chance to rest his aging leg. But Gwynn isn’t likely to provide more offensive firepower than Rivera. In 2010 and 2011, his wOBA was below .300 and his wRC+ averaged 81.

Center field: Kemp had an exceptional year in 2011, but it was coming off his worst offensive year in 2010. As my colleague Eno Sarris wrote after Kemp signed his eight-year contract extension in November, he is unlikely to repeat his 2011 performance, given is very high BABIP in 2011 (.380) and career high strike out rate. But Kemp will be an offensive force in 2012.

Right field: Ethier started off 2011 with a 30-game hitting streak, batting .380 in April. But he cooled off after that, ending the season with a slash of .292/.368/.421, a wOBA of .343 and a wRC+ of 119. Ethier endured a right knee injury for much of the season — which appeared to sap his power — and forced him to miss most of September. If Ethier’s knee is strong in 2012, I’d expect him to be the second most important contributor to the Dodgers’ offense, after Kemp. He’s also playing for a new contract, which should give him extra motivation.

Catcher: The catcher position provided almost no offensive help for the Dodgers in 2011. Rod Barajas and Dionner Navarro combined for a .284 wOBA in 529 plate appearances. The bright spot was A.J. Ellis, who posted a .346 wOBA and a 121 wRC+ in only 103 PAs. Ellis should get the majority of the playing time in 2012, backed up by veteran Matt Treanor. Whatever Ellis and Treanor produce is likely to be more than what Barajas and Navarro mustered in 2012.

So it’s Kemp and Ethier and who knows what else for the Dodgers’ offense in 2012.




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Wendy also writes for Sports on Earth and Bay Area Sports Guy. She's written for ESPN.com, Baseball Nation and The Wall Street Journal. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before pursuing her passion for baseball. You can follow her writings and ravings on Twitter @hangingsliders.

18 Responses to “How Will the Dodgers Score Runs in 2012?”

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  1. D4P says:

    Ned Colletti has had 6 seasons and $600 million+ to spend, and THIS is what he has put together.

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  2. Blake says:

    No Jerry Sands?

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    • www.thehotteststove.com says:

      Maybe there’s a follow-up article titled “Jerry Sands is How the Dodgers will Score Runs in 2012….” I’ll assume that’s what happened. Can’t wait!

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  3. Scott says:

    This is a pretty incomplete analysis without mentioning Jerry Sands in the LF/RF mix should Ethier’s knee be a problem or more likely Gwynn/Rivera don’t get it done.

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  4. regfairfield says:

    Listing the Dodgers wOBAs in 2011, unless you can use their projection to make them look worse.

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  5. gnomez says:

    They won’t.

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  6. Evan says:

    People always joke about Ned Coletti being a Sabean disciple, call him Agent Ned, etc., but Jesus Christ this offseason is like a caricature taken too far. There’s so much veteran, gritty gamerness in the Dodgers lineup I’m not even sure Sabean will watch any Giants games this year.

    I think Coletti deserves some leniency for being the victim of poor timing, but even with the tiny amount of rope he’s been given he’s managed to hang himself.

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    • Franklin Stubbs says:

      Before the Cubs hired Epstein and Hoyer, an overnight host on one of the local sports had The Moustache as his personal favorite as the Cubs’ new GM. I nearly shit myself the first time I heard him say it. After 8 years of Hendry, he wanted another dinosaur. Of course the same host, Les Grobstein also thinks Sabean is a great GM.

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    • Matthew says:

      I’m a Giants fan…and to be honest, I’m pretty thankful for Sabean, even in the context of how disappointing this offseason was coming off 100+ straight sell-outs. Sabean traded “problem guys” like Jonathan Sanchez for a Melky we all pray turned the corner, and sold low on Andres Torres because they couldn’t take the “bad soldier” routine anymore to get Angel Pagan, who should actually be a pretty decent leadoff guy and was unlucky and in a funk last season.

      Of course, picking up Affeldt’s 5m option when the teams desperately needs to sign a guy like Carlos Beltran…that kinda sucked.

      But to be honest, if they weren’t hosing the fans when they said that they would extend Lincecum and Cain, that would be a pretty good offseason. At least in terms of a conservative, “let’s not f*ck this up” approach.

      As for the Dodgers, sad story. Agent Ned is taking it too far.

      If I were the Dodgers GM, I would have:
      -Not bought any crappy utility guys (Hairston)
      -Traded Andre Ethier for a GOOD 3B prospect. Nolan Arenado is the best out there, and probably worth more than Ethier. A good 2B or C prospect, or, last resort, a fantastic hitting 1B prospect would also be good. The Dodgers need a guy for the long-term at each of those positions.
      -Extended Kershaw, and try to get options on a couple free agent years
      -Tried to generally trim payroll and sell off non-franchise cornerstones for assets
      -Play the kids
      -Get a really good draft pick in the 2013 draft
      -Plan to buy one or two good free agents in the 2012 offseason like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke
      -Expect to compete in 2013 at the earliest, 2014 most likely once a few more cost-controlled regulars become fixtures in the lineup and rotation.

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  7. Table says:

    Dodgers should have target guys like Aramis Ramirez, Ramon Hernandez, and Cody Ross. Though even that would have only been marginally better. They really should have gone after Beltre last year, who is it that gives out these “no contracts longer than 3 years” mandates?

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  8. Ben says:

    Of the four main run producers from last season that you listed, three of them are returning. I agree that Dodgers offense sucks, but I anticipate Gordon/Sands/Hairston at least match the kind of production that Carroll/Furcal/Barajas did. Plus, a healthy Ethier will make up for whatever regression Kemp suffers.

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  9. Bip says:

    Ned has spent about 11 million on new offensive players alone this offseason, and this is how you pay him back? By saying that they suck? Sounds about right to me.

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  10. Seaver says:

    could they still be looking at Daniel Murphy to play 3B? They cannot be planning to have Uribe as the everyday 3Bman, can they?

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  11. AA says:

    How did Kemp have a career high K rate in 2011? He did have a career high walk rate, but also showed markedly better pitch selection (swinging at early fastballs, laying off outside sliders).

    Also, how did Barajas/Navarro do anything in 2012? 2012 hasn’t happened yet.

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  12. AA says:

    Oh, and you can’t bring up BABIP and Kemp without mentioning that he’s one of the 5 fastest players in baseball and smashes line drives.

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