Monday, June 11, 2012

A brief comparison of the Dodgers and Angels

The Angels and Dodgers finally meet Monday through Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. Both clubs are hot and in the hunt. They also have common opponents and circumstances, enough so that we can all-but-directly compare them a bit before they step on the same field.

Big Leagues in Los Angeles

In this corner, it's harder to live with interleague play between the two leagues than with the designated hitter within one. But we must live with interleague play, so you shall here witness one man's desperate effort to make a virtue of a necessity.

The Angels and Dodgers will meet for three this week at Dodger Stadium and three more next week at Angel Stadium with a real question before us right now about which club is better. Both are in the tie on top of the major leagues at 19-11 in their last 30 games. The Dodgers have maintained the best record in baseball without Matt Kemp. The Angels are actually hotter than that, 14-4 as they've surged to within three games of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.

These games should draw considerable interest across the baseball world, as they involve two of the game's sharpest clubs. We could just argue about which one is better, but now we'll have them play a few games first, then pick up the argument later.

Entering the series, due to the interleague play that makes it possible, we already have an interesting basis for comparing the two clubs, because they have played two of the same opponents under similar conditions in the last ten days. Both have played the Seattle Mariners with the designated hitter in pitchers parks, while both have played the Colorado Rockies without the designated hitter in the ultimate hitter's park, Coors Field.

We present, then, a few tables, just for the purpose of momentary compare and contrast, maybe to give us some clues about what to expect when the Dodgers and Angels meet. There's nothing of an evergreen nature to be learned here. They're just snapshots of the two teams in pretty nearly the same conditions at the same time.

The Dodgers played in Colorado June 1-3. The Angels played Seattle at Angel Stadium June 4-6. Then, June 8-10, the Angels played three in Colorado and the Dodgers played three at Seattle. The Angels have a slight advantage in playing Seattle at home. Checking the park factors, where 100 is average and the higher number favors hitters, Safeco Field's multi-year number for pitchers is 93, Angel Stadium's number for pitchers is 95, and Colorado's number for hitters is 117.

The uncommon opponents in the last ten days: The Angels played three at home against Texas June 1-3, while the Dodgers played four in Philadelphia June 4-7. Both teams were successful in those endeavors. The Angels won two of three to push their case with the Rangers, and the Dodgers swept the depleted Phillies.

So, just taking together the six games the Angels and Dodgers each played against Seattle and Colorado, here is how they hit.


Doesn't seem to be much of a contest. The Angels are bashing the ball and the Dodgers are struggling offensively. Note the walk and strikeout totals. The Dodgers are supposed to be the club working the approach of Joe Torre's Yankees, taking the deep count and the walk get into the bullpen, while the Angels are supposed to be about working the good count to put the ball in play and making the game move. But, here, the Angels are close to the Dodgers in both of those categories, walks and strikeouts, and look at what they are doing offensively.

Cleveland leads the major leagues in walks per game at 3.81, followed by the New York Mets (3.68), Tampa Bay (3.62), Arizona (3.58) and the Dodgers (3.52). Pittsburgh (2.22) is the worst walking team, followed by Philadelphia (2.38), the Chicago White Sox (2.52), Kansas City (2.57), and the Angels (2.69). But here we see the Angels walking about like the Dodgers for the last week, and hitting better than the Dodgers have hit all year.

Breaking it down a tiny bit further, here is how both clubs hit against the Mariners in pitchers parks. Bear in mind that Safeco Field (multi-year park factor of 95 for pitchers) is, like Angel Stadium, a pitchers park.

Angels vs. Mariners102183361121411.324.385.569.95322
Dodgers vs. Mariners98162521020642.255.321.357.67813

Clearly, the Angels hit much more in their games with the Mariners. Mix in a futile night for the Dodgers, who were no-hit by six Seattle pitchers on June 8. Yet, for the three games in total for each team against the Mariners, the Angels scored only two more runs. The Angels did not score as much as they could have for as much as they hit. Though they hit six homers in the three games, they only scored 18 and left 22 on base. The Dodgers homered only twice, but they scored 16 and left 13. The Dodgers' two homers were early daggers -- Andre Ethier's second inning grand slam on Sunday, and Jerry's Hairston's three-run blast in the first inning the day before then. For all that general advantage in hitting, the Angels lost two of their three to Seattle, against which the Dodgers won two of their three.

Perhaps how both of these teams batted at Coors Field gives us some idea of where these teams are at offensively. Or maybe not.

Angels at Colorado116284261022362.362.419.569.98822
Dodgers at Colorado101112321419250.228.319.376.69525

Has anyone ever heard of a club going into Coors Field and stinking up the place offensively like the Dodgers in that series? That is embarrassing. Two home runs in three games at Coors Field? The Dodgers did a fine job of walking and not striking out, but they hit so little that they only scored 11 and left 25 stranded. The Dodgers were on such an emotional low, having just been swept four at home by Milwaukee, losing the cushion they built during a well-played run at home and learning that Kemp was going back on the disabled list. Not even Coors Field could cure their hitters. Just 11 runs in three games. And they still won one of them.

The Angels are just killing the ball, slugging .569 wherever they go. Torii Hunter might want to consider Colorado as his free agency destination this winter. He finished his Coors Field engagement nine for 15 (.600) with eight runs, three homers and nine RBI. Subtracting his homers so they aren't counted twice, Hunter scored or drove in more runs (14) in his three games at Coors Field than the Dodgers (11). By that measure, also, Hunter was half of the Angels offense in the Colorado series, a three-game sweep for the Angels concluded on Sunday.

So, that's the hitting in these six common games for each team. The Dodgers won three of theirs despite not hitting a lick, while the Angels lost two of theirs despite hitting like a lineup of Hall of Famers. Maybe the pitching has something to do with those outcomes. So, here is the composite pitching for both teams in the six common games.


That line for the Angels looks like it belong to a pitching staff that just did six of six games at Coors Field, rather than three of six. The pitching line for the Dodgers looks like it belongs to a staff that just did zero of six games at Coors Field, rather than three of six. What's funny about it is that these two pitching staffs did nearly the same at Coors Field.

Angels at Colorado27.033151552375.0010%10 3
Dodgers at Colorado25.0271813141834.686 17%41 3

For all major league teams this year, the combined earned run average at Coors Field is 5.79, nearly two runs higher than the era of 3.98 for all big league games at all parks. So, that 4.68 for the Dodgers is looking pretty good, and that 5.00 for the Angels isn't bad, either. Of course, both clubs have better than average pitching. The Dodgers stayed away from throwing the home run ball pretty well, apparently by staying away from throwing strikes. The Dodgers gave away an awful lot in their series at Coors Field. We already saw it with the hitting, and now we see it in their pitching and defense -- four stolen bases, just less than five walks per game and five unearned runs in the three games, of which they lost two.

Perhaps more than any other factor entering this week's games between the Angels and Dodgers, we look to the Angels pitching staff, which has been in a blue funk for the last week, ever since they completed their series with the Rangers. One might look at these Coors Field numbers for the Angels and say, "Well, that's Coors Field." However, just as the Dodgers and Angels have very similar pitching numbers at Coors Field this month, the Angels have very similar pitching numbers at Coors Field and their own home park this week. Here are the pitching numbers for the Angels and Dodgers during the last week against Seattle. The Angels played these games at home, while the Dodgers played them in Seattle.

Team and opponent
Angels vs. Seattle27.0271715132035.00540%110
Dodgers vs. Seattle26.01766113322.0840%110

Such a peculiar week it's been for the Dodgers. They began their road trip looking dead in Colorado because they didn't hit. But their pitching there, on the whole, was very effective. Then, the Dodgers received, perhaps, exactly what they needed. It seems like they've been playing the same teams and in the same places for two months. Suddenly, they fly across the country to Philadelphia and sweep four games, taking three of them by one run and allowing a total of 12 runs in the series. Next, they fly back across the country to Seattle and play the very next day. So, the Mariners threw a no-hitter at them. But the Angels, who had just played Seattle, beat into the Mariners bullpen a little bit. When the Mariners needed five relievers to protect a 1-0 win in the no-hitter, their pen had little left for the next two games against the Dodgers, who scored eight runs in each of them. In the first of those games, the Dodgers smashed left hander Jason Vargas for five runs in six innings using a lineup that alternated left- and right-handed hitters throughout. The same general lineup enabled the Dodgers to chase Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels in an 8-3 win two days earlier. So, in the midst of their travels, the Dodgers might have discovered a lineup mix that can solve their troubles against left handers.

Meanwhile, pitching at home against a fairly light hitting Seattle club in a pitchers park, the Angels racked up a 5.00 ERA as they lost two of three to the last-place team in their own division. When the Angels were going badly, we were able to credit their pitching for keeping them in games. Now that they're going well, though, their hitting is terrific and their pitching takes them out of games. In this mix of Seattle games, the Angels got one dreadful start from Ervin Santana and a bad start from Jerome Williams. Despite scoring 21 runs in the three games, the Angels lost two of them.

Playing Monday through Wednesday at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, the Angels do not have hot pitching, but the Dodgers do. However, the Angels have hot hitting and the Dodgers don't. They say that good pitching beats good hitting. How does hot pitching do against hot hitting? Maybe, we're about to find out.

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