Stats & Info: Adrian Gonzalez

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Gonzalez a winner the past two nights

July, 22, 2014
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The Los Angeles Dodgers need to be careful over the next couple of weeks, because the schedule favors their division rivals.

If the San Francisco Giants are going to make a move in the NL West, it may come in the next month. Over the next 30 days, only nine of their 27 games are against teams currently over .500. In that same span, the Dodgers play 22 games against teams with winning records. The Dodgers managed a road win against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday, while the Giants defeated Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Winning teams had been flummoxing Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez this season. But he’s now had two notable days in a row against contending teams, with the go-ahead RBI in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3-for-3 showing with a pair of runs scored against the Pirates.

Gonzalez entered Monday hitting a meager .222 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 135 at-bats against teams with winning records this season. It would seem to be a priority for the Dodgers to get his bat going.

Perhaps Sunday’s hit will go down as the at-bat that turns Gonzalez’s season for the better. He singled in the winning run on a 98 mph fastball from Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal with two outs in the ninth inning.

Gonzalez entered that at-bat with only one other hit (and 26 outs made) against pitches of 98 mph or faster dating back to August 15, 2010, and that hit came a little less than a month ago against Rosenthal’s Cardinals teammate, Carlos Martinez.

Monday the pitches came in a little slower and Gonzalez delivered three hits and two walks against them, including another that came with two outs and runners in scoring position (he'd been 9-for-48 in such situations entering that last at-bat on Sunday).

There’s something about seeing that Pirates uniform on the other side that Gonzalez likes. He’s 20-for-50 against them over the past three seasons and his .341 career batting average against Pittsburgh is his best versus any National League team.

What’s the biggest key for Gonzalez the rest of the way? Something he didn’t have to deal with Monday: hitting against left-handed pitching.

Gonzalez’s numbers against right-handers this season aren’t that different from when he was in his prime -- a .286 batting average and .508 slugging percentage with 13 home runs.

But against lefties, he’s hitting .178 (18-for-101) with a .478 OPS. That’s a far cry from two seasons ago when he hit .322 and slugged .491 against left-handed pitching.

Why aren't Dodgers great? Look to the stars

July, 19, 2014
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With the past season’s success, their $230 million payroll and a cadre of easily recognizable players, the Dodgers were considered the heavy frontrunners for the National League West and among the favorites for the World Series.

Entering Saturday’s action, however, the team is 54-44 –- good, not great -– and a percentage point behind the Giants in the NL West. What's more, the Dodgers are only 6-7 in July.

The reasons the Dodgers aren’t better is actually quite simple: The players perceived to be –- and paid to be –- stars are, in fact, playing nothing like stars.

If you use Wins Above Replacement, the lack of production from Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Adrián González becomes apparent. Those three are being paid a combined $58 million this season yet have combined to produce below replacement level, at -0.7 WAR.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think of them not by their star names, but by comparisons to players at the same position producing at the same level. In other words, Kemp, Ethier and González have been as good as the decidedly less famous Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Mark Reynolds.

If you replaced Kemp, Ethier and González with Brown, Revere and Reynolds, the team wouldn’t have been any worse off this season, and far fewer people would be asking the question: Why aren’t the Dodgers better?

It would be obvious; their players aren’t that good. Using OPS, we can see that all three of those players (and to a lesser extent, Hanley Ramirez) are playing well off their previously established levels of performance. All three players have posted an OPS at least 100 points below their combined OPS from the previous three seasons.

It doesn’t get any more optimistic when you dig into each player individually. All three are not only playing below expectations this season, but are also in the midst of a prolonged decline:

Adrian Gonzalez
González is hitting .224 since the beginning of May and has two fewer home runs in the past two and a half months (6) than he did in April (8).

He is hitting just .280 with a .781 OPS since being acquired by the Dodgers in late August 2012, compared to .321/.895 while in a Red Sox uniform.

Matt Kemp
Only two position players in the NL have been worse by WAR than Kemp this season, as he’s cost the Dodgers more than a win with his play (-1.3). Since the start of the past season, he’s been worth below replacement level (-0.8). After hitting .315 with a .954 OPS during his peak in 2011-12, Kemp has hit just .268 with a .740 OPS since the start of the past season.

Kemp was worth 8.2 WAR in 2011 and signed a $160M contract following that season. He’s been worth 1.6 WAR in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (so far) combined.

Andre Ethier
Ethier hit .284 in 2012 and .272 in 2013 and is hitting .250 so far this season. His slugging percentage was .460 in 2012 and .423 in 2013 and is .375 this season. Both his current .250 batting average and .375 slugging percentage would be the worst marks of his career.

He hit 20 home runs in 2012 and 12 the past season but has four this season, entering Saturday.

Fielder trade: Follow the money

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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USA TODAY SportsThe Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade should open up playing time for young players Jurickson Profar and Nick Castellanos.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers agreed to a blockbuster trade Tuesday that might be as much about future salary as it is about current talent.

The Tigers will send Prince Fielder, who is due to make $168 million over the next seven seasons, to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The second baseman is due to make another $62 million through 2018, a year in which he has a $10 million club option or $5 million buyout.

Fielder is the fourth player in MLB history to be dealt with more than $100 million remaining on his contract. He joins Alex Rodriguez, who was dealt from the Rangers to the Yankees, as well as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who were part of the same deal between the Red Sox and the Dodgers.

Big-time production
Fielder has had one of the best starts to his career by a left-handed power hitter. His 285 career home runs are the fifth-most in MLB history before the age of 30 by a lefty, behind just Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott and Adam Dunn.

During his two years in Detroit, Fielder was one of four players to hit 50 home runs, drive in 200 runs and hit .290 along with now former teammate Miguel Cabrera, free agent Robinson Cano and Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Kinsler, who entered the league in 2006, has been one of the best second baseman in the game. His 34.9 WAR is the fourth-best among second basemen in that span behind just Chase Utley, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia.

One thing to watch for this upcoming season is how Kinsler adapts to playing in Detroit, as he was much more productive at the Ballpark in Arlington in his career than on the road, hitting 62 points higher.

Postseason pasts
One area where the two players have had different degrees of success is in the postseason.

Since joining the Tigers, Prince Fielder hit .196 in 92 postseason at-bats with just one home run. And in his past 18 postseason games, Fielder hasn’t driven in a single run.

Kinsler, meanwhile, has hit .311 in his postseason career.

Roster impact
For the Rangers, the roster change is fairly apparent, as they had three quality middle infielders for two spots last season, including Elvis Andrus whose eight-year, $120 million extension starts in 2015. Moving Kinsler allows Jurickson Profar to man second base, while Fielder provides a big upgrade over Mitch Moreland at first base. Profar was Keith Law’s No. 1 prospect heading into last season.

For Detroit, moving Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to take over at first base -- where he won’t be as big of a liability on defense. It also opens the door at third for the Tigers’ top prospect, Nick Castellanos, who started his career as a third baseman but was moved to the outfield in 2012. Castellanos was a first-round pick in 2010 and was the 2012 Futures Game MVP.

Dodgers winning formula: Hit it really far

October, 16, 2013
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The Los Angeles Dodgers stayed in the NLCS, beating the St. Louis Cardinals with a home-run barrage in Game 5.

That one’s gone … and so is that one, and that one, and that one
The Dodgers tied a team single-game postseason record with four home runs, matching marks they’d previously reached in 1977 and 1978. It’s the first time they hit four in a postseason game in Dodger Stadium.

Adrian Gonzalez had his first career postseason multi-homer game. The first of those two homers was a 450-foot shot, the longest postseason homer since Prince Fielder hit one for the Brewers against the Phillies and Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the 2008 NLDS. It’s the longest homer for Gonzalez since a 452-foot homer in April 2009.

Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis had the other two home runs. Crawford’s was calculated at 426 feet, his longest home run since hitting one 437 feet at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 21, 2011.

Crawford has four homers in nine games this postseason after hitting six in the regular season. The four home runs is one shy of the team record for a single postseason.

That mark of five was set by current Dodgers coach Davey Lopes in 1978.

How Greinke won
Other than one brief blip, Zack Greinke was in shutdown mode, limiting the Cardinals to two earned runs in seven innings. He’s now allowed two earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts and has a 1.74 ERA in his last 19 starts.

Greinke threw 47 breaking balls, his second-most in any start this season (they accounted for 45 percent of his pitches, his highest usage rate of 2013).

He yielded a third-inning RBI double to Matt Holliday with his slider, but after that, it became a valuable pitch for him. Greinke threw 14 sliders in the last four innings and they netted him six outs without yielding a baserunner.

Greinke’s slider has been very effective in his last five starts. The 87 he’s thrown have produced 24 outs and resulted in only two hits.

Greinke also helped his cause with an RBI hit, the first Dodgers pitcher with an RBI in an LCS game since Orel Hershiser had one in Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS against the Mets.. This is the first postseason in Dodgers history in which two different pitchers recorded an RBI (Hyun-Jin Ryu is the other).

Greinke has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all three starts this postseason. The only Dodgers pitchers with more consecutive starts of that nature in a single postseason are Burt Hooton (five in 1981) and Don Sutton (four in 1974).

Key player: Brian Wilson
Dodgers setup man Brian Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, giving him 17 2/3 innings pitched in his postseason career without allowing an earned run.

Wilson’s 16 straight appearances to start his postseason career without allowing an earned run are fifth-most all-time. The most is 20, by former Braves reliever John Rocker.

Stat of the Day: Molina’s rough afternoon
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina became only the second player in postseason history to ground into multiple double plays, strike out multiple times, and go hitless in a postseason game. The other was Chris Gomez for the 1998 Padres against the Braves in the NLCS.

Still a tough task for the Dodgers
The Dodgers will still have to win two games in St. Louis to win the series. The Cardinals haven’t lost consecutive home games since losing four straight August 7-10.

The last team to win on the road in Game 6 and 7 to win a postseason series 4-games-to-3 was the 2004 Red Sox against the Yankees.

Top stats to know: Dodgers vs. Braves

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
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AP PhotosKris Medlan and Clayton Kershaw will get the starting nods for the Braves and Dodgers in Game 1.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves begins tonight from Turner Field (8:37 ET/ESPN Radio).

The only other postseason meeting between these clubs was in the 1996 NLDS, which the Braves won 3-0.

Here are a few storylines to watch.

1. The Braves won the season series 5-2 and come into postseason play having won three of their last four overall. Atlanta has won 25 of its last 35 home games, but has not fared so well at Turner Field in the postseason lately.

Atlanta has lost three straight and 16 of its last 21 postseason games played in front of its home crowd, dating back to 1999.

The Dodgers clinched a playoff berth on Sept. 19. That might explain why they went 4-9 to finish the season (including losses in four of their last five games).

Los Angeles was the first team to win a division title after being at least 12 games under .500 at any point in the season since the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays.

In the playoffs, the Dodgers have lost three straight and 26 of their last 36 road games.

2. Braves starter Kris Medlen enters the postseason on a roll, going 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his last six starts.

He made two excellent starts against the Dodgers early in the season, allowing one run and seven hits in 13⅔ innings pitched.

3. One of the leading candidates for the National League Cy Young Award, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, will pitch for the Dodgers.

The Braves went an NL-best 25-16 in games in which the opposing starter was left-handed.

Kershaw has not recorded a decision in four career starts vs. the Braves, but does have a 2.45 ERA (he has not faced them since Sept. 4, 2011).

For the season, Kershaw sported a league-low 1.83 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first postseason start by the ERA champion has not been stellar recently.

There have been 13 ERA-title winners to start a postseason game since 1999, going a combined 2-8 with a 4.29 ERA in those starts. The only two with a win were Johan Santana in 2004 for the Minnesota Twins and Jason Schmidt in 2003 for the San Francisco Giants.

4. Matchups to watch in this game include these two:

Hanley Ramirez vs.Kris Medlen: Ramirez is the only player on the Dodgers roster who has homered against Medlen. He’s 5-for-9 against him, though the two haven’t faced each other since the 2010 season.

Justin Upton vs. Clayton Kershaw: Upton and Kershaw did not face each other during the 2013 season, but they have plenty of matchup experience from Upton’s time with the Diamondbacks.

Upton is 3-for-29 with nine strikeouts against Kershaw, though he does have a single, double and triple in his last 11 at-bats against him.

5. Misc Notes
* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves’ Justin and B.J. Upton will be the first set of brothers to play in a postseason game as teammates since the Molinas (Jose and Bengie) did so for the Angels in 2005.

The only pair of brothers to play in a playoff game for the Braves was Tommie and Hank Aaron in 1969. Both played in the second game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in the NLCS.

* Yasiel Puig went 8-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs in four games against the Braves this season.

* Puig’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, however, didn’t have as much luck, hitting only .130 (3-for-23) in seven games against Atlanta in 2013.

Top things to know: D-backs at Dodgers

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
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Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesHyun-Jin Ryu is the seventh Asian-born pitcher to debut for the Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers look for the three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second game of this week’s "Wednesday Night Baseball" doubleheader (10 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Here are four storylines the broadcast crew will talk about.

1. The Dodgers have lost just 12 games since the All-Star break. The 1954 Indians had the fewest losses of any team after the break with 16.

This is a bit misleading though, as the All-Star break came relatively late in the season this year.

However, the Dodgers still have a shot at the best overall win percentage after the break. To do that, they’d need to finish at least 15-3 to break the 1954 Indians' mark.

2. The Diamondbacks have been one of the most exciting teams in baseball this season, having played in a number of dramatic games. Tuesday night they missed out on an opportunity to win their 17th extra-inning game, which would have been the most by an NL team since the 1999 Braves.

In addition, Arizona’s .620 win percentage in one-run games this season trails only the Yankees (.625 win percentage).

3. L.A.'s starting pitcher tonight, Hyun-Jin Ryu, has been much more effective at home (7-2, 2.07 ERA) than on the road (6-3, 4.05 ERA) this season.

Ryu's most effective pitch to righties has been his changeup, which he's made them swing and miss on one-third of the times he's thrown it.

In addition, right-handed batters have chased his changeup out of the zone more often than any of his other pitches.

4. Strong starting pitching powered the Diamondbacks in the early part of the season. Arizona was six games over .500 through May, but the production of its starters dropped off in a major way beginning in June.

Through May, Arizona was 30-24 and the starting five posted a 3.74 ERA. Since then, the Diamondbacks are 42-48 and the starters have posted a 4.35 ERA, 27th in the majors over that span.

Other Notable Notes
• Yasiel Puig is hitting a major league-high .567 on the first pitch of an at-bat.

• Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .426 in 14 games against the Diamondbacks this season, including an active 13-game hitting streak against them.

• Paul Goldschmidt, who’s second in the NL with 31 home runs, is batting .257 over a season-high 19-game homerless drought.

NL Defensive MVP? Simmons/Arenado lead

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons has been super-solid for the Braves this season.
If you were going to pick the NL’s Defensive MVP for 2013, much like for the overall award, there is one candidate who stands above the rest.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is going to break the single-season record for most Defensive Runs Saved (definition here). He’s currently at 38 Defensive Runs Saved. Baseball Info Solutions has charted that stat since 2003 and no player previously finished with more than the 35 Brett Gardner had in 2010.

Simmons has twice been named Sweet Spot’s Defensive Player of the Month and was runner-up for that selection in August. He has more than twice as many runs saved as the next-closest shortstop (Pedro Florimon of the Minnesota Twins with 16) and has more than three times as many as the nearest NL shortstop had entering Friday (Clint Barmes, 11). No other Braves player has more than 16.

What Simmons does best is not just make the difficult play, but make the routine one as well. The left side of the Braves infield has been in vacuum mode all season. Opposing hitters are reaching base only 21.6 percent of the time on ground balls hit to the left of the second-base bag. That’s the lowest success rate in the majors. And let’s remember what Simmons replaced when he came up last season—Taylor Pastornicky, who had -15 Defensive Runs Saved in only 330 innings.

As we noted: There is a considerable statistical gap between Simmons and the next-best NL defender. That gap exists at one other position of note, third base. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be the runaway NL Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed. His 30 Defensive Runs Saved are 20 more than anyone else in the league.

Nolan Arenado
Arenado
Arenado is one Defensive Run Saved shy of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for the major league lead at the hot corner. Machado gets a lot of national press for his glovework, but Arenado has been similarly good. He leads all third baseman in the Baseball Info Solutions-tracked “Good Fielding Plays” (think: plays that are Web Gem nominees) and ranks second to Machado in Baseball Tonight with 11 Web Gems (Machado had 16).

There are a number of other players who have had fine defensive seasons on non-contenders and teams that are fading out of contention, most notably Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks. The next-highest rated defender among those players on contending teams is Russell Martin (whom Dave Cameron is profiling today for ESPN Insider).

Martin ranks second among catchers with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Wellington Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, who has 18. Martin doesn’t have quite the arm of Yadier Molina (who also has legitimacy with 10 Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s having his best year at throwing runners out, nailing 33 of 76 attempting to steal (43 percent) and picking off three others.

Starling Marte
Marte
Martin’s teammate, Starling Marte also could make a case. He leads all leftfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a total that got a nice early boost from a pair of early-season homer robberies. He’s rated best in the majors at his position in chasing down balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

The Reds and Dodgers don’t have any candidates that would necessarily be standouts in a defensive MVP competition. The Reds top candidate is rightfielder Jay Bruce, who has rebounded from a pair of below-average (stat-wise) defensive seasons to lead his team with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth among NL players at that position).

The Dodgers have a host of defenders who rate well, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez ranking best relative to his position (10 Defensive Runs Saved, third-best in the National League). Another player deserving of props: utility man Nick Punto, whose 10 Defensive Runs Saved tie Juan Uribe, Gonzalez and Puig for the Dodgers lead.

Therein lies the difference been MVP and Defensive MVP. Punto is unlikely to ever be mentioned in any MVP conversation at any point.

For more NL MVP info, see Jerry Crasnick's article from earlier today.

Dodgers, Red Sox both gain from swap

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
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AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillAdrian Gonzalez (center) and Nick Punto (left) have helped the Dodgers get to their current position.
On August 25, 2012, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a 9-player deal which sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for James Loney and four minor leaguers.

Entering 2013, Gonzalez had $127 million remaining on his contract and Crawford had $102.5 million remaining. This was the first time in MLB history in which two players were involved in a trade with $100 million remaining on their contracts.

The Red Sox are 84-80 since the deal, the Dodgers 91-70, with each in playoff position at the moment.

Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical aspects of the trade, a year later.

The financial impact
The Dodgers had a 2013 Opening Day payroll of $216.6M, the second-highest in MLB behind the Yankees ($228.8M). That was a significant increase from their 2012 Opening Day Payroll of $95.1M, which was 12th-highest in MLB.

The $121.5 million opening day payroll increase was easily the largest in baseball between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Next on the list is the Toronto Blue Jays, who increased their payroll by $42 million.

There’s still quite a bit of money left over on the contracts of the players the Dodgers acquired. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett will be owed a combined $213 million after the 2013 season ends.

With those savings, the Red Sox were able to re-load in the offseason, spending more than $125M on impact free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Koji Uehara.

Victorino's 4.4 WAR this season is better than any of the players sent to the Dodgers in this trade.

The star: Adrian Gonzalez
Of the five major-leaguers involved in the trade, Gonzalez has been the most valuable for his team this year, with 3.3 Wins Above Replacement.

Gonzalez’s value has come in the form of big hits. He has six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later, the most of anyone on the team.

Gonzalez rates fourth in the majors and second in the National League in Win Probability Added, a stat that sums the value of every plate appearance (and stolen base/caught stealing, based on how much it adds to that team’s chance of winning). The only players who rate higher than Gonzalez are Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt.

Though Gonzalez has provided value, his power numbers are still not to the level that they were from 2009 to 2011. Gonzalez had a .536 slugging percentage and .231 isolated power (extra-bases per at-bat) over those three seasons. The last two seasons, those numbers are .460 and .162.

The surprise: Nick Punto
Both Crawford and Beckett have dealt with significant injuries that have been hindrances to their value. But another player has been a surprise contributor.

Punto has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement for the Dodgers this season. If that holds up, it would be the third-highest single-season total of his 13-year career, his highest since posting a 2.4 WAR in 2008.

Punto’s value stems from that he can play a pair of positions adequately. He’s contributed five Defensive Runs Saved at both shortstop and third base, two spots where he’s had to fill in due to injuries.

Punto may not be an imposing hitter, but he’s an annoying one for pitchers to face. His 4.29 pitches per plate appearance rank tied for fourth in the majors, among those with at least 250 plate appearances this season.

In addition, in 13 games this month, Punto has a .475 on-base percentage (fifth in the NL among players with at least 30 plate appearances) and eight RBI.

Timely bats aid Dodgers' historic hot stretch

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
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US Presswire
The Dodgers are 40-8 since June 22, tied for their best 48-game stretch in franchise history

The Los Angeles Dodgers had their first off day on Thursday since July 29, and it was well deserved.

The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball, having won a season-high eight consecutive games, the longest active win streak in the MLB.

At 70-50, the Dodgers are 20 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2009 season 95-67.

Since entering June 22 a season-high 12 games under .500, they’re an MLB-best 40-8 over that span.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks just the sixth instance since 1900 in which a National League team recorded a stretch of 40-8 or better in a season and the first time since the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals.

Here’s a deeper statistical look at some of the major factors of their red-hot stretch.

Hitting with RISP

The Dodgers have gotten timely hits, recording a .333 team batting average with runners in scoring position in August. That is tied with the Cardinals for the highest such average in the majors this month and is by far their highest average in a single month this season.

From the start of the season through the end of July, Los Angeles hit just .247 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 19th in the majors.

Adrian Gonzalez big hits

A lot of those hits have come from Adrian Gonzalez, most recently with a walk-off RBI double in an extra-inning win over the Mets on Wednesday. Gonzalez has a team-high 15 hits that put his team in the lead this season.

Gonzalez ranks fourth in the majors and second in the National League with 4.37 Win Probability Added this season.

Win Probability Added measures the value of every play in a baseball game, using historical play-by-play data to figure out how much each play contributed or hurt his team’s chances of winning.

Yasiel Puig still going strong

After his strong start to the season, Yasiel Puig cooled off toward the end of July, hitting .265 in his final 14 games that month.

However, the Dodgers outfielder has regained his hot bat in August, hitting safely in 11 of 13 games this month and posting a .383 batting average. His .500 on-base percentage this month trails only Mike Trout (.552) and Matt Holliday (.537) among qualified players.

Mark Ellis silent contributor

While the Dodgers sluggers have received most of the attention during their successful run, second basemen Mark Ellis has quietly been one of the team’s most valuable players. The Dodgers are 51-24 when Ellis starts this season, compared to just 19-26 when he doesn’t.

Since June 22, Ellis actually has the second-most Wins Above Replacement among Dodgers position players, trailing only Hanley Ramirez over that span. He’s recorded a .341 on-base percentage and .748 OPS with three home runs and 21 RBI over that span.

Ellis has also had major contributions in the field with eight Defensive Runs Saved in 680 ⅔ innings played at second base this season. For comparison's sake, all other Dodger second basemen have minus-12 Defensive Runs Saved in 398 innings.

Relief pitching

Yes, Clayton Kershaw is 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA during this stretch, but also of note is the Dodgers bullpen.

The Dodgers relief pitching has been really good. Since July 5, Dodgers relievers have allowed only 16 earned runs in 108 innings, good for an MLB-best 1.33 ERA over that stretch.

Looking ahead

The Dodgers will begin a seven-game road trip Friday night against the Phillies. The Dodgers have played well in Philadelphia of late, winning four straight and five of the past six at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

Soriano's slam powers Yankees

August, 15, 2013
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AP Photo/Kathy Willens
New York Yankees Alfonso Soriano watches his first-inning, grand slam off Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver. Soriano finished with two home runs and a career-high seven RBI in the game.

Alfonso Soriano has been red hot over the last two games going 6-for-9 with four home runs and 13 RBI during that stretch.

His RBI total is the most by a New York Yankees player over a two-game span since 1936 when Tony Lazzeri had 15, an MLB record.
Soriano blasted two home runs Wednesday, marking his fifth multi-home run game of the season, a career best.

He also became the fifth Yankee to be perfect at the plate with two homers and seven RBI in a single game. The others? Jason Giambi, Danny Tartabull, Joe DiMaggio (twice) and Lou Gehrig (twice).

A lot of Soriano’s success has come against fastballs. He’s seen 12 heaters in the strike zone, swung at 10 and only missed one. Of his 10 swings, five went for hits including three home runs.

DODGERS DO IT AGAIN
The Los Angeles Dodgers extended their winning streak to eight straight games with a dramatic 12th-inning come-from-behind victory over the New York Mets. Andre Ethier tied the game in the ninth inning with a two-run home run, his ninth go-ahead/game-tying HR in the ninth inning or later in the last five seasons, third behind Miguel Cabrera (12) and Jay Bruce (10) in that span.

Adrian Gonzalez played hero with his seventh career walk-off hit (second as a Dodger) as he drove in Yasiel Puig who reached on a double off a deflected groundball to center field.

It’s the Dodgers longest winning streak since a nine-game run from May 9-18, 2010.

DIAMONDBACKS WALK OVER ORIOLES
The Arizona Diamondbacks have had a flare for dramatics lately, too. They’ve recorded three straight walk-off wins for the third time in franchise history (1999, 2007).

Their 10 walk-off wins are the most in the National League this season and their 12 extra-inning wins is a franchise record.

Aaron Hill was the hero Wednesday as he tied the game in ninth inning with an RBI single and later won the game in 14th inning.

If you flash back to Tuesday night, Paul Goldschmidt had a game-tying hit in the ninth and a walk-off hit in extras. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us it's the first time in baseball's expansion era (since 1961) that teammates have accomplished this in consecutive days.

Numbers show Pedroia is among the elite

July, 24, 2013
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Elsa/Getty ImagesDustin Pedroia won the 2008 AL MVP award.
Dustin Pedroia has signed a seven-year extension (beginning in 2015) worth around $100 million with the Boston Red Sox, according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes and multiple reports.

If Pedroia’s contract is indeed worth $100 million, it would be the fourth of at least $100 million handed out by the Red Sox organization in the team's history.

None of the previous three –- Manny Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford –- completed their contracts in a Red Sox uniform, although Ramirez came close before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final year of his deal. Coincidentally, Gonzalez and Crawford were also traded to the Dodgers, so perhaps that means Pedroia will end up in Los Angeles one day.

Not many second basemen have been as productive as Pedroia.

Since Pedroia’s first full season in 2007, he ranks first or second among second basemen in batting average, hits and doubles.

Pedroia leads all second basemen in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) since his MVP season in 2008, narrowly ahead of Chase Utley.

Only four second basemen who debuted since 1980 have more Wins Above Replacement through their age-29 season: Roberto Alomar, Chuck Knoblauch, Ryne Sandberg and Robinson Cano.

Pedroia’s numbers are historically elite for a second baseman. He’s one of five second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) to hit at least .300 with at least 450 RBIs in their first eight seasons. The first two to do so were Jackie Robinson and Pete Rose. The others were Jose Vidro and Cano.

That’s not the only honor Pedroia shares with Robinson.

Since Major League Baseball first handed out the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, Robinson and Pedroia are the only second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) in history to win Rookie of the Year, MVP and a World Series title while playing for the same team.

Pedroia isn’t just elite among second basemen. Since his rookie season in 2007, he has the fifth-most Wins Above Replacement among all players.

Based on that list, it seems that a raise was well deserved. The other four players on the list are each earning at least $15 million this season, while Pedroia’s 2013 salary is $10.3 million.

Why Puig is deserving of All-Star bid

July, 10, 2013
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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig is hitting over .400 in his first 34 career games.
The National League’s Final Vote has been widely discussed this week, as Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig is in the mix despite not debuting in the majors until June 3. Puig has some tough competition against Freddie Freeman, Ian Desmond, Hunter Pence and Adrian Gonzalez.

YASIEL PUIG

Despite his lack of experience this season, does Puig deserve to win the Final Vote?

Some may disagree with the idea of Puig in the All-Star Game, but the numbers would suggest he deserves it. Although Puig has played in only 34 games - all four other candidates have played in at least 77 games - he leads them all in Wins Above Replacement. Limited experience does not in and of itself mean a player isn't deserving - Puig has contributed as much or more in his admittedly brief tenure than the other candidates have with significantly more playing time.

Puig has 55 hits in his first 34 career games, the third-most in the Live Ball Era (since 1920). Only Joe DiMaggio (59 in 1936) and Roy Weatherly (59 in 1936) had more hits in their first 34 career games.

Puig is the first player to hit .400 or better through his first 130 career at-bats since Tony Oliva (.423 spanning games from 1962-64), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Dodgers have never had a single player with a .400 or higher batting average at the All-Star break (minimum 100 AB). The highest was .377 by Mike Piazza in 1995.

FREDDIE FREEMAN

Freeman has three walk-off hits this season, tied with Alex Gordon for the most in either league.

IAN DESMOND

Ten of Desmond’s 15 home runs this season have been to give his team the lead. Desmond’s 10 go-ahead homers are tied with Carlos Gonzalez for third-most in the National League, trailing only Paul Goldschmidt (13) and Pedro Alvarez (11).

HUNTER PENCE

This season, Pence leads the majors in stolen bases (13) without being caught and is one of four players with at least 13 home runs, 13 stolen bases and 22 doubles, joining Mike Trout, Carlos Gonzalez and Jason Kipnis.

ADRIAN GONZALEZ

Gonzalez is “Mr. Consistency.” Including this season, Gonzalez is one of six players with a batting average of at least .295 and OPS of at least .800 in each of the last four seasons, along with Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Adrian Beltre.

How do you defend against Joey Votto?

October, 6, 2012
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Joey Votto is the rare breed of hitter who not only possesses devastating power but also exhibits some of the best plate discipline in the league and a penchant for recording high batting averages.

He’s a complete hitter. No player in baseball has posted a higher on-base percentage in the past three seasons than Votto (.433); in other words, no player has avoided recording outs as well as Votto has.

So just how do you get him out?

Over the past three seasons, no left-handed batter has recorded a higher OPS against left-handed pitching than Votto.

In fact, his lead over second-best (Adrian Gonzalez) is equal to the gap between Gonzalez and the ninth-best option. But even taking that into consideration, Votto does appear to have a (relative) weakness: soft stuff on the outer half from those left-handers.

Since the start of 2010, 43 left-handed batters have seen at least 400 off-speed pitches on the outer half of the plate from left-handed pitchers.

The group hit .195 with a .529 OPS and a home run rate of 2.1 percent.

Votto ranks 34th out of that group in batting average (.150), 30th in OPS (.440) and 31st in HR rate (0.7 percent). Even James Loney has a higher batting average in such scenarios.

It gets even worse when looking at Votto's performance against those pitches with two strikes.

Votto has seen 218 off-speed pitches from lefties on the outer half with two strikes in the past three years. He has exactly nine hits to show for it, good for a .095 batting average.

Only two left-handed batters have seen more such pitches and come up with fewer hits -– Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.

The good news is that although this remains a distinct weakness, Votto seems to be improving against this plan of attack.

From 2010 to 2011, Votto hit .144 with a .409 OPS and a 31.2 percent strikeout rate. In 2012, those numbers are up to a .200 batting average, a .646 OPS and a 21.4 percent strikeout rate.

As you can see by the heat maps below, he has managed to do some damage with the pitches that have stayed on the upper/outer half but remains susceptible to down and away.

Gonzalez does damage early in count

September, 24, 2012
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Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez
The Los Angeles Dodgers kept pace in the Wild Card race by beating the Cincinnati Reds with the help of two big lefties; Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw.

After homering in his first plate appearance with the Dodgers on August 25, Gonzalez went 105 at-bats before hitting his second one in the second inning Sunday.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest homerless at-bat streak of Gonzalez’s career. He went 110 at-bats between home runs for the Padres in 2006 and had a drought of 109 at-bats earlier this season for the Red Sox.

Sunday was the 14th multi-home run game of Gonzalez’s career, but it was the first in which both of his homers gave his team the lead. His second-inning homer put the Dodgers ahead 1-0 and his seventh-inning homer made it 2-1 Los Angeles.

Both of Gonzalez’s homers also came early in the count, the first off a 1-0 fastball and the second off a first-pitch slider.

Gonzalez, like many hitters, has been at his best this season when he attacks early in the count.

Twelve of his 18 homers this season, including all three with the Dodgers, have come early in the count.

Plus, Gonzalez now has five career homers in just 15 at-bats against Homer Bailey, his most against any pitcher.

Kershaw took the mound for the first time in 12 days due to a hip injury. He was a bit rusty, especially with his fastball command.

Kershaw threw just 32 of his 62 fastballs (52 percent) for strikes, his second-lowest percentage in 147 career starts. He issued five walks for the first time this season and only the second time in the last two seasons.

However, Kershaw still was able to command his breaking pitches, and he was able to escape trouble by going to them in key situations.

Six of the seven curveballs Kershaw threw came with runners in scoring position. Reds hitters finished 1-for-9 in at-bats ending with his breaking balls and 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Three of Kershaw’s five strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, all with his breaking balls (two curveballs, one slider). Maybe the biggest coming from a slider that struck out Joey Votto with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

It was the 10th time Votto has struck out against Kershaw in 17 career at-bats, his most against any pitcher. Six of the first seven strikeouts came on fastballs, but the last three strikeouts have come on breaking balls.

The Dodgers are off Monday, but finish the season with three games at the San Diego Padres, and six games at home. Three apiece vs the Colorado Rockies and rival San Francisco Giants.

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