A fan of the Yankees, Red Sox, and large sample sizes.
If the Dodgers had finished last in runs scored by only one run last year (instead of by 70 runs), they would have been expected to win 92.5 games, or 9 games better than they'd be expected to win given their actual runs scored. 92 wins would have been good enough for the Wild Card. (Which means there would be no talk about the amazing small-ball Marlins.) The Dodgers are off to a solid start this year, thanks to a competent, if not great, offense. As Bill James preached, there's value in being average. The 2003 3.19 team ERA didn't hurt, either.
Let's look at another NL West team that's having both an amazingly good year in one respect, and an amazingly poor year in another - the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds v. 2004 is putting Barry Bonds v.2001-2003 to shame, which is hard to do. And the rest of the San Francisco offense? Um, yeah.
Barry Bonds: 424/682/1.017 for a 1.699 OPS
Rest of team: one other players with an OPS above .800 - Marquis Grissom at .906
Bonds has created roughly 30 runs, making 34 outs. That works out to be about 22 runs/game (25 batting outs).
The rest of the team therefore has accounted for 98 runs in 720 batting outs. That works out to be 3.4 runs/game.
Last year, the offense that held the Dodgers out of the playoffs scored 3.5 runs/game. It's just criminal that a lineup featuring one of the best hitters of all time having one of the best years of all time might rival one of the most pathetic lineups of all time. Were the Giants able to find two league-average OBP players to bat first and second, and one or two solid power hitters to hit fourth and fifth, San Francisco would destroy opposing pitching. Brian Sabean gets cut a lot of slack, even by sabrmetric types, because he's built many successful teams using his own methods. But the 2004 Giants are a complete waste of talent. Hell, if the Red Sox can find a way to be at the top of the league in fielding and bullpen ERA, the Giants can find some MLB-ready hitters.
Update: The Hardball Times has Barry Bonds at 38 Runs Created. My 30 runs created was a rough estimate using Extrapolated Runs, making sure to treat the IBB differently from the non-IBB. If we credit Barry with creating 38 runs, that puts him at 28 RC/25 and the rest of the Giants offense at 3.1 RC/25. Way, WAY more pathetic.
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