After playing “Ways to Lose 8-10: Coors Field Edition,” the Mets return home to face a hot Dodgers team. You have probably heard about the resurgence of Matt Kemp, the incredible rise of Max Muncy and how those two unlikely heroes have helped turn around the Dodgers’ season. But what if I told you that those two players are not part of the top three most valuable players for this second place NL West squad? In fact, they sit as the fifth and sixth most valuable Dodger players according to WARP. Highlighted below, then, is an underrated Dodger trio that has arguably (at least by WARP) been more valuable to the team than Kemp and Muncy.
Wood’s Worth: Since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2015, Alex Wood has been incredibly valuable when on the mound. The “when on the mound” part has been a little tricky, as he threw just over 200 innings combined between 2016 and 2017, but his WARP/200 innings pitched since the 2015 trade is 5.31. For a comparison, Jacob deGrom’s WARP/200 innings since 2015 is 5.82. As valuable as deGrom has been to the Mets, when healthy, Wood has been almost as valuable to the Dodgers on a rate basis. Los Angeles has received the healthy version of Wood so far this season (knock on wood for Wood’s sake), to the tune of 2.0 WARP, the second most among Dodgers’ starters. Wood will line up against Zack Wheeler in game one Friday.
Grandal’s Glove: Yasmani Grandal does not get the love from other versions of WAR that Baseball Prospectus’ WARP gives him (2.2 WARP), largely in part because WARP credits him for his excellent framing skills. Some writers have wondered whether umpires consciously counteract the work of catchers known to be good framers, thus making it hard for those catchers to remain atop the leaderboards on a consistent year-to-year basis. That problem does not seem to be the case for Grandal, as he has been in the top five in framing runs each of the last three years, something no other catcher has done. In 2018, he is once again near the top of the leaderboards at fourth with 5.9 framing runs. (The best Mets framer has been Travis d’Arnaud with 1.1 framing runs.) His glove work is not all he has to offer, though, as he has posted a .278 TAv this season, which is still better than all Mets catchers (Devin Mesoraco is best with a .274 TAv).
Stealthy Stripling: And the best Dodger in 2018 is… Ross Stripling. The incredible thing about Stripling’s turnaround from backend starter/long reliever to the front of the Dodgers’ rotation is there is not one area he has improved in that really stands out. Most recent breakouts seem to be centered on changing pitch mixes or adding velocity, but Stripling has not really done either of those things. He has thrown his changeup a little more and got a few more swings and misses on his curveball, but his velocity is actually a little down from last year (93.2 mph to 92.4 mph). What he has done, though, is improve on his already below average walk rates (6.3% in 2017 to 3.8% in 2018). He has also found a way to strand runners at a high clip (89%), and while that may not be sustainable, his ERA estimators back up his 1.99 ERA (2.44 FIP, 2.04 DRA). So while Stripling has not made major changes in repertoire or velocity, his improvements appear legitimate. Fortunately, the Mets will not have to face Stripling in the series, but we would be remiss not to mention the Dodgers’ top player by WARP in the stats preview.
The Good: Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy are slugging .701, .644, and .628, on fastballs. No other team has three players slugging above .625 on fastballs (with at least 50 at bats ending in fastballs). Brandon Nimmo is the only Met above that threshold at .672.
The Bad: Four of the Dodgers’ top pitchers by WARP are on the DL (Walker Buehler, Hyun Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Pedro Baez).
The Ugly: Cody Bellinger’s contact rate on pitches out of the zone has increased by 10% compared to 2017, while his contact rate on pitches in the zone has fallen by 5%.
Brandon Nimmo’s recent surge has him at 3.5 WARP, best on the team. He has been more valuable than any other two position players combined. Outside of a Cabrera/Frazier/Cespedes combo, he has been more valuable than any three other position players combined.
Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA Today Sports