Figuring Runs Created on a Rainy Day in Florida

As rain clouds washed over the state of Florida and the Dodger team bus hauled the players to Tampa Bay and then back again, we decided to use Bill James' Runs Created projected to see if the club was, as some feel, weaker offensively than last season.

The largest complaint in the Holman Stadium grandstand this spring, other than the decision to take the names off the back of the players' uniforms, was that the team had crippled itself offensively by trading -- or allowing to leave -- third baseman Adrian Beltre, the National League Most Valuable Player, non steroid division, as well as outfielders Shawn Green and Steve Finley.

Baseball guru Bill James once wrote that baseball statistics are like a bunch of elephants frolicking in the snow, they leave so many tracks you can follow their every movement.

Now I'm not certain how many elephants have even ever seen snow, let alone frolicked in it, but James has honed baseball statistics to such a fine edge that he can now, with some degree of accuracy, project how a player will perform over a season before a game is played.

And since a number of front offices around the major leagues has bought into his theories, we thought we should check the numbers to see if the Dodgers did, indeed, weaken themselves offensively since 2004.

To accomplish this comparison, we used his 2005 Handbook (we reviewed the book and told you to buy it, remember?) using his Runs Created formula to check out who might have been around had the aforementioned players moves not been made, and who will be around to open the season.

Briefly, runs created determines the runs each player delivered during the season by the statistics he left behind him in the snow, so to speak. Hits, walks, hit batsmen minus caught stealing and double plays grounded into -- representing times on base -- plus everything the player does to advance baseruners, or very simply put, total bases is added, then divided by opportunities: at-bats, walks, hit batsmen, sacrifices and sac flys.

Its really a more complicated formula but that is the nuts and bolts of it.

With another formula, James projects how the player will perform the next season, and those are the numbers we will use in this comparison.

Now the good part.

Using just the starting infield and outfield from the team that might have been and the team that actually is, the numbers indicate that the 2005 team should score about the same number of runs that they scored in 2004, in fact they should marginally score more runs.

The new outfield was the factor that swung the balance to GM Paul DePodesta's 2005 creation.

Addcorind to James, Milton Bradley and Jayson Werth will boost their production this year dramatically. Bradley will move from 70 to 97 runs; Werth from 47 to 72. JD Drew will outproduce Steve Finley and Juan Encarnation 103-72 and while Dave Roberts will hold a 41-36 margin over Ricky Ledee.

The infield tilts the other way.

At first base, Shawn Green tops Hee-Seop Choi but by a surprisingly slim margin, 97-80. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will overwhelm Jose Valentin 104-59 and James does not expect another big season for shortstop Cesar Izturis. His numbers are projected to go from a remarkable 95 to a still-respectable 56. Jeff Kent is picked to roll past Alex Cora 87-48 at second base.

Behind the plate catcher Paul Lo Duca and Dave Ross are projected to create 62 runs in the coming season, compared with 30 runs for Ross and Paul Bako.

The most difficult part of projecting runs created is how to accurately nail down the number of games in which each player will appear. Injuries will obviously skew the figures.

But with just these nine position players figuring in the mix -- we're using four outfielders -- the new guys score about 10 runs more than the ones who got away. Don't smirk. Odalis Perez would have been a 12-game winner with that many additional runs.

Dodger pitching should be stronger, particularly with Derek Lowe and if Brad Penny comes back to his pre-injury form. So if James is correct, the guys in Blue will be back in the post-season mix.

Hopefully, this will provide some well-earned rest to those who have been sleepless in many points around the Dodger nation while worrying about the upcoming season.

Obviously, if all the above does not come together as indicated, please do not call me if you bet the farm and lose it. In that case I'll send you Bill James' address so you can take your grievance right to the source.