Numbers at the Half-Way Mark

VERO BEACH, Fla.-- Dodger hitters are posting remarkable numbers and hitting .293 as a team as the club reaches about the half-way mark of the spring. With no action scheduled on "camp day", we can take a look at who's hot and who's not.

Lest you be deceived by the delightful numbers, realize that if spring training won-lost figures do not indicated if a team will be a contender or not, the player's averages mean even less.

If you examine the leaders listed below, you will notice that many of them will not find their way onto the 25-man roster, even if they continue to perform the way they did over the first half.

Often each team will used minor league pitchers over the final four or five innings of each game, in an attempt to determine if any of them are ready for prime time.

Some obviously are not and many healthy batting averages come from just such encounters.

Manager Grady Little has used Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent sparingly, allowing them to get into shape at their own pace. Neither has even 20 at bats at this time.

And 16-game-winner in 2006 Brad Penny has a 12.86 earned run average over three starts but no one is concerned.

The talent is so deep this spring that in seasons past many of these players would have been welcomed to the club without question.

Not this year.

Managers and coaches depend more on their eyes than the numbers in the scorebook to make their final decisions. "He's swinging the bat well" and "he had some quality at-bats today" are used frequently.

Therefore, for example, it seems apparent that the third base job will go to Wilson Betemit despite his .192 batting average with one extra base hit.

Challenger Andy LaRoche has has a less than sparkling time at this point and if he indeed had a chance to win the job, he has lost it.

First baseman James Loney has again battered opposing pitchers, much as he did in 2006 when he hit .438. But Garciaparra stands in his way and thus Loney has been used a number of games in the outfield in an attempt to find a place for him. He would certainly not benefit from another season in AAA,

Outfielder Larry Bigbie, picked up as a free agent, has been hot all spring and is a certified major leaguer, but he, too, may not find a spot on the roster despite his lusty hitting.

Rudy Seanez and Joe Mays are his counterpart on the pitching staff. Both veteran pitchers have done everything needed to break camp with the big club but this is a year that excellent pitching and in more than abundant numbers, is everywhere.

The struggle for the fifth starter's slot has been a magnificent tussle with youngster Hong-Chih Kuo going head-to-head with veterans Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko. A decision on this may not be made until the final days. Chad Billingsley was recently notified that he would pitch out of the bullpen if he made the staff.

And as you can see in the charts below, infielders Wilson Valdez and Tony Abreu have had great success.

And even then, when the dust clears and the chosen ones open the season in Milwaukee and the others, grudgingly, return to Las Vegas, things will not be completely settled.

Remember last year, Russell Martin, Takashi Saito, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton all were disappointed when they received a ticket to Nevada but they later returned when others were injured or faltered to do their share towards winning a share of the National League West title.

The same scenario will probably be played out this season and some of the rather unfamiliar names listed below will play a big part in the 2007 season.

Hitters ave (ab-hits)
.477 - Loney (30-14)
.444 - Ethier (27-120
.407 - Abreu (27-11)
.375 - Pierre (24-9)
.371 - Valdez (25-13)

.345 - Bigbie (29-10)
.333 - Repko (24-8)
.333 - Young (24-8)
.320 - Martin (25-8)
.318 - Saenz (24-9)

.241 - LaRoche (24-7)
.211 - Garciaparra (19-4)
.185 - Kemp (27-5)
.192 - Betemit (26-5)

Others (10+ at bats)- .357- Kent (14-5); .333- Gonzalez (15-5); .333- Hu (12-4); .286- R. Martinez (14-4); .250- Stinett (16-4); .214- Lieberthal (13-3); .182- Freeman (23-4); .077- S. Martinez (12-1); .059- Tatis (1-17).

Less than 10 ab- 1.000- Jansen; .500- DeJesus, Mays and McDougall; .333- Paul; .250- Barnes and Dunlap; .200- Furcal; .143- Huckaby; .000- DeWitt, Ellis, Hoffman, Lizarraga and Rogowski.

Runs- Valdez 8; Loney, Pierre and Young 6; Kemp 5. Hits- Loney 14; Valdez 13; Ethier 12; Abreu 11; Bigbie 10; Pierre and Saenz 9 each.

Doubles-Martin, Saenz and Valdez 3. Triples- Bigbie. Home runs- Abreu 3; Bigbie, Garciaparra and Valdez 2; Kent, Repko and Young one each.

Runs batted in- Bigbie 10; Abreu 9; Valdez 6; Kent 5; Garciaparra, Loney and Young 4 each.

Pitching

Wins- Houlton and Miller 2; Billingsley, Dessens, Mays, Meloan, Stults and Wolf one each.

Earned run average- 0.00- Billingsley, Hamulak, Kuo, Saito, Seanez and White. Starters ERA and starts- Tomko 1.29 (2); Lowe 2.70 (3); Wolf 4.05 (3); Stults 5.14 (1); Schmidt 6.43 (3); Hendrickson 8.10 (1); Penny 12.86 (3).

Innings- 10.0 Lowe; 7.0 Mays, Schmidt, Stults, Penny and Tomko ; .2 Hendrickson and Wolf; 6.1 Billingsley; 6.0 Kuo and Miller.

Strikeouts-- 8 Schmidt; 7 Lowe; 6 Hendrickson, Tomko and White; 5 Megrew and Saenz.

Opponents batting average-- .059 White; .077 Sanez; .100 Kuo; .133 Houlton; .154 Miller; .180 Meloan; .167 Tsao; .200 Billingsley; .208 Mays; .211 Hamulak.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The crowded field for the Dodgers' fifth starter job was narrowed by one Tuesday when Chad Billingsley was notified he would be pitching out of the bullpen this year. Manager Grady Little said the decision on Billingsley was the result of the Dodgers' depth of starters and timing. "Like we told him, a lot of positives will come from this. This will be good for him and good for the club to start the season," Little told Ken Gurnick of MLB.co. "It won't do anything but help him going through a season like that. We still feel he will be a dominant starter in the Major Leagues for a long time, but he's still got things to learn." …Reliever Jonathan Broxton pitched two innings in a Minor League intra-squad game on Tuesday morning. Broxton made 33 pitches, allowed one double, struck out three with a walk. The schedule calls for closer Saito and situational left-hander Joe Beimel to repeat the exercise in the next week. …Kansas City sent C Jared Price and LHP Wayne Franklin and the Devil Rays sent OF Jayson Grabowski to the minors.

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