Dodger First Half Notes

The Dodgers Publicity Department's First Half Notes in preparation for the final 2 1/2 months of the season.

WHAT SOPHOMORE SLUMP? – In just his second year in the big leagues, Dodger catcher Russell Martin has exceeded all expectations and firmly established himself as one of the best backstops in the Major Leagues. Martin's excellence is not going unnoticed, as he was elected by the fans to start behind the plate in this year's All-Star Game, becoming the first Dodger catcher since Mike Piazza in 1997 to start the contest. At the break, Martin leads all catchers in games started (80), innings caught (705.0), at-bats (297), runs (51), hits (93), RBI (60), walks (34) and stolen bases (16). Additionally, the native of Canada leads all National League backstops in average (.306), doubles (20), on-base percentage (.382) and slugging percentage (.505). Martin has already hit a career-high 11 homers and is vying to become just the second Major League catcher in history hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in the same season (Ivan Rodriguez, 1999). Finally, with three more stolen bases, Martin will eclipse the 115 year-old Dodger franchise record for steals by a catcher, set by Con Daily in 1892. Since 1993, the only other Major League catcher to steal more bases in a season that Martin is Jason Kendall, who stole 26 in 1998, 21 in both 2000 and 1999 and 18 in 1997.   

IT'S HOW YOU FINISH - The Dodgers will begin the second half of the season with a 49-40 record, 1.0 game behind the San Diego Padres and alone in second place in the NL West. Last season the Dodgers were 46-42 at the break, 2.0 games behind the first-place Padres. The last time the Dodgers had 49 victories at the Midsummer Classic was 2003, when the club was 49-44 in four more contests.  The Dodgers' 49 wins are tied with San Diego and Milwaukee for the most in the NL.   

WHERE DO WE RANK? – At the break, Los Angeles ranks second in the National League in batting average (.271) and third in the league in on-base percentage (.340). Since Bill Mueller took over as the hitting coach on June 15, the Dodgers are first in the Major Leagues with 250 hits and rank second in average (.299) and on-base percentage (.368) in baseball over that span. On the mound, the Dodgers have struck out the most batters in the big leagues (687) and the staff ERA is 3.83, which ranks second in the National League and fourth in the majors. The Dodger bullpen has been spectacular, posting the second-best ERA in the NL (3.39) and fanning the most batters (282) while limiting the opposition to a .231 batting average.    

GET INTO THE BLUE -  The Dodgers lead the National League and are second in the Major Leagues behind the New York Yankees with a cumulative attendance of 2,131, 856. Only the Dodgers and Yankees have gone past the two million mark in attendance in the first-half. Dodger Stadium has sold out eight times this season and surpassed the 50,000 mark 17 times en route to an average attendance of 46,345, which leads the National League. After 46 home dates, the club is on pace to break their single-season attendance record of 3,758,545, set last season. On July 3, the Dodgers celebrated passing the 175 million mark in attendance, since records were officially kept in 1901. The Dodgers have played before more fans than any franchise in sports history.   

I'LL GIVE YOU A PENNY FOR THE CY YOUNG – For the second consecutive season, Dodger pitcher Brad Penny has turned in a dominant first-half performance, resulting in him becoming the first Dodger starter to make consecutive All-Star Teams since Ramon Martinez in 1990 and '91. The right-hander boasts the best winning percentage in the Major Leagues at 10-1 (.909) and ranks among the National League leaders in wins (10, T-1st), ERA (2.39, 3rd), home ERA (2.13, 3rd), road ERA (2.70, 3rd) and night ERA (2.20, 3rd).  Penny has fanned 82 batters and walked just 34 on the season, while holding opponents to a .244 batting average. Over the last 50 years, only 20 Dodger pitchers have won 10 or more games before the All-Star Break and Penny is the ninth to do so in back-to-back seasons. The Oklahoma native is 20-3 over the last two seasons heading into the break, for a pre-All-Star Game winning percentage of .870, which is the best in baseball over any two-year span, dating back to 1996-97, when Randy Johnson was 17-2 (min. 20 starts).   

SAMURAI WARRIOR – Dodger closer Takashi Saito has followed up his stellar rookie campaign and become even more dominating in 2007. Saito has saved 23 games in 25 chances and has now rescued 47 games in his first 51 big league opportunities, which ties him with Eric Gagné, John Smoltz, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Derrick Turnbow, who each saved 47 of their first 51 chances as well. Saito owns a 92.1 percent conversion rate in his career, the second-best all-time behind Gagné's 96.1 percent (minimum 50 save opps). On the season, Saito's 23 saves rank fourth in the NL and his ERA of 1.47 is the second best in the NL among pitchers who have tossed at least 30.0 innings. Saito's walk/strikeout ratio is an astounding 11.75 (47 SO/4 BB) and ranks second in the Major Leagues. Batters have managed just a .168 average (22-for-131) off the Japanese hurler and right-handers are hitting .111 (7-for-63).   

GENERATION NOW – Despite prior flirtations with the big league lineup in 2006 and earlier this season, James Loney and Matt Kemp officially arrived during the month of June. After making the team out of camp and playing in just five games before getting injured, Kemp was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 8 and is hitting .343 with three homers, 10 RBI, 11 runs scored and three stolen bases in 28 games since then. Loney has been installed as the primary first baseman since his call-up on June 10 and taken the National League by storm, batting .385 with three homers, 16 RBI and a slugging percentage of .603. The Texas native has seven multi-hit games and four contests where he has had more than two hits in his 18 starts.        

YOU'RE HISTORY – Dodger veterans Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez have been climbing the all-time lists in hits, home runs, RBI and runs scored this season. Kent (16) and Gonzalez (18) have 34 years of big league experience between them, but the duo has not slowed down as they are both tied for second on the club in homers (10) and RBI (41). This season Kent has 20 doubles, which has moved him into sole possession of 35th place all-time, one behind Jim Bottomley, with 521. He has quite a ways to go to catch Gonzalez, whose 18 two-baggers this season give him 565 in his career, good for 19th all-time. Gonzalez recently passed Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and Kent has flown by the likes of Babe Ruth, Rickey Henderson, Mark Grace, Tony Perez, Roberto Alomar and Andre Dawson this year. On the home run front, Kent is now tied for 71st with 355 and Gonzalez has 341, good for 80th place. The Dodger second baseman also has 1,421 RBI, good for 61st place, and has surpassed Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Robin Yount, Juan Gonzalez, Ted Simmons and Dwight Evans this season. Gonzalez has cracked the top-100 in runs (89th) and hits (T-92nd) during 2007 and is tied for 72nd on the all-time RBI list.        

CRAZY EIGHTS – The Dodgers "big three" of Brad Penny (10), Randy Wolf (9) and Derek Lowe (8) have combined to win 27 games this season against just 15 losses. The trio makes up the winningest 1-2-3 punch in the National League, with two more wins than Atlanta's combination of John Smoltz (9), Tim Hudson (8) and Chuck James (8). Only two other pitching staffs in the Major Leagues have three pitchers with at least eight wins in addition to the Dodgers and Braves. Oakland hurlers Dan Haren (10), Chad Gaudin (8) and Joe Blanton (8) have racked up 26 wins, but the Boston Red Sox' front line of Josh Beckett (12), Daisuke Matsuzaka (10) and Tim Wakefield (9) are the most prolific trio in the big leagues, with 31 victories between them.    

THE MASTER THIEF – Dodger center fielder Juan Pierre has stolen 34 bases, the most he has swiped at the All-Star Break since 2003, when he headed into the second half with 42. Pierre ranks second in baseball, trailing only the Mets' Jose Reyes, who has 46. The Alabama native is on pace to swipe 62 bases, which would be just shy of his career-best 65, set in 2003. The last Dodger to steal that many bases was Davey Lopes, who led the NL with 63 in 1976. On the season, the Dodgers have stolen 76 bases as a team, paced by Pierre (34), Russell Martin (16) and Rafael Furcal (10). The club ranks second in the National League behind the New York Mets (106) and third in baseball, trailing the Mets and Angels (78).