If you create one “catcher” by combining the OPS of Ellis/Butera and Grandal/Ellis proportionately to the number of games a starter/backup typically play, and then average out the OPS of that “player” and the other three positions, the average OPS is:
So, to answer my question using OPS, the answer is “yes”, the Dodgers offense did get worse this off-season.
The major differences occur at catcher, shortstop and in the outfield. At catcher, the Dodgers would have been 100 points better using Grandal/Ellis in 2014, but at shortstop and in the outfield, the Dodgers are giving up a combined 200 points with the losses of Kemp and Ramirez.
(Note: for Pederson, I used a combination of projections from Bill James, ZIPS and Steamer).
Now, before I left with the conclusion that the Dodger offense did, in fact, get worse, I wanted to compare one other metric: runs created. If we’re looking at scoring runs, this seemed like a natural number to compare.
Therefore I looked up how many runs each of the players generated last season, and divided it into a per-game number in order to control for variance in games played last season. For Pederson, I used the same projections to generate an OPS/home run/stolen bases line for the 2015 season and found a comparable player — Ian Desmond — in order to use as a base for runs created.
Once I had all of my numbers, I did the same thing — created an average over the five players (again, it’s not a perfect scientific experiment) and got these results for average runs created per game:
The big difference in the two statistics is Rollins. While he gave up 100 points to Ramirez in OPS, he actually generated the exact same number of runs last season (albeit in 10 more games, so his per-game average was slightly lower).
So what do we make of all this? I think we can take two things away:
1) All the “doom-and-gloom” fans need to relax a bit
Plenty of fans have lamented the loss of guys like Kemp and Ramirez (rightfully so) and made claims that the front office doesn’t know what they’re doing or that they’ve ruined the franchise. My message to these people is simple: deeeeeep breaths.
What the numbers tell us is that, at the very least, this team should be comparable offensively. Even if it is a slight downgrade, however, we have to remember that the Dodgers have gotten significantly better defensively and they’ve eliminated a number of potential clubhouse problems.
Oh, and we don’t have to worry about Kemp and Ramirez getting hurt every time they awkwardly fall down.
2) Offense isn’t all about big-name players and home runs
Sports leagues and teams are star-driven. Players like Kemp go on the cover of the magazine and on a 70-foot billboard outside of the stadium, and so when they leave, the natural assumption is that they need to be replaced by another player of equal (or larger) stature.
Instead, he was replaced by a rookie, two veteran infielders and a catcher that most people probably haven’t heard of. The point? While the media likes to create star-driven narratives, the reality is that winning isn’t necessarily star-driven.
Does Kemp help you sell tickets more than Pederson and Rollins? Sure. But do Pederson and Rollins give you a better chance of winning a World Series? It certainly can be argued.
The 2015 season is going to be an interesting year in Dodger baseball — a new philosophy, some new faces and a new culture in the clubhouse. To assume that it’s going to be worse, however, because your favorite player or the Dodger who finished second on the team in home runs is gone, isn’t the right approach.
2015 will be different, maybe even better, but at the very least, it’s hard to believe it will be any worse.