When Dodgers manager Joe Torre put up his starting lineup for yesterday, it had a few obvious omissions. The Dodgers used just three of their everyday players, opting to get rest for catcher Russell Martin, second baseman Blake DeWitt, third baseman Casey Blake, left fielder Manny Ramirez and right fielder Andre Ethier.
Did Torre find a place in his heart where he secretly wanted the Pirates to get their first sweep of LA since 1999? Well, it may seem so, when you look at how much offense he left on the table by opting to utilize his entire bench. Using Baseball Musings' lineup analysis tool and CHONE's projections, I checked to see how many runs per game yesterday's lineup would score in comparison to LA's normal everyday lineup. Now, David Pinto's tool is a pretty good one, it's not my favorite (I like this one a little more), but it's easy to fill out and it's certainly one of the better tools out there freely.
Here's how the two lineups stack up, using Pinto's lineup analysis tool and CHONE projections:
Furcal/Johnson/Kemp/Loney/Belliard/Anderson/Carroll/Ausmus/Pitcher: about 3.98 runs per game
Furcal/Martin/Ethier/Ramirez/Kemp/Loney/Blake/DeWitt/Pitcher: about 4.77 runs per game
So, seeing that, one would have expected LA to reasonably have lessened their odds of winning the series' final game by a pretty solid amount, right?
Well, in Los Angeles' first two games against the Pirates, they scored a total of eight runs. Yesterday, that depleted, mediocre lineup went out and scored ten runs against Pirates pitchers Paul Maholm, Hayden Penn and Javier Lopez. Belliard headed the way for LA, going 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, a home run and 4 RBIs. Every player in the lineup got at least one hit, and the first five hitters in the lineup all had multi-hit games.
So did Torre just have that magical touch yesterday, sensing that he would get big games from Belliard, Johnson and Anderson if he put them in the lineup? Probably not. Maybe Torre thought that he could get his lethargic offense going by shuffling the lineup around a bit, after the team stumbled out of the gate with unimpressive offenses efforts in the first two games.
More likely, LA just got lucky and managed to get a few unexpectedly good performances grouped up within a single game. The Dodgers have arguably the best lineup in the NL when everyone's healthy, so there's reason to believe that at some point, the offense should really get going. But yesterday, they turned to some of their least talented players, and turned out their best effort yet.