Joining Kemp on the DL have been third baseman Juan Uribe, infielder Jerry Hairston, who was hitting .315, and second baseman Mark Ellis, who was hitting .327. Think second base is a safe position to play? Well Ellis nearly had his leg amputated a day after the Cardinals' Tyler Greene upended him trying to break up a double play. Ellis was rushed to hospital after showing up the next day with severe swelling in his left leg. He was having a fine year (.273). Healthy so far is catcher A.J. Ellis, who hit over .300 in three of his last four years in Triple-A. He's finally starting and is ninth in the NL with a .327 average.
What is wOBA you ask. Weighted On Base Percentage is designed to evaluate a player's overall offensive performance. It is based on the concept that not all plate events are created equal. It seeks to be an even more accurate indicator of the value of a plate appearance than on base percentage or OPS. After all, a single is better than a walk - since it has a greater potential for moving runners along - and a home run, well it can clear the bases.
An average wOBA is .320. A .370 wOBA is great. Its formula changes slightly from year to year. The 2011 formula was
wOBA = (0.69 X BB) + 0.72 X HBP + 0.89 X 1B + 1.26 X 2B + 1.60 X 3B + 2.08 X HR + 0.25 X SB - 0.25 X CS) / PA
The Dodgers can only hope that Ethier doesn't go down like he did last year. He was .379/.442/.744 after 33 games when he injured his pinky finger and then hit .260 the rest of the way. Bobby Abreu, their fourth outfielder, is rebounding after very sub-par seasons (.255, .253 with only 8 home runs) his last two years in Lala Land. He's hitting .292.
But Kemp and Ethier aside, as you may have guessed it's pitching that's doing it for the Dodgers - a trio of lefty starters - Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano. Only Atlanta's Brandon Beachy has a better record than Kershaw and Lilly. Kershaw's success is not a big surprise. In 2008 he was the youngest player in the majors. In 2009 he was 8-8, 2.79. In 2010 he was the 13-10, 2.91 and last year he was 21-5 with 248 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA, winning the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young.
A surprise, though he had a couple of pretty good years with the Cubs, is Lilly, who was 12-14 last year but is 5-0, 1.70 so far this year. I know Rick and other Blue Jay fans will remember his days in Toronto. What is different this year? Well, he's decided he needs to get ahead of right-handed hitters. He's fifth in the majors throwing a first pitch strike 68% of the time - and he's managing to do it with a variety of pitches. Righties are hitting just .163 when Lilly is on the mound. Over the past 9 years they have averaged 22 home runs off him. So far this year just one.
In spite of going 18-12 for Milwaukee in 2005, Chris Capuano was below .500 lifetime entering 2012. He was 11-12, 4.55 last year but he's 6-1, 2.25 this year. If the Dodgers, who are already seven games ahead of second place San Francisco in the West, start winning on the road too look out. And if Kershaw, Lilly, and Capuano keep this up they're going to send me scrambling through the history books to see if any other team has had three league-leading lefty starters.