Thursday, October 15, 2009

Before, During, And After Manny's Supension

When Manny Ramirez went on his maternity leave early in the 2009 season, I thought it might be interesting to note some of the main offensive stats for the team and then see what kind of effect Manny's absence would have. At the time, the team was off to an incredibly fast start both with the bats and on the mound. I then recorded the same set of stats at the time Manny returned, and then again at the regular season's end. I wrote down a few hypotheses about what would happen and while a few were supported by the numbers, but I was somewhat surprised by others.

-All offensive statistics will dip dramatically in Manny's absence. Upon his return, they'll improve but overall the team will lose ground down the stretch after extending themselves to wait out the suspension.
-Andre Ethier will experience the most dramatic dip and then increase in stats since he has been hitting in front of Manny in the lineup and will miss that protection.
-Juan Pierre's numbers will experience a dramatic downturn regardless of Manny's presence (Pierre is hitting .346 at the time of the suspension). Playing every day will hurt him and he will not finish the season over .300.
-The pitching staff's hot start will come to a screeching halt as the offense struggles and puts more pressure on the pitching.
-Manny's post-suspension numbers will not dip dramatically upon his return. He will struggle initially after the lay-off, but eventually regain his form.
-The Dodgers' 6.5 game lead at the time of the suspension will initially be extended, but be erased by the end of the season. They may win the West, but not by more than 3 games.

None of my predictions were particularly ground-breaking. The common assumption was that absent of Manny's bat in the middle of the line-up, opposing pitching staffs would not be afraid to pitch to or around the other players when called for. When Manny returned, he might have rust to shake off, but he'd eventually become the fearsome hitter he's been for years. While some of this proved correct, there were some surprises.

-Juan Pierre held up far better than expected. Prior to the suspension, he batted .346 in limited, back-up duty. As an everyday starter for those 50 games, he batted .322 with 37 runs scored and 24 RBI in 245 at bats. He struggled a lot more coming off the bench after Manny came back (.281, 20 R, 7 RBI in 135 at bats) and finished the season at .308. But his numbers during the suspension probably saved the season for Los Angeles.
-Matt Kemp had a solid season over all, but his power was far better with Manny in the lineup. Kemp hit .275, 17 R, 17 RBI, 3 HR in the first 29 games. During the suspension, but he improved his batting average to .302 but only hit 7 homers in his next approximately 200 at bats. Then when Manny returned, Kemp's power numbers took a huge leap, surging from 10 homers in his first 291 at bats, to 16 homers in his final 315 at bats.
-Andre Ethier did struggle greatly in Manny's absence. Pre-suspension: .317, .76 runs/game, .93 RBI/game, about 15 AB/HR. Without Manny: .257, .38 runs/game, .52 RBI/game, 31.1 AB/HR. Post-suspension: .285, .63 runs/game, .65 RBI/game, 19.8 AB/HR. Even with Manny struggling after his return, Ethier was likely seeing much better pitches to hit, and hit them he did!
-Orlando Hudson's red hot start came to a screeching halt, but that probably had as much to do with the law of averages as it did Manny Ramirez. Hudson hit .342 prior to the suspension, .292 during it, and just .364 afterwards to finish the season right at his career average of .281.
-The team averaged 5.55 runs per game before, 4.40 runs during, and 4.81 runs after the suspension for a season average of 4.81 as well. Their margin of victory went from +1.90 (wow!) to +.58 to +1.02. They were +1.04 on the season.
-The pitching staff did not see any great change despite the increased pressure put on as the offense dipped. In fact, the staff ERA dropped from 3.72 before to 3.46 during the suspension. And if you think that could be attributed to the better defense that Pierre provided over Manny in left field (though Manny's potential errors would only lead to unearned run and not affect ERA), the staff ERA dropped to an amazing 2.75 over the final 83 games of the season! The season ERA was an ML leading 3.41.
-The team did struggle during the suspension, going from an over all winning percentage of .724 to .580. They were only 28-21 during the suspension after starting out 21-8. When Manny returned, the winning percentage continued to dip despite the amazing pitching and the fact that the batting average and runs/game all improved. They were 45-38 (.542) after Manny returned and finished 95-67 (.586).
-Their NL West lead was 6.5 games when Manny went out. It actually stretched out to 7.5 games when Manny returned, and shrunk all the way down to 1 game in the final weekend before stretching back out to 3 games at season's end.
-While Ethier had the biggest slide with Manny out (70 points), Rafael Furcal had the worst numbers. Furcal hit just .240 during the suspension. Furcal hit .293 when Manny returned, but finished the season a disappointing .269 with just 57 runs scored despite playing a full season (150 games played).
-Besides Pierre, Casey Blake was the team's biggest savior during the suspension. 33 or Blake's 79 RBI came during those 50 games. He hit .286 during the suspension (.264 before, .274 after).
-Russell Martin's superstar status seems to be a thing of the past. While he is still becoming known as a great game-caller, his offensive numbers are not good. He struggled before and during the suspension (.246 total BA with 1 HR in 248 at bats). He improved slightly after the suspension, hitting .253 with 6 homers in his final 257 at bats.

And finally, there is Manny Ramirez. Pre-suspension, Manny his .348 and hit a homer every 15.3 at bats. Upon his return, his batting average dipped 79 points (.269), and his homerun average dropped to 1 every 20 at bats (still impressive). With three times the at bats after the suspension as before it, he barely scored and drove in twice the runs.

The slugger's post-suspension numbers were nowhere near the astronomical numbers he had put up in his first nearly full-season with the Dodgers. His struggles have been attributed various things, like being upset that he was being booed for his steroid-related suspension, being distracted by the circus around the suspension, being slow to get back into the groove, etc. Announcers keep saying that Manny is almost all the way back and that any day now, he will take over.

It's been nearly 90 games since the suspension. It's not rust. He was booed for a decade before this drug suspension. It's not his fragile emotions. He's been in the center ring of his own circus his entire career. He's not distracted. It is pretty clear that Manny struggled after coming back from a performance enhancing drug suspension because performance enhancing drugs were not enhancing his performance anymore.

Maybe I am not so upset that the Mets didn't sign him, and that the Dodgers are stuck with his $22 million dollar contract for a 38 year-old defensive liability who'll be lucky to hit .275 and 25 homers next year.

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