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The timing could not be better for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Of course, they would always prefer to have Manny Ramirez in the lineup, but the team's hot start, a weak division and a very easy schedule over the next 50 games, still make LA a playoff team and likeliest National League Champion.
Before the season, when Manny and the Dodgers were working on a contract, we conducted an analysis to show how important Ramirez could be to the Dodgers. At that time, we simulated the 2009 season 10,000 times with and without Ramirez in LA's lineup and suggested that the Dodgers would be 5.4 wins (89.8 wins compared to 84.4 wins) better over the course of the season than without. They would also see an increase in playoff probability from 30.5% to 42.3%.
While most others are speculating on what happened to cause this, now that "Mannywood" is shut down for the next 50 games due to a positive test for a banned substance, we again look forward to project what will happen versus what would have happened.
Based on our new analysis, where we simulated the next 50 games 10,000 times in both scenarios, we calculate that losing Manny Ramirez will only cost the Dodgers 2.3 wins over the next 50 games. Their record without Man-Ram is projected to be 29.3 - 20.7 over the stretch that ends July 3; whereas the Dodgers were projected to go 31.6 - 18.4 with Manny.
No, it's not that Juan Pierre is a great replacement for Ramirez in fact, he projects to hurt the team more than a standard minor league call-up replacement player - it's more that the rest of the team is still really good and the Dodgers have an extremely easy schedule over the next 50 games. Los Angeles currently sits atop our weekly MLB Power Rankings (published Monday mornings). The Dodgers are significantly ahead of the rest of the league, scoring the second most and giving up the second fewest in our simulations for the article. From now until Manny's return just before the All-Star break, LA only plays one team the New York Mets - ranked in the top 12 in those rankings. Clearly, the Dodgers lucked out with the schedule.
Furthermore, a case can be made that the Dodgers final record will not be much different at all. Our original analysis in March predicted that Ramirez would miss almost 30 games. With a 50-game break, one could assume that Manny will not need as many off days over the last 83 games as he normally would. Given that he would usually miss around 15 games in that stretch and that he would be fresh, healthy and looking for something to prove, it is not unreasonable to believe that he would cut that number in half or more (hes only missed two of LA's first 29 games). If Ramirez only misses six games after his suspension instead of our original projection 15, the Dodgers should gain back 0.51 wins (the schedule is tougher in the second half, making Manny more important to winning). This means that, with Manny's suspension, our projected final regular season record for the Dodgers dips just slightly 100.7 - 60.3 to 98.9 - 62.1.
That's it. Fifty games without a team's best player results in just about two less wins. The Dodgers are still the resounding National League West favorite and even project to finish with the best record in all of baseball.
It should be noted that, based on LA's current .724 winning percentage, the Dodgers would be on pace to go 36.2 - 13.8 over the next 50 games and win 117 games. Obviously they are great team, yet are very unlikely to maintain that level of success under any circumstances. That being said, starting the season 13 games above .500 is one of the major catalysts for the Dodgers' projected stranglehold on the division.
This analysis also assumes that everyone else on all teams stays reasonably healthy and clean. Unforeseen injuries (or suspensions) could alter the projections.
"Pierrewood" may not be as fun or lively as its predecessor, but the Dodgers will more than hold their ground while Manny Ramirez sits out until July. And just think about a fresh Manny with a chip on his shoulder in the playoffs...
Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!