Daily Distractions: Going to WAR over the Dodgers’ worst position.

Nick Punto

Is infielder Nick Punto part of the Dodgers’ solution or part of the problem? (Getty Images)

What has been the least productive position for the Dodgers this season? Third base? Shortstop?

Guess again.

FanGraphs.com recently calculated the WAR (wins above replacement) for every team by position. (For an explanation of the frequently misunderstood statistic, which is calculated differently by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com and has gained popularity in recent years, click here.) According to FanGraphs’ WAR, second base has been the least productive position for the Dodgers this year.

In fact, only five teams have gotten less out of the position than the Dodgers, in terms of offense, baserunning and defense. Mark Ellis (17), Nick Punto (10) and Skip Schumaker (6) are the only three Dodgers who have started games at second base this season.

The Dodgers’ best position, relatively speaking, is first base. Only the Reds and Tigers have gotten more WAR out of the position this season.

The chart has its limits. Take the Angels, for example. Add up their position-by-position WAR, and they should have the fourth-best team in baseball. In reality the Angels are 10 games under .500. The Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East, yet their combined WAR ranks 21st in the majors.

This is why you play the games.

More bullet points for a Thursday morning:
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Daily Distractions: More on Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, and wrapped body parts.

I could have written a lot more about Clayton Kershaw for my game story from the Dodgers’ win yesterday but I didn’t (mostly) for two reasons:

1. As great as he was, Kershaw pitches like that all the time
2. He didn’t talk to reporters after the game

Kershaw’s absence was due to a “personal matter,” a team spokesperson said. As Kershaw walked down the tunnel out of the Dodgers’ clubhouse, his left shoulder appeared to be heavily wrapped under his shirt — as it typically is after each game Kershaw pitches — which merely means that the pitcher wasted little time leaving the building.

More on Kershaw in a bit. I’m highlighting the point about his shoulder because this tweet caused a bit of a stir yesterday:

Underneath that wrap was a still-healing ligament in Ramirez’s right thumb. It’s easy to assume that the hand was wrapped because Ramirez re-injured the thumb. Folks at the game said that he slid awkwardly into second base in the fifth inning. Did he do something to his thumb sliding?

Probably not. Ramirez remained in the game to play another inning in the field after the slide. He was removed in the top of the seventh inning, which is exactly when the Dodgers wanted him to leave. It’s believed that Ramirez wrapped his thumb after the game merely as a precaution, much like a pitcher who just threw 117 pitches wraps a healthy shoulder.

More Monday bullet points:
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Daily Distractions: On expiring contracts, Ryu, Ramirez and Robinson.

Matt Kemp Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly’s contract is up at the end of the year, but does it really matter? (Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)

What do Don Mattingly, Charlie Manuel, Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire have in common?

Answer: Mr. Burns would disapprove of their sideburns.

We also would have accepted that each has a contract that expires at the end of the season, as do six other managers, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark. That’s one-third of the league.

Writes Stark:

It does reflect a change in what once passed for conventional thinking: We can’t hang our manager out there on the last year of his deal. The players will walk all over him.

That may have been the theory once upon a time. But nowadays, says Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “I think it’s something from out of the past that doesn’t exist in the present anymore. It’s one of those old things that was widely accepted — and then a lot of smart people said, ‘Why?’”

Truth is, many fans haven’t wrapped their heads around this concept yet. The intellectually lazy belief is that a cold seat becomes warm, a warm seat becomes hot, and a hot seat becomes scorching if the manager’s contract is up at the end of the year.

The relationship between each manager and his team is different, but many of the same hypotheses about Mattingly’s job security are probably being applied to Leyland, whose team won the American League pennant a year ago and whose plaque in Cooperstown may have been minted already (hopefully with a cigarette in Leyland’s mouth and missing only the logo on his hat).

After all the Tigers are only 10-10, or one fewer loss than the Dodgers.

Some bullet points to tide you through a Sierra Leone independence day weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Clayton Kershaw’s changing repertoire; Chad Billingsley verdict coming soon.

Clayton KershawThe Dodgers are playing the Mets in New York tonight. Clayton Kershaw is pitching.

Before you breathe that every-five-days sigh of relief that comes with seeing number 22 on the mound, consider the changes to Kershaw’s repertoire since his masterful Opening Day performance.

That day, his curveball was working so well against the San Francisco Giants, he barely needed a fastball. Kershaw threw fastballs on 52.1 percent of his pitches, a ridiculously low percentage considering he threw 94 pitches over nine innings.

In every start since, Kershaw has thrown fewer curves as a percentage of his pitches — from 19.2 percent on Opening Day to 11.3, 9.9, and finally 7.6 percent last Wednesday against the Padres. Kershaw said he didn’t have any of his breaking pitches working well that night, when he allowed five runs (three earned) in 5 ⅓ innings.

Kershaw’s fastball has gotten slightly slower, too. It averaged 93 mph on Opening Day, then 92.3, 92.8 and 92.6 mph in his last three starts, sequentially.

Is his arm about to fall off? No. But as Kershaw relies more on his fastball and slider, the danger of arguably his most dangerous pitch, the curve, is reduced. Depending on how well his entire repertoire is keeping the Mets off-balance, he might not need it.

It’s something to keep an eye on tonight.

Some bullet points for a Tuesday morning:

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Daily Distractions: ’42′ in theaters today.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson in a Pasadena Junior College baseball uniform. (Photo used with permission, via Reddit)

With “42″ hitting theaters today, I decided to publish a Jackie Robinson-themed Daily Distractions today. These ought to tide us over as we wait to find out how much time Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke will miss.

Enjoy:

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Jackie Robinson gets a weekend, not a day.

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles.

Monday is the actual 66th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947. It’s also Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, when every player on every team will wear Robinson’s retired 42 on his back.

The list of local Robinson-related events this weekend is so long, the Dodgers issued a 1,338-word press release today to list them all. Here are the highlights:

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Daily Distractions: Dr. Frank Jobe recognized in Cooperstown; Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier help Cleveland.

Thomas Tull

“42″ producer Thomas Tull, right, with Cal Ripken. (baseballhall.org)

The National Baseball Hall of Fame won’t induct any new members this year, but its annual Awards Presentation will have a Dodgers theme.

On July 27 in Cooperstown, the Museum will pay tribute to Legendary Pictures founder and CEO Thomas Tull and his soon-to-be-released film “42”, which documents and pays homage to Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson. The film will be released nationwide on Friday, April 12, just in advance of baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day on April 15.

The Museum will also recognize former Dodgers team physician Frank Jobe for the development of Tommy John surgery, a now-common elbow ligament replacement procedure. John, the former Dodgers pitcher who won 288 games in his 26-year major league career, will join Dr. Jobe for the special recognition.

I attended a special screening of “42″ last week and it seemed to be well-received by both the media and the Dodgers players and execs in attendance. I’m guessing it won’t be seen as a flop three months after its release.

Some bullet points for a Friday morning:

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