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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