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Sax may be vital to Dodgers, but check out these vital stats

By Kenneth Broder
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
September 11, 1988

Second and third, one out. The Dodgers are battling the New York Mets down the stretch and the Mets are getting the best of it. But the Dodgers are rallying as Steve Sax steps to the plate.

"Steve Sax is vital to the Dodger attack," the Dodger announcer confidently intones. "He's been getting big hits all year." Sax promptly hits a grounder to Keith Hernandez, who easily nails Mike Scioscia trying to scamper back to a now-occupied third base.

If Sax has been getting a lot of big hits this year, he's getting fewer small ones. A lineup of nine hitters with Steve's numbers would probably score a very ordinary 4.5 runs per game, the same as last year, but only two-thirds as good as his big year in '86. His average still hovers around .290, but the speedster will be lucky to hit 29 doubles.

Sax's walks continue to be down from earlier in his career, not a good sign for a leadoff man, and the advantage gained from his stolen bases is almost completely negated statistically by getting caught 30 percent of the time.

"Vital to the Dodger attack?" Well, maybe we're looking at the wrong numbers here. After all, going into this season Sax had the second-best single-season batting average on artificial turf, .387 in 1986, behind Bill Madlock's .398 in '75, over the past 13 years. And don't forget, he has the 12th-highest career batting average in late-inning pressure situations, .318, over the same period.

Sax also turns up in the No. 13 spot on the Highest-Career-Ratio-of-Ground-Outs-to-Air-Outs list (1.88 if you're truly interested, compared to Milt Thompson's 2.69), according to Elias Sports Bureau.

There's always something nice you can say about people (even if its trivial), and the Elias folks, thanks to their hyperactive computer programmers, have been saying it all for years in the annual Analyst.

The following is a list of some of the hallowed records racked up by our Southland heroes during the 13 years Elias has been counting these things. Hopefully, it will provide the same sort of deep insight and appreciation for the subtleties of the national pastime that our more distinguished sports scribes and analysts have acquired.

SINGLE-SEASON:

Runners driven in from 1st

1. Hal McRae, 1982 -- 36

17. Tony Armas, 1980 -- 23

Runners driven in from 3rd with less than 2 outs

1. Ben Ogilvie, 1986 -- .913

4. Bill Madlock, 1986 -- .880

19. Brian Downing, 1982 -- .833

Opponent on-base average leading off inning

1. Greg Harris, 1985 -- .175

9. John Tudor, 1985 -- .217

Extra-base hits allowed

1. Bert Blyleven, 1986 -- 100

8. Mike Witt, 1987 -- 91

13. Dan Petry, 1983 -- 89

Opponent batting average with 2 outs & runners in scoring position

1. Jack Morris, 1987 -- .082

3. John Tudor, 1984 -- .110

CAREER:

Percentage of runners driven in from 3rd with less than 2 outs

1. Broderick Perkins -- .753

2. Wally Joyner -- .732

Strikeout percentage with bases loaded

1. Rico Carty -- 1.43

8. Scioscia -- 3.57

Lowest ratio of ground outs to air outs

1. Rob Deer -- 0.58

2. Franklin Stubbs -- 0.62

Batting average in late-inning pressure situations with 2 outs & runners in scoring position

1. Jose Canseco -- .464

10. Chili Davis -- .383

25. Mike Marshall -- .353

Strikeout percentage vs. right-handers

1. Felix Milan -- 3.29

4. Johnny Ray -- 4.68

8. Scioscia -- 5.10

Slugging percentage vs. right-handers

1. Darryl Strawberry -- .575

16. Kirk Gibson -- .514

Strikeout percentage vs. left-handers

1. Ted Sizemore -- 2.90

11. Bob Boone -- .509

13. Mickey Hatcher -- .509

Opponent strikeout percentage with bases loaded

1. Bobby Witt -- 34.78

18. Orel Hershiser -- 22.89

Opponent batting average with bases loaded

1. Eric Show -- 1.28

2. Jesse Orosco -- 1.30

Highest career ratio of ground outs to air outs

1. Roger McDowell -- .316

15. Orel Hershiser -- .224

Opponent extra-base hit percentage

1. Steve Howe -- 4.04

10. Jesse Orosco -- 5.25

16. Orel Hershiser -- 5.42

17. Alejandro Pena -- 5.42

Opponent batting average with 2 outs & runners in scoring position

1. Tim Burke -- .159

21. Jesse Orosco -- .189

Opponent batting average with 2 outs & runners on base

1. Dwight Gooden -- .178

8. Jesse Orosco -- .189

Opponent batting average with runners on base

1. Todd Worrell -- .192

3. Jesse Orosco -- .208

Opponent home run percentage in late-inning pressure situation

1. Nine pitchers -- 0.00

13. Fernando Valenzuela -- 0.45

21. Orel Hershiser -- 0.58

23. Alejandro Pena -- 0.60

Opponent batting average in late-inning pressure situations with runners on base

1. Kevin Saucier -- .160

11. Alejandro Pena -- .205

The list above includes most of our local heroes, but would have been a lot longer if Pedro Guerrero were still a Dodger. He has 13 separate entries of his own for such esoteric accomplishments as: Career slugging percentage vs. right-handers (15th), career home run percentage in late-inning pressure situations (15th) and career on-base average leading off an inning (14th).

As the season grinds to a close, and the Dodgers watch one-run game after one-run game slip away, they may regard Guerrero's accomplishments as anything but trivial.