Even before Bill James and the Moneyball revolution, baseball has been understood through the powerful lens of statistics. It is impossible to imagine baseball prospering without daily box scores and having kids read their hero's batting average off the back of baseball cards. Sometimes we'll use newer and more intricate statistics to find new angles in baseball, but today we are keeping it simple.
Wild Stat: Six combined seasons in which one of the four-man Dodger outfield -- Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford -- has garnered votes in the MVP race. None of the players has more than two seasons with votes; all of them have at least one.
I imagine this is sort of problem Magic Johnson and the new Dodger ownership group was hoping to have in their first few years. What do you do when you have more All-Star outfielders than you can actually put on the field at the same time? The emergence of Yasiel Puig as one of the most talented and dynamic players in the league was a blessing for the Dodgers, but now they have some serious questions for their plan in 2014 and beyond. Do you hold on to all four as insurance for the extremely injury-prone Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford? Or do you cut bait on the once-great Matt Kemp, whose career has been so riddled by injuries he doesn't even remotely resemble the 2011 runner-up MVP? The rich don't live like you and me, and now the Dodgers have to deal with their burden of wealth.
If the Dodger ownership has made one thing clear, it's that money is no object, so even though Puig is the only member of the outfield not making more than $10 million, ownership won't worry about having a high-price player ride the pine. The question is purely about what will be most beneficial in terms of winning now, filling out some holes in the roster with bit parts in a trade or maintaining the most expensive timeshare in baseball history. Part of what would make moving someone difficult is how strong the Dodger lineup is. The only places the Dodgers could hope to make an improvement are in the depth of the bullpen and the catcher position. The couple of teams said to be involved in talks for Kemp, the Mariners and Red Sox, have very little to offer at those positions, so the Dodgers would most likely have to settle for prospects in those potential trades. Both the Mariners and Red Sox have solid farm systems so finding worthy prospects isn't the problem, but the conflict of philosophy is. LA is all in on winning ASAP and unless they find the trade to push them over the top they seem to be truly content staying put. As crazy as it sounds, only a few days away from the beginning of Spring training, it seems like the Dodgers are primed to pay a premium on their four-man outfield.
It's fairly easy to see this decision going both ways for the Dodgers. If one of the players goes down with a serious injury early in the season, Don Mattingly can just plug in another All-Star and the season goes along without a hitch. With TV money booming, other big-market teams start considering taking on high-price backups as a sort of super insurance plan and the Dodgers are ahead of the curve. But it's also not hard to envision the Dodgers season coming to an end as the camera cuts to a perfectly good All-Star toughing it out on the bench as a lot of angry letters reach the LA Times sports section. Whatever the Dodgers do, it's clear that they've put a lot of pressure on themselves to win now, and in the season to come, that's how they will be judged.