The Dodgers sure could use a little Déjà vu all over again.
During the months of April and May 2013, the Dodgers longest winning streak was a minuscule three games, which they accomplished only once. During this same time frame they had losing streaks of six and eight games respectively before going on their historic 42-8 run from June 22 through August 17, 2013. During that incredible run they had winning streaks of six games, four games, five games, six games, four games, five games and ended the run on a 10-game winning streak – their longest since 2006. But lost in the magnitude of that magical run is the fact that the Dodgers never lost two games in a row during those 50 games – not even once. When you think about it, this is almost as remarkable as the run itself.
And now for the bad news.
Through their first 43 games of the 2014 season the Dodgers longest winning streak is three games, which they have accomplished twice – neither at home. And although the Dodgers have had only one three-game losing streak during this same time frame, they have lost back-to-back games five times and are 6-7-1 in the 14 series that they have played thus far. It truly is a wonder that they are still above .500.
For those expecting the Dodgers to put together another 42-8 run this season, consider this – prior to last year’s Dodgers team, the last teams to go 42-8 were the 1941 Yankees and the 1942 Cardinals. In other words, it could be another 71 years before it happens again – or longer. The point here is that the chances of it happening again are extremely remote – perhaps even impossible. And before thinking about winning 42 out of 50 games, the Dodgers better start concentrating on winning three, four or five games in a row, or at least concentrate on winning series – both on the road and even more so at home.
Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. But is there a sense of urgency to start putting together winning streaks of more than only two or three games? Absolutely yes. In fact, even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly believes so.
“I think there should be a sense of urgency every day, to be honest with you,” Mattingly said. “I think that good teams are going to come to play every day. I’ve said it probably a thousand times that anything that’s [already] happened [is] behind us right now, there’s just not a damn thing we can do about it. To me, you always look at it like today could be the start of us winning 10 in a row. Or today could be the start of us being hot, playing .700 baseball for the next two months.”
Okay, that sounds great and all, but in their last 10 games the Dodgers are 4-6 with four of those losses coming at Dodger Stadium, where they are a dismal 9-13 on the season.
So how does Mattingly go about putting his “sense of urgency every day” plan into action? That’s the million-dollar question, or actually the $229 million question – the Dodgers lofty payroll for 2014.
A good place to start might be some serious soul-searching about the ineptitude of the Dodgers bullpen, who collectively are responsible for 11 of the Dodgers 20 losses this season. Take away even five of those bullpen losses and the Dodgers are neck and neck with the Giants for the division lead. There is simply no excuse for a bullpen with four highly paid legitimate closers to have the worst loss record in the National league and even less of an excuse for giving up 78 walks (second most in the NL) and a MLB-leading nine hit batsmen.
The Dodgers certainly don’t need to look very far for bullpen help – they have Yimi Garcia (2.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, four walks and 19 strikeouts) and Josh Judy (3.20 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, five walks and 17 strikeouts) at Triple-A Albuquerque and Mike Thomas (2.16 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 14 walks and 22 strikeouts) and Pedro Baez (3.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, six walks and 13 strikeouts) at Double-A Chattanooga. Garcia and Baez are both on the Dodgers 40-man roster, so that wouldn’t be an issue. The issue is Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti’s unwillingness to give these kids a chance.
Of lesser concern but of concern nonetheless is the Dodgers’ never-ending problem of leaving men on base and even more so leaving them in scoring position. Although the term never-ending may sound a bit harsh, it truly is something that the Dodgers have seemingly done throughout their entire 130-year history. Through their first 43 games, the Dodgers are averaging 7.26 men left on base per game. Now granted, this is not the worst LOB average in the MLB this season (that dubious honor belongs to the Twins at 8.08), but it is considerably higher than the lowest LOB average per game which belongs to the Mariners at 6.15 and (are you ready for this) the Padres at 6.17 – but then, you have to get them on base before you can leave them on base.
I am not a hitting coach, nor do I profess to be one, but it seems to me that if the abundance of Dodgers power-hitters were to quit trying to hit every ball out of the park and shorten up their swings with runners on base and especially in scoring position and try to drive the ball up the middle, they would drive in a lot more of these base runners instead of stranding them. That being said, one can only imagine how difficult it must be for any hitting coach to penetrate the enormous egos of these mashers.
Whatever the solution, the Dodgers need to find it and find it soon – before it takes something similar to that 42-8 runs to get back into the NL West race.