The LA Dodgers have gotten off to a slow start to begin the 2016 season. Normally, I would be the guy who tells you not to worry about it, that it is only May and there is a ton of time left. Even after the recent home stand in which the Dodgers lost 6 straight games and watched their batting averages plummet, the Dodgers still remain in first place. Granted, they are in a three way tie for first place, but it is still first place. So, if they can slump that badly and stay atop the National League West standing, there is nothing to worry about right?
In this case, there might be some cause for concern. After taking a deeper look at the stats going into the series with the Mets, it looks like the Dodgers are extremely lucky to be where they are.
Out of the 15 teams in the National League, the Dodgers currently rank 8th in hits, 9th in runs scored, 10th in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage, 12th in slugging percentage, 12th in total bases, and an awful 14th in home runs (the Braves are the only team with less). To give you some perspective of just how bad this is, the only team in the National League West that ranks below the Dodgers in every single one of these categories is the Padres. Actually, that isn’t even entirely accurate. The Padres currently have 2 more home runs than the Dodgers, meaning the Dodgers are dead last in the National League West in that category. On the other end of the spectrum, the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies are all among the league’s best. Two of those three teams are in the top 5 of every single one of those categories except for on-base percentage (Rockies are in 6th).
The only thing keeping the Dodgers together at this point is their pitching staff. It may not seem like it, but the Dodgers pitching staff is currently one of the League’s best. The Dodgers staff ranks in the top 5 of every major pitching category in the National League. Even in strikeouts, they only narrowly miss being in the top 5 (2 strike outs difference). In fact, the Dodgers have the 4th best ERA, 3rd lowest batting average against, and 2nd most shutouts.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers also rank 2nd for total number of saves. This is a positive in the sense that it means Kenley Jansen is doing his job when he is called upon. However, it is also something to worry about because it means that the Dodgers are playing in a lot of very close games. With the 4th best ERA in the National League, the Dodgers offense should be able to put up enough runs that Jansen simply isn’t needed that often. Instead, the Dodgers have called upon Jansen to save the game in 11 of their 16 wins.
For many teams, these trends wouldn’t be something to be concerned about. They would look at their team as one that is simply pitching heavy and make that their focus, rather than their offense. Many teams have employed this strategy over the years and have gone on to win their division and even the World Series. However, teams employing this strategy did so with multiple big name pitchers in their rotation (See the 1993 Braves, 1986 Mets, 1998 Braves). The Dodgers could have realistically relied on this strategy in 2015 with one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, but with Zack Greinke gone, it would be unwise for them to do so this season.
Clayton Kershaw currently sits with a 2.04 ERA and Kenta Maeda has had an unbelievable start to his career with a 1.66 ERA. That means that combined, they have a 1.85 ERA. The remaining three starting pitchers combine for just a 4.84 ERA. To make things worse, one of those three pitchers is Ross Stripling. Don’t get me wrong; Stripling has done a wonderful job filling in for injured pitchers like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson, and Brandon McCarthy. Realistically though, he is a backup pitcher that is making some solid starts for the Dodgers while they wait. It is unrealistic to think that he will continue to pitch as well as he has down the stretch.
The current numbers of the Dodgers pitching staff will simply not hold up. Barring big comebacks from players like Kazmir, Ryu, McCarthy, and Anderson, it will be up to the Dodgers offense to get them into the postseason for the fourth straight season. As of right now, the bats are simply not cutting it and the Dodgers should feel extremely fortunate that they are still atop the National League West standings. For more LA Dodgers news, check back at Dodgers Nation!