Vin Scully once joyfully exclaimed “the impossible has happened!” Although the Los Angeles Dodgers catching the San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings isn’t quite Kirk Gibson hitting a pinch hit World Series home run off legendary closer Dennis Eckersley while injured, it still seemed like a highly improbable task just a month ago that the Dodgers would be in this position.
Of course, the Giants winning on Wednesday and the Dodgers losing has given the Giants a 1 game lead in the division, but on August 9th, the NL West was officially tied.
Still One. pic.twitter.com/kG7k8SAlW3
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 11, 2016
A consolation prize looms for whichever team loses the chase for the division crown, because barring a complete implosion by one of these teams, they’ll at least be able to secure one of the wild card spots. Wild card games are uneasy, though.
Anything can happen in the course of one game, so avoiding that recipe for anomalous behavior would be refreshing for either side. This division is officially up for grabs from here on out. The psychological victory of the Dodgers closing the gap can’t be understated.
It’s no longer a theoretical proposition that the Dodgers can climb to a division crown. When Clayton Kershaw got injured, the team was hovering in that 5-6 games back category, and with the trade deadline approaching, there were some serious discussions as to whether the Dodgers should be sellers and throw in the towel for this season.
5-6 games didn’t seem like a lot of ground to have to make up, but without the best pitcher in baseball being available for the foreseeable future, it seemed a lot easier said than done.
With the outrageous amount of injuries this team has had this season, it’s a remarkable feat that they’re where they sit in early August.
What made this comeback possible? Did it have to do with the Dodgers playing fantastically? Or the Giants succumbing to ineptitude at a very inconvenient time?
Like most dichotomous proposals, the answer lays in some gray area. Yes the Dodgers have shown tremendous resiliency, but the Giants have been awful since the All Star Break.
Clayton Kershaw last pitched on June 26. Best MLB records since then:
1) Dodgers 23-13
2) Blue Jays 23-14
2) Tigers 23-14
4) Nationals 22-14
— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) August 10, 2016
On June 26, the Giants had an 8 game lead over the Dodgers. 44 days later, the lead evaporated. What happened?
The Giants’ offense deteriorated while the Dodgers’ offense surged. For the month of July, the Dodgers ranked 6th in the league in runs scored. The Giants ranked tied for 26th.
The Dodgers ranked 5th in July in total bases. The Giants no longer seemed capable of a rhythmic offense, and ranked just 29th in total bases.
The Dodgers ranked 3rd in July in OBP. The Giants ranked a mediocre 15th. The difference was that while the Dodgers were able to translate base runners into runs, the Giants couldn’t.
The Dodgers also turned up their power hitting in the month of July. They ranked 3rd in the league in SLG for that month, while the Giants ranked 26th.
The Dodgers ranked 5th in the league in extra base hits in July. The Giants ranked 26th. The Dodgers turned into an elite offense, while the Giants looked like one of the worst hitting teams in the league.
The Dodgers had been competitive in the division in the first half despite their hitting. Once their offense started clicking, the surge was possible.
Although the Dodgers’ pitching had a great month of July, the Giants’ pitching wasn’t as bad as their offense was. However, the Dodgers still had superior pitching when comparing the two teams.
The Dodgers ranked 9th in team ERA, while the Giants ranked 16th in that same category. There’s still a somewhat large discrepancy, but not as gigantic as the offensive categories.
The Dodgers ranked 1st in BAA during the month of July, while the Giants were able to rank an impressive 7th.
The Dodgers ranked 1st in OBP against as a team, while the Giants ranked 4th in OBP against.
The Dodgers ranked 4th in SLG against in July, while the Giants were a little more prone to allowing bigs hits, ranking 16th.
The Dodgers ranked 1st in WHIP during July, while the Giants ranked 5th. Neither team was losing games as a result of pitching.
The offensive disparity between the two teams is prolonging into August. The Dodgers are averaging nearly a run more per game than the Giants are through 8 games this month.
The Dodgers rank 4th in total bases, while the Giants rank tied for 18th. They’re starting to show more life, considering that the Giants rank 19th in the league during the whole season in that category.
The BA and OBP differences between the two squads is interesting. The Dodgers only have an OBP 7 points higher than the Giants, but a batting average 22 points higher.
San Francisco may be hitting only .240 for August, but they’re displaying the plate discipline to draw walks.
They rank 4th during the month of August with 33 walks, which is just slightly over 4 per game.
Conversely, the Dodgers have only walked 22 times in August, which is less than 3 per game.
The Giants’ offensive ineptitudes are pronounced in their slugging percentage in August. They rank only 27th in the league in SLG for the month, while the Dodgers rank 3rd. That SLG difference is illustrated in their extra base hits stats. The Dodgers have 11 more than the Giants already this month.
Of course, it’s important to consider that slugging percentage was never a strength of the Giants, even when they were winning more ball games. During their tremendous month of June, they only ranked 23rd in the league in SLG. That’s not how they win games.
The Dodgers rank 2nd in August in extra base hits, while the Giants are tied for 24th. Again, what’s more alarming is the Giants’ inability to manufacture runs.
Where the Dodgers should be concerned is their pitching in August so far. While the Giants have had a great month in that department, the Dodgers have struggled.
The Giants rank 12th in team ERA in August. The Dodgers rank 19th.
The Giants rank 6th in BAA, stymying opposing lineups. The Dodgers rank 20th, and are suddenly appearing more hittable.
The Giants rank 9th in OBP against, which indicates some issues with walks compared to other teams. They’re 7th in the month of August in most walks given up. The Dodgers rank 23rd in August in OBP, and have walked just 1 less batter than the Giants this month, but it comes with far more hits given up.
The Giants rank 7th in SLG against. The Dodgers rank 17th. The Dodgers have given up 10 more total bases this month than the Giants.
What helps the Dodgers in that department is that they’ve only given up 4 doubles this month, which is tied for the least amount in the league.
The Giants rank 8th in WHIP. The Dodgers rank 20th. The walk totals are very similar, but the Dodgers’ pitching has given up a lot more hits than the Giants have.
What’s encouraging for the Dodgers is that their pitching hasn’t been as bad as the Giants’ hitting through August so far.
The division is probably going to be decided by which underachievement prolongs into September. Will the Giants’ hitting continue it’s decline into next month? Will the Dodgers pitching continue to struggle after such a great July?
These two teams are extremely evenly matched after a season full of ups and downs for each squad. Both have played in 113 games. The Giants have scored 504 runs, while the Dodgers have scored 502.
The Dodgers rank 4th in the league this season in team ERA with 3.59. The Giants are right behind them, ranking 6th with 3.67.
It’s setting up to be a phenomenal stretch run between these two teams. A strong case could be made for either of the teams to be considered the favorite. The Dodgers may be plagued with injuries, but guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner typically reach their peak in the last third of the season.
The Giants’ offense is severely struggling to score runs, but it’s hard to discount their past ability to elevate their game at important moments down the stretch. Betting on a team with 3 World Series wins since 2010 to fold down the stretch sounds very foolish.
Both teams are probably going to make the playoffs, but avoiding that Wild Card play-in game is a huge luxury.
The Dodgers should be very proud of where they are at this point of the season. They’ve overcome a ridiculous amount of injuries to be strongly entrenched in the playoff discussion.
Their offense struggled in the first half of the season, but it all started to come together with a strong month of July. That offensive improvement coincided with the Giants’ offensive slump to close the gap in the NL West.
These teams play each other 9 more times during the 49 game period remaining in the regular season. It’s going to be a crazy finish.
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