The Dodgers hit their lowest point of the season after the month of June. Kershaw went on the DL just before the All-Star break and the club was sitting 6 games back from the red-hot Giants. With the trade deadline near and the abundance of injuries the Dodgers have had this season, it was natural for Dodgers fans to panic (At one point I even considered throwing in the towel and becoming sellers during the trade deadline).
Since June 30th, the Dodgers have flipped a switch and gained 4 games on the Giants and are now in position to retake the division lead. The boys in blue finished the month of July with a 13-8 record (.619) and a +21 runs differential, while the Giants regressed and had an under .500 month (11-12) with only a +7 runs differential. A large part of the Dodgers big month is due to the resurgence of Justin Turner and the offense as a whole to go along with solid pitching from Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda.
The Dodgers are still in the playoff picture, sitting in the first wild card spot, maintaining their 2 game lead ahead of the Cardinals. With the division back to within reach this late in the season, I don’t see why the Dodgers should settle for a Wild Card play in. The tables have turned and now the Dodgers should be able to complete their comeback and finish the season with their fourth consecutive NL West title.
According to Fangraphs, a highly respected baseball statistical website often used by the MLB, the Dodgers are close to a 60% favorite to end up winning the division (58.6 %LAD 41.2% SF) after the Giants have led the division for most of the season.
These projections should give Dodger fans a reason to be optimistic. Personally, the fact that the Giants have been leading the division for so long made me want to dive into research to why the Dodgers were trailing the Giants for so long. The research came out quite favorable for the Dodgers.
At first glance, the number that stands out to me is the amount of games the Giants have played within the division. It’s no secret the NL West is a two-team race between the Giants and the Dodgers and three struggling organizations. Through the first half of the season, the Giants have played 49 of their 79 divisional games. They were able to take advantage of the divisional games with a 31-18 (.632) record, which translated to their big lead early in the season.
The Dodgers have had similar success within the division, winning 23 out of their 41 games (.560). The difference in the standings may very well be the 8 divisional games the Dodgers have yet to play. Should the Dodgers at the very least split those eight games that would translate to a four-game swing in the standings and the Dodgers would be up 2 games on the Giants!
Even with the early divisional opponent advantage the narrow lead that the Giants are holding onto is highly inflated. The Giants have played 65 of their 102 games against teams under .500. This translated to 41 of their 59 (69%) wins coming from teams under .500! They are currently under .500 against teams over .500, which indicates that once the schedule balances out in the second half the Giants are due for a regression (like they went through in July).
The Dodgers, on the other hand, have already faced a majority of the above .500 teams and have fared average against teams over .500 (22-25). The lighter second half schedule may be just what the boys in blue might need to regain control of the division as they have dominated teams under .500 (35-20). Suddenly now a team once considered “the best team in baseball “don’t look so high and mighty.
102 games played
55 against sub-.500 teams
102 games played
65 against sub-.500 teamshttps://t.co/Orcg6VuskW
— Positive Residual (@presidual) July 29, 2016
While crunching all the numbers and evaluating the team’s first half performances are fun and could bring comfort, this is still baseball. Baseball has its way of balancing everything out and no team has any decisive advantage over the other. There’s an old baseball saying — “Every team is going to win 54 games, and every team is going to lose 54 games. it’s what you do with the other 54 games that count,” this so happens to be the case between the Dodgers and Giants.
The Dodgers still have 9 more games against the Giants this year and 6 of the 9 are at home. They are currently down in the season series 4-6 to the Giants, but Dodgers fans shouldn’t read too much into it as last year the Dodgers lost the season series to the Giants but still won the division by 8 games. These 9 games may not make or break the division hopes, but winning 6 out of 9 couldn’t hurt.
Heading into the final weekend series before the trade deadline there’s without a doubt the Dodgers are going to look to make some moves before Monday afternoon. Although there are a lot of rumors going around revolving the Dodgers, perhaps the one thing the Dodgers need more than a big splash during the trade deadline is to get healthy. Clearly, any trade that could help the team is welcomed with open arm, the club has managed to keep pace with the league with the roster they have (despite being the most injury prone team in baseball). The Dodgers have been the product of an unlucky first half yet still have one of the top 4 records in the NL.