I am an optimist by nature, always trying to view the glass as half full. Conversely, I am a Dodger fan, so I am also a pessimist by nature. Since predictions are always wrong and I prefer being right, I’d like to take on a new exercise.
I will try to highlight 5 reasons Dodger fans should be optimistic about the rest of the season and 5 reasons why Dodger fans should climb under the rock of pessimism for the remainder of the year.
Optimism Reason #1 – The Offense is clicking!
This offense was predicted to be strong at the start of the season, and boy have they failed to live up to that prediction (predictions are always wrong). But that doesn’t mean it’s all grim! They’ve really begun to turn it on lately, with strong contributions from the usual suspects: Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal. Wait, what? Turner has been struggling something fierce this year and Gonzo has substituted line drives for ground balls, which never bodes well for anyone. And let’s not get started on Yasmani Grandal, or as I like to call him at times, Yasmani Groundball. But suddenly, since the middle of June, they’ve all turned it on. Grandal has an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .999 in his last 21 games, including 8 home runs.
Turner has lit his fire since the beginning of June. After going hitless in his first 13 June at-bats, Turner has raked, with a .324 with 12 HRs and 34 RBIs, good for a 1.023 OPS. Even Gonzo, the tried and true, butter and egg man that hasn’t been buttering quite the same this year, has stepped up. Since taking the golden sombrero with 4 strikeouts on June 14th against the D-Backs, Gonzo has batted .324 with a .398 OBP. The power is still lacking, but there are reasons to like his approach. This doesn’t even take into account Yasiel Puig’s progress (.300/.394/.413) since coming off the DL, or the sudden resurgence of Howard J. Kendrick, who sports a .418 batting average and 1.092 OPS in July.
Optimism Reason #2 – Strength of Schedule
The Dodgers have one of the easier schedules for the rest of the season. The Giants have one of the more difficult. The big bonus here, and the major point to realize regarding “games back,” is the Dodgers and Giants have 9 more games against each other, including 6 more at home and 3 in the Bay alongside Vin as he calls it a career. Aside from those 9 games against the Giants, the Dodgers will only play 15 games against teams that have winning records as of the All-Star Break. That’s a whopping total of 33% of their remaining games. On the other hand, the Giants still have to play 27 games against winning teams (not including Dodgers 9), including the Red Sox in Fenway, Cubs in Wrigley, home and away against the Nationals, the pesky Marlins, and at home against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Mets consecutively without a day off. That’s one tough stretch.
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Optimism Reason #3 – Maybe the Giants are playing bigger than their britches
Maybe the Giants are playing a little better than they should. As of the All Star Break, their Pythagorean W/L percentage, or an estimated Win % calculated by their runs scored and allowed that helps shed a little light on how lucky or unlucky a team may be, stood at .579, or 41 percentage points lower than their actual win percentage, which would equate to a 53-39 record. That would put them 1 game up on the Dodgers, suggesting that they’ve been lucky and the Dodgers haven’t been, as evidenced by their Pyth W% at .572. This Giants team is ranked 27th in HRs, so they definitely lack pop. Their bullpen has been struggling too, coming in 1st in blown saves, besting even the hapless Reds bullpen and middle of the pack in nearly every other stat. Unless they shore up at the deadline, this is a major concern up north.
Optimism Reason #4 –Clayton Kershaw is Coming Back…..?
Having the best pitcher on the planet is a weapon. With Kershaw’s return still looming on the horizon, he can be seen almost as a trade deadline acquisition. The starting rotation has done its best to hold firm in his absence, but any rotation is better with Clayton in it than it is without. When it does come, his return will be a huge lift, both in performance and motivation, as this team rallies behind its general.
Optimism Reason #5 – We have the assets to make a true, game-changing trade.
The Dodgers farm system ranks in the top 5 by nearly ever prospect based publication. This bodes well for bringing in truly impact reinforcements at the trade deadline. There are plenty of pieces to target, but the Front Office has been adamant that they don’t want to part with much unless it is for elite level players. This is the type of mindset we need. A marginal upgrade isn’t going to send us over the top, but a true elite level player with control beyond this year could be a boon to our performance.
Pessimism Reason #1 – Clicking? This offense has been the definition of inconsistent!
You know it. I know it. The Dodgers have been more frustrating and inconsistent than a teenage boy’s voice during puberty. I’ve been in the seat when we won 6 in a row and I thought we were about to coast to the top, only to see us drop 6 in a row, all of them winnable and on stupid mistakes and failures to capitalize. If the inconsistency continues, this team will have a hard time making up the ground that is necessary to win the west.
Pessimism Reason #2 – 4.5 Games is a lot to make up
You’re right. And nobody said baseball was going to be easy! With 9 games against the Giants remaining, this could go really well, really quick. The Dodgers have already made up 2 games since the All-Star break. However, one little sweep could set us back 7 or even into double digits depending on the standings at the time and that lead becomes insurmountable. If the Dodgers don’t perform well in the clutch, the streak of 4 consecutive NL West championships could be in jeopardy and we’ll be looking at year 29 since we’ve had a parade.
Pessimism Reason #3 – The Giants Have superseded the Cardinals in terms of Devil Magic
I never saw this coming. Neither did you. I remember 2009 like it was yesterday, laughing in the Giants faces as the Dodgers cruised to their second consecutive NL West title and the best record in baseball. Then we got Phillied. But that’s another story for another day. Now the Giants, who obviously sold their souls, have rattled off 3 titles in 5 years with rosters that make you think “yea that looks like an 81-81 team.” But it wasn’t. And it kept winning. And now here they are, doing that thing where they hit a little bloop single, a jort that sneaks through the fielder’s legs, a balk and a wild pitch and suddenly they’ve scored 16 runs. You don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how it happened. People have come to accept that they will win simply because the year ends in an even number. That’s when you know its devil magic, and I know the Giants have it.
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Pessimism Reason #4 – We’re getting injured players back! Or… are we?
Remember when we were getting Andre Ethier back the day after the All-Star break? We were all excited. Our beloved ‘Dre, here to save the day! That was short lived, as every injury situation with the Dodgers seems to be. Now we don’t even know if Andre will be back this year. That’s rough. And that doesn’t even touch on Brett Anderson or Alex Wood. Hopefully Joc’s come back remains strong, but shoulder injuries can be devastating and we just can’t take anymore injury heartbreak. And heaven help me if Kershaw has another setback, I’m punting on this season.
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Pessimism Reason #5 – You realize we’re Dodger Fans, right?
It’s in our nature to be pessimistic. We’ve had some great teams. Really great teams. And we’ve seen those great teams have everything ruined in the most flukey, out-of-the-ordinary, “what just happened to me“ type ways that it’s really hard to remain positive. Be it a fastball to the ribs of the hottest player in baseball, or a guy who has never hit a HR off of a curveball smacking one of them from the best pitcher on the planet to Pasadena, or leaving something like 1102 runners on base in one playoff series, the Dodgers always seem to discover a new way to disappoint. Surely they will find a way to continue this tradition.
I do feel pretty good about the second half. I’m not going to make any kind of prediction, because, as we’ve discussed, they are always wrong, but my hope is that this makes for an interesting second half and we can have lots of fun/stress/heartburn in October.