Ultimately, Mattingly is right. Baseball is (more or less) a series of individual performances grouped together in a team context. Unlike football or basketball, baseball really isn’t a sport where collectively a team can find a rhythm, building synergy as the season goes along.
It’s why in baseball’s playoffs, more than any other sport, almost anything can happen. Building a postseason resume is a long play marathon. The playoffs themselves are the opposite. Obviously team quality matters, but “the best” team doesn’t win in baseball’s postseason in the same way it almost always does in the NBA.
The Dodgers start the second half with a difficult road trip — 10 games spread over Washington, Atlanta, and New York — and for most of a month will have to beat teams at or above .500, something they have rather famously failed at all season.
A bad run could put them in a precarious spot, because while the Dodgers toil against solid squads, the Giants have a pretty friendly schedule coming out of the break. Assuming for the sake of argument they make it through relatively unscathed, though, the Dodgers might face an interesting dilemma.
There are holes to fill. Injuries to Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu blew a hole in the starting staff behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Patching it is easier said than done. “When you lose Hyun-Jin and you lose Brandon, you’ve got to replace that. That’s where you’re having trouble, trying to replace two quality starters that give you pretty much consistent outings when they go out there,” Mattingly says.
“That’s something you just don’t (easily) replace. It has a trickle down effect on your club.”
Given how things went last year, would anyone object to a little more help for the bullpen, too? Particularly if they don’t address the rotation? Offensively, “we haven’t scored consistently,” Mattingly says. To say the least, as Bill Plunkett notes in for the OC Register. Those fixes could be expensive, though, and as we’ve learned over and over and over again, deadline acquisitions often have zero impact on a team’s ability to get to or thrive in the playoffs.
Taken at his word, Mattingly believes the blueprint laid out by the Dodgers in constructing the team — pitching bolstered by solid defense and a good-enough offense — still holds.
So how much organizational capital should the Dodgers expend on players they might not need to reach October? Particularly when the results once they get there can rightly be described as a crapshoot?
This is an organization badly wanting to win, and plenty aggressive when it comes to acquiring talent. They’ve also been careful about wasting organizational depth, aren’t prone to trades driven by PR, and have strong opinions about cost/benefit ratios in personnel decisions.
Year 1 of the Andrew Friedman administration has been a revolution for the Dodgers, philosophically. What happens over the next three weeks will continue revealing that world view.