Long ago, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball. They were once a juggernaut, who just couldn’t seem to lose. They went on incredible 50 game stretches, set record paces, and clicked on every cylinder. Times were great.
That time was way back in late August of 2017 though. The world was a different place back then, and times have certainly changed.
Fast forward a whole two weeks later, and the Dodgers are a different team. Or, at least they’re playing like a different team. No longer do they appear to be the best team in baseball. On the contrary, they’re actually playing like one of the worst, dropping 11 of their last 12 games.
Fans aren’t just pushing the panic button, they’re smashing it with a sledgehammer. They’re upset, angry, and looking for someone or something to blame. The good news for them is that there’s plenty of that to go around.
If you’d like, you can start with the starting pitching. Last week, in the midst of a 3-game sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers starters were awful. Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Kenta Maeda gave up a combined 19 ER, and none of them made it passed the 4th inning. Moving on to San Diego to face the lowly Padres, Brock Stewart (1 ER in 4 IP) and Yu Darvish (5 ER in 3 IP) continued that theme of short starts. Alex Wood pitched six innings on Sunday, but even then, he gave up 4 ER and took the loss.
Of course, the starting rotation isn’t solely at fault. There’s blame to go around.
You can also point your foam finger at the Dodgers bullpen, who’s hasn’t pitched like one of the best units in baseball, which they had been for most of the year. They blew a lead on Saturday against San Diego, and let another game get away Sunday. Then, they absolutely imploded on Monday night, giving up 11 ER to the Diamondbacks during a 13-0 shellacking. And finally, to top it all off, the bullpen lost back to back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, although Tuesday’s debacle was aided by a fielding error.
If blaming pitching isn’t your thing, don’t worry… there’s blame to go around.
The Dodgers offense isn’t blameless either. During their current 12 game skid, they’ve scored 2 runs or less in 8 of those games. When their pitching did decide to cooperate, the offense sputtered. Some of that could be attributed to the absence of Cody Bellinger, who missed some time with an ankle injury. The Dodgers have also been without the services of Corey Seager, who’s nursing a sore elbow. He’s been limited to pinch-hit duties and hasn’t started a game for the last week and a half.
If blaming the players isn’t enough, one could also place some fault on the managing.
There’s no doubt that Dave Roberts has done a fantastic job leading the team all year long. But you can justifiably question some of his decisions recently, whether it’s continuing to trust Pedro Baez in key situations or the daily lineup changes he employs.
We all knew with the September roster expansion, more players were going to get playing time in order to rest others and also to audition for a roster spot in October. However, with a constant flux of players in and out of the lineup, it may be difficult for anyone to find some consistency.
Left field is a prime example, where Curtis Granderson, Alex Verdugo, and Andre Ethier are all vying for playing time right now. Add to that Joc Pederson’s return, and Adrian Gonzalez starting at 1st base occasionally (which moves Bellinger back to the outfield) and you have five different possibilities to choose from. With none of them really taking advantage of their limited opportunities, it can’t be an easy call for Roberts at the moment, so the frequent rotation of players will probably continue for the time being.
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The front office is not exempt from blame either, if you’re feeling so inclined. Again, there’s plenty to go around.
Team chemistry is hard go gauge. In fact, it’s impossible. No one can say with any certainly how the chemistry of a club really is, or whether or not it’s affected by any particular move. With that said, the Dodgers front office did decide to make a bold move a few weeks back when they acquired Curtis Granderson, and optioned Joc Pederson to AAA.
At the time of Pederson’s demotion, the Dodgers were rolling, just as they had been all year. Joc, however, was struggling mightily at the plate. He was in the midst of a 2-41 slump, and his Avg had dipped to .215 while is OPS dropped to .747.
One could definitely argue that something had to be done. In trading for Granderson, the Dodgers were hoping for an upgrade to Pederson, while giving Joc an opportunity to work out his problems in the minors. However, some may claim the problem there is that you’re messing with a winning formula. And not just any winning formula, but one for a team who was winning at an astonishing rate.
If the Dodgers were able to withstand Pederson’s struggles, and keep winning, why mess with that? It seems like the Dodgers had other options if they wanted to sit Pederson, including calling up Alex Verdugo and/or Andre Ethier, or moving Bellinger back to left field and manning Gonzalez at first base.
Since coming over to the Dodgers, Granderson hit a couple of big homeruns in his first few games, but overall, he’s hitting .100/.250/.300 in 72 PA. He hasn’t been a significant upgrade.
There’s no question the Dodgers front office had good intentions with this move, but so far, it hasn’t exactly worked out. Meanwhile, perhaps Pederson’s confidence took a hit. And maybe the other players on the club didn’t like seeing a teammate who they had played with all year long get demoted when they were still preforming very well as a team. Those are things we’ll never really know.
If you must find blame to place for the Dodgers recent struggles, just pick an area. There’s plenty to go around. Just as they found success as a team, they’ve also struggled together as an entire team.
When you’re done placing blame though, just remember that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around, and at the end of the day, the Dodgers are still sitting with the best record in baseball by a good margin. Who knows, maybe they can even turn back the clock and return to the success of yesteryear. You know… way back in the days of August of 2017.
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