When the Los Angeles Dodgers embarked on the 2017 season, many envisioned a fifth consecutive National League West Division Championship, while others had World Series aspirations. However, not many believed that the Dodgers would be at 92 victories in the beginning of September. Casual and rabid fans alike, the Dodgers were a winning team, but not a record-breaking team.
As the Dodgers enter the final month of the 2017 regular season, they find themselves in an unfamiliar place comparative to this season. The team has lost three straight series, losing two of three to the Milwaukee Brewers at home in their shortest home stand of the year (three games), then getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Desert, and finally losing two of three to the San Diego Padres. That does not even count the day game from Saturday’s doubleheader, which they lost too.
Last week we mentioned the importance of the one, two punch in a starting pitching rotation. What has some enthusiasts and experts alike worried though is the recent inconsistency of the Dodgers. Well, like with many things in life, we need to look to the facts and data to determine why of the what. The what is certain, the Dodgers are human and playing under .500 baseball their last ten games. Why?
Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Cody Bellinger all saw time on the disabled list during the team’s recent slump. Corey Seager has also been down with some concerns regarding his elbow. These four players were major reasons why the Dodgers had played so well until late August. No wonder the team’s fortune has altered the universe.
Now that Clayton Kershaw is back, he is already doing stuff like this:
And Cody Bellinger is also making sure to contribute:
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 3, 2017
Resting of Players
Manager Dave “Doc” Roberts (as his players call him from his initials D.R.) and the Dodgers front office have a reputation for being very careful with their players in terms of induced rest for all. Induced rest because Dodgers players like other sports professionals want to play and win ball games. This of course is a tough balance because Roberts must manage practicalities with personalities. Examples of this include the delayed returns of Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, and now Corey Seager. These delays result is reduced overall team performance, but with an eye towards playoff baseball and a roster of healthy players.
For some time the Dodgers were playing against under .500 teams post All-Star Break and were said to have had the easiest schedule in Major League Baseball by opponent winning percentage standards. However, since the Dodgers headed home from their last winning road trip they had six games total against one good team (Brewers) at home and one really good team (Diamondbacks) on the road. So not only did the Dodgers face tougher opponents their scheduling did too in terms of cross country travel with a brief home stand. It is almost as if the baseball leaders said (with omnipotent thoughts) we need to give the rest of the league a break in late August.
What the Future Holds
The Dodgers season scheduling gets easier the rest of the way, so there is that. However, the Dodgers will have to balance that with hot streaking teams looking to gain home field advantage, but more likely a playoff spot. In these situations the quote from quarterback Tom Brady comes to mind where he says that when playing football he constantly forces himself to think that he is fighting for his job and that he may lose it to the next guy up. Winners and champions think that way. Perfect is not obtainable, but when striving for perfection you obtain excellence (paraphrasing the legendary coach Vince Lombardi).
There is no doubt that the Dodgers want to win. The issue is that (1) baseball players and therefore teams are human and people get tired, lose, etc., and (2) having less resources usually means weakened performance, while (3) facing tougher opponents with limited resources generally results in losing streaks.
The September call ups of Alex Verdugo and other talented youngsters (maybe Walker Buehler as well), with the return of Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Alex Wood, and others are the reinforcements that the Dodgers need. That being said, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, and the rest of the crew will need to keep up their performances to date for the Dodgers to start another hot streak. Roberts may have to decide whether breaking records is more important than winning a World Series with a healthy team. Then again maybe the two things are not mutually exclusive.
[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/watch-cody-bellinger-sets-new-franchise-record/2017/09/03/”]WATCH: Cody Bellinger Sets New Franchise Record[/button]