keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Dodgers won yet another close game last night, holding the Rockies
to a
pair of runs in a 3-2 win. That’s an offensive explosion by the recent
standards of Dodger opponents: The Blue Crew had given up just one run
in five
consecutive games dating to May 14. Thanks to Keith Woolner’s latest
creation,
“Team
Records and Streaks,”
we know that they lead or are tied for
the lead
in the number of games won when scoring two runs or four runs, and
trail only
the Braves in winning games in which they score three runs.

Overall, the Dodgers have allowed a freakishly low 137 runs, 36 runs
fewer
than the Expos and 18 fewer than the A’s. According to Michael
Wolverton’s
analysis, which factors in the very good pitcher’s park in which they
play
half their games, the Dodgers have the fourth-best
rotation
and the fourth-best
bullpen
in the game.

Don’t get too crazy about this idea, but the Dodgers are on pace to
allow just
482 runs this season. That just isn’t done. In fact, just three teams
in the
last 10 years have allowed fewer than 600 runs in a full season: the
Braves
of 1997, 1998 and 2002. The last team to break 500? The Orioles (430)
and A’s
(457) did it in the strike-shortened season of 1972. (The A’s missed
seven
games and may have turned the trick anyway; the Orioles missed eight,
and
would certainly have stayed under 500 in a full season.) Four teams–the
Cardinals, Mets, Orioles and Tigers–did it in the last year of the
modern
dead-ball era, 1968. Even if the Dodgers can’t maintain their pace,
they’re
well on their way to being one of the top run-prevention teams of my
lifetime.

If pitching was 153% of baseball or whatever the cliché says, that
would be
enough. The problem is, the Dodgers score runs just slightly more
frequently
than they allow them, so they’re just 26-20, three games behind the
Giants in
the NL West. Only the pitiful Tigers have scored fewer runs than the
Dodgers’
166. As with their run prevention, their scoring is in part due to
Dodger
Stadium, but it’s mostly due to the lousy hitters who populate their
lineup.
They have the second-worst offense in the NL by Equivalent
Average
,
which includes two of the worst hitters in the game this season in Cesar
Izturis
(.209 EqA) and Adrian
Beltre
(.201 EqA) and no one having a real good year. Six
starters
hover between EqAs of .265 and .281.

In figuring out where the Dodgers go from here, you have to answer two
questions:

  • Can the Dodgers keep runs off the board the way they’ve been doing?

  • Can the Dodgers score enough runs to win?

Last first. Here are the Dodgers’ performances so far, along with their
PECOTA-projected EqAs:


                      Actual EqA    Projected EqA
Paul Lo Duca           .281           .267
Fred McGriff           .269           .285
Alex Cora              .265           .247
Cesar Izturis          .209           .208
Adrian Beltre          .201           .273
Brian Jordan           .272           .254
Dave Roberts           .278           .249
Shawn Green            .270           .319
Daryle Ward            .117           .258
Mike Kinkade           .317           .277
Jolbert Cabrera        .308           .224
Todd Hundley           .274           .262
Ron Coomer             .242           .210

If you’re a Dodger fan, those numbers are a little bit scary. While Shawn
Green
has had a slow start, and the flaming wreckage of Adrian
Beltre’s career can be seen for miles, the team actually is getting
better-than-expected numbers from four starters and most of the bench.
On the
whole, this offense is not underperforming by much, and any improvement
is
going to have to come via a resurgent Beltre or a trade, and there
aren’t many
third basemen or shortstops on the market for the Dodgers to acquire.

Whether the pitchers can keep up is a different story. To a man, their
peripherals are good, they haven’t been overworked, and none is wildly
outperforming reasonable expectations. While Hideo
Nomo

may be a little over his head, the presence of healthy and effective
versions
of Kevin
Brown
and Darren
Dreifort
makes the Dodger rotation the class of the league. The
staff
is being supported by a defense second in the league in Defensive
Efficiency
, including a double-play combination–Izturis and Alex
Cora
–that is drawing raves.

The bullpen, led by the game’s latest best closer in Eric
Gagne
(43 strikeouts in 24 innings? Are you kidding me?), gets
ground
balls and strikeouts by the bushel. Dan Evans deserves a lot of credit
for
acquiring low-profile guys like Paul
Shuey
, Guillermo
Mota
and Paul
Quantrill
in the trade market, and Jim Tracy runs his pen
efficiently,
if not creatively. There’s nothing fluky about this staff; they could
very
well allow fewer than 550 runs this year.

As good as they pitch, though, the Dodgers will struggle to stay in the
hunt
as long as their offense is among the worst in the league. They’re
short at
least two hitters, and they lack the top-tier bashers who can make up
for
that. Balance is nice, but a balanced offense that breaks down in two
slots is
a recipe for disaster. Unless Adrian Beltre rebounds to at least a
league-average level, I can’t see the Dodgers beating out the Giants in
the NL
West.

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe