It’s that time of the year again where we take a look back at the finished season gone by. This is a good time to review last year and look ahead to the 2015 season. One thing the Dodgers need to work on next year is scoring more runs late in games. Late inning scoring was a huge problem for the Dodgers in 2014. This was a stark contrast from 2013, in which the Dodgers were never ever out of a game, no matter what the score was or how late in the game it was in.
For whatever reason the 2014 Dodgers were unable to come from behind late in games. You can bet your dollars to donuts that if the club was behind by even just a run in the seventh inning or later, the game was essentially over.
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So much so that if the Dodgers were trailing by a lone run in the seventh inning (or later), no matter who they played, or where they were playing, you might as well turn the game off. Once the Dodgers were down in the later innings of a game, you could almost bet money that they would lose. And normally they did.
And oh how they would lose. Remember that 2013 magic that saw the Dodgers come from behind miraculously in almost any situation? Gone. Yup, that magic was totally gone in 2014. Where did it go? I have no idea. Some people believe it was just a lucky fluke. Some people believe the injuries played a part, and some people even believe the magic left when Nick Punto, and Skip Schumaker did.
We’ll get to the reason later, but when your club goes 2-57 during the season when trailing from the seventh inning on, well I don’t have to tell you how pathetic that mark is.
It was frustrating too. Going from a club the year before that could overcome any deficit, to a club the next year that would fold up like a beach chair at high tide when losing late in a game. The how, the why, and the where weren’t the only questions the Dodgers were asking themselves. How do we fix this?
So just how bad were the Dodgers in those last three innings of a ball game? They were pretty bad, but it you want to actually take a look at the stats, than read on. Some of these numbers are almost vomit inducing.
The Dodgers ranked fifteenth in MLB with a slash line of .242/.319/.367 with 38 home runs and a .685 OPS in the seventh inning or later of games in 2014. The Dodgers scored 207 runs from the seventh inning through the ninth innings, ranking them sixteenth out of the 30 MLB clubs.
Seventh inning or later- .242/.319/.367 38 home runs .685
Eight inning or later – .232/.310/.346 24 home runs .656
Ninth inning- .202/.279/.275 six home runs .554
Extra innings – .255/.323/.426 six home runs .748
When team is behind – .249/.315/.387 47 home runs .702
Late/close – .240/.313/.381 16 home runs .694
The Dodgers ranked middle of the pack hitting .242 with a .685 OPS from the seventh inning on. The club batted .232 from the eighth inning or later, and hit .249 with 47 home runs when the team was behind late in a game. When the game was late and or close, the club batted .240 with a .694 OPS. In the ninth innings, the Dodgers were one of the worst clubs in Baseball. They ranked 27th by hitting just .202 with a .554 OPS and six home runs in the ninth inning of games last year.
Overall the Dodgers were not a good hitting team late in games. We can remember how poorly the club performed during extra inning games too. But what was missing in 2014 that wasn’t in 2013? Can we put our finger on it? Is it something that can be quantified?
I don’t think that it is, or can be. Everyone has their own theory on this. Not surprisingly I have my own theory. Everyone’s favorite is that they were simply unlucky.
- Bad luck
Personally I don’t buy this bogus theory. Of course there are no numbers that can prove this, but yet there are a lot of people who still believe in this. The Dodgers were just unlucky…womp womp womp (play a sad trombone).
Those poor unlucky Dodgers just couldn’t get anything going in the late innings. But not for a lack of trying dag nabbit. Apparently the Dodgers were unlucky for 162 games last year. I didn’t know this was possible, but I guess you can be unlucky every day. I just don’t buy into this one. I can agree that poor luck played some role in the late inning gag fests of 2014, but being unlucky for an entire season? I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. I don’t think luck works that way.
Call to the Pen
- Mental Block
This is the theory that I subscribe too. I think it was a mental block. Not a character flaw like some people believed, but in fact a mental block. You see a mental block is different from a character flaw. Character flaws stem from bad behaviors. Mental blocks are caused by repetition of low confidence, and lack of focus.
I think it just snowballed. The “World Series or bust attitude put too much pressure on the players before the season started. After the club barely missed the World Series in 2013, the players brought over a lot of pressure when spring training began. Talk about the weight of the world on their shoulders. Unfortunately this pressure caused a lot of low confidence in the players once the losses started to mount up. Don Mattingly and the coaching staff were unable to break the players of this bad habit.
- Character flaw
This was just discussed above. However some people still believe it was inherent within this group of Dodgers. They just kind of gave up late in games. You could support this theory based on the quality of at-bats in those late frames. If the club were hitting line drives right at people, then that would be one thing. But poor plate approaches, weak grounders and whiffs dominated their late inning offense during the 2014 season.
- Blame the injuries
Sure the Dodgers had a ton of injuries again in 2014. But could the injuries have played a major part in the club’s total lack of run scoring in the final three frames of games? I suppose it’s possible. Although you can’t really pin it on any one particular injury. Yes Matt Kemp was hurt the entire first half, and Hanley Ramirez was banged up as well. Still, those injuries weren’t harsh enough to where you could pin it all on that.
- Manager/Coaching Staff
Maybe it was the coaching staff’s fault? That is possible. I don’t think so, but you have to consider it. Although I’m not sure if you can prove or disprove this. One thing is for certain. It may not be the fault of the coaching staff for causing the problem, but it was their fault that they were unable to solve the problem. They just didn’t know what to do. And in all fairness, what could they do? Not much.
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- Bad Plate Approaches
I’ll take this explanation over anything else. Poor plate approaches killed the Dodgers in the later innings of games. I could see it all the time. It didn’t matter who was at the plate either. Swinging at bad pitches outside the strike zone. Falling in an early 0-2 hole before they could get a good look at the pitcher. Not working counts. Putting poor swings on the ball, and trying to do too much.
This is what I saw Dodger hitters do all season long in those seventh, eight, and ninth innings. The end result was always predictable. Weak grounders, and or strikeouts were par for the course in those innings. Sometimes they would get a hit, or a man on base. But they would have to string together those hits for any kind of scoring to occur. They hit just six home runs in the ninth inning all year.
I think it was a combination of too much pressure causing a mental block, which permeated the hitter’s approaches at the plate. Combine that with their poor plate approaches and some injuries and poor luck, and boom, there you have it. You have a club that was unable to score runs after the seventh inning.
The Dodgers also had a very bad bullpen. So you take a bullpen that couldn’t hold leads, and an offense unable to score runs late in games, and you have a recipe for losing. It’s almost hard to believe the club won 94 games, and finished in first place.
Being able to score late in games is very important. The 2014 Dodgers failed to do this at all last season. I think the pressure put on the players caused them to have a mental block which carried through the season. The mental blocks caused low confidence and poor plate approaches.
Mental blocks can be fixed, but they require the players to take action. With improved situational hitting, confidence, and better plate approaches/discipline, the Dodgers can become a club with comeback ability again. No deficit was too great for those 2013 Dodgers to overcome. The Dodgers need to rediscover that ability in 2015.
I miss that late inning Dodger magic.
No not this Dodger magic,
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Different type of Dodger Magic.