Baseball is a hobby for some, the meaning of life for others. Casual background noise at the bar while chilling with friends, or the blue blood that flows through our veins. Those of us that, like Tommy Lasorda, bleed Dodger Blue, have varying opinions about the last two weeks of games you guys have played. But the consensus among fans, on social media, sports websites and TV networks, all begs one question: what the heck is going on with you?!?!
Sports Illustrated said you might be the greatest team of all-time in late August. The stars were aligning for this historic run. One that had you on pace to challenge for most single season team wins in baseball history, and maybe a title. While this was the ultimate compliment, it may have been the kiss of death.
That weekend, you lost two of three to the Brewers, losing your first series since early June, and your mojo. Getting swept in the desert by the Diamondbacks added more salt to the wound. Dropping the doubleheader in San Diego following Kershaw’s gem the night before was definitely deflating. Only scoring a total of two runs in three games (albeit against really good pitching) at home in another sweep by Arizona…ok stop messing around guys!
The best thing about your dominance before this two-week skid is that it has given you a massive cushion. Even after winning only two games in the last 14, you still have a 10.0 game lead in the division going into tonight’s game with Alex Wood on the bump at home versus the Rockies.
My high school coach said baseball is comprised of three things: hitting, pitching, and defense. As a team, if you are good at one of those, you can win some games. Being good at two of those, you can win most games. Being good at all three aspects, you can be dominant.
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It is evident to many why you have been losing so much: bad pitching and terrible hitting. Yes, we can all point fingers at specific players (looking at you Baez and Forsythe). But at the end of the day, you win as a team and lose as a team. Let me be specific.
You guys need to get a grip, on your pitches. Team ERA the last two weeks: 6.36. Team ERA for the season: still an MLB best 3.33. What a huge difference.
The bullpen has been the main culprit to balloon the team ERA during this slump, throwing at 7.06, compared to 4.98 for the starters. The defense hasn’t been too bad, but seven errors committed in 14 games surely hasn’t helped the cause.
Strike three; you’re out! As a team the last two weeks, the bats are whiffing a whopping 31% of the time. While the team does sit in the bottom third of the majors with an overall 22.5 strikeout % for the season, these stats still aren’t pretty.
An anemic 0.166 batting average and 0.236 on base percentage have resulted because of those strikeouts. Can’t score many runs when nobody gets on base. Luck surely hasn’t been on your side when you do make contact thanks to a low 0.209 BABIP batting average on balls in play).
Not scoring many runs, while giving up a lot of them, yeah, that’s why you have lost every series since the last weekend of August and gone from dominant to dormant. Doc you have to find a way to calm the players down. While adversity can be a good thing that helps further strengthen the team, don’t let them get all the way behind the 8-ball.
Playing to win is way more fun than playing not to lose. That’s what you guys are doing right now, playing not to lose, because the heat is on. Being the hunted has altered your approach at the plate and on the mound than when you were the hunter. I have no magic formula or elixir to cure these woes. No lineup shuffling or bullpen usage strategy. But I strongly believe the answer is simple.
You need to stop pressing. All those strikeouts while up to bat at the dish and runs given up while standing on the mound all say one thing: you need just to relax and have fun. That’s the best advice for any ballplayer of any age.
Forget all the noise, don’t let it keep getting you off your game and putting you on tilt. Your fans have thoroughly enjoyed this season so much more than seasons past because of how much fun you were having while winning. Get back to having fun playing the game, and you will show the rest of the world that you are the best team in the majors, and bring home the title. Despite this skid, I still have faith in you. Always have, and always will. Go Dodgers!