The Major League Baseball season is a grind; 162 games over six months. Except for the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, never have the first two weeks of the season determined a team’s ultimate fate.
For the Dodgers, Week 2 of the Major League season wasn’t much better than Week 1: two crushing losses and a 1-4 record. With a 3-6 overall record through Sunday, the Dodgers sat four games behind division-leading Arizona.
The best thing that happened to the Dodgers last week may have been Friday’s rainout. Even Sunday’s extra-inning win over the Giants felt like a loss was looming, even with closer Kenley Jansen on the mound for his first save of the season in the team’s ninth game.
A few things became quite clear as the week wore on: The Dodgers CAN hit multiple homers in a game, and Kenley Jansen CAN’T throw a cutter above 92 miles per hour.
Let’s focus on the latter. Last season, Jansen consistently hit 94-96 with his cut fastball, even occasionally touching 97. If you don’t think three to five miles per hour makes a difference, look at the numbers.
Five of Jansen’s 15 cutters in Monday’s meltdown were at 92 mph. The other ten were 91 or below. Three of them were in the 80s. The home run was a 90 mph cutter.
On Saturday, only two of Jansen’s 16 cutters were clocked at 92. A couple more were in the upper 80s.
Last year’s dominance and strikeout-to-walk ratio is a thing of the past – for now. (Again, think Orioles. Jansen is NOT the Baltimore Orioles.)
In his first two outings of 2018, Jansen allowed two home runs en route to a blown save and a loss. He also walked back-to-back batters before the home run Monday, turning a ninth-inning, 6-3 Dodger lead into a 6-6 tie in an eventual 15-inning, 8-7 Diamondbacks victory.
Last season, Jansen appeared in 65 games for the Dodgers after signing his five-year, $80 million mega-deal in the off-season. In those 65 games, Jansen allowed a total of five home runs.
He finished 2017 with video game-like numbers: 5-0 with a 1.32 earned run average, 0.746 WHIP, 109 strikeouts and seven walks in 68.3 innings while converting 41 of his 42 save opportunities.
After Monday’s game, Manager Dave Roberts said Jansen’s velocity has not fully returned after his hamstring strain, which could be affecting his leg drive.
There was some good news, however: On Sunday, Jansen’s cutter seemed to have new life, as nine of his 18 cutters were clocked at 92 or 93 mph.
But Jansen wasn’t the only bullpen culprit last week. The relief corps imploded Tuesday by allowing back-to-back-to-back bases-loaded walks to turn a 2-1 game into a 5-1 game. This, after the bullpen, had allowed a total of one run over 11 innings in the first four games of the season.
Offensively, Monday was another false sense of accomplishment. The Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the first inning, and seven total runs. But, they scored only eight runs over the next five games the rest of the week. (Orioles, Orioles, Orioles).
And then there’s All-World Clayton Kershaw, who can’t seem to buy a run in 2018. In his three games this season, the Dodgers have scored one, one and two runs in support of Kershaw. Last season, the Dodgers averaged 4.84 runs in Kershaw starts, and they scored three or more runs in all but eight of his 27 starts.
This season, despite a 1.89 earned run average and 1.105 WHIP over 19 innings in three starts, the future Hall of Famer is 0-2.
More from LA Dodgers News
- Kevin Kiermaier being ‘top target’ to replace Cody Bellinger is bad sign for Dodgers
- Giants laughably sign pitcher that Dodgers absolutely own
- Dave Roberts’ quote about Padres in NLDS should motivate Dodgers
- Former Astro seemingly takes uncalled for shot at Cody Bellinger after Cubs deal
- Dodgers’ 2023 lineup without Trea Turner isn’t as impressive as it should be
But is Kershaw still Kershaw? Like Jansen, his velocity is off from a year ago. In his three starts this season, Kershaw has thrown a total of 280 fastballs. Of those, only 29 were clocked at 92 or above. In Sunday’s win at San Francisco, only one of Kershaw’s 92 pitches came in at 92 mph.
One run by the offense, and shaky bullpen work throughout the week forced Kershaw to pitch the 8th inning Sunday, where he promptly gave up back-to-back-to-back singles, allowing the Giants to tie the game at 1.
In two games against the Giants this season, Kershaw has pitched 13 innings, allowing two runs (1.38 ERA) on 14 hits, with two walks and 13 strikeouts, yet he’s 0-1 against San Francisco.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers were shut out for the third time in seven games (they were shut out eight total times in 2017), dropping a 3-0 decision to Arizona. The Dodgers tallied a total of one hit in the game. (Here’s a sentence you probably never thought you’d read: Matt Kemp got the only Dodgers hit.)
While Thursday was a scheduled day off, the team likely welcomed the additional day off with Friday’s rain-out, especially considering the Dodger’s played a 15-inning game Monday and then played 14 innings Saturday and ten innings Sunday.
Extra innings haven’t been so good to the Dodgers so far in 2018. On Monday, after Jansen allowed the game-tying home run in the ninth, the Dodgers scored the go-ahead run in the 15th, only to see Wilmer Font give up two singles, an intentional walk and a double for two runs in the bottom of the inning.
On Saturday, the Dodgers came from behind three separate times and scored in the top of the 14th to take a 5-4 lead. But Font again faltered, facing three batters and allowing two singles and a walk-off, three-run Andrew McCutchen home run in another heart-breaking loss.
So, do we know anything more about the Dodgers today than we did a week ago? Probably not.
The pitching is still more than respectable with a 2.72 team ERA (5th in baseball). But, with the 26th best team batting average (.213), the 27th most home runs (4) and the 26th most runs scored (29), the team has not hit its offensive stride yet. This team is far too talented to be playing .333 ball after two weeks.
Time to panic? Nope. Hang in there and keep telling yourself, “We’re not the Orioles. We’re not the Orioles. We’re not the Orioles.”