Hi, welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, wondering if the Dodgers can just play bad teams for the rest of the season.
Winning the division
The Dodgers swept the Reds Tuesday through Thursday, increasing their NL West lead over San Francisco to 2 ½ games. It looks more and more likely that the two wild-card teams will come out of the NL Central, so the Dodgers will probably have to win their division to make the playoffs. Let’s break down the remaining schedule for both teams.
HOME (19 games): vs. Cubs (Friday-Sunday), vs. Giants (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), vs. Colorado (Sept. 14-16), vs. Pittsburgh (Sept. 18-20), vs. Arizona (Sept. 21-24), vs. San Diego (Oct. 2-4).
AWAY (17 games): at San Diego (Sept. 3-6), at Angels (Sept. 7-9), at Arizona (Sept. 11-13), at Colorado (Sept. 25-27), at San Francisco (Sept. 28-Oct. 1).
HOME (19 games): vs. St. Louis (Aug. 28-30), vs. San Diego (Sept. 11-13), vs. Cincinnati (Sept. 14-16), vs. Arizona (Sept. 18-20), vs. Dodgers (Sept. 28-Oct. 1), vs. Colorado (Oct. 2-4).
AWAY (16 games): at Dodgers (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), at Colorado (Sept. 3-6), at Arizona (Sept. 7-9), at San Diego (Sept. 22-24), at Oakland (Sept. 25-27).
Based on that, I’d give a slight edge as far as remaining schedule goes to the Giants. Taking away the common NL West opponents, the Dodgers have to play the Cubs, Pirates and Angels (all three potential playoff teams) while the Giants have to play St. Louis, Cincinnati and Oakland (only one playoff team).
Will they win?
I think the Dodgers’ ability to win the division will come down to how they fare in the seven games remaining against the Giants. San Francisco is 9-3 against the Dodgers this year, and if that pattern continues, I think the Giants will sneak by to win the West. If the Dodgers win at least four of seven, they will win the division. Baseballprospectus.com, one of the leading sports/sabermetrics websites out there, gives the Dodgers an 80% chance of winning, which seems a little high to me, but I think the Dodgers are definitely better than 50/50.
Yasiel Puig injured his hamstring, again, in Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Reds. But the bigger scare was Adrian Gonzalez, who left the game after fouling a pitch off his right knee. Hopefully, it is just a bruise and he will be back in the lineup soon. The Dodgers can survive without Puig but not without Gonzalez. The Dodgers have him listed as day-to-day.
It’s not just me
All season long, I have been a broken record in criticizing the Dodgers for their lack of a bullpen. Just to show I’m not the only one, Jonah Keri, one of the best analysts out there, writes about the Dodgers’ horrible bullpen for Grantland: “The real dark cloud hanging over this team, then, is the same one that helped make [Clayton] Kershaw and Don Mattingly into playoff goats last year against the Cardinals: Other than Kenley Jansen, the bullpen, with the third-worst park-adjusted ERA in baseball, is one big bowl of question marks.” Make sure you go over there and read the whole thing.
Another point I have hit all season long is how I believe Don Mattingly is a poor game manager. I still believe the only way he comes back as manager is if the team makes the World Series. There are a couple of you out there who email me in support of him, saying I am too critical and that he just doesn’t have the pieces in place to do the things he would like to do. So, I thought I would let you, the readers, criticize Mattingly instead. Here are just some of the emails I got after Tuesday’s newsletter:
Joe Benko: Houston, watched the game Sunday. Two men on, no one out in the 7th. Crawford up, no bunt, no nothing, struck out. Next batter Ellis takes a called third strike, Ethier tries to steal third, double play to end the inning. We were up 2-1 at the time. How can this continue to happen?
J. Pavko: As for one-run games, it seems like Mattingly is too worried about making an out than to let a hitter sacrifice himself to move a runner along. Have you ever seen a team that was so inept at laying down bunts, pitchers included? What else do they have to contribute to the offense, anyway?
Nick Teti: There is a two-word answer to the question of why the Dodgers play poorly against good teams, and that is Don Mattingly. Mattingly is one of the worst managers in baseball and he is managing the team with the highest payroll. The reason is simple why the Dodgers are complacent -- it’s because of him. You think Lasorda would let this team be complacent? The team doesn’t trust him because he manages like a robot -- I know exactly what he is going to do every game -- same formula, no changes. Mattingly has little clue about how to manage a team in the National league -- let alone playoffs.
Fred Schubert:I am shocked that Mattingly has been allowed to turn the Dodger team into the worst division leader in MLB. The Dodgers have so much potential in the batting order, but they have fewer quality at-bats than the little league teams in the LLWS. The Dodgers must lead the world in leaving runners at third base with fewer than two outs!
Kevin Shaw: I really question some of his coaching. In Sunday's game against Houston, the Dodgers got the first two guys on in an inning. Carl Crawford was up next and had already struck out twice. How did he not have him bunt in a one-run game and of course he struck out again and we don't score, unreal.
Ask Ross Porter
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be answering select reader questions for the rest of the season. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on to him. Here’s his latest response:
David Conrado asks: "I loved listening to you on 720 AM in Las Vegas back in the '80s with Vin Scully. However, I also remember watching/listening to you call UNLV basketball games with Chick Hearn as well. Can you discuss any similarities and/or differences working with these L.A. sports broadcasting legends?
Ross: “Unlike being alongside Vin for 28 Dodger seasons, I never worked with Chick, although we were friends. He once told me, ‘Staples Center is too big for basketball.’ One thing that was similar between the two, besides their obvious talent, was work ethic. Vin and Chick were always well prepared. They did their homework/preparation before games, and arrived early to get set up in their broadcast booth or seat, in Chick's case. Each was a marvelous storyteller, recalling past moments and experiences in their favorite sport. The excitement in their voices showed listeners they loved what they were doing. And, most importantly, Vin and Chick are and were good men. We have been blessed to hear these icons.”
Will Kershaw win the MVP again?
Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post thinks it is possible. Seems unlikely to me, since I consider Zack Greinke the MVP of the pitching staff this year (and I don't think he is winning league MVP either).
Stacie Wheeler of Dodgers Nation takes a look at Joc Pederson, and why the Dodgers will need him down the stretch. Go here to read it.