After playing arguably the best baseball in the majors over the first five months of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are now playing the worst. On August 25, the Dodgers had a 21 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. They have won two games since and their lead has now shrunk to nine games with 19 games remaining.
Even with only six games left against teams over .500, every loss only creates more tension around the organization, especially since the club is playing its worst baseball at a time when it needs to play its best.
Where the Dodgers Stand Today
The magic number to clinch the National League West is 11. Even though they have only won one game in September, they still have an expected wins total of 103.6 and a 100% chance to win the division according to Fangraphs.
The Dodgers start a 10-game road trip tonight against the last place San Francisco Giants. If there is any team the Dodgers would want to play right now, it would be the Giants, who are 3-7 in their last 10.
The Dodgers then travel across the country for a pivotal series against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals have closed the gap for the top seed in the NL to four games. The road trip then ends with a four-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies who the Dodgers swept earlier this year.
After the long road trip, they host the Giants and the San Diego Padres before finishing the season in Denver against the Colorado Rockies, who just swept the Dodgers this past weekend to extend the Dodgers current losing streak 10 games.
Recently, the Dodgers have turned into an unmitigated disaster and have played abysmally in every aspect of the game.
One could be forgiven for thinking that someone replaced the Dodgers' bats with drinking straws in that period. Since August 25, the Dodgers have played 17 games and averaged only averaged 2.41 runs per game and have scored one run or less in eight of those games. Since the start of September, only Justin Turner (.379 wOBA since September 1) has hit at an above-average level. Cody Bellinger (.322), Yasiel Puig (.301), Chris Taylor (.242), Logan Forsythe (.241), Curtis Granderson (.164), Chase Utley (.151) and Yasmani Grandal (.125) have all produced from below average to worst in the league levels.
Furthermore, the pitchers have kicked rocks instead of throwing gems during this slide. Opposing lineups have torn apart Alex Wood (1.91 WHIP, 177 ERA- since September 1) and Yu Darvish (2.45, 296) recently. Even Clayton Kershaw could not escape the sinkhole, as the Rockies managed four runs on six hits in just 3.2 innings in Kershaw’s last start.
To make matters worse, the Diamondbacks' only series against an over .500 opponent is this week against the Rockies. Even though they just lost their weekend series against the Padres, they have won 14 of their last 16 games.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, streaks can end at any moment. Clayton Kershaw could go out there tomorrow and dominate the Giants lineup and the next day, the feeling back in the clubhouse could return to normal. Momentum in baseball, after all, is only based the next day’s starting pitcher and Kershaw, Rich Hill or Kenta Maeda could give them a dominant performance that sets the Dodgers back on course. The most concerning part of the recent performances is how late in the season they have happened. In the past few seasons, the Dodgers have dominated in the regular season but then sputtered in the playoffs. This late season wobble could signify that an early exit from the playoffs could happen yet again.