MLB — Los Angeles Dodgers have week to prove they’re best in West

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Let’s get proper to it: The Los Angeles Dodgers are a greater workforce than the Colorado Rockies. This is not actually a matter of debate, though I am guessing quite a lot of Rockies followers will disagree with that assertion.

The Dodgers have outscored the Rockies by 39 runs. That by no means occurs. Or virtually by no means. For the reason that Rockies joined the Nationwide League West in 1993, they’ve outscored the Dodgers each season besides one — in 2006, the Dodgers outscored the Rockies 820-813. In fact, that is a operate of altitude as a lot as the standard of the offenses, however the truth that the Dodgers are outscoring the Rockies tells us they clearly have the superior offense in 2018.

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The Dodgers also have allowed 133 fewer runs than Colorado. Of course, that’s not unusual; the Rockies have never allowed fewer runs than the Dodgers. The closest was 2010, when the Dodgers allowed just 25 fewer runs. Last season, when both teams made the playoffs, the Dodgers allowed 177 fewer. Still, this is one of the best pitching staffs in Rockies history. Even adjusting for home parks, however, the Dodgers have the better ERA (115 ERA+ to 106, via Baseball-Reference.com).

And yet … here are we. The Dodgers blanked the Padres 14-0 on Sunday as Hyun-Jin Ryu lowered his ERA to 2.00 on the season, and the Rockies shut out the Diamondbacks 2-0 behind seven sterling innings by Kyle Freeland, so the Dodgers’ slim lead in the NL West remains 1½ games. All the Rockies need to win the division is one great week and one so-so week from the Dodgers.

How did this happen? How have the Dodgers put themselves in such a precarious position despite huges advantage in run differential, payroll, depth and trade-deadline acquisitions?

As you would guess, the run differential is explained by a big spread in one-run results and blowouts (games decided by five or more runs):

One-run games
Dodgers: 22-21
Rockies: 26-15

Blowouts
Dodgers: 30-9 (plus-175 run differential)
Rockies: 14-20 (minus-32 run differential)

The interesting thing about the one-run results is that the Dodgers’ bullpen has a better win probability added than the Rockies’ bullpen — 2.43 to 1.75 (entering Sunday, via FanGraphs). Look at WPA as sort of a stand-in for clutch. The Dodgers’ pen did have that stretch of notable late-game defeats in August, but otherwise has been solid enough. In fact, the Dodgers are 74-6 when leading after seven innings and the Rockies are 69-7.

When we dig into games decided by two to four runs, these are the results:

Dodgers: 35-39
Rockies: 45-35

You could argue that the Dodgers have simply padded their stats against bad teams — after all, seven of their 30 blowout wins have come against the Padres. But 15 of the blowout wins have come against decent or good teams: Brewers (2), Pirates (3), Cardinals (1), Rockies (2), Mariners (2), Phillies (1), Braves (2), Diamondbacks (1), Nationals (1).

You can argue that the number of blowout losses for the Rockies is a sign of a lack of depth in the bullpen; that could be true. You’re losing by three or four runs and then you bring in the seventh and eighth relievers on the staff and they get pounded instead of keeping the game relatively close.

You could argue that it’s a funky Coors Field thing, although only 12 of the 20 blowout losses have come at home. And that doesn’t explain the lack of blowout wins at home. It has been suggested the Rockies are streaky because they’re good when Ian Desmond or Carlos Gonzalez are hitting, adding much-needed depth behind Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, but when those two aren’t hitting, they’re really not hitting.

By expected record based on run differential, the Dodgers should be 98-58 and the Rockies 78-77. I’m just pointing that out — run differential, as we’ve just seen, doesn’t always explain everything. On those rare occasions it doesn’t, it gives us a crazy race like this one. Thanks goodness for the unexpected.

It comes down to this. One week for the Dodgers to prove they’re the best team in the NL West. The Rockies have seven games at home — four against a Phillies team that looks like it’s playing on fumes (6-14 in September) and was eliminated over the weekend and three against a Nationals team that can’t wait for the season to end. The Dodgers finish up on the road against the Diamondbacks and Giants and at the minimum they’ll have some tough games while facing Robbie Ray on Monday and Zack Greinke on Wednesday (looks like they’ll miss Madison Bumgarner over the weekend). Who you got?

Little League play of the day: The Brewers and Cubs both won to keep the NL Central at 2½ games in favor of Chicago. The Brewers benefited from this three-run wild pitch:

The Cubs beat the White Sox 6-1 behind Kyle Hendricks, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven straight begins. Ben Zobrist had three hits and is hitting .314/.387/.450, together with a .354 common within the second half. I’ve barely talked about him on this area over the season, however he has been exceptional, bouncing again from a down yr in 2017. He has been one of many unsung heroes of the 2018 season.

Massive ovation for Beltre: The Rangers play their closing week on the street, so Sunday could have been Adrian Beltre’s closing house recreation for Texas. He acquired hugs and an emotional farewell from the gang when faraway from the sport:

On the conclusion of the fifth inning, the Rangers performed a video tribute to Beltre and when he took his place within the subject for the sixth, Rougned Odor got here on to switch him. Beltre is not one for celebrations, however he stated he let himself get pleasure from this one. “Seeing the gang, seeing my teammates, everyone cheering for us. It was particular, it was emotional, however it was good,” he stated.

Beltre has but to determine on his plans for 2019. He is hitting .275/.333/.431 in 114 video games with 14 house runs, so he nonetheless has a little bit juice within the bat and the defensive metrics say he can nonetheless decide it on the scorching nook (plus-9 defensive runs saved). He’ll additionally flip 40 subsequent April, he has cemented his legacy as a first-ballot Corridor of Famer and the Rangers in all probability need to open up third base for Jurickson Profar. (Elvis Andrus can choose out of his contract, doubtlessly complicating issues for the Rangers.)

Beltre’s eight-year run in Texas was exceptional, together with 4 top-seven finishes within the MVP voting (peaking at third in 2012, when he hit .321 with 36 house runs). His two-way means made him the most effective “previous” gamers ever, rating 10th all-time in WAR amongst place gamers from ages 32 to 39 (behind solely Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ted Williams since World Struggle II). He reached the World Collection in his first yr in Texas, however the Rangers misplaced Video games 6 and seven and by no means made it again. If Beltre does determine to play in 2019, you must assume it will include a playoff contender, possibly in a part-time function in a closing pursuit of a hoop.

Chasing historical past: Chase Utley’s finest seasons clearly got here with the Phillies, however he acquired a pleasant ovation for his closing house recreation with the Dodgers. He has already introduced his retirement at season’s finish:

Utley is hitting .216/.301/.309 and whereas he has performed 83 video games as a task participant, he in all probability will get squeezed off the postseason roster. I rely 13 place gamers forward of him (not together with Alex Verdugo) and it looks like the Dodgers would carry 12 pitchers.

Utley’s Corridor of Fame case is way much less sure than Beltre’s and can show to be an interesting debate when he hits the poll. At his peak, he was the most effective two or three gamers within the recreation for a five- or six-year interval, however his profession lacks the longevity and counting stats you often see from Corridor of Famers. Nonetheless, he compares favorably to, say, Ryne Sandberg:

Utley .275/.358/.465 117 OPS+ 259 HR 1025 RBI 1102 R 1885 H 65.four WAR
Sandberg .285/.344/.452 114 OPS+ 282 HR 1061 RBI 1318 R 2386 H 68.zero WAR

Victor’s march: Tigers DH Victor Martinez played his final game on Saturday and the Tigers sent him into retirement with a leather recliner and a video tribute:

Martinez had a kind of careers that in all probability wasn’t appreciated sufficient. He got here up as an offense-first catcher for the Indians, serving to them attain the American League Championship Collection in 2007 when he completed seventh within the MVP voting after hitting .301 with 114 RBIs. He finally moved to DH with the Tigers and his 2014 season stands out.

That was the yr of the lifeless ball, when offense plummeted and everyone was nervous in regards to the state of hitting, but Martinez hit .335/.409/.565 with 32 house runs, main the AL in OBP and OPS, whereas drawing 70 walks and putting out simply 42 occasions. (OK, 28 of the walks had been intentional, however it felt virtually inconceivable to strike out Martinez that yr. I nonetheless bear in mind watching one battle towards Yu Darvish, who threw the kitchen sink at Martinez, who stored fouling off pitches.) He completed second within the MVP voting. He was additionally a fantastic postseason performer, hitting .315/.374/.503 in 39 video games.

Brawl of the yr: Lastly, I offer you this:

Now Mariners followers can take these pillows and cry themselves to sleep after one other playoff-less season.

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