I don’t usually include WPA (Win Percentage Added) charts from FanGraphs in these posts, but, yeah, tonight’s an exception:
You can chalk up the fact that the Braves were at something like a 95% chance of winning through three innings to Chad Billingsley, who continued his disconcerting second-half slide by allowing twelve baserunners and five runs (three earned, thanks to a Dee Gordon fielding error) while completing just four innings, getting yanked after letting Chipper Jones single to lead off the fifth. I would really like to see A.J. Ellis start the next time Billingsley goes; I hardly need to tell you that Catcher’s ERA is among the most useless stats around – yes, even worse than pitcher wins or RBI – yet the difference in Billingsley’s performance this year with Ellis back there as opposed to Rod Barajas or Dioner Navarro is striking. That’s not an excuse, of course; Billingsley has been lousy for over a month and it’s his responsibility to perform regardless who he’s pitching to. But if there is something there, it’s worth looking into.
Anyway, for an overwhelming majority of this season, the storyline on a night like this would be “starting pitcher gets hit, team rolls over with a whimper, nothing to see here.” But not the new Dodgers, who apparently hated Navarro even more than we did – this is their 9th win in ten games since he was cut (10 of 11 overall), scoring 71 times in the ten-game span. Tonight’s heroes in coming back from the 5-0 deficit were the same two who have been helping Matt Kemp carry the offense for a month, as Juan Rivera and James Loney combined to reach base five times and drive in six. Gordon also attempted to atone for the error by setting a career high with three hits and stealing two. Not to be forgotten is the bullpen, which came through with five innings spoiled only by Dan Uggla‘s solo homer against Javy Guerra in the 9th. The performance of the bullpen over the course of the season, coming back as it has from the decimating injuries, is a sorely overlooked bright spot of the year so far.
With the win, the Dodgers pull to 67-70, and a .500 season is now well within reach, though it’s too little too late for any sort of playoff run. It almost makes you wonder what could have been if the generally solid pitching had received any sort of similar support for the first four months of the season.