This… is not getting better, is it? Despite having Clayton Kershaw on the mound and being lucky enough to face a team that had to pull an unexpected bullpen game together after Clayton Richard was forced to exit after after only two pitches, the Dodgers lost again last night — their ninth loss in twelve games. (Hey, that Arizona brawl really saved the season, didn’t it, Bob Nightengale? That looks just as awful now as it did the day it was written.)
But even that doesn’t tell the tale, really. Through 72 games, this team is 30-42, and allow me to present to you the full list of other Los Angeles Dodger teams that have had that many losses through 72 games: _________.
Oh. Okay, how about all Dodger teams, both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, with that many losses through 72 games since Don Drysdale was born in July of 1936: ________.
Oh, again. That’s right, while the dawn-of-the-20th-century Brooklyn Dodgers were worse than this more than a few times, the last Dodger team with 42 losses through 72 games was that 1936 Brooklyn club that had All-Star catcher Babe Phelps, a pretty good pitching season from Van Mungo… and not a whole hell of a lot else. (I think people forget just how bad the first 50ish years of Brooklyn baseball generally was; if not for that last decade or so with the glory days of Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, and friends, somehow I doubt anyone would still be talking about the origins of this franchise with such reverence today.)
Comparing them to the other worst teams of recent vintage, the 1992 club had 41 losses through 72 on their way to 63-99, while the 2005 team was actually at 35-37, better than the 2008 NLCS club, before cratering down the stretch.
I don’t think this team is going to lose 99 games, because it just doesn’t seem possible. Not with this collection of talent, not with Yasiel Puig lighting up the night, not with Carl Crawford & Matt Kemp coming back in the next few weeks, not with a rotation that’s fronted by three very good starters in Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu. And while we’ve been over the reasons why endlessly — the constant injuries, years of damage from the GM’s office, lousy on-field managerial decisions, a leaky defense — there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.
Really, the team shouldn’t be this bad. The pitching is 14th in ERA, 13th in FIP. (That’s a bit skewed towards the rotation, which is much better than the bullpen.) The offense is 20th in wOBA. The fielding, while leading the game in errors, is 17th in Defensive Runs Saved and 18th in UZR/150. They aren’t a good team, but none of those numbers indicate a club that should have more losses than everyone other than Houston & Miami.
Just don’t give me “lack of grit,” not on a team that has Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker, and two Ellises. Don’t give me “how could a team with this much salary not be in first place,” because it’s neither relevant nor true. Hanley Ramirez, Greinke, Crawford, & Kemp are making something like $84 million combined between the four of them this year. Here’s how many times we’ve seen them all playing on the same night: _______.
If you want to blame it on Don Mattingly, go right ahead — I can’t really argue against it at this point — but let’s not pretend that Tim Wallach or anyone else would be single-handedly responsible for the six additional wins (and hence six fewer losses) that it would have taken to merely be at .500 at this point.
This team is bad, and outside of Puig, they’re boring, which is just as bad. It’s not going to stay this bad; it can’t stay this bad. But when we’re even having discussions in late June about “being on pace to set records for futility,” well… I’d like to be more eloquent, but that’s just bad.