This Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So Excruciating

Man, it’s one thing to watch your offense struggle… and it’s another thing to watch it struggle like that. You figure you’ve got a perfect opportunity to break out of your offensive malaise, because you’re up against the worst team in baseball, and not only that, the 22-year-old opposing moundsman is something called “Collin Balester“, who I’m not afraid to admit I had never once heard of in my life before tonight. But what do we end up with? One run on seven hits, plus another wasted outstanding pitching performance (Derek Lowe the victim tonight, as it seems he so often is.)

Make no mistake, though. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the Dodgers were shut out tonight. Their one run came after loading the bases on zero hits – back-to-back hit batters and a walk - and only came around when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores had a brainfart in not tagging Nomar at the plate on Matt Kemp’s fielder’s choice grounder to third.

Really, I can’t describe this any better than Dodgers.com reporter Michael Schwartz put it:

The Dodgers’ run of offensive futility has gotten so bad, they’re inventing new ways not to score runs.

And against the worst team in baseball no less.

Tuesday’s episode included four double plays, 10 runners left on base and a lineout double play with the bases loaded, as the Dodgers dropped their season-high-tying fifth straight game, 2-1, to the Nationals at Nationals Park.

It’s unbelievable. It’s not outright futility, the matching 0-5′s turned in by Kemp and Andre Ethier aside. It’s the complete lack of situational hitting that’s destroying this team right now. Four for thirty-nine with runners in scoring position over the last three games is completely unacceptable. Another opportunity lost, with Arizona on their way to defeat against San Diego. I’m still not ready to jump ship, not when you still have six more games left with the team you’re three games behind. But clearly, this needs to get fixed now. And yeah, I do feel like I’ve written the same post four days in a row.

So what now? Obviously, just hoping guys turn it around isn’t enough, although you can’t really replace the entire lineup, either. Look for some lineup changes for game two, although this quote from Torre seems to say that it’s more about rest than performance:

Torre still hopes to give Kent, catcher Russell Martin and possibly third baseman Casey Blake a breather in Los Angeles’ series against the last-place Nationals to keep them fresh in advance of this weekend’s showdown in Phoenix against the first-place D-backs, who entered Tuesday leading the Dodgers by three games in the National League West.

Kent could use a break, although he is 4-9 lifetime off of Nationals starter Tim Redding. If you’ve read this site at all lately, you know I want to see Martin get a break. Here’s what worries me, though: if Blake takes a seat, is Torre going to put Martin there again? Because we’ve been through this. That’s NOT a break for Martin. Put Nomar at third and Angel Berroa at short, or don’t rest Blake at all. I cannot stress this enough. I also have zero faith that it’s actually going to happen.

Finally, expect to see a roster move before the game, as Cory Wade is expected to be activated off of the disabled list. No word on who leaves town for him… but it has to be Tanyon Sturtze, right? The Dodgers are already carrying 12 pitchers on the roster, so it has to be an arm that goes down. I suppose it could be Ramon Troncoso too, optioned to Vegas until rosters expand, but Sturtze is barely…

Who am I kidding. Of course it won’t be Sturtze.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

27-5

That would be the total in which the Dodgers were outscored in Philadelphia this weekend. What an embarrassment. This team doesn’t really deserve to make the playoffs – not that it ever really did – but Arizona did their best to help us out. If there was a half decent team in this division like all the others, by all rights the Dodgers would be 11 games out of first place and we wouldn’t have traded excellent prospects for guys like Casey Blake. There’s really nothing good you can take away from this series at all. The pitchers didn’t pitch (decent starts from Kuroda and Billingsley aside), the defense looked terrible at best and lazy at worst, and the offense.. my god, the offense. Who goes into Citizens Bank Park and has the offense disappear?

I can’t even talk about this debacle, so I’ll just leave you with some fun stats over the last 7 days, and while I’m not ready to say the season’s over just yet (not with two more series against Arizona), I will say that if the Blue don’t go into Washington and take at least two out of three, it’s time to pack it in.

Oh, and keep in mind with the stats below, the Dodgers played 7 games this week (some teams only played 5) and they were home against Colorado and in Philadelphia, not generally time you’ll see the offense fizzle. If they’d played against good pitching, they might somehow have scored negative runs.

Dodgers, Last 7 Days (MLB Rank):
Runs: 14 (30th of 30th)
BA: .250 (22nd)
OBP: .296 (25th)
SLG: .336 (29th)
OPS: .632 (29th)
RBI: 11 (30th)
ERA: 5.69 (25th)
Wins: 1 (tied, 30th)

If this team misses the playoffs and finishes at or below .500, there’s no way Ned Colletti can retain his job, right?

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Have to Win Tonight…

…and even then, it might be too late.

I’m sure you’re expecting MSTI to blame Jason Johnson for giving up the game-winning homer to Pedro Feliz, but I can’t really do that. First of all, at least Joe Torre put in Johnson in the role he really should be filling – that of “extra inning long man after all the good guys have been used”. Johnson is what he is, and that’s a mediocre pitcher. You let him pitch in a field like Citizens Bank Park against a lineup like the Phillies’, and he’s going to give up some homers. You can’t expect anything else.

But Johnson is hardly the fall guy for this latest debacle. Look, there’s plenty of blame to go around here. I could question Torre being too conservative in taking out both Park and Kuo after just one effective inning each, but that’s pretty low on the list. Mostly, I have no defense for Jonathan Broxton on this one. Yeah, he can blame bad mechanics, but that’s not good enough. The leadoff hit to Shane Victorino was a killer, and the lack of control – especially the four-pitch walk to Andy Tracy – was brutal. Actually, that brings up the worst performance of last night, that of ESPN’s Joe Morgan, who insisted that Broxton was pitching around Andy Tracy. Who hadn’t seen the big leagues since 2004. In order to get to Pedro Feliz, who may be a mediocre hitter but does have a good bit of pop in his bat (6 consecutive double-digit homer seasons). Of course that was the plan, Joe!

No, I’m not going to excuse Broxton on this one. How could you? He blew it. But the bigger problem right now is the offense. 12 runs over the last 6 games just isn’t going to cut it. And it’s not like you can just point the finger at one or two guys, because other than James Loney and Jeff Kent, everyone has been awful.

Last 7 days:
Manny: .250/.375/.250 .625 OPS
Blake: .200/.304/.300 .604 OPS
Kemp: .192/.222/.346 .568 OPS
Ethier: .143/.217/.286 .503 OPS
Martin: .136/.136/.318 .455 OPS
Nomar: .167/.167/.167 .333 OPS

That, friends, is just a cavalcade of awful. Special bonus points of suck awarded to Casey Blake for doing just about the worst possible thing you could do with a bases loaded, no outs situation in the top of the 10th: grounding into a 5-2 double play. It’s not even that he didn’t do anything positive, it’s that he did the worst kind of negative action he could have, short of a triple play. A sac fly gets a run home. A double play to short or second probably gets a run home. A strikeout or a popup doesn’t get a run home, but it doesn’t accrue two outs and lose the lead runner, too.

And yeah, that picture above is kind of old. But I can’t think of anything more appropriate than seeing a Dodger get kicked in the chest after last night.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

In Case You’re Wondering…

Besides having the same thoughts myself occasionally, I have heard some talk, here and there, of comparisons between this team and the 2003 team.  After all, there are striking similarities: both have horrific offenses, but helped by tremendous pitching.  So, as I sit here bored waiting for the game to start, I thought I’d do a quick and dirty check.  Nothing earth shattering, but a quick comparison on how the 2008 offense ranks to the historically awful 2003 offense, through the first half:

Throughout the first half, the 2003 team had a record of 49-44, despite their atrocious offense.  Through the first half, the 2003 “offense” put up the following numbers:

.244/.304/.359, 59 HR’s, 328 R, 307 RBI’s, .663 OPS, .279 BABIP, 76 sOPS+

The 2008 team has finished 46-49 and their offense throughout the first half:

.253/.321/.373, 65 HR’s, 390 R, 361 RBI’s, .694 OPS, .292 BABIP, 88 sOPS+

So, breath a sigh of relief.  Our offense sucks, but not 2003 type of crapulence!  Granted, the difference isn’t extraordinary, but still a bit better.

However, what balances it out is the incredible pitching from that year.  While we have had awesome pitching this year, this is where the 2003 team has the advantage:

2003 Overall Pitching Through The First Half:

49-44, 3.07 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 285 ER, 294 BB, 758 K, 34 SV.

2008 Overall Pitching Through The First Half:

46-49, 3.64 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 343 ER, 299 BB, 705 K, 18 SV.

So, the 2008 team has better hitting, but the 2003 team has better pitching.  Nonetheless, neither team’s strength is offense and both have heavily relied on their pitching.  Having said that, it’s hard to believe that, even with our great pitching this year, the pitching from 2003 was still a bit better.  The Nomo/Brown duo was pretty sick that year, while the Penny/Lowe duo has been rather, well… sickening, mostly due to Penny.

As if it hasn’t been said before, in order for the Dodgers to do anything, they’re going to have to hit, lest they suffer the same fate as the 2003 team.  Luckily they’re in a horrible division (as opposed to the 2003 Giants, who won 100 games that year) and have the potential to hit better as the kids grow and mature (as opposed to relying on, say, Jeremy Burnitz), so, as we begin the second half, let’s hope Donny Baseball can work his magic and help turn the tide a little bit.

PLAY BALL!!

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg