Monday, May 26, 2008

But then again...let's play two.

On the day after the Dodgers celebrated an almost messianic look into their future in Kershaw, their other extraordinary pitcher Chad Billngsley looked unhittable against the Cubs in the opening of their three game series in Wrigley. Unfortunately for them, the Dodger hitters were just as unhittable.

The Dodgers are now 4 for their last 46 with runners in scoring position. While the loss of Furcal may serve as a potential explanation, the reality is much harsher than that. The Dodgers inability to play consistent fundamental baseball is match by their most consistent baseball prowess: a fundamental INABILITY to hit with runners in scoring position.

Many of you remember last year (or was it the year before? They do become a blur), when the Dodgers at one point were a ghastly 5 for 95 with RISP. I have not officially checked the statistics as to where the Dodgers rank in the NL in regard to this particular woe, but I am assuming that they must be among the worst in the league, if not the worst in all of baseball.

Since this is an issue that seems to follow the uniform rather than the players from year to year, it begs the question "what the heck is going on here?", of course.

Hitting with runners in scoring position is THE MOST IMPORTANT TEAM BATTING STATISTIC IN THE GAME. It exemplifies the character and grit of a team. But beyond that, one can extrapolate further that it represents humility and having your team-mates back, as it were. It suggests going beyond your SELF to do what ever is necessary to produce a run. It also speaks volumes about your coaching staff and, ultimately, your manager. In my opinion, this is the first game of the year that Joe Torre's decisions and non-decisions had a negative impact on its outcome. In my opinion, as well, it suggests that the Dodgers emphasize the individual accomplishments over the team. Or maybe the DE-emphasis on preventing it.

Joe consistently refused to put any kind of plays on in crucial situations. The most glaring, and rather ominous, was his decision to bring in James Loney, on his day off, to pinch hit for Maza, a contact hitter, who could very easily have squeezed for the tie. Instead, he relied on a slumping Loney who has struck out 6 of his last 8 times. Granted, the Salami was very close to happening, but Piniella's decision to keep his right hander in, rather than going for the automatic spot lefty reliever, was shrewd and outfoxed Torre. LaRussa did the same over and over again in LA this past weekend. This also suggests that Torre is further behind in knowing the league again than we perhaps thought. The rhythm of the NL game, after being away for twelve years, cannot be underestimated. It may take Torre two to three years just to feel comfortable again in this world. By then he will most likely pass on the position to another Manager, starting the whole mishugas over again.

Bottom line, the Dodgers should be ashamed of themselves for the way that each individual let down their compatriots again and again and again in this matinee. Torre is learning the league again on the fly, and Billingsley
deserved far far better.


Blogger JamieB. said...

I was at the third game of the series against the Reds at Dodgers Stadium. The Dodgers were winning 4 to 1 in something like the sixth inning, had the game put away, and they were oh for nine with runners in scoring position at that point. They were lucky enough to be pitted against a team playing AAA baseball but it was a noteworthy statistic. It's maddening when your team can't hit with runners in scoring position. It's even more agonizing than your pitcher getting bombed.

5:30 PM  

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