Monday, September 08, 2008
Desperately Seeking St. Patrick
Just 10 days ago, the Dodgers were dead in the water, 4½ games back of the Diamondbacks, having lost eight straight games by a combined score of 54-15. They weren’t getting unlucky, they were getting hammered, and by the likes of the Washington Nationals no less. Five of the eight losses were blowouts, and the starting pitcher took the loss in seven of the eight games, including the last five. With a loss to the division rival Diamondbacks on August 29, the Dodgers seemed more likely to be passed by the Rockies than to move into first place.Of course, if we're going to take the St. Patrick theme a bit further, there's some irony in that the next foes standing in their ways are none other than the San Diego Padres, the Catholic Friars who might have been St. Patrick's allies in another time. The Padres are 12 losses away from a 100-loss season, something they haven't done in fifteen years, so you'd think that would be a pretty good indicator; yet they managed to sweep the Diamondbacks at home Aug. 25-27, and perhaps that's as much Arizona's inconsistent offense as it is their two big aces (Danny Haren and Brandon Webb) wearing down at the end of the season, a very inconvenient time for that.
What happened overnight between August 29 and August 30? Well, if you really want a reason, you could point to Jeff Kent shutting it down for the year. Kent batted .156/.206/.156 during the losing streak, and his defense has slipped to well below average. On the other hand, the Dodgers were 53-51 when he started up until that point, no one player is going to be responsible for that kind of turnaround, and replacing him with converted third baseman Blake DeWitt certainly didn’t do that much for the defense. (However, DeWitt has hit well, .286/.364/.536 in the eight games.)
It’s not a change at second base that has meant an eight-game winning streak. No, trying to divine why the August 22-29 Dodgers were 0-8 while basically the same exact collection of players was 8-0 from August 30-September 7—against tougher competition on the whole—is folly. This is what the baseball season is: essentially unpredictable in the short and medium term. Clayton Kershaw started twice in the losing streak: 6 1/3 innings, 11 runs allowed, five walks, seven strikeouts. He also started twice in the winning streak: 11 innings, six runs allowed, four walks, ten strikeouts. Not a lot better, but certainly better, and certainly not for a visible reason.
This is what baseball players and baseball teams do: perform within a range that’s centered on their true talent level. If the extremes aren’t usually quite this obvious, the one truth we can pull from this is that looking at a larger picture will give us a better idea of what the Dodgers are. They’re 8-8 in the their last 16 games. They’re 27-21 since the All-Star break. They’re 73-70 for the season. This is a team that’s a little better than .500—with Manny Ramirez, anyway. That they’ve piled up wins and losses in a newsworthy pattern is interesting and makes for good copy, but it doesn’t tell us anything more about the team than 8-8 does.
The Dodgers have nine games on the road and six at home remaining, the Snakes ten at home and seven on the road — and four of those seven will be with St. Louis. However, St. Louis is nine games back of the division, and five games back of the Wild Card, with two teams to jump past to finish in first place. It seems likely that, barring a sudden win streak, the Cards will be out of it by the time Arizona plays them (Sep. 22-25) and will be playing for 2009 more than 2008. So things are a lot more even than even the future schedule would seem to imply. The Dodgers might want to hunt down a rabbit's foot, or better still, a four-leaf clover, just in case.
St. Patrick was a Greek missionary working for the Roman church, btw, more in common with Lasorda than McCourt.
I'm pretty sure St. Patrick was from Roman Britain, not Greece. His ancestry, although uncertain, may have been Gaulic.
your first paragraph is spot on Rev, but you should know a wee bit about Paddy, being the foremost Irish catholic halo fan i know.