Thursday, April 03, 2008

Expect a Lot of One-Run Games This Season

Matt Cain. Tim Lincecum. Jake Peavy. Greg Maddux. (Tall) Chris Young. Jeff Francis. Brandon Webb. Dan Haren. There are many quality pitchers in the NL West this season, meaning the Dodgers will play a lot of series like their first against the Giants—in which the Dodgers left a total of 28 men on base. Stranding 28 might get it done against the Giants, but it means third or fourth place in the standings if this trend continues against the rest of the NL West.

Actually, trend is an inappropriate word to use after just three games if we expect Russell Martin and Matt Kemp to shed their uncertainty at the plate. (Seeing Martin take the backwards K with the bases loaded last night was especially painful.) But recent history indicates that rarely do all the Dodger bats come alive at once—and that without a legitimate power threat (last seen in Adrian Beltre), the pitching staff will be counted on to keep games close.

While the addition of Andruw Jones and the emerging power of Kemp and Andre Ethier should prevent a repeat of 2003's power vacuum debacle, only timely hitting will prevent the Dodgers from having more one-run defeats than victories. And if those one-run defeats pile up, the clubhouse tension will make last year's tiffs seem like a love-fest.