Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let's Soak This Division Title In

Major League Baseball Standings, as of June 8, 2014:

The Giants were 43-21. The Dodgers were in second place, 33-31, 10 games back.

From there, the Dodgers went 58-37, or .610 ball. Along the way, we hadn't had a win steak of more than 6 games all year (though we hadn't lost more than three in a row (while the Giants lost as many as six in a row, twice). Meanwhile, the Giants went 42-52, or .447 ball.

And that's why we won the West.

I'm not sure if this was a monumental collapse by the Giants, or more a strong run by the Dodgers. Or both.


The Cardinals' loss yesterday guarantees the Dodgers will have home-field advantage for the NLDS, according to the LAT:

The victory, coupled with a loss by the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, guaranteed the Dodgers home-field advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.

"It's the first step," Kershaw said. "We know that."

That means Kershaw's next start will be Oct. 3, when the Dodgers open the NL division series at Dodger Stadium."

------'s David Schoenfield notes that the Dodgers' offense is coming alive at the right time. It's a great piece (especially the insight on HanRam's swing) so I will let you revel in most of it:

1. Matt Kemp looks like 2011 Matt Kemp. Last postseason, Kemp was watching from the dugout with crutches. Now, he'll enter October as one of baseball's hottest sluggers, with a .303/.360/.589 line and 16 home runs in the second half. He's sixth in the majors in wOBA since the All-Star break -- only Buster Posey and Victor Martinez are high among guys on playoff teams -- and third in home runs.

2. Hanley Ramirez is swinging the bat well. It's all about health for Ramirez, but he's also worked to lower a leg kick that got too high early in the season. Hitting coach Mark McGwire has worked with him to lower the leg to go back to something more like his approach in 2009, when he won the batting title. Ramirez has hit .357 in September -- granted, with no home runs -- but he's spraying the ball all over the field. Remember, last year's NLCS might have turned out differently if Ramirez hadn't been injured in Game 1 (he didn't play the second game after suffering a hairline fracture in his rib and struggled in the series, hitting .133).

3. Adrian Gonzalez leads the majors in RBIs. OK, RBIs are overrated, but Gonzalez has performed his best with runners in scoring position, hitting .330/.389/.546. Like Kemp, he's also hit better in the second half: .308/.362/.530 compared to .251/.309/.429 in the first half.

4. Yasiel Puig looks to be over his slump. I still think the sudden loss of power was a result of his hip injury, but he hit his 16th home run on Wednesday, lining an 0-2 sinker from Tim Hudson out to right field. After going homerless in June and August and hitting just two in July, he has three in nine games. Puig should also benefit from having gone through last year's postseason, in which he seemed a little too hyped up and emotional, taking every strikeout like it was the end of the world. He hit .227 with 10 K's in the NLCS, but look for him to do a better job of getting on base in front of Gonzalez and Kemp.

5. Carl Crawford is hitting. This might be the biggest surprise, since Crawford hasn't really hit much since leaving Tampa Bay. But he's hitting .324/.367/.458 in the second half and .433 in September and turned Andre Ethier into the forgotten man in the Dodgers outfield. He's even running a little more, with 22 steals, his most since 2010.

6. Better depth than 2013. Between Juan Uribe (.311 overall and .378/.403/.554 in September), Dee Gordon and Justin Turner, the Dodgers have better infield options than in 2013, when Nick Punto and Mark Ellis had to play. Gordon had the hot start and made the All-Star team, but it will be interesting to see how Don Mattingly works Turner into the lineup considering his .333/.397/.482 line and .374 batting average in the second half. Plus, you have Scott Van Slyke to start in left field versus left-handers or coming off the bench as a pinch hitter. And Ethier becomes the most expensive $15 million pinch hitter in the game.

OK, the lineup isn't perfect. A.J. Ellis and Drew Butera haven't provided much offense from the catcher slot. Another small secret weapon: Greinke, Kershaw and Dan Haren are all pretty good hitters for pitchers, so they have a chance for some offense from their pitchers.

There are concerns in the rotation once you get past Kershaw and Greinke, and Kershaw will have to prove he's a big-game pitcher after getting shelled in that season-ending Game 6 loss to the Cardinals last year. Plus, the middle relief is a concern, the defense isn't great and Mattingly's postseason tactics last year were questionable.

But this looks like a lineup that will score some runs in the postseason, and the Dodgers do have the best pitcher in the game. We'll see how that sauce tastes in a few weeks.

I'm guessing the sauce isn't going to be weak sauce, that's for sure.


Hideo Nomo said...

Monitoring Mets/Nats and Brewers/Reds. Mets up 1-0 and Brewers up 2-1.

Hoping to keep the "Brewers win out/Giants lose out" scenario alive, so the Giants have to play an extra game.

Doubtful Dodgers can catch the Nats for best record, but ya never know.

Hideo Nomo said...

Reds now up 3-2. Bleh.

Hideo Nomo said...

2-run HR for Brandon Phillips. 5-2 Reds.

QuadSevens said...

All those extra games for the Nats will probably give Stausberg a start and a good chance to pass Kershaw's strikeout total. So close to another triple crown.

Hideo Nomo said...

The dream is dead. Brewers lost. Giants are a "playoff" team.

Steve Sax said...

Brewers lose. Given the Giants have now clinched, I might go to the Padres@Giants game tonight (which I wouldn't have wanted to attend if they hadn't clinched, as that seemed like bad mojo).

Or is it bad mojo to attend this game in the first place? What do you guys think?

I may post on this.

Hideo Nomo said...

You should go.

Hideo Nomo said...

I'm going to Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday. Anyone else?

QuadSevens said...

Go to the game wearing a Dodgers hat and a Pirates tshirt for maximum hate from Gnats fans.

QuadSevens said...

I might go to that one too Gnomes. Gotta look for tickets.

Steve Sax said...

new post up top, please