The Dodgers Look Beyond Terrible Right Now

Last Tuesday, I felt obligated to write about the Dodgers’ slide. At that point, they’d lost nine of their last 10 games and were just playing some outright terrible baseball. So, I headlined the piece “The Dodgers Look Terrible Right Now.”

They haven’t won a game since that post was published. They’ve turned a four-game losing streak into a 10-game losing streak, and they’ve now dropped 15 of their last 16. During their current losing streak, they’ve scored just 24 runs, putting up no more than five in any single game. On the other hand, they’ve given up at least six runs in seven of the 10 contests and have now conceded 64 runs in total during that stretch.

Getting outscored by 42 runs in 10 games is not particularly easy. And this doesn’t even include the prior five-game losing streak that they broke when Kershaw shut down the Padres on September 1st. Dating back to August 26th, when this slide began, the Dodgers have been on their own level of awfulness. Especially on offense.

Yep, that’s a 56 wRC+, almost 20 points worse than the 29th-ranked Marlins. And it’s a wholesale offensive collapse.

Since August 26th, the Dodgers are 22nd in BB%, 28th in K%, 28th in ISO, and 29th in BABIP. Curtis Granderson has a wRC+ of -1 during the skid. Yasmani Grandal just flips the sign, coming in at 1. Logan Forsythe (41) and Chris Taylor (64) look like Babe Ruth next to those two, but aren’t exactly helping. Cody Bellinger has been a below-average hitter (90 wRC+) after helping carry the offense for the last three months. Corey Seager has been hurt, and his replacements — Kike Hernandez, mostly — have been awful. Justin Turner has been fine, and Yasiel Puig has been okay, but other than those two, the lineup has been a total dumpster fire.

Last week, I noted that the pitching was less to blame, with a lot of guys who weren’t going to get the ball in October accounting for most of the trouble. But that was last week.

This week, Clayton Kershaw got pulled in the fourth inning of his start, having already given up four runs. Yu Darvish pitched into the fifth inning — by getting one out in the fifth inning, that is — while allowing five runs to erase a rare early-game lead the offense had provided. Alex Wood started twice and conceded nine runs in 11 innings pitched. Rich Hill was the only presumed October starter to throw well this week, and the bullpen was again incapable of holding leads or keeping games close.

At this point, comforting posts about how every good team has bad streaks aren’t particularly relevant. No one else has had a streak like this in 2017. You have to really dig through the history books to find other examples of contenders who have lost 15 of 16. The Dodgers were something like we’ve never seen over the first four months of the season; for the last few weeks, they’ve been like something else entirely that we’ve also never seen.

This is one of the strangest seasons in baseball history. We don’t really have data points that can tell us what a struggle like this might mean for the team going forward. The fact that they were nearly unbeatable until they were nearly incapable of winning should tell us something about how fickle trends can be, but even if we don’t know what losing 15 of 16 means on a grander scale, this skid has created some very legitimate concerns as the Dodgers head towards October.

Obviously, the offense has been a big problem, and the team can’t feel good about their recent production. A lot of the team’s early success was built on most everyone in the lineup dramatically outperforming their projections, and no longer can the team just assume that they’re going to get production from every spot in the order. But right now, the more worrying performances are probably coming on the mound.

For instance, I don’t know that Dave Roberts can really trust Alex Wood in the postseason, barring some significant late-season turnaround. Saturday night’s clunker was just the latest in his own six-week funk. Over his last eight starts, dating back to July 21st, Wood has struck out just 17% of the hitters he’s faced, and he’s running a 123 ERA-/131 FIP-/102 xFIP-. He’s allowed a .346 xwOBA during that stretch, putting him in the same tier as James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez.

And it’s not really that hard to see what has changed.

Early in the year, Alex Wood was throwing harder than ever and getting better results than ever. But he hasn’t been throwing in the mid-90s for a while now, and he’s not missing bats anymore, either. Those things are related. Unless Wood somehow finds 94 again, the guy who was one of the best pitchers in the NL in the first half of the season probably shouldn’t be a starter in the playoffs.

By ERA, Darvish has actually been worse than Wood lately, running a 129 ERA- since arriving in LA. But, if there’s one part of this slump that looks mostly just like bad luck, it’s probably Darvish’s results. He has the largest split between his actual wOBA allowed (.376) and expected wOBA (.272) of any pitcher in baseball since August 1st, and that .272 xwOBA is 17th best among pitchers since he was traded to LA. A high BABIP can just be lousy location and throwing hittable pitches, but in this case, it looks like Darvish is just getting a bunch of bad breaks, with balls that are usually outs landing for hits. That won’t last forever, and he’ll likely start getting outs in the not too distant future.

If Kershaw’s back holds up, Rich Hill’s arm stays attached, and Darvish pitches like Yu Darvish, the Dodgers are still a formidable opponent in the postseason. This slump could end as quickly as it started. Even the worst two weeks imaginable aren’t a fatalistic sign that this team is now suddenly garbage.

But there are also real problems here. The offense is once again a question mark. The team’s second-most reliable reliever is Brandon Morrow, who is the personified antithesis of dependability. Alex Wood is an issue.

The Dodgers aren’t going to lose out. This funk will end. But the reasons for the team’s sudden slide look more significant now than they did even a week ago. The Dodgers don’t just need to start winning; they need to fix some holes that have popped up at the least opportune time.

We hoped you liked reading The Dodgers Look Beyond Terrible Right Now by Dave Cameron!

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
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Member
The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot

I questioned last week when the Dodgers should start worrying about this recent spell of awful play. I also remember Dave Cameron saying this will have ZERO correlation with how the playoffs go. So are we all now worried that this could have a real impact on their playoff performance?

OddBall Herrera
Member
OddBall Herrera

Depends on what you mean by impact, but obviously the longer of a stretch a team performs poorly, the more that should affect our prognosis for how they’ll do in the future.

If you mean psychologically, that’s hard to say. At least Josh Beckett isn’t with the team anymore so there’s no danger of fried chicken & beer incidents.

Dominikk85
Member
Dominikk85

It depends on what is the reason for the slump. A random slump doesn’t mean much but if it is due to injuries to key players or regression of overperformers it could mean something going forward.

showerdeer
Member
showerdeer

One of the worst things about our society is how people get shit on for changing their minds. Clearly we are in a different situation than last week but at least you got to say “I told you so.”

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
Member
Member
The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot

How is it “clearly” a different situation? They were at 6 losses in a row (and 11 of 12) and now are at 11 (and 16 of 17), why do these next 5 losses matter so much?

showerdeer
Member
showerdeer

Do you understand probability at all hanging out on this extremely statistical website?

AJ pro-Preller
Member
AJ pro-Preller

I heard Charles Manson “changed his mind”….AHHh our crappy society!!!