The Dodgers Look Terrible Right Now

Last night, the Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers 13-0 to record their 11th consecutive victory. Now 80-58, Arizona has effectively wrapped a Wild Card berth, and given how they are playing, everyone else in the NL has to be hoping they lose that play-in game. Because they look formidable right now.

But as good as the Diamondbacks look, the Dodgers look equally bad. Last night’s drubbing was their fourth loss in a row and their ninth loss in their last 10 games. If it wasn’t for Clayton Kershaw returning to throw zeroes at the Padres on Friday night, in a game the Dodgers won just 1-0 over one of the worst teams in baseball, they’d be staring at a 10 game losing streak. And it’s not like they’re just playing well but losing close games due to some bad fortune. During this 10 game slide, the Dodgers have played like a team that deserved to get beat every night.

Since August 26th, the Dodgers 57 wRC+ is the worst in the Majors. They are hitting .201/.267/.320 thanks to a combination of the third-highest strikeout rate and the second-lowest ISO. Over this span of 10 games, their offense has been 20 runs worse than the average line-up.

Their run prevention hasn’t been much better. The team’s 6.30 ERA ranks 28th in MLB over that stretch, and their 4.74 FIP ranks 24th, so it’s not like it’s all BABIP or sequencing luck gone awry. Though they do also have the 4th highest BABIP allowed to go along with a well below-average FIP.

All told, they’ve been outscored 59-25 during this stretch. Their .172 pythagorean record suggests that they should instead be 2-8, not 1-9, but there’s no way to spin this as anything other than a terrible stretch of baseball. It’s particularly noticeable given how well Arizona is playing; if you’d only watched the last week and a half of baseball, you’d be hard pressed to believe that the Dodgers were in the Diamondbacks same league, much less a better team. Right now, the Diamondbacks look awesome and the Dodgers look terrible.

But if you’re a fan of the Dodgers looking for some hope — besides the fact that the team was threatening the all-time record for wins in a season before this slump, anyway — then you should rest assured that basically every contender in baseball has looked like this at some point this year.

Let’s start with Arizona, since they are the team of the moment. From July 4th to July 16th, they lost eight of nine, including five straight losses to the Reds and Braves. During that stretch, they put up a 54 wRC+ that is even worse than what the Dodgers have managed during their skid. Their pitching results weren’t quite as bad (4.80 ERA, 4.07 FIP, .320 BABIP), but given the quality of opponents and the fact that a number of the Dodgers getting lit up are only on the roster because it’s September, the difference isn’t that meaningful.

And it’s not just the Diamondbacks. Most contenders have had a similarly bad stretch at some point this year.

Houston lost 9 of 11 from August 1st through August 12th. New York lost 10 of 12 from June 13th to June 25th. Cleveland lost 7 of 9 from April 7th to April 16th. The Cubs have managed to bookend their losing streaks with winning streaks, so they don’t have a 10 game stretch quite this bad, but they lost five of six in April, seven of nine in May, and then closed May out with a six game losing streak. And who can forget the way they finished the firth half, losing the final game before the All-Star break 14-3 for their eighth loss in 12 games.

What makes the Dodgers struggles notable is how juxtaposed it is against what came before it.

To lose as many games in a week and a half as you previously lost in a two month stretch is insane on both ends. It’s a reminder of how other-worldly the Dodgers were that they managed to time this collapse with the Diamondbacks surge, and yet they still have a 12.5 game division lead. If you just look at our Playoff Odds chart for the NL West, you’d have no idea any of this was happening.

We had the Dodgers at 100% to win the division when this freefall started, and we have them at 100% today. This is, in terms of impact on the season, an irrelevant spectacle.

Now, there are things that have happened during the stretch that should be of some concern to the organization. Alex Wood was bad again in his first start off the disabled list, and he’s now running just an 18% strikeout rate since the All-Star break. At this point, it’s fair to wonder whether he should be in the team’s planned-for postseason rotation. Chris Taylor has finally cooled off, and given what he’s done versus his track record, there’s always going to be a lingering thought that he’s turning back into, well, Chris Taylor.

But by and large, this doesn’t matter. Wilmer Font getting obliterated doesn’t have any real consequences for the team. Josh Fields won’t be giving up home runs in October. Pedro Baez pitching himself out of high leverage innings might even be a good thing, given that his low ERA this year was a mirage. Even Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who were battered in their starts, are probably just relievers in October. The guys getting torched aren’t the guys Dave Roberts is going to hand the ball to in the postseason.

The amazing thing about the Dodgers season is that nothing like this had happened yet. They were on pace to challenge the 2001 Mariners because they somehow won every series for the first five months of the year. But now they’ve faceplanted, just like every other team in baseball faceplants at some point. Compared to what Arizona is doing, it’s easy to write things about momentum or how late-season performance matters more, but none of that has any real evidence to stand on.

Baseball teams play well for a while, and they play badly for a while. The Dodgers have now shown they are human. They aren’t an indestructible force that no one can overcome. They aren’t the best team ever. But every good team has one of these. Some good teams have several of these in a year. Now, the Dodgers have proven they are mortal.

But don’t be surprised when they start winning again. They are still a very good baseball team, even if they haven’t looked like one for a few weeks now.

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

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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FrodoBeck
Member
FrodoBeck

It’s amazing that as rational as I think I am, this 1-9 stretch had convinced a tiny part of me that we were doomed to lose the division and never win a game again. Baseball sucks (it’s awesome)

Anon
Member
Anon

It’s funny, as a DBacks fan I briefly thought the same thing from the other side after last night. Then you look at what it would actually take and think, “Oh, right, no chance.”

If the DBacks finished 18-6, they would finish with 98 wins. The Dodgers would have to go 6-19 to tie. So it’s not even a situation where the DBacks could take it with the Dodgers playing .500 ball, the Dodgers would have to TOTALLY collapse on top of the DBacks playing great.