Ever since their glorious win in Australia on Opening Day, the Dodgers have been stuck in the mud, spinning their wheels, and sinking deeper into the muck.
I'm of the belief that idiotic early-start in Australia ruined Spring Training and injured pitchers for both the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.
However, Australia is the past. It's not early in the season anymore, and we are beyond what can be laid at the feet of Bud Selig's horrible international marketing plan which forced both teams to open the season Down Under a full week before everyone else.
We're a month in, and patterns are establishing themselves. However, I'll indulge those who insist it's still early. Fine. We still can't afford to be losing this many games. Somebody wiser than me once said something to the effect that pennants are not won, but they can certainly be lost early in the season.
Speaking of patterns, it seems these days every game is a 3-2 or 2-1 loss in 9 innings, or it'll be extra innings with an eventual loss. Intellectually I know the boys aren't losing EVERY game - you can check the statscentric blogs for the exact numbers - but all I know is it FEELS like every game is like that. Perception can quickly become reality.
So what's the problem? Is it the pitching or the hitting? Not to ignore the defense, which is producing an average of an error every game, but I believe good hitting or pitching should be able to neutralize that.
When Clayton Kershaw went on the DL immediately after the Australia series, most observers thought the Dodgers would really suffer. Although the Dodgers are losing too often (it's the fans who are suffering), the remaining starting pitchers - and even some emergency AAA call ups - have been very effective and have kept us competitive in most of the games.
We've gotten to the 6th and 7th innings very often with the opposition scoring two runs or less. The problem is, concurrently the Dodger bats have usually scored only one run or less. The pitching staff (as a whole) cannot realistically be expected to win 80 - 90% of the games by scores of 1- 0 or 2-1.
When a team scores three runs, it's going to win most games. While Dodger relievers cannot be excused for issuing the second-highest walks (69) in baseball, they have no business being involved in extra inning marathons we would have won had we scored three runs.
The Dodgers have scored just two runs in their last 27 innings. Somebody should tell them we can't win by a score of 0 to -1. No, the pitchers are not to blame. It's those cold, cold Dodger bats.
Adrian Gonzalez was red hot a couple of weeks ago and Yasiel Puig's bat is pretty hot right now. The Dodgers are very good at getting a lead off single or double and then not scoring the runner. And that pretty much sums up the Dodger offensive attack in 2014.
What are the Dodgers' chances of turning that around?
There's almost zero offense coming from the three Dodger catchers we've tried. Juan Uribe, with the second-highest RBI's is one bad cough away from the DL, and there is no real replacement for him on the bench or in the minors. Mattingly is forced to play lousy utility guys or broken down ex-Angels. Thanks, Ned Colletti!
What about the "good" problem of too many outfielders?
Mattingly has taken a step forward in deciding what to do with that surplus, and in true Mattingly fashion, he's making the wrong decisions. His choice of Puig as the everyday right fielder is a no-brainer, but after that, Mattingly is simply showing no brain.
He's made the Dodgers' Strikeout King, Matt Kemp (36 K's), the everyday center fielder. Mattingly has Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford battling for the remaining outfield spot.
Ethier has16 RBI's and he's fourth on the team behind Gonzalez, Puig and Uribe. He's fourth while sitting out about one third of the season, while Gonzalez and Uribe have played just about every inning of every game. Kemp and Crawford are tied with 9 RBI's each. Kemp has single-digit RBI's and leads the team in strike outs, but he's been gifted center field.
Here's a thought - today's Giants pitcher is Matt Cain. Ethier is hitting .400 with 30 hits against the guy. Would you play him? Mattingly won't. He's got Ethier sitting on the bench while Crawford, who has stunk at the plate all season except for last week, is out in the field. Genius managing.
The Giants come to town sitting in first place and they have pretty much owned the Dodgers up to this point. This four game series could well set the tone for at least the next few weeks of the season, and perhaps all of it.
The Dodgers just need a fire lit under them, right? Damn Mattingly held a closed-door team meeting before the first game and did what he could. The Dodgers went out and lost.
Last night Puig launched a massive home run against the Giants. He then had some loud and gruff words with the Giants pitcher and catcher when he came around third. Both managers came on the field and tensions rose.
Everyone calmed down and the next batter came up. Mattingly was almost immediately ejected by the plate umpire. Ejected from the dugout! He went on the field and gave that minor league (yes, minor league) ump just about every curse word you would ever hear on a ballfield - or not. Did all of those fireworks light up the Dodgers? Nope.
Brandon League later came in for the Dodgers and got out of a bases loaded and no out jam to keep the game within one run. Did that finally fire up the Dodgers? Nope. We lost again, 3-1. There's that three run principle.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should to Dodger fans. This is pretty much the way last season started. During the first half of the season the Dodgers absolutely stunk up the ballpark. Sure we ended up almost in the World Series - but that was only after a historic, epic, never seen before, winning run that stunned everyone.
At this point in the season, it looks like we're gonna need another one of those.