On August 25, the Los Angeles Dodgers were 91-36, and the baseball world was wondering where they ranked among the greatest teams of all time.
Since that day, the Dodgers have dropped 15 of 16 games. On Sunday, they fell to the Rockies 8-1, for their tenth consecutive loss. Dave Roberts’ team still has the best record in baseball this year, but it also has the worst record in baseball in the month of September and is making the wrong kind of history.
Dodgers set/tied some club records:
1) 10 straight losses (LA)
2) 9 consec. losses at Dodger Stadium
3) First winless homestand 6+ G at DS
— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) September 10, 2017
So what has gone wrong for Los Angeles these past few weeks? Well, how much time do you have?
The Dodgers’ fearsome starting pitching staff has fallen apart, with breakout star Alex Wood turning back into Alex Wood, new acquisition Yu Darvish falling flat and even all-world ace Clayton Kershaw getting roughed up. Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu have suffered poor starts as well. On the offensive side, Cody Bellinger has struggled since returning from the disabled list, Corey Seager didn’t start for a few games due to a lingering elbow injury, Adrian Gonzalez is hurt again, Yasmani Grandal is slumping, Curtis Granderson has been awful since arriving in August and Chris Taylor’s magic has seemingly run out.
The question now is which of those problems are blips and which ones will continue over to the playoffs next month. Some of the Dodgers’ struggles owe to them taking it easy in preparation for October. If these games really mattered, Seager wouldn’t have sat, slumping hitters might have had shorter leashes and Roberts would have stuck to a tighter pitching rotation. It’s also worth noting that many of the relief pitchers who have blown games (including Sunday’s goat Walker Buehler) won’t be anywhere near the playoff roster. Meanwhile, Gonzalez and his .640 OPS won’t likely get many postseason at-bats, and it’s fair to assume that Kershaw will find his stride in the next few weeks and Darvish will bounce back well enough.
But some of this team-wide slump is cold, hard regression. Much of the Dodgers’ success came from also-rans like Wood and Taylor becoming stars out of nowhere. Now that Wood has a 5.10 ERA over his past eight starts and Taylor is hitting .236/.250/.382 since the team’s last win, you have to wonder how much of their performance this season was ever sustainable. Similarly, Bellinger and Justin Turner are good hitters who are capable of anchoring a batting order, but maybe it was naive to think they could keep up their MVP-candidate output all the way through a six-month season.
The takeaway from this Dodgers’ downturn is not that they’re doomed. It’s that they’re not an all-time great team, merely another good team. Come the first game of the playoffs, Los Angeles will trout out a lineup with no major holes, behind a pitching staff featuring two or three All-Stars and another one or two solid arms. The tightened bullpen will be full of good relievers in roles they’re well suited for. This is not a team anyone is desperate to face in a short series.
Take a bigger-picture look at the Dodgers and you see a 92-51 team with the best record in the National League and a roster full of All-Stars. Their current rough patch seems dramatic, but there’s little reason to think the past 16 games are more indicative of this team’s ability than the previous 127 were.