What’s Wrong with the Dodgers?

Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch during Game 6 of the NLCS. Photo by Arturo Paradavila III (flickr) CC License)

You’re not alone if you wish you could return to the easy-breezy days of August. The Dodgers are right there with you. Los Angeles was 40 games over .500 as recently as August 25th and was on pace to smash the Major League record for most wins in a single season. That’s when everything went south.

The Dodgers lost, and lost, and lost some more en route to dropping 11 straight games and 16 of their last 17. They went from the best 50-game stretch in Major League history to establishing their longest losing streak since leaving Brooklyn.

How does one team go into such a historic tailspin within such a short span of time? It’s not an easy question to answer, but we’ve done our best to get to the bottom of baseball’s biggest mystery.

Their offense has hits the skids

The sample size is admittedly small, but L.A’s offense has been absolutely brutal during the month of September. The Dodgers are dead last in the National League in runs, RBIs, OBP, OPS, and slugging percentage, and are second to last in batting average. If this keeps up, the next time you see the team’s offense it may be on the back of a milk carton.

Their pitching has been abominable

It’s hard to win when you don’t score, especially when your pitchers treat live games like batting practice. The Dodgers have given up more runs, earned runs, home runs, and walks than any other team in the National League during the month of September. Even usually reliable pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood have gotten the stuffing knocked out of them. Kershaw lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his most recent start against Colorado, and Wood has given up nine earned runs in 11 innings during his two starts this month.

Over/Under victories for Clayton Kershaw in 2017: 17.5

Adrian Gonzalez takes batting pratice. Photo by Arturo Paradavila III (Wikimedia Commons) CC License)

Injuries have caught up with them

Injuries are bound to catch up with every team at some point in the season, and for the Dodgers that time was the final week of August. The team lost lights-out reliever Josh Fields, perennial MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, and 2017 All-Stars Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Wood to a variety of minor ailments at the tail end of the month. That’s more talent than you’ll find on most active rosters yet alone a DL, and it’s understandable it would impact the team’s depth and performance.

The new guys haven’t panned out

The rest of the National League practically threw in the towel when the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the trade deadline on July 31st. The Japanese righthander was supposed to make their already deep rotation even deeper, but he’s largely disappointed during his time in L.A. Darvish has posted a 5.34 ERA in six starts with the Dodgers and has given up 13 runs in his last 12 1/3 innings.

Newly acquired centerfielder Curtis Granderson has also been hearing more jeers than cheers since leaving Queens for Chavez Ravine. The 14-year vet is batting just .111 and has three times more strikeouts than hits in the 22 games he’s appeared in. That kind of performance isn’t going to make Dodgers fans forget about Duke Snider anytime soon.

The competition has been better

In their defense, the Dodgers have faced a particularly grueling schedule since August 25th. With the exception of a four-game stand against the hapless Padres, L.A. has had to face a trio of surging teams in the Brewers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. Milwaukee is six games above .500, Colorado is 7-3 in their last ten games, and Arizona was riding a 13-game win streak until four days ago. They may not be the 1927 Yankees or the Big Red Machine, but they’re formidable competition nonetheless.

Over/under regular-season victories for the Dodgers in 2017: 101

You can’t hide from the SI Cover Jinx

Luck plays a huge role in baseball. It’s often the difference between a ball or a walk, or a player hitting .300 or .274. It may have also played a role in the Dodger’s downfall when the team appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on August 24th along with the headline “Best. Team. Ever?” L.A. began its freefall immediately afterwards, leading manager Dave Roberts to joke that the magazine was to blame. SportsNet LA personalities Nomar Garciaparra and John Hartung even lit the cover on fire in an attempt to reverse the curse.

They have a bullseye on their back

One of the hardest parts of being a Major Leaguer is getting pumped up for all 162 games (especially now that teams are no longer allowed to keep bowls of amphetamines in the clubhouse). Most players need a little added incentive to deliver their best performance, and playing against a historically great team offers just that. Since August 25th opposing pitchers have been a little sharper and hitters have been a little more focused when digging in against the Dodgers. That extra bit of concentration can make a world of difference when you’re trying to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely.