I picked the Dodgers for last place this year. I'd like to think that I'm pretty honest with my picks, and that I don't let my personal bias get in the way of my evaluation. That doesn't mean that I didn't chortle a bit whenever I'd declare the Dodgers to be worse than the Padres, or that I didn't take a special sort of pride in saying something like, "As a Giants fan, I know bad offense. And, brother, check out what the Dodgers are running out there…"
The reason I figured they'd be so bad: The whole team is filled with a bunch of loneys. First base, second base, shortstop, third, left field … buncha loneys. That word isn't in the dictionary yet, but give it time. The Dodgers signed a buncha loneys, they traded for a buncha loneys, and they kept a buncha loneys around for some godforsaken reason.
I say that with all due self-awareness. The Giants have been trotting out a buncha loneys for years. Sometimes the two teams even share the loneys back and forth like germs on a plastic straw. But there was something about the loneys the Dodgers were collecting that made me especially pessimistic about their chances1. James Loney, for one. But there were more -- Juan Uribe, Dee Gordon, Mark Ellis, Tony Gwynn, Juan Rivera … all those guys. Buncha loneys.
When you say that, by the way, you're supposed to affect the mannerisms of a stereotypical mid-level mob guy.
And here's what scares me about the Dodgers so far: All those loneys, for the most part, have been loneying up the joint. Uribe is still a dud, Gordon is a faster Brandon Crawford, Rivera has been what everyone in the world who wasn't Ned Colletti expected. Mark Ellis has dusted off his dormant OBP skills, but he's still barely outslugging Emmanuel Burriss. And James Loney, as you'd expect from the man who's responsible for the term, is the loneyest.
Yet they're winning. Clayton Kershaw is terrifying, but we knew that. I didn't see the rest of the pitching staff coming. Chad Billingsley is having a nice bounce-back season2, and Chris Capuano has been fantastic for them. Ted Lilly would have been a better guy to sign for seven years, $126 million, but he's been even better than fluky-good Zito this year.
At the center of it all, of course, is Matt Kemp going bananas. This was annoying last year, when he went bananas the first time. Now he's going extra-special bananas. He's having a Bonds-like start to the year. Well, minus about 100 points of OBP, which gives me a good reason to link to what Bonds did from 2001 through 2004 over 2443 plate appearances.
I'd guess that Kemp can't keep this up, but I don't want to jinx anything. Let's just say that no one expected him to slug .800 this year, even if he is one of the best players in baseball. And so far, he's been making up for all the loneys running into each other in the Dodger dugout.
More signs that the Dodgers are going to get dragged down by all them loneys: They're already three games what you'd expect their record to be when considering the their runs scored vs. runs allowed, and they're 9-5 in one-run games. We're still just a month into the season, so it's not like those are irrefutable signs that the Dodgers aren't as good as their early-season record. Just things to keep in mind. So does this all mean that the Dodgers are a fluke team that's likely to be pulled back to Earth by the gravity of their own loneys?
Nah. I post that picture for a couple of reasons. First is because I look for every excuse to post it. Second is as a reminder that fluky teams can just keep on winnin' after racking up an early-season lead, regardless if they're outscored for the season or if their roster is saturated with loneys of all shapes and sizes. We did it to the Dodgers. The Dodgers could do it to the rest of the NL West.
Plus, I don't trust the Dodgers to lose to the Giants, even when they're on a 100-loss pace. That's not how this rivalry works. These two teams enjoy messing with each other.
I didn't buy the Dodgers before the season. I don't buy them now. But I sure as hell don't think that will make me complacent. Man, these games stress me the hell out.
Hitter to watch
James Loney, of course. Now that I've spent an entire post making fun of him, he's going to go 11-for-10 i the series. I know that. But you have to think long-term in situations like these. The lexicon had a gap. Now it's filled. That's worth something.
Pitcher to watch
Jamey Wright is still alive. He is still active. He is pitching meaningful innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is amazing. His last four appearances:
- tenth inning of a tie game
- ninth inning, Dodgers up 5-0
- ninth inning of a tie game
- tenth inning of a tie game
Jamey Wright: Don Mattingly's go-to guy in tie games in the ninth or later. Also of note: Of all the pitchers in baseball history with more than 900 walks, Wright has the third-fewest innings.
What I'm trying to say is that if the Giants somehow find themselves in a tie game in the ninth inning against Jamey Wright, they should just swing the first pitch. That'll probably be the best one they see. And if they miss, they can always swing at the second pitch!
Clayton Kershaw …
… wait for it …
… stymies the Giants' offense. No, no. I've thought long and hard about this, and at first I didn't want to say anything because people would accuse me of being a pessimist. But I think there's a good chance that Kershaw shuts the Giants down, guys.
2 not nice