We might need Mythbusters to prove once and for all whether or not the Dodgers are actually alive in the playoff race.
The Dodgers ended last month by sweeping the Giants in San Francisco, and stood only three games out of first place in the division. This month, again they finished at AT&T Park, but instead a four-game losing streak has brought home a sobering reality that the Dodgers just might not be good enough this year to make the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Then again, they might just follow the Giants example. San Francisco began July two and a half games behind the Dodgers after the sweep, but now lead the WIld Card, a healthy five and a half games ahead of the Dodgers. The Dodgers made a series of trades at the deadline, and while they will likely make the 2010 team better, those additions alone will not be enough to push the Dodgers over the top.
Rather, the Dodgers need their core to get off their asses and start playing like the players they have shown they can be. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have been no-shows for two straight months, and it's time for the media guide cover boys to improve. They are not alone, however. Jonathan Broxton had a terrible month, Manny Ramirez was hurt all month, and Casey Blake hit so poorly that it seemed like he was gone all month, too.
However, hope is not lost. Yes, they stand five and a half games out of a playoff spot with 58 games to play, with three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. But they do have five good starters now, with Ted Lilly primed to fill the gaping hole at the back end of the rotation. Dodger fifth starters made five starts in July, and they gave up 45 baserunners and 19 runs in 20 innings. The Dodgers have put all their eggs in the "rotation with no holes" basket, and with a back four in the bullpen all with double-digit strikeout rates, they can be a good team going forward, especially with any kind of offense. It's just a question of whether or not it's too little, too late.
Dodger Batter of July: The Dodger offense in July consisted of Rafael Furcal and a whole bunch of nothing. Furcal hit .293/.386/.525 for the month and scored 18 runs. Furcal in July led the Dodgers in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. He was one RBI behind Matt Kemp for the club lead, and for good measure stole six bases in seven attempts. Yeah, this one was a no brainer.
Dodger Pitcher of July: This is a close call, but I'm giving this award to Chad Billingsley, if only by virtue of him making six starts instead of five. Billingsley closed out his month with 21 2/3 scoreless innings, and hasn't allowed a home run since May. Vicente Padilla led the club in ERA for the month, and Clayton Kershaw led the club in FIP, and both were close to winning themselves.
July Record: 11-15
92 runs scored (3.54 per game)
102 runs allowed (3.92 per game)
.453 pythagorean winning percentage (12-14)
|July NL West Standings|
Season Record: 54-50
459 runs scored (4.41 per game)
452 runs allowed (4.35 per game)
.507 pythagorean winning percentage (53-51)
|Season NL West Standings|
Game of the Month: On July 8 against the Cubs, Kershaw put it all together. He allowed a couple of runs early, but was amazingly efficient with his pitches, and through eight innings he had 12 strikeouts and no walks with only 97 pitches thrown. The Dodgers trailed 2-1 in the seventh inning when Furcal lined a home run down the right field line to give the Dodgers the lead. Although Kershaw wasn't allowed to attempt his first career complete game, Broxton retired the Cubs in the ninth inning for the save, giving the Dodgers an exciting 3-2 win.
Pinch Hitting: For the month, Dodger pinch hitters had seven hits in 31 at-bats, with two doubles and three walks, hitting .226/.294/.290.
Runners in Scoring Position: In July, the Dodgers hit .223/.328/.368 with runners in scoring position in 236 plate appearances, which is by far their fewest PA with runners in scoring position in any month.
They had a runner on third base with less than two outs 42 times, and got the runner home 19 times, or 45.2% (the entire NL scored 396 of 861, 46.0%). To put that in perspective, in the first three months of the season, the Dodgers had 200 runners on third base with less than two outs in 78 games, an average of 2.56 per game. In July, they only averaged 1.62 such opportunities per game.
They had a runner on second base with nobody out 47 times, and the runner advanced 16 times, or 34.0% (the entire NL advanced the runner 366 of 886 times, 41.3%). To put that in perspective, in the first three months of the season, the Dodgers had 234 runners on second base with no outs in 78 games, an average of 3.00 per game. In July, they only averaged 1.81 such opportunities per game.
Upcoming Month: The Dodgers play half of their 28 games at home in August, and they play 11 games against the NL West, including two series against Colorado. Their toughest stretch is a seven-game road trip to Philadelphia and Atlanta from August 10-16.