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Dodgers comeback struggles real, but overblown

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Not coming back late is a problem, but not as big as not having the lead in the first place.
Not coming back late is a problem, but not as big as not having the lead in the first place.
Harry How

LOS ANGELES -- It seems you can't listen to or watch a Dodgers game these days without hearing about their lack of comeback wins this season. But that criticism is a bit overblown, and at the very least ignores the larger picture, which is far more concerning.

There is no getting around it. The Dodgers have not won a game when trailing after seven innings this season. They are 0-46 in those games, the only team in baseball with no such wins.

Twice the Dodgers forced extra innings when trailing after seven innings. On April 9 against the Tigers, the Dodgers trailed by three after seven and after eight, but scored three runs against Joe Nathan in the ninth, only to lose by a run in the 10th inning. On May 11 against the Giants the Dodgers trailed by a run after seven, a deficit that grew to two runs after eight innings. A two-run home run by Hanley Ramirez against Sergio Romo tied it in the ninth, but San Francisco scored three runs in the 10th inning for the win.

I went through the game logs for all 46 games, and the numbers are not pretty.

The Dodgers are hitting .205/.280/.298 in the eighth inning and later in games they trail after seven.

In 31 of the 46 games the Dodgers trailed by three or fewer runs after seven, a save situation, and the team is hitting just .193/.276/.278.

Part of this is understandable on some level, if only because trailing late the club is facing closers and top setup men, so it's natural the numbers are worse. I have no idea how other teams fare specifically in these situations partially because I have no desire to replicate the search through game logs for 14 (or 29) other teams.

I do know the Dodgers in "late & close" situations (defined as "plate appearances in the seventh or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck") this season the Dodgers are hitting .231/.306/.372, middle of the pack in the National League, with the league hitting .238/.312/.361 in those situations.

The National League as a whole in late and close situations has a walk rate of 8.8 percent and a strikeout rate of 23.7 percent, compared to 7.6 percent and 20.9 percent overall.

The Dodgers in late and close situations have an 8.7-percent walk rate and 22.7-percent strikeout rate, compared to 8.5 percent and 20.0 percent overall. When trailing after seven, the rates are 8.8 and 23.9 percent, so nothing super out of the ordinary.

The Dodgers' batting average on balls in play when trailing after seven innings is .263. When trailing after seven by three or fewer runs, the BABIP is .238. Again, I don't have the numbers for these specific situations league wide, but just looking at late and close, the NL has a .301 BABIP in those situations.

I also searched the game logs on FanGraphs to see the Dodgers' win probability to start the eighth inning of each of these 46 games. It ranges from 0.0 percent (down 11 to the Marlins on May 14) to 26.8 percent (down one run on June 5 at Coors Field).

Looking at the opponents' win probability in those games, the chances of the Dodgers losing all 46 games are 0.73 percent, or once every 138 times.

For the most part, trailing after seven innings is a terrible situation anyway. NL teams are 71-764 in those situations, an .085 winning percentage. That the Dodgers haven't yet won a single game in that situation seems more a fluke than some sort of character flaw.

Then again, people complain all the time about the Dodgers with runners in scoring position even though they are hitting .270/.354/.401 with RISP, first in the NL in OBP, second in batting average, third in both slugging percentage and OPS.

The flip side to the Dodgers' zero wins when trailing after seven is that they have only trailed after seven innings 46 times. The Cardinals, with 45 games, are the only team with fewer such games (St. Louis has won twice).

If we expand this a bit further, the Dodgers are 7-6 in games that were tied after seven innings. In games they were not leading after seven innings, the Dodgers have the fewest games (59) in the NL and the third-fewest losses (52).

In other words, no NL team has more games or wins when leading after seven than the Dodgers, who are 63-5 in those situations.

Trailing after seven innings is generally a losing situation, with the Dodgers trying to make the term "no-win situation" quite literal. But just getting to the catbird seat of leading after seven innings is the real problem for the Dodgers right now, especially with Zack Greinke ailing and Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, Ramirez and Juan Uribe on the disabled list.

The Dodgers have trailed early 6-0, 3-0 and 3-0 in their last three games. They won once.

Leading after seven is a great place to be. That the Dodgers haven't won a game on the flip side of that is like not knowing how to swim. It's a problem, but not being able to get in that situation that is far more worrisome.