On Thursday, the Dodgers wrapped up their three game series with the Giants with a much-needed win after dropping the first two games of the series. This was one of the most disappointing series so far this season, mainly because well, it’s the Giants. Dodger fans alike take losing a series to the Giants harder than losing to any other team. The series was weird in a way because it was definitely a tale of two sides of the Dodgers that was not to be expected. In fact if I would have told you what would happen before the series began, I don’t think to many people would have thought I was being serious.
Everyone knew that game 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu would pitch well during his start. Now if someone would have said both Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm would only give up a run combined during their two starts, I would have laughed at them in humorous disbelief. To my amazement they did, though it wasn’t smooth waters by any means. Combined Ryu, Beckett, and Maholm stat line was 18 IP, 9 SO, 1 ER and a 0.50 ERA. The bullpen was a little shaky but decent. In their defense they pitched a lot this series going a combined for 12 2/3 IP, 5 SO, 4 ER, and a 2.84 ERA. With that kind of pitching you would expect to win the series right? Wrong.
What people would not have believed is that he Dodgers hitting would be just ridiculously bad. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it was. It definitely didn’t look like a championship lineup out there this week. As a team they hit for a .255 BA (25-98) but the real problem was they couldn’t hit when they had chances to score runs. There were a few time this week when the dodgers had the bases loaded and couldn’t push across a single run. In fact the Dodgers bats hit .192 (5-26) with runners in scoring position and left 24 runners on base. I don’t care how good you think you are, you will not win many series posting those kind of numbers. Not to mention Hanley Ramirez getting plunked on the hand by a pitch, adding injury to insult, and was out of the lineup for the last game.
Leaving runners on base and in scoring position is something the Dodgers struggled with last season too. According to www.teamrankings.com, the Dodgers had an average of 3.62 runners left in scoring position and of 7.17 runners left on base per game. This season hasn’t fared any better in the early going for the Dodgers. So far in 2014 the Dodgers have an average of 4.06 runners left in scoring position and of 7.00 runners left on base per game. This is a lineup built to score but at times they seem to struggle with stringing hits together. If the Dodgers have hopes of going to the World Series anytime soon, this is a trend that must stop.
Josh Beckett came into this season as an important piece in the Dodgers rotation. His role was made even more urgent with the injury to Zack Greinke. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out in Beckett’s favor as he’s started the season 0-4 with a 5.24 ERA in six starts. A lot of Dodger fans have tired of Beckett and question if he should even be in the rotation. I believe Beckett can still be a good pitcher, his game against Arizona showed that, and he can still show signs of the pitcher who anchored a World Series winning pitching staff.
So why so high an ERA? Why can’t he seem to win a game. Obviously Beckett has been victim off the long ball as he has already given up 8 homers in six starts and his 2.10 HR/9 is 1.07 points higher than league average and ranks 5th highest out of all pitchers in MLB. Could it be his stuff? Lets take a look shall we.
Using PitchF/X we can see that his pitches, for the most part, this season have created more swings and misses than last year. Cross referencing his stats on Fangraphs, his 8.13 K/9 and 11.0 % SwStr% are both above the league averages of 7.72 K/9 and 9.2% SwStr%. One thing that sticks out is the astronomically lower swinging strike rate on his curve ball. This is a little troubling for the fact that it is his primary out pitch, and it’s never a good sign when your best pitch is being put in play 35.20% of the time on two strike counts. Though he hasn’t given up any home runs with the curveball yet, it does play a factor in his over all performance but we’ll go over that a little later.
Next we’ll look at where his location has been when he’s given up the long balls.
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While it appears that he hasn’t necessarily thrown meatballs right down the middle, it is important to note that all of the home runs Beckett has given up have come from either the fastball or the cutter. When you’re only throwing 91-92 mph fastballs, you’re not necessarily blowing the ball by anyone and good hitters are able capitalize on the mid to high “heat.” When it comes to the cutter he throws the pitch to the same side of the plate for the most part, inside to lefties and away from righties, and he tends to throw the pitch up in the zone at an even slower 88-89 MPH. Giving up homeruns is never a good thing, but it hasn’t hurt him that much as 6 of the 8 homeruns have been with the bases empty but it still hurts when he’s given up two homeruns a game in four of the six games he’s pitched. This again is just part of the main problem for Beckett.
Taking a look at the stat lines above the main problem for Beckett, in my opinion, is his inability to have clean innings. It seem he gets in trouble from the very moment he takes his first steps on the mound. He’s given up one less run, twice the amount of homeruns, and seven more hits in his first 30 pitches of a game as he does in his last 29 pitches. The reason for this goes back to the curveball we took a look at earlier. With his curveball not being effective, batters are hitting .250/.267/.464 after he has them down 0-2 in the count. Once his curveball fails to get the out he returns with a fastball or cutter and batters, having already gotten a look at one if not both of these pitches, are more prone to make good contact with them. That is leading to a batters having a .244 bating average against him with no one on and, oh it gets worse, a .348/.436/.587 slash line with runners on.
If Beckett’s going to be successful again he’s got to get quick outs and be able to get through inning a little better. He’s got to be able to put those batters away that are down 0-2 in the count. Beckett himself knows this. After his last start he admitted, “I’ve got to make adjustments; that’s all there is to it. I’ve got to get back to work, figure something out. That’s what it’s all about.” Beckett added. “You (can’t) leave your guys standing around for 30 or 40 minutes in the first inning, I’ve just got to make better pitches.”
Well I hope you do Josh because we could really use the help with everything else that seems to be falling apart at the seams, but we’ll talk about those issues another day.
The Dodgers were looking to build on their three game winning streak as they entered the game against the Padres on Tuesday afternoon. Instead they were straight up blown out and embarrassed, as the Padres went on to march all over the Dodgers 9-3, in the first game of the series. The Dodgers should have easily won this game, as the Padres aren’t very good and they’re playing without their best player Chase Headley.
Josh Beckett was touched for three runs on six hits over five innings in his second start of the year. Beckett who hasn’t pitched that bad this season, except that he has been victim of the long ball. The two homers he gave up today brings up his total to four homeruns in two starts.
With the Dodgers down 2-0 in the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez got aboard on a leadoff single followed up by Juan Uribe’s two-run shot tying the game at 2.
The Padres Nick Hundley homered leading off the fifth giving San Diego a 3-2 lead.
The Dodgers tied it in the seventh when Carl Crawford hit a leadoff single against Andrew Cashner, advanced on two groundouts and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s single.
After that the Dodgers bullpen fell apart for the first time this season as Paco Rodriguez, Matt Guerrier and J.P. Howell combined to give up five runs in a devastating eighth inning collapse.