Don’t Worry About the Dodger Pitching, Worry About the Bats

The Dodgers allowed a lot of runs and lost their fourth game in a row last night, and so the drumbeat of “didn’t do enough to improve the pitching staff” marches on. I won’t pretend to defend Jim Johnson, an acquisition I didn’t like in the first place, because he was again brutal. Then again, as Dustin noted, Alex Guerrero‘s indifferent defense didn’t help — remember this when you hear “but he’s never been charged with an error!” — and it really makes no difference whatsoever what Adam Liberatore did, because he’s not part of the playoff picture.

Still, 8-0 looked bad, and eight more runs on Monday was pretty bad too. And yet, if you want to find something to worry about, it’s not the pitching. Over the last 30 days, the Dodgers are tied with the Mets & Cubs for the most wins in baseball, with 18. Check out how the pitching has ranked in that time:

ERA: 1st, 3.04, well ahead of second-place Cleveland (3.30).
FIP: 4th, 3.50
GB%: 2nd, 50.2%
K%: t7th, 23.1%
BB%: t3rd, 6.8%
HR/9: 8th, 0.93
Exit velocity: 2nd, 87.81 mph

That’s all extremely impressive, and while that’s obviously a little top-heavy due to the incredible feats of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, it’s not just them. Alex Wood was solid last night and excellent the time before that, and his last month has had a 2.86 ERA/3.95 FIP. Kenley Jansen has been his usual unhittable self. Yimi Garcia hasn’t allowed a run in 8.2 innings. Chris Hatcher has been much better, even if he did allow a homer to one of the game’s elite hitters last night. J.P. Howell is still somehow getting it done with smoke and mirrors (1.29 ERA, 4.28 FIP). Though there’s some recent concerns — Brett Anderson, Juan Nicasio — for the most part, any pitching struggles have come from guys who don’t seem all that likely to appear in October, like Liberatore, Johnson, the departed Mat Latos, Mike Bolsinger, etc.

So don’t worry about the arms. If you do want to worry, look at the bats. When you get shut out by Robbie Ray and friends, it doesn’t matter whether you allow one run or eight or what Liberatore does in the ninth inning. And that’s been an ongoing problem, really. Look at the non-pitcher offense over the last 30 days…

wRC+: 20th, 104
OBP: 14th, .332
SLG: 24th, .401
Runs: t24th, 108
BABIP: 27th, .286
Exit velocity: 27th, 87.85 mph
SB: 1st! 25, which should show you the SB->Runs correlation is basically *fart noise*

…and that’s a lot less impressive, especially with how softly they’re hitting the ball. Some of the reasons are obvious, of course. Yasiel Puig has only 14 plate appearances in the last month due to injury (for what little it matters, he hit .308/.357/.615). Howie Kendrick has hit only 14 times. Yasmani Grandal, battling a shoulder injury, has been a disaster (.071/.231/.143). Jimmy Rollins gave back most of his dead cat bounce with a .189/.295/.283 before getting injured. Justin Turner (104 wRC+), Carl Crawford (104 wRC+), and Adrian Gonzalez (105 wRC+) have been basically league-average. Chase Utley (92 wRC+) has been less than that, and Joc Pederson (87 wRC+) less than that.

It hasn’t been all bad, not when Corey Seager has been a sensation, A.J. Ellis has continued his rebound, Andre Ethier has been his normal steady self, and Justin Ruggiano has been shockingly useful. But it’s hard to have a consistent offense when all the names above are struggling (either in an objective sense, or “for them”), and when injuries mean you’re seeing way too much Guerrero and Chris Heisey.

Can that be resolved for October? There’s still more than two weeks until the NLDS, and there’s time for guys to get healthy or turn it around, and that roster won’t include the Heiseys and Guerreros of the world. Even if they do, it might not look that way considering they are likely to be seeing Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and the fearsome Mets rotation in October.

But for whatever is ailing this team right now, it wouldn’t have been solved by adding David Price, Johnny Cueto, or Cole Hamels. In fact, it might have been exacerbated due to the high likelihood of such a deal costing Seager, who has been the team’s best hitter since his recall. I don’t remember anyone angsting for a bat in July. Right now, that’s what they need more than anything.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.