2009 NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers?!

The stage is officially set for the greatest comeback within a comeback in Major League History.  No other team had gone from 12 below .500 to 20 over .500 in the same season.  Then there's the possibility of this week.

On Saturday, just six days ago, the Rockies were 6.0 games behind with seven games to play.  The Dodgers' magic number was just one.   On Sunday, Los Angeles was just two outs away from clinching the division, only needing their All-Star closer to induce a ground ball from Andy LaRoche for a clinching double play.  As it happened, Broxton blew his sixth save of the season, and the Dodgers would go on to lose three more.  

What are the odds of the Dodgers blowing that kind of divisional lead when they were two outs away with a week left?  Xeifrank at TrueBlueLA ran some numbers, estimating that as Broxton came on in the ninth Sunday, the Dodgers had a 0.017% chance of blowing the division.  That has risen all the way to...7.065% this morning.  Okay, so 1 in 14 odds are pretty small, and we can't beat the Dodgers.  The Rockies would have to match their season win total against Los Angeles in one series.  They would have to hand Los Angeles their second sweep of the season - their first came this week in San Diego.  

There's just no way a team could blow a two game divisional lead with three home games left, could they?  Has that ever happened?

Actually, yes.  Meet your 1996 San Diego Padres.  Unlike Colorado, the Padres were within two games of Los Angeles much of the second half of the season.  But exactly like our Rockies, the Padres were faced with the prospect of sweeping Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium to make up a two game deficit in the final three games of the season.  And they did, with the help of two extra inning wins.  Dodger fans haven't forgotten.  

Regardless of the fact that Rocktober is bursting out of Colorado and the Dodgers are playing like the Nationals (they have lost 6 of their last 8 - to the Padres, Nats and Pirates), I stress these are still long odds.  We'll have to match our seasonal number of wins against the Dodgers in one road series against two lefty pitchers.  There's a reason you don't see a Dodger quote recycling the Rockies' rather-be-us-than-them stance on the Braves.  It's not true.

You either have a 7% chance of shocking the world and being in the history books for good, or a 93% of making the postseason, something few people projected to begin with.

Or you could have a 7% chance of being one of professional sports' all-time choke artists, or a 93% chance of putting away a division analysts gave them in ink nearly five months ago.

I'll take the free lottery ticket, thank you.

True Blue LA have been friendly to Rockies fans.  Feel free to engage is friendly banter.

Check under the fold for the full scouting report on the Dodgers and the series.

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Los Angeles Dodgers (93-66, L4, 1st, 2.0 Gm Lead) 

Friday-Sunday: 3-game series at Dodgers Stadium


The Bats: B

Consider them a sleeping giant.  Or maybe just a sleeping really tall person.  Ramirez and Ethier are really struggling right now, and if that persists through the weekend, the Dodgers have a lineup no more intimidating than the Brewers.  In fact, they managed just 2 runs in their last three games, punctuated by a one-hit shutout Wednesday in which no runner advanced past second base.  Still, they lead the NL in batting average and are fourth in wOBA, 3rd in runs and 4th in stolen bases.  So if they ever remember they're any good, they could be trouble.

LINEUP Avg HR RBI OBP SLG wOBA
Rafael Furcal - SS .267 9 47 .332 .375 .314
Orlando Hudson - 2B .285 9 62 .357 .419 .343
Andre Ethier - RF .271 31 105 .357 .508 .368
Manny Ramirez - LF .294 19 62 .423 .541 .402
Matt Kemp - CF .301 26 100 .356 .497 .372
Casey Blake - 3B .280 18 77 .365 .372 .355
James Loney - 1B .283 13 90 .360 .403 .334
Russell Martin - C .250 6 52 .349 .324 .305

The lineup order could change greatly.  With Ethier struggling (he was demoted to the 7-hole Wednesday) along with the returns of Blake and Belliard, it's difficult to say what Joe Torre will tinker with to ignite the offense.  The above is generally representative of recent trends.  Despite a very rough season, ManRam has walked enough to maintain a stellar wOBA.  Ethier and Kemp have fallen a bit off an All-Star pace, while Blake and Hudson are distinctly above average.  James Loney has improved to be about league average (not considering his position), while Furcal and Martin have improved to the point they are not anchors, but they remain below average.

Joe Torre can use Ronnie Belliard (.274, 10, 38), Mark Loretta (.228, 0, 24), Chin-lung Hu (0-for-2), Juan Castro (.284, 1, 9), Doug Mientkiewicz (.214, 0, 2), Jim Thome (.247, 17, 77, 3-for-15 w LAD), and Blake DeWitt (.191, 2, 4) as PH/backup dirt tenders.  The glut of infielders is offset by the lack of men that stand in grass.  Jason Repko (0-for-3) and Juan Pierre (.305, 0, 30) are the only candidates there.  Brad Ausmus (.195, 1, 9) and AJ Ellis (0-for-6) can have catching duty.

Follow the link below for pitching matchups, hot/cold players, injuries and the scouting report on the pitching and defense.

 

The Arms: A-

Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw are having absolutely exceptional seasons.  The fact that they are left-handed hurts the Rockies chances more.  Intererestingly though, compare FIP, tRA, xFIPs, or WAR.  Jimenez beats Wolf in all, while de la Rosa defeats Kershaw in xFIP.  Their third starting pitcher is a up in the air still, and hopefully will be Sunday as well.  The bullpen has been stout all season, posting the best ERA in MLB, 3rd best FIP.  But overwork has led to a bit of a downturn, so they are human, and we all know about the Rockies' late inning heroics.

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jonathan Broxton 7-2 71 0 0 0 36 6 74.0 44 24 22 4 28 111 2.68 .97

Other than closer Broxton, Joe Torre's beleaguered but intimidating pen includes southpaws George Sherrill (594 ERA+) (yes that's correct), Hong-Chih Kuo (134) and Scott Elbert (90) to go with righties Ronald Belisario (228), Charlie Haeger (126), James McDonald (103), Guillermo Mota (119), Vicente Padilla (122), Ramon Troncoso (156) and Jeff Weaver (114).

 

The D: C+

The Dodgers' -1.2 UZR/150 is pretty much dead average while committing the 7th least errors in the league.   Fangraphs rates them 13th in in the league, though some of that benefit came from over 50 games with Pierre in left over Manny.  Ethier and Ramirez form one of the worst, if not the worst, defensive corner outfield combos in the league, and Orlando Hudson has lost a bit at second.  Loney is decent at first, Kemp is superb in center, and the left side of the infield is very strong, plus there's that Gold Glove catcher in there.


Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 8:10 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez 14-12 32 32 1 0 0 0 212.0 181 86 83 13 81 188 3.52 1.24
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Randy Wolf 11-6 34 33 0 0 0 0 209.1 173 79 75 24 54 158 3.22 1.08

 

Dodgers fans feel confident they can finally clinch tonight with Randy Wolf on the mound.  After all, he won the last time they fit into the W column and LA has been the victors all but once in his last ten starts.  What they might forget, though, is that Ubaldo Jimenez is scary good as well.  He has been distinctly human at points in his last five starts, in fact losing two of tree.  The Dodgers have ravaged him this season, as he is just 0-3 with a 7.77 ERA against LA in four starts, though all but 2 of the 20 runs he surrendered were in April and May, when he struggled in general.  Wolf's season has been fueled by career-low BABIP against walk rate and his highest strand percentage in seven seasons.  That, and his 89mph somehow has the best Fangraphs value in MLB.  He has stymied the Rockies as well this season, going 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA. Favors: DODGERS slightly.


Saturday, October 3, 8:10 pm MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 16-9 32 31 0 0 0 0 182.0 172 95 90 20 83 189 4.45 1.40
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Clayton Kershaw 8-8 30 29 0 0 0 0 165.0 116 55 53 7 88 175 2.89 1.24

 

As Drew Goodman noted during his last start, Jorge de la Rosa is the first pitcher in over 100 years to start the season 0-6 and still reach 16 wins.  And with a win Saturday, he would tie Pedro Astacio, Jeff Francis and Kevin Ritz for the franchise record in wins.  Altogether now:  inconceivable!  He has been a little...rocky...in his last two starts, but the Rockies still won both.  In fact, they've won the last six times he's taken the ball.  In Clayton Kershaw's last 22 starts, he has allowed more than 3 ER just once.   It helps not to give up home runs - he has allowed them at an infrequent pace only matched by Chris Carpenter.  Pitch counts can be an issue though, so patience may be well suited here  Favors:  DODGERS slightly


Sunday, October 4, 2:10 MDT

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Marquis 15-12 37 32 2 1 0 0 212.0 210 100 93 15 78 112 3.95 1.36

DODGERS STARTER TBA

Marquis won over a few doubters with his last gutsy performance, overcoming some wildness and allowing just two of the ten baserunners he allowed to score.  He returns to the scene of, in my opinion, the three best starts in franchise history, a two-hit complete game road shutout in which he drove in two of the three runs in the game himself.  After Aaron Cook's last two sterling starts, Marquis will at least be pitching for his playoff rotation life, if not the Rockies' divisional hopes.  Hiroki Kuroda was scratched from his start due to neck pain, which he joked was due to looking backwards so often in his last start.  Vicente Padilla, who is currently in the bullpen, is one option for the start, but my guess would be that we would see Chad Billingsley, who would be pitching on five days' rest after his start Tuesday in San Diego if the Rockies win the first two games.  Knuckler Charlie Haeger is an option as well.   Favors:  ?


33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumThe typically cold Rafael Furcal and James Loney have lit fire this month, hitting .324 and .333 respectively.  Casey Blake posted a .378 September mark before being felled by a bad hammy, while Ronnie Belliard finished in a 5-way tie for the team lead with 4 September home runs.  He also hit. 347 for the month.

IceAndre Ethier is plodding through a career worst slump.  He is just 1-for-his-last-30.  Ouch.  Russell Martin, Jim Thome and Juan Pierre have actually posted a worse batting average than Ethier's .212 mark in September, while Manny Ramirez (.229), Orlando Hudson (.237) and Matt Kemp (.241) haven't been a whole lot better.  Jonathan Broxton hasn't pitched since Sunday, when he imploded in Pittsburgh.

Bandaid_mediumXavier Paul (ankle - 5/21) and Jason Schmidt (shoulder - 8/6) are on the 60-day DL, while LHP Will Ohman (shoulder - 5/28) is on the 15-day.  Ronnie Belliard (groin) and Casey Blake (hamstring) are both day-to-day but are expected to be available today.  Charlie Haeger (knee) could also return as a candidate for Sunday's start, probably assuming the Rockies lost one of the first two days.

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