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2009 NL Wild Card: the Los Angeles Dodgers?

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We have have heard for months that the NL West race was decided, that the Dodgers would be triumphant. Literally four months.

On June 29, Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA emphatically stated:


Eric's argument was the Dodgers' historical success of converting such leads to division titles. That's all well and good, but quite frankly, Maury Wills and Odalis Perez have far less to do with this race than Rafael Betancourt, Clayton Kershaw or Freddy Sanchez.

Barely a month into the season on May 6, Dave Cameron proclaimed on Fangraphs that the race was over. Obviously, shaping his main argument around injured Diamondbacks was incredibly faulty reasoning, in retrospect.

After the Dodgers dropped 5 of 7 last week at home (their first losing homestand), the Rockies and Giants have each pulled within 5.5 games in second place. There haven't been two teams that close to the Dodgers since May 13. The last time the Giants were 5.5 back was May 14 - for the Rockies, April 29.

LA has lost Clayton Kershaw's last four starts, Randy Wolf has just one win in his last five, Chad Billingsley is hobbled and Jason Schmidt just went to the disabled list. Suffice it to say, the personnel of the Dodgers' rotation remains in flux. The difficulty of Dodgers' starters to go deep into games has forced Joe Torre to overwork his bullpen. It has been mentioned multiple times, but it bears repeating.

The Dodgers' pen has thrown the 2nd-most innings in MLB. Notice who have thrown the 2nd and 3rd least, respectively. Can their bullpen keep up? Broxton and Belisario have both had stints on the DL already, and George Sherrill was initiated into the tired-arm club in his fourth appearance with a 31-pitch outing Friday, a season-high.

The gap is closing. Even SportsCenter and Buster Olney have acknowledged the shrinking lead in the last 24 hours. The only question is if there's enough time. San Francisco has 9 games left against Los Angeles, the Rockies 6. So technically, both teams control their own destiny in the division. With about 50 games to play, either team just has to make up one game out of each ten on Los Angeles the rest of the way. In the past ten games, the Rockies have made up 3 games and the Giants two.

The scary part for Los Angeles is that word either. Just as a comeback is more difficult with multiple teams in front of you, losing a division lead is more likely when more teams are on your tail. It only takes one of the two teams to get hot or sweep a head-to-head series to become a real threat.

Conveniently, the Giants host the Dodgers for three starting tonight, where San Francisco is a sizzling 33-18. A sweep brings them within 2.5. Meanwhile, the Rockies will toy with the remnants of the Pirates roster, including tonight, when we face erstwhile Pirate Tom Gorzelanny vs the Cubs.

Is it time to panic for Joe Torre? Sadly, no. As Eric Stephen so astutely notes, every World Series champion this decade has had 17-game stretches as bad and as frequently, if not more, than Los Angeles has this season. Baseball Prospectus gives LA an 89% chance of taking the division still, or 78% through PECOTA projections, 77% via ELO odds. They still have the best record in the NL, and only the Yankees have a better record overall.

It's not time to panic, but Los Angeles would be wise to clean off their rearview mirrors. The monstrous Giants and giant Rockies in the mirror are most definitely closer than they appear.

NL West Report

Los Angeles (67-45, 1st, L3)

Last Week: 2-5. 1-2 vs Brewers. 1-3 vs Braves.

Pace: 97-65.

Divisional Change: Lost 1.5 game lead on SF and COL.

This Week: 3 game road series @ Giants. 3 game road series @ Diamondbacks.

News: Chad Billingsley was forced to leave his last start with a hamstring strain. That was the same headline after his previous start as well.

Chad Billingsley

#58 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers





Jul 29, 1984

2009 - Chad Billingsley 11-6 3.73 1.28 143 66

LA won't put their ace on the DL, choosing instead to be cautious with Billingsley. On one hand, a ginger Billingsley is far better than their other options, but losing him longterm would be incredibly debilitating. They've had difficulty enough filling the 5th starter spot. Requiring 40% of their starts to be via stopgap starters would put their divisional champagne on ice.

Jon Heyman reported a blockbuster deal that failed. Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell for James Loney, Russell Martin, James McDonald, Blake Dewitt, and Ivan Dejesus. Not surprisingly, it was reported later that the rumor was completely false.

ESPN reports the Dodgers are interested in John Smoltz, who was DFA'd by the Red Sox.

By adding George Sherrill, the Dodgers took on about $1 million in payroll, roughly half what the cheapskate Rockies added in Betancourt and Beimel (~$1.9million).

Eric Stephen's Week in Review is called "Don't Stop the Bleedin'" (?). Let's hope his tribute to journey rings true while we adopt the song's true namesake as our rally cry.

Transactions: Optioned Scott Elbert and Cory Wade to AAA. Recalled Eric Stults. Acquired 25yo RHP Harvey Garcia from PIT for a PTBNL.

Injuries: Activated Ronald Belisario from 15-day DL and placed Jason Schmidt on the 15-day DL. Transferred Will Ohman from 15-day DL to 60-day DL.

Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chad Billingsley hamstring 08/08/2009


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Will Ohman shoulder 05/28/2009
Jason Schmidt shoulder 08/06/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Eric Milton lower-back 06/28/2009
Doug Mientkiewicz shoulder 04/17/2009
Xavier Paul ankle 05/21/2009

News on the other three divisional teams after the jump.

Arizona (50-62, 4th, L3, 17 GB)

Last Week: 4-3. 1-0 @ Mets, 3-0 @ Pirates, 0-3 @ Nationals.

Pace: 72-90.

Divisional Change: Gained 2 games.

This Week: 3 game home series vs Mets. 3 game home series vs Dodgers.

News: Brandon Webb underwent surgery last week, effectively ending his bid to return to the Diamondbacks this season. There is no timetable for his recovery, though the surgery on his labrum went well. This also means, as I've noted before, that Webb's last start in Diamondbacks duds would be Opening Day this year, unless Arizona picks up the expensive option on damaged goods.

Arizona signed the talented but wild Daniel Cabrera.

Daniel Cabrera

#45 / Pitcher / Arizona Diamondbacks





May 28, 1981

2009 - Daniel Cabrera 0-5 9 8 0 0 0 0 40.0 48 39 26 4 35 16 5.85 2.08

AZ Snakepit reacts to the signing.

I found this article interesting, in the vein of the Jason Jennings/iPod piece. Max Scherzer uses advanced stats to evaluate his performance. The article description calls the stats obscure, but Rowbots are well-versed in the "obscure." After a couple rough starts, the Scherz comforted himself by noting BABIP abnormalities, while his season goal is to be a 4.0+ WAR pitcher.

Yusmeiro Petit was the definition of a 5th starter last week: inconsistent. The Petit Unit extended his scoreless innings streak to 14 by taking a no-hitter into the eighth on Tuesday, then lasted just 4 innings in giving up 4 runs and 9 hits to Washington yesterday.

Conor Jackson is eyeing the start of a rehab stint. He has been out three months with to Valley Fever, but may be able to start a rehab assignment as soon as next week, putting him in line to be activated in September.

Josh Byrnes predicts a busy waiver-trading season, which could include D-Backs Jon Garland and Doug Davis.

Transactions: Called up OF Trent Oeltjen. Optioned C Luke Carlin to AAA.

Injuries: Placed Justin Upton on 15-day DL. Activated Chris Snyder from 15-day DL.

Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Eric Byrnes hand 06/26/2009
Justin Upton oblique 08/06/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Tom Gordon hamstring 05/04/2009
Conor Jackson pneumonia 05/12/2009
Brandon Webb shoulder 04/07/2009


San Diego (47-66, 5th, L1, 20.5 GB)

Last Week: 4-3. 1-2 vs Braves, 3-1 vs Mets.

Pace: 67-95.

Divisonal change: Gained 2.0 games.

This Week: 3 game road series @ Brewers, 3 game road series vs. Cardinals.

News: Buster Olney says that Adrian Gonzalez was more likely to be a Mariner if he was traded than play for any other team. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times discusses the failed trade at length.

Rox fans can relate to this: Padres' first-rounder Drew Tate has yet to sign. Tate is registered for classes at North Carolina and will reportedly play baseball and football at Chapel Hill if he doesn't sign. Football practices start this week for UNC.

David Eckstein didn't want to be traded to a contender. Not only is he a gritty gamer, but he's unselfish as well. He actually wants to help stick around San Diego and help influence Padres rebuilding plan.

The Friars hope to rebuild via arms a la Braves of the 90's. Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Mat Latos and Adys Portillo surely won't become Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery, but it's still the right plan.

Padres release Prior after not seeing enough progress with rehab.

Mark Prior

#22 / Pitcher / San Diego Padres





Sep 07, 1980

The headline to this article will insult your intelligence.

Chad Gaudin was traded to the Yankees.

Everth Cabrera hit a walkoff grand slam off K-Rod Saturday, his second career HR.

Transactions: Optioned RHP Josh Geer to AAA. Geer was leading the Milky Way in HR allowed. Recalled RHP Ryan Webb from AAA. DFA'd catcher Jose Lobaton. Optioned outfielder Drew Macias tto AAA.

Injuries: Activated catcher Henry Blanco from the 15-day disabled list. Activated second baseman David Eckstein from the 15-day disabled list. Transferred Brian Giles and Chris Young to the 60-day DL.

San Diego Padres Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Nick Hundley forearm 06/18/2009
Brian Giles knee 06/19/2009
Edgar Gonzalez concussion 07/19/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Mark Worrell elbow 03/27/2009
Cha Seung Baek forearm 03/30/2009
Shawn Hill elbow 04/26/2009
Chris Young shoulder 06/15/2009
Cliff Floyd shoulder 06/18/2009


San Francisco (61-50, t-2nd, L1, 5.5 GB)

Last Week: 3-3. 2-1 @ Astros, 1-2 vs Reds.

Pace: 89-73.

Divisional Change: Gained 1.5 games.

This Week: 3 game home series vs Dodgers, first 3 games of 4 game series @ Mets. On one hand, the Giants draw a struggling team in which no extra motivation is necessary at home and a struggling, bad team, on the road. On the other, they are facing the NL's best team by record and a team that ate the Rockies alive at home.

News: San Francisco added $2.1million in payroll to acquire Freddy Sanchez, $200,000 more than it took the Rockies to bring in Beimel and Betancourt.

Peterson: Giants' rivals also busy making trades - San Jose Mercury News

Tim Lincecum was co-NL Player of the Week for the last week of July. He shared it with Josh Willingham, who had two grand slams in a game. Willingham was heavily rumored to be a trade target for Brian Sabean, but the Giants didn't pull the trigger.

Matt Cain is struggling. To wit:

Month Starts W-L ER ERA HR
July 6 3-0 4 0.94 1
August 2 0-2 9 5.40 4

After allowing only four runs in six July starts, Cain has lost both his starts in August, allowing nine runs to the Reds and Astros. He had allowed 2 HR in a game just once this year, but did so in both of his last two starts, meaning he has allowed as many HR in August in two starts as he did runs in six July starts.
Matt Cain stats, news, and photos on

Matt Cain

#18 / Pitcher / San Francisco Giants





Oct 01, 1984

2009 - Matt Cain 12-4 23 23 4 0 0 0 155.0 125 44 42 16 56 124 2.44 1.17

Grant at McCovey Chronicles muses on the general surliness of Giants fans. He blames the lack of success on the field in recent years and reason to temper enthusiasm by the bay despite a competitive team.

Beyond the Box Score still doesn't buy the Giants' legitimacy.

Transactions: Optioned outfielder John Bowker to AAA.

Injuries: Activated infielder Rich Aurilia (toe) from the 15-day disabled list. Transferred pitcher Randy Johnson to the 60-day disabled list. Placed Henry Sosa on the 60-day DL. Activated Joe Martinez from the 60 day DL.

San Francisco Giants Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Nate Schierholtz hip 07/27/2009
Andres Torres hamstring 07/31/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Randy Johnson trapezius 07/06/2009
Noah Lowry ribs 03/27/2009
Kelvin Pichardo shoulder 06/28/2009
Henry Sosa shoulder 08/05/2009