On June 8, the San Francisco Giants held a staggering 9.5-game edge over the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had recently gone on record, calling his team “s—.” While Los Angeles floundered in the depths of mediocrity, the Giants just kept winning. At 37-24, the Dodgers remain distant from the Giants in the division standings. They remain seven games back of San Francisco in the loss column, despite the Giants dropping six of their last seven games.
The Dodgers have yet to get hot in the 2014 season and remain vastly inconsistent in several facets of the game. The Dodgers flaunt the fifth best team ERA in the National League (3.43), but rank 11th in the league defensively, which has mitigated mostly outstanding starting pitching efforts to some degree. Los Angeles’ ninth-ranked offense averages a solid 4.22 runs per game, but defensive mishaps combined with poor bullpen performance (3.82 ERA) have prevented the Dodgers from gaining substantial forward momentum.
The most puzzling attribute of the 2014 Dodgers is their inability to win at home. Los Angeles owns the worst home record (15-20) of all teams that currently have a winning record. Yet, the Dodgers aren’t necessarily out of contention in the NL West, despite continuously struggling on so many levels. Mattingly recently pointed to a “lack of cohesion” as being the primary reason for the Dodgers’ early season failures, but the boys in blue were in a similar position at this exact point last season.
On June 16, 2013, the Dodgers were 10 games under the .500 mark (29-39) and 7.5 games out of first place in the division. A decent number of diehard fan boys would point to that at Los Angeles’ glimmer of hope in 2014. The problem with that logic is that San Francisco is a much more well-rounded team than they were a year ago. The Giants rank as one of the best all-around teams in baseball, ranking seventh in runs scored and fourth in team ERA. They’ve also been much better defensively than Los Angeles has been.
While it’s certainly not impossible for the Dodgers to catch the Giants in the West, it’s going to be much more difficult for Los Angeles to win the division in 2014 than it was last season. The Dodgers aren’t going to reel off 42 wins in 50 games. They don’t have the luxury of infusing a Yasiel Puig-like energy in the club like they did last year, although top prospect Joc Pederson could very well be on his way to the show.
It’s possible that Los Angeles will perform at a higher level now that their status as favorites has essentially dissolved, but they’ll have to beat the Giants head-to-head if they expect to earn a second straight division title. That doesn’t bode well for the Dodgers. They’ve lost seven of 10 games against San Francisco this year, including five of seven at home. The Dodgers need to continue to chip away at their current deficit in order to win the West. They’ve picked up three games in eight days. So far, so good.