The dust has settled from the blockbuster trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, and the Dodgers still trail the San Francisco Midgets in the National League West.
What’s up with that?
This trade bringing the power bat of Adrian Gonzalez and the pitching arm of Josh Beckett was supposed to be the Dodgers’ ticket to the NL West title and postseason glory, right? Should we be concerned that the Dodgers haven’t made up any ground on the Giants since that trade went down?
I say “no.”
This is a race that’s going to go right down to the wire, possibly until the final weekend of the season. The Dodgers and the Giants are clones. They mirror each other in many ways. San Francisco and Los Angeles are two solid baseball teams that aren’t going to hit any big funk and fade from contention.
How are the Dodgers and Giants similar? Let me count the ways!
You need solid pitching to win a championship and both the Dodgers and Giants have this. The Dodgers are ranked third in the National League in team pitching, while the Giants sit right behind in the cat-bird seat at fifth. The Dodgers have a 3.50 team ERA and the Giants come in at 3.68.
If you scan through the team pitching stats this season, the Giants and Dodgers look like fraternal twins. They are eerily close in virtually every category. In fact, the team WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) for the clubs is an identical 1.26!
The Giants were probably a little better in the starting rotation, but that was before Beckett joined the Dodgers. Although he may not be the feared No. 1 starter as in years past, Beckett can still bring it at 95 on the radar gun and he is battle tested in the playoffs and World Series with the Miami Marlins and the Red Sox.
Conversely, the Giants probably have a little better bullpen than the Dodgers. San Francisco has 43 saves, compared to 34 for the Dodgers. The Dodgers did improve their pen in recent weeks, though Brandon League has struggled mightily since coming over from the Seattle Mariners.
Besides team batting average, the Dodgers and Giants seem almost separated at birth at the plate. San Francisco is third in the National League with a .272 team average, while the Dodgers are 10th at .253.
However, the two teams are too close for comfort in almost every other team hitting category. The Giants have a .323 on-base percentage to .319 for the Dodgers. San Francisco is last in the league with 80 homers, while the Dodgers are barely ahead with 88.
I think one misleading aspect of these hitting stats, however, is the fact that three key hitters that the Dodgers now have at their disposal weren’t in Los Angeles for most of the season – Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino.
Without the additions of Gonzalez, Ramirez and Victorino, the Dodgers were dead in the playoff water. This was not a team built for the postseason before July. Now Los Angeles has a legitimate leadoff hitter with power in Victorino.
Now the Dodgers have plate protection for Kemp and Ethier in the forms of Gonzalez and Ramirez. Pitchers could avoid Kemp or Ethier before, but now that’s not a smart option.
What’s the point of all these stats showing the similarities between the Dodgers and Giants? Get a big tub of popcorn, a bottomless beverage of choice and get ready for a battle in the NL West!
Whether we like it or not, the Giants aren’t cowering in fear because of the Dodgers’ recent trades. Conversely, the Dodgers aren’t throwing up their hands because their Boston infusion hasn’t propelled them to first place in the NL West.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see both the Dodgers and the Giants in the postseason. How cool would it be to watch these two teams battle it out for the right to represent the National League in the World Series?