Second installment a look at the teams threatening the Reds for a playoff spot, divisionally or wild cardally. This took me all afternoon on-and-off to do because I was so distracted by the Yankees' fiesta, so I apologize if there are mistakes. I'd really like to hear people's thoughts on the Dodgers, as they've given some very good ones already on other threads. Once again, I don't know their bullpen too well, and looking at another thread just now I noticed that a lot of people consider it an asset when on paper it didn't look that way to me. So jump in.
Today we are looking at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Current Record: 64-57 (.529)
Standing: 1st in NL West, 3 games ahead of Arizona Diamondbacks
Remaining Schedule: The Dodgers have remaining 6 games against the San Francisco Giants (58-63; 5-8 against the Dodgers this season); 7 games against the San Diego Padres (60-61; 8-3 against the Dodgers); 6 games against the Arizona Diamondbacks (61-60; 6-6 against the Dodgers); 3 games against the Cincinnati Reds (61-59; 0-3 against the Dodgers); 6 games against the Colorado Rockies (59-62; 3-7 against the Dodgers); 3 games against those irritating Milwaukee Brewers (57-64; 0-3 against the Dodgers); 4 games against the New York Mets (72-48; 2-1 against the Dodgers); 3 games against the Chicago Cubs (52-68; 1-2 against the Dodgers); and three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates (46-75; 2-5 against the Dodgers). (Note: Why do the Dodgers have three series against Pittsburgh?)
Scary: This has been a streaky team all year; since the All-Star break they’ve had two distinct stretches, first a long losing one and then a long winning one. In that sense, I think they’re an unpredictable and possibly dangerous team. Their offense scares me. Kenny Lofton and Rafael Furcal have been Hattebergian in getting on base lately. Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Wilson Betemit – as long as they can stay healthy, these are guys who can play smart, scrappy baseball when they need to, and I’m not being facetious. It’s not a shabby lineup defensively either. Maddux was one of the more underrated deadline pickups in my opinion, and so far with the Dodgers he’s proven me right. He’s had some very poor starts this year, but I’ve seen him pitch some brilliant ones as well, and I can totally see him stepping up to the challenge of a playoff race near the end of his career. (Many would probably disagree with this, but of the greats still pitching, I’d send Maddux out there in a big game before Johnson or even Clemens.) Brad Penny has been strong all season, and Derek Lowe, for all of his troubles and his 10-8 record, still has a fairly respectable 3.97 ERA.
Not so scary: As was the case with the Padres, I’m not terribly familiar with the Dodgers’ bullpen, but the names -- Sele, Tomko, Bemiel, Saito – they’re sometimes good, but not really at all scary. I would not trust this bullpen to do very well for very long, so I’d think they’re in trouble if their starters get in trouble. Starter Mark Hendrickson has not been good for the team and currently has a massively unscary 1:1 K:BB ratio, which is the kind of rare thing that makes me feel a little better about my own team. And yet Billingsley actually more walks than Hendrickson – Billingsley has been quite good at times, but he’s a rookie and I don’t trust him leading up to a playoff run, and it doesn’t look like the Dodgers do either. Julio Lugo is a silly player.
Overall fear factor: I have to say that I think the Dodgers are pretty scary, albeit momentarily scary, not long-term mutiple-seasons scary. They’re streaky and that says to me that confidence and overall team cohesiveness are lacking somewhat. But if they can capitalize on their hot streaks and on other teams’ mistakes, then their scariness will multiply itself. I like their starting pitching and I think they’ve made some surprisingly smart moves under their new management. Honestly, I think the best thing that could happen to the Dodgers as far as the Reds are concerned would be for the Dodgers to continue playing well long enough to clinch the NL West (dropping just three games next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), and then start to fall apart a week or two before the end of the season. Given the way they’ve played all season, this is not unthinkable. Much of the Reds’ fate lies in this division, I think, and in particular on the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks (scary factor yet unknown to me; we’ll look at them soon). For all of the talk of how big the Reds’ last seven games with the Cardinals were, their upcoming West Coast trip is far more crucial to me because of this.