The Los Angeles Dodgers recently got their big sluggers back in the lineup after a rash of injuries sidelined Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis for significant amounts of time. Prior to their injuries, the Dodgers stormed out of the gates and had the best record in the majors over the first two months of the season.
Eventually the injuries caught up with them as they relinquished their hold on first place when they were swept by the Giants in late June. That injury riddled Dodgers offense was so anemic that it didn’t score a run in the entire series.
Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park and it’s a completely different story. With Kemp, Ethier and Ellis back in the lineup, the Dodgers not only look like the team that started the year on fire, but with the addition of Hanley Ramirez, they look like a team that is ready to take off down the stretch.
Just to be clear, I understand the Giants are currently in first place. I also understand that the Giants still possess the best starting pitching in the division, but both seem like they are about to change.
Ted Lilly, who’s been on the disabled list since late May with inflammation in his left shoulder, is set for a rehab start in Rancho Cucamonga tomorrow and could be back with the Dodgers soon.
Additionally, the Dodgers are the odds on favorite in the Ryan Dempster sweepstakes, which will likely get done before the trading deadline.
As it stands right now, the Dodgers pitching staff has a better ERA than the Giants, and is right behind them in WHIP and opponent’s batting average.
If the Dodgers get Lilly back and are able to acquire Dempster, their starting rotation will not only be one of the strongest and deepest in the league, they could quickly surpass the Giants pitching as the best staff in the West.
When you compare their offensive numbers it’s likely to be even more of a dramatic turn in the upcoming months. In large part due to their injuries, the Dodgers currently trail the Giants in almost every major offensive category.
The Giants have a higher team batting average, more home runs and RBI, more hits and runs scored, which explains their higher slugging percentage and OPS.
With a healthy Ellis, Kemp, Ethier and now Ramirez, if the Giants don’t make a move to add a big bat in the next few days, that is bound to change, probably within a matter of weeks.
Sabean did answer the Dodgers move earlier in the week with a move of his own on Friday. He traded for Marco Scutaro, the Rockies second baseman who’s currently batting .271 with four home runs and 30 RBI.
Not exactly the big splash the Giants faithful were looking for and definitely not the type of firepower that can combat a bat like Ramirez.
Scutaro was brought in for a variety of reasons, mainly to add depth to the bench, spell guys in the field and because they could afford him.
While the Dodgers new ownership has green lighted General Manager Ned Colletti to go out and spend big money on available players, Giants ownership has not shown a propensity for the same type of spending.
Compounding the problem is the Giants are also experiencing some key injuries in their lineup. With Pablo Sandoval joining Hector Sanchez on the disabled list Saturday morning, the Giants are missing two guys who can drive the ball and get on base.
Sabean probably has another move or two up his sleeve, but it’s not likely to be a big name like a Dempster or Hunter Pence.
Instead, the Giants front office seem content to follow the 2010 blueprint, one in which they battled for the division all the way down until the last day.
At the time, Sabean was not heralded for his moves that year either, as he picked up Mike Fontenot, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez.
The Giants relied on their pitching, timely hitting, their play at home and battled to the bitter end.
The difference this year is the opposition. In 2010, the first place Padres faded away in the end, and really played above their ability all season.
The Dodgers are not only more talented than the 2010 Padres, they seem like they are just starting to gain confidence in one another as they realize their potential.
The Giants starting pitching and the way they dominate at home will at least keep them in the playoff mix all season. Sabean adding another bat and potentially another arm in the bullpen will help them beat the bad teams they should handle.
Bruce Bochy said Saturday that he thought the division would be decided in late September, but if the Dodgers continue to gel, make another blockbuster deal, and take off down the stretch, the Giants will be focused on winning the Wild Card by September 1.