The Dodgers and Angels weren’t supposed to be fielding questions over potential of missing the playoffs at this point in the season, but late-summer swoons have intensified a crisis in confidence for Los Angeles’s major-league clubs, setting up a roller-coaster ride entering September stretch run.
The Dodgers were picked to win a third straight NL West title rather easily, but the San Francisco Giants’ dynasty has continued to play the annoying fly during what was supposed to be an off year. Now that the Chicago Cubs have raced away with the fifth wild-card spot during an 18-6 August, that use-only-in-case-of-emergency playoff slot seems less available to LA’s National League club.
None of that is good for an in-between team like the Dodgers. With celebrity owners who ponied up over $2bn for the franchise, and spent possibly over $300m on the 2015 payroll, they are clearly in a win-now situation. However, they’re also very much about the future, with a farm system that’s among the most stacked in baseball. Interestingly, this all comes together just as the front office transitions from the more old-school organizational approach of Ned Colletti to the more modern and progressive tack of president Andrew Freidman and general manager Farhan Zaidi, a Billy Beane disciple.
The result is something of a jumble, one that certainly has talent but that’s also overpriced, imbalanced and incomplete: it’s a roster situation will likely rectify itself as Freidman and Zaidi get more time to shape the promising foundation they inherited. For now however, there is considerable pressure on Don Mattingly to get this mix to the World Series, something he’s failed to do the previous two seasons.
A recent five-game slide was topped and tailed with walk-off losses and bridged by a no-hitter. Clayton Kershaw has already publicly fired the panic button and Mattingly was smart enough to quickly back his plea for playing with urgency. Starting pitching remains a problem behind Kershaw and Greinke (…then reach for your hanky?), one that really hasn’t been completely solved since LA lost third starter Hyun-Jin Ryu to shoulder surgery and Brandon McCarthy to a torn UCL at the start of the season.
Brett Anderson has pitched well, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better as a fourth starter. Mat Latos and Alex Wood were acquired at the deadline to try and solidify the stating staff: Wood has been uneven, while an ineffective Latos has been sent to the bullpen.
The starters have some live arms in Hector Santiago and Garrett Richards, but losing CJ Wilson to bone spurs, an ailment which foolishly caused some Angels teammates to question his toughness, was a blow. There is nothing special at all about the bulk of the Angels rotation, especially with Jered Weaver, now back, struggling with his velocity. The bullpen is decent, with Joe Smith and Huston Street closing out games, but is it enough to carry an unexpectedly sagging offense?
If Trout manages to get healthy, they will have just as good a chance as other incomplete teams in the running for the fifth spot, that being the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays. The schedule is tough: seven with the Rangers, including the final series of the year in Texas, six with Houston, four with the Twins, and three games next week against the Dodgers. If Trout can’t recover from his slump, a season already looking lost for LA seems destined to slip further into the abyss.