Tag Archives: Winning Streak

Fear The Blue

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan describes his show as being ” a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” For those of you who haven’t seen Breaking Bad (what is wrong with you? Watch it now!) it is the story of a meek and mild mannered chemistry teacher named Walter White who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, decides to use his science knowledge to cook meth.

Somewhere between the beginning and the end, Walter White becomes bad. Like really, really, bad. All at once you realize this sad sack of a man, this humble school teacher is the main villain of the show and you’re not quite sure when that happened.

Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers. They started the season in average fashion. Literally. They were a .500 ball club during the month of April winning 13 games and losing 13 games. They were worse the next month posting 10-17 record, which is on par with the Houston Astros. The awful, awful Astros. They were also average in the month of June. A smidgen better but still basically average.

But July? July was the month they put it all together. The Los Angeles Dodgers achieved a National League best 19-7 record. It looked like Mr. Chips was becoming Scarface right before our eyes.  There was no stopping them now. The Dodgers were (and still are) on a roll. They have won, wait for it…41 of their last 50 games. That is so ridiculous and incredible I’m nearly prompted to invent a word but I have too much respect for both myself and the english language.

This start, as it always does and should in baseball, with pitching.

Pitching 

I hope that it’s no secret at this point that Dodger’s ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not even close to debatable. Kershaw’s ERA (earned run average) is an astoundingly low 1.80, which is the lowest in the MLB. This year he’s making a strong case for a second Cy Young award to add to his trophy case. His low ERA combined with his league best WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) 0.85, is solid proof that if you are a batter facing Clayton Kershaw, the odds are very greatly against you hitting the ball, much less getting on base. Clayton’s 4-seam fastball is the nail in the coffin for most batters.

Zack Greinke is my favorite pitcher, and not just because he’s a top 15 pitcher. He’s my favorite because he’s tough. Zack Greinke will never back down from a fight.  Which he clearly demonstrated when a pitch got a way from him and hit Carlos Quentin of the Padres earlier this season. An enraged Quentin, charged the mound, and in the ensuing tangle caused Greinke’s collar bone to fracture. Zack Greinke did not back down. Which wasn’t great for the team at the time since they missed they way he retired batters and dominated games with his  fastball. However, the Dodgers have back their 2.81 ERA man , and he’s got 12 wins for the team.

How do you spell underrated? You spell it Hyun-Jin Ryu. How do you pronounce it? Don’t ask me that. What I do know is that the young pitcher from Korea, Hyun-Jin has a 95 mph fastball that has location to back up it’s speed. That 2.85 ERA is no joke either.  The man can pitch and when he does, the Dodgers roll.

Batting

There’s nothing scarier than a well rounded team thus, the scariest thing about the Dodgers is that they can pitch and hit. The Dodger’s team batting average is .268 and their on base percentage is .331, making them top 5 in both statistical categories. They are also 15th in the MLB in RBIs (runs batted in) with 496 so far this season. This makes them a nightmare to pitch against despite the fact that they don’t hit a lot of home runs,  because they are always generating points.

If the Dodgers could be reduced down to one man on the team, that man would be Andre Ethier. He’s the prototypical 2013 Dodger. He’s got 45 RBIs this season, gets on base pretty frequently with an OBS of .361 (which is a Dodger season high) and he’s batting .288, so by all accounts a good season. Ethier is extremely consistent. He’s as rock solid as they come and in fact, has been his entire career.

Adrian Gonzalez celebrates the winning run. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Adrian Gonzalez in his first season as a Dodger has been the team’s most reliable offensive threat. He’s batting .299, making him one of the best hitters in the league right now. His patience at the plate is on of the key reasons for this. Gonzalez, to be blunt, just knows when to swing. He’s used his knack for making contact with the ball to get players in scoring position home. He’s got 78 RBIs tying him for 16th in the league. The Dodgers received Gonzalez last year in a trade with the Red Sox in an attempt to win right away. I’d say it worked out just fine.

There are rookies and then there are super rookies. You know the guys; RG3, Lebron James, and Mike Trout. Athletic freaks of nature that are incredibly good at what they do. So, I present for you consideration, Yasiel Puig.  On June 2nd the Dodgers called up their 22 year old rookie from their double-A team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. In just 70 games Puig is looking like a star. He’s already got 12 home runs this season, he bats .346 and is a quality outfielder. Already. Very rarely does this guy look like a rookie.

Matt Kemp deserves a mention. He got injured July 21st and should return sometime in September according to Manager Don Mattingly. Kemp was having another solid season for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp’s return may complicate a few things for the Dodgers though. With Kemp they have to find a way for 4 outfielders to play, but there are only 3 outfield positions. With Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford playing at the level that they are, Don Mattingly will have to figure out what to do with this team.

Are the Dodgers the best team? The Braves might have something to say about that. There’s no denying it though. The Dodgers are baseball’s hottest team. Los Angeles can hit with the best of them and, pitch better than the best of them. They’re dangerous title contenders, and are not to be taken lightly. Watch your back Atlanta. Scarface has arrived.

 

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The Mighty Braves

The Atlanta Braves are a tough team to beat right now and it’s got nothing to do with the Waffle House. The Waffle House in question opened at Turner field and coincided with Atlanta’s extremely recent 14 game winning streak.

It does have everything to do with their dominant hitting and pitching. The Braves have a league best 72-46 record. They are absolutely man-handling the NL East. I don’t want to say they’re the team to beat but, c’mon, are you blind? They are absolutely the team to beat (despite some very good baseball coming from the Dodgers as of late). This team is peaking at the right time and there’s no argument against it, they’re playing playoff baseball right now.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor works in the second inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Pitching The only team pitching better than the Atlanta Braves are the Pittsburgh Pirates (in terms of team ERA anyway). The Braves boast a team ERA of 3.20, allowing only 372 runs all year long. What’s more at 1.18 they have the best WHIP(walks and hits per innings pitched) in the major leagues. They are led by Mike Minor and Julio Teheran who are both pitching out of their minds. They both rank among the top 20 in the MLB in ERA.

Minor has a 12-5 record this season with a 2.87 ERA. He’s been pitching like a stud. He’s got a great fastball and does a great job of dominating the corners of the strike zone. He may have just filled the role as the team’s ace.

Julio Teheran is just 22 years old but he’s certainly trending upward. With a 2.96 ERA, Julio is pitching with the best of them. He also has a great fastball. He’s got quite a bit of savvy for his age and is capable of dominating a game when he gets going.

Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman, right, gets a hugs from teammate B.J. Upton after hitting three-run home run in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Hitting The Braves can hit. They’ve scored 525 runs this year which is 7th in the Majors and as a team they’ve hit 141 home runs which makes them 3rd in the MLB. The Braves have offensive fire power and are capable of jumping up to sizable leads very quickly. Their pitchers protect these leads, which is yet another reason why they’re are hard to beat. Oh by the way, Atlanta is 9th in On Base Percentage.

The Braves are led by first baseman Freddie Freeman. He’s batting .313 this season with an OBP of .393, putting him at 7th in the MLB and he’s got 74 RBIs.

Chris Johnson has got the best batting average on the team. His average is .336 and he’s got 121 hits which is pretty good.

I think Justin Upton is the key because he is so solid. He’s bats a solid .267,  he’s got 22 home runs which is really good and he’s scored 74 runs which is ridiculously good. In short, Justin Upton is good at his job.

When all of these pieces are put together they make a team that is capable of getting players in scoring position, and then getting them home. If you recall, the Braves have scored 525 runs this year. That’s a lot of runs. There’s a reason why they can do that. They have players who put them in positions to score frequently. Even a guy like Dan Uggla, who doesn’t hit particularly well has 21 home runs this season. When he does make contact with the ball, it’s leaving the park. Period.

So here are the ingredients. Lethal pitching, consistent hitting and scoring, followed by an enviable home record of 40-16 (you read that correctly, the Braves have won 71% of their home games). It only makes one thing. A recipe of disaster for any opposing team.

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