Anatomy of an Unbelievable Run

August 13, 2013 at 11:29 am | Posted in 1st Place! | Leave a comment

You all remember how hot the Dodgers were to start 2012, right? That was in large part due to the presence of a world-destroying Matt Kemp, one we haven’t seen in some time, but it was also because every night balls were dropping in, making a hero out of some unexpected fill-in. One night it would be Juan Rivera; the next it would be Ivan De Jesus. Or Tony Gwynn. Or Adam Kennedy. Or even Matt Treanor. Or on the pitching side, that guys like Ted Lilly were magically making sure that all their pitches found gloves. It didn’t last; it couldn’t last.

The point here is not to draw a parallel between that streak and this one, or to suggest that the obscene run we’re watching is merely due to luck. It’s not. It’s because Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenley Jansen are superstars. It’s because second-level guys like Mark Ellis, J.P. Howell, and Paco Rodriguez have been excellent, as has been noted both at FanGraphs and Grantland in the last 24 hours. It’s because this team has the most money and the most talent, and because they’re (mostly) getting healthy at the same time.

But let’s be honest here, too: it’s also because winning breeds luck. Whether that’s Colby Rasmus forgetting how to play defense with two outs in the ninth inning or the usually sound Rays deciding that Dodger Stadium was a good place to implode, this streak has been full of the kind of things that just don’t happen on a regular basis.

For example, here’s the Dodger hitters over the last 30 days, sorted by BABIP:

dodger_offense_babip_2013-08-13

I’ve inserted that red line to show that the hitters who are showing a BABIP above league average, which is .296. In many cases, it’s considerably above average, and I think we should probably prepare ourselves that Mark Ellis isn’t going to hit .351/.378/.506 for the rest of the season.

It’s not quite so pronounced on the pitching side, though if you look closely…

dodger_pitcher_babip_2013-08-13

…you’ll see that three of the guys on the high end (Carlos Marmol, Stephen Fife, & Jose Dominguez) have barely pitched at all. The bullpen as a whole has a .221 BABIP over the last month, as opposed to the .389 the Rays have had to put up with.

I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck, and that’s what’s driving this streak — skill & talent, not just batted-ball magic. Still, at some point the balls are going to stop falling in for the offense, and they’re going to start falling in for the defense. That’s the point where the 2012 team fell apart completely, and that’s where we’ll see what this team is really made of. It probably won’t surprise you too much when I say that I’m probably not all that worried about what happens when that day comes: this team just seems to be able to withstand anything.

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