With each passing day, the Dodgers are inching ever so closer to being the worst team in the National League. With a 16-26 record, the 2018 version of the club is now tied for the worst start in franchise history. The Dodgers have also dipped to a point where they’re percentage points behind the Padres for the worst record in the West.
The Marlins, who unloaded the contracts of stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon over the winter, were not expected to be competitive in the least this year. However, skipper Don Mattingly has led his group to five wins in six contests over the struggling Dodgers, who remain just one game ahead of the Reds for the worst overall mark on the Senior Circuit. Coincidentally, the Reds swept Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in a four-game set last weekend.
Many thought that the return of one of the team’s best hitters, third baseman Justin Turner, would provide a spark and lead to a potential turnaround. But that has yet to happen. There’s no question that injuries were partially to blame for the team’s misfortunes this season, yet the club continues to get healthier on a daily basis. With a number once in the double digits, the Los Angeles disabled list count currently sits at six players. And that number continues to dwindle. The count may change again with the return of Tony Cingrani to a dilapidated bullpen sometime this week.
Yesterday’s biggest news, though, could have been the updates which surfaced on Clayton Kershaw‘s road to recovery from biceps tendinitis. Kershaw threw from 60 feet on Tuesday and stretched it out to 90 feet before Wednesday’s contest, which is tremendous news for the Dodgers. Skipper Dave Roberts said he expects Kershaw’s progression to be from 90 feet to 120, 150 and then regular long toss, before getting him back on the mound.
“He threw the ball really well,” Roberts explained. “He ramped up the intensity. It’s encouraging the progress he’s made. I’m not sure what the plan is for tomorrow. He may be off tomorrow. But today was really good.”
Even with a potential return on the horizon, will a dose of a healthy Kershaw be enough to steer the ship in the right direction? While pitching—both starting and relieving—have been large parts of the Dodgers’ struggles this year, the offense has also been a huge culprit to the disappointing record. Despite all the injuries, there’s still enough talent on the field to succeed, but the club continues to under-perform. As it stands right now, the bats seem to have minds of their own, often showing up unannounced without any form of consistency.
And as far as Kershaw goes, when he was healthy, the team provided him 2.9 runs per nine innings in games that he’s started this year. That’s an 11-year career low. One would have to drift back to 2013 to find a 3.9 RS/GS to find his second-worst year of run support. Last year, the Dodgers provided the 30-year-old with a reasonable 4.8 runs in games which he started.
So a prospective return by Kersh doesn’t assure anything, especially when the bats cannot be depended upon to provide stable production. What’s more, as the season progresses, more and more speculation will surface regarding the logic of restructuring Kersh’s contract to prevent him from hitting the free agent market at the end of the year. One of the supporting reasons for the front office to maintain a payroll under the luxury tax threshold was to free up enough money to pay CK, but the question will soon arise asking whether or not $36 million a year is too much to pay a pitcher who is embarking upon his years of decline.
While it’s indeed possible that the Dodgers could still right the ship this season, it’s looking more improbable as the calendar continues to turn, especially when considering the caliber of teams who have been victimizing them. Even with Kershaw part of a starting rotation that has been pedestrian at best, there are certainly no guarantees of an improvement in the wins column.
While it’s tough to imagine that things can get much worse, only time will tell.