April 18, 2014

The Loretta Looper: Don’t Stop Believin’, Dodger Fans!

The Loretta Looper

The Loretta Looper

The Dodgers won 12 games during their last at bat during the season, but none was as electrifying, exciting or as improbable as the way the Dodgers won Game 2 of the NLDS this evening against the St. Louis Cardinals.  I’m calling it the Loretta Looper.

Once Holliday dropped Loney’s drive to left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the door opened for the Dodgers.  Mark Loretta told Josh Suchon on the KABC Dodgers Post-Game Show the team was just trying to string together a few hits.  And then Torre tapped Loretta to step up to the plate.  On an 0-1 count, Mark Loretta hits a loop shot off Ryan Franklin into left-center field.  “It’s the biggest hit of my career for sure…it was electrifying,” said Loretta (to Suchon).

What a finish.  Now, it’s on to Game 3 in St. Louis.  It’s hard to imagine things getting more exciting than this, but the Dodgers are clearly in the driver’s seat for the NLDS.  Is it Saturday yet?

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Why the NLDS is Going to be Nuts – for Everyone

I’ve always enjoyed the craziness that is baseball’s NL and AL Division series. Lots of games, plenty of excitement on the parts of fans and prognosticators, and more than a few upsets in years past.

I was reading the Wall Street Journal this morning and there was an excellent article on the division series there posted by Darren Everson and Hannah Karp. The writers did some good research on what often happens in these early games of the playoffs. Here are some interesting stats from the WSJ:

– In recent years, the team with the better record has prevailed only 48% of the time
– Teams with 100+ wins in a season have escaped the division series only 10 out of the last 19 times

The move to a five game series in 1995 to accommodate more playoff teams certainly has its detractors, including the Dodgers’ own Russell Martin. “It sucks,” says Martin, who remembers the sweep by the Mets in 2006. “It was so quick. It was just like a glimpse of being in the playoffs.”

Obviously, there is more to it than just statistics and a short series. For example, two of the Dodgers starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw, lack any playoff experience whatsoever. Does the shorter series really impact them more than their lack of postseason experience? Not likely, given that both would likely only see one outing in either scenario given the prevalence of shorter series. Also, the “day game” factor is often blamed as there are considerably more games while the sun is up in order to accommodate TV schedules. Should baseball players be equally comfortable playing in the day and in the evening? Absolutely. Does the pressure to win combined with environmental issues like time and frequency of games also play a role? definitely.

Perhaps the Dodgers should be wary of the Cardinals given their superior record in the regular season and the fact that they are now seen as the underdog by many handicappers and sports analysts. One thing is for sure – this is going to be an exciting series. I have my thoughts on what it will take to win but will save those musings for another post…

The Black Eyed Peas Show the Dodgers the Love

The Black Eyed Peas Show the Dodgers the Love

The Black Eyed Peas Show the Dodgers the Love

The Black Eyed Peas are showing the Dodgers the love with a new billboard on the Sunset Strip.  The majority of the group grew up in LA and are fans of the club.  Personally, I’d love to hear them record a song for the Dodgers showing their love for the team.  We need an anthem for the playoffs, right?!?  I know, I know, that’s what “Don’t Stop Believin’” is for.

Ok, back to the billboard.  From the official Dodgers press release:

“The Los Angeles-based group is featured on a “This is My Town” billboard, part of the team’s advertising campaign that celebrates Dodger fan loyalty and conveys the message that Dodger fans can be anywhere in the World of
Dodgertown.”

Let’s go Dodgers PR team…get the Black Eyed Peas to record a song about this team!

Manny Ramirez and Momentum: The Keys to the Dodgers’ Success in the NLDS?

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez

As the Dodgers prepare to face off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, there are a number of intriguing questions facing the Dodgers, but none more interesting than what is going on with Manny Ramirez and the role momentum plays in the playoffs.

Will the Real Manny Ramirez Show Up?

 It’s becoming increasingly clear that for the Dodgers to win the series and advance to the next round, their bats must come alive against the powerful Cardinal pitching.  We all know about Ethier’s success at home vs. the road (thank God for home field advantage), but the punch Manny can provide can make this series for the Dodgers.  I don’t think he can break the series,  as the Dodgers don’t expect him to be the difference-making he once was.

Consider this: since September 1st, Manny is hitting just .218 with four HR (the last one coming way back on Sept. 18th) and 14 RBI.  He had only two multi-RBI games during this 25 game span.  Ouch.

However, in the playoffs last year, Manny batted .520 with four HR and 10 RBI, and he’s consistently proven to be a player that can deliver in the clutch during the playoffs.  Can he regain the form that opposing pitchers once feared?  Time will tell, but I seriously doubt it.  That role has shifted to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.  Opposing pitchers just don’t fear him the way they once did.

Does Momentum Really Matter?

I’ve always found the subject of momentum heading into the playoffs a fascinating topic.  Here’s where I net out on this: momentum from series to series means very little to professional athletes in the playoffs, as each game is broken down into much smaller increments.  In the playoffs, momentum is defined inning to inning, at bat to at bat and pitch to pitch (and sometimes game to game), with incredible individual athletic achievements causing emotional swings that sometimes simply cannot be overcome.

Remember the 1988 New York Mets?  They had beaten the Dodgers 10 out of 11 times during the regular season.  With the Mets up two games to one in the NLCS, game four was in Shea Stadium.  The Dodgers were losing 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning and on the brink of going down three games to one in the series, when they came back to score two runs to tie the game before Kirk Gibson hit a solo home run in the top of the 12th inning to give the team a precarious one run lead.  Orel Hershiser then came into the game in the bottom of the 12th with the bases loaded and two outs.  Remember that Hershiser started the previous day’s game, but he managed to get Kevin McReynolds to fly out to end the game, evening up the series and swinging momentum to the Dodgers from the heavily favored Mets.  The Dodgers rode the momentum generated from these gritty performances and went on to win two of the next three games to dispatch the Mets in a thrilling seven game series.

In game one of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson’s home run over pitcher Dennis Eckersley  shattered the confidence of the much more powerful Oakland lineup, and made the fact that the A’s were a superior offensive team obsolete, beating them in five games.  From Wikipedia:

But anything can happen in a short series, as proven by these 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers,  who out-hit (41–28, .246–.177), out-muscled (5 HRs–2 HRs), and out-pitched (2.03–3.92) the seemingly unbeatable Oakland Athletics, incredibly winning the Series in five games, outscoring the A’s, 21–11.

Momentum can be a fragile and mysterious force with fantastic psychological effects that can hamper or help even the most skilled professional athlete.  All it takes is one swing of the bat or one critical pitch to turn a series on its ear.  While many pundits are picking the powerful Cardinals to place a beat down on the Dodgers, I for one believe that it will be the critical swings of momentum during the game that ultimately will define this series, and if the Dodger bats can respond the way they have in the past (remember Ethier’s incredible number of game-winning home runs?) then they are poised for success .  Let’s go Blue!

Photo Credit: Getty Images