The Chicago White Sox spend the next week in Los Angeles, and the first place they visit is Chavez Ravine to play the Dodgers.
The easy and thus lazy narrative about the Dodgers paints them as Evil Empire West, the Left Coast’s version of the New York Yankees, a team with a payroll that would bankrupt several firms listed on the S&P 500.
While possibly a true characterization, it conceals more than it reveals about the team the White Sox will meet on the field of play.
To prepare for my viewing experience, I first read a piece reviewing the first third of the Dodgers 2014 season. It reinforced my intuition we will be watching a series between a team that has pleasantly outperformed preseason expectations and one that continues confusing, confounding, and alarming its fans and followers.
The White Sox are clearly the pleasant surprise, and the Dodgers, well, for some among the their faithful, these Dodgers may be starting to resemble an overnight guest who looks quite a bit worse for wear in the daylight.
After finishing that article, I looked up both teams WAR numbers. Four things jumped out at me.
Second, while their starting pitching has been collectively great, it is because of the overperformance of certain members of the rotation, for Paul Maholm has been, well, putrid.
Third, their bullpen has been a problem unit, not unlike the White Sox, and it has contributed to the perception that the Dodgers have struggled.
The bullpen has been a bit of a weak link. Combined, the ‘pen owns a 4.03 ERA, 13th in the NL. No bullpen has issued more walks (92), but hey have recorded the second most whiffs (187). The overall bullpen whip is 1.40. Only the Marlins (1.46) and the Reds (1.47) are worse in that stat. And their tied with the Mets with that 1.40.
Fourth, while closer Kenley Jansen had a rough start to the season, and he has been dominant in all but one appearance since the middle of April Now, he is a closer who just blows guys away, which is a good quality in a high-leverage relief pitcher since it relies less on basted balls being batted to good spots for the defense to convert into outs.
The Dodger media-fan-o-sphere appears somewhat confused. Some wonder whether the Dodgers will snap out their funk with a stretch like they had in 2013 to put the NL West away. Some cite a lack of seriousness on their part and are not amused at the results. Another concern is one-dimensional players, proposing that the solution may be to trade some outfield talent to improve the team’s defense and bullpen. If that sounds familiar, it is only because the White Sox also seem in need of both defensive and bullpen help.
I went back and looked over the starting pitching matchups.
Believe it or not, the White Sox have a bit of an advantage in these matchups as the Dodgers do not hit left-handed pitching particularly well.
The Dodgers are much better against right-handed pitchers (.271/.336/.435) than left-handed pitchers (.215/.286/.359). Their performance works out to a team wOBA of .303 against left-handers and .320 against right-handers. That translates to a lot less Dodger run-scoring against lefties than they manage against righties.
The White Sox, by contrast, are very balanced. They slash .251/.304/ .396, good for a wOBA of .330 against left-handed pitchers; against right-handers they slash .259/.325/.403, good for a wOBA of .326.