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    The Greg Maddux Watch: Stunning at 355

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      Fortunes falling.........
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    The roller coaster that is a major league baseball schedule gives us overly optimistic or pessimistic impressions of teams early in the year, as streaky starts have not yet begun to even off. On May 12th the Dodgers had just rattled off six straight wins and sat at 22-10, five games up on the second-place Padres. Dodger fans were feeling good, it sure looked like there was at least a non-zero chance this team could run away with a weak NL West. Seven losses in a row later, Dodger fans are shaking their heads, and everyone else is giggling: 22-17 doesn't look so good.

    So what changed?
    Well, first off their 22-10 record was very misleading. The Dodgers had already overshot their Pythagorean winning percentage by 3 games, mostly thanks to a 10-0 record in 1 run games. Think about that, almost half of their wins were by one run, you had to expect things would change. Some people like to attribute this to a dominant bullpen, and while LA's bullpen certainly is very good, Lady Luck always evens things off in the end. The Dodgers have already lost two one-run games and expect them to win around half of their one-run games from here on out.

    For another major reason, you don’t have to look much beyond perennial breakout candidate, Adrian Beltre. On May 12th, Beltre was putting up MVP numbers (.377/.385/.669, despite only walking twice), but has since cooled off, going 3-24 in the seven game losing streak. Beltre is exhibit A why guys with no plate discipline provide negative value to a team during slumps. If a guy can continue to get on base even when he isn't swinging the bat real well, he still helps his team somewhat by not making three outs every game.

    Will it continue?
    Yes and no. They won't play as poorly as they have during the current losing streak, but they aren't a 22-10 team by any means. The Dodgers are a pretty good team with solid pitching and an improved offense. Besides just Beltre, the Dodgers are hitting pretty well overall. Take a look at this chart of the 8 starters OPS this year and for their careers,
                      2004   Career
    Adrian Beltre .962 .759
    Cesar Izturis .718 .604
    Shawn Green .777 .867
    Milton Bradley .755 .756
    Juan Encarnacion .646 .754
    Paul LoDuca .839 .772
    Alex Cora .776 .653
    Dave Roberts .768 .674
    Beltre will likely improve on his career number, but I don’t see any other break-through candidates besides maybe Milton Bradley. Encarnacion and Green are likely to hit better going forward, but any improvement there is going to be cancelled out by regression by the other starters. The Dodgers rank 23rd right now in runs scored at 4.5 runs/game and that will likely get worse before it gets better. Their pitching is pretty much on target and will help them stay in a lot of games, and it will help immensely if Hideo Nomo can get fully healthy. They also play in the NL West, which would be an understatement to call a weak division. Yet, as of tonight they are tied for first with a Padre team that is deeper, more talented, and much more likely to keep up their current pace. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Dodgers made the playoffs, but don’t expect them to regain the torrid pace they opened the year with.