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The Reality of Preseason Predictions

Photo by cindyvazquez-zavala via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr.
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In their preview of the 2012 season, ESPN had 50 of their writers and personalities make predictions of division winners, wild card teams, pennant winners and World Series champions.

With the offseason acquisitions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels were picked by 18 voters, an overwhelming majority, to win the World Series. The Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays came in second with seven votes each. The Angels were picked by 20 voters to win the AL pennant, 25 voters to win the AL West and 20 voters to be a wild card team. Basically all but five voters had them in the playoffs.

The Dodgers didn't fare so well in this braintrust. Only Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York picked the Dodgers to win the NL West and Jason Churchill, Doug Glanville, Tony Jackson and Doug Padilla picked the Dodgers to be a wild card. Note that Tony Jackson covered the Dodgers until midway this season and Doug Padilla covered the Dodgers until 2009.

In other words the experts thought the Angels were going to rise to the top of the West Coast while the Dodgers would stay mired in mediocrity. Funny how reality fucks with things. And the reality is that the Angels are a pretty shitty team. It comes down to a simple premise: it's about pitching, stupid.

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To see it visually is stunning, almost like a Nike Swoosh on a graph.

Angels Pitching ERA, Team Record
April: 4.06, 8-15
May: 2.99, 18-11
June: 3.66, 17-9
July: 4.52, 14-12
August: 6.76, 5-13

Angels Starting Pitching ERA
April: 3.70
May: 3.16
June: 4.23
July: 4.76
August: 6.51

Angels Relief Pitching ERA
April: 5.08
May: 2.62
June: 2.34
July: 4.06
August: 7.23

In May their pitching staff had a 2.99 ERA (3.16 from the starters and 2.62 from the relievers), but their offense was pretty bad which accounted for the anomaly.

They finally looked to be making some headway in June when Albert Pujols really started to abuse the ball. They went through June with a 17-9 record, and what was once a nine-game deficit early in the season was cut down to as little as 2 1/2 games during the Interleague schedule. The pitching started to slip a little, the starters slipping to a 4.23 ERA while the relievers held things down with a 2.34 ERA.

What started as a slip turned into a full meltdown. So far in the month of August, the starters have a 6.51 ERA while the relievers have a 7.23 combining for a 6.76 ERA. The results speak for themselves: an 8-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays decimated into a 10-8 loss on Saturday.

Where the Angels graph looks like a satellite escaping an orbit, the Dodgers is more steady.

Dodgers Pitching ERA, Team Record
April: 3.13, 16-7
May: 3.25, 16-12
June: 3.57, 11-17
July: 3.51, 13-13
August: 3.12, 11-6

Dodgers Starting Pitching ERA
April: 2.85
May: 3.36
June: 3.85
July: 3.65
August: 3.10

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Dodgers Relief Pitching ERA
April: 3.71
May: 3.00
June: 2.90
July: 3.22
August: 3.19

The Dodgers offense doesn't have nearly the firepower the Angels have, but they seemed to get the key hits at just the right time to support their pitching. The mantra for this Dodger team should be "Just Good Enough".

Not to mention a lot of their offensive woes could be attributed to losing their two-, three- and four-hole hitters for a good chunk of the season for various ailments. Matt Kemp missed 51 games with a bad hamstring and Mark Ellis missed 43 games after having his leg blown wide open.

Look at the division. The defending NL West winners Arizona Diamondbacks seem to have hot and cold flashes that rivals a woman in menopause. The San Francisco Giants, now without Melky Cabrera for the rest of the regular season, don't have the offense to back up their pitching which has become more human this season. The Rockies and the Padres are sad.

So why not the Dodgers?

The Dodgers are now 67-55 in first place in the NL West while the Angels are 62-60, nine games back in the division and 4 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild card spot in the AL. Oh, the futility of preseason prognostication.