I don't really want to write an intro for this. Not because I'm lazy--although that's true as well--but because it's almost guaranteed to look dumb in about five days, max. Such is the joy of playing baseball games in a tight but profoundly mediocre division.
Two weeks ago, the Dodgers were done. They were the shortest team in a division of midgets. Sure, there are teams that make the playoffs after being 9.5 games back at the end of June, but they're rare enough that optimists single them out specifically when saying it's not impossible.
Five days ago, the Dodgers were going to win the division. It wouldn't even be close, probably. Even if the terrible division-leading Diamondbacks could stop being terrible for long enough to beat up on their terrible division, it was inevitable that the Dodgers would win. What's a 2.5 game gap for a team playing that well?
And now, I don't really know. The Diamondbacks just had their best series in at least a month, reigniting speculation that this team could actually be pretty decent, if all the underachieving pieces could just do what they're supposed to. This ignores how many players are exceeding expectations on the team at the moment, but let's deal with that another time. This team is good enough to win a bad division, which is faint praise that still seemed absurd five days ago.
But the Dodgers, after all sorts of glitches and false starts, finally have the team they wanted to have from the outset, and the bad news is that team looks pretty good. This looked like a very good team on paper going into this season, and at least for a couple of weeks, the reality has matched the paper. That doesn't mean it will continue to, but LA's personnel suggests that they're less likely to fade out of the race than the Rockies or Giants.
What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):
|Hitting (wRC+):||91||100||Los Angeles
One of the weird things about using park-adjusted stats is that sometimes you have a series like this, where two teams from radically different home environments have almost identical numbers on the surface.
The Dodgers have a .715 OPS while the D-Backs' team figure is .718. Diamondbacks have a 3.83 team ERA while the Dodgers are at 3.80. The only difference is that Chase Field is a far better hitting environment than Dodger Stadium is. In a roundabout way though, these teams actually are very evenly matched, from this quick and dirty statistical profile, in that the Diamondbacks' true-talent offense is about as much worse than the Dodgers' as their pitching is better.