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In 2017, the Dodgers lost 16 times in one 17-game stretch. They still got to the World Series.
In 2018, the Dodgers were in fourth place in the National League West as late as June. They still got to the World Series.
The Dodgers today find themselves in third place, losers of 13 of their last 17 games. It’s been worse, and it’s turned out fine. You would think Andrew Friedman might have taken some comfort in that history.
“I hadn’t really thought about it,” said Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.
“I think that is helpful perspective. But, when you’re mired in it, oftentimes you don’t have that clarity of thought, and you’re just more frustrated than anything.”
Frustrated, same as you. He lets it out too.
“I’m not the best-behaved person,” Friedman said. “It’s not something I’m all that proud of. It definitely affects my personality more than I would like.
“It’s funny: I thought there was a chance that winning a World Series would help give you perspective for games that you lose in April, but it has not.”
Frustrated, but with control of the team. So what’s wrong with the team?
“It’s just kind of an imperfect storm,” Friedman said. “I think the offensive slump that a number of guys are going through is part of the game, and to be expected over the course of the season. I think it’s really rare for five or six guys to be going through it at the same time. That, coupled with the number of injuries we’ve had that have been so concentrated, has contributed to it as well.”
Over the last two weeks, Gavin Lux is batting .212, Mookie Betts .211, Corey Seager .208, Austin Barnes .200, and Max Muncy .132. Edwin Rios was 0 for 20 when he was put on the injured list.
Cody Bellinger and Zack McKinstry are on the injured list. So are five relievers: Brusdar Graterol, Scott Alexander, Corey Knebel, Tony Gonsolin and David Price. So is starting pitcher Dustin May, out for this season and some if not all of next season because of Tommy John surgery.
“Other than Dustin, all the other injuries are situations where the guys are going to come back relatively soon,” Friedman said before reliever Joe Kelly was activated Thursday. “So we just need to weather the storm. As tough as these last couple of weeks have been, it doesn’t change what we think about the true talent level of the group.
“It doesn’t change the fact that this has been a really frustrating run for all of us. Those losses are in the bank. But I feel very confident we’re going to start playing a much better brand of baseball and, fortunately, our strong start allowed us not to dig too deep a hole in these last couple weeks.”
Indeed, the Dodgers are 1½ games out of first place. As of Thursday, Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs still project the Dodgers to win the NL West, with Baseball Prospectus projecting a 99-win season and Fangraphs a 95-win season. (Both projections have the San Francisco Giants, currently in first place, finishing the season with a losing record.)
The Dodgers lead the NL in runs and on-base percentage. They rank second in OPS and in earned-run average.
They also rank second in most unearned runs allowed, but that might be more about bad timing: The Dodgers have made 19 errors, the average NL team 17.3. (The defensive runs saved metric is less kind to the Dodgers.)
“It gets back to the overall talent of the group, which we still very much believe in,” Friedman said. “But the imperfect storm has been in games that we have hit well but haven’t pitched well, games that we have pitched well but haven’t hit well and have struggled to tack on runs throughout the game. There are periods when this happens. This feels more dramatic, and maybe because we’re mired in it right now.
“We’ll be on the upswing soon. But obviously this stretch has not been fun. Each day I wake up thinking that today is going to be the day we break out of it. But, really, it’s not about any one day. It’s about doing it consistently, night in and night out, and that’s what we have to get back to.”
Friedman understands why some fans might pine for Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez, key contributors on the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series champions. The Dodgers let both players leave via free agency.
“I think it’s a natural evolution of sports and rosters,” Friedman said. “Some guys stay, and some guys go, and oftentimes they go for better opportunities and/or more money.
“In Joc and Kiké’s situation, they both wanted to play every day, and the personnel we had didn’t allow for that. It also provided opportunities for Zack McKinstry to do what he did, until he got hurt. If we had Bellinger and McKinstry playing right now, people would at least feel that less — not feel less fondly about those guys, but not as acutely.”
The Dodgers have won the NL West for eight consecutive years, played in the World Series in three of the last four years, and won the World Series last year. That should buy Friedman and the Dodgers some credibility with the fans, no?
“I think people know that mentally, but not emotionally,” Friedman said. “I suffer the same thing. So I totally get that.
“The emotion of it, for the most part, is what’s right in front of your face.”
Today, that is third place.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.