Regression

The Dodgers have lost four straight and face a long road trip without their starting center fielder, their starting second baseman, their starting third baseman, their starting left fielder, perhaps the worst starting shortstop in 2012 and a manager who is batting the team’s best hitter 7th in the lineup. Frankly, it’s amazing the Dodgers have been able to maintain such a torrid pace to this point given the injuries, and the heady days of playing .670 ball are now gone, never to return.

Los Angeles has been one of the best stories in baseball so far this year, and the reason is not that they’ve enjoyed the best record in baseball, something they still do despite the recent losing streak, but that they’ve been able to do so with a roster of mediocre players.

Consider the rotation. Kershaw is above average, but the rest of the staff’s numbers from 2011, as a rough indicator of what to expect over the course of the 2012 season, are as follows:

Capuano – .4 WAR
Lilly – 1.2 WAR
Harang – .7 WAR
Billingsley – 0.0 WAR

2.0 is the benchmark of good. So these guys were lousy last year. They’ve all been good to great this year, and in Capuano’s case, amazing. It can’t last.

As for the offense, it’s less a question of knowing that players are going to take a step back (though relying on Adam Kennedy, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Dee Gordon as starters for an extended period of time is painful to contemplate) and more a general question mark for the role players like Hairston Jr. and Treanor and minor leaguers thrust into action like Herrera, Van Slyke, Sands and Castellanos. Can they produce if the disabled list woes continue?

Here’s the good news. 90 wins is likely enough to take the National League West. Maybe less, but 90 should do the trick. The Giants and Diamondbacks are more talented on paper than the Dodgers, but they’ve stumbled out of the gate, handing the Dodgers a golden ticket to the division.

One of the best things in baseball, about sports in general, is when a plucky group of underachievers band together against a series of obstacles to accomplish something nobody thought possible. I think I saw a movie like that once. That’s the 2012 Dodgers, or at least the first act anyway.

Mark it down. The season starts on June 1st and 58 is the magic number for the Dodgers to claim the NL West. Ravaged by injuries, not that talented to begin with, but a surprising/hot/lucky start creating a sizable lead heading into the first turn, which means only that it’s going to be really, really entertaining to watch the Dodgers try to make it to the finish line before the more talented competition eventually overtakes them.

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