Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers expected to be several games better in the standings than they are right now. This game was set up for prime time on ESPN before the season began because it matched two playoff teams from last season, which meant two likely playoff contenders for this season.
*The Los Angeles Dodgers are just barely over the .500 mark, well off the blistering pace set by the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. There’s still plenty of time to catch their rivals from behind. But, it’s going to be difficult if the Giants don’t slump! Los Angeles is still very much in the Wildcard mix. ESPN’s playoff projections only have them at 33% to reach the postseason. We have it higher than that in our numbers. Though…way down from where we had it before the season started. This is a championship caliber team that is barely getting playoff caliber performance at the moment.
*Pittsburgh is a handful of games below the .500 mark, and is in very real danger of missing the postseason. ESPN only has them at 10% to get there. The form of this year’s team would almost make it seem impossible given how well Milwaukee and St. Louis are playing ahead of them. To this point, there’s not much evidence that the Pirates are a .500 caliber team. Big disappointment considering the tone that had been set last season.
Let’s go to the numbers, starting with team offense…
Pittsburgh: 3.80 runs per game, .323 on-base, .377 slugging
Los Angeles: 4.20 runs per game, .322 on-base, .411 slugging
It’s important to remember context with those numbers. It’s a down year in Major League offense…these are NL teams who don’t have a DH in the batting order…and both teams play their home games in pitcher’s parks. The Dodgers actually have one of the best offenses in the NL after you adjust for the ballparks. Pittsburgh is league average after a similar adjustment. Be careful not to assume that the Dodgers must be struggling on offense given their place in the standings. Their struggling in the bullpen and at the back of their rotation. Their offense is still great. Pittsburgh’s is average.
Edinson Volquez: 4.30 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.64 K-Rate
Zack Greinke: 2.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.4 K-Rate
One of the single biggest reasons Pittsburgh has fallen off the map is that they…in essence…replaced A.J. Burnett with Edinson Volquez. They lost their ace starter without getting anything back, then stuck the overmatched Volquez onto the back of their rotation. His WHIP has been acceptable this year. But, an ERA of 4.30 in a low scoring season is poor. And, it’s trending the wrong way. He’s only had one quality start in his last six outings over a quiet month for MLB offenses. A K-rate below 6.00 is horrendous in the modern game. Frankly, Volquez isn’t a major league caliber starter. He’s there because the Pirates can’t find better options.
Greinke has become the ace of the Dodgers staff because of injuries to Clayton Kershaw. He’s 8-1 on the season. A long string of quality starts was snapped in his most recent outing. But, that was still an easy win…and he had 11 K’s with no walks! Cy Young stuff from Greinke this season. If the Dodgers do make a run back to the top of the division, he will get serious consideration for that award.
Clearly the Dodgers are going to be a big market favorite Sunday Night given a meaningful edge on offense, and a blowout advantage on the mound. Handicappers will have to decide if oddsmakers have captured the true difference between these teams. It’s okay to pass because there are so many intriguing matchups on the afternoon slate (like the series finales in San Francisco/St. Louis, LA Angels/Oakland, Tampa Bay/Boston, and Atlanta/Miami).
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