Clayton Kershaw's Struggles Might Foreshadow More Issues for Dodgers Going Forward

The Dodgers’ Skid Could Get Worse, But Probably Won’t

The Dodgers’ 13-2 beginning brought forth lots of optimism; but the 4-12 stretch that followed might foreshadow some ugly things moving forward.

Let’s dive into some stats here. The team lost its first game of the season to the Rockies at Coors Field, 8-5. No game is easy at Coors though, right? Is any lead really ever safe there?

They got a pass. But there was a little more we found out about the team in that opener. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

The team went on a 13-1 stretch, losing only to the A’s as Kenley Jansen was unable to close out that contest.

But they got another pass, right? There was confirmation there about how shaky the bullpen has been the past couple of seasons, anchored by perennial closer, Jansen, whose occasional habit of hitting 95-97 mph on the speed gun became associated with being angry now, or resting because the bullpen depth allowed for him to.

So the team is now 13-2, with a run differential of +41, or a Baseball Pythagorean expectation that the team would win 77.8 percent of their games, or 126 victories in 162 games. The tweets were plenty boasting about the team’s pace. One player would go down and another would step up and take his place in the grand scheme of things.

Life was good.

Then the opposite happened. It took place on April 18 against the Padres in San Diego. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead courtesy of a Chris Taylor home run off Blake Snell. It was the team’s second hit of the ballgame.

Silence followed.

Spark plug Zack McKinstry would provide one more hit for the Dodgers in the top of the 8th inning and that was all she wrote for Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Padres crept closer before Eric Hosmer and Tommy Pham ripped the game open in the bottom of the 8th inning, helping the Friars to pull out a 5-2 win.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

The Dodgers have asked a lot from their young bullpen early on this season thanks to injuries to key members such as Caleb Ferguson (elbow), Tommy Kahnle (elbow), Joe Kelly (shoulder), Corey Knebel (lat), Tony Gonsolin (shoulder), David Price (hamstring), Brandon Morrow (elbow), Brusdar Graterol (forearm) and now Dustin May (UCL).

A team with the depth the Dodgers possess should not have any worries about a few injuries, but nine? That’s just bad luck now!

Still, the team’s 3.03 ERA ranks third in the Majors as of Tuesday morning, so to blame it entirely on the bullpen would be unfair.

How about going after Clayton Kershaw? After Tuesday’s outing he said “it was embarrassing.” He pitched just an inning and allowed four runs on four hits. It was his worst outing since he was bumrushed by the Diamondbacks on May 17, 2014 — a game in which he allowed seven runs on six hits. That was on the way to 18 Arizona runs.

The Cubs scored just seven today. The 10 hits the Rockies jumped on Kershaw for was an occurrence we hadn’t seen since 2019 when the Mets got to him for 10 hits. The Dodgers scored nine runs in his defense though, which ultimately brings us to the culprit.

Where’s the offense?

Think of the lady in the old Wendy’s commercial asking: Where’s the Beef?

Where’s the offense of the famed Los Angeles Dodgers?

FINDING OFFENSE SOMEWHERE

Injuries aren’t just haunting the Dodgers’ pitching — it’s affected the offense too. Cody Bellinger is a key piece of the offense and has only played in four games. McKinstry has been a nice addition to the roster, hitting .296/.328/.556 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 17 games.

In those 17 games though, he’s fourth on the team in RBIs behind Turner (21), Seager (18) and Pollock (15). Note on Pollock, eight of those came Sunday in the 16-run effort by the Dodgers. Not ideal.

It then brings us to the next point: Dave Roberts, and perhaps Andrew Friedman.

Who’s benching Matt Beaty?

In 18 games he’s hitting .357/.500/.464 with a home run and 11 RBIs (seven on Sunday). But Edwin Rios (hitting .085) with a home run and RBI in 23 games deserves bigger spots than he does?

Mookie Betts is hitting .250 (down from .292 in 2020).

Corey Seager is down to .257 from .307 a year ago.

Where would this team be without Turner’s production? He nearly signed with the Brewers and would have deprived the team of an all-too-important piece to the puzzle. His average is actually up from .307 to .337. But how long can it last?

Like anything, what goes up must come back, and the law of averages says the Dodgers are due to get hot any time now. Sunday seemed like an indicator that they were ready to break out again. At least it did at first glance.

Fifteen of those 16 runs were driven in by Beaty and Pollock. The other by Gavin Lux (and his lackluster .190 start to the season).

Betts? 0-for-4. Seager had a hit and a walk, that’s passable. But 16 runs is always exciting.

Since April 18 the team has gone 4-12 with a run differential of -3; 12 of which was inflated by the outlier of a game against Milwaukee. Adding that game, they’re playing at a 47 percent win clip, or a 162-game equivalent of 77 wins. Without it, it’s atrocious at just a 36 percent win rate, or 59 wins.

Two teams have won 36 percent of their games or less: the Tigers (8-22) and the Rockies (11-19). Yes, that Rockies team that jumped all over Kershaw in Game 1.

The Power Rankings Guru says the Dodgers have played the sixth-toughest strength of schedule to date. They’re still projected to win 103 games and have the best record in baseball. ESPN says they have played the third-toughest schedule to date.

Without question the team will look forward to returning home Tuesday for a nine-game homestand with the Mariners, Marlins and Diamondbacks. However, before that comes one more game with the Cubs before flying back to Southern California for three with the Angels. The slate won’t get easier as a couple dates with the Giants are coming up, as is the much-anticipated series with the Astros in Houston.

The Dodgers are either going fly back up the standings quick and go back to being the world-beaters they were in 2020, or morale cracks altogether and this team continues to lack production at the plate and watches the Padres pass it back up.

Without a spark or fire in their belly, the Dodgers are in dangerous trouble of the latter happening. Everybody watched the Padres clearly want it more on the field.

Dodgers, it’s time for the World Series hangover to end and to show the fans why you’re favored to be the first team to repeat as World Champions since the Yankees completed their three-peat in 2001.