Baseball isn’t for everyone. The vast majority of people see the game as the exact same thing, at least seventeen times in a row. It’s hard to argue with that. Yes, the same process happens over the course of at least nine innings; twice per inning, until there’s a definitive winner.
However, the makeup of the regular season means that only certain patterns and story-lines can emerge from the USA’s ‘National Pastime’.
It’s important to note that there is no salary cap in baseball. Some clubs have been consistently big spenders because their fan-bases and marketing departments allow them to be. Given the unpredictable nature of sport, however, that doesn’t really count for a lot. The Milwaukee Brewers spend the least amount of money and they look good for the playoffs.
I have literally never seen or heard of a team taking this bad of a 180 degree turn in a season. Unprecedented.
— LA Dodgers HQ (@LADodgersHQ) September 10, 2017
The very nature of the sport means that it’s a marathon. 162 regular season games are a lot to digest and consistency, rather than momentary spurts of brilliance, make you win. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers.
They’re tipped every year to do well. That’s just an associated pressure of being a Dodger. Last year, they finished with 91 wins. A very good year. 2017 was set to be a different animal though. At least, during July.
Potentially hard to fathom how momentum could play such a huge role, the Dodgers went on a streak of 56-11. That’s winning 56 of 67 games. They were cruising towards history. Up until a few weeks ago, their record stood at 91-36. The regular season record for (modern day) season wins is 116. With 34 games left, and only 25 victories required, the impossible seemed like it was on. Yet, here they sit with a 92-51 record. How has it happened? Momentum.
The mental strength required to play in this league (don’t worry too much, they’re well paid) is gargantuan.
The most pressure is on a starting pitcher. He throws, on average, 100 pitches a game. A team runs a rotation for their starting pitchers – as to give sufficient rest. They can play up to 40 games a season – totalling 4,000 pitches at any given season. The majority of those are thrown at 90mph. A lot of them are thrown in high-pressure situations, too. Consistency truly is the biggest skill you can have in this sport, due to the nature of the season.
The offence and the defence lean on each other, though. If a pitcher is leaking runs, it requires its offence to keep up with that total. On the flipside, if a pitcher is keeping the opposition at bay and the offence can’t score themselves, there’s an awkward disparity in the clubhouse. The Dodgers had both firing on all cylinders for the majority of the season.
— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) September 12, 2017
However, the August 26 game against Milwaukee set off a sequence of events that saw the Dodgers go 1-15 since.
It’s unprecedented for a team to have such conflicting streaks. They’ve lost their last ten in a row.
The acquisition of Texas Rangers’ star Yu Darvish hasn’t really worked out and the return of the best pitcher in baseball – Clayton Kershaw – wasn’t enough to stop the rot. He lost the series opener to the Colorado Rockies last week – 9-1.
The Dodgers are still, by record, the best team in baseball. The Dodgers, by their roster talent, are the best team in baseball. The Dodgers, by common sense, are the worst team in baseball right now. They’re still clear favourites to win the World Series.
It’s a sport that most find dull. It’s also a game that produces some of the most unique sporting narratives on a consistent basis. This is just another example of that. If you don’t believe in momentum, then you’d do well to explain this team.