Odds Are Now With the Dodgers, and Mattingly

I’ve been critical of the managerial skills of the empty uniform non-manager Don Mattingly ever since he took over from his mentor and chief supporter, Joe Torre. His errors in knowledge of rules, strategy, and use of personnel have been sub-stories to most Dodgers’ games since his managerial debut at the start of the 2011 season. But it’s hard to argue with the success that the team has seen over the past two months.

It’s hard to remember that only a few weeks ago the Dodgers were fighting San Diego to stay out of the NL West’s cellar. The overrated Arizona Diamondbacks seemed to be in charge of the division, and while I may have overstated some of the failings of the non-manager, my analysis of the Diamondbacks has been accurate, and they are barely hanging on to a plus-.500 record, only still in second place behind the Dodgers because no other West team can come close to winning as often as they lose.

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Of course, the play and the enthusiasm generated by Yasiel Puig deserves much of the credit for the Dodgers’ turnaround, as do a couple of other key moves, in particular the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco. Mattingly’s insertion of Kenley Jansen as THE closer has been as big a move as any the team has made, but also was deciding that Juan Uribe had earned the full-time job at third base. Credit to Mattingly for both of those moves.

Ned Colletti also deserves considerable credit, first for Nolasco, then for signing an apparently healthy Brian

Wilson, and now for the trade for Michael Young. Wilson and Young could be major pieces as the Dodgers aim for the National League’s best record, home field through the playoffs, and for showing those Vegas oddsmakers that they are right in now saying the team is the favorite among NL teams to reach the World Series.

Mattingly’s actions, Puig’s play, and Colletti’s moves all have been important, but the bottom line, always, in baseball, is pitching, and a look at the Dodgers’ starters for the month of August says it all, showing why and how the team now has an 11-1/2 game lead: The top four Dodgers’ starters compiled a 1.63 ERA during August, while

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recording a 17-4 won-lost record, and that should have been even better, as baseball’s best, Clayton Kershaw, still intermittently suffering from lack of run support, had a 1.01 ERA for the month, but only a 3-2 record (yep, he lost half the games the top four starters lost during the month).

But, Mattingly will soon be facing the biggest dilemma he will have had as a manager: With Puig playing out of this world, and with solid play from Carl Crawford and Andre Either, how will he handle four outfielders and three outfield spots, with the impending return of Matt Kemp? And, other than three games in Cincinnati, the rest of the schedule is against other NL West teams, so no interleague games with a DH will be available. We’ll see pretty soon.

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