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Dodgers Vs. Giants Weekender: Why GMs Decided The NL West Crown

Evan Budrovich |
September 9, 2012 | 12:37 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Giants GM Brian Sabean has made one move that has become a surprising success. (David Gallagher/Creative Commons)
Giants GM Brian Sabean has made one move that has become a surprising success. (David Gallagher/Creative Commons)
In a year in which the rosters from Opening Day are far forgotten, one thing remains constant in the NL West race, situational hitting and big-time pitching will win the division.

With the division race coming to an epic collision this weekend, it's a good time to look at how both teams are playing and what shaped the current outlook of both the Giants and Dodgers roster.

Here is how each respective GM, Ned Colletti of the Dodgers and Brian Sabean of the Giants put his stamp on this division race and how their teams are playing currently because of these moves.

The spending spree began on July 26 when the Dodgers added veteran slugger Hanley Ramirez and left-handed specialist Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins. What made the deal intriguing was that part owner Stan Kasten and GM Ned Colletti offered to take on Ramirez entire salary, $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.

The Dodgers needed a solid middle-of-the-order bat to complement Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and so far with the Dodgers, he has done his job. In 41 games in Dodger Blue, Ramirez has driven in 37 runs while hitting .272 during that mark. These stats have been impressive for Ramirez who struggled, only hitting .246 with a poor .322 on-base percentage with Miami.

Give the Dodgers credit, they needed a solid talent to replace Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez has provided that spark. Granted, his defense is suspect and he will not steal 50-plus bases like he had from 2006-2008, but the home run and RBI totals are just what the Dodgers needed.


The Giants responded by adding veteran outfielder Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants were able to acquire Pence without trading any huge prospects, but have not received the player they thought they were going to get. In 36 games with the Giants, Pence is hitting .225 with only two home runs.

Some will argue AT&T is not as friendly as the confines of Citizens Bank Park, but I say that NL West pitching is befuddling Pence. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Hunter Pence has recorded three of his four lowest batting averages against the Padres, Rockies and Dodgers.

Pence is hitting .167 against both the Rockies and Padres this season, while only mustering up a .170 average against the Dodgers. These stats rest well below Pence’s average of .259 for the season.

In any case, the Giants' record has actually jumped since acquiring the slugger. The Giants are 22-14 since the trade deadline and have made major strides in the standings. On July 31, the Giants only led the Dodgers by one game in the NL West. As of Sunday, that is now a 4.5-game lead.


Gonzalez was the big piece moved to the Dodgers. (SD Dirk/Creative Commons)
Gonzalez was the big piece moved to the Dodgers. (SD Dirk/Creative Commons)
The pressure then shifted back to the Dodgers who needed to make a big splash, and once again, they went all in under orders of Kasten by making the biggest blockbuster waiver deal in history. To simplify the deal for the importance of this season, the Dodgers got Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez for James Loney and prospects.

The Dodgers once again took on large contracts, totaling over $260 million, in order to overtake the Giants. Gonzalez made an impact in his first at-bat, when he blasted a Josh Johnson pitch into the right field seats.     

On the flip side, Giants GM Brian Sabean made a smart veteran signing to solidify his team's lineup. In one of the most underrated moves of the season, the Giants added infield extraordinaire Marco Scutaro. In 40 games with the club, Scutaro is hitting .333 with 26 RBI.

Another move of sorts that has saved the Giants in the absence of Melky Cabrera has been the rise of Angel Pagan. In August, Pagan hit .342 with three home runs and 15 RBI, while accumulating six stolen bases. These stats are very similar to the numbers Cabrera was putting up before his suspension (.346 average, 60 RBI), making Pagan quite a strong replacement for this club.

In the most fitting night of the ages, the stars aligned perfectly on Friday, Sept. 7, allowing the Giants' new acquisitions and the Dodgers; mega-team to square off on a cold, windy night at AT&T Park

As the night progressed, I noticed many telling signs about the direction that each team was traveling upon. The Giants drove in two runs on RBI singles, and mustered ten hits on the evening, while the Dodgers big four: (Kemp, Gonzalez, Ramirez, Ethier) went a combined 0-13 with one RBI.

The Dodgers' greatest offensive explosion came from Adam Kennedy, the crafty lefty who is good for a .280 average and those ridiculous uppercut hits. Kennedy blasted a 0-2 pitch from Lincecum onto the overhang in right field to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. The Giants responded in kind, the same way they always seem to, with late comebacks with scrappy at-bats.


The Giants lead the league in runs scored in the seventh inning or later, and this stat reared its head once again on Friday night. Scutaro drove in two runs with a clutch single in the seventh, Joaquin Arias followed suit in the eight when he beat out a dribbler to extend the lead to 5-2 Giants.

It’s ironic how the Giants have become the team win games in the fashion that the Dodgers did in April and May. The Dodgers lead the NL with 10 walkoff wins and held the best record in the league (32-15) with a bunch of no-named contributors, and the awesome first half belonging to Matt Kemp.

Buster Posey has gotten into the swing of the MVP race. (SD Dirk/Creative Commons)
Buster Posey has gotten into the swing of the MVP race. (SD Dirk/Creative Commons)
The Giants have flipped the script and are now playing their own style of team-oriented baseball led by the amazing second half of Buster Posey, (hitting over .370 since the All-Star Break).

In the past week alone, the Giants have proven why pitching, clutch hitting and scrappy play can win ball games in the Majors, much the same way it carried the Dodgers early in the year.

Last Sunday, against the Cubs, the Giants scored two in the ninth to pull the game out 7-5. Monday against Arizona, the Giants scored four runs in the final four innings, one being in extras for a walk off 9-8 win. This one swung on a hit by MVP favorite Buster Posey to tie the game in the ninth, followed by the game winning hit from Marco Scutaro in extras.

Tuesday, the Giants scored three in the seventh and one in the eighth but came up short in 11 innings against the Diamondbacks. This all concluding with the team's comeback, albeit only down one run, but nevertheless a resilient effort by the leaders in the NL West.

The Giants now lead the NL West by 4.5 games and are in prime position to take home the division crown. This team has absorbed the blow of losing Cabrera and is actually playing more like the unit that won the World Series in 2010. They need to straighten out their pitching staff, especially Madison Bumgarner, who has lost three straight while bumping his ERA up from 2.83 to 3.15 in that span.

If the Giants can continue to hit in clutch situations, and if Bruce Bochy can piece together his 37-man roster including 18 pitchers, this team will be in position for another strong postseason run, possibly facing the Strasburg-less Nationals in the first round.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are searching for answers, specifically how can they hit with runners in scoring position and what to do with a lineup full of big swingers but few producers. Do not count this team out, however. They are within two games in the Wild Card hunt, with a big series next week against the team they are chasing, St. Louis Cardinals.

Whatever happens over these next few weeks, teams will duly note the philosophies taken by general managers Colletti and Sabean over the offseason, as they prepare for 2013.



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