The Legend of Sam Fuld grows

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I’m going to have to refrain from joining the Sam Fuld cult. He’s a nice guy who has been fun to watch, but every time a brainy guy who does some pretty unexpectedly nifty things in a small sample of games, I end up getting burned. I mean, I’m still trying to unload all of that Brian Bannister merchandise I bought a couple of years ago, but the market simply cratered for it.

Still, there’s quite a Sam Fuld cult at the moment, borne mostly of his diving catches, .400+ OBP  and — dare I say it? — scrappy performance in the Rays’ outfield. Now there’s one more reason to become a Fuldhead. At least if you’re into a certain brand of baseball analysis:

Among worldly Sam Fuld’s many experiences is the time he spent as an intern at Stats, Inc., after he graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics … Fuld is fascinated by what the numbers tell him about the concept of clutch hitters.

“Most of the numbers out there show that there’s no such thing,” Fuld said. “And it’s crazy to think that, because I swear I’ve played with guys who just tend to come through in the clutch. And others that don’t. “But that’s the beauty of numbers is that our minds don’t necessarily capture the whole picture accurately. Our emotions remember certain things for whatever reason, and there are certain things you don’t remember. So I think that’s the beauty of numbers. It’s fact. There’s no way around it.”

Yes, it’s possible that the Fuld wave has peaked as far as baseball cultural phenomenons go. But I always like it when people accept that our minds are often unreliable narrators and that numbers don’t lie when they’re merely being used to present what happened (conclusions to draw from those numbers and what they can and can’t predict is where it gets trickier).

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.