The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the best teams in the National League, but what exactly does that mean ?
The Dodgers certainly have a team capable of winning the National League West, some would argue that it would be a catastrophe if they don’t. But, what are their long-term prospects even if they win the division ?
First, the things I like about this team. I love their starting pitching. You can’t go wrong with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke sitting as the 1 & 2 atop the rotation. It guards against any prolonged losing streaks by having two aces anchoring the staff. Hyun Jin-Ryu is more than serviceable as a number three in the rotation. His pulled buttock muscle is problematic as he will have to spend a few weeks on the DL.
I love the Dodgers length in their line-up. Their line-up has an American League feel with run producers up and down the line-up card. Matt Kemp’s resurgence has made the line-up more formidable. Kemp is now healthy and it’s evident with his renewed power stroke. Dee Gordon has been the ultimate table-setter, flirting with .300 for much of the season and leading baseball in stolen bases. After a quiet first few months, Adrian Gonzalez has been the run producer the Dodgers envisioned. He has been wielding a hot bat and has been pivotal to the Dodgers surge into first place.
I also like Kenley Jansen. Some feel quality closers are a dime-a-dozen but I believe having a clear-cut guy the team can depend on is vital to a team’s long-term success. Aside from a few blips on the screen, Jansen has been consistently good. At times he has been electric.
With all the things I like about this team, there is a lot I don’t like.
This Dodger bullpen is awful. There is no other way to sugar-coat it, mask it, brush over it. I don’t blame Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, Jamey Wright or Brandon League. These guys are giving what they have. They are busting their tail to try to get the job done. I know I am guilty of over-estimating how good this pen would be. I told anyone that would listen before the year that the Dodgers bullpen would be a top-5 bullpen. I was wrong, but the Dodgers front office was also wrong. They felt they had assembled a bullpen of power arms that would complement the Dodgers starter’s perfectly. It hasn’t worked out that way.
I actually commend Dodgers General Manager Ned Coletti for trying to get something done with three former closers with power arms to get the ball to Jansen. It just hasn’t worked. And, the residual effect of former owner Frank McCourt gutting the minor league system shows with some of these stop-gap measures needed for the big league club. I have no doubt the Dodgers will have the arms in their system soon. But, right now they are not there and the Dodgers are stuck.
The Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke platoon is a mess. The Dodgers can argue that the group gives them versatility and options. I just feel the whole situation is not conducive to long-term success. I was positive the Dodgers would deal an outfielder/ or two in the off-season. Instead the Dodgers let the situation languish and now it feels like a pall over the organization. I don’t know whether they don’t want to eat the money, or if they just don’t know what they want to do, but eventually the Dodgers need to dump two of these players, eat the salary and let Joc Pederson play. That better be next year.
Defensively this team has been much better than they were in April and May. That is a big reason why they were able to pick up 15.5 games on the Giants over a two month stretch. But, the defensive woes continue to rear its ugly head at the worst times. Last week in Milwaukee the Dodgers gave the Brewers 8 outs in an inning where the Brew Crew scored 4 runs on their way to a 9-3 win.
Then today Adrian Gonzalez drops a ball at first base and the Brewers take advantage by scoring three runs because the Dodgers gave them an extra out to play with. The Dodgers penchant for defensive mis-cues against good teams will cost them dearly in the post-season.
Lastly, the Dodgers impotence with the bases loaded is becoming stuff of legend. I have not seen a Dodger team so woeful with the bases loaded……ever. It’s grown to the point where I really don’t want this club to load the bases because I know it will end in pain and misery. The Dodgers are just awful in these run-scoring situations.
Do the Dodgers positives outweigh their negatives ? Yes and no. In the regular season the Dodgers problems can be masked. In a short/playoff series against a good team the Dodgers “issues” cost you games and they cost you series. While I feel this team is good enough to out-last the under-manned Giants, I really don’t see this team, as currently constructed, contending for a World Series championship. I heart says “yes,” but my head says they just don’t have enough.