This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Dodgers, the NL West’s defending champions, and not by a small margin. But you’ve got to wonder if they’ll get complacent after such a successful year.
Projected Lineup: LF Carl Crawford, RF Yasiel Puig, SS Hanley Ramirez, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, CF Matt Kemp, 3B Juan Uribe, C A.J. Ellis, 2B Dee Gordon
The Dodgers had an almost uncharacteristically quiet offseason. Yasiel Puig’s shorts may have made more news this winter than the team did.
After missing out on any big-name targets such as Masahiro Tanaka, the Dodgers opted instead to focus internally and sign ace Clayton Kershaw to a record-setting new contract extension. They also re-inked a few guys who were critical down the stretch last year—third baseman Juan Uribe and set-up man Brian Wilson. But what you didn’t hear about were the guys they let go: Mark Ellis, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston – four veterans who were strong clubhouse influences.
By now, faithful reader, you’re starting to see where I’m going with this. “Okay, Woods,” I’m sure you all are saying, “Surely you couldn’t be arguing that Dodgers will fall out of contention because they lost these four old guys, could you?”
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m arguing.
To get a good idea of the chemistry they’ve lost, you simply have to look at the players remaining in the clubhouse, consider all the raucous personalities and clashing egos, and tell me that it sounds like a suitable place to, say, settle down in a quiet room and watch video to try and work out a kink in your swing.
You’ve got Puig, who parties at the Playboy mansion with Snoop Dogg. Hanley Ramirez, the flamboyant superstar who wears more bling than 2 Chainz. Then you throw into the mix an Andre Ethier who’s frustrated with his lack of playing time, and you’ve got a slightly more dysfunctional environment than that of “The Real World: Ex-plosion,” which actually is as bad as it sounds.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t party. I’m saying that balance is key, and what the Dodgers have is a star-studded cast that’s simply too big to be cohesive.
Pitching-wise, the Dodgers should be solid, but the problem is that they were so good last year that they’re almost certainly due for a regression. Clayton Kershaw, fresh off his second Cy Young Award, has solidified his spot as the best pitcher in the game. But how do you improve on the video game-like numbers he posted last year? A 1.83 ERA isn’t even human. So unless a report surfaces that says Kershaw is actually an alien (entirely possible), I expect him to come slightly back down to Earth.
Zack Greinke will be hard-pressed to repeat a performance that most stat guys will tell you was aided by a fair amount of luck. All of Greinke’s peripheral numbers indicate that the baseball gods were simply on his side last year: a low home run/flyball rate (5.7%), a career low BABIP (.284) and a high strand rate (80.8%).
None of this is to say that these guys won’t still put up exceptional seasons. But you can’t deny the warning signs are there.
Projected Finish: 79-83, Third place in NL West