I am more excited about this season's Dodger team than I have been in a while. Why? Because my three favorite Dodgers are doing great. All the while, holding the rest of the team together with their talents. Three guys are winning, with little to no help from the rest of the team. Three amazing players, do not a championship caliber team, make.
First, Matt Kemp. The only thing I can say critical of him, is that he tries too hard some times, and others, he expects the ball to just make contact with his bat. Which leads me to believe that if he can stop playing in his head, and his emotions, and start trusting himself, he could maintain Hall Of Fame type numbers for his whole career. The way he strikes out against breaking balls, like he did against Tim Lincecum the other day, makes me worried.
Second, Clayton Kershaw. Although he is not pitching quite as well as he is capable of yet, I have no doubts that he will have an ERA of below 3.00, and at least 18 wins this year. I think the pressure is getting to him a bit. Thankfully, our veteran rotation is holding it down for him (for now).
Third, Andre Ethier. Andre's story of playing through injury, and redemption, is far too common in sports. He would have had a much more successful year last season if he had just dealt with these issues the moment they came up. But, alas, they try to be macho and play through the pain, thus hindering their own ability, and the ability of the team to achieve better results. His swing is back, and going into June he will still have the most RBI's in the NL. Mark my words.
Now, the rest of the team. I have one thing to say: HERE COME THE INJURIES! The problem you have with buying veteran ballplayers is their uncanny ability to get injured and/or underperform. When was the last time Ned Colletti acquired a player in the twilight of their career, and that player did well for an entire season? If you say Manny Ramirez, then you don't know your history, and you don't know about drugs. With Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Uribe, Juan Rivera, all on the DL in spurts, and what will surely be an injury plagued year for our pitching staff (Matt Guerrier), without help, we will be stuck hoping to play against subpar below .500 teams in order to get any W's.
Then there's Dee Gordon. Ugh. This hurts me to say this, but anyone not thinking with their heart should understand. He is not a major league shortstop, yet. And, we should have one. We are the Dodgers for God's sake. I mean, Rafael Furcal was injury prone yes, but he was never on a pace to have 50 errors, and bat .225. This kid has flashes of brilliance, but with an OBP of .268, how can we expect this guy to help us? Those errors cost us games in the long run. He may have 12 stolen bases, yet he's been caught 5 times. And, he already has 21 strikeouts. That many strikeouts are reserved for power hitters, not top of the order runners. We need a real SS.
And, how could I leave out James Loney? I love James. Always have. But, not for the reasons you think. The reason is his glove. The sad truth is, his play is suspect at all times. His hitting, his approach, his strike outs, and his situational hitting, are atrocious. We need a first baseman who can hit for average year-round, not just when the pressure's off at the end of a losing season.
These problems will catch up to the Dodgers over this very long season. Now, lets look at the reasons we are winning and losing.
Why are we winning?
Although we played well, and beat the surging Nationals, the rest of the teams we played are underperforming overall. Keep in mind that we have lost series' to the Braves, Brewers, and Cubs. The teams we have been owning are the likes of the Pirates, Rockies, and Padres. Nothing to get too excited about. Thankfully we will be playing a lot of games versus our division (which are all dismal teams right now). But, we still have interleague play, which we always lose, and an upcoming series with the World Series Champion Cardinals. If we can win the season series from the Cards, and just play .500 for the interleague play, we may be a contender.
Why will we lose games? You have to look at the overall stats for the whole team, versus the rest of the NL.
1. Team AB's-15th (You can't be second to last in at bats, and expect to do much)
2. Runs Scored-6th (Meh)
3. Hits-9th (You would think it would be higher what with Kemp and Ethier, but that's just it. It's just those two guys)
4. Extra Base Hits-9th (That's depending on a lot of singles to win games, and a lot of small ball to score runs)
5. Home Runs-8th (That's actually high for us. If you look at the previous 20 years)
6. RBI's-6th (Not terrible, but yet again, only two guys)
7. Stolen Bases-10th (How is this possible with Kemp and Gordon? No one else can run, that's how)
8. Caught Stealing-1st (Hey, at least we're trying. Too bad trying doesn't win championships)
All of these things make for a middle of the road team, at best.
1. Walks-2nd (You have Kemp and A.J. Ellis to thank for that)
2. Strikeouts-15th (That means 2nd overall. There is only one team that strikes out less than us)
3. Team Average-5th (Meh)
4. OBP-2nd (see comment about walks)
5. Slugging-5th (Not bad)
All of these things add up to a top five team, at best
Add those good and bad stats up, and we quite possibly make the playoffs (thanks to a dismal NL West), but not much else.
Honorable mention stats (top five in IBB, HBP, SAC)
If this new ownership is worth a damn, they will look at the numbers, and the dollars, and make moves for a better shortstop, and first baseman. Since our first baseman can't hit for power, and that's what they are supposed to do. If only we had Paul Konerko. And, if we had a more seasoned SS like a Renteria, or a Scutaro, we would have a better glove, and someone who bats for average, with occasional pop.
The pitching has been superb this season, with the exception of the bullpen. We are fourth in overall team ERA, but given up the third most walks. We will have a bullpen that is far worse than our starters, which will make our team have to score more runs to protect from a suspect pen. Our bullpen ERA is 6.97 (with the exception of Bellisario who just came back). That number includes Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Todd Coffey, Jamey Wright, Mike MacDougal, and Scott Elbert. That is NOT GOOD. One could say awful even.
I don't know why we are still messing with guys like Elbert. We need help there too. If these guys don't get it together before the all-star break...
We could do big things, like Matt Kemp always says about this year's team. But, not without help.