The Dodgers ended their 2011 campaign with 25 wins in their last 35 games. Will that late season success carry over into 2012, or will having the best hitter and best pitcher in the league still not be enough to win more than 82 games? Here is our True Blue LA look at the 2012 season.
Seven of us made predictions, and the average guess was that the Dodgers would finish 85-77 on the season. Three of the seven site authors predicted the Dodgers to make the playoffs, while four did not.
You can click on each name in this table to jump to the prediction summary from that person.
|2012 Dodgers Predictions|
|NL West 1st||Ari||Ari||Ari||LA||SF||Ari||Ari|
|NL West 2nd||LA||LA||LA||Col||LA||LA||SF|
|NL West 3rd||SF||Col||SF||Ari||Ari||SF||LA|
|NL West 4th||Col||SF||SD||SF||Col||Col||Col|
|NL West 5th||SD||SD||Col||SD||SD||SD||SD|
Be sure to give us your season predictions in the comments.
I think the Dodgers will win somewhere in the mid-80s, but are ultimately one big hitter short of truly contending. I have been impressed in spring training with Andre Ethier, who I believe will set a new career high in home runs, and Dee Gordon, who will wreak havoc on the bases and become a fan favorite.
I would have preferred to being back Hiroki Kuroda, but I do think the potential is there for a strong starting pitching staff this year. The problem is that the depth is razor thin. I like the bullpen, especially Jansen, Guerra, and Elbert at the back end, and think the unit as a whole will be strong, with enough arms in relief to provide quality bullpen depth.
Ultimately it's Arizona's division to lose. The Dodgers' ability to contend will depend on both (a) the division coming back to them; and (b) just about everything to go right, especially for James Loney, Juan Rivera, and Juan Uribe to hit.
The new ownership group will probably try to make a splash near the trade deadline, but the question is will a David Wright or someone of his ilk be enough to push the Dodgers into the playoffs? I think they fall a few games short.
The Dodgers will reverse form from last year. They will be in first place most of April and May, then struggle in June. The team will make a splash moving some prospects for something before the deadline. It will backfire as the team hits the skids in Aug and will be completely out of the race by September 1. On September 2 they pickup Kevin Kouzmanoff on a waiver deal with KC. Kouz hits 9 home runs in September, leading a magical charge that finds the Dodgers winning at a .790 clip. The late charge is just enough to win the last wild card spot on the last game of the regular season.
The season ends the next day. Kouz is signed to a two year deal on November 2. He does not hit nine home the rest of his career but retires with his name next to Marlon Anderson, Rafael Belliard, Manny Ramirez, and other 21st century September Dodger heroes.
As Spring Training gives way to the last exhibition games before the start of the regular season, the giddy optimism of training camp can give way to the harsh realities of the season ahead. There is plenty of justifiable excitement to be had when one looks at the top end of the Dodgers roster: Clayton Kershaw is the current Cy Young award holder, Matt Kemp is coming off an MVP-type year and looking like a star, Andre Ethier appears healthy and ready to pick up where he left off with a mid-to-upper .800s OPS season, Dee Gordon is poised to be Mr. Excitement. But get under the surface, and this team has more questions that a standardized college entrance exam. How does the rest of the rotation hold up? Who provides the rest of the offense? Is the bullpen stellar or ready to crack?
I think the 2012 Dodgers will have at least one player break through on offense, perhaps James Loney retains enough of his season-ending hot streak to be a significant force, or Jerry Sands excels in Albuquerque and wrests the left field job from Juan Rivera, but there is a enough patchwork in the lineup (Uribe, Rivera, Ellis and Ellis) that the fabric of the offense could still unravel. I also believe at least one of the other starters will also be very good, but again, will it be enough when the #6 starter is the raw Nathan Eovaldi?
For the upcoming season I think the Dodgers will be able to keep it close enough that new ownership will be able to make a mid-season move or two of real significance, but ultimately, they will fall short of their post-season dreams.
I could pretend that my optimistic forecast is related to the recent news about the Dodgers being sold for billions (literally) to a group led by Magic Johnson. The truth is, I was already feeling optimistic going into this and really every season. The Dodgers do begin the season with what appears to be a light schedule and the club could
jump out to an early divisional lead; enough that it could tempt management into being buyers at the deadline (yes, David Wright looks good to me.) Just a little bit of luck and some bounce back years from guys like Ethier and Chad Billingsley may be enough to steal a weak division (for example, the Diamondbacks ended up finishing 6 games ahead of their Pythag record last year while the Dodgers were 2 behind; no reason that can't come back around this year.)
Ethier will be the team MVP, Kershaw will be the best pitcher on the team, and Chris Withrow will be the club's best rookie (with all of Withrow's appearances out of the bullpen). Kenley Jansen will be the closer by June 1.
The Dodgers win second Wild Card, win play-in game and lose NLDS.
Again, this will be a season where there will be as much focus on what goes on off-the-field as the daily parade of games. Ethier and Gordon should add to the offense but the pitching outside of Kershaw will have its ups and downs. Despite that, the team will get off to a good start and then buoyed with a June deal to Cincinnati (Jerry Hairston, Jr. and 3 pitching prospects, Withrow, Angel Sanchez and Tolleson for Brandon Phillips, who upon arrival is signed to a 5-year extension), the Dodgers battle the Giants for the division.
Actually, I tend to think that nothing that big (trade wise) will happen but there will be an excitement for the unknown that is great thing to have after the last 2 years of spending time in Courts.
Similar to last year, I really think the Dodgers season will hinge upon two things; (1) the health of the starting pitching and (2) how Ethier and Loney perform in the middle of the lineup. Even if Kemp falls off a bit, I'm betting that a big season from Ethier will make up for that difference, so the real X factor will be if Loney can put together a career year as he heads into free agency. The starting pitching depth is a little thin at the moment as several of the Dodgers top prospects are probably about a year away from making a big league impact, so it's essential that all the starters stay healthy. I'm not as concerned with the bullpen because I think we have several minor leaguers who can fill in the gaps if needed, although I will predict that Jansen will be the closer by the end of the year.
Overall, I think the Dodgers will battle until the very end, but I'm guessing that they fall one game short of making the final wildcard spot, and finish with a 86 - 76 record. In terms of particular players, I think Kemp will take a small step back in terms of his average, Ethier will have a big season (ties Kemp for team HR leader with 36), Kershaw wins another Cy Young, Uribe continues to suck, Loney has yet another up and down season, Dee Gordon hits .300 and steals 60 bases, and Jansen becomes an elite closer by the end of the season.
While a new era in Dodgers history has begun, the current roster is still stuck in the previous era, arguably surrounding the prime talent with even worse veterans than last year. Any hopes of making a run at either the division or the playoffs revolves around the team making a gigantic splash in trades or career years from 3-4 players.
Given that a compilation of projection systems has the Dodgers going 77-85, finishing fourth, and PECOTA has the Dodgers going 78-84, finishing fifth, I don't think my view is out of line. I believe the Dodgers are better than their projections though, with Andre Ethier having a better year to make up for Matt Kemp's inevitable regression, a strong bullpen with depth (unnecessarily deep), and Nathan Eovaldi and Rubby De La Rosa (down the stretch) to help out with the rotation.
While I suppose there's always hope in what is still a weak division, the future seasons are where the light at the end of the tunnel lies.