The Dodgers got off to a hot start last season at 30-13 but were unable to hold what was once a 7½-game lead in the National League West. Even after bolstering their offense with big in-season acquisitions the club faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. How will they rebound in 2013?
They have two outfielders coming off surgery in Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, and two new additions to the starting rotation in Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. They will be without shortstop Hanley Ramirez for the first six weeks or so of the season.
Last year we had a range of predictions from 81 to 88 wins for the Dodgers, with an average of 85. The Dodgers won 86 games, so we were close. Mike White and Brandon Lennox each picked 86 wins last year, but had World Series winner and division champion San Francisco finishing fourth and third in the NL West respectively.
Here are our predictions for the 2013 season.
|2012 Dodgers Predictions|
|NL West 1st||LA||LA||LA||LA||LA||LA|
|NL West 2nd||SF||Ari||SF||SF||SF||SF|
|NL West 3rd||Ari||SF||Ari||Ari||SD||Ari|
|NL West 4th||SD||SD||SD||SD||Ari||Col|
|NL West 5th||Col||Col||Col||Col||Col||SD|
That's an average just a shade under 91 wins on the season. Bovada currently has the Dodgers' over-under for wins on the season at 90½, so we are right there.
Be sure to give us your season predictions in the comments.
The Dodgers certainly do have a lot of question marks, but with their $230 million or so payroll they also have a lot of really good players, and just on the volume of their talent alone I think enough will go right for them to win the division. I think Matt Kemp will bounce back and have a fantastic season, and I think Carl Crawford is the key to the offense. A healthy and productive season from Crawford transforms the Dodgers offense from good to great.
On the pitching side, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke lead a stellar staff, and here we are nearing opening day and Chad Billingsley's elbow is perfectly intact. Having Billingsley a part of the rotation gives the Dodgers that extra layer of depth, as does having so many good bullpen arms that the Triple-A Albuquerque bullpen will be major league quality.
I think three teams have a shot at the NL West, with the Dodgers the best of the bunch. I have the Giants and Braves taking the two wild cards, with the Nationals and, to a lesser extent, the Reds establishing the class of the National League.
Much like 1992, the most anticipated Dodger season in 21 years is derailed by injury, and non-performance from one time All-Stars. The vaunted Dodger rotation depth dissipates so fast that Stephen Fife gets five starts. Even iron man Adrian Gonzalez is not immune leaving the Dodgers with a starting infield of Hairston / Ellis / Cruz / Uribe for one game too many. Dodger fans are left to ponder what exactly does $250 million buy, while the visiting Dodgers are greeted by "Beat LA" fervor from every stadium, as they become the nation's favorite baseball whipping boy. Unlike the 1992 team, the 2013 version has a Puig in reserve, and plenty of money. By June the Dodgers can not hold back the Dodgers fan chants of PUIG PUIG PUIG, and Yasiel Puig is inserted into the every day lineup against the Padres on June 3. Puig isn't Mike Trout but does a very reasonable Raul Mondesi imitation. A deadline deal brings in more reinforcements with Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. Even with three recent and unique Cy Young award winners in the rotation it takes the Dodgers all 159 games to track down the gritty Diamondbacks. Needing a three game sweep of the Rockies on the final weekend of the regular season the Dodgers send Clayton, Lee, and Grienke against Fredrich, Pomeranian, and Garland. The results are as you would expect lining the Dodgers up with a one game playoff against the Diamondbacks.
While hopes are high for the Dodger offense, it turns out that none of the stars has an MVP-quality season, but the four OPS's north of .850 in the middle of the order (Kemp, Gonzalez, Ramirez, Ethier), generate enough runs to support the strong and deep Los Angeles rotation who, like the 1974 edition of this squad, place three pitchers (Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, who also garners the National League Rookie of the Year award) in the top-five of the NL Cy Young voting. The race is the NL West is tight until the management team of Kasten and Colletti swing a deadline deal for Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis, who fill in the infield holes created by Mark Ellis fracturing a fibula in the refurbished clubhouse and Luis Cruz contracting trichinosis after post-game dining at a questionable food truck in Echo Park. Zach Lee, Joc Pederson and Dee Gordon headline the package sent to New York in exchange for the rental duo. The Dodgers clinch the division on the road in San Francisco while opening a series there and the five-game losing streak that concludes the season makes the race appear closer than it actually was and costs Los Angeles an home-field advantage in the postseason. Yasiel Puig continues his hot hitting in Chattanooga for the first ten days of the season, but then has some difficulty adjusting to a steady diet of sliders, curveballs and change-ups from the prospects in AA ball, delaying his recall to the big league club to September. After California Lottery winner Bill Plunkett retires on August 31, the Orange County Register hires Eric Stephen as their Dodger beat writer, enabling Eric to be doused in clubhouse champagne after the Dodgers NLCS victory over the Atlanta Braves.
On the back of a rotation with 4 starters making 29 or more starts and a bullpen with 2 pitchers with 15 or more saves, the Dodgers maintain a steady lead throughout the first half and then a poor start after the All-Star break brings many trade rumors but in the end, just some bench boosting is done. Yasiel Puig makes 2 trips to the big club as Ethier and Crawford make short trips to the DL but his real contribution is in September as he hits a game tying pinch hit home run to spark a 6 game winning streak as the Dodgers clinch the division.
Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp both hit 28 home runs and Ethier hits 7 home runs off left-handers. And Hanley Ramirez comes back and ultimately finishes the season I seeing you from third base.
The Dodgers end the season breaking their all-time attendance record and Vin Scully signs on for another year. Beyond that is a crapshoot.
Early struggles by the Dodger offense forces management to shake things up, and it turns out the answer is calling up Dee Gordon to play shortstop. The move works out so well that when Hanely Ramirez does return he ends up back at 3rd base (forcing a struggling Luis Cruz to the bench), and Dee ends up leading the major leagues in stolen bases while hitting a cool .300. Puig is another reinforcement that comes a little later in the year as an injury replacement for Ethier, and his 20 second half home runs lead the team. Kemp returns to form for the most part although his power numbers drop a bit, but Adrian Gonzalez picks up the slack and hits 35 bombs for the season. The rotation is outstanding all year long, with Kershaw posting Cy Young numbers again and a resurgent Josh Beckett actually fitting into the number two spot. Greinke and Ryu don't quite live up to their contracts but are still solid, while Billingsley battles fingernail and blister issues all year long but manages decent numbers for a number five starter. A deep bullpen is what really puts the Dodgers over the top as Kenely Jansen re-claims the closer role and 2012 third round pick Onelki Garcia surprises everyone by forcing his way into an already strong bullpen and taking over as the set-up man. It all ends with the Dodgers reaching the 90-win mark for the first time since the 2009 season and capturing a NL West title.
While I remain far more bullish entering 2013 than I was entering 2012, it's hard to imagine the club getting off to as hot of a start as they did last season. The first blow has already been struck in Hanley Ramirez starting the year on the shelf and on top of that the pitching rotation is weaker than it could be with Chad Billingsley nursing a minor injury. While the rotation overall remains in good shape (a 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Greinke is as good as it gets) the lineup looks fairly uninspiring without Ramirez. Luis Cruz was a star in 2012 but I have a hard time believing he can replicate that success. Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis are solid but not all that exciting, Carl Crawford is coming back from serious injury and his performance the past two years (when healthy) was terrible, and third base will be a rotation of Hairston, Uribe and Punto to start the season.
I think starting the year a bit off the pace is a realistic possibility and much will be written about the $200+ million team underperforming. All that being said, I do think the club will find it's groove near mid-season and end up winning the division. Hanley Ramirez will return to action and the club has a (judging from spring training) a surprisingly strong insurance policy in Puig in case one of the outfielders goes down to injury or is ineffective. With the new ownership group there is always the chance for a mid-season trade (judging by 2012 the front office is unconcerned about adding salary and parting with top prospects) to bolster either the pitching staff or the lineup. I predict the Dodgers to win the NL West by a few games and have a surprisingly stress-free run down the stretch.