After last night’s game with the Detroit Tigers the Los Angeles Dodgers have played 10 games. Yeah the season is still very very young but we also have seen a lot in these 10 games. Now this doesn’t mean that this is a final conclusion but this is an observation that caught attention at this point. Here’s what caught my eye up to this point.
Dee Gordon coming through: During Spring Training many people noticed that Dee Gordon bulked up a little as he prepare to possibly play 2nd base. During Spring Training Dee showed that he has indeed been working out and working oh his swing as well. In the 9 games he has been hitting very well batting .394 and 5 RBI’s. I will admit I was critical of Dee especially after the last 2 seasons where he really struggled batting and fielding but to this point he’s showing that he indeed is going to make the most of this opportunity. I am interested to see what he does in the month of May and if he continues to produce.
Matt Kemp performance back on the field: Matt Kemp’s return has been the talk of many Dodger fans. Since the home opener many wondered what Kemp will do on the field. Well it’s fair to say that he has been here and there but he’s also just getting his feet wet in actual games. Batting wise Kemp has had a number of 1-4 or 0 for whatever games but that is expected right about now. Let’s not forget Kemp on Sunday had an outstanding game that included him bombing two Home Runs against the Giants. Another thing that many people haven’t noticed is Kemp’s plate discipline has gotten better. He’s laying off more low and away pitches from what I’ve noticed. Fielding wise Kemp has been struggling and once again product of not really playing in games. Right now Kemp showing he wants to be out there to a point but he has to understand that it will take time for him to completely get it together which is showing thankfully.
Kenley Jansen Struggles: Right now Jansen has been struggling closing games. Last series against the Tigers Jansen allowed the Tigers to either tie or take the lead in late innings. Is this a cause for concern? Well as of right now no. Yes Kenley has failed to close games effectively but lets not compare him to Brandon League or Johnathan Broxton. I believe Jansen will get it together. If the Dodgers aren’t panicking then no need to really be concerned. Now this is a question I do bring up. When Brian Wilson get back from injury and if Jansen struggles continues, Will we see Wilson close games? I wouldn’t be surprised but I believe Kenley will figure it out.
Batting with RISP Woes: This has been the Dodgers issue since the postseason. Yes the Dodgers can hit and hit a lot but when they have Runners In Scoring Position (RISP) then the Bats will go dead from time to time. Dodgers have to consistently get the bats going and get insurance runs. This team right now is batting .223 with RISP and that at times can be problematic but there’s plenty of time to change that. This team is capable of turning things around.
Injuries Injuries Injuries: The Injury bug has hit early. One thing that will hurt a team is the injury bug and so far is has claimed Kershaw, AJ Ellis, and Brian Wilson. Last season this was one of the many issues that hurt the Dodgers which was a huge reason on why the Dodgers fell to last place. I always say if things are going to happen better now than later in the season or summer because that’s when you’ll have to really hit a stride.
Dodger Game blackout STILL Going On: We are 10 games into the season and STILL 70% of the Los Angeles market are unable to see Dodger games due to the Time Warner Cable dispute with other TV providers. Recently in numerous articles it was said that DirecTV and TWC could not come to a deal and that DirecTV has walked away from negotiations Time Warner blames DTV while Direct blames TWC for it’s ridiculous offer. Anyway point being that nobody has SportsNet LA which leaves many Dodger fans in the dark. Me myself have been listening and watching highlights/updates on MLB Network to see what is going on with the Dodgers. On Fox 11 news Steve Garvey was interviewed and he predicted that Dodger fans will have SportsNet LA in 2 weeks. So We’ll see if he is right on that prediction. Until then Dodger fans will have to urge their TV providers to get something done soon.
Those are my observations from 10 games into the season. Some obvious and some not so much. Now I want to hear from you guys. What are your observations from this team so far?
The regular season has started. The Dodgers kicked off the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sidney Australia. Many Dodger fans managed to stay up to watch the 1:47 AM (Pacific time/7:47 PM in Sidney) start and see Los Angeles pull off the 3-1 victory to open the season as well as complete the season. Now while many stayed up only few were able to see it on TV. Yes some may have found an online stream to watch the games or listened on Radio if the option was there but it was a real struggle to see the games. As of today as I type this there’s still no deal by Time Warner Cable and Any major cable provider (DirecTV, Dish, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc) to carry the Dodgers new channel SportsNet LA. The issue seems to be the same with every new channel that comes out and that’s the price that should be paid to carry the network thus leaving fans who don’t have Time Warner or Bright house hostage from seeing games. Usually I would talk about the game or the Dodgers playing in Australia but I feel this is a huge issue right now. Why you ask? Well 70% of the Los Angeles market don’t have SportsNet LA which means almost no one saw the game on TV. Mind you this isn’t counting streams that fans found to watch the game. There has been people who threatened to switch, if not having doing so already.
For those who don’t remember the Lakers had this same issue. While it’s different rules (Yes It is! No use of repeating it) the situation is dearly similar if not the same. Many fans blacked out from seeing their team in their own market if they didn’t have Time Warner. Most TV providers managed to get a deal within 2 weeks of the season (Dish as far as I know is the only cable provider that don’t have it). Also the Pac-12 Network as many College fans in the area know is currently going through the same thing with DirecTV and has reached a point where Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has recommended that users switch providers switch if they want the Pac-12 Network. Now the Dodgers are a higher demand which will push providers and TWC to come to a deal soon. I have called Dish numerous times and from what they told me is that there is a good demand from people who want SportsNet LA which is good for Dish users. Lately there has been rumor going around that DirecTV could be getting SportsNet LA very soon so things are coming along. Fans however are still upset and won’t be happy until an agreement is reached.
So who’s to blame for all of this? The Dodgers for agreeing to the deal and thinking money over fans (Been a few complaints of that lately)? Time Warner Cable for sending cable providers a ridiculous price just to carry their network? Cable providers for giving too low a number and claiming they’re thinking about the customer when they aren’t? Well depends on how you’re looking at things. In my opinion I believe everyone is to blame for this and the fans are suffering for it. TWC and Cable providers can’t really decide on a price and the Dodgers decided to take the TWC deal knowing that many fans will be shut out from seeing Dodger games. Many Dodger fans are looking to switch but I do give many this advice. Don’t switch JUST because you don’t have ONE channel. Yes you want to see the Dodgers and that’s very understandable but completely switching just for one channel will not do its justice. Right now it’s upsetting that many fans will miss their team in their OWN market and understandable. Lets hope that they’ll come to something sooner rather than later.
We finally made it past the pitchers and now to the most interesting part of our preview. The position players. I believe this is where most of the Dodgers questions lay. In this post we take a look at a what you can say loaded Infield filled with Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and AJ Ellis to name a few. Last season this was a group that was without Hanley Ramirez for some of the season but still managed to hold up with Adrian Gonzalez playing really well and Mark Ellis picking things up. This season the Dodgers are going into the 2014 Season with a different look at some positions. Lets take a look at the Dodger infield.
2013 Review: Last season the Dodgers started out the season without a key member of their Infield group. Hanley Ramirez was out with an injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic. Things really didn’t look so good for the Dodgers from the jump. Defensively the infield committed errors left and right and with the bat some struggled big time. Guys like Justin Sellers, Luis Cruz, and Jerry Hariston Jr really had issues swinging the bat and getting on base. Mark Ellis and AJ Ellis were batting pretty solid and Skip Schumaker had troubles at the beginning of the season. Dodgers knew they had to make changes so they went on to DFA Luis Cruz, Who managed to catch on late last season, and started Juan Uribe who was in the last year of his contract and struggled his last two years as a Dodger. Uribe managed to have himself a breakout first half of the season and many Dodger fans including myself was wondering where was this was earlier? When the Dodgers got Hanley Ramirez back the Dodgers line up not only got more deadly but the infield managed to get better as the second half of the season got rolling. Guys like Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker got hot and contributed Come the 2nd half of the season guys the Dodgers really got rolling as Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley kept there successful season rolling, Uribe added on to his turn around season, AJ and Mark Ellis continued their solid contributions to the team. The playoffs saw something completely different as Los Angeles would eliminate the Braves thanks to Juan Uribe’s home run to put the Dodgers up in the 8th Inning. The NLCS would be a whole different thing as Hanley would go down due to fractured ribs that hampered him through the series. St Louis would eliminate the Dodgers in 6 games.
Off-season: The Off-season would give the Dodgers a number of questions in regards to the infield. The Dodgers were looking to upgrade at 3rd and 2nd as well as look for some bench help. Dodgers went on to re-sign Juan Uribe to a 2 year after having that breakout season. One signing that caused a bit of a buzz through Los Angeles was the signing of Cuban Infielder Alexander Guerrero. Nobody knew much about Guerrero but he has some high expectations when he plays. Now the Dodgers did happen to lose Mark Ellis (Cardinals), Nick Punto (A’s), and Skip Schumaker (Reds) as well as Jerry Hariston Jr to retirement. That put the Dodgers in a situation to find players to add to the bench. In comes Dee Gordon and Scott Van Slyke who were on the bench for the postseason and part of the regular season. Dodgers would go on to invite Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, and Chone Figgins. One of them could also make it to the active roster and play a bench role.
Alex Guerrero: Many people in Los Angeles were a buzz about the signing of Alexander Guerrero. The Cuban infielder had Dodger fans raving about him without even seeing him play. Guerrero originally plays Shortstop but seeing that Hanley has that position locked up the Dodgers moved him to 2nd Base. It is unknown that he will be an upgrade at 2nd base or not. There has been word that he has struggled at the position defensively but not playing for a year does that. Only time will tell what we can expect.
Erisbel Arruebarrena: Okay so I had a hard time spelling this without looking. Anyways remember the guy who had his last name arch almost all the way around the back of his jersey? Meet Erisbel Arruebarrena. The Dodgers signed the 23 year old Cuban Shortstop at the beginning of February which was very interesting for the Dodgers to do. Arruebarrena played in the World Baseball Classic for Cuba and really destroyed it defensively and with the bat (.375 BA through the tournament). Mostly he is known for his glove which is understandable why the Dodgers signed him. When Erisbel gets to the Dodgers he will start at Triple A to get a few games under him before Los Angeles eventually calls him up. Weather he will push Hanley to 3rd Base will remain to be seen.
3 Questions to be answered:
Platoon at 2nd Base?: Before the season started it was projected that Alex Guerrero would be starting at 2nd base come opening day. His recent struggles during Spring Training has caused the Dodgers to consider sending the Cuban infielder down to the Minors for some seasoning. Now this will leave the Dodgers in a position to figure out what to do at the 2nd base position. Dodgers moved Dee Gordon over to 2nd as well as given Justin Turner and Chone Figgins shots at 2nd base. From the looks of it Dee is the favorite to be the opening day starter at 2nd base due to his play in Spring Training. Dee has had fielding and batting issues during his time up at Shortstop and this could be Dee’s last shot. Most likely the Dodgers will platoon at 2nd until Guerrero get it together at 2nd base.
Juan Uribe Encore?: Last Season Uribe has a big turn around season which left Dodger fans wondering “Where was this the first two years?” Now he’s back on a two year deal and starting at 3rd base but many are wondering if we will get the same productivity from Uribe this season or was that just a contract year thing? The first two years Uribe really struggled but come last season including playoffs Uribe had more plate discipline which gave him better at bats. I believe we will see productivity from Uribe but who really knows.
Hanley Ramriez?: Last season Hanley had a killer season but Injuries really got in the way of him showing us his productivity for the whole season. This year with no World Baseball Classic to worry about Hanley will be with the Dodgers come opening day but will we see Hanley put up the same numbers like last season? Without a doubt Hanley is a factor on this team and when healthy his presence on this team is indeed a huge one. Just look at the NLCS for example. The question is can Hanley repeat last seasons success? Answer is when healthy yes and maybe even better.
Players to Watch:
Alex Guerrero: Guerrero is truly a player to watch because we know so little of him. Apparently he has struggled in Spring Training fielding the ball. Word around is that he could get sent down to the minors for some seasoning which isn’t a bad thing at all. Things could change between now and the series in Australia but all indications are that he will be sent down. It’ll be interesting to see him develop as time come along but ultimately I do see him being in Dodger blue at some point during the season.
Tim Federowicz: Most likely starting the season off as the back up catcher which is obvious. Reason I have him on this list is because of his development. I am interested to see his development offensively. Last season FedEx batted .231 in 160 At bats. He was also sent down for Ramon Hernandez in the early parts of the season. I honestly see Tim some what improving with his bat this coming season but to what extent is something to be seen.
Chone Figgins: Non roster invite in Chone Figgins makes this list because he has a legit shot to make the roster. many may remember him for having those seasons with Anaheim but as of late he has been struggling. Figgins can basically play anywhere you put him and right now he is looking to find his way in Los Angeles. With the Dodgers looking to add on to their bench they could use a utility guy like Figgins but all of that depends on how he performs. If he can really find his way then it’ll be a good addition.
Dee Gordon: It seems as if Dee just can’t get it going. One moment he shows promise then the next he’s having issues batting and fielding. This season Dee will be playing 2nd Base which was a position he played a little in Triple A. As I stated earlier in this post this may be Dee’s last shot with the Dodgers to really make something happen and in the off-season he’s taking it really serious. Dee has bulked up a little and this Spring has been pretty decent. He is also a perfect 9 for 9 stealing bases. Most likely he’ll be the Opening Day starter at 2nd Base so it’ll be interesting to see how he does.
Overview: This group is shaping up to have another solid season with AJ Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez , and Hanley Ramirez. I think this group will really do wonders but can they stay healthy? Only time will tell but if they can then this group I believe will provide a major impact to the team offensively and defensively.
It’s time for another edition of this Dodgers Spring 2014 breakdown. Last post was previewing the Dodgers solid starting pitching rotation. This post we will now take a look at the Dodgers bullpen. Los Angeles bullpen has been what you can say up and down the last few years. There’s games where they look really solid or games where they’ll make you really want to pull your hair out (Assuming anyone has hair). This season the Dodgers upgraded the bullpen which looks good on paper but will they produce and help the Dodgers or will it be another year with the Box of Pain?
2013 Review: Last season was an up and down season for the Dodgers Bullpen. During the first half of the season the Dodgers bullpen was just a constant struggle. How you ask? Well Dodgers would go into late innings with a lead or training by one or two runs before the relief pitchers would come in and blow a lead or put the Dodgers way out of the game. Brandon League, who was the Dodgers closer for a good part of the first half of the season, blown countless amount of saves and pitching a 6.25 ERA while Ronald Belisario, Peter Moylan, Matt Guerrier/Carlos Marmol/Josh Wall wouldn’t help matters at all. Yeah it was that kind of start for the Dodgers. The Dodgers would make moves to attempt to better the bullpen like trading Matt Guerrier to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol (We all know it was for International Money) but it really didn’t help that much. Things would however start to turn for the Bullpen towards the last few weeks of the break when the Dodgers as a team got their act together. After the break the Dodgers bullpen would really turn around and get a complete revamp as well. Dodgers brought up Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez who would make solid contributions, Ronald Belisario and Carlos Marmol Sorta turned the corner, and JP Howell, Paco Rodriguez, and Kenley Jansen continued to have solid seasons that helped out the Dodgers but one signing really put it together. Los Angeles would go on to sign Brian Wilson to a one year deal which had a lot of Dodgers either excited about the move or iffy about it. Once Wilson hit the mound for the Dodgers many Dodger fans would go to love him. Wilson would pitch a 0.66 ERA in 13.2 Innings he pitched in 18 games. Overall the Dodgers bullpen would end the season with a 3.49 ERA and considering how the season went at the start I would take the way how it ended.
Off-season: The Dodgers off-season was a time to really revamp pitching. Los Angeles were in need of improving the bullpen from last season in hopes to really make a serious push towards brining a title to Los Angeles. First order of business was re-signing Brian Wilson who was a huge part to the Dodgers late season run to the NL West title. Wilson decided to sign back with the Dodgers over the Detroit Tigers. Dodgers would also get JP Howell back who also had a solid season with the Dodgers and was a huge pick up for Los Angeles. Now there were a two interesting signings the Dodgers made in the off-season with one brining back a former Dodger in Jamey Wright. Wright signed a deal with Tampa Bay last off-season and pitched some pretty good numbers coming out the pen pitching 3.09 ERA 1.20 WHIP. Wright towards the end of the 2012 season was also solid for the Dodgers as well. Another is Chris Perez who is coming from Cleveland. Perez is an iffy signing seeing that the 4 years in Cleveland he went from a ERA under two to a 4.33 ERA. Change in scenery can really help pitchers at times and it’ll be interesting to see if being in Los Angeles in a pitchers league and park helps him out.
Jamey Wright: Pretty much Jamey Wright was a brought back after having a solid season in Tampa Bay. Last season Wright pitched a 3.09 ERA coming out the Bullpen. This will be an upgrade to the pen when it comes to those mid innings when Los Angeles need to get out the inning. His numbers with the Dodgers may not have been great with the Dodgers but lets not forget towards the end of the season in 2012 he was doing pretty solid.
3 Questions To Be Answered:
1) Can we expect consistency from the Bullpen?: A consistent bullpen is something that the Dodgers haven’t had at all last season and that’s what they worked at improving this off-season. On Paper the Dodgers upgraded but we all know that it doesn’t matter until you actually play the game. I think all Dodger fans eyes will be this Bullpen as it will be a key to the team’s season. Think about it like this. Even though the Dodgers managed to win the division, how many of those games early on were lost due to the bullpen?
2) Brandon League Turnaround?: When he came to Los Angeles Brandon League was having solid outings and also closed game while Jansen missed the season with a heart issue. After getting a good contract by the Dodgers and was closing things took a complete turn south. League got knocked around left and right and blew saves which cost the Dodgers games. No I’m not pin pointing him as the reason why they struggled at the start. Brandon League finished the 2013 season with a 5.30 ERA and saw less and less time on the mound as time went along. This season will be a chance to League to really clean things up and turn it around but the main thing is can he recover from that horrendous 2013 season? I think that’s something everyone will be keeping a close eye on.
3) Closer Platoon?: Let’s state this right now. The Dodgers have a lights out 1-2 punch in the pen in Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. The question is that are we looking at a platoon at closer? Reason I ask that is because we know Brian Wilson will likely want to close games as well and not set up all season. I think they’ll be games where Wilson can close when Jansen will need an off day and Wilson I believe is fine with that otherwise he would’ve gone else where. One way or another no matter where they pitch in the pen the Dodgers have a killer Set-up/Closer 1-2 punch.
Players To Watch:
Brian Wilson: I have Wilson as a player to watch because this is his first full season with the Dodgers. Last season Wilson came to the Dodgers after missing a full year due to Tommy John Surgery and had to pitch in Minor league games to get back into game speed. Wilson looked great in rehab games and continued to look great once he came to the Dodgers by not giving up a run the whole season. Not bad at all. What many want to see and looking at is for him to continue his dominance on the mound.
Paco Rodriguez: Paco really had a solid 2013 Season and came along pretty well. Rodriguez pitched a 2.32 ERA in 76 games he appeared in and really had it going for majority of the season but towards the end and in Playoffs he really struggled giving up hits and couldn’t get out of innings. This season the improvement of Rodriguez is something I want to see. This kid really has a right future and can really produce in late innings when needed.
Chris Withrow: Chris Withrow might be one of my favorite pitchers coming out the bullpen. Initially a starting pitcher in the minors, Withrow came up to come out the bullpen for the Dodgers and really provided some solid innings for the Dodgers. One game many Dodger fans will remember is the game against Arizona in late July when Withrow continuously pitched for 3-4 extra innings to help the Dodgers defeat the Diamondbacks in extra innings. Likely Withrow won’t be on the 25 man roster but when he’s needed Withrow can go long innings if needed. You need a pitcher who can go 2-3 more innings for you then Chris Withrow is your guy.
Overview: This is a deep deep deep Bullpen. On paper the Dodgers really improved in this area but will it look that way on the field? Some players return to the Dodgers and new solid players join the team so it’ll be interesting to watch. One thing is certain is that this will be a interesting group and I’m excited to see how it develops from Spring Training and through out the season.
That’s right Dodger fans. It’s time for another year of Dodger position previews where we break down the Roster by splitting them up into groups like Starting Pitching/Bullpen Pitching, Outfield, Infield, and the final Overview. This year really looks to be interesting because they’re so many changes to this roster and with the expectations for the Dodgers are indeed high for this season. Today we will start off with pitching. This was an area where the Dodgers really tended to in the off-season. You’ve heard the term before: Pitching wins championships. So today Starting Pitching gets the nod.
2013 Review: Last season the Dodgers starting pitching staff was indeed the strength of the team. We all knew about Clayton Kershaw but the Dodgers knew that they needed help with the Pitching staff so they went out and signed former Cy Young Award Winner Zack Greinke and Top Korean Pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu to compliment the Dodgers Ace. On top of that the Dodgers were going into the 2013 season with a platoon of starting pitchers. So much that anything after 1-2 was a plain out mystery. Well that problem of having too many starting pitchers quickly turned into having not many options at all as the Dodgers saw injuries wipe away many options. Zack Greinke went down for a number of weeks after the fight in San Diego, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett went down for the season, and Aaron Harang was traded to Seattle. Lets not forget Chris Capuano went down to injury as well. Basically the Dodgers were calling up pitchers left and right (Matt Magil and Stephen Fife were called up). Somehow the Dodgers starting pitching held its own. Things turned as Zack Greinke came back along with Ryu and Kershaw who have been pitching great for Los Angeles which really helped the Dodgers a lot. The last week before the All-Star break the Dodgers would then trade for Ricky Nolasco who would also provide a solid outing for the Dodgers. Thanks to the help of starting pitching the Dodgers would win the NL West. At the end of the regular season the Dodgers Starting Pitching would statisticly be the best rotation in the MLB with a 3.13 ERA. Also to add that Clayton Kershaw would win Cy Young and Grenike would win Silver Slugger.
Offseason: The off-season was a time for the Dodgers to work on adding/improving on a few key spots including the starting pitching. One of the major things the Dodgers got out the way was the extension of Clayton Kershaw making him a Dodger for a few more years and the highest paid Pitcher in MLB History. Outside of that finding a solid Number 4 pitcher was also key for Los Angeles. Ricky Nolasco would sign with the Twins for a bigger deal than what the Dodgers would give him and the Yankees would outbid Los Angeles for highly coveted Japanese pitcher Tanaka. This off-season would indeed be different from the splash the Dodgers would make last off-season.
Dan Haren: Dan Haren would get signed by the Dodgers for a 1 year $10 Million Dollar deal during the off-season. While this wasn’t a knock the socks off deal it was a well needed and solid move at a cheap price. Last season with Washington Haren had a disappointing season which was had him at a 6.15 ERA which would be the worst ERA among starting pitchers. He would finish the 2013 season with a 10-14 record posting a 4.67 ERA.
Paul Maholm: As pitchers and catchers would report to camp many reporters would notice that Paul Maholm’s jersey would be in a locker. It would soon be announced that the Dodgers have signed Paul Maholm to a 1 year deal. It’s unknown at this point that Maholm will be a starter or a relief pitcher (Pending on the health of Josh Beckett). If starting Maholm will be fifth in the rotation as expected.
3 Questions To be Answered:
1) The Health of Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley: It was just a year ago that I was asking about the health of Chad Billingsley in one of these previews. Well now its STILL a question that has to be answered. Chad Billingsley is recovering from Tommy John Surgery that forced him to sit the whole season. If you remember Billingsley was dealing with injury issues during the 2012 season just when it seemed as if he was turning the corner back to his all-star form. Josh Beckett on the other hand also had surgery to for a nerve issue in his throwing arm which also sidelined him for the remainder of the 2013 season. Beckett struggled before his injury going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA. This season will be a fresh start for Billingsley and Beckett as they return from injury. Both are saying that they feel great but how their pitching will be remains to be seen. Beckett could return sooner but once Billingsley return will it be the bullpen for Beckett? I think we should see how healthy the two are before we jump to any conclusions.
2) 2nd Year of Hyun Jin Ryu?: Ryu had a very impressive 1st year going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA. This season Ryu will be looking to repeat if not improve from his rookie year. Now that he has a year under his belt in the MLB it’ll be interesting to see what he learned and how he has improved. Will Ryu improve and be a better pitcher in 2014? The thing I’m worried about is the sophomore slump (2nd year players perform below expectations after a good rookie year) but with Ryu he keeps himself motivated so I’m sure he will improve for next season.
3) 5th Starting Pitcher Issue?- The Dodgers spent the off-season improving the pitching rotation. We all know as of now the projected rotation 1-4 is set but the 5th spot in the rotation is a huge mystery. Before camp the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm to likely take that 5th spot while Josh Beckett, who is now cleared to throw, recovers from his surgery and get things going. Right now it’s a toss-up between Beckett and Maholm pending how Beckett feels but then come May-June when Chad Billingsley return then comes the question of how will Billingsley fit into the rotation? I thought it would be more confusing than it is now but with injury bound to happen things can change so it’s a good problem for the Dodgers to have.
Players to Watch:
Dan Haren- Haren is coming of a bad season with Washington last season. He is now in Southern California once again and in a pitcher’s park with a better line up. If Haren can provide solid innings for the Dodgers and stay healthy then he will be fine. I put him as a player to watch because I believe he has a lot to prove this season, especially after the season he had with the Nationals.
Zach Lee- Why Zach Lee? Well this Spring Training he will be with the Dodgers so this will be the first time many fans will see what he is all about. One of the top Pitching prospects in the organization for a while this will give him the exposer as well as a chance to pitch with the big leagues in some form. I think his performance this spring will give us an idea how ready he is for the big leagues. I think Lee will get called up as soon as this season but how soon will depend on a few things. Based off what I read on him I do believe he can develop into a really good pitcher.
Hyun Jin Ryu- As he enter his 2nd season in the MLB Ryu is still a pitcher to keep an eye on. Reason why is because his development will be interesting to watch this season. Last season he really impressed and became a solid Number 3 in the rotation. this year I see nothing but good things for Ryu.
Overview: Overall I think this year the Dodgers starting rotation will once again be the strength of the team. While Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu will indeed give us good outings the likes of Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, and Paul Maholm will be a huge unknown factor as of now. At the end of the day I do believe this is the best starting rotation in Major League Baseball and will indeed pitch like it as well.
It’s about that time everyone. Pitchers and Catchers reported to camp, Spring Training is on the Horizon, Yeah Dodger baseball is just up the street. Last season was indeed a wild one. Dodgers starting the first half of the season struggling, Injuries, and just a lot of negatives but towards the end of that a Cuban rookie sensation by the name of Yasiel Puig help provide a spark for the Dodgers historic turn around. The Dodgers managed to go on a rampage through the National League and came from being 10 games out of 1st place to winning the NL West and making it back to the Postseason for the first time since 2009. In the Postseason the Dodgers knocked off the Braves in what was a pretty wild NLDS before getting eliminated by the St Louis Cardinals in 6 games in what I believe was caused by mistakes and mismanagement. This season coming up now filled with a lot of expectations but along with those expectations comes many questions that are asked. This season is none different. Have some questions regarding the Dodgers 2014 Season? You can find them right here.
Yasiel Puig?- There’s so many questions you can ask regarding Yasiel Puig. There’s two questions that I have in regards to him. How much has he learned/improved in the off-season and Can he repeat his Rookie Season performance? The first question I ask is because there were some bad habits that he had that I do believe needed attention. You have to remember that Puig has raw talent that needed to be coached and I do believe the off-season was the best time for that. In an article Don Mattingly talked about maybe having Puig switch with Crawford in the lead off role. Puig’s big thing was the lack of patients at the plate so maybe he learned to take a pitch or two at the plate. The other questions is more about consistency. Yes Puig will have bad games, That happens but I am worried about the sophomore Slump. Something that tends to happen to second year players a lot. Puig slumped a little towards the end of the season and in the Postseason and this season he will have big expectations but he handled the pressure coming into the Majors. Lets hope he can handle it this season.
What can we expect from Alexander Guerrero?- This off-season the Dodgers made another splash in the international market. No not Tanaka but a Cuban infielder by the name of Alex Guerrero. Guerrero originally plays shortstop but is being converted to 2nd base which huge need for the Dodgers. Many Dodger fans let alone baseball fans don’t know much about Alexander Guerrero but from what we have seen in workout videos and reports from winter league is that the kid can play. During the Winter League Guerrero was really impressing with the bat by batting .289 with 6 RBI’s in 36 at bats. Guerrero was also hit with injuries which cut his season short. Yeah we don’t know too much and won’t know much until Spring Training but I can’t wait to see what he can bring to this team.
5 Starting Pitching Spot- This really has been a huge question for many fans as of late. Dodgers have Kershaw, Grienke, and Ryu as a for sure 1-2-3 and have already signed Dan Haren which means he’ll most likely be 4th in the rotation. That leaves the 5th spot in the rotation open and multiple options. There’s Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley who are returning from injury. Well only Beckett as Billingsley is out until July. Beckett who was apart of that huge trade back in 2012 had a promising Spring Training last season only to really come out the gate struggling before getting injured and missing the whole season. Dodgers can’t really trade him so it’s a matter of what the Dodgers will do. Then there’s the option of maybe calling up a pitcher. Zach Lee will be with the team during Spring Training so many fans will get a real look at the Top pitching prospect in the Organization. While Lee getting dropped into the 5th spot of the rotation is highly unlikely it’s an option I wouldn’t mind the Dodgers exercising at all. Then there’s signing a pitcher out of Free Agency which is another route the Dodgers seem to be taking. Lately Dodgers could be in on Bronson Arroyo which would give them a set rotation right there. It’s not really the most favorable but it shows that they aren’t too keen on the idea of Beckett or calling up a pitcher. I honestly believe if they miss out on Arroyo then we’ll see Beckett 5th in the rotation until Billingsley return over the summer. (Update: Paul Malhom was signed to a 1 year deal for 1.5 Million)
Outfield Log Jam- This seemed to be the huge issue as of late and the talk of baseball. The outfield situation that the Dodgers are facing right now between Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. In the offseason it seemed as if Ethier or Kemp would be on the way out until Ned Coletti said that keeping All four was the plan right now. Reason this is a question is because you have this issue. Who starts and who sits? We know Puig will likely be in there everyday in some way but what about the rest? Well that won’t be a problem for now because Kemp won’t be available anytime soon until he’s completely healthy. So Dodgers will mostly go with the outfield they had during the Postseason. Now when Kemp returns things will get interesting. I’m interested to see how Mattingly handles things. Will he make Kemp earn his spot or will he throw Kemp right into the mix? Something tells me that there will be a platoon situation. You can bring up a possible trade but it’ll be hard to see if any trade will take place during the season unless one of them gets frustrated over not playing everyday. Lets also not forget that Joc Pederson down in the minors. One of the top prospects in the Dodger organization was close to being called up with Puig. Could see him up this season if needed.
Matt Kemp Rebound Year?- Last season was a very forgettable one when you talk about Matt Kemp. A season filled with slumps and injuries that hampered the Outfielder. Once Puig was up and performing the way he was then things got complicated about who would play where. Kemp missed the postseason with an ankle injury and was forced to have surgery on his ankle and a clean up on his shoulder. During the off-season Kemp name was on the Trade block and teams like Seattle and Boston wanted him but at the end of Winter Meetings Dodgers opted to keep him. This season key thing to ask is this: Will Matt Kemp be a productive player? When healthy he can be but with bad discipline at the plate which was something we saw a lot last season. It’ll be unknown when Kemp will be available and Kemp isn’t rushing back at all which is good. I do believe Kemp can stay healthy but I do see the return to MVP form with the number of surgeries he has had.
Can Juan Uribe repeat his 2013 season?- Last season Juan Uribe had an outstanding 2013 season batting .275 with 12 HR and 50 RBI’s. A huge improvement from his 1st two years with the Dodgers. In the postseason Uribe really came up huge especially hitting the Home Run to put the Dodgers up and eliminate the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS. His 2013 performance earned him a 2 year $15 Million dollar contract with Los Angeles. Come the 2014 season Uribe will be the starting 3rd Baseman. Can he repeat his 2013 season and be the Juan Uribe we all expected him to be when the Dodgers first signed him? It seems like he can be with plate discipline he has developed last season by taking more pitches and laying off the bad ones and defensively being a monster. We can only wait and see.
Can The Dodgers Get Production From The Bench?- This is another huge question mark on this team. The Bench. Dodgers lost Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, and Mark Ellis to free agency and Michael Young retired rather than accept a deal from anyone , Guys who produced pretty well for the Dodgers last season. This year the Dodgers will most likely have Scott Van Slyke, Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon, Kemp/Crawford/Ethier, and Tim Federowicz to name a few on the bench. Van Slyke can provide a power bat off the bench and Dee can provide speed off the bench but if one of the starters go down then what can we expect from them? Dee has had fielding issues and trouble getting on base to utilize his speed, Sellers hasn’t been hitting that well in the Majors, and Tim Federowicz can be really inconsistent. While there are negatives to it they could surprise us this season off the bench. It’ll be unknown how much the Dodgers will miss those guys they lost to FA or retirement.
These are just some of the many questions that will be answered once the season starts. I along with many Dodger fans can’t wait to see what the season holds in store. Spring Training is here and some of our questions will soon be answered.
Clayton Kershaw has done a lot of things in his career in the MLB. 2 time Cy Young Award Winner, 3 Time MLB All-Star, A Triple Crown winner, 3 Time MLB ERA Champion. You can now add the highest paid pitcher in MLB History to that long list. On Wednesday the Dodgers signed Kershaw to a 7 year $210 Million Dollar extension with a opt out clause come the 5th year. That means he would be making $30 Million a season if I am not mistaken. Crazy once you think of it huh? There were rumors that Kershaw would make $300 Million and that he turned down that deal but in the end of the day Kershaw is locked in with the Dodgers for a good while and that was really key for the franchise.
Clayton Kershaw has been the best pitcher in MLB for a good 3 seasons. The numbers he has posted in that time span have been outstanding. I know many people worried about the thought of Kershaw leaving Los Angeles because of the numbers but I can assure you that him leaving was NOT going to happen. Money he was going to get was going to keep him a Dodger and he loves Los Angeles and the Dodgers organization. It was going to be a better move for him if he stayed with the Dodgers instead of going else where. Lets not forget that Clayton Kershaw is 25 years old. He’s doing all this stuff at such a young age so appreciate that fellow Dodger fans. I know I will that’s for sure. I will admit that the large deals do scare me a bit because when you look at other players who get these large deals their play either declines or something takes a turn for the worse. With Kershaw I think it could be different because he has been getting better every season and his work ethic and will to win never changes and that’s what eases me a good bit.
Clayton Kershaw will only get better and better and better. I am sure others in the NL West or the NL at that was hoping it would be else where. He’s a great player on the field and an even better person off the field. I have to say this contract it is indeed well deserved. The first major part of business for the Dodgers is done and out the way. What the next order of business is something we all have to wait and see but we do know that the Dodgers are not done making moves at all.
So much has happened since the end of the 2013 Season and this is only the beginning. As we approach Winter Meetings many teams will be filling needs or shedding roster. The Dodgers certainly will have a lot of things they have to take care of in order to reach their goal of winning a World Series. After being eliminated by the St Louis Cardinals, Many questions began to come up and with contract expired and players on the trade block things will get interesting during winter meetings. One thing that has caught many fans attention is the Outfield. The Dodgers have already expressed that they will listen to offers for all their outfielders not names Yasiel Puig. That means Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and MAYBE Prospect Joc Pederson are available for trade. Why are the Dodgers considering trading their outfielders? What for? Well there’s a few reasons you have to look at when it comes to it. One being that Kemp, Ethier, Puig, and Crawford are starting everyday Outfielders and doubt that any of them will accept a bench role or a platoon role.
Who is more likely to get traded is the big thing right now. Obviously Yasiel Puig is going nowhere and Carl Crawford won’t be going anywhere so that eliminates those two leaving Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Both Kemp and Ethier have some value and teams will be interested in both of them but one thing that comes to mind is their contracts and risk that comes with them. Matt Kemp makes $160 Million and has issues with being injury prone and tailed off while Andre Ethier makes $85 Million and also has a history with injuries and struggles to hit off Left Handed Hitters. This past season Kemp not only struggled hitting wise and defensively but also was hit hard with injuries once again leaving Andre Ethier to move to Center Field. Ethier did perform pretty well in that position while Kemp was out and while he isn’t as athletic as Kemp he is defensively better (Ethier with .992 Fielding percentage and Kemp .964 Fielding percentage). We’ve been hearing Kemp’s name a lot in trade talks and leads to a lot of people’s mind that he could be traded soon. While Kemp has been hit with injuries the past two seasons and subject to poor play, some think he can reach his 2011 form again. So far teams such as Boston, Texas, and Seattle have been really interested in obtaining Matt Kemp. In a report on ESPN Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart has even said that they are prepared for a trade if it’s to happen. So some speculation that something could happen.
Andre Ethier on the other hand has had his name in trade talks for a while now. Last season Ethier basically played all over the outfield for the Dodgers and ended playing in Center field when Matt Kemp was injured with a sprained ankle. His performance out in Center Field was pretty solid. Early in the season Ethier did struggle like Kemp did batting wise and many fans were really unhappy with their performace. Andre Ethier managed to pick it up as the team went. While there isn’t much talk about Ethier being traded you can bet that theres something out there for him. Ethier still has good value that the Dodgers could really use to upgrade at a few spots and prospects. Texas could use an outfielder and Boston could also ask about him as well. Whether teams are going to want to take a Right Fielder who struggles to hit off Left Handed Pitching remains to be seen. However Andre Ethier is a top trade target based on WAR (2.7 WAR).
Winter Meetings are coming up this Monday and Ned Coletti has already said that they are open to trading an Outfielder. Whether they do it or not remains to be seen. I think it’ll be wise to keep 4 Outfielders after what happened with the surplus of pitching they had last season. You never know what could happen with injuries and so on. I do however believe that the Dodgers will trade either Kemp or Ethier but they have to be willing to eat some of their contract which the Dodgers have said they’re willing to do. You can bet that teams are compiling a package for the Dodgers to offer and they will be reasonable ones that could help the Dodgers. All we can do is speculate and wait to see what happens.
Just like everyone I’m feeling the same way as I was Wednesday. Nervous, worried, wondering, all of the emotions running through my head. Why? As some may ask. Because today, Just like Game 5 one mistake, one big hit, one swing in momentum could End the Dodgers season or get them to A Game 7. In this post I’m not going to give you stats or any of that because this series proved to us that ANYTHING can happen. Instead I’m going to speak about tonight’s game as a fan. I’ll make it short and sweet. I’m nervous about this game…I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t but I won’t shower you with negatives on how Michael Wacha has been virtually unhitable or how the game is in St Louis tonight. I will say that it have confidence in the Dodgers because baseball is a weird game. One thing can change the outcome of a game and a series like this. Dodgers are at a point where one loss sends them home. Game 5 saw tickets as low as $13…Yeah some have given up on the Dodgers but like a lot of us the faith in this team. These guys were 9.5 games back of first place and roared back to win the NL West, made numerous comebacks in games, and left it on the field for us. This I believe is the biggest adversity they have ever faced this season where their backs are up against the wall. Kershaw is pitching tonight and the Dodgers have showed fight but tonight they must continue to show it. It’s win or go home for our boys in blue. I haven’t given up on you and the fans haven not given up on you Dodgers. It’s Game 6…..Baseball is weird…..We’re all nervous and the Boys In Blue ready to play.
It’s set. Dodgers will face off the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Both teams had tough challenges and gotten through them which proved them to be worthy of getting to this stage. The changes in the League Championship Series, Instead of a 5 game series we now have a 7 game series in a 2-3-2 format. Last round in the NLDS the Dodgers faced the Braves where they manage to eliminate Atlanta in 5 games. This allowed the Dodgers to get the extra days rest they needed and wait to see who their opponent would be in the NLCS. Now we have our teams but what are the matchups looking like between the two teams. Lets preview our NLCS Series between St Louis and Los Angeles.
The Cardinals pitching staff is no joke when you look at the names but during Postseason it’s a tail of the Bullpen and Starting pitching. Starting pitching wise the Cardinals have a decent staff posting a 3.42 ERA during the regular season. Postseason wise starters are pitching a 3.38 ERA. It’s not a deadly rotation but the Cardinals starters are no joke. St Louis Ace Adam Wainwright has been pitching great in the 2 games he started in the Postseason, pitching a 1.13 ERA. In game 5 of the NLDS vs Pittsburgh he pitched a complete game in the win. In his only start vs the Dodgers Wainwright gave up 7 hits and 3 Earned Runs in a game where he was given the loss. Joe Kelly, who will be starting game 1, has been lights out the past two months going 9-2 with a ERA of 2.06. Game three vs the Pirates he gave up 5 hits and 2 Earned Runs in a 5-3 loss. Kelly has also pitched 2 games against the Dodgers as well with only one of them being a start (5-1 win on Aug 6th in St Louis) and the other as a bullpen appearance in the 5-3 loss in Los Angeles. Another guy we can’t forget is Micheal Wacha. For those who aren’t familiar Wacha is the rookie who No hit the Washington Nationals through 8 innings and went 7 innings without giving up a hit against the Pirates in Game 4 of the NLDS. Wacha hasn’t faced the Dodgers this season but he will present a great challenge for Dodger batters. When you look at the St Louis bullpen you’ll see a different story. St Louis bullpen have pitched a 2.45 ERA this postseason giving up 4 runs with 3 of them being earned. During the regular season this bullpen pitched a 3.45 ERA with a 20-19 record and 44 saves. As a staff the St Louis has had trouble with Dodger batters in the 7 game they have played in the regular season, pitching a 4.21 ERA against Los Angeles.
The Dodgers on the other hand go into the NLCS with a good rotation but questions in their bullpen. Los Angeles is pitching a 3.09 ERA this postseason. Dodger starters this postseason pitch a 2.73 ERA from their 3 that played in the NLDS against the Braves. With this being a 7 game series the Dodgers will now have to use all 4 of their pitchers. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Zack Greinke would start Game 1 in St Louis. Greinke started Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves and had a solid outing against the Braves but the run support just wasn’t there for him. Greinke made a start against the Cardinals back on August 5th in St Louis. In that game he went 6 innings giving up 8 hits 2 earned runs and had 4 strikeouts in the win against St Louis (3-2 Win). Clayton Kershaw, who will be starting Game 2, has continued his dominance in his two starts in the Postseason pitching a 0.69 ERA with 18 Strikeouts. Kershaw however has had trouble against the Cardinals doping both starts he made against St Louis, Pitching a 4.15 ERA against St Louis and giving up 13 hits (The most against a team outside the NL West.). Game 3 will have to be decided between Rickey Nolasco and Hyun Jin Ryu. Nolasco was expected to start Game 4 of the NLDS until the choice was made to go with Kershaw in the closeout game. Ryu started Game 3 of the NLDS and was very shaky in his start giving up 6 hits and 4 earned runs through 3 innings. Both pitchers have started against the Cardinals and has had success. Ryu in his only start gave up 5 hits, 1 run, and had 7 strikeouts in the win at St Louis where Nolasco in his two starts pitches a 0.75 ERA against St Louis. When it comes to the bullpen the Dodgers will have to be on their A game. With JP Howell, Brian Wilson, and Kenley Jansen pitching well you think things will be alright..right? Well anyone outside of that has struggled, giving up hits and putting the team in bad positions to work with or giving up runs. Left off the roster for the NLCS is Chris Capuano and Paco Rodriguez while Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol are in. That leaves JP Howell as the only LHP in the pen. The Dodgers pitching staff against St Louis has had a lot of success, Pitching a 3.05 ERA against Cardinal batters.
The Cardinals have been known as a consistent hitting team and their ability to score runs is nothing to take lightly at all. During the regular season the Cardinals were in 3rd the NL in runs scored. The reason for that is how they’re able to hit with RISP (Runners In Scoring Position), batting .333 which is a NL best. Postseason however the Cardinals go into their series with the Dodgers batting .209. Looking at players like Pete Kozma, Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina , Matt Adams, and Carlos Beltran you don’t have room to sleep against them but one player you have to watch for is David Freese and Matt Carpenter. While both players are batting low averages in Postseason they’re still dangerous hitters in October and can strike in big moments that can shift momentum. The Cardinals also have some flaws with their batting that could haunt them in this series and that’s the inability of St Louis being able to hit against Left Handed Pitching. St Louis bats .238 against LHP which favors the Dodgers as they have two LHP in their rotation (Clayton Kershaw and Hyun Jin Ryu). Against the Dodgers St Louis struggled during the 7 game regular season series only batting .237. While they have struggled swinging the bat St Louis can strike at anytime which makes them a pretty scary team.
The Dodgers have been really lighting it up in the Postseason with their hitting .333 in their last series. Being led by guys like Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez the Dodgers have really been hitting. If you look at this team going into the NLCS things could really swing in their favor. The Cardinals have no Left Hand Pitcher in their rotation which is great for guys like Carl Crawford (Struggled against LHP this season.). Another thing you can look at is the return of Andre Ethier. Andre didn’t start a game in the NLDS due to an ankle injury but pinched hit in certain situations when he was needed. Speaking of Hanley Ramirez he has been hitting the ball really good as well. In the NLDS against the Braves Hanley hit 6 extra bases in the series which was key for Los Angeles. Another guy who has been hitting well is Juan Uribe. Uribe is hitting .375 in the Postseason with 2 HR and 4 RBI’s. One of his home runs was the 8th inning shot that lifted the Dodgers to the NLCS. Los Angeles bat .280 against the Cardinals in the 7 game regular season series and that’s without Hanley Ramirez.
As stated many times the Dodgers and Cardinals met 7 times during the regular season with the Dodgers taking the regular season series 4-3. When it comes to postseason these teams have seen a lot of each other in the NLDS. Last two postseason meetings the Dodgers faced the Cardinals in the 2004 and 2009 NLDS with both teams splitting one each(Dodgers in 2009 and Cardinals in 2004). Last time these two teams met in the NLCS was back in 1985 when it was moved to 7 Games. The Cardinals won the series 4-2.
If you look at this matchup on paper it’s really evenly matched. The Dodgers are going in with hot bats and two aces starting games One and Two while the Cardinals go in with a rotation that has been pretty good and a Lineup that can strike at anytime. Cardinals are a fundamentally sound team and has been here before (3rd Straight NLCS appearance) but the Dodgers also have a veteran team while making their first NLCS appearance since 2009. I believe it will com down to who can be consistent and the Bullen. This series can go either way.
Dodgers in 6