Team Profile – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers is one of those teams where you never knew what you were going to get. However, in the last couple seasons, they’ve managed to put together a really great team, worthy of competing at any level in the game. 2012 has seen a lot of ups and downs for the Dodgers, including the loss of team leader Matt Kemp for a good part of the season.
The Dodgers looked to be the early favorites for the N.L. West crown, but the Giants played outstanding baseball, and took the lead right around the All-Star Break. To get back into things, the Dodgers put themselves at the center of every major trade this season, bringing over some huge superstars from Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami. Did these additions help the team? Or was the hole too big to crawl out of?
The Dodgers’ rotation hasn’t been especially strong this season. While Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Chris Capuano all have double-digit wins, no single pitcher has set himself apart as the true ace this season. Everyone expected it to be Kershaw, after his Cy Young winning performance in 2011. But he just hasn’t been getting the run support, despite a stellar ERA of 2.79. Capuano and Billingsley both have ERAs above 3.50, and no one else has really stepped up either. Josh Beckett (formerly an ace for the Boston Red Sox) was picked up in a trade this season, but he’s only pitched in two games with his new team, so it’s too early to tell what he’ll really bring to the table the final month of the season. Overall, the Dodgers’ rotation is full of players who pitch well, but not well enough to overpower the rest of their division (especially the Giants).
The clear leader for this team is Matt Kemp, and despite being on the DL for a large chunk in the middle of the season, he still has a .320 average with 18 home runs. That’s the definition of a powerhouse in the middle of the lineup. Andre Ethier is at .292 with 17 home runs, while newcomers Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Shane Victorino are at .278, .260, and .254, respectively. It’s a team full of superstars that are on the backside of their careers, but are still able to put up some serious numbers to make a difference.
It’s interesting how the Dodgers went all-in on these trades, picking up Ramirez from the Marlins, Victorino from the Phillies, and Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford from the Red Sox. What makes it so interesting is that nothing about the first three-quarters of the season suggested that so many blockbuster trades had to be made. The Dodgers were doing quite well, and going all-in like that seemed wholly unnecessary. Plus, the fact of the matter is that these trades haven’t paid the immediate dividends that the team hoped for. So the point behind them still remains muddled, at best.
This bullpen has, from top to bottom, been exceptional for the entire season. The top five pitchers in the pen have ERAs under (or close to) 3.00, and considering that the bullpen generally consists of only seven or eight pitchers, having five of those men performing well above average (including closer Kenley Jansen, who’s 25/31 in save opportunities, with a 2.54 ERA and 0.88 WHIP) means the difference between staying in a game late, and giving away games that you should otherwise be winning. Obviously the bullpen isn’t doing its job entirely, especially when Jansen has blown six saves this season, but it’s still performing so much better than the average bullpen that the Dodgers’ management can’t help but be impressed with what they see.
Keys to Success
The Dodgers have all the tools necessary to win the division, or take a wild card spot. The only thing holding them back is the starting rotation. The starters just aren’t finding the winning consistency, and it’s showing in their numbers. Also, despite the star-studded lineup, the offense isn’t producing at this point the way it should be. Some of these big bats need to do whatever they can to pick up some more knocks for the final three weeks of the season. We know they have the potential. They just need to find the motivation and make it happen.