Pop-Tarts Series: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers logo hasn't changed much from Brooklyn to Los Angeles; clean, crisp, and instantly recognizable.
The Dodgers logo hasn’t changed much from Brooklyn to Los Angeles; clean, crisp, and instantly recognizable.

California’s first foray into Major League Baseball, the relocating Brooklyn Dodgers, have since become one of baseball’s preeminent organizations.  How are things in 2015?

How’s It Going?

The Dodgers are always a very interesting ballclub.  Their payroll, high-profile roster and management, and flat-out success makes for a fun club to monitor.  This year’s Dodgers are up 3 games on the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West at 62-48.  The Dodgers are an astonishing 37-18 at home, but only 25-30 on the road.

Offense:

The Dodgers’ offense has always been their strong point.  They are led by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and right fielder Yasiel Puig.  Gonzalez is having a typical strong season, while Puig is struggling a bit considering his lofty standards.  Gonzalez is always an outstanding fielder, and when combined with his .296 AVG, 22 homers, and .373 OBP, you’ve got a top 10 first baseman.  Puig is hitting only .242 with 8 homers in limited time due to injury, but is going to be a very important player for Don Mattingly’s club come playoff time.  Second baseman Howie Kendrick leads the Dodgers in hits and is second with a .293 AVG and occasional power.  Yasmani Grandal has been a terrific surprise as a catcher, swatting 15 homers with superlative rate stats, including a .391 OBP and a .500 SLG.  Grandal is improving behind the plate as well.  Mets castoff Justin Turner is a great contact man at third base (.323 AVG), Andre Ethier is a valuable outfielder that can play all three positions, and rookie Joc Pederson has an insane amount of strikeouts (130 in 107 games), but also has an insane amount of homers to boot (21).  Jimmy Rollins is looking like toast at this point of his career, and with top prospect Corey Seager waiting at AAA, Rollins’ time may be ending soon.  The Dodgers’ bench is well-defined as well.  A.J. Ellis is a fantastic defensive catcher, Carl Crawford offers speed and defense in left field, Alex Guerrero has power as a pinch hitter, Scott Van Slyke is a fine platoon bat, and Kike Hernandez can play anywhere.  The Dodgers have one of the league’s finest offenses, one that is almost impossible to stop from top to bottom.  There are no obvious weak points here other than shortstop.

Verdict: A

Pitching:

The Dodgers’ pitching staff had its weak points before the trade deadline, but now looks sleek and complete.  The rotation is spearheaded by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.  Kershaw has been his usual dominant self, posting a 9-6 record and 18 quality starts out of 22 total.  The reigning National League MVP and Cy Young winner, Kershaw has an absurd K/9 rate of 11.51 and a 0.95 WHIP.  His buddy Zack Greinke has been even better in some regards.  In a contract year, Greinke started the All-Star Game thanks to stats such as 20 quality starts out of 22, a 1.71 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP.  His 11-2 record speaks to his successes.  Greinke could be worth up to $170 million on the open market this offseason.  Southpaw Brett Anderson is an effective third starter; he has a 3.06 ERA and a 6-6 record.  Their supporting cast has varied over the year.  Lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu and righty Brandon McCarthy were lost for the year early on, leaving veteran retreads like Brandon Beachy, David Huff, and Scott Baker and rookies Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias to take on larger roles.  Predictably, the veterans were tired and the kids were good but inconsistent, making President Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi antsy at the deadline.  The Dodgers sold high on their farm system in acquiring Mat Latos and Alex Wood as rotation building blocks for years to come.  The Dodgers now have a complete rotation for the first time in years.  The bullpen was an obvious spot that needed improvement, but management got that done at the deadline too.  Closer Kenley Jansen of the 15.88 K/9 rate (!) needed some help in terms of setup men.  J.P. Howell is a plus lefty, but couldn’t carry the load all by himself.  The Dodgers acquired ex-AL saves leader Jim Johnson and lefty setup man Luis Avilan from the Braves to help out Jansen and Howell.  Factor in veteran Joel Peralta, hard-throwing Chris Hatcher, ex-starter Juan Nicasio, and a plethora of minor league options including Pedro Baez, Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore, and the Dodgers may now actually have too many quality pitching options.  This depth is what makes the Dodgers the complete team now that they never were before.

Verdict: A

Conclusion:

When it comes to teams on paper, few teams if any can beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Their monstrous lineup and deep pitching makes for a tough combination for anyone to beat. However, all of this pressure always finds a way to screw up the Dodgers’ playoff runs time and time again.  This year could be different though.  The Dodgers have the roster that can beat the Cardinals on paper, but the Cards have something the Dodgers don’t: chemistry and experience.  If the Dodgers disappoint again, sweeping changes will be felt throughout the entire organization.  These Dodger fans want a championship, and they want one now.

Verdict: A

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