Los Angeles Dodgers Predictions
Money may not buy happiness, but it can certainly buy a championship. The Los Angeles Dodgers spend massive amounts of money on a roster full of big name players last season. The end result was a 92-70 record, winning the NL West by 11 games over second place Arizona. The Dodgers were the only team in the division to have a positive figure in scoring differential with 649 runs scored to 582 runs allowed. They got off to a slow start last season going into the All-Star break with a .500 record, but the emergency of Yasiel Puig seemed to light a fire under the team and they finished the second half with a 45-23 record.
There is a lot of young talent remaining on the roster this season, but Los Angeles cannot afford to get off to another slow start and still walk away with the division. Several teams in the NL West will be improved this season, so the Dodgers will need to find a way to duplicate the success they saw in the second half of last season. An outstanding rotation and a lineup filled with powerful hitters is a good start.
Yasiel Puig (RF) – Puig was called up from the minors on June 3. He would finish the season with a .319 batting average, .391 on base percentage and a .534 slugging percentage. The 22 year old had 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Puig could end up being a storybook case for regression after benefiting from a .383 BABIP. There are also some concerns with Puig’s issues off the field. He found himself in the center of controversy for his dangerous driving habits.
Carl Crawford (LF) – The stat sheet looks decent on Crawford, but a mediocre performance is not what many Dodger fans expected considering the amount of money he is being paid. Last season Crawford ended up posting a .283 batting average, a .329 OBP and a .307 SLG. He was of little threat stealing bases with just 15 steals which was the lowest of his career for any season playing 100 games or more. Crawford is showing serious signs of aging, and I think the Dodgers will be lucky to get 115+ games out of him this season. You can still expect mediocre numbers at the plate.
Hanley Ramirez (SS) – Last year Ramirez played in just 86 games, but put up some huge numbers in the process. His .345 batting average and .402 OBP were both well above career average. Ramirez has been hurt in two of the last three seasons, but this is the final year of his contract so motivation to play should not be an issue. I don’t expect to see Ramirez math last year’s efforts because his .363 BABIP is a screaming sign for regression in 2014.
Adrian Gonzalez (1B) – There has been a major decline in power since Gonzalez came over to the Dodgers. His 22 home runs last season ended up being the second worst of his career since the 2005 season when he played just 43 games with the Rangers. Last year’s .293 batting average and .342 OBP were only slightly below career average (.294 and .367, respectively), but it is not a good sign to see his slugging percentage from a .501 career number to .461 last season.
Matt Kemp (CF) – It was the second consecutive season that saw Matt Kemp missing time due to injury last year. He played in just 73 games last season and posted a .270 batting average and .328 OBP. While Kemp may be healthy coming into 2014, it is hard to be completely optimistic about his ability to put up numbers like we saw in the 2011 season. In the last two seasons Kemp has injured both hamstrings, an ankle and has had multiple shoulder surgeries. At 29 years old there is still plenty of time to come back from those injuries, but 2014 will be a very telling picture about Kemp’s long term future.
Juan Uribe (3B) – I think Uribe is the most overrated player in a Dodgers uniform. He has a career OBP of .299, and aside from a strong performance in the NLDS, Uribe has done very little to earn the two year contract extension that was recently inked. Last year’s .331 OBP was the highest of his career, but he benefited from a .322 BABIP. That was well above his .282 career number for BABIP.
A.J. Ellis (C) – Ellis is an asset to the team not because he is a big threat at the plate, but because of his defensive abilities behind the plate. That is not to saw the soon to be 33 year old catcher is not capable of contributing on offense. The 2012 campaign saw a .270 batting average and .373 OBP. Last year Ellis was a victim to a low .269 BABIP when the previous two seasons saw that number at .310 or better.
Alex Guerrero (2B) – If Alex Guerrero is half as good as the scouting report indicates then he figures to be one of the best second basemen in the division. Offensive numbers are not a big concern for the Cuban slugger, but like many players coming out of that league there are some concerns about his defensive abilities.
Clayton Kershaw (LHP) – The Dodgers have, in my opinion, the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw. Last season Kershaw posted a 16-9 record, failing to get run support from his teammates at times. However, he also put up career best numbers with a 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Kershaw is just 25 years old entering spring training, and is entering his prime. He has pitched 200+ innings in each of the last three seasons and has a career 2.60 ERA. The sky is the limit for this dominant southpaw as long as he can stay healthy.
Zach Greinke (RHP) – If Greinke would have pitched for any other team in the league last year he probably would have received a lot more attention than he did. Pitching behind Kershaw takes away a lot of the spotlight time. Last year he posted a 2.63 ERA and a 15-4 record. Greinke’s walk rate was a respectable 2.3 BB/9, but his 7.5 K/9 was the third straight year of the number declining. At 30 years old I think we can expect his velocity to continue to decline, but he is effective at working the plate and will still be a dangerous pitcher in 2014.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP) – A 3.00 ERA to go along with his 2.3 BB/9 made Ryu’s debut season a big success for the Dodgers. The advanced stat sheet does now indicate anything that would suggest a decline in performance for the 2014 campaign. Ryu is just 27 years old, and he looks to have a very bright future with the Dodgers.
Dan Haren (RHP) – There has been a major decline in production from Dan Haren since the days of low three ERAs with Oakland, Arizona and Los Angeles (Angles). Last year, with Washington, Haren posted a 4.67 ERA and a 10-14 record. It was the second consecutive season with an ERA of 4.30 or higher. In Haren’s defense his BABIP has been slightly above average in each of those last two seasons, and he did see his strikeout rate increase year over year to 8.0 K/9 in 2013. I don’t think the Dodgers can expect a lot out Haren, but he is definitely worth a gamble.
Paul Maholm (LHP) – Maholm figures to split time at the back end of the rotation with Josh Beckett. Beckett is missing most of spring training with a groin injury, and that will give Maholm a chance to solidify his spot in the lineup. He comes over from Atlanta and is off a season putting up some dismal numbers. Last year he posted a 4.41 ERA and had a 10-11 record. He suffered from elbow and wrist issues, and that allowed him to make a mere seven starts following the All-Star Break. If Maholm can remain healthy he is worth a gamble. The 2011 and 2012 seasons saw a respectable mid-threes ERA from the southpaw.
The Dodgers will rely on Brian Wilson as their setup man in 2014. Wilson was coming off Tommy John surgery last season, but still manage to post a 0.66 ERA in 18 appearances. He was signed to a $10 million contract, so expect Wilson to play a much larger role this season. The Dodgers also have Kenley Jansen coming out of the bullpen as the closer. Last year Jansen allowed hitters to post a .136 batting average and .176 on base percentage. He had a 13.0 K/9, and at just 26 years old Jansen has a very bright future in the league.
- To Win World Series: 13/2
- To Win NL Pennant: 11/4
- To Win NL West: 1/2
2014 Season Win Total: 93.5
The slow start from Los Angeles last season proves that even the most talented players in the world can get into a funk. It is hard for even the best teams in the league to dominate the season from start to finish. Last year’s second half performance may have many looking at the Dodger’s 2014 win total with a dubious stare, but I feel like the value here is on the under. The Dodgers won 92 games last season and they are an equally talented team this season.
Prediction: 1st Place NL West (91-71)
The NL West has been a very tough division to predict over the years. In fact, the last three seasons have seen three different division winners. I think the Dodgers are the team to buck that trend and pick up back-t0-back division titles. This is one of the first years the NL West winner has returned so much of its top talent from the prior season. The Dodgers make a strong argument for the best team in baseball this year, and it’s hard not to like their chances to repeat as division champions.
This team is loaded with talent at literally every position. The starting rotation boasts some of the best pitchers in baseball, and the depth of talent extends all the way to the back end of the rotation. Offensively the Dodgers left a little something to be desired last season scoring just 649 runs (3rd in the division), but a big part of that can be credited to their slow last season. Following the All-Star Break the Dodgers were +82 in scoring differential.
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